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Oct. 26, 2021

101 Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute: How Employee Development Can Become the Highest Form of Social Contribution with Ed Offterdinger | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker

101 Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute: How Employee Development Can Become the Highest Form of Social Contribution with Ed Offterdinger | Greater Washington DC DMV Changemaker
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In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Ed Offterdinger, chairman of AO People Partners, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism D.C., and co-author of the book Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute. Ed Offterdingershares lessons learned in his leadership journey and the reason behind his focus on coaching leaders, and his commitment to making a difference in the community through Conscious Capitalism.   

Some highlights:

-How Ed Offterdinger's childhood growing up in the Greater Washington DC region impacted his life

-Why Ed Offterdinger chose to study accounting

-How Ed's son taught him the value of balancing work and life 

-Ed on how he met his business coach, Dave Maguire

-What led Ed Offterdinger to start AO People Partners with Catherine Allen

-The story behind the founding of Conscious Capitalism DC with The Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner

-What Conscious Capitalism is all about and how it's becoming a movement among organizations

-Ed Offterdinger on the importance of Mind Skills and People Skills

-Elements of a conscious organizational culture

-Ed Offterdinger's take on the future of work


-How to lead through the certainty of uncertainty | Leadership Insight (Listen to this Partnering Leadership podcast episode here)

-David Gardner, co-founder, and chief Rule Breaker at The Motley Fool (Listen to David Gardner's Partnering Leadership podcast episode here)

-Dan Simons, co-founder of the Farmers Restaurant Group (Listen to Dan Simons' Partnering Leadership podcast episode here)

Book Recommendations:

-Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt

-Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia

-Firms of Endearment by Rajendra Sisodia

-Built to Last by James C. Collins

-Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman

-Think Againby Adam Grant

-A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

-The Biggest Bluffby Maria Konnikova

-7 Lessons for Leading in Crisisby Bill George

Connect with Ed Offterdinger: 

Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute on Amazon

Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute Website

Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute on Twitter

Conscious Capitalism D.C. Website

Ed Offterdinger on LinkedIn

Ed Offterdinger on Twitter

AO People Partners on LinkedIn

AO People Partners on Twitter

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 



Mahan Tavakoli: 

Welcome to Partnering Leadership, I'm really excited this week to be welcoming Ed Offterdinger. Ed is co-founder and chairman of AO People Partners. He's a leadership coach and strategic business advisor who has served in many different leadership roles, including as CEO and managing partner.

Ed helped co-found Conscious Capitalism D.C. along with David Gardner and he's most recently co-author of the book Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute. We talk a little bit about Ed's own background and leadership, why he believes in people development and showed it in his own leadership and organizations. Why he has advocated conscious leadership, especially through conscious capitalism. And now, some of his insights that he shares from his book, Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute. 

I really enjoyed the conversation with Ed and I am sure you will too. I also love hearing from you. Keep your comments coming, mahan@mahantavakoli.com. There's a microphone icon on PartneringLeadership.com. You can leave voice messages for me there. Don't forget to follow the podcast on your favorite platform of choice.

Tuesday conversations with magnificent changemakers from the Greater Washington DC DMV region and Thursday conversations with global thought leaders, primarily leadership book authors. And then finally, those of you that listen to these on Apple, don't forget to leave a rating and review when you get a chance that will help more people find and benefit from the conversations.

Now, here is my conversation with Ed Offterdinger 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Ed Offterdinger, welcome to Partnering Leadership. I am thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

Ed Offterdinger: 

Thanks, I'm glad to be here. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Really excited, both with the leadership that you have shown in this community, the organizations you've helped found, and most recently the book that you've written. But before we get to any of those, Ed, would love to know whereabouts you grew up and how your upbringing impacted the kind of person you've become?

Ed Offterdinger: 

That's great. I was born at a suburban hospital. They don't even deliver babies anymore, but that was in Maryland, which also is my wife actually, which is a coincidence. My father is a native Washingtonian, my great-grandfather had a cigar shop on 9th street where the FBI building is, and we are - so long time Washingtonians. 

In fact, some point I learned that they owned the whole block, but by the time it got to my father, none of that was still around. So I grew up in downtown Bethesda. I'm an only child. My dad sold life insurance at night. Neither of my parents graduated from college and my mom stayed home and she was a precinct chairman and did all kinds of stuff. 

And my dad, a great thing about dad, he sells life insurance, essentially door to door at night, is that he was home a lot, and so he coached the baseball team and all that stuff. So it was, growing up was a lot of fun. And that experience of him, his family having had some money at one point and then not, really had a big impact on him. He never quite got there again but he sure worked hard. 

And so yeah, I always tell people we didn't have air conditioning in DC. I didn't have air conditioning so I went to the University of Virginia. So it was an interesting upbringing. I worked from the time I was 14. I had a lawn business as a caddy. Had a great job in the summer driving, delivering chemicals. So in the summer it was air conditioning treatment and the winter it was boiler treatment, and all through college, I did this. 

