It’s Not About Balance, It’s About Blooming with Dan Pontefract


In this week’s episode, Dan Pontefract and I are challenging the traditional notions of work-life balance and authenticity in the context of leadership. Our conversation is particularly special to me because Dan wrote the forward for my book – you can hear that story at the beginning of our conversation.

Dan and I unpack the myths surrounding work/life balance concepts and offer a fresh perspective on what it truly means to thrive both personally and professionally. Through engaging insights, he explains why separating work and life isn’t conducive to authentic self-expression and fulfillment in today’s interconnected world.

Dan Pontefract

Dan Pontefract is a renowned leadership strategist, author, and keynote speaker with over two decades of experience in senior executive roles at companies such as SAP, TELUS, and Business Objects. Since then, he has worked with organizations worldwide, including Salesforce, Amgen, the State of Tennessee, Nestle, Canada Post, Autodesk, BMO, the Government of Canada, Manulife, Nutrien, and the City of Toronto, among others.

He’s an award winning and best selling author of four books. Lead Care Win, Open to Think, The Purpose Effect, and Flat Army. His fifth book, Work Life Bloom, will be published in October 2023. Dan also writes for Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and other outlets.


The episode takes a fascinating turn as we explore why asking the question “Are you engaged at work?” misses the mark. Dan presents a paradigm shift, encouraging us to rethink the way we view engagement and fulfillment in our careers.

Therefore, how do we reverse-engineer work-life balance? Dan introduces a groundbreaking approach that involves understanding the interconnectedness of various life factors. He introduces the concept of “work-life bloom” and delves into the four quadrants that contribute to a holistic sense of thriving.

Our conversation takes a critical look at traditional career trajectories versus the concept of a career mosaic. Dan also explores the idea of nonlinear career paths and how embracing a mosaic approach can lead to greater fulfillment and authenticity.

Join us for this transformative episode as we challenge conventional wisdom about work-life balance, authenticity, and leadership.

We talk about:

  • [4:40] Work life balance is a myth

  • [7:40] The myth of authenticity at work: you can’t be authentic when you’re expected to separate work and life

  • [10:40] Why ‘are you engaged at work’ is the wrong question to ask

  • [12:50] Reverse-engineering work life balance

  • [14:15] The four quadrants of work life factors to be in bloom

  • [18:10] Differences in generations as well as genders

  • [21:55] Revelations within his research

  • [23:40] The 6 factors you use to evaluate work and life bloom

  • [31:10] How Gen Z sees leadership differently and why belonging is so important

  • [33:10] The career ladder vs. career mosaic

  • [36:40] What prevents leaders from valuing employees

  • [39:20] How to be transparent about pay

  • [41:25] Six life factors to thrive at work and in your personal life

  • [51:55] A moment that gave him deepend self awareness

  • [52:45] A practice or ritual that he uses to regulate his nervous system

  • [53:50] A song or genre of music that makes her feel connected to something bigger than himself

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Carolyn Swora  04:33

Hello, evolve listeners. I’m really excited today. Well, who am I kidding? I’m excited everyday to do this podcast. But today is an extra special bit of excitement because our guest today is Dan Pontefract, and Dan, welcome,

Dan Pontefract  04:50

Carolyn. Hello, thank you so much. I’ve been dying to come on this show a little smack and shop with you.

Carolyn Swora  04:58

Exactly. Well, it let’s just kind of I’d like everyone to know dad holds a very special place in my heart because when I wrote my first book, and I still remember this moment, and I probably tell you every time I see you, Dan, but you called me Well, first of all, you graciously accepted my invitation when the scared newbie approached you at an event and said, Hey, Dan, I know somebody you know would you write the foreword to my book and then promptly gave you a hot mess to review and you graciously accepted that offer but what really stuck with me was when you called me the day the book was launched onto Amazon, and you made me feel so seen so valued and so special. And that like one minute phone call, really, really set me on a trajectory to realize the small impact that we truly, truly can make and people so that’s, you know, you got a special place in my heart, Dan,

Dan Pontefract  05:59

and I’ll I’ll because I pocket dialed it.

Carolyn Swora  06:04

Exactly. And you made up some really nice stuff.

Dan Pontefract  06:07

Oh, this is Carolyn, and it’s right. It’s

Carolyn Swora  06:10

yeah. But yeah, I mean, so Dan. You are a prolific author, writer. You know, you are not shy and sharing your perspective. And I think it’s a really balanced perspective. And today on the show, we’re going to talk about your newest book that’s coming out in October. It’s work life bloom.

Dan Pontefract  06:37

Yeah, there’s a lot to unpack with the title. Sometimes I like playing Jedi mind tricks with book titles. And so maybe we’ll get into that but yes, work life bloom, how to nurture a team that flourishes a lot of growing metaphors in there.

Carolyn Swora  06:54

Yeah. Now, right out of the gate. Let’s talk about this term work life balance, because you pretty much start right out saying no, that’s not it. Can you tell us a little bit more about why that is? Because that term is used all the time all the time?

Dan Pontefract  07:10

Yeah, that’s Myth number one of three. I love to get into you with work life balance, it’s really should have been called Work Life imbalance, because that’s the point. It’s a zero sum game, work life balance, because you immediately will fail. Yeah, because there’s no there’s no such a way in which to balance them. In so much as if you try you will feel futile because you’re subservient to one and not the other, or you’re over compromising on one and not the other and so you’ll feel guilt. I think of it this way. At least the resources I’ve been doing. Work is one rope. And life is another rope. And they’re different colors. And we need to find a way to not the two ropes

Carolyn Swora  08:04

their unique home key and OT.

