A CykoMetrix Spotlight Production
Every week, the Spotlight shines on an amazing professional with a story to tell and lessons to teach. Welcome to the CykoMetrix Spotlight.
The following is an adapted transcript of the exchange between Sylvain Rochon, CMO at CykoMetrix as host, and Becky Winkler, PhD, Founder of Department 732C.
Sylvain Rochon: Welcome to CykoMetrix Spotlight. My name is Sylvain Rochon. I’m the chief marketing officer at CykoMetrix, a leading edge combinatorial psychometric and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training and managing today’s modern workplace.
Today, I have with me in the Spotlight, Becky Winkler. She is a PhD and founder of Department 732C in North Carolina. She’s in an industrial organizational psychologist and business consultant who works to select and develop senior executives, build and strengthen leadership teams, and optimize the structure and development of the broader organization. Becky was a top performing partner with boutique consulting firm, Green Peak Partners. Prior to that, she worked as a consultant with the Atlanta Management Psychology Consultancy Sperduto & Associates, and as an internal OD practitioner with Advocate Health Care in Chicago. Her current consulting business is Department 732C where she works to optimize human capital decisions with her client organizations. That’s a lot of experience with different entities. I’m really excited about talking to you about this particular subject, Becky. Thank you for being in the Spotlight.
Becky Winkler: No, thank you for having me, Sylvain.
Sylvain: Now, we were just talking about this theme. We’re both kind of rebel-ish or mavericks, I think was the word you used. So, we want to talk about how we can unlock human potential by questioning everything. In essence, to me, that means by being somewhat mavericky. So, how do you unlock human potential in the first place? What does that mean to you?
Becky: I think it means a lot of different things depending on the context. But if we think about it as it relates to questioning everything, to me, unlocking human potential is forgetting about existing societal structures or narratives. We live in a world where things are constructed and we’re kind of raised to believe in these constructs, whether that marriage should be between whoever, or you have to have kids or not, or you should have a full-time job versus in gig economy. I think our entire society is questioning a lot of things and they’re getting better at questioning things, I think, than we used to be. Taking things for granted. International travel is super helpful in terms of going, “Oh, that’s normal,” right? Nothing is really normal, so you might as well live your own life according to your own rules as long as, I think, moral principles are important. Be kinder than necessary, things like that. But otherwise, be who you are and don’t worry about what other people think. I think we make up this other who is judging and evaluating us often harshly, and that voice or imaginary presence tends to keep people in boxes that they really don’t want to be in.
Sylvain: That’s really interesting, in part, because of a little bit of a research I did recently with a friend. It was just for a laugh actually because we were looking at woke words, right? We’re in our 40s, me and my friends, and it’s like, “Wow, words have changed. The meanings have changed.” And now, there are some words that we noticed that were okay back in the day and now they’re not. So, we went on the internet and looked at lists. One of the words that popped out to me was the word, “normal”, as you just mentioned.
Sylvain: “Normal” was on the list of words to avoid. Wait a minute. That’s a pretty normal word to say. Why would it be a bad word to say? What the article was saying is that it means that you’re not yourself, which is kind of what you’re talking about. There’s this. Well, you want to be your own better self. You don’t want to be like everybody else and therefore, you don’t want to be normal. So, normal becomes a pejorative term all of a sudden. The forces of normalization that I’m used to growing up, are they bad? Are they going away? Like, what’s the trend and how does anti-normalization empower a person?
Becky: I think it’s kind of like, what is normal anyway, right? What does that even mean? Because normal to me is going to mean different than normal to you. Then the problem is that if you’re not whatever that is, then you’re abnormal, right? So, I think we’re kind of- in the spirit of celebrating differences – it’s okay to show up however you want to show up. That is free because otherwise, there are so many people who are living other people’s versions of their lives either because they grew up with their parents saying, “Well, you have to do this. You must do this.” Even some of the positive things I was raised with in terms of expectations. Like, I am the daughter of an immigrant and so, it was always, “Go to the top of your field. Don’t be a lawyer. Be a judge. Don’t be this. Be that.” Says who? I might have been a very happy hippie and now, I’m a psychologist instead still bringing back into those hippie days. But I think it’s one of those things where if you’re taught like, “Hey, it doesn’t matter. You’re okay,” because I believe that we all have 2 key human fears. I won’t be good enough and therefore I won’t be loved. But if you assume that you’re good enough out of the gate and you assume that you’re loved out of the gate, then there’s so much more you can do because you’re not going to be holding yourself back.
