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Nadine Hack On Creating Connectedness In A Divided World

04Mar2020
Nadine Hack On Creating Connectedness In A Divided World
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Top thought-leader, Nadine Hack, is a key opinion leader who creates connectedness and bridges the gap between people, turning adversaries into allies. She was named Top 100 Thought Leader Trustworthy Business Behaviour often enough to earn Lifetime Achievement Award Trust.

One of the top thought-leadership examples that women can look up to, Nadine is writing a book, Urgency of Connectedness, with a foreword by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. She was Board Chair of Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and non-executive director on other for-profit and not-for-profit boards.

2017 Arch Tutu JDNBH at his Cape Town home
2017 Archbishop Desmond Tutu JDNBH at his Cape Town home

Creating connectedness is central to her work: she aids individuals and organizations to connect to their core purpose, connect across silos within their organizations, and connect with external stakeholders, friendly and even adversarial.

She’s won numerous other awards including International Outstanding Achievement, Enterprising Woman of Year, Mentor of Year, Inspiration award for lifetime achievement presented at Säid Business School Oxford University.

Nadine gave a TEDx talk on “Adversaries to Allies” and is a Keynote speaker at graduations and conferences globally. She’s also a Fellow at Salzburg Global Seminar & New Westminster College, has Master’s degrees from Harvard & New School, and she created and taught graduate courses at NYU & SNHU.

If you’re looking for leadership training companies to create a leadership development plan for your organisation, Nadine’s company, beCause Global Consulting, provides corporate leadership training for developing leadership skills in your executives.

Connect with thought-leadership icon, Nadine Hack, for leadership development programs, leadership training programs and leadership development activities to build leadership skills in your organisation.

Resources mentioned in the interview:

Key Opinion Leader, Nadine Hack, On Creating Connectedness In A Divided World

Priya Florence Shah:

Today I’m talking to Nadine Hack. She’s the CEO of beCause Global Consulting, Senior Advisor Global Citizens Circle, an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) advocate, on Ethical Corporation shortlist Responsible CEO of Year.

TAA-TAW gave her lifetime achievement Top Thought Leader Trust, Global CEO Magazine ranked her 9 of Top 100 Corporate Social Responsibility Leaders, SustMeme ranks her 75 of world’s Top 500 Sustainability Influencers. She’s the first woman Executive-in-Residence at IMD Business School, ranked #1 globally by FT for exec-ed.

She advises senior business executives, heads of state, other leaders and organizations on clarifying goals and tackling obstacles to achieve them, with particular emphasis on global citizenship, entrepreneurship, innovation, diversity and inclusion.  That is probably the longest introduction of any of my guests.

Nadine B Hack:

You asked my office to send you two paragraphs, they followed your two paragraphs.

Priya Florence Shah:

Anyway, I didn’t tell them how long the paragraph should be. It’s very hard to know what to cut short because you’ve done so much, and as I said, you have such an illustrious career.

And you are a role model for women everywhere because I think young women are looking to the earlier generation to help them get a bearing in today’s world, on where they should go,  what they should do.

Nadine B Hack:

Can I just say on that, that I also am looking at young women and getting my inspiration from them?  And by what they’re doing, I’m just so moved by young women activists around the world. So I always see mentorship as a two-directional…

Like, I know they learn from me in my experience, but I learned from them and their courageous new pioneering ways of advancing causes in the world.

Priya Florence Shah:

Absolutely. I mean, especially our teen activists today, they’re a huge inspiration and they’re fearless. I love how fearless they are.

Nadine B Hack:

Fantastic.

Priya Florence Shah:

So yes, of course, I take inspiration from young people and, in fact, I learn from many young people now, because I take courses from them. Many of them are doing courses, and they’re my mentors. So, as you said, it’s a two-way street.

Nadine B Hack:

Because you’ve been a pioneer of online activity and utilizing the internet and podcasts, and this is something unusual for a woman of your generation and I can say that because I’m older than us.

So it makes sense to me that you would be learning from younger people and I really take my hat off to you for making the effort to learn these new forms of media and communication.

Priya Florence Shah:

Thank you, Nadine. Yeah, I think it’s essential today that we learn from the younger generation and they also take a page from whatever we’ve come before. I mean, we stand on the shoulders of the generation before us. Right?

Nadine B Hack:

Always and forever.

Nadine Hack with Nelson Mandela
Nadine Hack with Nelson Mandela

Priya Florence Shah:

Okay, so let me get started with the questions I wanted to ask you. So tell me about your journey because you have such a fascinating, fascinating career. Tell me a little bit about the journey to how you got to where you are.

