Transcript #23. Living in a VUCA environment: Adapting to Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity - Interview with Janet Sernack

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Renata:                 It's been hard to keep up and adapt to the constant changes to our lives since the outbreak of the covid-19 went global. Our world has changed. Our days have changed. The way we shop, eat, and interact with our loved ones has changed. Some of us have lost our jobs. Business owners have had to shut shop. On the other hand, hospital staff, doctors, nurses, supermarkets, call centres, online retailers, digital service providers have had an exponential demand for their services and products. All of these changes have disrupted the structures in our lives, has disrupted our livelihoods, economies, societies, and international borders. This interview with Janet Sernack is therefore perfect for this point in time. It wasn't recorded during the covid-19 outbreak. Janet is a friend and we recorded almost out of wedlock when she came to my house for a visit. It also wasn't supposed to reach you until mid-April, but I changed the order of my pre-recorded episodes because we need to listen to Janet now.


Renata:                You will understand why in a moment. You see, Janet is a consultant and coach who helps other coaches like me, leaders, and organisations, adapt and grow through disruption. Her expertise is in helping society understand what it means to be innovative and adaptive to change. You may aim for innovation all you want, but you won't get it if you don't start acting differently. Structuring your businesses differently and being nimble to adopt and adapt to change fast as opportunities and threats come along. On Janet's LinkedIn profile, you will find the following statement which perfectly summarises her skills- “I nurture and embed innovation in organisations experiencing the shockwaves of disruptive change in the VUCA world.” Now, VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. She also says, “I enable people to step over the threshold that opens up to a new world of conscious, creative and commercial possibilities.”


Renata:                In addition to her expertise, it's Janet's personality, her calmness, her tone of voice that adds to her wisdom and makes listening to this podcast a real must. Please do listen. You will notice we don't mention the covid-19 at all and that's because it was recorded a while back. But every sentence, every learning is applicable to the situation we find ourselves today. You will want to take notes, I tried, but basically the entire interview is a treat. So I would recommend going into the episode show notes and downloading the transcript.


Renata:                Janet starts the podcast by telling us about her career disruptions and changes, which are very interesting and have been instrumental in enabling her to reach what she is now. Someone who has a hold on the expertise of changing and disrupting with grace, helping others do the same, and integrating creativity and human centred design thinking in start-up methodologies to see and solve problems. For those who are listening to this podcast for the first time, welcome and hello. I'm Renata Bernarde, your host. I'm a career strategist and a job hunting expert. This podcast supports job hunters and career enthusiasts to gain better skills and better manage their career advancement and transitions. We hope that you stick around and follow us in the future. Okay, now let's listen.

Renata:                 Welcome to the podcast Janet, I'm delighted that you've accepted. Tell me a little bit about, well tell not me, but everybody that's listening a little bit about yourself and your career so far.

Janet:                    Thank you for inviting me and thank you for asking me such a big question. So I'm really a serial entrepreneur. I grew up in the wonderful wild world of the fashion industry. My dad was a fashion manufacturer in the seventies and eighties when fashion was really dynamic and we did have fashion trends. To end my corporate career as the fashion director and marketing development manager of 42 department stores, which some of you may remember as the Grace Brothers department store group. So that was an amazing education in terms of being able to be think and do things differently and started my addiction to change, and certainly disruptions. So my job was to travel the world and connect to all of the fashion and lifestyle that were occurring and then adapt those to the needs and wants of the Australian lifestyle market. And then educate, all of the buyers across apparel and home and food as to how to present a coordinated image to the customer.

Janet:                    So customer was King and is still King. And what I realised from that experience was that I understood how to link my design management skills, how to really advance what we call my association or thinking skills, which is very important in today's age is about finding unlikely connections between different patterns and trends, which is the basis for innovation or innovators like Steve jobs. And to also understand the need for change led innovation. So I started my own design management consultancy and was privileged to work with some awesome brands like Chanel and Seafolly and other brands that are sadly no longer with us because the textile clothing and footwear industries in Australia suffered from massive disruption through changes in government policy in the mid-eighties and the local industry died. And most manufacturing here in the fashion industry is done now in China or Vietnam or Bangladesh, but certainly offshore.

