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In this episode of #TheSpeakerShow, Maria Franzoni interviews Javier Bajer who helps organisations move from ‘talking about culture’ into living new behaviours every day, at scale and in just a few months (without the need of actually ‘talking about culture’).

His team has influenced many of the world’s largest cultures.  From Swiss Re to Accenture, from Google to Airbnb and from the largest mine in Mozambique to The Royal Household in the UK.

He is the Chief Editor of Emerald’s Strategic HR Review and a visiting Professor at three international Business Schools.

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Episode #209

Don't go "back" to work

Maria Franzoni (00:15): Hello. And welcome back to The Speaker Show with me, your host Maria Franzoni. In today’s show, we will be talking about how to change cultures quickly. I’m looking forward to this, but before we get started, let me remind you that The Speaker Show is brought to you by Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau for the world’s most successful organizations, providing keynote speakers for events, conferences, and summits. My guest this week helps organizations move from talking about culture into living new behaviors every day at scale, and in just a few months without the need to actually talk about culture, his team has influenced many of the world’s largest cultures from Swiss Re to Accenture, from Google to Airbnb and from the largest mine in Mozambique to The Royal Household in the UK.

Maria Franzoni (01:03): His speaking topics include New Ways of Working, How to achieve Client Centric Cultures and The Shortcuts to Engagement. He’s the Chief Editor of Emerald’s Strategic HR Review and a visiting Professor at three international Business Schools. Please welcome my guest today, Javier Bajer. Javier, it is wonderful to have you join us. We’re going to have a great time. How are you today?

Javier Bajer (01:29): I’m very well, very hot today in England.

Maria Franzoni (01:32): I know it’s one of those rare days where we actually have heat in England and actually we are very close. We discovered we really could have done this in person because you are literally, probably about four miles away from me. It’s crazy.

Javier Bajer (01:42): Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m gonna have gone for a walk. I mean, it’s just beautiful out there.

Maria Franzoni (01:47): It’s wonderful. Wonderful. So, listen, before we get into the detail, I really wanna understand how did you first become interested in culture?

Javier Bajer (01:57): Actually, I studied in IT many years ago. That was my first degree. And then I really, I was being sent, I grew up in Anderson Consulting then Accenture done my whole career and I was the guy who was being sent to deal with all the challenges that projects had when they couldn’t sort out, you know, people using technology. So I probably was not really good at technology and, but I was very good at understanding how people would use that. And then I later on, I grew up in that field within the company. I left to do my masters in neurosciences because I wanted to understand how people change behaviors. And then I realized it’s not about individually here, is about collective behaviors. So I went back to uni, while I was still working and I did a part-time PhD in social change to understand how do we get people in this case, employees, or patients or citizens to change the way they do stuff.

Javier Bajer (03:04): And that was it. And the titled culture architect was, I had a column in the garden and the journalist that who’s interviewing me for the start of it, he said, or he’s a bit of a culture architect, and I thought, that’s great. That’s a great name for what I do, because it takes away the fluffiness of culture. You know, a lot of people think that this is about Harry fairy slogans and meetings and lists of mission statements and stuff like that and values, et cetera. And I was getting to understand is not about that, that doesn’t really work, that there was something that was a, more of a hard science, like an architectural science, where you build something, you design it, you build it and you can touch it. You can see a culture show up on a, in a phone call, in a decision. You can find how you can discover cultures when you interact with them quite tangibly as a customers. So that’s how I ended up there.

Maria Franzoni (04:10): I think that’s really interesting that you, you know, you’re saying that it’s not about individual behaviors, it’s collective behaviors and it’s that culture. And I love the term culture architect, and I was going to ask you where that came from. So thank you so much for preempting that, that’s brilliant. But how do you actually design cultures? Do you do that? Do you do that before the organization begins? How do you do it when an organization already exists? Can you, can you design a culture?

