The Work Before the Work

580 200 Deborah Nankivell

(Photo: WOCinTech Chat/Flickr)

Employers in all sectors are asking for workers who are creative and critical thinkers, work well on a team and demonstrate core values. Educators are rising to the challenge and neuroscientists have found a path forward. By raising emotional intelligence at scale, we can overcome polarities and find common ground. We must become the change to lead the change. What does this mean? How do we do it?

Scientists have learned more about the human brain. Psychologists have learned how family, culture and life experiences impact our thinking and behaving. The challenge Socrates issued long ago–know thyself; master — is on point. With so many discoveries, “facts” have a short shelf-life. Fortunately, what do endure are principles—the core values at the center of the world’s great philosophies and religions.

A new era in education is upon us. The word comes from the Latin—educare—and includes two elements: to train or mold and to lead out. In other words, to become educated we must learn a wide range of skills and develop our character, the inner work of discovering our own voice, what we value and who we are. Unless both are valued and advanced, we risk developing citizens that are linear thinkers, focused only on doing and stuff and those equipped to talk about ideas but never make them happen.

During the industrial revolution, the split approach seemed to work. Top-down and controlling managers figured out what to do and bottom-up compliant workers got it done. Today, the private sector is changing dramatically. Leaders are learning to coach and increasing their emotional intelligence. Many in younger generations have no interest in the bigger, faster, more norms of the past. They are seeking balance, work that offers a sense of purpose and feeling valued as a whole person.

Transitions are difficult. Top down leaders must learn to let go of control. Those who were compliant workers are being asked to think for themselves and take risks. Culture change is one of the most difficult leadership challenges. Leaders must go first. As Brene Brown teaches, dare to become vulnerable. The maps are gone. The geography is changing too fast. Everyone is trying to figure it out. Pooling power, resources and information is the wave of the future.

Much has been written about how to raise emotional intelligence. Imagine, a system that is fully grounded in core values, personal development and skill acquisition. A book written by Neil and Jane Hawkes entitled The Inner Curriculum: How to nourish wellbeing, resilience and self-leadership, is compelling, research based and practical. Dr. Richard Schwartz, now at Harvard and founder of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) stated, “…it has the power to transform education in the direction needed to address the massive problems facing our planet.” IFS is empowering, effective and not pathologizing. His system is trauma informed and helps people shift from judgment to compassion and external control to self-leadership. The book incorporates his work.

Our community is well on the way toward transformational change. This includes diversification of the economy, new infrastructure, deep partnerships between sectors, and a rich understanding of the responsibility side of citizenship. Once foreign concepts, civic stewardship and triple bottom line (economy, social equity and environment) are becoming accepted as the new way of thinking and acting together.

With the eighth California Economic Summit coming to Fresno in November, we have an opportunity to showcase how far we have come and provide a customized set of core initiatives to Governor Newsom. I encourage you to check out the Summit website to learn more: To figure out how you can have the greatest impact, I encourage you to check out the Hawkes’ book and do the work before the work.

Deborah Nankivell is CEO of the Fresno Business Council.


Deborah Nankivell

All stories by: Deborah Nankivell