Nadine B Hack:

So, what’s most interesting is that I’ve probably had the most non-linear life of almost anyone I know. I’ve served in business, government, academia, civil society, the United Nations. And yet, whether consulting, coaching, teaching or organizing, I’ve had a consistent focus on how to make our world better, how to make it juster.

I’ve been an advocate of corporate social responsibility, sustainability, diversity, human rights, access to health, education, peace and environmental security for all people, and the cohesive thread that connects all the roles that I’ve had is that I’ve always sought to create what I call connectedness.

As I believe that the more people from diverse backgrounds cooperate with each other, the more likely we are to solve the enormously complex issues of our world. And in today’s increasingly interconnected world, an expanse of a sweep of stakeholders has a direct impact on every enterprise’s core business.

So those that are wise enough to foster a deep level of connection with the broadest spectrum of stakeholders possible, are the most successful in shaping that impact for their own greatest advantage.

Fostering meaningful relationships, it takes time. It takes effort, but it can transform even stakeholder animosity, whether it’s internal or from an external source from a different sector that disagrees with whatever it is you’re doing. Fostering meaningful relationships actually can turn animosity into cooperation.

As I detail in my TEDx that you mentioned, called Adversaries To Allies, because it describes one of the earliest multi-sector partnerships I helped facilitate in the 1970s and it brought together prior enemies, loggers, environmentalist and the government – you know, they all viewed each other with total suspicion – for the ultimate mutual benefit of each and all of them. And as I say, if anybody’s interested, they can see that story in a 13-minute TEDx.

But I’ve done countless more of that kind of collaborative endeavours since then. And I actually was inspired to do this type of work by Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s vision of what he called The Beloved Community in which we’re all inextricably interconnected. And this has been the philosophy that’s guided me since the 1960s.

1986 Rev Jesse Jackson family
1986 Rev Jesse Jackson family

Priya Florence Shah:

Yeah, right. That’s amazing. I will put a link to your TED talk so everyone can watch it. But I think that’s a unique way of doing it because everyone like you said, is at loggerheads with each other today.

The environmentalists, even today, we need someone like you at the helm because there’s so much to be done in that area. Right?

Nadine B Hack:

Yep. There’s so much to be done in every area. Absolutely, genuinely no issue whether we’re talking climate change, whether we’re talking health, a virus. Viruses know no national borders, regional borders.

I mean, everything in our world is so utterly dependent. Any issue, supply chain questions for businesses, I mean, whatever it is that you look at, no one sector on its own, has all of the knowledge, the expertise, the resources to solve it.

It’s only when you get different sectors to work together, that they each contribute something unique, and the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts.

Priya Florence Shah:

Yes, that’s right. That’s absolutely true. So can you give us some tips for how you built your career? I mean, before the days of the pre-internet era?

Nadine B Hack:

How about pre-internet and post-internet? So in all my decades of work in various sectors and multiple regions of the world, I never spent a penny on marketing. And I asked people, how did you hear about me? Or why did you contact me?

And I’d say, from like the 1970s to the 1990s, they replied that they knew about me via word of mouth. They’d say things like, so and so told me about your reputation for successful interventions, and I trust them.

And then I began to notice that in the mid-2000s, I started to receive a new type of response like, “When I searched the internet for the issue we need to work on, your name always popped up first.”

And so I realized that my online presence was a new forum for people to know about what I did, and to learn about what others thought about me.

And it’s interesting because actually from the mid-1990s, I had been telling all my clients and all my graduate students that they needed to use the internet to amplify their message. And then I’d introduce them to others who could teach them how to use the internet.

And then, it was about 2007, and I woke up one day and I thought, “Wait a minute. Nadine, you’ve always been a walk-the-talk person. So how can you be guiding people to do something that you’re not practising yourself?”

And it was a real revelatory moment, and I’m far from being a digital native. I mean, I started my organizing work with index cards and shoeboxes and before Rolodexes and mimeograph machines and manual typewriters with carbon paper. I mean, I’m not only pre-digital, but I’m also pre-analogue.

So, I really had to push myself to start using online platforms. And even though I’ve been extolling it to others, it was only when I actually started to engage myself on the internet that I truly discovered the extraordinary connective power of it.

And I’m just so excited to be living at this time. It’s like tectonic plates are shifting. It’s as significant as the Industrial Revolution or the creation of the Gutenberg Press.

Now, of course, we’ve seen that there are terrible ways that the internet and social media can be misused to create fear and hatred and division. But, there are also wonderful ways that the internet allows doctors to share research and serve patients in very isolated regions of the world.

I mean, that’s just one of so many examples I can give. I remember when I was still living in the United States, I was on the board of Amnesty International USA and I attended – so this is before 2009 – and I attended the International Conference of Amnesty International, all of its national chapters.

