Building Competency - Jonathon Hensley

business competency Jun 30, 2021
Mark Struczewski, Jonathon Hensley

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For more than two decades, Jonathon Hensley has helped startups, Fortune 100 brands, technology leaders, large regional health networks, manufacturers, financial institutions, non-profit organizations and more transform their businesses by turning strategy, user needs, and new technologies into valuable digital products and services.

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UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT

Mark Struczewski
For more than two decades, Jonathan Hensley has helped startups, fortune 100 brands, technology leaders, large regional health networks, manufacturers, financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, and more transform their businesses by turning strategy, user needs and new technologies into valuable digital products and services. Jonathan, welcome to the show.

Jonathon Hensley
Thank you so much for having me, Mark.

Mark Struczewski
And we're going to talk about a touchy subject, at least Jonathan thinks is a touchy topic no one wants to talk about, we're talking about building competency. Before we get to there, Jonathan, that was quite a bio you sent me to read for the listener. You've got a lot of accomplishments so far on this year, and you'll I'm looking at you on video, you look really young.

Jonathon Hensley
Well, I got started very young mark. I mean, I've been in the digital product space for close to 25 years. And I started as a young teenager, interning and just picking up every little possible job I could to get myself into areas of opportunity just to learn. And that was really one of the focuses I had, I mean, I was going to school like everybody does. And but my real education came from as soon as I could get out, I was right over to somebody's office building and working as hard as I could.

Mark Struczewski
Wow, that's amazing. I remember, when I was going to high school, I will openly admit I did just enough to pass the test just enough to pass the courses, and even carried into college. And it wasn't till after I graduated college, when I started going out into the real world and realize the real world wasn't too kind that people kept telling me that you've got to be having an attitude of never stopping to learn. And I'm like, I just want the high school and college I got a degree What am I going to keep learning this is crazy. And they go No, if you want to be the best version of you, you can't just say my learning ended with college education. That was a big wake up call to me. And now, even today, and you know, June 2021, I make sure I read at least one hour a day because I found people like Ilan musk and, and Mark Cuban and all these really successful people. They make it a point to read and they're worth billions. I'm like, Huh, they're worth billions and they prioritize personal development, I should do the same thing. And I wish more people would take that mindset.

Jonathon Hensley
I couldn't agree more actually do the very same thing. I have dedicated reading time every single day, I have dedicated, you know, time just for research and understanding. It's it's amazing once you have that discipline over a period of time, how you'll start to connect topics to your passions that you didn't realize had any relation. And it just completely changes the way that you look at, you know, for example, part of the world or maybe a topic that you're really interested in, or you know, somebody who you've admired and really realizing, you know, what they've had to overcome to achieve success in their life.

Mark Struczewski
Well, Today is June 30, last day of June, my favorite month of the year, by the way, it's my birthday month. And we have this thing called COVID going on the COVID pandemic. And one of the things that really annoys me is you get in a healthy debate whether you're pro Vax, anti Vax, you know, you think it's really a pandemic or not whatever the case may be, then people go well, I heard on the news, and I'm like, wait, that's not research. Did you do the research? Did you go out and read the blog posts and the research papers? And, and I'm so sad when people go, No, I read a tweet. But that's not what I'm talking about. I don't care what the topic is COVID or organic farming or Facebook ads or building a company, do your research. Just don't take somebody's word for it. And I see this happen all the time. People see a post, they see a tweet, they read a blog post, and they think they know everything about that topic. And I'm like, No, you have to do your own due diligence. And I got a feeling you agree with that?

Jonathon Hensley
100% I mean, there's two facets that jump right to mind when you bring that up. I mean, the first is, you know, just the importance for everybody to practice critical thinking, you know, and critical thinking is such a fundamental basis in science and innovation and creating and delivering great products. I mean, you mentioned Elan Musk, here's a guy who lives and breathes through critical thinking you know, understanding challenge all assumptions you know, suspend your judgment really understanding you know, what your potential conscious biases may be towards the subject and then you know, educate yourself even more immerse yourself in the data in the points of view and try to put yourself in the shoes of other people to understand the topic, you know, holistically and then you can start to really form you know, an educated opinion. It's not based, like you sent out a tweet or some blog posts, but it's really grounded in, you know, the foundation of knowledge. And I think that's that's it's so critical to, you know, emphasize that kind of thinking. The other thing that I think people have to be really careful about, and we deal with this and from both leadership development as well as teams, creating high performance teams around creating digital products and services, is this idea of what's called confirmation bias. And this is the human behavior, we naturally seek out information to validate our beliefs and assumptions. And that's really important to set all of that aside, and not seek out the information that validates our thinking but seek out you know, truth.

