92. Does culture and learning still have a place in today’s workplace? | Dr. Marie Gervais
This week we catch up with Dr. Marie Gervais a leadership coach, author and fellow podcaster who believes that a happy workplace is a productive and...
Dr. Marie Gervais's mission is to build workplace leadership capacity characterized by real communications that acknowledge people for who they are. Using the S.W.E.L. model of safety, wellness, encouragement and learning, Marie provides online courses and transformational leadership coaching to help managers build inclusive, confident organizations where people can’t wait to show up for work.
She hosts the podcast "Culture and Leadership Connections", named the 5th of 20 top leadership podcasts in 2022. Her book "The Spirit of Work: Timeless Wisdom, Current Realities" is now available for purchase on online book directories around the world.
[00:00:00] - Marie Gervais
One of the reasons we have such a disconnect in all areas of work and the workplace is because there is no emphasis put on service and how we can be of service to our families, to ourselves, to the communities around us, to the world. It's all about get a job. What do you want to do when you grow up? That has nothing to do with being a whole human being living on the planet with other human beings.
[00:00:27] - Doug Foulkes
Welcome to Episode 94 of Chaos & Rocketfuel: The Future of Work Podcast. This is the podcast that looks at every aspect of work in the future, and it's brought to you by WNDYR and Pattyrn. I'm Doug Foulkes and my co-host is the CEO at WNDYR, Claire Haidar. So, Claire, we're coming to the end of a very interesting conversation with Marie Gervais, who is a fellow podcaster and author. We've been talking about culture and learning in the workplace. Just bring us up to speed, please, and just head us off down the track of our last encounter with Marie.
[00:01:01] - Claire Haidar
Okay, Doug, this part of the conversation actually really turned out to be one of my favorite segments of the conversation where we actually asked Marie to take us back into her history. Tell us about her childhood, tell us about how she was raised. An absolutely fascinating story and you can see why her career took the trajectory that it did because her past definitely influenced that.
[00:01:27] - Claire Haidar
Definitely worth listening to from that perspective. But the most important part of this segment that was actually a bit of a twist in the conversation, none of the three of us in the call thought it was going to go in this direction, was where I specifically posed the question; you have this amazing book that you've written, it's super practical. It's really hands on in terms of helping an executive navigate this reality of for-profit business while at the same time elevating the work experience for people.
[00:01:57] - Claire Haidar
What is the science telling us? What is the research that is out there? What are the actual really scientific implications, both from a biology, so looking at it from the human lens, but also the science from the business lens telling us? She really got into that. For those of you who decide to purchase her book after this, you'll also really see that all of that research is there. She's really been very scientific in how she has approached this. It definitely lit her up as well when we opened that part of the conversation and she said, it's a question she wishes she was asked more often, but isn't. I'm really excited about this segment.
[00:02:37] - Doug Foulkes
Yeah, it really was an enlightening hour that we spent together. Let's finish off with our last chance to chat to Marie.
[00:02:46] - Claire Haidar Marie, we're moving on to the third segment of our conversation, and usually we don't really go down this road with guests who we bring on to the podcast. But with you, based on our planning call, I really feel it's a really important part of our conversation, and that's related to your story. You have a multicultural, multi experience past which has definitely influenced this work of yours very heavily. Tell us a little bit about your story.
[00:03:19] - Marie Gervais
I was born into a very nuclear family in Canada, in Western Canada. My father was an immigrant from Germany. My father was the first generation Canadian born to Russian and a Romanian mother. As a result of that, we had no relatives growing up around us, but we were living in a place that was very embedded in generations of people's families.
[00:03:41] - Marie Gervais
Our friends were people who had no families. My father's best friends were two Jamaican nurses who he worked with, and also a Japanese food store owner who he helped get started with his store and who eventually learned to shrink wrap tofu and became a millionaire overnight. Every year brought my father over to his mansion for a special treat as a thank you.
[00:04:00] - Marie Gervais
We had multiple languages going on around us. My experience was being isolated and never understanding how people could spend so much time with their aunts and uncles and grandparents because I didn't have any of those. Being very intrigued and curious about the people around me and what their life experience was. Also, my parents were both very much interested in music and all three of us children, we had music lessons in multiple instruments.
[00:04:26] - Marie Gervais
My mother went out of her way to get to know musicians and bring them to our home. She also brought home teachers that we would have and anybody that she thought would be interesting for dinner. We were constantly surrounded by people that were not like us, and we were told to make the guests feel welcome and be conversational. If we weren't, my mother would take one of us aside and say, "Now, listen, what did I tell you? Now go make yourself useful and go back and speak with those guests." I think that was part of it.
[00:05:00] - Marie Gervais
The other part was that my dad had learning disabilities and also didn't write very well. His English language was good orally, but everything else was difficult for him. He consequently had a lot of jobs that didn't require much education. My mother was a teacher, so there were lots of disconnects there and connections. That meant that when I started working with supervisors and frontline workers in industry, I could relate because that was my dad in his life. When I was working with professionals, I could relate because that was my mother in her life.