And the funny thing was when I got to work for Arthur Anderson in downtown DC, I go into these buildings and I knew exactly where the boilers were. How do you know that? And my final job before getting into a real job was I had worked my way up to being a waiter at the Old Ebbitt Grill. And that was a big deal because you could - weekends, you could make some seriously good money, and then they told me I couldn't [inaudible]. 

So hard workers, didn't have the time. I will say, this is an important part of my story is that my parents were scared to fly. So we didn't go anywhere and we didn't have a lot of money anyway, but my father managed to scrape together, I think 500 bucks to join Bethesda Country Club. 1965, it was a dump, it really was. Everybody got assigned to hold, pick rocks in the fairway and all of those stuff, but he played golf for the first time the same day I did. So I was eight or something like that, maybe seven. 

And I tell you this because I ended up getting to be fairly good at it. Good enough to basically get paid to play golf at UVA. Pretty good deal. I may be the only kid whose father, when I would talk to him on the weekends, didn't ask me if I was studying. He asked if I was going to the driving range because he wanted to make sure I didn't lose the scholarship. So that's sort of an important thing, but hard work, I mean, it was a fun upbringing. My parents got divorced in college, so that sort of change things, but I'm a Washingtonian. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And you have experienced all across the region, whether it's with the office buildings or the restaurants and the country clubs. Now, you ended up going to UVA, as you mentioned, why study accounting? 

Ed Offterdinger: 

Well, two reasons. Number one, very good coincidence that worked in my favor, my grandmother's best friend was the managing partner of the DC office for Arthur Anderson. So I knew a little bit about that and it might not be too bad. My maternal grandfather, who was also a golfer and played actually basketball, Kansas. He was an accountant working at GE. 

So I knew of accounting but truthfully, I wanted to be a lawyer and I thought, okay, there was a lot of lawyers in the 70s and to get into a good law school, I wanted to differentiate myself so I did pretty well in accounting and the problem was that the commerce school in Virginia was pretty hard, so I was good enough to get a job at Arthur Andersen, but not good enough to get into a premiere law school so I just stayed with it and yeah, there we are. I didn't really think a lot about it. I got a great job at a great firm and off I went. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That didn't hold you back and it sounds like you also had a great social life at UVA because you ended up meeting the love of your life, Donna, while there.

Ed Offterdinger: 

I did. She was a local, as I said, from DC and a friend introduced us the summer after my freshmen, UVA people call it 'first year', that's never really stuck with me after my freshman year. And, she's a couple of years younger, so she hadn't actually gotten to college and I took her to the Churchill High School senior prom. I was 23, she was 21 when we got married and that's 40 plus years ago. 

I know people say stuff like this, but we are 50-50 partners. I'll tell you a quick thing about her just as an example, about once a month, when I was managing partner at Beers & Cutler and Baker Tilly, she would say, "You're going to be in the office today?" and I said, "Yeah", she goes, "Here you go, it's a cookie day." I'm like, great. So what the cookie day was, you're not gonna believe this, but she would get up and she would bake, initially, it was about a couple hundred cookies and she would come into the office and she would deliver chocolate chip cookies to every body. 

And then as we grew, that became quite an expedition. And of course, my partners would say, "Why do you think you still have the job?" So, and she would host the interns at the backyard, and so we're a team, that's for sure. That was certainly fortuitous that I met her in 1977. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

From early on, she was part of you having a great organizational culture with the cookies for the team, the cookouts, all of those other elements to it. I also know, Ed, that you are a committed family man, in addition to your love for Donna, and it's your two-year-old son that showed you the importance of family over just work. 

Ed Offterdinger: 

This is one I've, sometimes I will still get choked up even telling it because it was such a whammo. I had a great job, I was working in Arthur Anderson and this could have been any firm. It could have been really anywhere, but for me, I was working a lot. I was traveling, I was moving up and Bobby was coming up on two and we also, we had a younger child, Kiara, who is, they're Irish twins, they're 11 months apart. 

So she was somewhere in the room at the time. But anyway, Donna was playing a game. It was a Saturday. I was sitting in our little townhouse in Gaithersburg and she says, "Hey, Bobby, where's daddy?" He looks around, he looks around, looks around, looks right at me, turns, spins, and goes and pulls the phone off the wall.

I was sitting right there. And at that moment I realized that was the definition of who his father was, was saying goodnight to daddy on the phone. And I didn't leave the next Monday, but I knew that I was going to have to leave. And then truthfully, when I chose Beers & Cutler, one of the reasons was because I just knew that we could make that a place where clients came first and people came first and we were all about excellence. But for me, I hoped for the people working there, it could be a place where family would be first and still be able to do all this other things. But it's one of those where I can remember that, like it was yesterday and of course it wasn't. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

What a powerful story, Ed, of understanding what is important to you. Fortunately, early enough to then be able to make the changes to be part of your family's life as your kids grew up. And also in having read some of your content, being familiar with what you talk about, this now resonates, the fact that you understand and relate to the need for a balanced perspective for all the people in the organization, rather than the hustle culture that some have promoted for way too long.

