206: Build HEARTI Leadership with Corey Jones

Corey Jones, the CEO and co-founder of PrismWork, a culture assessment and consulting company in Texas. We discuss the Hearti Framework and strategies for improving people’s skills and how to revolutionizing the workplace through HEARTI leadership, showcasing innovative approaches to enhancing organizational culture.

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Build HEARTI Leadership with Corey Jones

Our is Corey Jones, the CEO and co-founder of PrismWork, a culture assessment and consulting company in Texas. Corey, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Steve.

Very nice to be here. It’s nice to have you. I really wonder, you know, what does it take to get into cultural assessments and consulting and become an entrepreneur in that space? What attracted you to it?

Oh, great question. And I guess like most founders and business leaders, my path is winding. There was no, when I, you know, left school, I wasn’t thinking, I want to start a culture consulting company or a leadership development company. I started as a creative. I worked in advertising for over two decades, creating videos, creating advertisements, connecting with audiences in different ways for brands. Brands that you’ve probably never heard of and a few that you probably have. And moved into as an executive creative director.

And in all of that journey, that career pathing, I saw how other people led. I remembered how I was treated and how I felt along the way and had a lot of lessons learned. And there was a lot of common experiences with myself and some of my peers in the corporate environment. And my goal in 2019 when I left corporate America was to leave it better than I found it. So, I found that the best way to do that was to focus on leadership.

And so my remit for myself, my passion was how to define modern leadership or leadership for the 21st century because I felt it was lacking. A lot of people were burned out. A lot of people were disillusioned with what leadership and what companies, how they were being treated. And then COVID happened. We had COVID, we had a lot of upheaval, racial strife with some murders in the US of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor among others. And there was a lot of introspection and reflective thoughts for in the corporate community of how we can be better, how we can do better.

So it was right on time, it synced with my focus on leadership. And so, my whole focus again, is like I said, is to lead the corporate environment better than I found it and to focus on leadership. And how we did that as we started talking to other leaders, leaning on our own experiences, talking to organizational behavioral experts and specialists, DEI consultants, other leaders, HR professionals. And what kept rising to the top were the six essential skills, and it was humility, empathy, accountability, resiliency, transparency, and inclusivity. We put all of those together, and it really resonated with them and resonated with us.

And sorry, this is what you call the HEARTI framework, right?

That’s right. We call it HEARTI.

Humility, empathy, accountability, resiliency, transparency, and inclusivity. Okay, so let’s get into it. So why did you pick these six, and is this a particular order that they are in? Is this significant or is it just you have to focus on these six in whatever order?

Well, we don’t expect everyone to be completely HEARTI in all ways. We have strengths and we have vulnerabilities. What’s great about HEARTI is they’re pretty approachable. Most people understand what each of those skills mean. When you say humility, people have a general understanding of what that means.

And when we talk about humility, it means recognizing your own limitations and understanding that the accomplishments are due to the efforts of the team. It’s not just ourselves. It is minimizing arrogance, but it really is understanding where we’re limited and where we lean on each other in order to perform better. And I’ll go through all the rest of them, but what happened is we had these conversations and we started doing research and surveys and those six skills kept rising to the top. And we realized that they’re all interconnected.

And when we talk about humility, it means recognizing your own limitations and understanding that the accomplishments are due to the efforts of the team. Click To Tweet

There are some patterns of most leaders, how they map out. We have an assessment where you can understand what your strength is and what your vulnerability is. And most leaders, Steve, or I won’t say most, the average of most leaders are we’re highly accountable. So we love to do what we say and then hold others accountable to what they say as well, right? KPIs, goals, and any of those targets, we’re accountability driven. We like to perform.

So a lot of leaders really index high on accountability. And then we tend to be a little vulnerable in the areas of humility. We’re not as willing to recognize when we’re limited or where our limits are. And so that’s kind of how they map out and the others kind of range within the middle. But we don’t prioritize any over the other. Everyone brings value to the table.

And some people are extremely transparent, where they’ll share the message, they won’t hoard things. And they have a different leadership style and they have different effects. And some people are highly empathetic. They’re willing to sit and listen to people, you know, to understand their point of view and perspective so that they can act on their behalf. The key skill is inclusivity, not only because we’re becoming a more global society, global economy, we have to interact with people from different backgrounds, regions, languages, races, ethnicities, but also because we have to be, if we’re going to be effective, we have to use all of those other skills inclusively as well.