And it was one of the first times I saw human rights defenders show how they were using things like Google Maps, to find people and areas of need to provide humanitarian relief immediately after catastrophes, whether they were natural catastrophes or situations of conflict. And it was just so exciting to see the possibilities.

2004 Nadine Hack Barack Obama US Senate primary
2004 Nadine Hack & Barack Obama – US Senate primary

Priya Florence Shah:

That’s quite amazing. I mean, the kind of things you must have, the ways people have learned to use the Internet, and today now drones are saving lives and we have a whole bunch of new technologies, right?

Nadine B Hack:

And it changes now – you know better than I do – it’s not just changing by the year, it’s changing by the month or the week, it’s changing by the hour, by the minute. I mean, it’s just, you know…

Priya Florence Shah:

Like an exponential, you know? Yeah, the speed of change has become exponential.

Nadine B Hack:

Beyond exponential, like stratospheric.

Priya Florence Shah:

Very true. That’s very true. So, Nadine, tell us what recommendations would you offer to business leaders in terms of the things that you’ve learned about, in terms of creating allies, in terms of connecting people? What recommendations would you offer to business leaders today?

Nadine B Hack:

Well, let me first focus on the internet component of it, because while it’s called social media, a lot of people don’t understand the social part of that. And instead, they use assorted platforms to just kind of do one-directional broadcasting either to sell themselves or to promote their goods and services.

And in fact, to be social, you have to engage with others. So, on the internet, that means commenting on their posts, answering their questions, sharing their ideas in your posts and referring them, and all of the kinds of ways that you interact rather than just speak to.

And there’s just so much, I mean, it’s so clear that anybody who’s a millennial or younger really does not like to be spoken to, because they have grown up in this engaging environment and they expect that the brands that they use and the jobs that they seek are going to interact with them.

And it’s going to be two-directional and, in fact, now it’s multi-directional. And there’s a Welsh proverb, and it says, “He – and I add, she – He or she, who would be a leader, must be a bridge.”

S/he that would be a leader must be a bridge. ~ Welsh Proverb

Welsh Proverb

And so what I call engagement leaders – and I’ve done a lot of work on engagement leadership over the past several decades, both in my practice and also in my research – they really are bridges, connecting the virgin types of people for the advantage of each and all.

And they know that, by deeply engaging internal and external stakeholders in the co-creation of business initiatives or changes, that it’s vital to engage them for any Strategic Action Plan to be properly executed.

I just can’t tell you the number of times I’ve actually said to clients, “I no longer do strategic planning.” And then when they go, “Whoa,” I go, “No, I only do Strategic Action Planning.”

Because unless you consider the human dimension of how you are going to create ownership by engaging people and having them be part of the co-creation of the ideas and that they’re there, you can have the most gorgeous strategic plan in the world and it’s going to sit on a shelf and gather dust.

The only way that actual human beings are going to execute it in time and on-budget is if they feel engaged. And, you know, to be honest, this has always been true. This has been true long before the internet existed.

People have a very fundamental need to be seen, to be heard, to be validated. In fact, research shows that those qualities in a work environment – being seen, being heard, being validated – actually outrank, in importance, the compensation package.

Not that the compensation package isn’t important, but this is more important to workers that they feel that their company cares about them, knows what they’re doing, considers their ideas.

And those companies that do it, and this again, this was long before the internet, but now with the internet, you have just so many ways to engage people.

You can engage people, you can have, as you know, we’re having a Zoom call, just you and me. You can have a Zoom call with people from every corner of the earth. And Zoom is just one of so many platforms in which in real-time you can share ideas.

You know there are these dashboards where people can follow each other’s work in real-time and give feedback anonymously so that people feel free, no matter where they stand in the hierarchy, and the best ideas emerge.

And I feel like people who have this kind of non-territorial, expansive, open, welcoming of the best ideas… I mean, I’ve always said like even the interns in my office might have a better idea than I do, about how to do something, and that’s how I’m going to treat them and listen to them.

And I think the people who do that have always benefited from it. Now, there are just so many more ways to take advantage of garnering the insights. Now again, with ever new platforms in multi-directional, transversal ways.

This may sound daunting to anyone who is older than millennials. But the return on investment is so tremendous. And it’s so worth the effort.

So I really encourage business leaders regardless of what age and what stage of their career they’re at, to find ways to engage with others and to use the internet as one of the many tools that they can to do that.

2008 N&J accept SA Highest National Honor
2008 N&J accept SA Highest National Honor

Priya Florence Shah:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think what you said is very important about compensation not being as important as meeting their basic human needs, you know, for validation and for belonging. And, you know, those are the basic human needs that you need, that any organization needs to meet in its employees.

