We all want to stand out as individuals but also crave being part of a group. Often, companies swing too far one way or the other. But imagine if we could hit that perfect balance where everyone gets to show off what makes them special and still feel like they truly belong. This is what inclusivity means, but there’s more to it than it seems, and Stefanie Johnson, Director of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Leadership, tells us all about it!

In this episode, Ashish, Stefanie, and Anil unlock the meaning of “inclusify” and unlock several archetypes and blockers of workplace inclusion. People not only want to be seen; they want to be heard and be part of the solution. In fact, individuals are 21 percent more productive when they are engaged. This episode will open your mind to possibilities that you can unlock in a space that may seem challenging.

So stay tuned for tips that can have a profound impact on your leadership style, as well as your organization’s culture, happiness, and overall performance.

Things you will also learn in this episode:





Hey Happiness Squad, it's great to have you with Ashish and me as we host guests who are industry leaders helping individuals and organizations unlock their inner happiness and flourishing.

Are you an “inclusifier”? You're probably wondering what that means, so stay tuned and learn more from our next guest.

Meet Dr. Stefanie Johnson, Director of the University of Colorado Boulder's Center for Leadership and Associate Professor at Leeds School of Business. She brings evidence-based leadership development programming to students, executives, and universities across the country. Her teaching, service, and research all focus on the intersection of leadership and inclusion. She's the author of a Wall Street Journal national bestseller, "Inclusify: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams."

Humans have two basic desires: to stand out and to fit in, and companies typically respond by creating groups that tend to the extreme. We have an opportunity to find that happy medium where workers can demonstrate their individuality while also feeling that they belong.

In this episode, Ashish, Stefanie, and I delve into this space and unlock several archetypes and blockers. People not only want to be seen; they want to be heard and be part of the solution. In fact, individuals are 21 percent more productive when they are engaged. This episode will open your mind to possibilities that you can unlock in a space that may seem challenging.

So stay tuned for tips that can have a profound impact on your leadership style, as well as your organization's culture, happiness, and overall performance. Join Ashish and me as we welcome Stefanie to the Happiness Squad.

Anil Ramjiani:

Hi Ashish. Hi Stef. It is a pleasure to be with both of you. Stef, after getting to know you briefly, there's one question that I love asking our guests to get us started, and that is, what is happiness to you, and how has your definition changed since your younger years?

Stefanie Johnson:

It's such a good question. I hate to admit this, but when we look at the way people pursue goals, we know some people are really focused on trying to maximize pleasure, while others try to avoid pain. For me, early on, happiness was about trying to avoid anything negative. The goal was contentment, satisfaction—let's not have anything terrible happening. Maybe that comes naturally from my childhood or my early life experiences. But at some point, when I got out of the mindset of avoiding fires, I started to think of happiness more as trying to have positive experiences, some joy, things like that.

I thought that was the end-all, be-all—that's how the model went. You got away from avoiding pain to trying to have positive experiences. But then, new levels of happiness start to emerge as you go through different stages of life. You go from contentment to fulfillment, starting to really think about happiness as meaning, purpose, and impact in life.

So I'd like to think I'm there, and there are probably more levels. I'm not done with life, I hope, and so there are probably even other levels of happiness that I aspire to reach. But that's where I am. Maybe you both talk about this a lot on the podcast, but what's your definition of happiness, or where are you?

Ashish Kothari:

Well, Stefanie, you're hitting on it. For me, we talk about these nine hardwired happiness practices, but if you have to distill it, meaning is a big part of what makes for a happy life.

If you think about happiness less as an emotion or a state but more as a way of being, joy as an emotion can rise and fall just like anger, pain, suffering, and grief, but joyfulness is a state. We do it through meaning, as you said, and I think the second one, which is all of your work, is relationships—being in deep connection with others and enabling them to truly belong is the second big element.

The third is about just taking care, again, something that I know you do, is really important—taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually. If we are not feeling well, our well being is suffering, and it's so hard to be happy.