And they’re all tied, so you have to be humble with all groups, not just with one. Accountable to not just your team, but to your boss, and to your customers, and to your environment. And when we talk about accountability, it’s not just to those groups. We talk about 300% accountability. I dive into this deeper in my book that was just released in October. I co-wrote with Lisa Stromberg and Gina Nichols, it’s called Intentional Power, the six essential leadership skills for triple bottom line impact.

Be accountable to not just your team, but to your boss, and to your customers, and to your environment. Click To Tweet

So Corey, let me ask you this. So these values or skills, are these, is this a requirement that all of the people, individually exhibit them or is it more of an organization that you have to have a predominance of these values or skills? Are these really skills or some of them maybe values? I don’t know.

Yeah. Great question. They are certainly high in value and can be considered values. We have pointed out how each of these can be proven through action. So they are skills. It does, and these are things that can be learned and improved upon. You can be more humble. You can grow in your humility. You can grow in your empathetic skills by listening more intently, by being more proactive on someone’s behalf, you can, of course, be more accountable.

So there is the ability to grow in each of these areas, which is why we’ve defined them as skills. They are learned. And each individual can expand their skills in HEARTI. Now what we will do, though, is we can look at a team or an organization and look at them as an aggregate and understand, how are you as an organization? Are you more resilient? Do you tend to, are your people more empathetic? Are you more accountable? And we can help them be more effective at leaning into those characteristics, those skills, you know, when they make decisions, when they come upon challenges.

If they’re typically very transparent about it, what will the outcome be? How can they also bring in some empathy with that transparency? Or how can they be more inclusive in their approach when they hand down the next campaign or project from above?

So what’s the right balance, for example, between empathy and accountability? So do I have to hold people accountable or should I be empathetic for them to not be able to deliver and maybe which way you should come first or is it a balance?

It is a balance. They really work together. And as a leader, you have to understand kind of how to be successfully accountable. And to be successfully accountable is to bring along empathy alongside it and also resiliency because we can have our best laid plans and set goals and targets, but life is going to happen. How many targets and goals that we have in 2020 and 2019 when COVID disrupted us all?

To be successfully accountable is to bring along empathy alongside it and also resiliency because we can have our best laid plans and set goals and targets, but life is going to happen. Click To Tweet

So we have to be resilient and understand that sometimes when we set a goal and start a journey that we may have to adapt and flex and bend in order to get there, in order to perform. So accountability is high. For those that are accountable, they sometimes aren’t as empathetic, to your point. If someone has an issue at home, an individual personal issue, it may impact your ability to meet that goal. So how do you account for that or allow for that and be resilient, whether that’s bringing in another team member to help cover that person that’s got an issue, or to find another supplier.

If there’s a supply chain issue, how do you adapt and move to be more resilient? But if accountability is your North Star, you do have to bring in those other skills in order to hit it. Otherwise, some of the others may suffer. It is a give and a take. It is a balance, and it requires you to be able to be deft at maneuvering and leveraging all of those skills as a leader to be successful.

What about some other skills or values that are more important in certain functions and not as much as other functions? For example, humility, I can imagine, could be really important in customer service and, of course, leadership to some extent. But then you also have, for example, sales. If somebody is too humble and too empathetic, perhaps, then not going to be able to clinch that sale because sometimes it requires some more aggression and pushing. So are there different standards for different functions?

Sure, yes. Some teams tend, the fingerprint, if you will, tends to be a little different. And it does allow you as an organization or as leadership to be able to say, what’s the likelihood that this person will be successful in this role? They’re extremely resilient. So sales and leadership might be something that works for them. But they’re also, like you said, very humble, not willing, more willing to see the limits, to see how they’re limited and how things can’t get done, and so that might be a barrier for them. So you decide to say, let’s put them on a program to kind of remove some of those barriers and some of those limits.

But I will also say as a salesperson, being humble is a requirement because we come in with a solution for our customers, but it also takes under trying to ask the right questions to make sure that we’re meeting the right needs and not to go in thinking we’ve got all of the answers for that customer because each customer, each client has different individual needs and different challenges. And so as you can be willing to ask questions, which shows humility, you can be a better salesperson to meet those needs.

True salesmanship requires humility; it's not about having all the answers, but asking the right questions. Each customer is unique, with distinct needs and challenges. Click To Tweet

That makes sense. So how do you train these skills? What do you do to improve people’s skills? You’ve done your assessment, you’ve got the map, you know, their personal profiles. What do you do? What’s the next step?

So next step is, you know, we have executive coaching where people, we can help you walk through your, your HEARTI report or your HEARTI assessment and see and put on a, a learning plan or a program for you to grow in those skills. We also have learning labs, we’ll come into an organization and we walk through the skills for people to have a better understanding. My co-authors of the book are teaching right now for business leaders teaching HEARTI at Stanford.