Dan Pontefract  08:07

Yeah, nicely done.

Carolyn Swora  08:09

Yes. Like find them together. Right. Yeah. Because, you know, for those of us who do have children, I think that’s where it particularly showed up for me as all of a sudden I have these little ones to care for. It’s like holy shit, which way? Which way do I go when I’m in one place? I’m I’m guilty. And when I’m in another Mindset, I feel guilty there as well.

Dan Pontefract  08:29

Yes. And so if we come to the conclusion, particularly, as a leader of self, we all are that man then if you’re lucky enough to be a leader of teams, and others. I argue you have a fiduciary responsibility as a leader of others, to be empathic enough to see that work and life are separate, but also to do something about the work and the life because, as I’ve said, I don’t know now 1000 times over the last two years of writing this book. Our lives and our work are unique, but they do affect one another. Yep. And if they affect one another, then what are those factors in work that get transposed over to life? And what are the factors in life ie, the development of self really what I’m getting at Carolyn, how do they affect work? And so if you start there, as a leader of self, you’re like, Oh, now there’s an integration. There’s a KN o t between the two ropes, right? The two pieces spring. But a leader also has that responsibility to be thinking about where what age and stage and sort of relationship does my team member have with both work and life and what might I do? If they’re not necessarily in sync with both at that time?

Carolyn Swora  09:58

You back

Dan Pontefract  10:00

Do we have one of those electricity moments did we?

Carolyn Swora  10:04

We did. Good thing is it’ll still keep recording. I just don’t know where it exactly cut you out.

Dan Pontefract  10:10

No, just take it from the top wherever we were.

Carolyn Swora  10:13

Okay. So you were talking about the Not that that sort of fiduciary duty and that not and sort of going from there, or just pick it up? Well, the the producers can take it from me

Dan Pontefract  10:27

Yeah. Mash it in. So I do believe that leaders have this fiduciary responsibility to think about their team members in terms of what affects them at work, but what affects them in life and when I say live, Carolina talking about what name do we give the new puppy that we just adopted? Or should we have a garage sale on Sunday? Right? Those are not what I’m talking about are kind of balance a checkbook or not. Right? I’m talking about the character, the development of self. And so there are life factors that get woven into work that we should be thinking about as leaders because they easily get transposed into life as well. And so at that end of the day, I think there’s this Yeah, responsibility for the leader to have conversations about work and life and how to potentially tie the knot between the two better,

Carolyn Swora  11:19

and I can see how this is going to help and also challenge people in their thinking, because in my experience, and I was part of this sort of mindset for a while is you leave your heart at the door, you leave your work, you leave your home life at the door, and then you need to show up at work and leave that all behind. And I think this is going to help people but tell me can you actually I don’t know like there’s so many things that I will ask about that. I’m just gonna pause there is up in your experience as well. This sort of binary Leave, leave one behind while the other one shows up.

Dan Pontefract  11:56

So the answer is yes. And so the the yes is here I am a 52 year old middle age I guess, I hope still white male. And what I’ve what I’ve seen or last 25 years either as an executive or as an adjunct, in the last five years healthcare organizations is that there’s a lot of whether you’re male, female, or otherwise, like checking your yourself at the door, wearing Alon suits so that nothing sticks. And it’s that adoption of a different persona. That’s not who you are, because it’s the work queue. And it’s, it’s terrible to see because which actually is a great segue to point two I’ll get to the Oh, Myth number two in Isaiah sessions in this really exacerbates your question. repeatedly say, Oh, we want you to bring your most authentic and whole self to work. Yeah. Yet, what do we do? We we don’t we don’t allow that or we don’t create sure for man but we’re certainly not in bold meaning that and what do we end up with? We end up with people saying Hey, mister missus ironi. You told me I could be most authentic self yet. You said that I had to wear a long sleeve shirt because the tattoos on my left arm, which are kids and my upbringing and my Irish nationality. You say that I can’t. So how can I be my most authentic True Self whatever. If you’re telling me wear a long sleeve shirt, that’s just a little example of course, right? But that sort of best self authentic self point. So my point number one that you’ve raised the oh, by the way, is I am definitely getting the vibes from my direct research. And focus groups and so forth. That and this is not curmudgeon, Dan, the Gen X looking at Zed and saying they’re crazy. They’re not. They’re certainly what we need. Yeah. And so even young millennials and Gen Z kids in particular are actually demanding, in various ways, sometimes in interesting ways, but they’re demanding that we be more empathic and honest and true in the conduct of where we have and take place with our work. It’s interesting, I will say

Carolyn Swora  14:23

and there was a piece in your book, maybe we’ll come to it later because I don’t want to skip over this next part. But I noticed that some of the data showed that and I’m with you it is sort of an A Oh, that has a bit of you know, tension between that good Oh, and like oh, to it, but you know, kids in that generation, and I see it with them every day and I think a good idea.

