Video Transcript

00:09 Susan Leger Ferraro: So I'm gonna share with you today, three things that I learned. One of them is about being a better human being. The other one's about being innovative and inspiring as a leader. And then, how do you do this and get results at the same time? So, my lesson one to myself that I learned in this last year, was about developing humans. I think Chester just did such a great job of focusing our attention on the importance of developing people. And so, my life's purpose is about developing people, and I've learned this year that it crosses all genders, right?

00:39 Ferraro: My last business that I worked with for 30 years, was 99.9% women. The business I'm working in now is 99.9% men. The biggest issue we still have is about the toilet seat cover, right? It's just... Honestly. And if were you to ask me a year ago, "What do you think is gonna happen Susan? You're gonna work with all guys right now." I was kind of like, "Yeah. I don't know. I've never done it before." I literally had no men on my team, at all. My sister was my CFO. They're all women. They worked with me 17, 18 years, grew the business.

01:11 Ferraro: And so really, truly at the end of the day, leadership is leadership. That's it. It crosses all industries, all boundaries, and really the gender has little to do with it. If you think about what Inc is talking about in this great magazine, that they're talking about the traits of leaders, they're now talking about being integrated. That the feminine qualities and the masculine qualities, it's in the integration of them that we're getting the highest and best out of our people. You can't treat people, "this is your professional self and this is your personal self." It doesn't work. It's archaic. We know that. We know that because we've practiced it. We know it from Chester's research. I know it from the research that we did for nine years with our team as well. And so, we're kidding ourselves to think that we're gonna keep treating people in a disintegrated fashion when they are integrated whole human beings.

02:06 Ferraro: The other lesson that I learned was about connection time. It's a process that we built into our company where we paid all of our employees to meet with their supervisor for a minimum of an hour to two hours every month. What do we do at connection time? We talk a little bit about what's going on at work, and we mostly talk about them as a person and how we can develop them. But connection time is also about me, as the leader. It's about you as the leader. What can I do better? Tell me how can I help you. Tell me what I'm doing that's working, what's not working. Am I acknowledging your work enough? Do you feel good about being here?

02:42 Ferraro: I can't tell you the jobs that I saved by finding out that people, they just needed a half-an-hour more in the morning so they could put their kid on the bus, and that made all the difference about them wanting to come to work. But we've not set up our society in a way that people feel comfortable asking to get their needs met, and so they don't. And then all of a sudden, they leave and you're like, "What happened?" And it's something so small that if you would have taken the time to find out at what we call connection time, it changes everything. And so although it's an expense and it costs us, it's something that we cannot, it's immeasurable, as far as that piece of connection time.

03:16 Ferraro: I saw Martha Stewart speak about 10 years ago and someone in the audience asked her, "Martha, you have so many businesses, how do you handle them all?" Her comment was, "It really is about getting done what the priorities are for the day and then doing what I prefer to do at the end of the day." All those things that I don't wanna do: Those emails, that phone call, that document that I need to edit, that report that I need to finish, she gets them all done at the beginning of the day. And then she gets to do the fun things.

03:48 Ferraro: So when I left that experience with Martha, I actually dubbed it "Priority versus Preference" and we measure ourselves against it at our business. We use the language priority versus preference all the time. Is that your priority to do that or is it your preference? Because that's the easy thing. You know that? The conversation you need to have, we're sharing walking down the hall and you're like, "Yeah. I'll get to that later. I'm gonna do this thing." That's your priority.

04:11 Ferraro: Your preference is to stay on that Excel spreadsheet and do that report. And if we can discipline ourselves enough to make sure that we're focusing on our priorities, the other things will happen and happen faster. And we knew this, we measured this as part of our research project. We were, in the Department of Education, that a 10 million dollars in innovation funds to create the greatest literacy scores in the country actually, it was the Early Reading First project. We're working in some of the most at-risk communities in Rocksbury, Lawrence, Lowell with the most at-risk kids. When we started measuring the results of this test score, we were scoring in the 65th percentile in the entire nation.

04:57 Ferraro: Shortly after we got these funds, we started scoring in the 95th percentile. Do you know how hard that is to change reading proficiency like that? If they could take this model, it would change the world. But what was interesting is we were working with a Harvard researcher named Fran Harley for all these research for nine years. She was measuring three things: The environments that we created, the curriculum we were using, and then the teaching and the development and training that we did.

05:22 Ferraro: What we found out from Fran was that ... She works in the Gates Foundation. She's all over the country measuring reading proficiency scores. She said, "Susan, your curriculum is great." Everybody's doing something similar and it's a great curriculum. Your schools are beautiful. The environments are great for kids, really important. Your differentiator is about your training and development. And what we found was that when we weren't doing connection time with our employees, our test scores went down. And when we did them consistently, we were able to achieve those test scores.

05:54 Ferraro: Now if that doesn't tell you how to get results, my friends, I don't know what does.