Sylvain: So, if the goal is to be your true self, to self-actualize in a way or to unlock your potential, how does one know we are ourselves?
Becky: That’s a good question. It makes me think about self-awareness and the importance of self-awareness, right? So, going back to the tools that are at our disposal. There’s all sorts of measures you can take, things you can uncover, whether it’s from a career perspective. What are your interests? What are your preferences? When are you happiest? Thinking back to when you were a kid, what lit you up? What have you forgotten about yourself? I think it requires a little bit of introspection. It requires a little bit of learning about yourself from how others see you. Is that something that you want to embrace or not? If I’m seen in a certain way, is that helping me reach and go toward where I want or is that not really who I am? It’s almost like, you go and you try on different clothes and you kind of wear them around and you see how you feel when you’re trying on different clothes. Some of us, I feel like, can’t help it. If you’re a strong personality, you are who you are regardless. For other people, I think, there’s more of an unpacking. It kind of depends on the stories you were told as a kid. Were you told, “Hey, be free. Be whoever you are,” and celebrated for that difference?
When I was a kid, I was voted most outrageous of my high school class, right? My mother, half the time… I would be dressing to go to school and she’d be like, “You look like a Polish immigrant.” My family is Polish immigrant, so no offense to any Polish immigrants talking. But she’d be like, “You look like you come from the places that we came from.” And I’m like, “And? I think that’s fantastic.” My mother was trying to protect me, right? A lot of the messages our brain tells us, our parents tell us and our communities tell us are meant to keep us safe, right? They’re meant to keep us accepted into the tribe, but what we forget is we’re no longer living on the African Savanna. I can get kicked out of a tribe, find a new tribe and I’m not going to get eaten by a saber-toothed tiger in between those two experiences. So, I think it’s like a vestigial tail that we carry around with us that really doesn’t matter. I think a series of small experiments is really important to figuring that out, if you don’t already know. I think a lot of people already know it’s that little quiet voice that maybe they just need to put a microphone up to and they haven’t in a while.
Sylvain: That self-awakening process sounds to me like people searching for their true self, right? We learn from our parents, or at least growing up, that there are certain things that we should be doing or thinking. And that’s not necessarily us. But then when we become a teen, we rebel and most people will try to find themselves in some way. Are we constantly moving toward that true self? The addendum question, is that ideal true self a moving target as well?
Becky: Yes, for sure. Ideally, I hope so. For me, personally, I hope I’m constantly evolving, learning, growing, staying curious and not assuming I’ve got it all figured out at any point in time. There’s a lovely gentleman in my life who, when I met him years ago, told me he had reached the knowledge phase. I’m like, “What does that even mean you’ve reached the knowledge phase?” I don’t need to read anymore. I know it all. I’m like, “That is just the craziest thing,” because we’re constantly discovering new things. If you look at the telescope, the Webb Telescope, I guess, that is now uncovering life from 13 billion years ago, good grief. Things are constantly being changed and whatnot. You brought up a word that, I think, is really important to avoid when we’re talking to ourselves, which you should. I think we should own ourselves all the time and it’s like, stop shitting on yourself. Says who that you should do this or you should do that? That’s all made up. Where did it come from?
I do an exercise with my clients. I’m not the one who made this up, by the way. I’m a series of apprenticeship experiences over time like a lot of us are. It’s called primary question and it’s essentially like, what’s the question that you don’t even realize you’re asking all the time but it’s the software on the hardware of your brain? Whether you realize it or not, it directs a lot of your behavior and causes the assumptions you make and how you show up in situations. Even going through an exercise like that, what is your primary question? What do you think it might be? Let’s, make a list and test them out. You can test them out and see, “Oh, yeah. That’s the one.” Okay. Well, what is it giving me and what is it taking away from me? What’s a healthier question that I can ask?
My old question, for example, used to be, how can I not get hurt? I was a very fierce person. I’m still very fierce, but I was defensively fierce. Now, I try very hard to say, how can I trust God’s plan? How can I trust the plan the universe has for me? That enables me to, one, assume that people aren’t trying to hurt me in the first place. Where did that come from? And two, it causes me to release and let go. So when people say like, “What’s your 5-year plan?” I’m like, “Hell, if I know.”
Sylvain: I think that’s lovely. So, let’s talk about the true self. Let’s assume that we’re reaching and moving towards whatever that is, and it’s changing. Let’s assume that’s the truth for most people and I hope that is. What does that do for the workplace? Isn’t it effectively affecting the workplace or your job? Something practical. Being closer to who you are, how does that make us better [at our job] in some way?
