Practice Extraordinary Respect. Have the same set of manners for everyone and ensure that everyone in the organization embodies that. Nothing says “fantastic work culture” more than extraordinary respect extended to each and every member of the team, in equal measure. No sucking up and no dissing. Trust goes both ways — if I leader wants to be trusted, they also need to accord trust to their employees. This also means getting the basics right — giving employees appropriate tools, workspace, training and learning opportunities.
As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ginger Jenks.
Ginger is all about “More Joy, Better Results!” She is recognized globally for excellence as an executive coach, facilitator, performer and competitor. Ginger’s career is distinguished by being one of just 650 recipients worldwide of the Master Certified Coach designation awarded by the International Coach Federation (ICF). She has more than 20 years of experience working with over 150 CEO’s, impacting top-performing teams and individuals in corporate settings ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, as well as working with entrepreneurs and top sales professionals.
Ginger is the CEO of Magellan Enterprises, LLC (www.magellangj.com), a boutique coaching collaborative of ICF-certified coaches founded in 1995. She is also a Facilitator and Speaker Resource for Young Presidents Organization (YPO), a global network of more than 26,000 CEO’s around the world. Sweet spots include leadership development, communication, team building, strategic planning, and building a strong Happiness Platform.
Ginger is also author of the book, Wag, Live, Love — What Dogs Teach Us About Happiness and Life and numerous “Smarticles” on the Magellan website. She is a graduate of Boston University and Coach University.
A winner of eight National titles with her Champion Samoyed dogs, Ginger is passionate about dogs and how they can improve our lives. She is also an accomplished trumpet player and performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra at the age of 16. Originally from New England, Ginger enjoys hiking in the mountains around Durango, Colorado and also the humility gained from spending time on the golf course.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Back in 1994, when I was an executive at a commercial real estate firm in Boston, my assistant asked if I wanted to attend a motivational speaker event downtown. I looked at the flyer, and said, “oh, I don’t know, it sounds a bit like psycho-babble,” and laughed. But thinking it was a good networking opportunity, I decided to attend. After cocktails and networking, I grabbed the aisle seat in the back row, so that if I wanted to leave, I could do so unobtrusively. The speaker was Bob Rotella, a sports psychologist.
I’d managed people for years and what I loved best was helping them to develop — setting goals, giving feedback, cheering their successes and often promoting them. As I listened to Bob speak, my spirit caught on fire! I started taking notes. I wished I’d sat closer. He was talking about the essence of motivation, how our beliefs drive us, and how we are at choice about that. It was what I’d believed in intuitively and how I tried to lead, but Bob articulated it in a way that was the next level.
I went from thinking “psycho-babble” to thinking, “THIS is what I want to do next!” While I was spending a good chunk of my time developing people, I decided I wanted to spend ALL of my time doing it. This would be a way to have bigger, positive impact in the world.
I’ve never sat in the back row of a presentation again. Now, I choose to sit front and center, as I expect whoever is presenting to be great and I know that having an engaged audience helps the speaker to do that. I routinely invite people to sit front and center when I’m presenting, too, often sharing this story.