Mark Struczewski
One of the books I'm reading right now, and I say one of the books because I have this habit of reading three or four books at the same time is Ray Dalio, his principles blog. And I just read the part where he talks about having an open mind to truly have an open mind which everyone says they have an open mind. To truly have an open mind what Mr. Dalio says is you got to accept the fact that maybe you're wrong. Like you just said, confirmation bias, we tend to read the blogs, or listen to the podcast, or follow people on social media that align with us. But that's not having an open mind. Having an open mind says, Well, maybe my beliefs are wrong. And if you have an open mind, you're you're willing to learn and go, Oh, I thought it was a it's actually be, sadly, a lot of people don't do that. Sadly, people are just like, I know what I believe. I read what I believe I listened to what I believe. But I I really believe that that is having a closed mind. What do you think about that?

Jonathon Hensley
Again, I think that's spot on, Mark. I mean, I think that when, least from my experience and the research work that I do, it's so evident that if we don't, you know, set aside our assumptions and our beliefs, and we really don't embrace a topic for what it is, we are not only working with a very narrow point of view, but we're also really limiting the potential opportunity we have, I mean, you don't know what kind of amazing innovation or connection you might make with somebody, because you're open and exploring, you know, a topic in its, you know, fullness. And, you know, usually there's such a richer, deeper story that unfolds when you do that. You know, again, being a research person, you know, that lives in the product world, it's one of the biggest things that we do is practice active listening, where we're not seeking out specific information, but we're looking for the cues of what, what motivates people, what informs their behaviors that actually drives their actions. And so we can understand people in topics at a much deeper level, whether that be, you know, at a personal level, or professional level, and they're trying to progress and develop themselves or their organization, it's so essential to really, you know, embrace, you know, as many points of view as possible.

Mark Struczewski
And I think that's a good transition into the topic you want to talk about today. Building competency. And one of the things you told me, before we hit record was a lot of people don't want to talk about it, but you feel passionate about it. So let us start here. What does building competency mean to you, Jonathan?

Jonathon Hensley
Sure, well, building competency. First off, I would I think I have to break it down into areas of alignment. One would be his individual alignment with your work and how you make a difference and contribute to his understanding team alignment, how you bring together unique expertise and experiences and disciplines to solve a problem. And then organizational alignment, and how you as an organization, align your resources and your people with solving the right problems to create value for customers. And when I think about it in those terms, you know, it's like, well, what does it take them to create an environment for people to unleash their full potential and to really solve those problems in the best and most effective ways? And I think what, you know, it touches on some of what we've been talking about is like when ego gets in the way or we start, you know, not knowledge gets siloed we are reducing the competency of the organization, intentionally or not. And so what I think is really challenging about the topic is I I think on the surface level people are very interested in the topic of building competency. But I think what it does is it forces you to really look inwards and go, am I as a leader? Am I as an entrepreneur actually creating an environment that promotes competency? Am I actively delivering on the things that are required from leaders today, and a technology driven world to do I understand how competency is actually developed. And so as an example, like, if you look at like the an adult learning model, you know, you, you start off with unconscious incompetence, which is basically saying, I don't know what I don't know. And then you move into conscious on competence, which is, you know, I'm aware that I don't know this thing, and it will be difficult for me to do it. But I'm willing to take on the task, I need to go educate myself and become proficient at this thing. The next would be conscious competence would you are all of a sudden, now you can do the thing, but it's still it takes real effort and unconscious competence, which is that the you know, that you've mastered that skill set, you now can do it almost effortlessly, it makes it look easy. And you can see this, for example, I don't know if mark, you're, you know, sports guy, but there's, you know, you see this with professional athletes all the time, you know, there's that progression. And now all of a sudden, you have, you know, a pro golfer that's like, they can do things that just seem, you know, defy the laws of physics, and then the next thing, but that's that level of competency, and they're never stopped practicing it. They're building mastery throughout their career and continuing to do that. And so the same thing happens within organizations, and teams, when they're trying to really deliver on innovation solving a problem. This goes back to that self reflection is where our blind spots, where is our, you know, you know, conscious and unconscious in competencies, and where is that going to intersect with the problem and space that we're trying to solve and where we're trying to create value, as we, you know, try to grow our organization. And it's, it's a difficult thing to do. And it takes a lot of really deep work where you are removing that bias and all the things that we've been talking about here about really looking at a situation or topic holistically, and understanding how do you progress and then move the individuals and the teams for through the organization to align with your vision?

