Fearless - Ep. 48: "The Leader Builder" - Lori Bradley

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"The Leader Builder"

Lori Bradley is the Executive Vice President of Global Talent Management for PVH Corp. Lori has a Ph.D. and M.A. in Industrial/Organization Psychology and no one that I know, knows more about leadership assessment and development. She also has a masters in English Literature. Lori and I talked about the relationship between fear and creativity, about the importance of experiments in complex organizations, and about the role creativity played in getting her kicked out of vacation bible school.


Three Takeaways

  • Openness which allows people to lean in so they can be helped.
  • A genuine concern for helping anyone and everyone.
  • Goal-oriented with the ability to see the end game. 

"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT

Episode 48: "The Leader Builder" Lori Bradley

This is Fearless, and I’m Charles Day.

Every week, I talk to leaders who are unlocking creativity - leaders who are turning the impossible … into the profitable!!! And in the process, are discovering what they’re capable of themselves.

This week, my conversation with Lori Bradley, which is called - 

The Leader Builder

“what I see happening a lot with my leaders that I support and others that I coached is there's no slack in the system. They just don't have that empty space anymore to be able to move around and innovate and improvise. It's hard because they have so many demands on their time. But what I'm really trying to focus on with the people I support is how do you build that in because we're not going to get our best creative ideas out of anybody when they don't have any time to create.”

Creativity time is a powerful concept, one we’ll be discussing in an upcoming episode with Dan Pink - the author of When, the art of perfect timing.

Making time for yourself looks like a fool’s errand in the world of modern leadership. A world run by calendars that most leaders let someone else control.

I’ve never understood why that is. Why does the most influential person in the place allow their assistant - smart, caring, intentioned and dedicated as they often are - to decide what should and shouldn’t be on their schedule? No assistant can know the relative importance or timeliness or urgency or weight of a meeting.

So, that’s problem 1. If that person isn’t your equivalent of a chief of staff, they can’t manage your calendar as well as you can. They can schedule the meetings once you’ve decided. But they can’t decide. So stop letting them. It’s your life. Thirty years from now, you won’t remember the meetings, you’ll barely be able to remember who your assistant was at this point in your career. 

But you’ll remember whether you did anything important. By your standards. Anything that mattered to you.

And second. Leaders do better when they treat themselves as what they are. The company’s most valuable resource.

No one has more impact that the leader. What you do matters a lot. What you think matters just as much. And most leaders don’t really know what they think because their calendars are so jammed up with everyone else’s agenda, they have no time to think about what I think.

I was having a conversation with one of the creative industry’s most celebrated a few months ago. They said to me, I find out what I think, by just talking out loud. So I schedule talking time. I have a couple of people come in my office and I just talk to them about things I’m thinking about. They ask me questions and I just talk. And own I’m done, I know what I think. Not what my response is to what someone else thinks. I know what  think.

Flip open your calendar while you’re listening to me - I won’t be offended. And look at your calendar. Where’s your thinking time? 

Why should anyone else value what you think if you don’t value it yourself?

You have one life. Live it on your terms. And take the time to figure out what that means. Nothing else really matters.

Lori Bradley is the Executive Vice President of Global Talent Management for PVH Corp. PVH owns Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Van Husen and Speedo among other brands.

Lori holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Industrial/Organization Psychology and no one that I know, knows more about leadership assessment and development, succession management, and organization design.

She also has a masters in English Literature.

Lori and I talked about the relationship between fear and creativity, about the importance of experiments in complex organizations, and about the role creativity played in getting her kicked out of vacation bible school.

Charles:

Lori Bradley, welcome to Fearless. Thank you for being here.

Lori Bradley:

Thank you.

Charles:

I start every episode with the same question which is this, when are you first aware of creativity showing up in your life? What's your first memory of something being creative?

Lori Bradley:

I think that would probably be in Vacation Bible School when I made a puppet. It was a giraffe puppet and I gave it glasses and I used my mother's bracelet to put a chain on its glasses. I got in trouble for that. I still have the puppet though.

Charles:

What's Vacation Bible School?

Lori Bradley:

I grew up in the south and Vacation Bible School is a place that they send little southern kids for a week. We don't go to the Hamptons or any of the chichi camps, but our parents need to get us out of their hair for a period of time and so you go to Vacation Bible School where you study Bible stories. What I mostly remember are the snacks. So you have really good snacks and you play games and you learn Bible stories.

Charles:

Is creativity part of your childhood on a regular basis? Did it play a big role in your childhood?

Lori Bradley:

I think it was. I just had a thought though, I think I may have gotten kicked out of Vacation Bible School because aligned with creativity, I was a very curious child and I asked a lot of questions and I think my questions sometimes annoyed my teachers and definitely my Bible school teachers.

Charles:

What kind of questions?

Lori Bradley:

Just like ... Okay, we're definitely not going to use this. So things like well, if there's a heaven and a hell and after someone dies and they're in hell but then they're really, really sorry, will they get into heaven?

Charles:

I think that's a legitimate question.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah. It's like isn't there some forgiveness if they have a change of heart? Then the whole plausibility of the Genesis story of in seven days and then the resting and I was like, "But if God did that in seven days, do you really need to rest? If you're able to do that, why would God need to rest and everything?"

Charles:

It is a good example of intentional leadership though, isn't it?

Lori Bradley:

It is, yeah.

Charles:

Created the world in seven days, I mean you're like-

Lori Bradley:

Yeah.

Charles:

Let's get on with this.

Lori Bradley:

If they had been smart, they would've said, "Yes, because in order to be really creative, you should have some down time. So God knew it was important to rest his mind so that he could create even better things." But I think instead they just said, "You don't have to come back if you don't want to."

Charles:

So creativity was part of your childhood?