Javier Bajer (04:36): Oh, that’s a great question, Maria. The very rarely we design the culture from scratch very, very rarely. You really have the opportunity to do that because when the companies are very small, they don’t have money to spend on culture. They haven’t caught, they haven’t had the challenge yet. So it’s, it is mostly fixing an engine while it’s running, you can’t stop a culture. You can’t stop a business and say, Hey, let’s go away for a couple of days and talk about how would we want to be, and then have sort of, you know, a way like a town hall meetings announcing the new culture. I want to think of myself and the work that we do as a team, as a bit of an antidote to that. I don’t think that culture changes because we talk about them.

Javier Bajer (05:26): It’s like temperature, you can talk about temperature. You know, we’re talking about how hot it is. It doesn’t make a difference. In fact, it makes it worse because now we raise the awareness levels and we feel warmer now. So culture changes very quickly, but it’s not through the toolbox that we’ve been using, probably inherited from the fifties and sixties, the industrial revolution, even, where culture was more like a process. It’s not a process. It doesn’t work. I, you know, I was part of the problem and mea culpa for many, many years of forcing, like PowerPoint, storytelling around how we would want to be as a company, whatever company was telling people how to behave, ignoring the behaviors are output. They’re not inputs. I can’t tell a dog to wag its tail and even worse.

Javier Bajer (06:22): I can’t grab a dog’s tail and wag it for it. I have to do somethings that the dog naturally wags its tail. Same as humans. We will pick up the phone and be customer centric. Not because I have a manager breathing behind my neck, and, or I’m being kind of challenged, to perform for the next queue, the next quarter if I want to keep my job or get a bonus, that kind of performance is not what we need in 2021. It did serve a purpose in the eighties, nineties, 2000, but now it doesn’t work. It’s clearly not working post pandemic. The motivation levels are just plummeting. And most organizations still keep trying with the old tool set without realizing that that’s not how culture change or how people change behaviors.

Maria Franzoni (07:20): That’s really fascinating. And I love the fact that you call it, it’s like fixing an engine while it’s running. I mean, that not only, I mean, that just comes up a brilliant image also sounds very dangerous to me, but it is exactly. Cause you’d obviously don’t want the organization to stop. You want the team to carry on, but you need to fix it. And I love the pet, example obviously because I’m a dog person. So thank you for you probably chose that just for me. You say cultures change fast. And actually most people think that cultures change, take culture change takes time. You actually accelerate culture change and can make changes so that it happens like in three to six months. Can you share some insights on how you do that?

Javier Bajer (08:04): Well, actually not only change doesn’t take time, but I would go further, Maria. Time is the enemy of change. So if I have somebody, let’s say there’s a team in the organization who struggles to deal with another team in their organization, you know, sales and compliance or whatever it is. The more time you allow the stronger the beliefs become and the deeper, the more ingrained the patterns of behaviors established. This is, I mean, the evidence to this, Maria is that organizations have been doing culture change for decades, and we are in a worse off position today. We’re being less customer centric. Now we are dealing with, using data and analytics. Again, people buy new computers and they have data and people are not able to think digitally, to think using data. So time is a funny thing actually, because that’s assuming that humans are, again, a bit like machines or buildings that you can, you have to wait for the foundations to settle and to this for the cement to dry before you can build onto the first floor and so forth, that’s not how cultures work, cultures a better way, a better, a better metaphor to understand cultures is it comes from the world biology or even biology of pandemics, you know, to use a more, contemporary metaphor.

Javier Bajer (09:41): It didn’t, it doesn’t take time to get the whole country in lockdown that didn’t take time. The time is quite the enemy of change. So what we do, knowing that we get an organization into a state of, acceleration, and we fast forward all what we call the moments of truth. We rather than talking about culture, we come and get very, very close to the leadership of an organization. And to the next levels down, working in the alignment of whatever is a way or is working against their culture. And we do, we have to do that in a very short period of time. Cause that’s when you get the tipping point, that’s when you get the reinforcing loops that makes everybody else buy into this new way of doing it. So don’t announce cultures don’t get announced. You don’t need to announce that you’re doing a project or a, an initiative that is a killer. And however, that doesn’t mean that there is no process. There is a process, but it comes from the world of anthropology and biology rather than engineering in as people have it.