Anil Ramjiani:

I would almost liken it to a buzz. It's like this energy force field in me and outside of me.

If I draw a line saying today's going to be a great day, things may go as expected or better than, or maybe not as expected or worse than, but at the same time, it's about what energy I am able to bring to anything I do. That powers me up, exactly as you said, whether it's through relationships, through the work I'm doing, or conversations I'm having, and just that energy that emanates both within and outside.

So that's me. I appreciate you asking that; you're the first.

Ashish Kothari:

That's the magic of Stefanie. So, I love the premise of your book, and I'm actually going to just read this. Friends, you can check her out on her website and I highly recommend her book, "Inclusify." And she says this: humans have two basic desires, to stand out and to fit in.

Two basic desires: stand out and to fit in. Companies respond by creating groups that tend to the extreme, where everyone fits in and no one stands out, or where everyone stands out and no one fits in. Can you think about those groups at your workplace?

And the question that she so elegantly tackles in her book, backed by tons of case studies and research, is how do we actually find that happy medium where workers can both demonstrate their individuality so we don't lose who we are, but at the same time, also truly feel that we belong. So that is what we're going to be digging into with Stefanie.

Help us connect this, Stefanie, to how, if you harness these concepts, it results in happier, more productive teams and workplaces. What have you found?

Stefanie Johnson:

Absolutely. Maybe this should have been my answer to happiness because in so many arenas of life, happiness is about balance.

Yes, you have to have opposing forces working together in harmony, and that's the premise of "Inclusify" and what you just shared. It's this model called optimal distinctiveness theory, and it's a unique characteristic of humans, compared to other animals, that we don't just want to be one of the crowd.

We also really strive for individuality, and this has always been true. It's like a basic human thing, and it's more true than ever before. As a college professor, I have the lifelong joy of interacting with a new group of 18 to 22-year-olds every year. And although I sadly get older every year, they don't. I get to observe how people change over time.

And there are lots of stereotypes about Gen Z or millennials, but observing, I feel like there's even more of a focus on individuality as important to one's overall identity, who you are. So in organizations, when you look at the prototypes or what's typical, we see a lot of high belonging organizations, and in tech, that's really common.

People wear the same clothes. They talk the same. At Google, they're Googlers, so you're just one of them, and I'm not saying they don't have inclusivity at Google too.

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah. All McKinsey people talk in threes. You know I'm a McKinsey consultant because they always talk in threes.

I'm like, isn't anything beyond threes? Nope. We only talk in threes.

Stefanie Johnson:

Yeah, I only have two. There are two types of people. There are two types of organizations: uniqueness and belonging. But then, on the other hand, you see organizations where they haven't really invested in creating that team feeling, like we all are part of something bigger than ourselves.

And instead, we're just a bunch of individuals, highly individualistic. Sales teams sometimes show up this way. We're all kind of battling each other. I think of it like the Hunger Games. I used that analogy at one company I worked with. Everyone can be successful; you just have to be more successful than the person next to you to get ahead.

And then you have people fighting. You don't really feel like you belong. You could just go to the next organization that offers you slightly more money or a better remote work policy because you don't care about the people or the group. It's just a transactional relationship.

So to be successful, you really need both: this idea that people can have their individuality and bring it with them to work. And then, not in spite of that, but because of that, you belong. You're one of us. We're all these unique individuals. And maybe the company that really exemplifies that for me was Zappos, the shoe company. They just want people to be their unique, weird selves. And if you can do that, then you fit in with our wacky culture.

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah, you know, the other company that's right in our backyard, that is a big part of that, and I think they strike a beautiful balance between both because I've seen their data, is Crocs.

Stefanie Johnson:

Oh my gosh, I was going to say the same.

Ashish Kothari:

Come as you are. We want you to be an individual, wear your shoes with pride, and you belong. I mean, I love them and what they've been able to do, and look at the results.