[00:05:31] - Marie Gervais
We changed schools constantly because of wherever she was working, we'd have to go for before and after school care and stuff like that. I changed schools 12 times, which meant I was always on the outside. That was my experience. I needed to learn more social skills because I was just always feeling so discombobulated with what was going on around me. I couldn't do anything but retreat.
[00:05:52] - Marie Gervais
But that did happen as an adult, and I pursued it actually so that I could be better and more comfortable. But I was always really interested and curious in other people. Interviewing people has just always been a part of what I just naturally do.
[00:06:05] - Marie Gervais
Then I married a man from a French-Canadian culture. I didn't speak French, and I decided I would fit into the family by learning to speak French. I went to France. I did a degree in French. I became introduced to the multicultural, Francophone community around the world. That was one experience.
[00:06:21] - Marie Gervais
Then I became a Baha'i, which is the most recent of the world religions. One of the principles of the Baha'i Faith is independent investigation of truth, unity and diversity, and that all the religions are chapters of one book, while paths leading up the same mountain. They all have truths to offer that we need to learn. The most recent one is the one that we're working with now because it addresses the social problems that we currently have, but all the spiritual teachings are the same.
[00:06:49] - Marie Gervais
All of that made for a very multicultural existence. I encouraged my children when they were growing up, I had four of them, every time they'd come home, I'd go, "Who did you talk to who was left out or lonely today? Who did you make friends with who's not like you?" That was the question. Their friends were all the same. Their friends were all different people from everywhere.
[00:07:12] - Marie Gervais
The same situation as I had when I was growing up. They all married someone from a different race, religion, culture, or all of the above. Then I did a doctorate in culture and learning in the workplace. Everything I've been doing has been about experiencing other people's lives and coming into contact with my own response to that.
[00:07:30] - Claire Haidar
Just as a total aside, before Doug moves on to his two questions for you is, I had never, ever heard of the Baha'i Faith until I actually moved to Dallas in 2016. Because there's a very big Baha'i temple, a beautiful temple in Dallas. I was driving down the road in an Uber one day and I noticed this. It's literally not the middle of nowhere, but it's not in an area that's populated with a lot of other buildings. It really does stand out.
[00:08:00] - Claire Haidar
I actually asked the Uber driver, "I was like, what is that?" It's a magnificent building, but you can definitely see it doesn't belong to the Islamic faith. It's not one of the typical Christian faiths. You're all one of the Orthodox religions. "What is it?" He was like, "Oh, that's the big Baha'i." I was like, "What is that?" That was my introduction to it as well.
[00:08:20] - Marie Gervais
The only Baha'i temple I'm aware of is the one in Wilmette, Illinois. But Dallas has a very large Baha'i community, very diverse, large Baha'i community. They might have a building there that looks unique.
[00:08:34] - Claire Haidar
The Uber driver drove me off and I was like, "What faith is this? I've never heard of it." I sat down and I read about it. When you and I did our planning call and all these interesting stories came up, it brought back those memories as well as many others from my own childhood.
[00:08:55] - Marie Gervais
[00:08:55] - Marie Gervais
[00:08:56] - Doug Foulkes
Marie, I'm very aware of our time. I've just got a couple of maybe shorter questions just to ask you to finish off. Incredibly interesting and fulfilled and busy life to date. What has your life taught you that you would want to pass on as a legacy to the world?
[00:09:13] - Marie Gervais
Suspend judgment. If when in doubt, wait and find out more. Unity and diversity is a universal law. An example is the human body, and regulate yourself first. Make sure you're emotionally regulated before you dive into anything else.
[00:09:29] - Doug Foulkes
That is valuable. My last question, Marie, what are you researching next?
[00:09:36] - Marie Gervais
What I'm really interested in is using my book in workplaces, like in Lunch and Learn, and then gathering data from that and see how people apply it. That's something I'm researching next. Another thing I'd like to do is to create a series of children's books that introduce children to work in a holistic way.
[00:09:56] - Claire Haidar
Sure. I love that idea.
[00:09:58] - Doug Foulkes
That would be good.
[00:09:59] - Claire Haidar
I love the idea.
[00:10:00] - Marie Gervais
Because people often just follow what their parents did or something similar. Or they move into another area that they think is going to make them money with it that has no purpose. Or they just don't know what to do. They just wander around aimlessly for years. If they had some introduction to work in ways that I have never yet seen in children's literature, I think that could be really useful.
[00:10:26] - Claire Haidar
Yeah, I agree. Marie, please keep us updated on that project, because if that comes to life, we definitely need you back on the podcast to talk about that.
[00:10:35] - Marie Gervais
Interestingly enough, Mark and I, my husband and I have recently had a conversation along a similar vein where the injustices in the world are still rife. I'm not in any way downplaying them and diminishing them. There's still a very, very large portion of the global population that are still fighting poverty and will step into very traditional work roles.