Lori Bradley:

I don't know that it was really ... It probably was, but I don't think we conceived of it as that then. So I grew in the country and so everything was outdoors. So I grew up in a really small town where you had a million aunties and uncles and people who you thought were related to you, you found out, "Aunt Karen isn't really our aunt?" So it was one of those neighborhoods where you could crash your bike and a neighbor would pick you up, take you to the hospital, get you sewn up, and bring you back home before your parents even knew that you had been hurt. So it was really Mayberry.

So I think creativity was a part of it in that we played outside and we built forts and we made mud pies. It was so imaginative. We just had the run of the town and we're very safe, and so there was that. My mother actually is a really talented artist. She paints, not professionally and it's been something where she's never been trained. She's just incredibly good at it. She sewed and we did a lot of crafts and so creativity at that point was just being free to experiment and make things. So in that sense, yes.

Charles:

What did you study at school? What were you drawn to there?

Lori Bradley:

As a child or-

Charles:

And through college.

Lori Bradley:

My favorite subject has always been English, English lit and actually, my master's is in 19th British literature.

Charles:

Is it really?

Lori Bradley:

Yeah, it is. So I thought I wanted to be a college English professor and then my friends who ... In grad school, my friends who were coming out with PhDs and going into that, I was watching their life and going, "I think I like the reading and talking about books a lot, but a career of that does not sound very fun to me." So I decided for what I really wanted, I could probably just join some really cool book clubs.

Charles:

Who are your favorite authors of that?

Lori Bradley:

Emily Brontë, yeah. Huge Emily Brontë fan. So my thesis was on Wuthering Heights and I did a feminist, Marxist, and cultural and psychoanalytic analysis of Wuthering Heights.

Charles:

Did you really?

Lori Bradley:

Yeah, it's awesome.

Charles:

Do you still have it?

Lori Bradley:

I'm sure I do, yeah.

Charles:

What an extraordinary set of perspectives to look at a novel through, and that novel in particular.

Lori Bradley:

Right. When I went into the PhD program in English and then I think of my first semester, I realize I just don't think this is career wise where I want to go. I spent some time thinking was that a waste of time? It was a terrific couple of years. I read everything and wrote tons of papers and I completely enjoyed my master's, getting my master's in English lit. But what I've come to realize is it was such good training for me now because the critical theory and the critical reading part of it, and you just learn how to exercise this muscle where you can take, in this case a text but in my world now a problem, and you can intentionally put on different lenses and look at it through different lenses. So like what if we look at this from the perspective of a Marxist reading or a psychoanalytical reading? Let's look at the gender dynamics at play in this text.

So what I learned by being forced in that program for text after text after text being told, "Do a reading from this perspective, from this perspective," is just you learn critical thinking in it. Every day, I have things I have to write and communications, so I think I really benefited from a communications standpoint, but just also from a creative problem and a critical thinking standpoint and being able to say let's look at this problem from the perspective of our senior leaders. Let's look at it from our employee's standpoint and just flipping a problem around and looking at it from all different angles.

Charles:

Based on that, there are way more than two sides to every story. There are five, six, seven, dozens of sides to every story.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah, and it just teaches you that so much of what ... What's interesting is we could have five people read Wuthering Heights and then you say, "So what did you get out of that?" And there are going to be five different answers. In reader response theory, then it's like well, those are all equally valid but someone might be tempted to say, "Well, that's not right. There's no way," or they try to go back to, "Well, that's not what Emily Brontë's intention was." So I think what this really helps you with is understanding that everyone is looking through a lens and so to be able to be one person and choose multiple lenses is a powerful thing. That's a powerful muscle to develop.

Charles:

I took a course at the University of Chicago post grad probably 10, 12 years ago and they presented a thesis, actually, around that kind of thinking, this notion of we're all made of ... They said see yourself as an actor on a stage and you have a number of different characters depending on the circumstance and situation of who you're with and we all push different versions of our self forward. They said it's very interesting to consciously A, be aware of that and B, to push forward a different version of yourself than somebody is expecting and to see how that changes the dynamic and their view of you and also how you affect them. So I'm really struck by that notion of we bring different people and we ... I think we talked a lot about this in the past, but this notion of how am I being authentic and people think I have to behave the same way to be authentic, which isn't true in fact.

Lori Bradley:

No, absolutely not. Especially as leaders, it's entirely appropriate to adjust our behavior to a situation and adjust our leadership style to a person. So it goes back to the you're not one leader, you're many leaders and to me, that's not being inauthentic. Number one, it's being effective and number two, it is being genuine. It is really caring about what someone needs from you as a leader and making sure that you're being considerate of that and you're respecting that.

Charles:

How did you go from English literature to psychology and organizational psychology?

Lori Bradley:

It's really funny. My bachelor's was in journalism PR. So there's a writing thing there, so maybe I was creative because I've been a writer my whole life. So my undergrad was journalism PR. I was living in Dallas and the PR scene there just wasn't resonating with me. So I almost started with a bachelor's in psychology and then I just thought I don't know that I can make a living at it and I don't know. I only thought of clinical psychology or counseling psychology. I didn't even know there was such a thing as industrial organizational psychology, which is what my PhD's now in.

But I was just thinking I don't want to spend all my time arguing with insurance companies to get paid and I think it was ... I'm glad that I didn't pursue psychology then because I would've been a counseling psychologist and one of the things I've learned is that I'm very impatient and I would've been absolutely terrible therapist. About the third time that someone came in with the same problem that we just talked about last week and the week before, I know that I would've been like, "I thought we said you weren't going to do this anymore. Do not come back until you just get this and don't do it." I think that while I'm emphatic friend and leader, I do not think I would've found counseling psychology very fulfilling.