Mark Struczewski
Well, I want to say something I'd like to know your thoughts on is, I am amazed that every fall when the National Football League returns to training camp. players like Tom Brady, Patrick mahomes, you know, the big marquee names, they go on the training camp, and what do they do, they go back to the basics, even though they're at the top of their career, they still go back and they throw a football, they catch a football, the blockers block, they line up on the line of scrimmage, the center hikes the ball. And I always go back to that because here are these elite athletes, and they still go back to the basics. And I think and correct me if I'm wrong, when people, most people, when they go beyond the basics, now they're like one on one. Now there are 212301. Like, I don't want to go back to the basics. And yet, all the successful people do to make sure they have a firm foundation. If your foundation isn't solid, then the advanced stuff you're doing is going to crumble. Am I off base on that?

Jonathon Hensley
No, you're 100% accurate. I mean, you've got to be practicing and honing the fundamentals because they are the prerequisites for doing you know, more advanced level work no matter what, whether you're an athlete, or whether you're working in an organization and you need to understand that you can never lose the basics of understanding, you know, basics of active listening, how do you really listen and make sure people feel heard and respected? How do you create a safe environment for people to not I don't mean just physically safe, but actually safe to share ideas and to challenge assumptions. How do you do these types of things. And so, you know, being able to refocus on those fundamentals have those reminders, allows us to, you know, it's keeps the skill sharp, it keeps us proficient, like anything if you don't, it's like a muscle. If you don't use the muscle, it will atrophy and all of a sudden now you you no longer have that great strength that you've worked so hard to develop.

Mark Struczewski
That's why any sports athlete, I don't care what the sport is, when it's offseason. They're still working out they Tom Brady won the Super Bowl here in 2021. He's not sitting around with Cheetos and cupcakes until a training camp. He is working out. He's taking care of his body on the offseason. And now when you're an entrepreneur There really isn't an offseason. And that's why it goes back to we said earlier, you and I are committed to constantly learning every day, yes, seven days a week reading a book or watching a course or whatever the case may be, because we want to be better tomorrow than we are today. And today, we should be better than we are yesterday. But if you're just gonna go, I'm gonna take weekends off, or I'm going to do it three days a week. Well, you mentioned about the muscle, well, then you're like, well, I'll just take three days off, I won't, I won't learn anything on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, then it becomes Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, then it becomes Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, then you stop it all together. And I think that's that's what we've been talking about over these several minutes on the show, it's really important that you commit to it, if you're serious about going to next level. Now, if your goal is to play video games all weekend with your buddies, and you just want to work at a minimum wage job and you're happy. I think happiness trumps everything. So that's what you want to do. While you're probably not listening to this podcast, but for the rest of you. Ask yourself, How serious are you of going to the next level. And I think that's what you are talking about here.

Jonathon Hensley
100%. Again, I mean, I think another facet to look at that same thing, as everybody talks about the importance of customer experience today. And this is another topic, you know, I spend a tremendous amount of time on, both in within my own company and with our customers and helping them do the work and delivering their products and services. And, you know, that's that whole mantra is continuous delivery. Well, continuous delivery only happens from continuous listening and education and honing those skills and reevaluating. And through that we really focus on this idea of well, you fall in love with your problem, not the solution. Because the solution is never done, we are focused on the idea of there is a problem or solving for a customer, we're creating value in some way. And if we really want to have a business that grows and scales, if we really want to have engaged employees, you know, then we need to make sure that we understand that the problem is what we need to stay focused on committed to because we get complacent people in general, when I say we get complacent when they think they've solved the problem, and they're ready to move on, versus that continuous improvement and idea of creating value. And that's really important. Because that also can be the make or break of staying relevant in the market and have a business that lasts, you know, decades instead of just years.

Mark Struczewski
I went to Tony Robbins unleash the power within a weekend in the beginning of June 2021. And he said something very interesting. And I'd like to know your thoughts. He said, Everyone says, You should think outside the box. We all we've all heard that for years think outside the box. And then Tony says, Who says there's a box? And right then that fundamentally shifted my paradigm. So what do you think about that? What he said,

Jonathon Hensley
I love that? I think that's a really great thing. I mean, that's the perfect question. You know, what is the box? Or you know, who's defined the box? Who said it is a box? What is it for yourself? You know, what are your constraints? And what are your own opportunities? You know, I think it's the box is an interesting metaphor to play with in that, but I would definitely say for most, it doesn't need to be a box. And I think we're trying to raise up a generation of leaders and entrepreneurs who are critical thinkers and creative problem solvers. And there is no box, there's just an open canvas of deciding and identifying, you know, the opportunity.