Maria Franzoni (11:02): OK. All right. You mentioned that people aren’t feeling motivated and even though, as you say, you know, we, we’re working on culture, we’re working on our organizations, is it, what are we getting wrong that people aren’t feeling motivated at work?

Javier Bajer (11:20): Well, if you look at every single metric of motivation and this, this is not related to the current pandemic, but going back in time since motivation or engagement had, was measured, started to be measured. The indicators actually have been progressively coming down. So if you look at Garner, any or Gallup, any of the indicators show that about seven to 10% of the global workforce wants to go to work every day or not even go to work, but nowaday, you don’t go to work. You switch into work mode. So that means that most people don’t, they’re not motivated. Now what happened over the years when organizations saw that this was a problem, they started creating mechanisms to engage people. And in that attempt to engage people, rather than engage them in a sense of creating commitment, engage them with a purpose.

Javier Bajer (12:27): They created alternative vehicles to make the relationship between an employee and an employer last over time. And to make people work harder. So they create a compensation. And compensation if you think about it as a word, as concept, it’s entirely wrong. Why are you compensating me for? That assumes immediately that there is a suffering, there is a damage. There is a, there is something that people don’t want to do, as part of their work. So you compensate them. So, and you have, you know, even you have departments called compensations and benefits, the comp and then, which is there’s something that my great-grand father probably started experiencing, when work was really hard, that when work was manual labor and clearly work wasn’t comfortable. But today what’s happening is that we are, we’re seeing a cultures. We are able to create cultures, where the motivation comes not from what people get, but from what people give.

Javier Bajer (13:40): So your time and your talents being put to use for a good use, right? And good use doesn’t mean charity. It doesn’t mean it’s still a business. You have to be in the business of adding value to a group of clients or patients or citizens or whatever you call it. When you are able to connect in your culture. The reason why people come to work, whether they’re in the front end or back end of an organization, it doesn’t matter with the value that is being created for money, right, because it’s a business, but the value is being created in the lives of customers, or citizens or whoever. Then you get the right type of motivation coming in. And of course all the, what people get becomes hygienic. It needs to be there, but it should not be driving the conversation of motivation because then you get what you get, you get what we have now, you know, after years of trying to keep the right people, and we keep losing people, organizations are struggling to get the right talent.

Javier Bajer (14:49): We are back in the war and talent that we had in the year 2000. And it’s even worse now because millennials have more clarity over the need. That I think we all have, but we kind of manage to dampen it, but they are not dampening the need to feel useful and not useful, Maria, just for the benefit of the team or the boss, or a short term revenue, target bonus, career promotion, whatever, or companies, shares performance and making their numbers that yeah. Is much further than that is, is going all the way to the value that we are creating for a part of society. When you can make that connection. And this is no trick hugging. This is the business organizations, which are in the business of adding value, where profitability and purpose are like two sides of the same coin.

Javier Bajer (15:54): They have people who are utterly motivated. If you think about organizations like even charities like medicines of frontier, they have no issues finding volunteers and these people. These are doctors who could be making millions. I think there be lot of mediums, hundreds of thousands of pounds working in Harley Street. There are doctors who go into the front line where there is disease. There is damage. There’s war, there is suffering. And they use their skills and their time, their talents, and their time to make a difference. And their heart can grow hugely. They’re not worried about their careers, their belly buttons. So when we work with cultures, we do two things. We move people away from their belly buttons, almost like a rubber band. Yes, of course it is important that we are okay. But the reason why we come into work it’s not because of what we’re going to get, but it’s because we are going to give something so getting has to be dealt with, but very quickly move on from the getting into the giving.