And if you do that, they feel like they belong, if they feel like they’re validated, of course, they’ll be loyal employees, like our parents used to work for organizations for many, many years.

Nadine B Hack:

Exactly.

Priya Florence Shah:

And they never even thought of leaving because they actually felt a sense of belonging to a certain organization. Today, it’s a very different ballgame, right?

Nadine B Hack:

So, I have two observations on that. There was the wonderfully positive part of what you’re describing about our parents’ generation, and even an earlier stage of my generation, where someone could work for a company for 40 years and have a pension and have a retirement party in which they were honoured and be recognized in the local newspaper, and that was the terrific element of it.

The other side of the coin is a lot of those institutions were incredibly hierarchical and also very much patriarchal in their hierarchy, so very male-dominated, very white male-dominated, so that if you were not white, if you were not a man, it was much harder for you to advance at all.

I mean, when we’re talking about that generation, for women and people of colour, the choices were like, being a nurse, be a secretary, be a domestic worker. I mean, they were quite limited and, of course, there were exceptions.

There were pioneering women and people of colour who, just by their sheer will and character, was able to break down walls and achieve positions, and these are the people, you said, we stand on their shoulders.

Priya Florence Shah:

Right. Absolutely. Yeah, I remember the movie I was watching about the NASA mathematician. Right? Yeah.

Nadine B Hack:

Yes, Hidden Figures. Yes, yes, exactly! Amazing! Incredible! And now those stories are being told and here’s the thing, Priya, that you know and I know, that there were always people like that, throughout all of human history. It’s just that history was written largely by white men.

And, by the way, I have nothing against white men. I love white men. I’m married to a white man. In saying that I want to advance others, I don’t want to diminish men. I believe that gender equity, racial equity and all other forms of social equity in the workplace benefits everybody.

I believe that men having the right to take paternity leave, and be more active participants in the parenting of their children, is of great benefit. It’s not just women who benefit or minorities who benefit. It’s everybody who benefits when we take all of the talents of all of humanity and make use of it.

Priya Florence Shah:

Right, and today I think the young people are finding that even energy, in the sense of feminine and masculine energy, is not necessarily, you know, like I’m a masculine man, I’m a feminine woman. There’s a whole spectrum on which we all are.

Nadine B Hack:

The whole non-binary movement which is happening today, which reflects what’s always been the case, is that every single human being has within themselves a certain amount of what we call masculine traits, a certain amount of what we call feminine traits, a certain amount of what we call gregarious or aggressive traits, a certain amount of shy or what we call, quiet traits.

And we’re all such complex, multifaceted human beings. And when you tell any single human being that they just have to choose one rigid stereotype and live their whole life by the guidelines of what allegedly are the characteristics of that, you’re stripping them of their humanity and you’re stripping humanity of the gorgeousness and the fullness of what each human being can contribute to it.

Priya Florence Shah:

Yes, and our self-expression as human beings, so we need to be able to express all parts of ourselves, the masculine and the feminine, all kinds of energies. Right?

Nadine B Hack:

Absolutely.

1992 Clinton at White House
1992 Clinton at White House

Priya Florence Shah:

So tell me, Nadine, what message do you have, coming from a background where you’ve worked on diversity and inclusion, what message do you have for the women of today?

Because you’re a wonderful role model they can really look up to and, you know, considering all that you’ve achieved, what message do you have to share with them and to take forward into their lives?

Nadine B Hack:

So actually, as you know, I do a lot of different types of work and a lot of different spheres. But one of the categories that I love the most is when I help to facilitate women’s executive leadership development programs.

And really what I try to do when I’m working with women, wherever they are in the hierarchy, is to find their own authentic authority and own it and to stand up firmly in it, and to use clear neutral language to convey it. This is who I am. This is what I’m worth. This is what I deserve. And this is what I expect.

Because, unfortunately, until we have a lot more change, there’s still this very fine line that women have to walk between, on the one hand, if they’re too aggressive, they’re perceived as being strident bitches. And if they’re too quiet, they’re perceived as being, “Oh, yeah, those wimpy women who can’t really run anything because they’re not assertive enough.”

And it’s such a fine line and we see it in politics, in government, in business, in academia, I mean, we see it across the board. But when you stand in owning who you are, it’s not like you’re bragging, nor is it like you’re whining or begging. It’s not like you’re “Please, please, you know, see who I” or that you that you’re being, “I demand.”