So I said no. I did journalism PR and then I worked for a few years, and then decided I wanted a graduate degree and I was doing some freelance writing. So I decided to go back and become an English professor. So I did the master's, then I pivoted away from that and I spent a couple years having an existential crisis of I don't really know what I want to do. Then I said, "You know what, I've always been so intrigued with psychology and understanding how people work. So I think I will go back and get a PhD in psychology." So I applied to a program, a doctoral program and had a rude awakening when I was declined out of the program because you needed to have a bachelor's or the equivalent in psychology to apply to a psychology PhD program, which makes a ton of sense but-

Charles:

Who knew?

Lori Bradley:

I know. But that was a gut check because I was like, "Crap, do I really want this?" So I was working and ended up going to a community college at night for a year and a half to get enough psychology credits to reapply to the psychology PhD program, and so I got my 30 credits in psychology. Unfortunately, my ... It's not the GMAT, GRE scores were expired by one week. I had to retake the GRE. I made exactly the same score as I had six years before or five years before, whatever it was. But I got into the program. So I went in-

Charles:

So you really wanted to do this. You went through a lot of stuff to make this happen.

Lori Bradley:

I was really stubborn about it. It's like I realized now, I really wanted this even though the funny thing is I didn't end up doing what it was I really wanted. So clearly pivoting in my career is a theme from me. But I enrolled as a clinical psychology doctoral student. I got into my first semester. They are so smart and they make you do clinicals, just observe clinicals and I was like, "Oh, my God. This is exactly what I was worried it was going to be. I can't believe I'm now ... I worked so hard and I'm not so sure I'm feeling this."

But as an elective, my first year, I took a personnel selection course out of the industrial organizational psychology program and loved it. I didn't even know it was a thing. After the first month, I went to the professor and I said, "All right, what is this IO psychology thing? Literally, it's business psychology, corporate psychology. They have psychologists that work with companies." And he's like, "Come back to my office and talk." Literally right into that meeting, I said, "I'm changing my concentration. I want to be an IO psychologist even though no one knows what that is." It has been an absolute love affair.

Charles:

What was it about working with organizations that drew you to it, to that discipline?

Lori Bradley:

My father was a coach. He was a basketball coach, and so I've always ... It's funny because early on, in the '70s, he was talking to me about is it Fibernetics? I can't remember what it is, but he got really into ... There was a book called The Power of Positive Thinking and-

Charles:

Is it L. Ron Hubbard?

Lori Bradley:

It may have been. He's not a Scientologist, however, but there was this power of positive thinking and maybe it was L. Ron Hubbard. He used it with this players and with his athletes because he really saw that improved performance. So my dad was this master of when he coached, he would not tell people you're doing that wrong, don't it. I grew up listening to him and what he would do is he would say, "Your ..." Let me think of a good example. The height you're getting on your jump shot is terrific. If you would just follow through more consistently, it would be phenomenal. So it was always you're doing this well, but to be great, it would look like this. So I think I was always really interested in the psychology of performance and achievement and coaching. And then I've always been really interested in studying leaders and what makes ... Leadership is a scary thing and what makes some people really good.

So when I started taking the classes in IO psychology, what drew me to it was the fact ... Well, number one as an IO psychologist, you usually work for a company and you never have to deal with an insurance company at all or try to get paid. You do lots of different things that doesn't tend to be repetitive. Then just the ability to work closely to very senior leaders and study them and learn what they do and then eventually to be able to influence them and help them and hold a mirror up to them was very powerful for me. I was really drawn to how companies work and the whole any organizational dynamics of the social structure of an organization and the levers that you can pull to start to create a more desired culture. I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world.

Charles:

When you started working with somebody for the first time, what's your frame of reference? What's your anchor point as a starting place?

Lori Bradley:

When I start working with someone like as an executive coach? It's a good time to ask me that question because I just came out of a Hogan feedback session. That was very interesting. So it depends. If I'm working with our leaders at my company right now, I really am trying to get into the fit between the work that they're doing and their expectations and what they find fulfillment in and what really gets them stoked.

So I like to look for alignment between like the way I felt when I said "Oh, there's IO psychology, this is what I want to do," and I think work is hard and if you don't love what you're doing, it's a marathon and it's hard to maintain a level of enthusiasm. So you really have to first have that flame and that passion for what you're doing. I saw a really weird internet meme the other day that said, "Squirrels always act like it's their very first day being a squirrel."

Charles:

That's true, isn't it?

Lori Bradley:

Yeah.

Charles:

Dogs are the same way, too, I think. Right?

Lori Bradley:

Yeah. It's like, " This is fabulous."

Charles:

I'm a dog, look how great this is.

Lori Bradley:

I love being a dog. Exactly. So I was thinking about at work, they deserve me to show up like it's my very first day on the job and that I'm really excited to be there. Some people I know just show up like that every day. It's so great. I know some people get worn down. So what I look for is where is the alignment so that there's a virtuous cycle of really the work that you're doing bringing out the best in you. So kind of a fit, a job-person fit.

When I was an executive coach and working for different companies as a consultant, a lot of times I would look for where is the alignment with this person and their values in the organization. So they really need to be in the right place. I don't do that so much anymore because my job is also to retain our leaders. But honestly, you do just ask someone what gets you up in the morning? What lights you up? What do you love doing most and how do we figure out how you can spend more time doing that?

Charles:

Yeah, that's a great expression. PVH has a culture that I think has really clearly defined my experience of working with a company and so there's a really strong symbiosis, I think, between people who work at PVH and what PVH stands for. But we both worked at companies and with companies where that connection doesn't happen. When you see that disconnect, what's your impulse? Is it to see whether you can tighten it or to help the leader understand this might not be the best connection for you, this might not be the best place for you?