Dan Pontefract  14:50

Well, I gotta get a Myth number three, by the way, because it all makes sense once I point out the work like the best self most authentic self nonsense, and this third one, which is I’m guilty of as well. So I’m looking back and I’m first to say I’ve made tons of mistakes as a leader as a parent as a spouse. But engagement is one that I like to have my Mulligan on when it comes to organizational culture. So here’s here’s my thing. For whether it’s Gallup, Aon Hewitt, whoever blessingway a great place to work. We have been asking the wrong question for 2025 years. What question is that? Well, the question we’re asking is, are you engaged? Now there are sub questions that you know, the Q 12 For Gallup and they say stay strive for a and and others, right. So they’ll create this sort of logic based summary of our youth. But that’s kind of the question we’ve been asking, Are you engaged at work and if you’re not engaged, then you’re not engaged or you’re chronically disengaged or the house is on fire have disengaged right. So I have to ask you and listeners and viewers etc. Anyone with a pulse? Why are we only asking about work? Yep. And does engagement even make sense? Because if we’re trying to help people, quote, work life balance and be their best selves, and we’re not factoring in life one and number two, we’re eliminating the possibility that we might be engaged, disengaged, and semi engaged over a period of five years because of things that happen in work and life. Acquisition new boss, new teammates, move cities, lost a parents gained weight, have a serious addiction to some sort of internal aim. didn’t affect you.

Carolyn Swora  16:47

Yeah. And it’s not reflected in that question at all.

Dan Pontefract  16:51

Not at all. And so that’s why I reverse engineered work life balance, best self for most authentic so and employee engagement said what if we rejected the whole thing and asked, Are you blooming? But if you’re not blooming, that’s okay. He’s in a different persona between kind of the computation of work and life. And so how can we have an honest conversation as a leader with the team member about how you’re feeling in work in life? And then what can we do about it maybe to help you

Carolyn Swora  17:22

and that leads to being seen and being accepted for where you’re at? Because when you are sharing that example, what came up for me is the times that I did not complete the employee engagement survey is like a confession. There were a few times they didn’t complete it, and they were at certain points in my life. Where I wasn’t blooming, I was in a different place. And they guilt that I felt for not completing it because I’d always been, you know, I think a very good corporate citizen, but it made me feel angry and disconnected and just again, not seen and so that I love where you’ve gone with work life bloom and maybe, maybe we can go to that that quadrant that you created that that shows you know those six different elements that are in work and and life or sorry work life factors. I just think it’s so beautiful.

Dan Pontefract  18:22

Well, thank you I just so happen for those that are listening and not watching there’s a thing imagine a two by two matrix and on the the Y axes is work and on the x axes is life, and so on the Y axes up at the top is work is amazing. At the bottom of it, it’s awful. It’s pretty simple delineation right and then on the life x axes, life is very clear. So IE the character myself like who I am, or it’s confusing, I’m not who I am the goal is of course to bloom as often as we can. That’s the top right where work is me and life feels clear. But as I am evidence of you cannot be blooming 100% of the time. I have been in three other personas and three other personas quickly are when work is amazing, but I’m less confident if you will, I’m kind of confused and who I am as a human being as a with my life factors. Then I’m budding that’s the persona name. So I’m budding and means I’m close because work is going really well but I questioned some of my own you know, self character, habits and attributes. On the bottom right of the two by two is what I called stunted. So just like a plant it needs some help right to get past the almost like a dormant phase and they need to if you want to get to blooming that’s where you and your leadership come in, say, Well, what’s going wrong here at work, and the X factors there from a work factor perspective, but life is going pretty good. So life factors are well so you’re stunted. But then renewal, which is really the best of the not very good, but I’ve been in renewal several times and that’s when work feels awful. I’m kind of confused with my life factors. And so I just need a reset. That may not mean I need a new job or a new company or a new spouse or new home. That’s not what I’m getting at is that there’s a definite need for reflection to sort out why a couple or maybe most of those factors aren’t working for me, and what can I do maybe to get back up to either budding or stunted or hopefully blooming. So the

Carolyn Swora  20:30

idea is you pause and wait and see where you are and then when you realize where you are. You can put some steps in place to ideally get you back into blooming.

Dan Pontefract  20:42

Yeah, so let’s imagine your mid level manager, right? You got a team of six you know, you’re in financial services. And you know, you your your team of six does things for internal clients, let’s just call it that. And so you got six people and they may all have, well, that wouldn’t be quite right. But they all have like a different persona. So a couple of them are blooming couple them are budding. One is renewal, one is stunted. What does that mean? Well, it means that their interpretation at that particular stage, whether they’re Gen Zed, millennial X or Boomer, whether they are five years 10 years or 20 whether they have just moved to Toronto or LA let’s say and or they’ve lived there for 15 years like there are so many different factors in the work and the life that’s going to say, Carolyn, am I blooming buddy budding, sorry, stunted or in renewal, that that leader needs to have that conversation about, well, what’s in the way or what’s going well, and both are important questions.

Carolyn Swora  21:47

Yeah, yeah. And the simplicity of this too. I mean, leaders are as we know, carrying a lot of a lot of different pressures on them. I found this really easy to put myself in. And, and and simple to understand. I’m curious if your data showed any sort of, I guess. Were there certain generations that were sitting in certain boxes, where it was like, I think of my younger self as budding where life I didn’t really quite know who I was. I thought I was maybe something in my mid 20s, late 20s, but feeling like great would with work. Does your data show any patterns like that?