Ed Offterdinger: 

Yes. Comparison is one of those things that's a little dangerous. I don't want to imply that we did it right and other people do it wrong because it's not the case, but my business partner, Katherine and I talk about things like this frequently. If you think about it, we spend more time at work really than almost anywhere other than sleeping, maybe and that's not always the case. 

So it's such an important part of our lives. Why does it have to be hustle, hustle, hustle, just for the sake of accomplishment or it could be a place that is, it feeds the whole person. I know that sounds trite, but I really believe that, I've always believed that. And the funny thing about it is as you know, when you really invest in building that kind of culture where people are that way, guess what? You also succeed more. The companies do better. They make more money. They grow faster. Okay, I'll take that. It starts with that common culture, for sure. We weren't the only, there are a lot of companies doing this, as you know. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It is and it's important for us always to reassess and look at how we can do a better job with it. Now, early on in your career, you also met a coach, Dave Maguire who had an impact in your perspective on developing yourself as a leader and your team too. 

Ed Offterdinger: 

Yes, I've had four or five things in my life that I would just say are gifts that I wish everybody could have and Dave Maguire was one of them. I always do this when I'm coaching, I look over here cause I have this mass card on my inspiration board. So Jim Beers is very forward thinking, in the mid 90s decided that we would invest in professional development in a big way at the firm. 

And we only have 60 people or so, maybe a little bit more. I don't quite recall, but with the idea that he would bring an organizational psychologist and he brought in Dave Maguire, who was basically an HR guy and funny story, I want to write his story. Dave grew up in Chicago wanting to be a priest, but he wanted to be a silent priest. He was in a monastery, a silent monastery for five years and then at the end of five years, you have to decide whether to stay forever or go back and he would say, "I just like to talk too much. So I went back."

And he goes back to Chicago, he starts in the mail room at continental bank and he moves up to become the head of HR continental bank, which was a huge bank in the early 80s, which also failed. So then he turned into an outplacement specialist. His wife was a writer and they came to DC and we were just so lucky to meet him.

And he became my thinking partner, he's the reason I'm a coach today. There were times I would say to people, some days he puts his arm around you and other days he kicks you in the butt. It's just the way it works. And I'll tell you one quick thing about my Dave too, he was not much on technology, old school. 

And so we would meet and there'd be say five works the whole time sometimes, oftentimes good things to say, but I would come in the next morning and the light would be blinking on my phone because he didn't email, but boy, could he leave a voicemail. His average voicemail is six to seven minutes long. I haven't got my pants, I'm scrambling [inaudible]. 

And people will say, wow, 20 years and the same coach, you must be a slow, well, I am a little slow, but also as my roles changed and their firm grew, and then we merged and I had different jobs, other than Donna, he's been the constant adviser, helper, thinking partner all along. And it just made a huge difference for me and other people at the firm, which was also an advantage.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And that's really important to keep in mind, Ed. One of the books I like is Trillion Dollar Coach Eric Schmidt of Google wrote it about Bill Campbell, who was a coach to whether Schmidt and a lot of top people at Google, was a coach to Steve Jobs and lots of other people in that the people that are at the top of their game, typically are the ones that understand they need constant development and coaching because there are blind spots and opportunities for improvement we all have, and we need people to push back on us. And that's why, Dave was the right person for your development over the years and it sounds like Dave also inspired you to become a coach yourself. 

Ed Offterdinger: 

He did and a couple of things on the coaching, the thing for me, I took a lot of 360s over the years, and I think I got better. There were certain things that I guess we'll never outgrow. I never had a real problem dealing with ambiguity. I'm quite comfortable with deciding, the problem is "You got to learn to bring people along, Ed", they would say, or "You don't need structure", which is pretty amazing for an accountant, but other people need structure.

It was those types of things that just made all the difference. You got to remember, go back to my story. I'm still competing as a golfer. It's true. I still play tournaments, I played a lot of phase in my twenties, thirties, and forties. What's the one thing that every golfer has? A coach, so it's simple. And we also think we're going to get better.

I mean, we all think we're going to get better. And so this idea of having somebody at my side to coach me. Yeah, it just seemed very logical to me. They were days hurt my feelings, but that's okay. But yeah, it really did inspire me to get into it too, because I know how much it works and I love that book by the way. That's a great, great story. 