Lori Bradley:

 It's funny because my consulting friends always used to laugh at me and say, "What is your deal," because ... Oh, you know how Barbara Streisand always makes her interviewees cry and-

Charles:

I didn't know that.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah. No, I'm sorry. No. No, I'm sorry Barbara Walters. Barbara Walters was like ... Oh, yeah. [crosstalk 00:21:15]. She would interview people and they would all cry. So I would make my-

Charles:

I've made very few people cry.

Lori Bradley:

I make everybody cry at my job. I feel terrible about it. I don't think that makes me a good coach but it maybe it does because I think that sometimes, people just need to actually admit something that they've been holding in for a long time. So just asking questions like, "Do you really like your job right now? Is it energizing to you?" So sometimes, there's a real emotional release with that when they say, "I just don't but I feel stuck," or whatever.

So sometimes, it is helping you figure out how to get you either in a slightly different job or dividing your ... Approaching your job right now a bit differently so it's more aligned with what would be motivating for you or within the company, can we find a different job for you? Sometimes they'd say, "Let me be a partner with you and figure out what the next step might look like."

Charles:

That's so important because creativity especially requires such an emotional investment by the individual that if they're out of sync with where they work, they can't lean in with the kind of passion, enthusiasm, determination, willingness to take risks, fearlessness. You have to have that marriage, I think.

Lori Bradley:

Yes. Well, and I've consulted into companies where clients actually said, "I used to be a creative person. This company has just beaten the creativity out of me." But I think very well meaning companies do that. So right now, one of the things I worry most about in all companies is that the 24-hour work day and the fact that organizations that aren't adding a lot of staff but they're taking on more and more and more and just the frenetic pace of the way these American companies operate right now. It's very hard to be creative when there's no slack built into the system. There's no doubt why I have my most creative ideas when I'm on vacation or I'm driving or I'm in the shower.

It's funny, there used to be this ... There is a little game that had tiles in it and you would move the tiles to line them up one, two, three, four, five. The key to that game was that there was one empty space on it. If there hadn't been that empty space, you couldn't move them. They're just stuck.

Charles:

I love that game.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah. So I think what I see happening a lot with my leaders that I support and others that I coached is there's no slack in the system. They just don't have that empty space anymore to be able to move around and innovate and improvise. It's hard because they have so many demands on their time. But what I'm really trying to focus on with the people I support is how do you build that in because we're not going to get our best creative ideas out of anybody when they don't have any time to create.

Charles:

I've been reading Dan Pink's book When, fascinating. He talks explicitly about this issue and has gone through a lot of research. If people haven't read the book, I would absolutely encourage you because I think his insights and understanding about the dynamics of how a day works and how we show up and then also the importance of taking breaks. In fact, one of the best pieces of advice I think he gives, he says take an afternoon nap. [inaudible 00:25:12] says, "That's impossible. I work in corporate America," or whatever, corporate anywhere. This podcast is heard in 68 countries so it doesn't have to be corporate, it could be anywhere.

But his point is taking an afternoon nap and he said, "I took a few and woke up feeling terrible and then realized I was doing it wrong." An afternoon nap should be 10 to 15 minutes and he said ideally, it is immediately preceded by drinking a cup of coffee because coffee takes 25 minutes or caffeine takes 25 minutes to hit the bloodstream. A 15-minute nap is the chemically perfect amount of time just to ... I think he describes it as applying a Zamboni to your brain, just resets it. Even if you don't fully afford a sleep, and the goal is not to get to REM. It's just simply to just stop thinking.

 Then you wake up from that refreshed and then the caffeine hits your system and suddenly, you've got three to four hours worth of energy that you won't need and have access to before. Imagine the productivity increase by just convincing corporate world. This 15 minutes is not amazing. This is actually to create the possibility down the line.

Lori Bradley:

Right. I love it. We offer yoga now at PVH and we've had some requests to offer meditation classes as well and what I've been thinking about is what if we offer that "class" every day? What if every day at 3 PM and anyone can come to it if you have time, drop in. Mindfulness is such a focus. It's starting to gain a lot of attention inside corporate America. I love it when things that five years ago, the CEOs of the world would've rolled their eyes out are now going, "Maybe we should do that." So we're starting to look at that. I think it does go back to just creating some space and creating some quiet.

I did a certification in Transcendental Meditation, and I would tell you now that in TM you're supposed to meditate 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the late afternoon. So when I was doing that, I need to recommit to it. It was a time where we were doing a lot of design. We were really in creative mode, and it helped me so much. It was really powerful. It changes the chemistry of your brain, and it was a great. So yeah, I've actually been thinking about carving out 30 minutes in the afternoon and closing my door and telling Lauren, "Don't tell anybody I'm in here," and just sitting on the sofa in my office and [crosstalk 00:28:01].

Charles:

Yeah, best thing you could do for yourself and right, and for everybody else.

Lori Bradley:

Absolutely.

Charles:

It is incredible how we treat the work day as whatever it is, nine to five, eight to six, whatever your definition is and think each of these hours is exactly the same and they're all worth the same. They're not. We have different ability at different points in the day. And if we're not prepared to invest in ourselves, in our own wellbeing, and if companies aren't prepared to do that for their most valuable resource, which in any kind of business are the people, then you are absolutely undermining, diminishing, diluting the value of the resource.

Lori Bradley:

Absolutely.

Charles:

It's akin to walking out every day and taking a jackhammer to the foundation of your own office building and thinking this is somehow a good thing, this is going to work for us in the long run. It's crazy.

Lori Bradley:

Exactly. I'm on a diet and I've recently committed to getting eight hours of sleep a night, which I've hardly done since I was in seventh grade. But I had a funny conversation with my boss yesterday because there are a couple of deliverables that I'm behind on getting to him. I'm like, "They're on their way. I'll work on those again," whatever. He was like, "Lori, you're off your game." I said, "You know, the problem is I have decided to prioritize getting eight hours of sleep a night and I have figured out that someone who sleeps eight hours a night can't do my job."