Coaching wasn’t even a profession back then, but when I read an article in the Boston Globe shortly thereafter about this new thing called coaching, I knew it was my calling. It’s now 24 years later and it’s been a great ride!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I love synchronicity and it happens a lot in my life! Connection is one of my core values and my life seems to organize around that. In 2009, a Canadian organization asked me to design and lead a coaching initiative, with a team of coaches. I put together a team of colleagues from three different countries with whom I’d served on the Board of Directors for the International Coach Federation. When I initially met with the CEO, he mentioned that a member of the team was a well-known dog show judge and breeder, as he’d seen that I show dogs, as well. That team member and I became friends. He mentioned my work to a mutual friend in my breed (Samoyeds), who then brought me in to work with her company in California. I think amazing connections and cultures happen when we are our complete, authentic selves, vs. trying to separate professional and personal lives. I love this story because it weaves the strands of business, friendship, leadership, and passion/hobbies together, with ties from Colorado to Toronto to Sweden to England to New York to California.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am! I am working on developing a program to help people increase their emotional intelligence through their relationship with their dog. Emotional Intelligence is arguably the most important factor for success in life and business and it’s an integral part of my work. Companies and individuals spend millions each year to improve EQ, yet 68% of US households have dogs in their homes, who are like constant furry feedback machines (and who literally will work for food!) for how we show up. There exists a mindset that we train dogs, but the Blue Ocean that’s yet to be explored is that, if we put our attention on how WE are in that relationship and learn from it, it will accelerate our growth as better leaders, partners, parents, friends and teammates. Better relationships with our dogs will occur naturally during this process, which is what we’re really after with “training.” This is the nexus of my professional work of helping people to be their best selves and my personal passion, which is to enjoy a richer and happier life through extraordinary relationships with dogs. I’ve played and competed with my dogs in multiple venues and what I’ve learned about myself through that process is way more than I’ve ever taught them. My 4-month-old puppy Joy (my fourth generation of Samoyeds) is really helping me take this to the next level and I am excited to share this work with clients.
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?
People want connection and to feel that what they do matters. Our workforce is quite mobile now, with the average tenure quite shorter 30–40 years ago. AI and robotics have replaced many human jobs and I think people are fearful about the rapid pace of change and what it means to their careers. If you feel like you can be replaced by a machine, AI, or someone in another country who will do your job for a fraction of what you earn, do you matter to the organization? Team building is more important than ever, as so much work is conducted virtually (think email) and remotely (people working from home, video conference calls and disparate geographic locations). While we are often connected 24/7 to the demands of work and via hundreds of “friends” on social media, do the people with whom I work and spend half of my waking hours know what matters to me in life and care about me? Lastly, I think our “always connected” culture makes it hard to feel OK about disconnecting, particularly if others in our company choose to stay connected or if it’s a cultural expectation from the top. That can lead to feelings of burn-out.
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?
An unhappy workforce has a huge impact on company productivity and profitability. Research has shown that we are more creative, resourceful and productive when we are happy. Feeling unhappy at work can adversely impact our immune system, sleep, resilience, energy, motivation, focus, the ability to connect positively with co-workers and the ability learn. This can show up as sick time, “presentee-ism” (when someone is at work but not fully engaged), turnover, conflict and apathy. It’s a downward spiral that can spread like a virus. Unhappiness in the workplace can be analogous to putting a teaspoon of toilet water into a gallon of drinking water. Even a small amount can be toxic.
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?
Make sure the team gets to win, about 80% of the time. Clear, understandable goals that are balanced with appropriate time and resources. This builds trust, motivation, confidence and engagement. As the leader, this doesn’t mean just executing well — it means cultivating a sixth sense about how to help the team to set goals that matter, stretch people to learn and are doable.
For example, I noticed a sense of learned helplessness among an exceptional multi-national leadership team with whom I worked. Senior leadership’s enthusiasm for setting big stretch goals meant that way too often, the team missed its goals. The challenge was less about execution and more about having set goals that were simply unrealistic, and too many of them. This happened several years in a row. The effect was this team losing trust in their senior leadership’s ability to set a reasonable course and resulted in a loss of morale. Applying the 80/20 rule ensures that the team feels great about hitting the company’s goals 80% of the time, while seeing what’s possible with the 20% big stretch goals. Motivation is a self-perpetuating cycle of goodness — when we experience the high of succeeding, we’re motivated to try to succeed even more.
Leaders are levers. An ongoing mantra I share with the CEO’s with whom I work is, “Everything you do and say, both positive and negative, will be amplified by a factor of at least 10. Think “under the microscope and displayed on the Jumbotron.” Get clear on your principles, values and behaviors and be rigorous in living up to them. You may think you can hide some behaviors or some perks. You can’t. Be what you want to see in your employees.