And one of the things that I really like about that too, is the thing about him was that he had also run businesses. So he had credibility and he had practical experience and that's David's practical experience. He had dealt with lots of people. And for me, when I think about my coaching, yeah, I draw on a lot of different experiences, some days I will say more than others, but yeah, he's really the reason I'm doing it.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And as he coached you along, you focused a lot on developing leaders that you pride yourself on at Beers & Cutler. I was very familiar with the organization. You did spend a ton of effort, time and money on development, but you also had an experience studying Southwest Airlines and Herb Kelleher, who is really a magnificent leader of that organization.

If you think about it, if people think about Southwest Airlines, started out in a legacy industry that no one, no one thought anyone would be able to succeed at and make money in. And for many years they've continued reinventing and succeeding in that industry. So what did you learn from your experience at Southwest and Herb Kelleher? 

Ed Offterdinger: 

So the funny thing is that this was a, say how long ago, it was a young leaders program for the American [inaudible]. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You’re still young, Ed.

Ed Offterdinger: 

Yeah, I am, but it was a while ago. And so went the fall, went the spring and for two or three years, it was great. It was at the UT Austin McCombs School. I don't think they called it then, but one of the prime companies studied was Southwest and it had such an impact on me. The business model was brilliant, first off. Things like only one type of plane made it a lot easier to do all the things. 

One of the statistics and then I'll get to what I think is the thing that made the most impact on me. One of the statistics I love about them is directionally accurate [inaudible]. I believe that only 4% of the people that apply for jobs at Southwest, get the opportunity to even interview. If you've ever flown at Southwest and probably most of your listeners have, they're an interesting bunch. 

The people who work the planes. They're funny, they like to perform, they're extroverts. They know exactly what type of person works well and best at Southwest. So as a model for any company, Beers & Cutler, Baker Tilly Law Firm - it doesn't matter. That is such a key, key thing to really know, and then build into your recruiting, your training and it's like knowing the right clients to have if you know, what works the case.

So that was brilliant. I never drank Wild Turkey at work, which was his favorite thing. Thankfully, I didn't for a variety of reasons, but the one thing that stands out for me and this ties very much into conscious capitalism and some of the things I'm involved with today was sort of in response to the Milton Friedman businesses shareholder value or profit, he said the business of businesses is people, always has been, always will be. 

There's so many great Kelleher quotes, but that's my favorite because he's right. I don't care whether you're in manufacturing or professional services, that is the key. That is the key. And so it was timely. I was ready to learn. He's one of the people that I learned the most from.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And you both learned and practice that putting people first, rising up in Beers & Cutler, eventually merging with Baker Tilly. At one point in 2013, Baker Tilly's CEO decided not to continue in the role. You were one of two finalists for that position. What happened then? 

Ed Offterdinger: 

Yeah. A little bit of background, Tim Christen was the CEO of Baker Tilly, and they were a midwest firm, and I always tell people, Tim asked us to merge 20 times and on the 20th ask, I said that we would take the meeting. So we went into this and they were about twice as big as we were and our goal was to ultimately have a national firm. When we came in together, it was very clear what the plan was and off we went.

By the way, Baker Tilly 's going to do about a billion this year. They are national or California everywhere. So they've accomplished the goal that we had in mind, but it was always intended that Tim was going to stay, we were the same age, he was going to stay. We were going to rotten, you know, stay till the end.

So it was a little bit of a surprise when he said, nah, you know, I'm not going to be CEO anymore. So get nominated and went through the process and I lost, board selected on Whitman who's done a phenomenal job. And you know, it's funny. I was thinking about it this morning 'cause I knew that we were going to talk about this a little bit.

That again, using golf as an example, I have played so many competitive rounds of golf in my life and I've replayed so many competitive rounds of golf in my mind and they never changed. The outcome is always the same. And I remember thinking at the time, I thought about it and I thought about it...and then the boom, all of a sudden, you just like, okay, I got to move forward. 

I had a great opportunity. I stayed in the job that I was on, consulting. I was doing all the things, but what it did was it really, it was the catalyst for me to do what it is that I knew I was going to do eventually anyway, which is get into the coaching, and I joined forces with my friend, Catherine and off we went. 

And so it sounds almost, I don't know what it sounds like, but it was a gift. It was a blessing. They're doing great. I'm doing great. But I tell you at the time, it hurt. I'm competitive, I was not used to losing anything and it was a real stinger, but hey, "misery is optional" is one of my favorite sayings.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It is and I love your authenticity, Ed, and willingness to share this. I think it's really important for leaders both to hear it, and then embrace what you talked about, which is the willingness to be open enough to admit setbacks and then with those setbacks, the reinvention that can come for us to become better as a result of it. So I think your willingness to share this says a lot about your own leadership, your own authenticity, which more leaders need to have. 

There's this image of the infallible leader that for some reason, a lot of people have in their minds that I think is counterproductive to true effective leadership. So your story has a lot of lessons in it, both in you choosing to share it and then eventually for your reinvention that has resulted in you becoming the kind of person and contributing the way you always wanted to. 