Javier Bajer (17:02): So we work on that. And then at the same time, we work on the individual leadership at scale for everybody in the organization. So no more top downs waiting for instructions, tiptoeing with fear of getting it wrong, separating the threat from the challenge and maintaining high challenge and long threat environments where people thrive and all the stuff that we keep trying to get collaboration, innovation, agility, customer centricity, it all emerges organically because you’ve taken away what has been stopping people from being human beings, which is what, you know, the good news is that we already are. So we don’t have to worry work too hard for that.

Maria Franzoni (17:54): Love that I love the adding value, the giving back, the moving away from that compensation culture. I think that’s really good. What I’ve noticed, is that it, you mentioned millennials, you know, from my generation and for other generations, it was about, a having our careers first, before we were able to give back, because it was our way of being, but millennials want to be giving back and adding value from day one in the workplace, which I think is a, is fantastic, a really wonderful shift in our culture, in our bigger culture, I suppose.

Javier Bajer (18:30): But I’ll just challenge that Maria briefly, I will challenge the giving back. The giving back suggests,

Maria Franzoni (18:39): We’ve taken yes,

Javier Bajer (18:41): A trade, a deal. I’m going beyond that. I’m saying, there is no giving

Maria Franzoni (18:45): Without yeah, you are so right. You’re so

Javier Bajer (18:48): I think that Maslow messed up bad time, big time. Maslow got it completely wrong when he told us. And there’s a lot of research done on at the time when Maslow became very, very famous, he had very good PR, but he was entirely wrong in that. Of course we need water and food and refuge, of course that’s unquestionable, but at the top of his pyramid of needs, he put self-actualization. That is the biggest mistake ever. We now know that human beings become much happier. Of course, once you have all the basic stuff sorted, right? When you use who you are to add value, to create value out there, the brain works differently. There’s neurochemicals that start to be developed when you give, rather than when you get, getting, you know, cries for dopamine and dopamine is a very addictive, never ending call for me, me, me, give me, give me, so that’s why careers, and even giving back, I think we need to stop.

Javier Bajer (19:59): We need to stop that and change it with, using our talents for good purpose and what we’re going to get has to be sorted out, but it cannot draw too much of the attention, in an organization that should not be the conversation that people are immense immersed in. Because then organizations become, clubs with very dissatisfied people and management teams who become desperate and say, how do I keep my talent before losing it? How do I attract people? What’s the talk about the employee value proposition that is horrendous employee value proposition is that you are coming here because through us, you are going to make a big difference in the world. And by the way, we’ll pay you well. But that’s the conversation that we already had. Let’s talk about, what’s important. Let’s talk about how many people are ill who need our medicines. Let’s talk about how many people can’t access their bank data, because we’re a financial services organization, how people are afraid of losing their houses, because we are an insurance company, how people are not able to work from home because we are an IT or a software development company or an or telecommunication company that is the conversation that needs to be driven inside the cultures of 2021.

Maria Franzoni (21:33): Much more powerful conversations. Thank you for correcting me on that. That is really powerful. And I can see how by driving those conversations you are become so much more customer centric that you have, you have much more engagement, you would have much, I can see how that would all bring those excellent, you know, reactions and results. You’ve worked with a huge variety of organizations in the introduction. I talked about Google and Airbnb, but the, you know, Mines and The Royal Household, which obviously piqued my interest. Can you tell us a little bit about what they have in common because they are so diverse?

Javier Bajer (22:12): Actually humans are humans, right? And there are a lot of things that we humans have in common. Of course there is a layer of culture that is, that is very time sensitive and location sensitive and complex sensitive. So clearly when we are, when we were last at the beginning of last year Mozambique, inside a mine, with 10,000 miners in what is like a probably like a village or a small town, the, there is a layer of what they talk about, which that is very different from the conversation inside the household, of course, or, swiss tree in Switzerland, or I dont know, a prison in Uruguay. The, what is common is that what drives human beings is pretty, pretty predictable. Now of course, you’ll say, well, a trader in a, you know, in Canary Wharf will be driven by something different from, you know, a nurse here in the office.