Owning up to a mistake is one of the most powerful things a leader can do. In an effort to be funny, a CEO I worked with about twenty years ago said something inappropriate at an event in front of not only his own team, but about 25 clients. He had a choice; gloss over it or own it and apologize. He did the latter, candidly and humbly. I was impressed, because it took courage and it’s likely no one would have called him out on it directly. But you can bet that it would have been talked about and the story would have spread like wildfire. Owning it and apologizing made him more relatable, human and likeable. It also modeled the behavior he expects from the people around him. That lesson has stuck with me and I share it often.
Practice Extraordinary Respect. Have the same set of manners for everyone and ensure that everyone in the organization embodies that. Nothing says “fantastic work culture” more than extraordinary respect extended to each and every member of the team, in equal measure. No sucking up and no dissing. Trust goes both ways — if I leader wants to be trusted, they also need to accord trust to their employees. This also means getting the basics right — giving employees appropriate tools, workspace, training and learning opportunities. Benefits are another area where leaders can convey extraordinary respect. It’s enlightened self-interest — all of these things enhance trust and productivity. Lastly, extraordinary respect means expressing appreciation, frequently, sincerely and specifically. When this is an integral part of an organization’s culture, who wouldn’t enjoy going to work? It’s easy, it’s fast and it’s free. It simply requires mindfulness.
When working recently with a large leadership team, I asked the group to self-organize into groups of four for an exercise.The CEO sought out team members that would normally not have the opportunity to interact with her on a day-to-day basis. They felt flattered and I could see them basking in the glow of recognition and the opportunity to have dialogue with their leader. This CEO could easily have sought out her senior team members instead, but her actions demonstrated that everyone at her company matters. Their culture is one of extraordinary respect and that has been a big differentiator for them.
Create ownership. Literally, if you can, through partnership or stock ownership. If you can’t do that, do it through other means like profit sharing. Companies talk a lot about alignment, but the true litmus test is that if the company wins, we all win — not just the folks at the top. Clear lines of sight into how each person’s job ties into the company’s vision, strategy and goals helps create a culture of ownership. Being clear about parameters within which employees can make decisions also fosters this important piece of culture.
In an employee satisfaction survey project I worked on, one employee expressed his enthusiasm about the culture on the survey by saying, “I love Mondays!” It was quite a statement. In a follow-up interview, this person said that he felt so excited about being an employee-owner and knowing that he was empowered to not only make decisions in his current role, but to have the resources to grow into bigger roles, he was eager to hop out of bed every Monday morning. There is a strong ethos of accountability in this company, as everyone knows that their efforts truly affect the livelihood of every other employee. It’s powerful!
Be Consistent. Consistency doesn’t mean that change doesn’t happen, even rapidly. It does mean that the CEO and organization are not constantly zigging and zagging, stopping and starting, or having initiatives that feel like “the flavor of the month.” Developing consistency isn’t as sexy as opening up a new market or developing a new product, but it is essential to making those things actually work over the long term. Elements of consistency include a change management process, line of sight in communication throughout the company, explaining how strategic initiatives align with the organization’s vision, replicable processes so people don’t feel like they are constantly reinventing the wheel and clarity of roles, so people feel free to execute without wondering if they are duplicating efforts or stepping on colleagues’ toes. It’s about giving employees a framework of what to expect. You also need to build trust that when the organization deviates from that framework, communication will happen proactively, and employees understand how the change management process will work.
A CEO with whom I’d done some group work called me saying, “I want to do a culture transformation with our company!” He’d been to a motivational seminar and was eager to take his company to the next level. When it came to taking the first steps, however, he found it impossible to allocate the time from his day-to-day schedule. I offered the direct feedback of, “if you can’t find a few hours to decide what you want the transformation to look like, how confident are you that you’ll follow through for the next 12–18 months to implement it?” Getting your company’s employees fired up about cultural transformation can be exciting, but if you don’t follow through consistently, you risk your stock as a leader falling below where it is today.