Janet:                    So realising that the best laid business plans often ended up in the bottom drawer, I then I reinvented myself again and studied business management and marketing management and worked in the area of business planning, consulting and re-educated in the whole area of corporate learning. So the next reinvention was to become a corporate trainer. So I had the privilege again of studying with some of the really great, accelerated learning trainers, including Marvin Oka and Philippa Bond and Stephanie Burns and Colin James. And worked with some of the big four banks in Australia with NAB and CBA and Westpac in designing and delivering transformational leadership programmes, which of course involve a lot of change, certainly in mindset. So I had the opportunity to work with a company called Corporate Vision, which was Australia's first culture change consultancy. So really, I guess got to marry my fashion and lifestyle background, which is all about culture with the whole notion of corporate culture and that’s a field that I still specialize in.

Janet:                    So, next reinvention, was when I established Compass Learning with the intention of working with executive teams to help them develop alignment and become more effective. So, um, that was a lot of good fun using experiential learning activities as the basis so that they could witness their own mindsets and behaviours and start to shift them. So I did that pretty much up until 2010, from Sydney. So I don't know how many reinventions is that seems to be a bit of a thing.

Renata:                So one, two, three, four, five, so far. I'm loving this.

Janet:                    So in 2010, my husband and I and two dogs and now cat who was still fortunately with us, very well-travelled. We pursued a dream and relocated to the Middle East to Israel, the start-up nation. And we lived there for six years and during that time I reinvented yet again and created an Israeli start-up company called Imagination.

Janet:                    And I was obviously an outsider, female, older, with no relatives, so everyone said I couldn't do it. And I used that push against me as pure motivation to prove that I could do it, and learned a lot about the entrepreneurial lifestyle in Israel. The whole start-up scene really immersed myself in the start-up scene, invented my own business simulation called the start-up game and my own innovation leadership learning curriculums. So I didn't know what I didn't know. It took a really big letting go process, letting go of all my roles, all my accreditations, all my previous knowledge because I realised pretty quickly I was living in a VUCA environment, a very volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment. So I had to be different. I had to think differently and I had to do things differently if I was going to survive and thrive.

Janet:                    So, I invented the start-up game with, in Israel leading Israeli design game design studio, who was so much fun to work with. And not knowing what I didn't know, I started blogging and I'm now acknowledged as a global specialist on the people's side of innovation. And, realised as well that if you're going to be creative, inventive, or innovative, you need to shift your mindset and the best way of shifting your mindset is to get a coach who can help you do that. So I became an ICF accredited coach, and also I coach coaches in innovation. I have a global coach for innovators certified programme that I run twice a year. It's online, it's blended learning. And finally the last reinvention was rebranding, because again, the market's changed, so I need to change. For things to change first, I must always choose to change. I rebranded 18 months ago and moved into the innovation culture space where we actually measure and benchmark the mindsets that drive an organization's ability to adapt and grow, but also to achieve its bottom line or not. So full circle, started in creativity and invention and innovation in the fashion industry. And really, you know, I've adapted, I've been willing to learn. I've been willing to unlearn and come full circle now in the people's side of innovation.

Renata:                I love that because learning to unlearn is just as important as learning to learn as you develop and evolve in your career. But what I will count off all the reinventions later and add it to the beginning of this, the introduction of this podcast. But what I've noticed is that you've elevated your game every time by focusing on your strengths and that has been consistent throughout. So you know what your strengths are and you've kept evolving your career really basically by positioning your strengths and adapting them to the new decades, the new environment, a new country you were in, which is exactly what I’ve been telling people to do in the podcast and my blogs. So this perfect. What I, I know you for these final bits of reinventions that you've done, working in this, developing creativity and the innovation culture,  in Melbourne and everywhere around the world because your coaching practises is online and it's, it's really fantastic. What would you recommend that, our listeners do if they find themselves in a situation where they are in between jobs, they don't have a job at the moment, and they're out in the market looking for work and finding it really challenging to position themselves for this next gig?

Renata:                Usually, when this situation happens, and I'm talking to a lot of the listeners because I'm inviting them for free consultations with me at the moment so that they can book a time to speak to me and I'm not charging them. Many people get so anxious and frustrated with the situation that they find themselves, that they played themselves down and, and they play safe. And instead of using that opportunity to think, okay, where do I want to do, what do I want to do next? And you know, what salary and what sector and what skills that I want to focus on next? They play safe and they position themselves lower and that confuses the market. And I interviewed, Paul Burroughs a few weeks ago. I think its episode number 17. For those that are listening, I will link below in the episode show notes. And Paul said something that we've used as a testimonial and statement to promote the podcast. He said, “Do not miss this opportunity of being made redundant. It's an opportunity. Don't miss it.” What would you add to that statement from Paul in terms of the work that you do in helping people be more creative, more creative thinkers?