Charles:

Which is tragic, right?

Lori Bradley:

I know. That's really sad.

Charles:

It's right. [crosstalk 00:29:29] just doesn't work, wow. Now, that's a statement.

Lori Bradley:

Right. Then I own it because it's-

Charles:

Because you kept saying yes, right?

Lori Bradley:

I kept saying yes and I control what gets on my calendar and how I allot my time. I have complete freedom to control that to some extent. I think that it is hard for people who are drivers and who are really wired to achieve and to accomplish. I think growing up in a really small town, I was just very ambitious. I thought that I would be living in New York City and working on Madison Avenue with something I wouldn't even let myself conceptualize. But what my parents always taught me, you do whatever you want, you just have to work really hard. So I've always been a really hard worker and just pretty out-hustled people.

So I think that you did have to adjust and recognize that it's not going to all get done, so it's very important that you prioritize and then making sure that you have good people around you who you trust to delegate to. It's really hard, too.

Charles:

Where does your drive come from? Is that things you want to accomplish? Is that fear of failure? Is that imposter syndrome? Where do you think in your case it comes from?

Lori Bradley:

Yeah, I think that earlier in my career ... Sorry.

Charles:

That's all right.

Lori Bradley:

I put it on silent. That's my alarm to remind to take my vitamin. I'm sorry.

Charles:

We'll now pause for a vitamin break.

Lori Bradley:

[inaudible 00:31:17]. I sleep eight hours, I take vitamins, but I don't meditate.

Charles:

This show is brought to you by vitamin.

Lori Bradley:

Multi for women over the age of 50. So I think earlier in my career, probably imposter syndrome because again, I grew up in a tiny, tiny little town. I remember just having this there's no way that ... Other people are probably smarter and more savvy and will have more opportunities than I do. So I think that there was a big drive to prove myself that I belonged in the VP level role or I belonged at the big company, living in the big city.

I think that now, it's much more driven around I am deeply attached to the work that we're doing and the goals. So at PVH, it's I'm in this beautiful situation where I have a leadership team that just gets it. They are so into investing in our people and to making sure that our culture and our environment is a healthy, respectful one, that we are getting more technology and tools. So it's just one of those beautiful opportunities where you feel like you're at the right place with the right people at the right time.

So we're just doing some great things around inclusion and diversity and just it's time of big growth and transformation. So I'm just incredibly driven toward the goals that we have set and the things we want to accomplish for PVH because it's just ... It's intoxicating to be a part of an organization growing like we are that is just still surreal and so humble but it's starting to get recognized for what a unique company we are, which I think you've seen too [crosstalk 00:33:30].

Charles:

They show, absolutely. Yeah. No, absolutely. Looking through your really diverse lenses now, there a lot of different businesses that you've had intimate access to, what do you think of the characteristics of organizations that are best able to unlock creativity and innovation in a business sense?

Lori Bradley:

So the first thing is it just can't be fear-based. I think that fear is absolutely the antidote to creativity. It is very hard for the two to coexist. Fear can drive performance but I don't know that it ever really drives creativity. So one of the things that we're doing right now is really rethinking how we do performance management, and so we are looking at a performance and development program. So people perform their best when they're being coached, not when they're being judged and our traditional performance evaluation systems are very much on the judgy. Not only are we going to assign a number to you that you will wear until this time next year, at which time we'll decide if you're maybe a 3.4 instead of 3.2, but you have one conversation a year focused on that.

When we looked at the way we do performance management, it was designed in a different time for a different audience and we've just outgrown it and it's time to really overhaul it. So we're really looking at a system that is less about a number and backwards looking and evaluating and more forward looking and coaching and more short cycles of feedback. Our younger associates are really demanding it because they're saying, "Give me feedback. I can take it. I've been getting feedback my whole life from [crosstalk 00:35:28]."

Charles:

They're also prepared to move on quickly if you don't give them that, right?

Lori Bradley:

Exactly.

Charles:

You don't have a five, eight, ten-year run with people anymore.

Lori Bradley:

Exactly.

Charles:

Five, eight, ten months maybe.

Lori Bradley:

That's the challenge there. You give someone like that a two on this false construct of a miracle quantitative rating system, they're probably not going to wait around for it a year to see if maybe they're better.

Charles:

To see if it's a 2.5, right?

Lori Bradley:

Right. It's like no, now I see that and so it's kind of scary. So I think that removing the fear, moving more to coaching and supporting. This is tied to if there's ... It can't be fear-based. If failures are treated very punitively and publicly punitively, then you really increase your chances of anybody swinging for it in a big way going forward. So I think a couple examples of okay, that didn't turn out the way we wanted. It was an experiment and it didn't work, but good for us for experimenting.

In my team, we've actually stopped calling things pilots and started calling them experiments. We put the label experiment on something because just the semantics, when you're piloting something, a pilot can succeed or fail. A pilot can be a success or not. Experimenting stakes out some territory to say we expect that this isn't going to be perfect. We expect that we're going to have to tweak it. We are experimenting and experiments are designed to test and refine and test and refine.

Charles:

So simple but so powerful.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah. The word pilot is supposed to be that but we've all been in too many "pilots" now that they're like, "Well, that was a complete failure." I'm like, "It was a pilot. It wasn't going to be perfect to begin with." So we've claimed the word experiment and we're using that liberally.

Charles:

So there's a lot about this that is emotionally oriented. You're really dealing with your, obviously to your title and your background but to the psychology of how people show up rather than just the structure. There's so much attention paid to structures in an organization and the physicality. Those are important components but to your point, if they're not balanced and sometimes superseded by an understanding of what's the psychological implication of this, the rest of it really matters a lot less. If you put people in boxes, they're going to perform very well.