A success story I can share is when a different CEO held an off-site retreat with his team where we distilled the company’s values. In discussing how to ensure consistency post-retreat, the team decided to have wallet-sized cards made, so that everyone would literally carry the company’s values around with them. They also decided to discuss one value on a weekly basis, with an example of how they’d lived it, on a rotating basis. This simple practice helped build consistency not only with the values, but in learning how to be consistent!
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?
I think we need to believe in and practice Extraordinary Respect; for all team members, regardless of roles, and for ourselves as whole human beings (not just our professional selves). We need to let go of worshipping the “Hardest Worker Badge” and start revering what I call The Professional Human Being — one who approaches life with the same rigor with which they approach work. I wonder what it would be like if in the US we were to take a summer break, as Europeans do. We seem afraid to hop off the treadmill, fearing that someone will overtake us while we take a breath. We need to figure out how to abate some of the fears that haunt our workforce, such as robotics, offshoring, and AI replacing human workers. We need to help our workforce retool as change continues to accelerate. Lastly, we need to embrace learning, emotional intelligence and connection as core competencies, not “nice to have’s.” It would be wonderful if we could do that as part of our education system, starting as early as grade school.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I’ve relaxed as I’ve gotten older, perhaps because I feel confident in my abilities and presence. Some qualities that have been constants are direct, inspiring, intense, playful and visionary. As a young manager, I think I embraced “command and control” too much, perhaps in an effort to prove my mettle. Feedback that I received from one fellow knocked me back on my feet. I thought I was empathetic, but he felt I was quite transactional and brusque, and it hurt his feelings. I took that feedback to heart and moved to more of a coaching leadership style. I can still be quite intense and passionate at times, but hopefully my sense of humor, genuine caring and playfulness balance that out. When people seek me out for advice, coaching or mentoring, which happens frequently, I feel I’ve succeeded in striking the right balance.
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?
Early in my career, I embarked on a job search for my next rung on the career ladder in Boston. It went amazingly well and I landed several offers. I chose the wrong one. Jodi Hartley, a woman who’d interviewed me along the way had taken a shine to me and invited me to bounce my potential opportunities off her. Two months into my new job, we had breakfast and I lamented that I was stuck, since I’d heard you had to spend at least a year in any new job. Jodi said to me, “Baloney! You call up some of those people who made you offers and get yourself out of there.” I did and landed a much better position within two weeks, one that catapulted my career and learning in dramatic ways. The lesson I learned was to challenge traditional thinking and to not be afraid to change.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I feel blessed to have the opportunity to coach and facilitate so many inspiring leaders and teams. The clients I attract are what I call “Type E’s” — people who are passionate about evolving! I believe in the ripple effect — as these leaders evolve, they are creating more conscious organizations that change the world for the better.
I give back through allocating some of my time for pro bono coaching and facilitation, including for educational institutions. I’ve served on the Board of Directors for the International Coach Federation as well as some other boards. I use my social media presence to be a force for positivity in the world. I love mentoring.
I’ve received feedback from around the globe that “Wag, Live, Love — What Dogs Teach Us About Happiness and Life” has changed people’s lives for the better and it’s hard for me to describe how happy and deeply content that makes me feel.
I also use my talents and skills in all the venues in which I participate — my business, community, and dog sports. For example, I have performed “Taps” for the Viet Nam Vets’ Memorial Day service here in Durango, Colorado, for most of the 21 years that I’ve been here. I’ve written articles for several dog publications and enjoy the opportunity to bring positivity to that world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” — Woodrow Wilson
When I feel resonance with this quote, I know I’m aligned with my purpose. I try to embody this not only in my work with leaders, teams and organizations, but in being a top competitor with my dogs, as a musician, an athlete, family and community member. I relish being part of the tapestry of Life, knowing that I am just the artist for my piece of the fabric. As I weave my parts in with passion and hopefully beauty, I hope that my efforts ripple out and inspire others to be thoughtful artists as well.
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. 🙂
Accelerating human evolution through Emotional Intelligence and building a strong Happiness Platform. Opening up our field of understanding about dogs to include how they can help us be better human beings, offering a new way of learning and enhancing our Emotional Intelligence.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!