Javier Bajer (23:31): And that is true. They are immersed in a different conversation, but it’s psychological mechanisms and the sociological mechanisms are very similar. So the tools that we use to understand culture and then, you know, turn it, adjust it, are exactly the same tools. So of course, when you have a hammer, you can nail, you can hammer different kinds of nails, big nails, small nails, and whatever the act of hammering, continues to the same, right? So, as an example, Maria, before we start any projects we do a few weeks of ethnography. Ethnography comes from the world of anthropology. We go and live with the environment that we want to change, right? So I, in a trader, good luck on me. I’ve been a policeman, on the back of a police car in Northern Ireland, this many years ago, I’ve been a rubbish collector in Latin America.

Javier Bajer (24:40): I’ve been, an actuary in an insurance company in Switzerland, being like, meaning I hang out with them while they were doing the work without telling them that I was a culture architect, trying to understand how they do. So, because one thing is what people say, what they do, which is what we normally get to, you know, when you ask questions. But a very different thing is when you get to doing ethnography which is understanding why they say what they say and why they do what they do, that people will tell you that you have to hang out with them and hear the conversations pick on the conversations that they’re having while they’re being distracted or what they’re dealing with a customer, or when they’re having coffee at the cafeteria. So we understand the culture differently. So no surveys, I think surveys are a, an actually part of the problem.

Javier Bajer (25:37): Every time you measure engagement, you measure culture, you are doing a couple of things. One is you are, you’re getting people to, rehearse everything that bothers them. So it’s like an opportunity to moan. And that doesn’t help because actually that strengthens the memories of what’s wrong and tends to label things that could have been just one off or two offs. And they become a pattern and they become now a label and it can becomes harder to change. But the second thing, it creates a false promise. So if I ask you Maria, right now, you know, how hot are you? And you’ll probably tell me, yeah, I’m a 7.5 or whatever. And I get an average because whole day then, and I take note of that. And I thank you for participating in this survey now, not only are you feeling now hotter because I make you think about your heat.

Javier Bajer (26:40): But also, I can’t do anything about it. It’s, you know, I don’t do, I don’t sell air conditioners. I can’t even open the window for you. I, it is part of the context. It’s very difficult to change. So in a way, our relationship is somehow challenged because you told me that you in business, that you needed more clarity on the mission, on the direction of the company, or you wanted, you feel that you’re not being paid enough and things that, by the way, I already knew if I was very connected with the workforce anyway. So things that I’m not saying that we should ignore those things. I think that we should know them by being there is much more powerful. And then not only know what people say or do, but you understand why they say what they say, don’t do what they do.

Javier Bajer (27:33): And therefore you have access to starting to change the culture. And the tools that we apply then on our second phase of our work is understanding where are those beliefs? Where, what are the hopes? Where these beliefs are hanging from? And there are, this is what we created this methodology called the moments of truth, where we very quickly held the organization, adjust all these moments of truth in record time, so that without announcing a change of culture, the conversation that people were immersed in, very naturally and organically and quickly, literally three months to six months maximum, it changes and people forgot about the conversation. They had six months, six months ago. So that’s essentially, how, how actually worked, how we managed to make it work.

Maria Franzoni (28:33): I’ve written a ton of notes there. I’m imagining anybody listening to this will be making all sorts of notes. And it’s reminded me actually, of the mistakes I’ve made when I’ve led organizations and even the mistakes I’ve made actually when I was a management consultant. So that’s really fascinating stuff. So a lot of reflections for me, but here’s one I don’t understand. I can see how you can do that in an organization. I can see how you can do that for a company, but you also do this for cities and even countries. How can you do that when there isn’t one particular place to go to when everybody’s dispersed in a country, for example?