Stefanie Johnson:

Yes, one of our Center for Leadership board members comes from Crocs, and I did "Inclusify" workshops with them. They embody that every day, and it is such a great local organization based here in Colorado.

Anil Ramjiani:

You know, Stef, I work for Nike, and our mantra is, if you have a body, you're an athlete. And that's something I get asked quite a bit. "Oh, you must be surrounded by top athletes, professional athletes, all in great shape."

And I'm like, actually, no, people come in all shapes and sizes. It's the beauty of the business because it's their mind, their body, their spirit, and what they bring. So I totally agree, companies where you feel that are powerful. I really love that individuality.

And because of that, you belong. I love that. So Stef, maybe as we talk, our listeners are probably wondering, okay, so inclusifying, how is that maybe different from diversifying or including?

Maybe you could share with us some practical strategies or some key findings from your amazing research that show how organizations can actually implement in order to foster a more inclusive, more innovative working environment.

Stefanie Johnson:

So where it came from is this idea of, around 2016, 2017, a lot of organizations were investing in diversifying. Let's add more diversity to our team, seeing the data that shows having diversity improves innovation, creativity, decision making. You're able to reach new target markets.

Diversity is good. And so companies were jumping on diversity, and then people would go to organizations, and some of the companies I worked with said, "We did the thing. We hired diverse people, and we're not getting the benefits. What happened?" And I asked the question, "Well, what was their experience when they got there?" And these organizations are like, "Well, I don't know. That wasn't part of the directive. It was like, hire more diversity."

And so here's the thing. If you have people with different backgrounds and perspectives, and they don't feel like they can share those perspectives, they're not welcomed to give their opinion, or if they give a different perspective, they're squashed, we don't want to hear that different point of view, then you've lost all the benefit of diversity.

You only get the benefit, and there's actually meta-analysis that shows some studies show diversity has positive outcomes and others show diversity has negative outcomes, conflict, slower processes. How can this be?

Well, it seems that it depends on how inclusive the environment is. If it's inclusive, diversity pays off. If it's not inclusive, you get maybe no benefit or even a negative because you have some negative outcomes that come with diversity, like conflict.

And so you have to have inclusion. What does that mean? "I included them because they're here." That's pretty basic. "Of course, you're included." And it's like, no, just letting people in the room isn't including them. So I created the word “inclusify” to try to make it sound more like an action. You actually have to do something. And if we want to take it to the extreme definition of the book, it's really living your life and leading in a way that recognizes and celebrates differences and tries to bring those differences to light, to get their perspectives.

But in the more practical strategies, it's basically trying to make sure everyone at the table is heard, which is what a more inclusive environment would be. Think of your typical team meeting; you have people sitting around the table. Some people talk a lot, some people talk a little. Do you put effort forth to hear all of those voices equally?

That seems to be the most fundamental aspect that causes people to feel included. And then you can extrapolate from that and say, "Well, are those voices also included in social events outside of work? Are they included in opportunities for growth and development with your blue-chip clients?" So, in all aspects of success in the workplace, are you trying to amplify and elevate all voices equally?

Ashish Kothari:

You know, I love the fact that you made that into a verb, and that's for a couple of reasons. The first one is for a lot of people, they think diversity, equity, inclusion is kind of a check-the-box. It's a leader thing, but it's a recruiting department thing. And by making it a verb, what you're basically saying is, it is not a their thing, it's a you thing.

And every one of us can be an inclusifier. It is what we do that actually allows us to truly create an environment of belonging, to truly make sure people are felt, being valued. And belonging shows up as some of the highest drivers of what employees value and is directly tied to why belonging and inclusion.

This word inclusifying is a core part of the Pearl framework that we work with clients on to help them use the science of flourishing to get to higher productivity, higher performance, lower attrition, all the wonderful things that managers want.