Dan Pontefract  22:29

Well, it did. And, you know, there’s not a huge gap between Gen Zed and Boomer for example, in terms of how many people are percentage of people that are each of the four personas, which I think is good. Now, I do have some data points I could show you, because there are some other alarming data points. So here’s I’ll show you just here’s the global all team member, so 10,000 people globally, for those that are listening in 11 countries, half of them were leaders, half of them are non leaders. And so what I discovered at that moment in time, so three months survey conducted in the fall of 2022, with all those aforementioned data, characters, 41% of the people are blooming. 38% are in renewal and kind of nine and 12 each and budding and stunted. So you’re like, Okay, a moment in time four. To 10 People are blooming pretty good, but also four to 10 are kind of in renewal. So not great, I guess. Like, I’d certainly love to see more people blooming, but I’m actually not surprised in the slightest that on a global scale. You know, four to 10 people are blooming because again, like if you think about it, just like engagement on a on an international scale, two out of 10 people are quote engaged. But why are we asking the question? Well, what’s going on from this case? For me at least the model I’ve come up with budding, stunted or renewal, what’s going on for them at that moment? So can we have these conversations as opposed to are you engaged or not engaged? How about conversations right about Well, well, how can I help you? So now a couple other data cuts because when you talk about generations, I like Yeah, they’re pretty close. I should have a graph for you. But I don’t and I make that amendment next time around. I do a live show with someone. But here’s, here’s a male and female cut. Now we didn’t have enough sample size, by the way for gender neutral. So just those that asked so we only had about 40 people characterize themselves as non male or female. So that’s why you only see male or female here, but look at it. 50% of males globally are quote, blooming 32% of females. And subsequently, the number of people in renewal are less for males, 31% and 46% for females. So to me, all of a sudden now I’m like, Oh, right. There’s a lot of fundamental attribution error happening with males. Yeah, boom are like, of course, I’m blooming, everyone else would be blooming like, right, it’s like half of the men are quote blooming. But only a third or less than a third of females are quote blooming. So there’s something to be said about that. Carolyn right about there. Is right what we’re doing in organizations that actually are harming more females than males. When it comes to whether or not we’re creating the right work life factors.

Carolyn Swora  25:23

Sorry, go ahead. No, just

Dan Pontefract  25:24

gonna last one of the we can chat about all this as leaders versus non leaders. And this is frightening. So 48% of leaders so leading a team, by the way, not leading self leading a team of whatever number 48% are blooming and only 26% of non leaders ie individual contributors are quote blooming and look at the renewal ones right 33 to 40 or 51%. So that’s my global research and I’m like, again, alarmed but not surprised. And I think it goes back to what what are we asking the questions right. So go ahead, but you’re gonna say like, the budding renewal stunted blooming two by two matrix then allows for leaders to have a conversation about those work and life factors. And that’s what we should really be doing.

Carolyn Swora  26:14

Now I’d like to get to those factors because that does help leaders. It gives them a little bit of guidance of where to talk about what were you surprised with in your research? Because you know, you mentioned there I was surprised but not surprised. But did your research show anything or like Holy crow had no idea?

Dan Pontefract  26:33

Well, certainly the ones I showed there, right, the the leaders versus non leaders gaps, as well as the male versus female gap. There were a couple other gaps that I thought were just like, like horrific. One of them was certain countries. So you know, like the Netherlands versus India. There’s like a gigantic gap between people blooming in India versus people blooming. In the Netherlands. I mean, Netherlands where the netadmin Sorry, and South Korea were the lowest, whereas India was the highest and the gap was like a 20. Point read was like, Oh, that was that was kind of really well, the stark difference between a baby boomer versus a Gen Zed Gen. Or have a higher sense of well being then more full of vitality and a sense of rigor for anything in life, whereas boomers are having to think a lot more wellness and well being things which again, if you’re a leader in an organization, I suggest to you that you do need, because certain conversations are going to be different if you have those generational gaps on your on your crew.

Carolyn Swora  27:44

Yeah. Now, can we talk a little bit about those factors underneath work and life with them

Dan Pontefract  27:53

well, I’d say so I didn’t just wet finger the sky and hope these ones loss or rather be terrible, but so leading up into the global research that I did, I went back and I’m very fortunate to have conducted 15 culture assessments for 15 like humongous companies. So my job as a consultant is a times is to go into organizations and whether it’s financial services or academia or public sector or high tech, whatever it is, I go in and I open up the kimono, so to say, when I’m hired to say, Okay, what’s going on with frontline mid management and senior leaders? And I’ll do one on one interviews, focus groups and company or organization wide assessment surveys. And I’ve done 15 of these so between the years 2015 and 2021, I was like, cheese Carolyn, I’m an idiot like, why Oh, and I’ve been looking at this data in summary, and looking for the trends, right. And so I’m going through all of his data from 15 companies in North America. So bias alert, right? It wasn’t Europe or Asia, but at least I’m on the right track. I think with the number of entries I had and there were people I assess and talk to and so like trends developed, like trends develop from the perspective of what makes me tick. Yep. None of these points when these focus groups etc. Were like, I just wish I could be human. I just wish I could bring my best self here. I wish I was heard. I wish I had more relationships. I wish that people cared about my skills. I wish that the company did work life balance, but they’re not and it just like I was in a tsunami of feedback and cries for help.



Carolyn Swora  29:57

I’ve seen in in in the assessments that I’ve I’ve done as well and looked at so that led you to the six the first one being trust, I presume.