Ed Offterdinger: 

Thank you. I do think I'm not alone in that, by any stretch of the imagination. You know, Catherine has some things she says that really resonate. One of them is something we're working on right now, but basically everything that happens can be our teachers. We can learn from everything. One of the things, I love Adam Grant's latest book, Think Again, and the idea that when we make a mistake or we lose or something, it's like, huh? Well, that was interesting. 

Scientists would look at something and go, wow, that was interesting. What did I learn from that? And it's hard as heck to do that on a regular basis, but if you're conscious, if you're intentional about it, you can kind of get into a habit of looking at bad days going well, that's interesting. And so I've got a bit of a mindset and again, are you shocked that I was talking to Dave a lot in 2013, 14? No. You know, I have people that help me see things because everything seems to be better for me, at least when I have people helping me think things through.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It is and I think for a lot of us, that's the case. I was having a conversation with a very good friend of mine. And he was saying that in our minds, a lot of times we say things to ourselves that we would never allow anyone else to say to us. So that's why sometimes you do need a coach or someone else to redirect some of that, what could be negative thinking to positive energy. 

Now you've had a lot of positive energy that you've contributed back even since then, including co-founding Conscious Capital DC with a dear friend, David Gardner. What brought about co-founding of Conscious Capital DC? What is that all about? 

Ed Offterdinger: 

Yeah, so a couple things. I'll tell you the backstory in a second but I ended up at the CEO summit for Conscious Capitalism in Austin in 2018 and I had left Baker Tilly in 2017. I come back to Georgetown, I had gotten certified in coaching and so forth. I was writing a book, it's fiction. Just kind of about my principle character, and I was thinking about, hmm, what kind of things would he be involved in?

Andrew is a conscious capitalist. I think I remember I got the yellow book. Huh? I go online. There was a CEO summit and three weeks later I applied and I got in and I went. Last day, I'm sitting there. It was probably [inaudible], and I've heard so many conscious capitalists say, it's like, wow, I found my tribe. I've been thinking this way and acting this way and attracted the businesses that think this way for a long, long time, and I believe they're the ones like Southwest that wouldn't. 

So anyway, I get down there in three days and it was really just so invigorating and the last day, David Gardner, was onstage, last interview, and he interviewed John Mackey, of course, the founder of Conscious Capitalism, the founder of Whole Foods. And at the end, he said, "Okay, now we're going to go around the room and we're going to have a Q&A", and they had a mic box.

And David started by saying, "Okay, I have a confession to make. I've been on the board of Conscious Capitalism Inc. for 12 years. John is on our book. We don't actually have a DC chapter of Conscious Capitalism, and I commit to you...", to the audience, he committed that he would have one by the next year. And me being, had a little extra time maybe, I put my hand up, he threw me to the box and I said, "If you're serious, I'll help you do it."

And that really is how it started. And David and I started, we had a dinner, a chef Jeff, something Northwest, and what we realized was we were a pretty good combo because David is so ridiculously successful and brilliant and nationally recognized with Tom and what they've accomplished and I'm just a local guy that's got a pretty good network. So the combination was really, really dynamic. 

We were fortunate because then we brought a bunch of people in quickly, and then they hired Audrey Robertson as their director of communications and she had been working at The Container Store for 12, 13, 15 years, and their founder's actually the chairman of the board of Conscious Capitalism, it all kind of came together, but it all started with me just wandering down there and David sort of fessing up.

And we then decided we're going big, no point fooling around with this, we're going to really go after it. And as you know, most exciting recent news is we are partnering up with Leadership Greater Washington, and we have five series coming up in the fall and winter and it's super exciting. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It is really exciting what Conscious Capital DC is doing, including the partnership with Leadership Greater Washington, but let's take a step back, what is Conscious Capitalism all about? What is this movement all about? 

Ed Offterdinger: 

At its core, we think of it as inspiration, connection and education. To go one step farther back, the core of Conscious Capitalism is embodied in the book Conscious Capitalism, which was written by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, it's that there are fundamentally four tenets of Conscious Capitalism that if companies operate in this fashion, there'll be a better world. 

Actually, the business elevates humanity better than anything. The capitalism is not the problem. There are some capitalists that are the problem. And in this day and age where half of the young people think socialism would be a better solution because of what they've seen and experienced, this is a better alternative. And so it's really the idea of higher purpose, which is not a new concept.

James Collins was writing about the great companies having higher purpose when he wrote Built to Last back in the 80s. Then the idea, which I think goes to Ed Freeman down at UVA Darden, which is this idea of stakeholder orientation. As John would say, there are no trade offs. In other words, yeah, shareholders really matter. So do your clients, so do your people, so do your customer, so do your suppliers, so does the government, so does your community. 

And if you start trading one off against the other, it's just not going to...so there's this integration, stakeholder integration and orientation, and there are tools to do it and so forth, I'll come back to the education part. The third one is conscious leadership, conscious being a pretty important word, which is intentional, thinking not just letting things happen, very mindful, trying to do the right thing, so conscious leadership and then the idea of conscious cultures. 

