Interview with Joanie Connell, Ph.D., Flexible Work Solutions.
Interviewer: Hey, welcome back to another edition of the Public Relations Security Videocast. We’re talking with experts who deal with all sorts of different crises and conflict situations, both in and out of the workplace. And I got to meet Joanie Connell just about, I would say, a couple of months ago. And I’m really fascinated by her work, and I’m really fascinated by how she helps out different organizations. So, Joanie, thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate it.
Joanie Connell: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much.
Interviewer: Absolutely. Tell us a little bit about Flexible Work Solutions, which is your company, how you got into that, and how you help organizations.
Joanie Connell: Well, Flexible Work Solutions focuses on attracting, retaining, and developing employees, leaders mostly. And my particular expertise is working with high-level people. That’s generally where the high stakes are in organizations, right?
Interviewer: There’s a lot of riding on those types of individuals. I am fascinated about your work with helping technicians recently promoted into a managerial position. And communications may be something either that they haven’t really perfected in terms of business communications or haven’t really ever been taught. How you go in and help technicians become leaders.
Joanie Connell: Well, I’ll answer the first question and the second one here because you also asked how I got into it. And I started my career as an electrical engineer up in Silicon Valley, and I worked as an engineer for eight years. And I just was so much more interested in the people interactions than the computer ones, and how people didn’t want to interact. And it was so hard. People didn’t want to lead, and they were just so interested in the technology. And so, eventually, I went back to graduate school in psychology up at Berkeley and studied how people interact with each other in organizations. And that’s what I’ve been doing for over 20 years now.
Joanie Connell: And so, I tell you this because working with technical people takes some specific skills and a lot of trust. A lot of technical people don’t want to work with outsiders as much. And so, having that background, and seeing eye to eye, and understanding what they’re going through is really helpful.
Interviewer: I would imagine, too, because you have a doctorate in psychology, is that correct?
Joanie Connell: Yeah.
Interviewer: The Ph.D., congratulations on achieving, which is no small feat in and of itself, also lends credibility, particularly with senior tech-centric people.
Joanie Connell: Yes. That’s why I did it, in part. It was also a lot of fun. But yeah, it helps because I can go in and really, I have a lot of tools available, and understanding of the complexity of the interactions that happen between human beings.
And one of the things I studied in part of my dissertation work a while ago was how people interact differently using technology versus face to face as well. And so, we have a lot of virtual teams now, and so much of what everyone’s doing today is over technology. So, I can help with that as well.
Interviewer: So, walk me through some of the obstacles you have to overcome. I liked how you discussed sort of the workplace setting nowadays, that in many cases are virtual or at least not an every day, in-the-office type of environment, let alone the transition, as I mentioned earlier, on taking a technician and making them a leader. What are the kinds of things that you have to help new leaders or existing leaders who just want to get better overcome in today’s work environment?
Joanie Connell: So, people who get promoted into leadership positions in technical organizations are typically technical experts. And, as we know, people who are experts in technology, that’s what they know, that’s what they’re trained, and that’s what they’ve been rewarded for all of that time.
When you move into leadership, all of a sudden, the expectations are completely different. You have to manage a team of people, and all of those skills are now what you’re rewarded on. And it can be really unnerving for someone to shift gears, and used to be extremely confident and very good at what they do to all of a sudden feeling like, “Wow, what is all of this?” And so, I help organizations when people are going through that transition, and I help the individuals understand what the new expectations are and give them tools on how to do it.
I love working with technical people, in part, because they’re usually very smart. It doesn’t take much to actually just sort of learn like, “Oh, this is what it takes,” or “These kinds of things,” or, “How do I deliver feedback? How do I coach somebody?” Things that are a little harder, I think you said the obstacles, can be around when people don’t want to change. There’s resistance. And also, some of the softer side of things, the communication, the emotional side of things. When you’re managing people, it’s not just a code where you can change it; it’s somebody who has feelings on how you talked to them or how their teammate talked to them. And suddenly, we’re entering conversations that are usually much harder to deal with.
Interviewer: There’s code; it’s just not very clean code when you’re talking about people. I get that. I want to take that one step further. You know I’m a crisis PR guy.
Joanie Connell: Yeah.
Interviewer: And so, I’m always interested in how you train somebody, not just to communicate and to lead in good times, but in times of adversity or a full-blown crisis, a production error, a human relations error, a customer issue, all sorts of different things that leaders will undertake. What are the kind of things that you do to help them be prepared for those circumstances?
Joanie Connell: Well, that’s an interesting question because, in part, one of the things that we look for when we’re hiring is somebody’s ability to deal with a crisis and to think on their feet. And so, we’re talking about the stakes being high. You want to find out if the people who are in charge are going to be able to manage through some unexpected situation, I would say.
But given that, you’ve got people in there already. How do they handle, and how do you help them work through that? I think a lot of that comes down to, well, the clear communications, but also strategic thinking, which is something that comes up as people are moving up through an organization. Sometimes, we stay very tactical when we’re at a lower level, thinking through how to code, how to do those kinds of things. But then when we’re a leader, we have to think externally. We have to be already monitoring the market, the world, knowing what the current events are, and being able to feel how our picture fits into the big picture.
Interviewer: Absolutely 100% spot on. I love that perspective. For those organizations that could use your services or are thinking about that, why don’t you give our audience an idea of how they can get a hold of you and where to find more information?
Joanie Connell: Oh, well, my website, flexibleworksolutions.com is the best way to find me. I’m also on LinkedIn. You can find me. Just type in “Joanie Connell,” and I should pop up on Google. Yeah.
Interviewer: Joanie, this has been fascinating. Thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it.
Joanie Connell: Thank you so much.