Janet:                    Okay, look, that's such a big question. I think where I start is something that I've, or where I would start is something that I've already said is for things to change first, I must choose to change. And change is inevitable anyway. You know, and we're living in an era of exponential changes. So in terms of changing, the first thing is to pay deep attention.

Janet:                    It sounds like we really obvious, so pay attention to what's happening in the market, what's happening in terms of consumer patterns, what's happening in terms of technology, because you know, that's advancing faster than we previously imagined. And start to really be present to all of that, and with an open mind, with, you know, with very much an open mind and you know, even in an open heart if I dare say that. And be willing to see where the gaps, you know, marketing language, we talk about maps, gaps and opportunities. In coaching or in consciousness, we talk about the cracks, the doorways and the thresholds because they're out there. But because there's this war for our attention, we very often don't take the time to stop, retreat, reflect, to gather the information to reboot because the redundancy in an opportunity for rebooting.

Janet:                    So the first thing is, is just be present to what's really going on around you. And the second thing is to be really intentional. So you know, you might do an audit of your strengths, not only your strengths but also the things that you done well in the past. So make a list. What are you good at? There's lots of free online assessments that can help you do that. I like the strengths finder for Martin Seligman's work, which is out of Pennsylvania University.

Renata:                I'll put a link to that below. We use that in the job hunting made simple online course as well.

Janet:                    It's so cool. So on the one hand that'll give you your strengths but also sit down quietly with a notebook and a packet of texts and write down some of the things that you've achieved. And it could be as simple as, you know, achieving a weight loss goal or getting, helping your child get into a certain class at school or winning a football game. But so that you can see from an evidential point of view what you have done. Because as Renata has just said is we play safe and we also play small, especially some of us as women. And to reinvent, you have to sort of let go of the sight of the shore, and be willing to play bigger, and to cultivate the confidence and the courage to authentically be bigger. And I say that, really well. Really intentionally be bigger, own who you are. And then the other thing about being intentional, whenever I'm coaching a woman who wants to get a promotion in her organisation, say from a management to a leadership role, it's like paint a vivid description of the kind of job you want to have. So be really intentional, you know, paint the picture. Write a list, make a mind map of what the best kind of job possible you know, that could be there for you and really focus your attention on, on manifesting that.

Janet:                    And then, you know, there are like the really obvious things, and then be willing, as we've said, to unlearn what you know, be really curious, ask lots and lots of questions. If you're in an interview, you know, have an endless, endless list of open questions that you want to ask, and be really adaptive. You know, you may not get exactly what you want and you won't really, you know, you don't know until you try. And every mistake in perfection or failure is an opportunity for learning and change. It certainly has been for me, even though it may not feel like that at the time. So, I think it's, it's be willing, and going back to your core point is be willing to see possibility in every situation and especially in any setbacks, you know, possible for me possible in the world. It's only a matter of hell.

Renata:                Yeah. That's so good. And that's really aligned with, you know, the previous interviews and the previous podcast episodes as well, which shows that we're, you know, there's a reason why we both connected anyway. So I really like that. The other, the other focus of the podcast, especially in the first few episodes was really, helping people that are currently in a role. So they're doing a job and they're feeling like they're not being seen, heard, and listened to. And, off the back of some of the speaking engagements that I did end of last year, I did a couple of episodes on building your narrative and developing your, your discourse and, and amplifying your brand and how to actually create your brand from being strategic in the first place about having your own marketing strategy, a personal marketing strategy, because a personal brand is an outcome of that. But I'd really like your views and your addition to that, when it comes to being creative in a very noisy workspace. You know how there's so many pushes and pulls, internal politics and so many reasons why one can be overlooked for promotions, overlooked for opportunities and, and projects. And I would be interesting to hear your views on that to help some of our listeners as well.

Janet:                    Okay that is again, a really great question and the starting point, Oh gosh, where to start. So I can only imagine that if you're in a rut, the first thing that you need to do is to acknowledge that you're in a rut. And to be willing to have the boldness and the bravery to break the pattern and to disrupt yourself, certainly in your own thinking and disrupt yourself in the way, probably even that you're doing things. So this is, the first notion. The second thing that I've noticed when I coach clients in this situation, and again, it comes back, especially for a lot of women around, you know, do I really deserve to have a promotion? Am I worthy of having a promotion? Do I have the confidence or the permission to ask for more? I'm, I compare myself to others and I'm not as good as I have this perception that I'm not as good as this other person.