And so if you go back to inspire, we want to inspire others, leaders, companies to operate that way. This is not B Corp, so we're not auditing, we're not certifying or inspiring. At the same time, we're educating, so there is a field guide, there's a follow on book. A program we're doing with Leadership Greater Washington will be educating on each of those tenets, and then Jay Jakub from Mars, Economics of Mutuality, it's going to bring the whole thing together at the end. 

So it's education and then connection, because we learned so much from other leaders, and so if you have the opportunity to spend time with John Mackey, you will come away from that with three good ideas about how to make this happen, or Raj or David Gardener or Dan Simons or Mark Anderson, there's just so many. So that's basically what it's all about. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I think it is both great perspective and great movement, and you're approaching it the right way in that I repeatedly say on this podcast and in Leadership Greater Washington that who we choose to celebrate and the stories we choose to tell, make a huge difference to what people aspire to do and what they see as being possible. 

If we only celebrate organizations that achieve maximum shareholder returns at the cost of the planet or their people, then that's what people aspire to. I think Conscious Capitalism has a great framework in educating, informing, and celebrating the leaders that care about the broader community and all of the stakeholders.

Now, to that end, you're also, both on Conscious Capitalism and in your own consulting and coaching work, serving as a thought leader, you just put out a book, Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute, which is a fable on how employee development can become the highest form of social contribution. So even with your book, you're talking about employees and employee development, being a critical part of contribution and being a conscious organization.

Ed Offterdinger: 

Yup, I should put you to work selling it, yes. I've known going all the way back to the beginning, as I said, that investing in people, investing in their development, that's actually the thing that will pick up and make your business the best. That's not a new thought, and the idea that also, if you are investing in their development, it's good for them.

And many companies also recognize their responsibility to employees, whether they stay or go. And so we will frequently say you should build it like you want them to come and thrive and stay forever, just know they may leave, and so what they say about your company when they leave is really, really important.

So those two are pretty obvious. So one day Catherine came over to see me and she said, what if the purpose of employee development is actually social contribution? The idea that if you do all these things and you invest, you basically help employees become better parents, better citizens and then they leave, they go start conscious businesses, it's very generative. 

What if that was an incentivized and recognized concept for companies in America, maybe almost like there's an empathy index or there is ESG and things like that. So this tells a story of a company that gets off track and discovers all of this through some interesting conflict, it's kind of a model of, the story is completely different, but it's like five dysfunctions of a team. 

There's a story, and then there's a how to at the back. And we really came up with some ideas that Andrew and his team at Shift Advisors in DC, figure out along the way. And then at the end we've got 30 pages or so of, okay, you want to do this practically? You head on out and this is how you could do it.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

You do have a great frameworks and great thoughts in it, Ed, but before we get to some of those, I want to get your perspective on the fact that people being important to the role of the organization and people development being important has not been something that has just happened over the past couple of years. 

For decades, leaders and organizations talk about it, give it lip service. So why do you think there is such a struggle for the behaviors of leaders, the investment of the organizations, the way organizations operate to reflect more of insightful thoughts that you share and some other thought leaders have shared over the past couple of decades?

Ed Offterdinger: 

Well, there's a lot of answers to that question, but one, it starts with the opposite of a lot of short term thinking. I think that's really the fundamental problem is that it's very difficult if you are the CEO or even the head of HR of a publicly traded company to think it's longterm as you should, because you get a lot of pressure. 

The interesting thing, and this is right in Conscious Capitalism and then Raj Sisodia, his other book, Firms of Endearment, which is a funny title, the truth is that the companies that do these things, their shareholder value, I think the number is 8 times, it's 8 times higher over a 12 or 13 year period. I think this is the short-term pressure and the lack of courage, candidly, that is necessary to just say we're doing it. 

I was on a call this morning with them, with the preparing for something else and it was the head of HR of a company, and he just said, "Why is it that L&D is the first thing to get cut?" So it's still out there, but I will tell you this, that because of movements like Conscious Capitalism and books like Trillion Dollar Coach and some others, you know, things are picking up momentum, I believe.

And we just have to keep chugging along and adding one, two - there are companies in DC that we work with that I guarantee you are on this track. And so you multiply that across the country, across the globe, you can get there, but it's not going to happen overnight. It's just, one of my favorite quotes is "Water conquers rock" and that is so true, but that also means over a long period of time, so we just got to keep plugging. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I love water conquers rock because we do have to cut away at this and I would challenge, I don't necessarily think this is something only the public companies with quarterly pressures do, lip service is being paid to it from companies that I see in the Greater Washington DC region that have only 25 employees up to ones that have hundreds of employees, lots of lip service, not as much action. 

So we do need to celebrate more the organizations that are doing it well, and we do need to learn from frameworks like yours, because one of the points that you make is you say, we are moving into the next chapter of modern business when it comes to people development. What do you mean by that, Ed?