Becky: I think from a creativity perspective is the first thing that comes to mind. Innovation, allowing ideas to be unfettered, fostered and bounced around. If I come in and I’m freer thinking and I’m releasing my hold on the grip on things, then not only is my lizard brain less in control of things but my frontal lobe is getting a little more oxygen because I’m not in that flight/ freeze perspective. That allows my executive functioning capacities to be a little better from a planning and organizing perspective. And then from a creativity perspective, just being able to come up with something that’s new and different, and take risks. Again, the series of small experiments depending on what the company is, what they’re doing, and what their goals are. But if we are all able to show up that way, we create better products, ideas and deliverables. We get along with each other better because, I think, we’re less judgy of ourselves. I think it helps us be less judgy of each other. I think that just kind of creates an upward spiral of sorts with people in terms of what’s possible.
Sylvain: And how do you teach this as part of your consultancy?
Becky: I think primarily in two ways. One, executive coaching. That is one-on-one work. It really depends on what the need is and what the goal is. There’s a lot of contextual factors there, but a lot of times, people are just stuck in these old habits, patterns, behaviors that aren’t serving them as well anymore. They don’t even know that they can change them, and then the other place is team, which brings me to this example where I’m working with a client right now. I work with a lot of fast growing founder-led companies. They reach a certain stage and they’re essentially like an awkward adolescent, right? If you use a metaphor of an organization. They’re like, how do we get out of this place that we are in? The same way you did when you were 14 years old. You just kind of move through it and go toward the light. But people are like, “We don’t like some of where we are in now. How do we get to where we want to be?”
I think it’s a collective belief and a collective visioning, which requires you to wet the cement around you to say change is possible. Who says it’s not? What do we want if we collectively agree that some parts of what we’re doing are working but other parts aren’t? Then, let’s agree on where we want to go and let’s hold each other big that we’re going to make mistakes and we’re going to stumble along the way. Because if it was super easy, we’d already be there. There’s all sorts of research though that shows that new habits, new thought patterns, these things are possible to change. And so, I think it requires a commitment to it and openness to it. If it’s individual, you tell the people around you, “Hey, here’s what I’m working on,” so that they can support you and you can have an army of cheerleaders if you will. By the way, when you start trying on new behaviors at work, they don’t think you’re drinking or you’ve changed your medication, right? Because you’re purposefully doing it, and you’re probably going to be clumsy, and the same thing with the group. You just elevate it up to the team level around who are we becoming and where are we trying to go? All right. Let’s lock arms and get there. Then just encouraging them and as you fall down, instead of trying to shrink and shame and all those negative emotions that put us back in the box, opening up your arms and saying, “How fascinating. Wow, what just happened? What did we learn from that? That was a massive failure. Awesome.”
Sylvain: I love the attitude because I’m in business. Failures are great. That’s a positive attitude of it.
Becky: Yes, they’re important.
Sylvain: It dawns on me that your approach with organizations is basically the same as with the individual. The organization has a true self, so to speak, that also is a moving target because staff changes, the world changes around it and you got to move and you got to shift. Just like with the individuals, you don’t really know exactly where you’re going in the details, but you have to kind of trust that you’re moving collectively in a good direction and sometimes a little blindly. You’re going to stumble a bit. Is that a correct analogy?
Becky: I think so. Ben Schneider is one of the theorists in our field that talks about attraction, selection, attrition. I do think that you’re attracted to organizations that feel like home but homes change. Sometimes you got to leave home and move on to a new village or move on to a new home, and that’s okay too, right? Because as companies that get professionalized or, to your point, as they adapt to the new context in which they find themselves, it’s okay if it felt right now and it doesn’t feel right anymore. As long as the organization as a whole is heading to where it needs to and would behoove at the best in terms of that fit to the future, then you don’t have to be on that bus. We’re all at conscious choice everyday, whether we recognize it or not, so exercise your choice. Either try to stay and make it a place you want to stay. Or if it’s becoming a place that… Maybe you do prefer the startup world to the highly structured world. That’s okay. You can find a new startup. No big deal.
Sylvain: In practical terms, what kind of KPIs do you look for to determine movement in the right direction when you consult with individuals or organizations? Because it seems to be a very fluid and subjective kind of thing. Are there things you can actually measure to see if your clients are moving in the right direction?