Javier Bajer (29:11): Well, that, that is, you know, after years of helping big brands get the cultures that they need to, so that their strategies can work. I became more interested in cities because, you know, once you are, you’re in this field, you like it when it’s broken. You like it when it, when people have already tried a few things and they are blaming each other, they’re blaming the consultants, who’ve done the report. They’re blaming the former head of HR or the CEO or whatever. And they’ve restart, you know, and I love it. I love, I love that. And in cities, yeah, it’s, it is a lot more complex, but the methodology is very similar. So we need to understand, by being citizens, or by being, you know, hanging out in the city, what are the constructs, what are the mental models that people have that actually are driving the behaviors that need to change?

Javier Bajer (30:11): And then what changes is that the moments of truth that we operate through are different from, you know, in cities, or countries are different from the, from the ones that we find in organizations. So in organization, you have an onboarding, you have a selection, you have a contract, you have a performance management, you have team meetings, you have whatever. In cities you have other moments of truth. You have conversations that are happening daily amongst people, and you can inform those conversations. So an example is when we got, many years ago, a post 9 11, where we are, we were asked to help the city of what Manhattan, get ready to welcome more people. So they wanted to restore their trust so that people, you know, after what had happened, people feeling safe again.

Javier Bajer (31:16): So we worked very, very close with the people who were designing the layout of, you know, of new places and lots of parks, et cetera, but essentially in terms of communication with the citizens, of future citizens, we created, we identified, moments of truth, where that will, that would click and the, and the underlying belief was challenge, right? And therefore very quickly, Manhattan became now a lovely place to live in, again, being respectful of the site of the 9 11 incident, but at, or attack, but actually managing to have that together with it. This is a place where we relax and we think about what’s important in life. So we repurpose, we created significance for that and now becomes a place where will go for peace and reconnection with humanity.

Javier Bajer (32:20): So, it is just, you know, we work in the middle east, with the banking system of Lebanon. We were asked by the head of the bank, the national bank to help reduce corruption in the financial services industry. Again, it’s a very amorphous space, so it’s not, you don’t own what they read, what they do. Performance matters. You don’t own any of these amounts of truth, but nevertheless, you find, when you hang out there and you understand that there are nevertheless moments of truth that you can still work through. And the change happens very, very quickly. So in the city of Buenos Aires where the objective was to help change a mindset of 3 million people who didn’t have a clue or any interest in separating residues at source, you know, they went rubbish from the driver, you know, the recycling, so they didn’t want to do it.

Javier Bajer (33:30): We understood that had a mindset, that rubbish actually belonged to the government because they paid their taxes for collection. So psychologically it wasn’t theirs. That was number one. And number two that we realized was that rubbish disappeared. It goes away. So because out of sight, out of mind, and because a lot of people living buildings and buildings had incinerators, so you literally threw the bag through a hole on, you know, on the sixth floor, the whole disappeared out of your house. You could smell a bit, but that was it. You closed that lid and off you go, right, without connecting that actually then you were breathing that, toxic air, for having to incinerate rubbish. Right? So we, we got the city of Buenos Aires to win the C40 awards, which is an award, for the biggest, the 40 biggest cities in the world.

Javier Bajer (34:32): They won a few years ago. They won the award for, they won, changed the culture of recycling, the behaviors of 3 million people going from about 12% of people separating at source to over 90 in just about two years. So now the city is clean. People forgot, entirely forgot about how it was, and that’s what culture does, right? You, you move yourself with a bar to the new place and you don’t keep the gap. You know, you normalize again, which is it’s excellent because that allows you to not move down, and not lose the culture that you’ve created. So that’s, those, I mean, I could speak for hours because we got…

Maria Franzoni (35:18): Many examples. I’m sure. Yeah. That is amazing 90%. And I know we could speak for us. Like, I’ve got a couple more questions that hopefully you have time for. First of all, it’s clear why you don’t have too much time to speak and to go to conferences and events as a speaker, because you’re actually there doing the work. You’re actually changing those cultures. On those rare occasions where you are able to speak and where a client manages to book you, what are you able to cover in 60 or 90 minutes that can help that audience?