And this is a really important skill to learn. If you're a manager, if you're looking to succeed by delivering high results, you truly can do that if you take actions and become an Inclusifier.

Stefanie Johnson:

I think that's right. And as you said, even if you're not a manager, if you engage in these behaviors, one research study, they didn't call it “Inclusifying”, but they called it something similar, “voice granting”. So people who actively engaged in meetings said, "We haven't heard from you, Ashish, and you have this great experience to draw from. Why don't you talk about your experience at McKinsey and how that would impact what we're doing here today?" Like, inviting people in to talk.

Ashish Kothari:

Yes, I love that. Everybody, don't just wait for the manager to do it. Everybody can be a leader, and you can notice whose voices are not in the room and pull them in.

Stefanie Johnson:

And it's certainly a win-win. So the people who felt seen and heard, "Well, you want to hear from me? Okay, I'll share."

That was good. We know that it improves decision-making to hear different perspectives, but in that voice granting study, they also found that the people who engaged in this behavior were seen as more leader-like and were more likely to get promoted. So, even the people doing it, you can be doing it in an altruistic way because you want others to feel seen and you want our team to be more successful.

But then there's also the benefit for you. People will see you as a more effective leader because this is an effective leadership behavior to bring out voices at the table.

Anil Ramjiani:

You know, this reminds me of a conversation we had with Jessica Weiss.

Sometimes you'll come into a meeting and the leader loves to talk. And you'll look, the leader will look around and think, "I've got a very diverse group of people here, diverse backgrounds, ideas, functions." But what will happen is they'll see them, but they may not hear them.

So it's almost an invitation to not only see them in the room, but as you said, actually hear them and let them speak up, let them actually be part of what you're doing as opposed to just seen in what you're doing. And that could actually unlock more than maybe what people are experiencing today.

Stefanie Johnson:

I love that you said that. And it's one of those things that, we look at managers over time and you gain a lot of great skills and experiences as you go through the workplace, but one thing you actually become increasingly bad at is listening because people are coming to you for the answers. And so you get really good at giving the answers. But what happens when the leader in the room says, "Okay, we've come together to make a decision. I think we should do this."

Everyone in the room says, "All right, sounds great. Our work here is done." Because unless you have a really psychologically safe environment, or your leader is really an inclusifier who's like, "I think we should do this, and now what I want is for you all to play devil's advocate, challenge me, rip my idea to shreds."

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah, and what I also find so important, especially in today's world, which is more complex, more volatile, more uncertain, is that the rules of "I know the answer, let's go do it" are fraught with peril.

And we can benefit from so many different perspectives that people might have, even asking a question like, "How can I be wrong?" or "How can we be wrong?" and actually create space for people who might disagree with the strategy to voice their opinions.

Stefanie Johnson:

Yeah, one of my old coworkers used to say at every decision-making point, "Think of that person who really hates us and wants us to fail. What would they say right now?" Like, "No, that's not going to work because..." the naysayer. "Let's get our naysayer voice on."

I usually say it as, "What are we not seeing? What's the black swan event that we think is a good decision and we obviously haven't considered these other aspects?" And this is just really a cognitive framework for thinking about how decisions are made, but tying it back to happiness, this is what people want in the workplace.

They want to be thinking and challenging, coming up with ideas, their idea to be the one that saves the day, and that their voice was so important that people reached out and tried to bring it in.

Ashish Kothari:

It reminds me, it directly ties to what we know about engagement. When people are engaged, they are more productive, almost 21% more. And what's interesting is this is a very powerful way to drive engagement. You want them to engage, ask them the question, get their voice in.

And that's why I love 'Inclusifier' because that's something that you can do to become that versus thinking, "Oh, I'm not good at asking questions. I'm not good at this." No, you can, it's something you do. So just do it.

Let's dig a little bit into this. Yes, we want people to be inclusifiers. Tell me a little bit about when you've engaged with companies and you've shared this message. What are some typical challenges that you notice that get in the way?