Lori Bradley:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well and I think, I don't know. We do employee engagement surveys and that tells us how there are really satisfactions in place, customer satisfaction surveys if you will. I don't know. I just think I see a bit of unfreezing lately around being open to looking at our culture and considering our biases and making sure. The inclusion and diversity work that's being done, it's more than just a feel good, we need to be more diverse. It really starts to cause very important conversations to happen and it gives us ... I have a team focused on inclusion and diversity that we have several business resource groups and so one on working parents and what's their experience, one on women and LGBTQ and most recently, an African-American BRG called Brave.

It's great because it gives other of our associates an opportunity to be advocates for these groups but it's really just learning. It's back to the lenses of being willing to sit and listen to someone whose experience of something is quite different from their own and just to form those bonds and the empathy is really important. There's a business case there and we all know on a trust index, when trust is high, products are more creative, things happen more quickly, fewer employee relations complaints. On that, it’s not usually an organizational structure problem, it’s a relationship problem.

Charles:

Yeah, that's so well put. I think this investment in this movement towards this growing awakening of the importance of, to your point not just diversity but diversity and inclusion programs, it’s really about looking at the whole person. Clearly, there are all kinds of issues from gender standpoint, from a racial standpoint. But it’s interesting to even go back a little more broadly and look at the world of creative organizations for this [inaudible 00:40:35] because for years, we have named and stereotyped “creative people”, which has two, I think, harmful effects.

One is that it assumes everybody who doesn't have the title isn't which is of course not true, and the best companies tap original thinking from everywhere and a collaborative by nature. But it also, I think, was a massive injustice to the people who have the title creative in their title, had the word creative in their title because it labeled them in a certain way and it didn't see them as whole people. It saw the most undisciplined and maverick, and we don't really understand them. We shove them over there and hope that magic comes out, and nobody really looked at them as whole people and also gave them permission for a lot of behavior that frankly was either not very constructive, in some cases was clearly destructive. Now I think this notion let’s look at everybody as a person to your earlier point, multiple lenses, right?

Lori Bradley:

Yes.

Charles:

All these different perspectives must not only be better in terms of unlocking creativity, the point of this podcast, but also might just be better in terms of creating a better society.

Lori Bradley:

Absolutely. I see that it’s impossible not to see that in my industry because of course, we’re a fashion company so literally, we have people with creative in their title. So it’s exactly what you're saying. But I will say that in every company I've been, and I was in Big Pharma for a while and our version of that was the chemists. The chemists, we leave them alone. Let them be there.

Charles:

The celebrities over there, right?

Lori Bradley:

They don't need to be developed. They don't need these things. They just need to be left to-

Charles:

They’re brilliant but difficult.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah. So just let them do their chemist thing. But I don't think anyone ever asked. No one ever asked them like, "Would you like to go to this leadership development program? Would you like to participate in this company event?" Yeah, it does a disservice. And to your other point, everybody is creative. It’s just we are, we are born creative. I think we learn to just stifle it or we accept society’s labels, and we stop seeing ourselves as creative.

At the beginning of our talk, you asked me, "Was creativity a big part of your life," and I’m like, “No, I don't think so.” Then I went on to say, “But I did this. I was a writer. I played these games. I have a master's in British literature.” I'm like, “Oh, yeah. Maybe so.” But I think that we have, I don't know, I think that we probably need to define the construct of creativity a little bit better because if you ask someone, "Do you consider yourself a creative person," first of all, a lot of times they’re humble and modest and they’re like, “Oh, no, no. I would never say I'm that creative.” So there's some humility there.

But I think also, creativity means so many different things. So it’s like well, I’ve never painted a picture or written a sonata so I must not be creative. So a part of my team designs training and they're definitely creative. But then I have logisticians who are rolling out the train and handling the classes and the details of all of that and how do people get enrolled and I’ll tell you, they're one of the most creative of the bunch because we are in between LMSs right now and they have totally MacGyvered together a tool to enroll in a way that we track courses, and it’s amazing. I'm like, “ Do we really even need to buy the LMS because this seems to be working pretty well?”

That was creativity. That was here’s the challenge, how should we solve it and come back with ideas. I’ll entertain anything. They weren't afraid to come back and say, "We think we could just do this." So it’s like, "Okay, try it. Let me know how it goes." So we need creativity in every role, every person, and how they're approaching their job. Yeah, I think it’s creating a safe space to unlock it. Also maybe broadening our definition of what we mean by creativity.

Charles:

I think so, too. It’s certainly a mission of mine to expand people’s understanding about what that word can mean, perhaps should mean certainly in a business environment. It’s a perfect site there actually. So you tell what people, I love that phrase MacGyvering stuff and being unafraid to come up with ideas. How do you lead? How do you create an environment personally that allows that kind of investment, courage, willingness to actually change the way that people work?

Lori Bradley:

How does one lead or how do I lead?

Charles:

How do you lead?

Lori Bradley:

Oh, terribly. I'm horrible at it.

Charles:

And the good thing is I know that's not true.

Lori Bradley:

So I am able to do it, but it isn't easy because I have to overcome some of my own personal baggage to do it.

Charles:

Such as?

Lori Bradley:

Such as there’s a lot of pressure on me from my senior leadership team for things to come out baked and good and they should work and should come in on time and on budget. There's a lot of responsibility and when you feel that crunch, my tendency is to become a micro manager and to really need to see everything and review everything and it needs to go through me, and that is not a way. That is not an empowering unleashing of creativity way to lead.

So first is the self-awareness of knowing that that's my default, and then giving my team permission to point out when they need me to give them some room to think and that if they say they'll have something to me on Friday, I don't need to ask them on Tuesday if they're going to have it to me on Friday. So I think it’s that, but what that involves is me creating a buffer around them. So I need to absorb ... The fact that I'm getting asked by my leader repetitively, "Is this going to work, is it going to be here," does not mean that I then go and ask of them that.