Mark Struczewski
FOMO is real. We live in a world where I feel that in the next couple of decades, people can be born with a phone and attach their hand to be part of like the appendix. People are always checking social media. And because they're afraid they're going to miss out on something. And I know someone very well, who I tried to coach, and because they spent a lot of time on social media a lot of time playing games on their phone. And I'm like, why don't you do like a reward system? So you can't go on social media, you can't check email, you can't say check your games, or play your games, whatever to do with games. I don't know, I'm not a gamer, until you've like done some personal development. And I would get a lot of pushback because they're like, well, I may miss something I said, but I don't check that stuff. And I don't worry about missing things. So I want to ask you kind of a two part question. What are your thoughts on FOMO and tied in with what are your thoughts on FOMO? How can people overcome the fear of missing out because you look like you're on my age and back in the day you need a way to the evening news, the morning paper, there was no Twitter there was no Facebook so something happened on the other side of the world. You had a wait night FOMO is a real thing. So what are your thoughts on FOMO? And what are your thoughts on the reward system that people can, you know, maybe defeat FOMO I'm having trouble come up the words for that.

Jonathon Hensley
Well, I mean, I know FOMO is a real thing for a lot of people. I, you know, my personal opinion is most things seem to be pretty recycled within about a 24 hour period. So I think you can, you're not going to miss anything, unless you're like literally working within like the social media space itself, and you have to be actively listening and engaging with those audiences. I think that, you know, you need to really reevaluate is like, what is the outcome you're trying to get to? By doing that, and having that behavior? What are you giving up? You know, focus is, and you know, time is the one asset, we cannot buy more of, yeah, it is limited and finite for everybody equally. And so to really be able to focus your time in to accomplish something with that time and create the outcomes you want for your life and for your career, our, I would argue most of the time has not been assessed. And if it was assessed, most people would stop, you know, following these things and checking their phone every five to 10 minutes worrying about what happened. I mean, this this time is just so invaluable. You know, I'm, as an example, you know, I have two little ones at home. And so you know, my time is super valuable to be present with them. And I try very cautiously not to, you know, live that or capture all those moments just through the lens of my phone, that I'm looking at them through my phone and not engaging and playing with them on the floor and hearing them tell me stories about their day. I think, you know, there's this experience you get when you stop, you know, watching what other people are doing with their lives, and you embrace what your own possibilities are in your life, and you go experience those things yourself. And you can't do that through a device. If you

Mark Struczewski
ever see a picture on Instagram or the internet, where people go to a concert, and they're watching the concert through their phone screens. I'm like, Are you kidding? You paid a couple 100 bucks to this concert, and you're watching it through a small screen. I'm like that is so I mean, I will go and take a picture. But I put the phone back in my pocket, I want to be present. But I'm sure you've seen those pitches as well.

Jonathon Hensley
Absolutely. And I think you know, from, you know, the psychology part of it is you know, what happens with social media and the interactions that are taking place, it's a little drip of dopamine, which is, you know, stimulating this idea of excitement and reward that you're getting from your brain frame for this level of engagement. And it has an addictive quality to it. I'm not saying it's bad. I'm just saying it's, you know, be mindful of what it is. And I have worked in this industry. And I've worked with a lot of you know, big social media firms over the years. And I think they create great platforms and experiences. But when it comes to actually how do you spend your time and you're trying to elevate yourself for your business, you really have to be mindful of what is taking away focus. I mean, focus is the one thing that you can, you know, apply yourself with and get things done. And that will literally these days set you apart from most people, how strong is your ability to focus and stay consistent in your effort, whether it's like you're doing reading one hour every day.

Mark Struczewski
So I want to go back and make sure we cover the reward part about FOMO. Do you think that's a would that work for you? In other words, I know you don't have a problem with FOMO, because you're a reader like I am and you're really you really have a goals set. But do you think that that would be something that people could use? Or maybe you've got another idea that would take we want to break that bond, that that grip of FOMO. And I'm trying to think above a reward system that says if you're going to do that, then you got to do this first? What are your thoughts on that?