Stefanie Johnson:

Some of it is really structural. It's like, this is the way we've always done things and that can really hold companies back from creating a more inclusive environment. Some of these practices might be specifically inclusive. Some of them are like diversity practices, but if we wear suits and ties and that's what our clients expect, you might have employees or team members who want to dress in a different way, or they have purple hair or whatever. They want to show their difference and not accepting and celebrating that difference conflicts with things like what the company views as professionalism.

That's like a huge hurdle or even for belonging culture in tech companies that want everyone to be the same because that's what makes their culture great. This is like, we make it a fun place to work. We have heavy drinking, like lots of organizations before COVID here in Colorado would have local brews on tap. But this is who we are, this is our company.

And it's like, well, you're not making room for these other people, but it's the fear of like, well, what could we lose if we stop doing that? We could lose clients. We could lose that feeling of our core employee base that they love the beer. If we got rid of the beer, what if they wanted to quit? We lose the fun.

So it's that fear of loss that usually stands in the way, like the fear of what I'm going to lose, not focusing on what I can gain. And what I've seen with companies that I've worked with is switching the mindset to, yeah, you might lose that, but what could you actually gain from having it?

I'll give you an anecdote. I won't name the company, but they're a big consulting company and they were going to put a pitch into a client and it's a major global organization and they were actually pitching in China. So they walked in, they're all in their blue suits and they sat down at the table and they're about to start the pitch. And the director from the organization they were pitching to said, why would you send in your B team, why wouldn't you send me the A team?

And they're baffled, like, this is a big accounting firm. Why, what are you talking about? What makes you think this is our B team? And they said, you sent us five white men. And so are you telling me that all of your strongest players at your organization are white and male, and you've just sent this group to an organization in China. You have no diversity on this team.

They said, we'll let you pitch again, but we'd like you to come back with your strongest team members. And they went home and they told me this story, and they were like, we hadn't thought about what we were potentially losing by not having diversity. We wanted to send in the people who look the part, and they had to really rethink, how are we hiring that? It is kind of true.

If all of our top execs come from 31 percent of the population in the US, white men, are we really getting the best of the best? Probably not, there's some talent out there that you're missing, but they were so fearful of making the change that it wasn't until the new risk became not changing that they were able to actually embrace change.

Ashish Kothari:

You know, there's also such an important role that bias plays in all of this. And you cover that in your book as well. What are some of the biases that we have to be aware of as leaders, those things, those lenses through which we see that we don't even realize we're seeing?

Stefanie Johnson:

In the story I just gave, if you think about how long you were confused about how this could not be the A team? That's a bias. We typically think when we think of leaders, since 90 percent of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are white and male, they must be the best. It challenges your mental framework to think about other talented people. That's a bias. We tend to think of leaders, we think male.

In the US, there's still a pretty strong bias against, particularly East Asian individuals. If you look in tech companies, there is significant bias against Asian Americans. They're not hitting the top of companies to the same extent as they're represented in the organization, consistent with their skill sets. They're experiencing bias because if you look at their record, another big accounting firm I worked with was specifically looking at the lack of Asian partners. Even though their performance was extremely high in all measurable domains, they weren't seen as leaders.

Those are just race or ethnicity and gender biases, but go from there—disability, age, you're too young, you're too old, or the intersectionality of bias, specifically against Asian women, on sexual orientation or gender identity. Any kind of category where someone could be different from you has the likelihood of carrying some kind of bias.

And then there's the 'similar to me' effect. I have to add that one. It's like, of course, I love Neil because he went to CU and I'm a CU professor. So I'm ready to hire you right now. I don't know how I can get you, steal you away from Nike and Hockey.

Ashish Kothari:

There is a way Stefanie! You can join us! But seriously, come join us.

So look, digging into this is really a big deal, friends, jokes aside. Our need to belong and stand out is about walking the middle pathway towards that. But if we do this, we truly create relationships. We deepen relationships. It's that fabric that allows us to raise the collective intelligence of the teams we're leading and the teams in which we are operating.