Dan Pontefract  30:07

Yeah, yeah, exactly. So they didn’t mean these to be necessarily in some sort of hierarchical order, but it felt good to start with trust nonetheless on the work factors. Yeah. So it’s trust was you know, will steaks for many and necessary for their them to feel like they had a chance to shine or to bloom or to flourish, what have you, but then you know the others again, they’re not. They’re not weighted, but belonging. So those kind of accumulation of these positive experiences that help people feeling understood that they help, they’re there, they’re safe, they’re represented. So belonging was a huge part but then you know, the twin sister if you will, of belonging was valued, do I feel appreciated? Do I get recognized do I? Does my boss my team, my boss’s boss, understand my impact my effort. And this is sort of like almost like Maslow’s hierarchy. A little bit self actualization when you feel valued? Yep. Right. You start your stuff, you’re kind of a peacock with feathers flying, it’s like fantastic right. And then purpose strategy and norms are really organizational domains right purpose is, does the does the company or the organization state its intentions, uphold its beliefs and basically act to help society and the community and so forth? So am I do I believe in my company, do I believe my organization or is it a lot of greenwashing or purpose washing, right, and then strategy norms, so strategy is effectively like the direction and understanding the priorities so that I’m not lost sheep. Right. Are there guardrails? Do I get reminded to do Do we know how my delivery of my job my objectives, my actions actually impact the overall strategy? Is my boss connecting the dots so that I’m not a lost sheep? And then does my boss and my team create frictionless norms so that I can get my stuff done? So like, what are the cultural norms so as a business processes we interact, collaborate, you know, and so on? So those those six are so critical. And to be clear on the model here, Carolyn, five or six of the work factors, and five or six of any of the life factors have to be in a net positive for you to be blooming. That’s what we found. Meaning, yeah, but at any inclination, it doesn’t mean you have to have all of them, it’s just five or six in each of them that and that’s important, because that’s 83% of all the work in the life factors. And that’s kind of like, well, when you’re in those engagement, scoring lands, anything above 80 is considered engaged. So we’re like, when I was working with some of the research scientists were like, Yeah, that makes sense. Five or six of these.

Carolyn Swora  33:02

Yeah. Now, you commented in the book, too, that we’re in a trust recession is kind of like the foundation right of what we need and like, how did that impact the life factors do you think which I don’t know we haven’t talked about the life factors yet.

Dan Pontefract  33:18

Well, you know, what I say in the book is I pay homage a little bit to Winston Churchill, there’s a line in there I use our lives shape our work, nevertheless, our work shapes us. Yeah. And if you don’t feel trust in your interactions, that you and you and your boss and your team are able to be authentic, consistent, trustworthy advocacy of for one another. How do you feel when you quote you go home or you talk to your neighbor about your team or your boss? Like that’s the weight that we bring back into our life is that if you feel that you’re not being treated as an advocate, or someone’s not advocating for you, like you’d sort of start losing out on some of your own humanity when you’re off work or after work or in community and it’s a huge deal. Like it’s a huge deal. You don’t have to like your job, but you certainly certainly should feel trust trusted in doing it.

Carolyn Swora  34:20

Right. Right. You’re impacting everybody around you and people like you know, our nervous systems talk to each other. We can feel that we can connect to that so I absolutely agree with you on that.

Dan Pontefract  34:31

And, and again, like I say, there’s a trust recession. I didn’t say it was eliminated, but just like any recession, there’s hope. Yep. And what’s come to me and the evidence and so the surveying and the focus groups and so on, right is that leaders have glossed over on this idea called trust. There’s like an assumed trust. Oh, yeah, of course. The employee, the team member will trust me because I’m trustworthy. I’m the boss. But actually, there’s an investment needed to get out of a recession. Yep. So that’s kind of the point is like, what are you doing as a leader to invest in this trust work factor, so we get out of the recession?

Carolyn Swora  35:15

So many places. I want you the belonging that you talked about, and I know in your book, this is where some of the data for Gen Zed I like to say Zed because we know exactly where Gen. Zed sees things a bit differently. Can you expand on that and again, why is belonging important with for those who think that it might be a little bit too fluffy?

Dan Pontefract  35:39

So again, the three key points that I’m making within the belonging factor is people need to feel understood represented and safe. And when you’re Gen Zed, and I’m not clearly by the hairline, and the wrinkles, but I do have three Gen Zed kids and I have spoken to a hell of a lot of not just their friends, but others in these focus groups, etc, trying to get a better understanding. Effectively, they they have a cohort mentality to begin with. And you need not look any further than somewhat obviously tick tock. And if you look at a hashtag called Fun employment, for example, which is 97.4% primarily ordained by Gen Zed. The fun employment is Gen Zed like looking out for one another. Wow. Create creating the feeling of being unemployed and safe to say things about their unemployment but to call it fun employment, and to work with one another on opportunities that might like get them a new job or a new company or whatever the case may be. That’s just a little microcosmic example. Yeah. So the DNA Gen Xers have created in the kids is good, but we need to recognize what we’ve created. And because they’re storming the organization with this new mentality this new behavioral mindset that their hive their cohort, and they themselves feel to each other understood, represented and say because they can be themselves, but they’re coming up against millennials, Xers and Boomers, whom have been preordained to have this. Let’s just say, maybe non belonging attitude. Yeah.

Carolyn Swora  37:35

Yeah. Or just like, pay your dues. Put your head down. Yeah. Figure it out, push through.

Dan Pontefract  37:42

Yeah, it’s like career ladder versus career. Mosaic. Yeah. So we have been conditioned I say we I mean, xers like you and I have been conditioned right? are millennials like you to have an XOR you’re on the cusp, I’m, I’m assuming because so we’ve been conditioned to grow the career ladder, so to say right AND, and OR I mean, climb the career ladder, yet. What we need to be thinking about is this mosaic, and it pops up actually in the in the life factor called skills, where I say, what are we doing to create a skills ecosystem, like an operating system? Inside the organization, so that the life’s factor of skills is actually helping the individual see that they’re more than just their job, and that we’re building out their life if you will, by helping develop different skills, different opportunities, gigs, etc, etc. etc. That actually helps a sense of belonging, because now you’re investing in understanding who they are to help them feel understood, represented and safe. That is not just a ladder that should be climbing but building a mosaic.