Ed Offterdinger: 

I think that, I was thinking we have 22 endorsers and so you think about that for a second, from all walks of business life who read this story and said yes, and some real thinkers in there too. And so you think about it, I think there are people buying into B Corp idea, Imperative 21, obviously, Conscious Capitalism. There are more and more companies. 

Even the Business Round Table, who's taken a lot of flack over it, coming out and saying, no Freeman actually had it wrong. I think we are moving into it because I think more and more companies are investing and recognizing that it's also good for their long term value. It is unequivocal that if you give them the data and you show it to them, it actually works. So I think there's a movement coming - not coming, is in process and it's going to take time, but I think we are moving into that. We both do very much, but it's based on what I see in here from conscious businesses that I hang around with. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And one of the elements you mentioned with respect to the movement is that soft skills need to be redefined. 

Ed Offterdinger: 

Yeah, it's funny. One of the things we would say is that soft skills, it's kind of a misnomer anyway. There's not any soft or easy about teaching those. So we've re-imagined them into two buckets, mind skills, we call them people skills and your mind skills are really the way the brain works and so things like critical thinking, wow, this world could use a whole lot more of that, adaptability, having a growth mindset, and then you have the fundamental people skills of which the absolute number one important is listening. 

Okay. And so then what we challenge companies to do is to go through and really think about what are those core capabilities that really make the most sense in your company and we have 20, it's all explained in the book and such, but choose them and then you actually can train on these and you can embed them in the life cycle.

You can say they're important. You can start talking about them on onboarding. You can build your performance management around critical thinking and how someone performs in it. And we draw a little infinity sign between performance management and learning and develop because that's kind of deal linked.

I'm getting a little HR here, but it's amazing actually, how many I think the statistic is 60%, yes, L&D, 60% of them will tell you that their programs are not linked to strategy. Huh? I mean, it just doesn't make any sense, but if you build these in, so we've really just sort of put a stake that there's nothing soft about them. It's fine, but we call them mind skills, very, very specific set of people skills and obviously technical skills. 

In other words, you still have to know how to do the job and that's where most companies spend all their money, but we would posit that actually, the thing is going back to my experience where why were we so good? Why are some companies so good actually, 'cause they invest in people's skills and mindset. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I absolutely believe Ed, as we are evolving beyond our organizations, focusing on manufacturing, on systems, those elements that can be routinely done, will be done by machines or computers and artificial intelligence. The remainder of what needs to be done requires the creativity and the critical thinking skills, things that cannot be done through machinery and artificial intelligence, therefore developing those capabilities in the people becomes a competitive advantage and a real differentiator for the organization.

Ed Offterdinger: 

Amen, and some people find that counterintuitive at first, but it isn't. They think, oh, in the world of AI and technology and so forth...no, actually it makes these more important, which is really, I'm just piling onto your good point. You know, who makes a really good argument for that is Tom Friedman in his last book, which is a few years old now,Thank You for Being Late.

The age of accelerations, which the idea that everything has accelerated so fast so it's going to be those types of people skills, mind skills that make all the difference. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So Ed, you also mentioned culture as a piece of what organizations need to be mindful of, building a conscious development culture. What are some elements of having the right conscious culture from your perspective? 

Ed Offterdinger: 

Well, for us, we've re-imagined it kind of taking the complete life cycle and really figuring out how to embed all these things around the horn. I think it really starts with an acknowledgement that leadership has to lead on us. So many times what happens is we'll come up with some great idea and throw it to HR. Another one with that, but pushing the rock up the hill, I suppose to the CEO being sort of the chief people officer, if you will. 

So we talked in the book about how to understand the role of leadership, and we give you some ideas on how to basically get about that. Oftentimes, just making the statement that our business and our people strategies are aligned, okay. So forcing your strategic planning to align those and to recognize that they're core, then we go through, we've helped companies do this too, where defining what are your specific development principles?

So what are you expecting from your people? What are those capabilities you really need choosing the ones that make the most sense for you and then embedding it throughout? And that's a systems work. You just got to take the time to figure out how to put them into your employee evaluations, and we spent a lot of time helping companies redefine their whole recruiting process to say, this is what's important. 

Huh? Maybe we should check for those on the way in, things like that. So, yeah, I mean, those are just some of the things we have in mind when we say that. Consciousness of course is being awake and being mindful of what you're trying to accomplish, so that's why we put conscious in front of just about everything. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It is important that all organizations have a culture, some are conscious of the culture and it's intentional and others are not conscious of the culture because it's an unintentional culture or elements, at least that are unintentional. So Ed, we are going through a lot of disruptions, continuous disruption to the way work is done. What are some of your perspectives on the future of work?