From my time at McKinsey, almost consistently what I found was if you could average the intelligence of the team, the teams operated way below that intelligence. Forget about being able to operate at the highest level of intelligence of the team.

And by the way, most of the time, it's not the leader because if that's the case, then they are not hiring the right people around them. If the leader is the smartest and everybody else is not, then that's a problem by itself.

So I want to get a little bit specific into things that we can do because every one of us can be an inclusifier. Stephanie, talk to us about the six archetypes for managers you broke the world into, and the specific strategies you recommend or at least watch outs for every one of them. Can we take some of them and dig into that?

Stefanie Johnson:

For sure, maybe I'll pick a few types to discuss. If you consider the framework of uniqueness and belonging, there are some managers who are not fostering either. They're not trying to create a cohesive team, and they don't care about your individuality. They're like, "I just want to hire the best people for the job. Let the best person win. I'll pay on commission."

This is what I call the meritocracy manager. They have this underlying belief that the world is meritocratic and thus the best people will rise to the top. But what that misses out on is that collective intelligence you're talking about. It puts people in a competitive framework rather than collaborative.

The people who I found more challenging, or it was more challenging for them to really make change, were those leaders who thought they were inclusive because they create this really strong sense of belonging. Then they completely ignore uniqueness. They invest in matching t-shirts and such.

For those folks, especially when you talk about feeling fulfilled and forming relationships, if I'm being asked at work to walk a certain way, talk a certain way, and not just be myself, some of my cognition is always allocated to fitting in. I'm always trying to control how I'm coming across versus just being myself. You can free up a lot of mental space if people don't have to think about it.

The third extreme is these managers who focus so much on uniqueness that they're not spending the time bringing people together. Sometimes they were actually creating divisions on their team because they were like, "I really care about diversity, and so I am going to work my hardest to support diversity." That's a great intention, but you can't leave out half your team where they don't feel valued.

If you're thinking about majority group members, like white men in most U.S. contexts, if you've come down on a hard line of "all we care about is diversity," you're making certain people feel excluded. Thus, you're not maximizing collaboration on your team. You're creating boundaries and you're going to get pushback.

We're seeing a ton of that right now, this backlash against diversity and inclusion efforts because sometimes it's not done in the right way where you're really trying to bring in everyone, not excluding those who had historically been the majority group.

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah, I always find shaming and guilting pushes things back. And there is a tone to that, like a kind of holier-than-thou attitude, and you know, really flying that flag high. And you're doing the opposite behavior of inclusifying because you're basically saying, "I'm different. You all need to do it this way." You nailed it.

Anil Ramjiani:

As I listen to you, let's say I'm a mid to senior manager, a director at Nike, and I can imagine our listeners who are probably at a senior level or higher are thinking, "Okay, wait, there's too much for me to process here. Not only am I trying to diversify and inclusify, but now I'm overwhelmed." They're probably nervous because we have a mentality of wanting to go further faster. We've got 30 minutes for this meeting or a week for this deadline.

I invite our listeners to pause, and maybe this is an opportunity to go closer and slower. When I hear you, people are probably thinking, "I have a bias. It's an unconscious bias. I didn't realize it. I have to factor in all these things that Ashish and Stef are talking about." The invitation here is to take that pause and look around. Don't just see, but listen. Ask the question, "Where do I identify, and how can I unlock the opportunity here?"

Stef, from your experience, if what I'm saying resonates, what actions can managers and leaders take so they don't see this as another hurdle or obstacle, but rather the opposite? What if encountering this could reframe it into a positive, into an opportunity that can take the team and the organization further?

Stefanie Johnson:

Yeah, we've said a lot, and if we're talking about Inclusify, it's a substantial book, which can be overwhelming to hear in a podcast. I created a quiz on inclusifier.com. You can fill it out, and it will email you your results at no cost. It'll tell you where your score is and then give you specific actions tailored for you, so it's not just a hundred things you could or should be doing.

