We must begin focusing on the whole person. If we are truly going to change the culture regarding work, we must acknowledge, honor, nurture and unleash the full humans inside each member of the workforce. We are at our best when we can fully embrace and use the talents we have developed in our work and outside of work. Just as retailers are putting the customer at the center of all their efforts, employers must start with the employee. They must understand the employees’ needs, their ambitions, their fears, their interests, their motivations — all the things that make their people, people. We can only begin to shift US work culture by understanding, and valuing, our employees in a deep and meaningful way.

As a part of my series about about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Andrukonis. Christine has been helping executives change behavior for nearly 20 years. She has broad expertise that spans leadership, talent, change management, training, strategy and communications. Prior to founding Notion Consulting, Christine directed the North American region for a boutique consultancy within Omnicom and was responsible for a 30-person team that spanned the US. She oversaw the development and implementation of people and change strategies for senior clients, and she has deep experience optimizing talent and culture during organizational transformations, mergers and acquisitions. Christine has worked with companies across a variety of industries, including Chanel, Datto, FedEx, The Estée Lauder Companies, Goldman Sachs, Hess, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, Lundbeck, The NFL, Pfizer, Quest Diagnostics, Rag & Bone, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Stony Brook Hospital, Tesoro, and Weight Watchers.

Before consulting, Christine worked inside HR at American Express and Lockheed Martin. During her time at American Express she created and implemented consistent global processes and tools for talent, performance management and compensation planning. At Lockheed Martin she created and launched their inaugural career development program. She also coached executives in Lockheed Martin’s high potential leadership development program and mentoring programs as well as developing and delivering management training.

Christine was highlighted in Profiles in Diversity magazine for her creation of inclusive talent and development programs at Lockheed Martin. Her experience coaching executives and her unique ability to merge big thinking with practical action earned her the title of PR Week’s 40 Under 40 for 2013. It also garnered her the opportunity to teach at the Athena Center for Women’s Leadership at Barnard College.

Christine holds a Masters of Science in Organizational Development from American University and a Bachelor of Science. in Management from Penn State. Given her love of learning, Christine now serves as an Adjunct Faculty member at Cornell University.

Last but not least, Christine is a committed wife, mother of two spunky young children and COO of her Montclair, NJ household. She is an active member of the community, engaged in school, her faith community and democracy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Although I didn’t know what it was called at the time, I first became interested in workforce transformation at age 14. I became fascinated with how women changed the face of the American workforce by helping to power the economic growth of a nation at war during World War II. It was a great illustration of how to align the best interest of individuals (women), organizations (the companies they worked for) and a system (the U.S. economy) to drive change.

I explored this phenomenon during college and graduate school, and now have spent the past 20 years helping executives drive change and transformation through clear vision, leadership, talent and powerful engagement of the right people.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The most interesting thing that has happened since I began leading Notion involves the talent on my team. When I launched Notion, I was emerging from an extremely busy period in my career. I had been in an executive-level job with significant responsibility and an intensive travel schedule. I had a one year-old and a four year-old at home, and in addition to doing exciting work with great clients, I was looking to create better balance. My goal was to limit myself to meaningful work with a few select clients alongside a small team as a way to achieve this balance.

After a few weeks, I realized there was significant demand for the type of work Notion does and in the special way we do it. Not only were clients interested in doing more with us, but supremely talented consultants were seeking opportunities to work with Notion! In retrospect I should not have been surprised — many talented professionals are seeking the same things I was seeking — a challenging career opportunity in an environment that focuses on empowering the whole person.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My team is currently engaged with a few especially exciting projects with globally-recognized companies working toward high-profile, high-importance changes in the business environment and the world of work, including the following:

● A sports and entertainment company looking to strengthen its leadership capabilities in a world of transparency, hyper-scrutiny and digitization;

● A luxury fashion and beauty company seeking to transform the client experience in the world of social media, personalization and an evolving retail landscape; and

● A healthcare company looking to improve positive outcomes for patients by enhancing engagement among staff.