Becky: I think on the individual level, it’s tougher because it’s supremely subjective, right? Where do you want to go and how close are you to getting there? You can measure pre and post on whatever the person might be working on. If it’s delegation, if it’s presence, if it’s whatever. Maybe that’s part of their evolution. But at a team perspective, I’m a big believer in Lencioni’s 5 dysfunctions model, where you can measure how vulnerable we’re showing up with each other, you can measure how well we’re having that unfiltered dialogue with each other. I’ve recently been introduced and I’m learning about a measure related to Amy Edmondson’s “Fearless Organization” on psychological safety and measuring that in organizations. The 5 dysfunctions is really just the team, like an intact team. The executive team tends to be where I work, but psych safety, you can look at the team part anywhere too.
But safety is all about using your voice and feeling like you can use your voice without fear of retribution or criticism or that you’re going to be mocked or whatever. That, to me, is also related to being your authentic self at work because if you feel safe, you will use your voice and then the organization will benefit. There are all sorts of anecdotes and stories about people who, back in the day, knew that the wrong side of the body might be operated on but did it feel safe saying something to the surgeon like, “Oh, my goodness.” That’s really important in those moments to use your voice. But even in the little moments where I might not lose the wrong limb, I’d still think it’s really important because to me, one of the hardest things I do is giving a 55-year old a bunch of feedback that is brand new to them and they almost can’t believe that they’ve never heard any of it. I’m like, where have people been?
Sylvain: Indeed. My next question is, if people want to engage with you to get your help, to find their true organizational self or as individuals to really supercharge themselves and find their potential, how do they go about it?
Becky: Unfortunately, I’m not taking on new clients right now. I’m only one person and it’s really tough to manage the flow as it is, so I’ve decided that I’m going to keep the ones I have. A lot of my clients, I’ve had them for over a decade. I genuinely care about them and the success of their organizations. I don’t know. It’s not just a job for me. It’s a calling and I don’t use those words lightly. I think that’s a cliche. I also feel like for us to be witnesses on each other’s journeys over time, I’ve grown up with a lot of these clients and a lot of these people. I’m in my 40s now too. If I think back to some of them I’m in business ventures with, we co-invest together in women-owned businesses. With some of them, I go to Burning Man. We’re all in this together. We all have so much more in common than we do different. So, I learn from them just as much as, hopefully, they learn from me. It’s just very fulfilling and gratifying work.
Sylvain: I think that’s beautiful. You are dedicated to your clients, and so many of them have become friends. You’re supporting each other and helping each other. So to those of you who are watching this, well, you can go on a waiting list, I suppose. If Becky could develop some additional capacity in the future, you can interact with her. But I am putting down your website in the description, so people, if they want to contact you, ask questions, interact with you for a wonderful training, then they can do so. It could be interesting to meet new friends and why not?
Becky: There you go.
Sylvain: Thank you so much for participating in the Spotlight, Becky.
Becky: Thank you, Sylvain. I appreciate it.
About Becky Winkler – www.dept732c.com
Becky is an industrial/organizational psychologist and business consultant who works to select and develop senior executives, build and strengthen leadership teams, and optimize the structure and development of the broader organization. She offers bottom-line analyses, penetrating insights, and an ability to translate her work into meaningful business outcomes.
In her work with more than half of all top U.S. Private Equity funds, she’s engaged with companies from founder-led start-ups to multi-billion-dollar, international organizations. Her client base also includes LPs, hedge funds, public companies, and non-profits. Most of the work she’s done has been in the middle-market sector, where she thrives on unlocking potential to help companies scale.
As much as Becky enjoys deploying insight, she also loves creating knowledge. Thus, she has partnered with researchers at premier academic institutions like Cornell University and Teacher’s College at Columbia University to understand what predicts and sustains executive performance. Her work has been featured in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Inc., The Washington Post, Investor’s Business Daily, and more.
For ten years before launching Department 732c, Becky was a top-performing partner with boutique consulting firm Green Peak Partners. Prior to that, she worked as an external consultant with the Atlanta management psychology consultancy Sperduto & Associates, and as an internal OD practitioner with Advocate Health Care in Chicago. Becky graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia’s Honors Program with degrees in Psychology, Women’s Studies, and Chinese. She was inducted into UGA’s 2015 Class of 40 Under 40 for her exemplary accomplishments and was the youngest person ever to receive UGA’s Jere W. Morehead award in 2017. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from DePaul University.
About CykoMetrix – www.CykoMetrix.com
CykoMetrix is a leading edge combinatorial psychometric and human data analytics company that brings the employee assessment industry to the cloud, with instant assessments, in-depth analysis, trait measurements, and team-based reporting features that simplify informed decision-making around recruiting, training, and managing today’s modern workplace.