Even if you don't take the quiz, just from listening today, if you want to make a change, do one thing. Let that be a gateway and opportunity for you. When you see, feel, and experience the benefits, you will want to do more.

So, what's the one thing? It's trying to amplify other voices in the room. I gave a workshop at a university this week, and I made people pick a meeting they're going to attend and what they're going to do differently.

For example, if you're not running the meeting, you can still look for people who seem disengaged and try to bring them in. Or if you are running a meeting, you can send out questions in advance so people know what they're supposed to be doing when they get there. This helps everyone prepare, especially those who might need more time to think through their responses.

Whatever the tactic, the goal is the same: asking questions, trying to invite people in. You can use techniques like 'popcorning' to pass the turn to someone else, or use the chat in a virtual meeting to call someone in gently.

Choose one thing, then observe how the experience is different from your normal meetings and enjoy that. It's amazing how such a small change can be contagious. Once you start, others will follow, and soon you'll have collaborative and inclusive meetings.

Ashish Kothari:

So, Steph, this is pretty cool. When we had this interview with Jessica, she suggested something I'll share with you if you haven't had a chance to listen to it. She said, imagine starting a meeting where everybody gets five chips. Place them in front of you. As a leader, give everyone five chips, and each time someone makes a point, they put a chip in the center. Keep an eye out to see who has chips left.

If someone hasn't used any, go ask for their input. And if you're not the team leader but participating in the meeting, if you notice someone still has all their chips while you're down to none, instead of speaking again, ask the person with all the chips for their thoughts. This way, if you want to make another point, you first get a voice in and then pick a chip up.

It's about play, and play creates a sense of levity. We don't have to make diversity, equity, and inclusion serious to the point of fear of making a mistake. We can actually have fun with it. We all have biases and sometimes enjoy hearing ourselves talk, missing the opportunity to listen to others. Make it visual, make it fun with different colored chips.

Notice how the quality of the conversation changes, how people leave the meeting with a higher level of energy. Rarely are there meetings we look forward to, but this might create a wave where people think, "Oh my God, I want to go to that meeting because I feel heard and I hear from everybody."

Anil Ramjiani:

Well, imagine the meeting culture everyone talks about. A 40-hour work week, where probably 90 percent of that time is spent in meetings, plus the work you're doing on top. If you can reach a point where people feel comfortable in those meetings, are engaged, and are inclusifying, you suddenly start to get the best out of them.

This is something Ashish, you and I have discussed. When people are engaged, as you mentioned, they are 21 percent more productive. Isn't that what we want? A more productive and inclusified workforce. We want people to be engaged, not just surviving at work but thriving.

It's a massive opportunity. So, Steph, I'm sure you're familiar with Ashish's nine hardware for happiness practices. They're truly beautiful. And I was curious, from your side, which of the nine do you feel is your competitive edge?

Stefanie Johnson:

Okay, is it cheating to say self-awareness? Because self-awareness is at the center. It's the most important, for me, it's hard to get to any of the others without self-awareness. So I would go with self-awareness as the main one of the bits that I invest in because that's going to unlock the other aspects.

Anil Ramjiani:

I agree with you. Something I'm currently doing is our rewire program. And Steph, the reason why I raise it is I think sometimes people think being self-aware is just listening, seeing. It's more than that. It's observing and then taking a step back to really understand the actions and the results, but more importantly, your body, your emotion, your language. It's what I'm doing as part of my coaching certification at the Newfield Network. When you start to cultivate that self-awareness, you begin to unlock possibilities that initially weren't apparent.

So as we wrap up, we would love to get to know you a bit better outside your book. You as a person, and for those that haven't read the book, please check it out, even if you want to sample it. I love the story you shared, Steph, about how you had to change your outfit three times before you finally got to work, and that was relatable for many people, especially parents.