[00:10:59] - Marie Gervais
But what we also have to look at from a data perspective is that this generation that Mark and I are essentially raising now. If you look at the toddlers and the tweens of today, they are also going to be the generation that are going to have the most wealth at their disposal than any other generation prior to them at the point that they leave school.
[00:11:23] - Marie Gervais
That poses a very interesting and significant challenge in that they're the first generation where a lot of them are going to have choices in terms of pursuing work in very different ways than what we have. As you say, it's not part of the curriculum. It's not a skill set that's being taught to them today.
[00:11:48] - Marie Gervais
It really is challenging to raise a child where you as a parent are still going to work to earn a living, where the generational wealth that will be available to this generation is going to be significantly different, which is going to put a lot of different choices in front of them. That's another whole conversation that we can have.
[00:12:10] - Claire Haidar
But I would like to make one comment about that, and that is that work is not just about paid work, it's also about service.
[00:12:16] - Marie Gervais
[00:12:17] - Claire Haidar
One of the reasons we have such a disconnect in all areas of work and the workplace is because there is no emphasis put on service and how we can be of service to our families, to ourselves, to the communities around us, to the world in the way that we're raising our children, it's all about get a job. What do you want to do when you grow up? That has nothing to do with being a whole human being living on the planet with other human beings.
[00:12:38] - Marie Gervais
Yeah, exactly. Which is why Mark and I have this conversation is because as parents, we feel a huge responsibility to teach our kids that a job is not just a pay check. One of the things that Mark and I always say that we rant on about is it really irks both of us. It really angers both of us that the role that your typical female plays in being a mother is never quantified into financial terms.
[00:13:08] - Marie Gervais
You know what I mean? It's dismissed in the current vernacular as no, a woman is diminished if she's at home. But there genuinely are some women that really do want to be in that position, and it's never quantified in financial terms like a job is. Yet if you actually put a number to it, it can be as high as half a million a year, depending on the size of the family.
[00:13:35] - Claire Haidar
Yes, that's definitely... We could be talking quite a long time about this.
[00:13:40] - Marie Gervais
That's why I say it's a whole different podcast.
[00:13:43] - Claire Haidar
Yeah, but the thing, I think service is the key to everything. The second thing is what does each gender need to learn that it's typically depressed for that gender. I think one of the reasons why there's so much emphasis on gender fluidity and gender identity right now is because we haven't allowed boys to be who they could be from a full perspective and girls to be who they could be from a full perspective.
[00:14:11] - Claire Haidar
People are questioning their sexuality as a result, which may be true for a percentage of the population, but not for everybody. It's more that girls typically need to be encouraged to make decisions outside of their social groupings and to be stronger and bolder, and boys need to be encouraged to be nurturing and helpful.
[00:14:33] - Claire Haidar
When you have those things, they balance each other out. An example of a sports study that I read recently was that girls tend to do certain types of sports better than boys, and boys tend to do certain types of sports better than girls, and they never learn to do differently unless they're actively taught.
[00:14:49] - Claire Haidar
But once they're taught, they balance. I think my grandsons are a great example. The four that are old enough where you can start to see it. They are just loving and nurturing and they say things to each other like, "Thank you for getting that for me, or No problem, or I love you, and he's my best friend and I just really love him," and things like that.
[00:15:11] - Claire Haidar
My kids never said, my generation never said, they're doing things like saying, "Let me help this little guy in the playground so that we can play together." That was just in my generation, it was just survival of the fittest. There's that piece and the other piece that's making that harder for parents is this huge emphasis on dystopian futures with a negative view of the future of humanity as if we could never be expansive and wonderful.
[00:15:42] - Claire Haidar
That we can only be mean spirited and small. That is so popular in the movies that children and teens are exposed to that it is constricting their capacity to see themselves in the human race for the true beauty that it has and the potential that it has. I think if parents want to actively work towards exposing children to things that are not just the current dystopian narrative, that's going to help a lot.
[00:16:07] - Doug Foulkes
Ladies, I am going to draw a curtain on our hour together.
[00:16:12] - Claire Haidar
[00:16:13] - Doug Foulkes
Do you want to?
[00:16:13] - Marie Gervais
[00:16:17] - Doug Foulkes
We could carry on, obviously, but I'm very aware of time. I'll just say my thank yous first. Marie, it's been a very interesting conversation from my side. In the little research that I did, I wasn't expecting it to go where it's gone and to be as interesting and as practical as it has been. Thank you so much for your time.
[00:16:40] - Marie Gervais
You're most welcome. It's been a pleasure.
[00:16:42] - Claire Haidar
Thanks, Marie. It has been really good to have you on here. I can't wait to specifically highlight some of the models that you've shared with us and really call out those practical pieces when we put this out there for people to engage with.
[00:16:56] - Marie Gervais
Thank you. Thank you for all the effort you put into the podcast. Much appreciated.
[00:17:01] - Doug Foulkes
That is the end of Episode 94 and our highly practical look at creating a more spiritual workplace. If you found this podcast of value, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. Catch us on Spotify, Google, and Apple podcasts, or on WNDYR's own website, wndyr.com. From Claire and myself, bye for now.
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