So you can get a better understanding of how to incorporate the HEARTI skills into your professional development, into organizational development. And we have a book, like I said before, Intentional Power, The Six Essential Leadership Skills for a Triple Bottom Line Impact that dives deep into each of the skills with the action plan at the end, with questionnaires to help you assess, and how can I incorporate these skills into my daily practice of being a business leader? So we’ve got books, we’ve got classes, learning labs for you to get better and executive coaching as well.

You basically have the whole the whole package. So, Corey, what are you working on next? So now that you figured out that your co-authors, the HEARTI the system and you’re teaching it and training it, what’s next? What excites you about the future of your work?

What’s exciting is we are looking to introduce one million HEARTI leaders into the corporate workplace. So we want a million people to take our assessment, to get to invite us to their companies, to do learning labs, to set up a time with our executive coaches. So, because we do believe that the new way forward of revolutionizing the workplace is by bringing HEARTI leadership to the forefront.

The more we recognize that the value that we each bring as a leader to our workplace, you don’t just have to have the title. It’s your willingness to make your team perform better, to bring your whole self to the place and lean into the strengths, the leadership strengths that you have, we can all be better. So when we have 1 million HEARTI leaders, we feel that we’ve done a great thing. And so that is the push now, is to find and introduce 1 million HEARTI leaders into the corporate world.

It's your willingness to make your team perform better, to bring your whole self to the place and lean into the strengths, the leadership strengths that you have, we can all be better. Click To Tweet

That’s great. And the last of the transparency, I’m wondering, is this an individual skill? Does it depend on the company’s policies? I mean, there could be trade secrets. Is it about personally being vulnerable? What is it about?

Transparency, when we talk about it, it’s about standing in your why and your purpose. It is about being willing to be vulnerable. It’s not just about passing information along. It’s about building trust with your team. And so, yes, as a leader, sometimes there are some things that you are not allowed to share. It’s embargoed or, you know, you don’t want it to get public, or it may incite bad sentiment. You don’t want to, you wanna be transparent that maybe your company’s having some challenges, but you don’t wanna share that we are gonna have to lay off people tomorrow, or next week, until it’s time to do it.

So there are some ways that you want to be discreet. But the more that you can share as a leader, the more that you can be vulnerable and transparent about challenges that you’re facing as a leader. It’s about personal transparency. But then as an organization, the more you can be transparent about your practices to your customers, to your employees, to the communities that you serve, the better it will be.

Okay. What about inclusivity? What can individuals do personally to create more inclusivity?

The inclusivity is tied to being willing to bow to the idea that your uniqueness is not the most precious thing, right? That we all bring special skills and talents to the table. And we can recognize that in people that don’t look like us, that don’t have our background, that don’t share our points of view. And the more we can do that and build allyship with those that aren’t like us, because it’s easy to build allyship with people that are just like us, Steve, that are aligned, that look like us, that talk like us, that see the world the way we do. But it’s a challenge for us to build allyship with those that might be slightly different.

But that’s how we get to innovation. That’s how we get to new thoughts and ideas. That’s how we get to new ways of working and being. So when you expand your view of what can be successful, who can be successful, and take that away from your own uniqueness, you’re opening up that skill of inclusivity.

Well these are very worthy skills and values, again, so the HEARTI values, humility, empathy, accountability, resiliency, transparency, and inclusivity. So if some of our listeners would like to learn more, read your book, wants to get in touch, where should they go? Where can they find you?

You can always start at prismwork.com. That is our company website, and you can find links to our book there, as well as the HEARTI assessment. If you want to go directly to the HEARTI assessment, that’s heartiquotient.com. And you can start your assessment immediately and you’ll get in about 10 to 12 minutes. You’ll understand how you show up as a leader, what your strength is, where your vulnerability is, and where you can get work.

And then you reach out to us and we can help you form that path, that development path as a leader so that you can get better. A lot of people that are looking to go to that next level in leadership, either into executive leadership or just be stronger and leading in their business. Having a true understanding of where you sit as an inclusive leader is important. It’s that first step, that awareness. Then we can build a development plan with you.

The book, again, can be found at any major retailer and also on Amazon. It’s Intentional Power. You can find out more about that at readintentionalpower.com, all one word. And help us get to one million HEARTI leaders. Please reach out to me. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. We’re also on LinkedIn at Prismwork or on Instagram. Thank you.

Okay, that’s fantastic. So I’m going to check out your test as well. Now I got curious about which of these six I’m falling down on, probably a couple. So thank you, Corey, for coming to the show and then sharing the Hearti Leadership framework with us.


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