We want to do a bit of a rapid fire with you, fun, insightful, whatever comes to mind, feel free. The first question I'd love to ask you is, what's your song when you want to turn your frown upside down? Your go-to.

Stefanie Johnson:

Oh my gosh. Okay, I'm not a very big music person, I don't know what I would pick. I don't actually own any music. That's so weird. The only CD I own is Barbie Girl. And right now, I'm super obsessed with the Barbie movie. So I'll say Barbie Girl.

Anil Ramjiani:

So I'm going to joke with you on that one. When I was at CU my freshman year, that was when Aqua released Barbie girl. And I actually had the single, and yeah, that song pumps you up. I was in college.

Ashish Kothari:

I was going to say, we're going to send you, we are curating some of our favorite songs from all the folks who've come on our podcast. At the end of the year, we're going to release the playlist. So we'll send it your way.

Stefanie Johnson:

I dig it. Okay. And I promise for the rest of the rapid fire, I will answer rapidly.

Anil Ramjiani:

No, that's cool. We're getting to know you. This is, I think that was awesome. So Barbie girl, right? Here we go. Number two, your favorite comfort meal. That just, again, makes you feel great.

Stefanie Johnson:

Popcorn. I know it's not much of a meal, but it's really, nothing makes you feel better than popcorn.

Anil Ramjiani:

I hear you. Next one. Your favorite book.

Stefanie Johnson:


Anil Ramjiani:

It was either that or Hardwired for Happiness. I was waiting for one or the other.

Stefanie Johnson:

I know, I was trying to decide. Should I go Hardwired? That's more generous. Hardwired for Happiness is my favorite book I've read lately.

Anil Ramjiani:

No, that's cool. Ashish, you have one?

Ashish Kothari:

I was going to say, what's a book that you read along the way, Stefanie, that really made a huge dent in your life?

Stefanie Johnson:

Good to Great is one of the early books that I read that got me really into management and leadership and understanding organizations. It's good research communicated in a way that I'm like, researchers can actually communicate with people.

Ashish Kothari:

That's amazing. I think your book is an amazing book to read because it is filled with stories and it was such an easy read.

Anil Ramjiani:

The last one is a bit of a gimme, or maybe not. Your favorite sports brand.

Stefanie Johnson:

Nike. No, it's not. I'm sorry. I'm contractually obligated to say, I can't even do it. I'm sorry. I can't do it. My child is obsessed with Adidas. It's cool.

Anil Ramjiani:

But you know, what's cool about that is you actually said it the way they do here in Europe. Cause whenever I'm there, I'm going like Adidas, like what? Like Adidas. Oh yeah. So no, that's totally cool.

Stefanie Johnson:

In his school, they're doing the stock market, he's in fifth grade, and he came home and said, mom, Nike is a bigger brand. It has more market share than Adidas, what am I gonna do? I'm like, I mean, I don't know, switch brands, but it's because I think they sponsor his soccer team. He has to. That's cool and Messi. So little secret. I would say Nike, but I gotta support the kid. And Adidas too. So I am Adidas.

Anil Ramjiani:

Hey, you know what, Steph? This was absolutely beautiful and brilliant. I just want to say thank you because again, a topic that you raised, we hear about, but the perspective that you've given us with Inclusify is absolutely brilliant.

Ashish Kothari:

I encourage our listeners to check out the book. The one thing I do want to do after this is I want to get that website from you where folks can actually do the Inclusify matrix, put that in the show notes of folks that are keen to give that a go. So thank you so much, Steph, for your time.

Anil Ramjiani:

I appreciate you and I appreciate Ashish.

Stefanie Johnson:

Thank you for having me. It's very fitting that you make the show a joy to listen to but also to be on it.

Ashish Kothari:

It was wonderful, my dear friend. You're doing such amazing work. It is so much fun to collaborate with you. And yeah, thank you for being you.

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