Javier Bajer (35:48): I actually, I love speaking. Don’t take me wrong. I love, and I mean I’ve been sharing the work with you for years and years and years, on online life. So I’ve been, I worked with hundreds, of very well known brands as a speaker, but I always say, you know, although I sound like a motivation speaker, you know, they’ll have fun. And as also of it examples, and it will, you know, they have a good time. I think my point in the 60 minutes or 90 minutes is not to show my own motivation or conceptualize. How do people, for example, now, you know, how do people go back to work, and whether it’s hybrid or any kind of version of hybrid people thinking about, I would challenge.

Javier Bajer (36:47): I, because I, you know, I continuously get my hands dirty with change and real change. And although I have a background, an academic background, and I’m, I even teach in, I’m a visiting professor of two business schools. So I’m able to have PowerPoints with boxes and arrows in them. Trust me, I can do that. But I think that the point is not to over conceptualize change. So I don’t, I haven’t used slides in about 20 years now. I always ask for a whiteboard or a some sort of paper where I can write on, and we have a conversation in those 60 minutes, 92 hours, or sometimes a whole day, like you, when you do a workshop, but they send the, what people will get is clearly a challenge of, hold on, you know, whatever we’re doing might not be, working as well as we thought, or what took us, what brought us here is not going to take us forward, which is tends to be kind of the message.

Javier Bajer (38:00): And what’s gonna take us forward, requires a change in some of the tools in our toolbox. So we, they will feel reinspired and reconnected with the roles as leaders, in that there are, you know, for those who are discouraged already, you know, of going around the block, once again, trying the same rituals, like, you know, let’s come out with a new, a new initiative, you know, we have a new project and what we have, we’re going way, and we’re coming out with a list of, we need a new slogan. We need a new set of values. So values were wrong. Now we have the right ones or the pillars, or the behaviors and, or the competencies as we call them in the nineties. It’s the same thing, that we keep trying to define what we want and communicate it as if this was like a linear process.

Javier Bajer (38:53): They will leave feeling very refreshed, challenged, challenged definitely, but very refreshed and very hopeful that their role as leaders in 2021, it allows them to do perhaps things that we talked about. They’ll remember we talked about the Buka World only a few years ago, many years ago, we talked about Horizon 2020, the Vision of 2020 look at 2020. It couldn’t have been more different from anything that we envisioned. So clearly, we need to learn as quick as possible, and people will be learning different ways of thinking about the challenges they have today, whether it is about talent, attraction, engagement, client centricity, digital transformation use of data to make decisions, collaboration, inclusion, leadership. All these things that are people talk about and they keep measuring and giving feedback in the hope that something magically is gonna happen. They’ll actually, they’ll leave the one hour with a, the beginnings of a new toolbox and you know, how it feels when you get a new toolbox, you feel that now you can’t wait to get into your workshop and use them.

Maria Franzoni (40:23): Brilliant. I mean, I’m feeling challenged and refreshed after our discussion. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve got pages of notes. So even from this, so listen, finally, at the time of recording here, we are just relaxing restrictions. And you talked about, you know, how that you, you know, getting people back to work, there’s a bit of still trepidation here, in your opinion, what will it take to get people back to work?

Javier Bajer (40:45): Well, I love that you finished with this question, and it seems like is the kind of question I would’ve asked you to finish with, which I haven’t. To make this flow better. I am currently, one of the many things that I’m doing at the moment is I’m pushing very hard to campaign on. Don’t go back to work. And let me double click on this, don’t go back to work with the emphasis on back. I think that we need to go forward to work, not go back because going back would mean that we haven’t learned anything from this last 18 months and that we are trying to reproduce a version of what we had before we actually, that was not working. It wasn’t working. People weren’t that engaged. We were not very innovative. We were, our, services and products were getting commoditized.