Carolyn Swora  38:56

Yeah, I really identified with that one too, when I read it. And I started to Matt leaves and they were shorter Matt leaves zero both only four months. It still gathers a lot going on at that time felt though that I was going to be judged differently. And and you do you sort of have to like you can’t ask the game to if I just kind of look at it on the playground. Or in a game. You can’t put a pause on the game for everybody. Will you step step away for for a timeout. I really struggled with that. I really, really struggled with that. And in essence, I had to put you know, almost like 10 years a whole decade on a bit of a slower pace. Shall we say just given what was going on in my home life. I won’t say it was a full on pause. But I didn’t feel seen it didn’t feel understood. And then it was just like, Oh, I just can’t keep up with everyone. So the mosaic mindset is, I think just so much. Again, it just creates a space to one feel safe the belong and that there isn’t a competition and that you’re not going to be held back because of it.

Dan Pontefract  40:03

Or even we’re going to reprimand it I mean, I come across work, where the boss cleanse the team member who doesn’t want to climb the ladder. Yep. And they’re just looking for what I call horizontal ignition or horizontal experience is to further their sense of valued further their sense of skill. That’s actually helping their well being because they’re not interested in up they’re interested in across. Yeah, so we need to embrace that not reprimanded. Not everyone wants to go up.

Carolyn Swora  40:40

Yeah, yeah, well, and sometimes when you go up it comes with a lot of unexpected things. We want rewards. I was also you know, you talked a little bit about being valued and I’ve seen that come up a lot, especially over the past year. I’m not feeling valued and and, you know, I know on the other side that yes, there are things happening to try and address that, but they’re not necessarily resonating with with folks. What did you like what do you think prevents leaders from valuing employees?

Dan Pontefract  41:17

How much time do we have? So when you’re valued you’re thinking about a lot of people said this in the in the global research I did, like, certainly, compensation like total compensation, don’t hold if you will, like I might, I might pay fairly, but in my perspective of what it is that I contributed to this organization, so that’s non monetary things so that could be like I my valued for my time, which was work life balance, but you know, we’re not we’re forcing people into the office five days a week when surely they could come to some sort of integrated balance between three are in the office, like those little things. Get you to feel unvalued sort of work when you’re not when you’re not appreciating the time that people have, because there’s only 160 hours. That’s one but then you kind of get into as I say, like, it’s about feedback or, you know, it’s making the tilde have good conversations that are open ended, as with you know, the individual about performance, but life as well, for when you’re feeling valued. I call it a gratitude atom, right? It’s cheeky way to just say like, how do you appreciate and recognize people and are you doing it in a consistent and constant way? Yeah. So, you know, it’s so easy to at the end of the day, yes, you could buy a coffee or have lunch with them, but it’s free. Like really, at the end of the day. It’s free to recognize and acknowledge people for both their constructive feedback and the performance and helping them you know, develop a skill to tie in, you know, one of the life factors when we’re talking about value or feeling valued.

Carolyn Swora  42:58

Now, you mentioned compensation there, and I know PE can always be a bit of a touchy subject. But you wrote this concept and I’m with you 100%. This notion of posting pay bands, and being more transparent about what those bands are. And so for those, those of you listening, who maybe haven’t had the pleasure in in that space, but knowing that but you know, there are there are jobs that are organized in certain categories, and it’s it’s meant to be a system that brings a little bit more equity and transparency to how people get remunerated. how do organizations do this?

Dan Pontefract  43:47

so it’s probably a dream of mine, but the the large enterprise, you know, companies, I think, still will continue to struggle with this Effectively, like collusion right and so they want to be there there they get, they can get into hot water because they they shouldn’t be posting them right let me discuss the pay bands, just at least a pay bands like so that people can see where they they end and it’s always it not always it often is this secret society it’s like the like the compensation payments are so first of all, I agree like that will help you say oh, so the range is 70 to 90 Okay, and I fit in here and then having conversations about well, why and what’s the deal but often times these organized don’t yet the irony of course is like in public sector they are Yeah, like the mandated to post a pay band. And so it’s just like, Well, why do we need secret society and much of the corporate world particularly large enterprise yet, public sector will post the payback, let alone what they often called the sunshine club is saying who makes over 100 grand in the public sector? I’m all for that transparency, because it’s coming anyway. Yep. And it’s like, an expectation when I say coming, it’s like expectation of Gen Zed back to the point. He’s like, what, why are we doing this? Like, I don’t understand when we’re posting these things.

Carolyn Swora  45:23

Yeah, you can see the real shift back to this collective mindset and I’m sort of a community based mindset. Now, I wanted to dwell a little bit more on the work factors because well, just curious. But I know there’s the six other life factors that influence that x axis. Do you want to just take a bit of time and in and share what those are?