Janet:                    Well, I don't have the good self-belief that, you know, what if I do this job and I fail? So all of those creeping doubts and including the, um, very popular, widely known now imposter syndrome. I might get found out that, you know, I'm not really up to doing this. It's actually developing strategies to manage all of that, those, that negative self-talk. So the first thing is disrupt yourself and be really positive and optimistic about what could possibly be there for you. And then I go back, you know, doing an audit of, of your strengths, a list of what you have achieved and be really intentional about what you want. The kind of role you want to have and then go and speak to your manager about the fact that you wanted and you know, what will he do to support you?

Janet:                    So I've noticed, is a hesitancy now and unwillingness to ask?

Renata:                Yes.

Janet:                    So if you've got a strong need for approval, you probably won't ask. So it's really important to ask for what you want. You know, even if it's just a very simple promotion or a new office or someone else on your team. So whatever you can do to cultivate your confidence and your courage, and we call this really good self-efficacy. So if you believe in yourself and you ask, know what you want and you can ask for it, that message will come across to the person that you're asking. So, you know, tippy toe in the water, experiment with small things, use whatever interaction that you have, as an opportunity for feedback and feedback is the breakfast of champions. So you know, you can only learn and improve from feedback. And I guess goes back to, you know, the 21st century is about deep, continuous learning. You know, learn from every situation, learn from every setback, and learn from every adversity. That's what fuels entrepreneurs and innovators- adversity is my friend, even though I don't like it. And, you know, there's other things like, you know, self-regulate your emotions. So when you do fall down the deep dark pit, have strategies and techniques to get yourself out and have friends. Have friends, colleagues who can help pull you out, and be a good role model for change to others.

Renata:                I really like everything that you're saying. And if the listeners that are listening now have followed this podcast, it will be just the continuation of, you know, some of the earlier episodes. But what, what I've done during January was the 31 days to reset your career programme. So that went on Instagram and Facebook and every day there was a different post. Just one small action a day Janet and talking to your manager was one of the final posts. Because it allowed, the people that were activating that project, to do some of that strengths, reflection and planning and just activating their networks, getting feedback. So that when they spoke to their managers, they came with a plan and use their times really, you know, strategically. And we're focused on what they wanted to achieve. And one of the things that I think is underrated and that can, make a lot of difference in one's career is that time with the manager.

Janet:                    Yes.

Renata:                And sometimes people mistake, misunderstand what that time is for.

Janet:                    That's a really good point.

Renata:                And it's not really for reporting the minutia. Some things are immaterial to your manager. And it's really about, letting them know what's important for them, but listening more than telling them and then using that time, that important time to pitch for what you want to achieve.

Janet:                    Yeah, and asking questions.

Renata:                Yeah, exactly.

Janet:                    Really being curious and inquisitive and asking those good questions.

Renata:                So that Reset your career 31 days is by the time this podcast goes live, that will have come out of social media unfortunately, but we will repackage that later in the year into another programme. So we'll let the listeners know when it comes up, but I think it's really, important that what you said, the feedback is the breakfast of champions.

Janet:                    Yes.

Renata:                And I really like that quote. How do you, one thing that we talk a lot about in the podcast, in the live Facebook as well is the concept not only of building your resiliency because this is a podcast for job hunters, and for career enthusiasts or people that need to really build a resiliency, but also the concept of being anti-fragile. So you don't actually need to bounce back. I really wanted to hear your take on that because that is kind of sometimes controversial. The antifragility concept, what do you have to say about that?

Janet:                    Firstly I love, tailored work. So I, I know about that. So look, in our programmes, we talk about developing discomfort resilience. And the 21st century is about being comfortable with being uncomfortable. 100% of the time. So it's really important to use uncomfortable situations as opportunities for learning and change. So that's my first point. We, the other term we use is to have elastic thinking.

Renata:                Yes, yes. I've heard you say that before.

Janet:                    So elastic thinking is, being, you know, a really good example is saying, Oh, you know, this is happening. I'm really uncomfortable. What is, you know, what's really going on for me? How am I feeling about that? What is, what can I learn from this and what can I do differently? So being able to stretch your thinking, you know, out of your habitual mindsets and perspectives.