Jonathon Hensley
I think it's great to reset, you know, and reward systems and work on behaviors. I mean, I personally love to do, you know, challenge myself with those types of things all the time for the starting point. And I mentioned this a little bit, but maybe not in enough detail is this idea of like assessing what outcomes Do you want. And so if you can figure out an outcome that you want, it's exciting to get focused, it's exciting to step aside from those things and then the result of that accomplishment becomes a reward itself. And if you need an extra incentive, give yourself an incentive, you know, if I focus and I do this, you know, every day for the next 30 days, you know, I'm going to give myself this a weekend to go, you know, play video games, or, you know, travel or do the thing that you're really excited about, you know, but by instead of, you know, constantly having to push that out, because you didn't get those things done. And you, you know, because you were worried about, you know, missing out, you know, give yourself that incentive, what, you know, what do you need that motivates you, you know, so for me is a really good example, I have, you know, two really big motivators for myself. One is, is, I'm a big person around this idea of quality time, quantity of time is very difficult for me, but quality time is is invaluable. So I give myself this, you know, a carrot that I chase every week, so I can have quality time over the weekend, with family and friends, that that is recharging and renews me, it's exciting, because I made sure that the things I needed to get done, were not. I didn't get distracted or pulled into other things that now have to consume my weekend. And then I'm coming into the next Monday with burnout. I mean, that that allows me to go into every Monday, I am so excited to go to work. I'm just one of those people. I love what I do. I love to work. I'm excited for Monday morning. I don't need more than weekend. I've maximized it.

Mark Struczewski
I think Seth Godin said, If you create a life that you really enjoy, you won't need to take a vacation from it. And so when I tell people, I'm 56 years young now, and I tell people I don't want to retire. And my wife and I go to a Bible study class where most people are in their upper 60s. They're like, what do you do at retirement? I'm like, how can you use vulgar language in church? Like, why am I retire? I love what I do. Why would I want to stop doing? Stop doing what I love to do that when you told me to do it, I'm like, that's just crazy. But I love what you said about outcome. Because one of these I tell people and they say, Mark, how do I plan better? I said, it starts with y, which is basically what you talk about what the outcome? You can't I don't care what you put on your calendar, if you don't start with why, why you're doing this? Or in your words, what's your outcome? Then why waste your time planning? Because then you're just gonna be throwing spaghetti on the wall. And so ask yourself why. Ask yourself, what is your outcome, then you plan? But I think a lot of people think Well, Mark says the plan. No, if you listen carefully, I say understand your why first, with you grew that understanding your why before you start planning?

Jonathon Hensley
Absolutely. I mean, this is, I think, a really important differentiation. I mean, the why, in a lot of ways is the it's like the bedrock or the foundation of strategy. And planning is confusing strategy in you know, all the time. And so, you know, strategy is really that understanding, like, what's the not just the outcome, but what's the big picture outcome? You know, what's that destination? I'm trying to get to? And then what's the approach on how I'm going to get there? I mean, there might be 10 different ways to get to that outcome. And then, you know, what, what problems are, you know, hurdles need to be overcome, to, to get there over time? And then how am I going to measure my progress? Right? These are just fundamentals. These are the foundational elements of strategy, business strategy, product strategy, personal strategy, you have, you know, people like Tony Robbins talks about it, you know, understanding, you know, your purpose, understanding what you want, you know, organizing your life, Stephen, Mr. Covey, you know, who's famous for both his personal and his professional, you know, body of work, you know, talks about these exact same principles. Simon Sinek is another one that more people might be familiar with today, you know, the essence of those things are exactly the same. But it gets, it starts with getting really clear about, you know, this outcome or your destination. And you don't have to know how to, you're going to get all the way there, you just got to know what the first steps are. And then once you take that step, the next step will reveal itself. And the next step reveals itself. And you may end up going a couple of different directions or trying multiple approaches. But in the end, that why that you're talking about, I mean, that's the constant. That's the thing that helps us navigate the complexity of the world, or the craziness of the unknown and the uncertainty that happens, you know, around COVID, or other things, but we know that we have, you know, what, we're marching towards collectively other either as an organization or what we're doing personally to better ourselves.

Mark Struczewski
solid, solid insights there, Jonathan. I know people want to know more about you. You gave us a lot to think about. And so like you to tell us working find out more about you and what are you doing in the world?

Jonathon Hensley
Well, if you're seeing, seeing, learning more about myself and the work that I do, I would encourage you to go to emerge interactive, calm. Also, I'll be covering a lot of these topics we talked about today, I have a new book out, called alignment, overcoming internal sabotage and product failure that you can be found at Amazon.

Mark Struczewski
Alright. Well, Jonathan, thank you for spending a little bit of your day today. You shared a lot of insights for us. And I really appreciate everything you did for us on the show today.

Jonathon Hensley
Mark, this was such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

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