Charles:

You don't need to pass through for that.

Lori Bradley:

It doesn't need to pass through me. I need to absorb it. So creating a buffer around them so that they can do their work. I think also I have hired really, really smart creative people, but they're all very different. So it’s going back to situational leadership of really knowing my people and knowing I need to give her space, she’s going to go in a cave and figure this out and come back. Or this person really needs to be tagging up with me on a much more frequent basis, so that we’re moving through this together.

So just understanding how they work best and shifting my leadership style to support that brings out the best in them. I think that I am so lucky because PVH has given us the reins to experiment and to create and design. So we go through a lot iterations like our programs, our leadership programs that we design. The design take us pretty long because we design it rapidly and then we test and test and again, we flip it around and look at it through different angles.

So maybe the best thing I do as a leader is say, "I will not be mad at you for coming and going. We did this but I think we could've done this part better. I think we should've done that differently. I’d like to try this." I'm not at all bothered by that. I am bothered by we did it, it’s in the bag, it’s just going to be good enough. So I think well, I may not be a great leader when we're first designing things because I hold it tightly and I get in their business on it, and I try not to do that. Where I think I am a good leader is once we rolled something out, they have complete reign to revise and rethink so things just get better and better.

Charles:

Do you think people can change?

Lori Bradley:

I do. But I think there has to be a moment of self-awareness and a motivator to change, and so I do.

Charles:

When you're leading people, are you conscious of that, that you are hoping to help them come to a different place in terms of how they show up in certain situations?

Lori Bradley:

Absolutely. Maybe it’s being an IO psychologist and having several IO psychologists on my team. But when new people come in to my team, I think usually their biggest culture shock is how much feedback they get.

Charles:

And being evaluated by seven people in real time every minute, every day.

Lori Bradley:

Jennifer asked me if I’d like some feedback and the answer is no, not really. But then I learned that it’s so well intended and it always is beneficial. And it’s usually someone looking out for you and saying, "I notice in that meeting, you did this. Just know that this person is ... You may want to try this some time." So my organization is a very feedback-rich organization.

 When several of us were with TDI, and TDI is a consulting firm, one of the things I love about them is they have a partner check in with their clients. Every senior consultant once a year has to do a partner check in with a client, which isn't uncommon in consulting firms. But what’s unique about TDI's approach is that they're not only saying, "How are we serving you? What would you like to see of more of, less of, what’s working, what’s not?" You get that from the client, and then you say, "I have some feedback for you. This is what I would like to see more of. This is what I think would work better for me," blah, blah, blah.

Some clients are very taken aback by that. They're like we’re paying you a lot of money, we don't really care. But they get the spirit of it, which is we’re trying to make this partnership the best it can be, and the product is going to be better and everything.

Charles:

And you end up with better clients actually because you end up working with people who want that kind of relationship and so therefore, it creates more value.

Lori Bradley:

Exactly. So my team is very good about doing partner check ins with our internal clients and also giving them feedback, which they sometimes have a hard time adjusting to. But then they also, within the team, do check ins with each other and that's actually something that I didn't mandate. I think the two members of my team who are also from TDI found so much value in that that they've adopted that in their own leadership style, and they lead their teams that way.

Charles:

Is there such a thing as too much feedback?

Lori Bradley:

I think so. I hate any feedback. Actually, my answer is I hate when someone says, "Can I give you some feedback?" My answer is always, "Do you have to? What did I do wrong?" Then it could be really positive feedback and I'm like, "Oh, what does that say about me as a person that I just assumed it was not going to be good feedback." So is there such a thing as too much feedback? I don't know if there’s such a thing as too much feedback, but I think there's such a thing as poorly-timed feedback. So I think that there's a real art in knowing when to deliver feedback depending on what it is.

Charles:

Too early or too late typically?

Lori Bradley:

Sometimes both, absolutely both. Sometimes too late because it was weeks ago and it’s like, "You know, I don't even remember what you're talking about," and so the learning would be tough because it helps if it ... It needs to be timely. But then there’s also poorly-timed feedback. So if I was very, very nervous about a board presentation and I did my presentation and it went pretty good. That night, no one’s ever done this to me which is an example, that night, I probably need to just let the stress roll off and go, "Okay, that went pretty well." If someone called me that night and said, "Here’s what you did wrong," I probably wouldn't be very receptive to it because it’s like okay, it's stressful. I did my best. Can you just give me a break right now.

What usually will happen for me is I’ll unwind. I'll let the stress roll off. I’ll start to think about it. Then I’ll approach someone and say, "So here’s what I would like to do. I think I could do better next time. What did you observe?" My boss is really, really good that he gives me great feedback. But he’s a terrific thought partner on saying, "Yeah, yeah. You probably could do that more." So sometimes I think giving someone a little room to come to you and ask for feedback is good.

Charles:

Requires such trust, doesn't it, in the organization and in the leader? I think it’s a great point actually because it’s not a concept that most leaders think about very often.

Lori Bradley:

Right.

Charles:

They’re so focused on other stuff and maybe they're focused on how do I deliver this to them. But giving people permission to come and ask for it is an act of real generosity from a leadership standpoint.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah. One of my new team members the other day said, "I'm a little nervous to do this but I just read this article," and he said, "I know you're busy but at some point when you have time, could you just shadow me for a day and then coach me at the end of the day?"

Charles:

Wow.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah. I was like, "You really want me to do that?" But I respect him so much for saying it because that's says-

Charles:

[inaudible]

Lori Bradley:

I'm going to check my ego, I want to be effective, I want to do this. He trusts me, so that feels good enough to do it. So we’re going to do it and see how it goes.