Dan Pontefract  45:46

Sure, I’ll go back to handy diagram here. So those listening in the the six are one sense of meaning, and I’ll come back to meaning versus purpose in just a second. So sense of meaning one’s relationships, connections, network, one’s sense of well being or wellness. Number four is skills, your development of self, particularly, and five and six are agency so that sort of empowered of empowerment, oh, decision making, and the autonomy and self determination. And then number six is respect. So the appreciation of who you are for what you bring to the table. Why do I call them life factors, first of all, because arguably, you could say well, then these are just additional work factors, aren’t they? Yeah, I mean, you can make that argument I wouldn’t disagree. But where I found it very advantageous to say is that these six life factors are malleable between work and life. And so if we’re working on these pun intended, I suppose developing these life factors as a boss as a team for the team member. These are the critical ones are going to be deployed in life. But they’re also going to be deployed at work. So I’m not saying they’re more important than the work factors, but the work factors really have a lot to do with work, and my trust that at work, I feel like I belong at work. Do I feel valued at work? Do I understand the purpose of work? Is the strategy of work connected to me? And are there norms that allow me to have frictionless operating procedure procedures, so those are slightly transferable to life like I bring them home because I think about it, but I’m not applying them in life. The six life factors meaning relationships, well being skills, agency and respect. They’re all applied in life and I bring them into work. So that’s why they’re pretty key. And that’s why it’s a two by two matrix with x. The x x x axes I’m so sorry, as the six life factors. So, you know, this is that back to that point about the fiduciary responsibility, if you’re not having a conversation, as an example, with your team member about their relationships, not marriage or what they’re doing in terms of spousal or non spousal or that I’m talking about, like people you connect with to build up that network, ie my network is my net worth if you’re not having a conversation or at least helping Carolyn, the team member Dan, the boss, in this case, say, hey, Carolyn, just want to have like, I know some people here. I know they’re based in Burlington and Oakville and in between those two cities. Hey, I think you’d be really good match. Can I introduce you to Sally or Adam or whoever, right guess you’re you’re like, oh, cool, thanks. That’s amazing. But even inside the organization, that’s where it gets a little bit slightly convoluted, but like, that’s the relationship life factor. Is you helping the team member to develop the skill of relationship building and to advocate for those relationships. So it could be inside the organization. That’s totally cool. Because maybe the skills that you’re developing get transferred over to the life factor post work, or maybe that relationship that’s been developed that work because of the introduction turns into a life relationship. How cool is that? Yep. Right. So argue, for those that want to counter argue that these are just six additional work factors, but I’m actually saying these are six life factors to begin with, but they get transposed into the work because we pay attention to it as a leader and that’s a good thing.

Carolyn Swora  49:29

Well, and I was it’s really what grounds the knot, the k n o t.

Dan Pontefract  49:33

Ah, nicely done. Yeah. And

Carolyn Swora  49:36

I think you know, I’m thinking of the times when I was a leader in an organization and how my ability to to be amazing on those work. Factors, was very moved by what was happening in my life factors and you know, back to that fiduciary responsibility or that responsibility, I guess it’s the humanity is how you show up when you’re a leader. You You really like you don’t leave people. You don’t leave people’s presence in a neutral state. Like everything that you do will impact others around you. And so that’s what really stood out for me when you were when you were talking about those factors.

Dan Pontefract  50:17

Yeah, and thank you, first of all, Carolyn, I mean, that’s amazing feedback. And I couldn’t agree. Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, what we’re what we’re kind of getting out here with the work factors are sort of the life factors we’re saying. Okay, look, if you are a boss, and or like thinking about the organizational dynamics of you know, the entire company or unit or whatever the case may be, those six life factors are actually table stakes for what we weren’t doing with work life balance, or and that’s kind of like the aha moment. For me. My own myopia inside of organizations I’ve worked for working on employee engagement was like so fixated on what the work factors were and again, you need them but these self development like character, self factors, the life factors are so equally important that I was missing a huge piece to the conversation for years and I’m trying to maybe undo an error that that, that I’ve made over

Carolyn Swora  51:31

years for to pay it forward.

Dan Pontefract  51:34

Maybe Dan it forward that’s well and

Carolyn Swora  51:37

it’s you know, it is really difficult. Obviously, being a leader now is quite different even than five years ago, or three years ago. And so I think again, this can ot this not bring it together and this real

Dan Pontefract  51:50

attribute you every time now like I can Oh T Carolyn Swora can Oh T Carolyn Swora put like a little diagram underneath it now. I love it.

Carolyn Swora  51:58

Like you hear this word like work life balance, and I’ve I’ve really struggled with it. And so now I proudly attribute work life bloom because we can’t bloom all the time. I think that’s the other thing, right? And there’s a garden analogy through through your whole book, but there are seasons where you need to go underground, so to speak, and you need a bit of time for things to get nurtured and strengthen. And so I’m guessing that was purpose the word bloom

Dan Pontefract  52:29

you know, when I was spoke for years, oh, it was February like bloom at the time. Certainly it wasn’t. But I was on a bike ride and there was like these flowers peeking out February and Victoria, because it’s Victoria. And I’m thinking myself, those daffodils. Gosh, they’re gorgeous. They’re blooming and I was like, Oh my God. There it is. Why are they blooming? Right? There’s soil, there’s nutrients, they got water, there’s sunlight, it’s seasonality, somebody, whatever it is, someone’s helping these things grow and bloom, but they don’t stick around in October. They don’t stick around for like, they stick around maybe six, eight weeks, and then they’re gone. And I’m like, God, you know, I’ve had jobs like that I’m still on my bike ride. And I’m like, Yeah, and I just sort of like it fell on me. Well, what made me bloom and then that’s when I started looking back at all the research and saying, Well, there’s got to be factors anyway. That’s the the legend of the story, the

Carolyn Swora  53:28

legend and they’re willing to it just gives us permission to not have to be 100% all the time. It’s okay, sometimes 20 percents Okay, to be honest.

Dan Pontefract  53:38

Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And again, that’s why I’m like, How do I help leader a, they don’t have to be blooming all the time. And either team members will not be blooming all the time. So how can we just represent that? First and foremost, and then secondly, maybe have conversations openly about what that means?