Janet:                    The other thing is we live in a paradoxical era. So what's important about that and what we do in our work and imagination is we are support people to work with what is. So whatever is going on is whatever is going on and not to judge and evaluate it, but just to be present and to be empathic to it. Cause you're not alone. You know, you might be working for the most dysfunctional manager, but rather than make the manager wrong accept that that is your managers way, you know, that is what is and to be flexible and adaptive enough to start to cultivate what could be possible in this situation. So we talk about paradoxical is both what is, and, this is the power of end and, with what could be. And I guess the final thing for me in that context is to take responsibility for being the cause in your life. Don't blame shame, and make others wrong. You know, look, look for ways to take responsibility for whatever result you are causing in your life. And if you do that, then you have flexibility to cause different kinds of results. So, you know, here in Australia we're really good at the blame, shame and envy game. So, you know, observe it. That's what is and start to cultivate that positivity and that optimism for what could be possible. For you, your team, your family, you know, for the world, wherever, wherever your playground is.

Renata:                Oh, that's wonderful. Thank you Janet. So final thoughts in, I mean I think there's this final sort of five to 10 minutes has really answered my, my question about, the strengths and the opportunities people should seek to develop in this new decade. But do you have any final thoughts about how we're going to work in the future and how people should prepare to work in the future? I think you have answered that, but if you have any final thoughts we could end there.

Janet:                    For me, I think you know, why we work on the people's side of innovation is because people really matter. I mean, that's the core, the core essence of our brand and imagination. We are in partnership with Singularity University Australia and globally, in saying that, you know, we were going into a future of exponential change, incredible opportunity to co-create abundance. So it's people and machines, its people and AI. Its people and digitization. So it's a co-creative process. So I think, if you have any fear of the future, let it go because there are going to be jobs that have never previously existed. We will create those jobs. There'll be your kids, grandkids will be in jobs that weren't even, hadn't been invented yet in companies that don't exist yet. So some of the basic, things is, you know, not like I get in blog posts. The robots are gonna take over. They won't.

Janet:                    We work in collaboration with machines or robots. The, world economic forum talks a lot about, social skills, problem solving skills, creative and critical thinking skills. And they're also talking now for 2030 about skills in digital. So anything to do with learning how to work with machines is going to be important. But also, you know, how do we care for people? How do we empathise with people? And of course there's the service industries, the medical industries and incredible opportunities to innovation for creativity, invention and innovation. So I think it goes back to being adaptive and being open minded, open hearted and paying attention to you know, what's going on, not just here in Australia but globally in terms of patterns of work. Teaming, collaboration is going to be much more important. Inclusion, and not just diversity and inclusion but inclusion in a much bigger scale.

Janet:                    And, of course accountability. You know, at the end of the day, accountability is binary. You either deliver what you say you will or you don't. So, you know, be, be trustworthy, reliable, and cultivate a lot of what in the past, funnily enough, people have called soft skills, but they're actually the hardest skills to cultivate.

Renata:                Good point. Ah, excellent. Janet, if people want to connect with you after this, after listening to you, where should they go? Your website or LinkedIn.

Janet:                    Okay, certainly connect with me on LinkedIn. We run free webinars on innovation, coaching and innovation culture every month and a and also at and I'm sure you put the link so.

Renata:                I will, I'll put it on the episode notes. Thank you Janet. I'll bring you next time for another podcast.

Janet:                    Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Renata:                I've added Janet's LinkedIn profile and website URL to the episode show notes. I've also added the link to the strengths test that we both love so much. If you're not yet subscribed to this podcast, please remember to do so wherever you are listening to it right now, iTunes, Spotify or YouTube and better still, you should also join my community and I will send you a newsletter with the new episode every week. The newsletter also includes important news and announcements from me, and extra career-related resources that I curate specifically for my community. Subscribing to my newsletter is the easiest and cheapest way for you to action your career strategy and continue to invest in your professional development. It will keep you accountable and keep your career planning top of mind. When you join my community now, you can book a free career strategy with me. What better time? Hey to book a free career strategy than now. This offer will not last forever, so if you are listening to this podcast a few months from now, this offer may have ended, so don't waste any time. Subscribe to my community, book the consultation and let’s talk. Go to the link is also in the episode show notes. Remember to stay home, stay safe, be well, take care of yourself, and be kind. Bye for now.

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