Ed Offterdinger: 

As we discussed before, I'm pretty much of an optimist, so I tend to take the crummy things and figuring out as they say, where's the pony? We won't tell the whole joke. So, it's been a rough time, but what have we learned from it? I think the future of work, you hit a major thing already when you talked about AI, right? I mean, that's pretty darn obvious.

I think right now, flexibility from leaders, lack of rigidity, think about your employees like you were, what if you had a customer problem? Go ahead and listen to them. Most people just want to be heard, you don't have to solve all their problems, but slow down because I think the future of work, we don't know exactly what it's going to look like yet. We're still kind of in the middle of figuring it out. 

So delivering edicts about, "You'll go back to the office." I just wouldn't do that. I would just be, I would listen, I'll be flexible and I would recognize that if you are acting a certain way, you can guarantee that there is a competitor that's not. So if you want to lose your people to somebody else, by all means, but I would just slow down because I don't have any more of a crystal ball than you do and I think, I just think we ought to just slow down and recognize people get a lot of stuff done and they enjoyed it. 

They didn't like having their kids run in and out from time to time and people don't really want to commute and all these things and we'll figure it out, but I wouldn't be rushing to anything or judgment. I think the variant is showing that a little bit, that whoops. So I hope that addresses it a little bit.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That flexibility is absolutely critical, Ed, and I did a solo episode on the certainty of uncertainty and we need to become comfortable as leaders in embracing uncertainty and flexible enough to adjust when needed, so your thoughts align very well with that. Now, I know in addition to your own book, because partly of your mom and your grandma's love for books, you read 25-30 books a year. What are some go-to books that you find yourself recommending or some of the most recent ones you've found to be impactful with respect to how to lead organizations or teams more effectively?

Ed Offterdinger: 

Number one on my list or at the top, you've already mentioned which is Trillion Dollar Coach. I just think it's a very practical book with some great stories, so that's one. It's funny, people that I coach, in the world of zoom these days, I've been doing this coaching now for almost exclusively like this and so I'm always rolling to the left or rolling to the right, because I got two bookshelves. 

So some things for me, one of them that I still recommend is Built to Last, believe it or not. So Collins' first book. It's the book that gave us the term 'BHAG', big, hairy, audacious goal. It's the one that gave us the 'tyranny of or'. Great companies and great people, frankly, don't think in terms of 'or', you think in terms of 'and'.

So I will frequently recommend that just because some of the companies turned out, you know, yeah, but the principles are really good. [Inaudible], for example. Then recently I'm a member of the Big Idea Club, which is Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, all these people that I would love to be, Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Dan Pink.

And they curate two business books a quarter and I get those books, really, it's really good. I don't know why I'm putting a plug in for them but why not, but one of his books is actually, one of his first books, Dan Pink that is, A Whole New Mind. It will make you think in a way you've never even imagined. It's just phenomenal. So that's one. 

Mindset, go classic from Carol Dweck, growth mindset is still something that we should talk about, think about, teach, strive to have, all those. More recently, a book I'd probably hand most of my clients is You're Not Listening, which is really good, I'm trying to remember who wrote it. And then Adam Grant's Think Again, it's really just. 

Oh, and another one, The Biggest Bluff, which is phenomenal, really about the idea of human nature and she chose Texas Hold 'em to be the, almost metaphor for decision-making in life. So it's a great story, as well as some really great lessons. So those are just a few, but I mean, I could go on. 

Oh, well, Bill George, just about anything he's written, so 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis. I went to that book over and over and over again in the early days of COVID for my clients, because like, don't be [inaudible], and that's rule number five, we all think we got to figure it all out ourselves. Never waste a good crisis also came out of that book. So that's a really good one, Bill George is phenomenal. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Those are great recommendations, Ed, and I think one big recommendation that is part of all of what you mentioned, it's important for leaders to keep in mind that we do need to be obsessive learners with a growth mindset, with the pace of change picking up, that acceleration that you also mentioned, we need to learn faster and need to develop ourselves. 

So yes, we need to develop our people, but we are one of those people that need to develop ourselves, and your book and your thought leadership is a great way to do that also. So how can people find out more about your book, Ed, and connect with you?

Ed Offterdinger: 

Thank you. I just want to say one thing real quick. So leaders who may not have the time or think they don't have the time to read that many books, there are a number of really good ways to learn these days. There are Ted Talks, there are great podcasts out there. So it's not just picking it up and reading a book, but I hope you would pick ours up. So you can go to consciousandcapable.com and order the book right directly from there. And you can connect with me right there and then find me on LinkedIn and other places. So, consciousandcapable.com. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Consciousandcapable.com is the way to access Conscious, Capable, and Ready to Contribute and Ed Offterdinger, I am really grateful that you have found a way to contribute to leaders and organizations through your work, your work history through helping found Conscious Capital DC, and now through your book. Thank you so much for sharing some of your thoughts and perspectives on the Partnering Leadership Podcast. 

Ed Offterdinger: 

Thank you for the opportunity. It was really fun.