Charles:

I'm conscious on ... We have a hard hour so I have a couple questions. The first of the file questions is what do you think is the biggest mistake you see leaders make in terms of blocking creativity?

Lori Bradley:

Good question. Probably getting too deep on attention to detail too early in a process. So jumping straight to a solution before the teams had time to digest and think, I think that that can kill ... Coming to a solution too early can really kill creativity because then you're shifting it to execution mode. So part of it is they don't really even allow some time for creativity to emerge. They want a quick decision on what’s going to do and then you're in execution mode, and then it’s too late.

Charles:

What about the same question to an organization ones, what are the biggest mistakes you think organizations make?

Lori Bradley:

I think incentivizing only financial measures. But you understand why they do it, but I think that organizations, it can become too bureaucratic, it can become too controlling. I grew up in the [inaudible 00:57:42] days in the defense industry, and I have a lot of respect for that process. But there's only a little window where ideation and brainstorming and creativity happens, and you quickly move into now, how do we measure? So I don't know. The Six Sigma people would not be happy with me saying this but in my experience, I didn't see entirely just blindingly beautifully creative solutions coming out. So keeping it all about rigid processes where it’s tempting to do that because you realize efficiencies. Sometimes you just need to let people flounder a little and keep things a little loose so creative thought can emerge.

Charles:

What would people be surprised to know about you that they don't already know?

Lori Bradley:

Very good question. I'm such an open book. If there’s anything around me that ... The better question would be what is something that people wish they didn't know about you that you just kept to yourself. A lot of people, I've mentioned it a couple of times so I don't know why they'd be surprised, but a lot of people are very surprised when they learned that I grew up in such a small town. There were 11 students in my senior class.

Charles:

Eleven?

Lori Bradley:

Eleven, and there were 40 in my entire high school.

Charles:

Good heavens.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah. So people are very surprised by that and then they're very intrigued that they want to know. Their favorite question is like, "So where you the top 10% of your class?" I'm like, "Actually, I don't think I was." So yeah, I think people who don't know me, closely know my background and where my family is and everything are very surprised when I tell them that I came out of a high school of 40.

Charles:

Yeah, I didn't know that. Wow.

Lori Bradley:

Yeah.

Charles:

Last question. What are you afraid of?

Lori Bradley:

I'm afraid of not getting it all done. It’s terrible. Yeah, I think that it’s interesting because probably the last eight years of my career, I've been in jobs that I came in to do something and I thought I'm going to do this and then I'm going to roll out and consult again. I'm going to do this. So I have been very, very driven to accomplish some very clear things. So what I'm realizing is when you live your life in like okay, I’ll be here couple of years and I've got to get this all done and you're very goal-oriented around that.

 What I'm realizing now is I love where I am and I like what I do and I like to be here a really long time. Before, if it was like, "Okay, we’re not going to do that this year. Let’s do it next year." I'm like, "No, we got to do it now because I may not even be here next year, and I want to get this done." So I'm at a good place right now where I'm looking at the horizon farther off and going, "You know what, we don't have to do it all right now. We’re going to have time and we can let some things mature and keep adding on." So it’s a much more comfortable place to be. But yeah, I'm very driven and I'm always pushing, pushing, pushing to get things done. So my biggest fear is I'm not going to get it all done.

Charles:

So I have three take aways for you listening to this. The first, I think, is you've mentioned a couple of these but there's a context around them. One is I think that you engender trust because you are an open book, because it’s so clear that you really don't have an agenda except helping that person. So I think your openness allow people to really lean in, and that allows you to help them.

Lori Bradley:

Thank you.

Charles:

The second one, I think, is that you care genuinely about helping people. It’s not an affectation to get matters to you and you are really open about and wide open about the range of people. I've never encountered you are with anybody that I haven't felt she really does want to help this person.

Lori Bradley:

Right.

Charles:

Then the third this is, and you said it in a slightly different way, I think you are very goal-oriented and you have the ability to see that end game. Then to zone back from there, here’s the steps we have to take. I think that ability to move all the noise away and focus on an outcome and then to zone back is really, really critical in many organizations, but particularly complex organizations such as the one that you're working because you have to be so focused, so we have to do this. We’re not doing that because we’re doing this, because we’re going to do that. So I think those three things together make you who you are and what you are today. Do they resonate with you?

Lori Bradley:

They do. I love that way you do that. That was fantastic. I'm glad we recorded this so someone will write them down and tell my husband, "Look, this is so cool." So first of all, thank you. It’s very nice. So I do think that people trust me and it is genuine. I do really, and it’s not out of like I'm so altruistic. I’m just really jazzed by seeing people just blossom and perform.

Charles:

Yeah, it’s amazing, isn't? Such a gift.

Lori Bradley:

I love it. So I feel almost guilty taking that praise because it sounds so corny, but I really do feel like it’s a privilege to be able to witness that and to be a part of it. Maybe it's that my dad was a coach and maybe it’s the coach in me just watching the students. He was a big part of their life because of that. So yeah, I get so jazzed by just ... And I feel for people. No one’s perfect and when I see someone really struggling with something but really trying, I love that. I have no use for the arrogant people who are perfect and think they have nothing to change or people who it’s always someone else's fault or the organization’s fault or something. But now, how can your heart not just open to someone who’s grappling with hard stuff and they’re really trying and they're seeking your help. I find that a privilege to be a part of.

Charles:

Beautifully said. Thank you so much for being here. I could talk to you about this stuff for hours and-

Lori Bradley:

We probably will.

Charles:

Probably will at some point. Lori, thank you again.

Lori Bradley:

Of course. Thank you for having me.

Charles:

You're very welcome. You've been listening to Fearless, The Art of Creative Leadership. If you like what you've heard, please take a moment, go to iTunes and just leave us a rating. We’ll be back next week with more. Thank you again for listening.