When you just stand-in, “This is who I am, this is what I’m worth. I know it, I expect you to know it,” then it’s like a dance. Because, you know, we’ve been talking a lot about interconnection and engaging. Every relationship is two-way when you’re talking about two individuals, you know, and every dynamic is multiple.

And as long as you keep playing into someone else’s narrative about you and appropriating it, then you have a part in perpetuating that. If they’re treating you like a doormat, and you’re allowing them to treat you like a doormat, you have a responsibility.

I’m not saying the whole thing is your responsibility. Yes, we have to change external structures, there’s so much about unconscious and conscious biases that have to be addressed. And we need to make workplaces more family-friendly, which is a big issue for women, whether that means having child care on-site, flex hours.

I mean, there are many, many things we can do in the external environment, but I really believe it’s the internal landscape, when you just know who you are and be proud of it and come forward with it, that the other person has to, well, they don’t have to… what you’re doing is you’re giving them an invitation to perceive you differently.

Priya Florence Shah:

You creating the space. Yeah, you’re creating the space.

Nadine B Hack:

Yeah, exactly, you’re creating the space for an opportunity. They may be too bigoted to receive it, but by just creating this space and offering the invitation, you will allow them to behave differently to you. And this is, you know, an iterative process.

Priya Florence Shah:

Yes, all relationships work like that. Marriage also works like that. Work relationships work like that. They’re always changing. And both people bring something to the relationship and we both have to take responsibility for what we bring to a relationship. Right?

Nadine B Hack:

This is true, totally true.

Priya Florence Shah:

I wrote about that. I have a book called Devi2Diva. So my first chapter is, Stop The Blame Game.

Nadine B Hack:

So, I look forward to reading it.

Priya Florence Shah:

I’ll send you a copy. So, yeah, I completely see that’s such a powerful message to send to young women. And if you send me the link to your executive leadership programs, I’ll put that in the description so people can sign up if you’re still doing that.

It’s a wonderful thing to do because we absolutely need people, women who have come before, to teach the young women how to bring the best part of themselves to the workplace and to their relationships. Right?

So Nadine, if you want to talk about anything else, you want to give us any more tips, I’m open to that.

2009 White House Obamas just after inaugurated
2009 White House Obamas just after inaugurated

Nadine B Hack:

I’ll just say the following that, you know, where I am at this moment in my life… When I was a student activist in the social justice movements in the 1960s, I genuinely believed that we were going to completely change the world right then and there and I thought, kind of as a sprint.

And then a couple of decades later, I began to see it as a marathon and I realized I’d have to pace myself to be in it for the long haul. And then a few more decades passed, and I now view it as a relay race.

And while I may never see the complete fruition, of gender and racial equity, economic, social, political and human rights for all, I just have a sacred obligation, while there’s still breath in me, to carry the torch forward.

And as you said earlier, I’ve only been able to achieve what I’ve done because of those who came before me and made a path. And, as I said, the generations that are following me have achieved so much more, in some part because of what I and others have done to get us thus far.

So I just intend to stay fully engaged in this very long relay race for justice and, as I said earlier, I’m utterly inspired by the Millennials and Gen Y, you can call them both, those born between like 1980 – 1995. And then Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2000. And now they’re calling them Gen Alpha, born from 2009.

I mean, we see what young teenagers are doing and they really give me hope for the future. And that’s why I’m devoting so much of my time to Global Citizen Circle, which, if you do the link for that as well, would be great, because it’s a truly intergenerational forum, in which everyone learns so much from each other and collaborates on creating constructive change.

And I just feel like, instead of responding in despair to the troubling trends of fear-based, divisive and territorial polarization that we sadly see happening in too many parts of our world, I believe that every little bit helps.

So as Global Citizens Circle Honorary Chair, Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace laureate, and Archbishop Emeritus, he says, “Do your little bit of good, wherever you are; it’s all those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Do your little bit of good, wherever you are; it's all those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. ~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu

And that just mirrors the great anthropologist, Margaret Mead, when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead

So I just plan on continuing to be a committed global citizen. And I’ll keep trying to inspire others to also be global citizens.

Priya Florence Shah:

Thank you so much for that beautiful and inspiring message, Nadine, and I’m sure my viewers are going to be absolutely inspired and uplifted by that.

And a lot of young women see themselves in our generation, so I’m sure that it’s going to give them a lot of encouragement when it comes to expressing themselves in the workplace and knowing that they’re doing the right thing by speaking out and being activists.

— End of transcript —

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Author bio:

Priya Florence Shah is the Publisher of Naaree.com. Learn what it takes to be a charismatic leader in the Free Leadership Lessons Course. Get a step-by-step road map to Go from Unknown to Well-Known in her Free Personal Branding Online Course.

Nadine Hack

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