Resilience in Career & Life: Matthew McConaughey, Rep. Katie Porter & C-Suite Executives on Leadership, Creating a Culture of Understanding & Re-imagining the Future by Elisa Schmitz
Over the last year, our lives have been disrupted in many unexpected ways. Riding the pandemic roller coaster has ensured that if there’s one constant in the world today, it is change.
Our new reality means that resilience has taken on even greater importance than before. Companies and employees alike must adapt to the ever-evolving “new normal,” which often seems to shift like sand beneath our feet. To address the changes brought on by the pandemic and the need to adapt to a new reality, CNBC hosted its CNBC @Work Summit: Building a Resilient Future.
“From changes in how and where we work, to critical innovation acceleration and product development, as well as the reallocation of sometimes limited capital, the global pandemic fundamentally disrupted work – perhaps forever. The landscape has changed and it will take new ideas and agile management to lead organizations into the future. As we emerge from this crisis and adapt to this new reality, it’s clear that shaping a modern and resilient business will require close collaboration across finance, talent and technology leadership.”
The summit provided a forum for senior executives to learn from each other and from some of the most influential voices who are defining the future of work, including ways to find and retain top talent, upend traditional roles, innovating, investing and finding creative solutions to re-imagine how work is done.
The Importance of Vaccines
Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, noted that we are at a pivotal pandemic moment, and if employers want a safe work environment despite COVID, vaccination is key. If people are not vaccinated, it makes returning to work much harder. “The best way to persuade people is to persuade people” to take the vaccine, he said.
Managing a Remote or Hybrid Workforce
Microsoft executives Kathleen Hogan, Chief People Officer, and Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President, stressed that work as we knew it may never look the same. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index Report, 41 percent of workers are likely to leave their jobs and 46 percent are likely to move because of remote work. This means employers need to be more thoughtful about how they manage workplaces and employees, especially as it pertains to battling “digital overload” and burnout. Employers can combat these challenges by being more intentional, such as setting expectations for meeting times in advance, and having a growth mindset. “We’re all in uncharted territory,” they said.
The Pandemic’s Impact on Women
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on women in particular. Rep. Katie Porter (D-California), a working single mom of three children, has been shining a light on this issue. She noted that the Shecession is very real: 22 percent of women have exited the workforce, and women’s workforce participation is now just 57 percent, a level not seen since 1988. “Child care is just as important for people to be able to do their jobs as roads and bridges to get them there,” she said, noting that it will take women two or three years longer than men to recover from the pandemic.
The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion
Caroline Wanga is the CEO of Essence Communications. She stressed that companies should pursue diversity and inclusion (D&I) as aggressively as they pursue their competitors, but noted that D&I is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. “Just because they make it in a certain size, doesn’t mean that it fits,” she said. Take it a step further and ask the right questions, which leads to breaking barriers. “Always push for more and use your muscle.”
Getting Back to Work – Safely
While many industries have been affected by the pandemic, television had to adapt quickly. After all, the show must go on. Yun Lingner, Executive Producer of Shark Tank, shared how they produced an entire series of the reality show on location at the Venetian in Las Vegas, despite the added expense. “We shot the show in a bubble,” she said, adding that they minimized the amount of people who could attend the shoots, allowed no handouts to be provided to the sharks, among other risk mitigation strategies.
Neal Baer is Executive Producer of TV shows like Designated Survivor, ER and Law & Order: SVU. He said shooting dramas is entirely different than reality TV, and COVID protocols add 20 percent to budgets in order to produce shows safely. To ensure the actors’ health, for example, they shoot intimate scenes using mannequins or the actors’ real-life partners, wearing wigs as needed and shooting from behind. “We’re shooting more ‘bottle shows,’ with fewer people on set,” he said. “It’s about ‘Be a Protector,’ similar to how we used to stress being a designated driver, in order to protect others.”
Investing in the Future
Reid Hoffman and Sarah Guo are partners at venture capital firm Greylock. Because “necessity is the mother of invention,” the pandemic has inspired a surge of innovation and investment in emerging technologies poised to transform how we work. “We are excited about product- and community-based companies that can be started at low cost and make visible other people using them, which means less risk,” Guo said. “Smart founders realize they need to lower the cost for entry.”
Creating a Culture of Understanding
Academy award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey almost needs no introduction. His global acting and writing career taught him lessons you can’t learn in school, leading him to encounters with people of all backgrounds. In his new book, Greenlights, he reflects on his experiences and how they influenced his journey. Speaking live from his Airstream at his Austin, Texas, home, he shared how differences can inspire more meaningful conversations and cultivate cultures built not on winning, but on greater understanding.
He noted that in this time of great division in our country, we need to rebuild trust, agree on facts and get to unity. That means being able to have confrontations and accept other people’s points of view as legitimate, even if you disagree. “Most Americans are more centrist than we realize. The fact is that mud-slinging and rubber-necking sells,” he said. But when it comes down to it, we need to be more “purple,” not red or blue, and meet each other halfway. “Unity does not mean uniformity. I’m purple; I’ll meet you in the middle. Now more than ever, meeting in the middle is a radical dare. Whether you call it purple or central, it’s an agile stance. Being a moderate is a bold choice.”
Will he run for public office? Noting that strong, honest leadership is needed now more than ever, he’s certainly not ruling it out. But in order to move forward together, McConaughey said we need to be long-term optimistic and get through these major growing pains we are experiencing. “These problems aren’t new, they just got exposed,” he said. “Did we learn anything? I’m going to take that into life as a more evolved person. It was a hardship, a sacrifice, for a reason. Let’s turn the page and start a new chapter."
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