Carolyn Swora  53:57

Yeah. In a real way and not not have it be a punitive thing? Exactly. Yeah. So Dan, the book comes out. Can you remind us when the book comes out, we know it before the book. So how lovely is that invitation to people to go make a preorder?

Dan Pontefract  54:16

Wow, that’s so kind of you. The book is out in Canada 24. October and globally on the seventh of November.

Carolyn Swora  54:25

All right, and they can get pre orders. Where can they get pre order?

Dan Pontefract  54:29

If you just head on over to work life You will find all kinds of fun and free stuff including if you preorder you get all kinds of stuff but also there’s a free you can take the work life bloom assessment for free, which is also available at that site work life

Carolyn Swora  54:48

There’s no dashes or underscores

Dan Pontefract  54:51

great on work life bloom. Yeah. Simple. Nice, simple. I try I try

Carolyn Swora  54:56

and people can find you if they want to bring you in to maybe do a keynote to do any consulting where can they find you?

Dan Pontefract  55:07

Kind of the same spot it all goes all to Dan P headquarters but yeah, work life There’s some about me contact information. Lots of sizzle reels and all my talks are up there if you’re interested in any of the thank you so kind Carolyn, any of the other things that I do,

Carolyn Swora  55:25

all right. Well, because there are there are a host of other books as well that grace my bookshelf. And yeah, for their books, I believe right, this Book number five.

Dan Pontefract  55:35

Yeah, it’s definitely a masochism, but I do love what I’m doing and there’s always an itch to scratch. Carolyn,

Carolyn Swora  55:42

I hear you I hear you. I didn’t know I would come up with book number two, and I did so I’ve already got ideas about book number three shifts. Well, I can’t

Dan Pontefract  55:49

wait to be wait to be that early reader or alpha tester on. Can’t wait.

Carolyn Swora  55:56

All right. Well, Dan, for all my podcasts. I asked three questions to wrap things up. Are you game game? All right. Well, I don’t if you said no, I wouldn’t know if know what to say. Anyway. So you answered that. So my first question and these questions, by the way, are all based around my evolve leader model. And the first one is around self awareness. So I’m interested in hearing something that you’re comfortable sharing a moment and experience that gave you an incredible amount of self awareness and insight and it might not have been the most gentlest of experience and maybe it was a little bit hard but it gave you a lot of insight about yourself.

Dan Pontefract  56:39

Yeah, an adult student named Kailyn in 1999 called me out on my ridiculous attempt at humor, and I embarrassed him and it was unintentional, but I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time and he called me out on it about an hour later in my office. And I broke down and said, Oh, my God, I’m so sorry. Also, I’ll never do that again. And so it was a humiliating moment, but also a teaching moment.

Carolyn Swora  57:12

Yeah. Sometimes those harder moments are the ones that not even sometimes often they teach. us a lot. Yeah. Okay. Second question. What is a practice or ritual that you personally use to keep you in a calmer state or to get you back to a calm state after maybe your nervous system has been amped up a little bit.

Dan Pontefract  57:33

Also since 1999, I have not taken a meeting on Friday afternoons and refuse to have meetings on Friday afternoon. So I’m 24 years in, wow, zero meetings, and that’s my meditative and or get stuff finished and or think and or address some self care with long bike rides, half hour or half day.

Carolyn Swora  57:56

And I think we should point out, you’ve been working in large organizations, so you are making that boundary really work. It’s not like oh, Dan’s got his own business. He can make up

Dan Pontefract  58:06

9099 Exactly.

Carolyn Swora  58:09

That’s amazing. What What prompted you to do that in 1999 That was a while ago, the world was pretty different.

Dan Pontefract  58:16

I’m, I’m a different cat. Like I honestly when I go to Ikea, I go in the exit door to the as is first. Okay. I don’t go through the showroom. So I’ve always tried to look at things differently. And that was one of them like well, why have meetings on Friday afternoons? That’s dumb. Let’s meet. So maybe that’s the best answer.

Carolyn Swora  58:35

Um, last question. What is a song or genre of music that makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself?



Dan Pontefract  58:53

It’d be cliche for me to say a Tragically Hip Song. That’s yeah. However, I’m going to say a Tragically Hip Song. And the song is called great soul. It’s a it’s a poem by Gord Downey, the late great lead singer of the hip. It’s on their last album that they did called Man Machine poem, sort of a beside unheralded track and what gourds getting at in the poem effectively is how do you how do you as an individual rise in the face of adversity, reminding yourself of your own great soul? Wow.

Carolyn Swora  59:37

He was a brilliant, brilliant artist. No questions. Are gonna have to look at that. I couldn’t agree more. Yeah. Well, Dan, it is always Always a pleasure. Thank you so much for coming on the show. And I really, really encourage all the listeners to highly consider purchasing your new book I think. I think it’s I think it’s your best one yet. Best. Yeah, my perspective. The other ones aren’t good. I think you I think you’ve wrapped things up really nicely and, and really positioned a really difficult topic into something that’s tangible. And relevant in this day and age.

Dan Pontefract  1:00:19

Garlic coming from you, that means such a lot. Thank you. You’re a good friend, but you’re a seriously awesome professional in this space that we’re both in. So thank you for that. you for this invite. And, yeah, having a good natter about the lack of work life balance, employee engagement and best sells at work. I loved it. Thank you,

Carolyn Swora  1:00:37

and learning new words. There’s always new words that Dan brings into conversations. Thanks for listening everybody. And if you liked this episode, please subscribe and like it on the podcast or the platform that you’re listening to. Thanks again everybody.

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