Javier Bajer (41:43): We were not being competitive enough. Customers weren’t very happy. You know, the NPS, you know, people were start to celebrate having an NPS and a promoting score of 50, which is ridiculous because I wouldn’t like any, I wouldn’t like to run a business where half of my clients that wouldn’t recommend me. That is like, I wouldn’t run a family where half of my children don’t want to be here. I mean, it wouldn’t work. So we kind of, it wasn’t working. Engagement was low. Innovation was low. Productivity was low. Despite of all the technology, all the massive investments, the books written on leadership, the, you know, on tap Ted talks and free for all, you know, university, courses on leadership and culture and management and all that stuff. So it is time to stop and say, hold on, guys, we don’t wanna go back to work.

Javier Bajer (42:42): Let’s use this opportunity to go forward to work and going forward to work means that we have to rethink not just where people work from or how they work from, but actually why people work. We can’t keep having work as the thing that we do in exchange of money. So then we can have a life kind of fighting this work life balance that is gone, that should be gone. And if we don’t get it very quickly, it’s gonna take over us. You know, the millennials are going to come and, and shake the hell out of us. The reason why we work needs to become the first conversation in leadership teams, all around the world. The how or where from that secondary, of course, you still have, have to have the conversation about, you know, is it virtual? How many days a week are we going back to the office or that whole conversation, please put it down one level and put one up above those, which is about, okay, hold on.

Javier Bajer (43:42): Why are we working? Why are we working? How can we make work, work for us? How can we make work defines us? You know, the historically work was the thing that we did with our time with, in our lives that defined who we were. There’s lots of last, last names that actually are based on the professions of our ancestors, you know, baker or whatever it was. There was, there’s streets with the names of the workers, the professional, the person who used to work there, or the type of people who worked in that neighborhood. And therefore, how do we become, again, a society where work and life no longer has, they have to fight for each other. And we realize that life is so much bigger and it needs to encompass work and work is the thing that we’re supposed to do to have a life, you know, is what fills us with enthusiasm.

Javier Bajer (44:55): That gives us purpose. It gives us a reason for being, because, you know, there’s a limit to how much golf you can play. You know, I’ve worked with loads of senior executives and ministers and presidents of countries who got it all. You know, they got it all, they got the power, they got the career, they got the money and they are, you know, in their fifties or sixties. And they tell me, I want to give something back thinking, why, what did you do with your whole life that you have to give something back? What have you taken that wasn’t yours? So you, the giving has to be part of everything that we do, and you won’t get the needs to actually go and do, to have a corporate social responsibility unit so that you can say that you’re doing something useful. How about we reinvent our work? And we make money out of creating value at scale. What if you know, we do, and I’m not talking again, this is not tree hugging. This is about using our talents and our opportunities in, through our work to be very proud of the value that we are creating for society. So therefore, don’t go back to work. Let’s go forward to work.

Maria Franzoni (46:19): Lovely. Have you, you have given so much today in this podcast, you have given so much value. Thank you so much for being my guest.

Javier Bajer (46:29): My pleasure. It’s a real treat to work with you.

Maria Franzoni (46:32): Thank you. So thank you for listening to The Speaker Show, and if you enjoyed this episode, please leave a rating on Apple Podcasts, and you can keep up with future episodes on the Speakers Associates website, which is ( or your favorite podcast app. And if you need Javier’s help in your organization, be sure to contact Speakers Associates in time to book him for your next event. See you next week. And bye-bye for now. Thank you.

Live interview

Maria Franzoni is an established and recognised speaking industry expert and one of the most experienced speaker bookers in Europe.

As well as working with speakers, Maria also hosts live shows and podcasts. She currently hosts The Speaker Show podcast for Speakers Associates.

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