To have the opportunity to shape business strategy, drive organizational outcomes, and make work better for people in the process is a privilege and makes my job extremely rewarding.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

There are four primary reasons so many members of the U.S. workforce are unhappy:

  1. Purpose Over Paycheck: More and more U.S. workers are starting to value a sense of purpose over paycheck. Of course they want to be paid equitably but more importantly they want to feel the time they spend on the job is having a positive impact on something greater than themselves.
  2. Transformational Leadership: People crave leaders who see change as opportunity and who inspire them to think big, be agile and deliver their best.
  3. Whole-Self Opportunity: The best talent is interested in bringing their whole selves to work every day. They want to find career opportunities that play to their professional skills and also recognize and leverage their personal strengths and experiences beyond the workplace. They want to have the time and space to be more than their “day” job, and use their varied experiences — as parents, athletes, musicians, foodies, etc — to add value in unique ways..
  4. Dialogue & Influence: Americans are increasingly able to influence the world around them with access to engage with political leaders, participate in public dialogue and shape almost any customer experience to fit their needs. And they are seeking this at work as well. Employees want opportunities to engage with leadership, participate in company dialogue about key topics and shape their company and employee experience to fit their needs.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

The top four risks of an unhappy workforce are:

  1. Flight of Your Top Talent: Top performers have the most options and therefore are most likely to leave the organization if they are unhappy. In addition to the costs of recruiting and re-training their replacements, the departure of top talent can have many downstream effects on intellectual capital, other staff members and business performance.
  2. Disengagement of Your Majority: When a company’s best people leave, it sends a ripple through the organization. The rest of the organization begins to feel pressure and anxiety about the work that is left behind and what might come next. If this is not managed well, it can have a toxic impact on a company’s workforce and business.
  3. Unhappy Customers: Unhappy staff = unhappy customers. No matter the industry, the quality of a company’s products and services is highly dependent on happy and productive staff members. All companies must understand, empathize with, care for and engage their end customer. If their employees are unhappy and distracted, their engagement with customers likely will be poor.
  4. Sales, Profitability & Long-Term Viability: Ultimately an unhappy workforce can negatively impact short-term sales but it can also impact the long-term viability of the organization. In today’s world, companies need to be at the top of their game to stay ahead and stay alive. If your workforce is spending time feeling frustrated or disengaged they will not have the time and energy on innovating for the future.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

  1. Set the Vision: Articulate a clear and compelling vision for their workforce — one that every executive can stand behind, and that gives people a sense of purpose that is greater than themselves.
  2. Develop your Leaders: From the very top of the organization to the front line manager, leaders must be dynamic and inspiring and have the ability to inspire others to be at their best. This takes time and investment.
  3. Reassess your Talent Strategy: Create a modern talent strategy that includes the policies, processes and plan for how people can bring their whole selves to work and challenges them to learn and grow with the world around them.
  4. Work on Engagement: Generate dialogue and evaluate engagement. Find opportunities for employees to provide input to key priorities and decisions, and create an ongoing dialogue about challenges and progress as things get implemented.
  5. Model a Whole-Self Work Mentality: Visibly acknowledge, respect and represent every aspect of who they are in life and on the job. Create a safe and encouraging place for others to do the same.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

We must begin focusing on the whole person. If we are truly going to change the culture regarding work, we must acknowledge, honor, nurture and unleash the full humans inside each member of the workforce. We are at our best when we can fully embrace and use the talents we have developed in our work and outside of work. Just as retailers are putting the customer at the center of all their efforts, employers must start with the employee. They must understand the employees’ needs, their ambitions, their fears, their interests, their motivations — all the things that make their people, people. We can only begin to shift US work culture by understanding, and valuing, our employees in a deep and meaningful way.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I’d describe my leadership style as enthusiastic, ambitious, empathetic and fast-paced. I can think big but still inspire fast action. I tend to have a clear vision for the future with high expectations for my team and an openness on how best to achieve that vision. I connect well with others and love coaching and guiding people to challenge/elevate their thinking and presence to really make their mark.

I was recently told by someone that I’ve had the honor to lead that I was instrumental in helping her elevate her career. By providing vision and perspective, and challenging and empowering her to step out of her comfort zone and take risks, I helped her grow into a leader who has had an increasingly positive impact on the people around her.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes, a few years into my career I was mentored by a Chief Human Resources Officer whose words and advice have stuck with me since. She encouraged me never to play small but instead to trust my knowledge and intuition, own my power and stand tall in my convictions. Her words struck a chord and I think of them any time I find myself holding back or hesitating to stand tall and shine.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Empathy. I work hard to cultivate a culture of honesty, transparency, respect, high standards, innovation, fun and flexibility with everyone I meet on the job, at home and in every social, academic, political and spiritual circle I participate.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have a few favorite “life lesson quotes” but my ultimate favorite is the following from best-selling author Marianne Williamson:

“Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d like to inspire a movement toward a #modernworkforce that applies a #wholeperson mentality to inspire people to be their very best and to shine.