Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders with Scott Allen

Annemarie de Jong - Inclusive, Invested, & Immersive

May 24, 2023 Season 1 Episode 176
Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders with Scott Allen
Annemarie de Jong - Inclusive, Invested, & Immersive
Show Notes Transcript

Annemarie de Jong brings 25 years of experience as a strategic adviser, impact consultant, and executive coach to leading national and multinational organisations. She’s on a mission to turn every business into a force for good, with leadership as the starting point.

Having conducted extensive research in Organisational Psychology and gained Masters’ in both Organisational Psychology and Business Administration, Annemarie is equipped to unite her sharp eye for people, group dynamics and personal leadership to transform organisations. Following MIT’s "Theory U" principles, her style is energetic, down-to-earth, and straightforward when guiding companies to dig deep and develop practical behavioural change.

Annemarie is an internationally published academic and speaker. Until 2012, she had a popular weekly column in the Dutch Financial Times and still contributes to various publications on change management, executive leadership, and corporate social responsibility.

In 2010, she joined Better Future as a Partner, and in 2014 she moved to NYC to start Better Future U.S. After she moved back to the Netherlands in 2019, she became the CEO and owner of Better Future (B Corp). She’s the chair of the Board of Heilige Boontjes – a local Dutch educational program creating job opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals and dropouts.

Before Better Future, Annemarie worked at the premier leadership institute in the Netherlands for over a decade, where she managed key corporate accounts, founded and led their Corporate Innovative Change consultancy, and served on its Board of Directors.

About Better Future

"We’re business backpackers. Adventurous curious, and a little rebellious. We are ready to step into new worlds every day. We are resilient when things don’t work out the way we planned and hooked on serendipity. We believe in the power of authentic relationships with people from different backgrounds and in all sorts and shapes. We’re comfortable in boardrooms just as much as in community centers everywhere around the globe. We’re business savvy, and we want to see tangible results. This is the adventurous life we lived since 2003."

Resources/Authors Mentioned in This Episode

About  Scott J. Allen

My Approach to Hosting

  • The views of my guests do not constitute "truth." Nor do they reflect my personal views in some instances. However, they are views to consider, and I hope they help you clarify your perspective. Nothing can replace your reflection, research, and exploration of the topic.

About The International Leadership Association (ILA)

  • The ILA was created in 1999 to bring together professionals interested in the study, practice, and teaching of leadership. Plan now for ILA's 25th Global Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 12-15, 2023.

Note: Voice-to-text transcriptions are about 90% accurate, and conversations-to-text do not always translate perfectly. I include it to provide you with the spirit of the conversation.

Scott Allen  0:00  

Okay, everybody, welcome to Phronesis. Thank you for checking in wherever you are in the world. So excited for this conversation. I have a longtime friend with me; Annemarie de Jong. And she is the CEO of Better Future, and she's a senior facilitator. So, Annemarie brings 25 years of experience as a strategic adviser, impact consultant, and executive coach to leading national and multinational organizations. She's on a mission to turn every business into a force for good, with leadership as the starting point. Having conducted extensive research in organizational psychology, and gained master’s in both Organizational Psychology and Business Administration, Annemarie is equipped to unite her sharp eye for people, group dynamics, and personal leadership to transform organizations. Following MIT's ‘Theory U Principles,’ her style is energetic, down to earth, and straightforward when guiding companies to dig deep and develop practical behavioral change. Her full bio is in the show notes, so please check that out. But one thing I want to say, Annemarie, before we even begin when I think of you… And we have not had an in-depth conversation for a few, well, it's been probably a good 8-10 years, but when I think of you, I think of laughter. I think of us laughing. I think of us having so much fun at International Leadership Association Conferences, and just laughing, and laughing, and laughing with some of our friends and colleagues. And so, it is such a pleasure to have you here today. Maybe you can share a little bit more with listeners about yourself. And then, we'll jump into our conversation about Better Future today.


Annemarie de Jong  1:45  

Well, thanks for such a warm and wonderful introduction, Scott. It's been a while, and it's such a pleasure to see you again and talk to you again. And I can't wait for us to catch up. So, I hope that everybody enjoys us catching up. Yeah, like you said, when I think of you, it’s definitely the same. So, I still have a clip. If you want to become a president of the United States, I have something to blackmail you with because you have this… 


Scott Allen  2:12   



Annemarie de Jong  2:12

Before I went to a pub somewhere in Prague, which is hilarious, anyway, if anyone is interested, send me an email


Scott Allen  2:22  

I don't remember this. So now I'm even concerned. (Laughs)


Annemarie de Jong  2:26  

I’ll send it to you. A little bit about me, and maybe why I started… I didn't start Better Future, but why I lead Better Future and why I am the proud owner of the smallest multinational with the biggest impacts, as I like to call it. 


Scott Allen  2:39  



Annemarie de Jong  2:40

Actually, I never expected to be in this position because I always wanted to become a medical doctor. I come from a family of everybody needs a doctor, and wanted to cure people and take care of people, and so did I. But I didn't make it through the lottery system that we have in the Netherlands, which is a kind of crazy system. And I started with my master's in Organizational Psychology and Business Administration. And I did like that actually. So, after two attempts getting through med school, it didn't work, and I thought, “Well, maybe I'm on the right mission.” I started doing a lot of work on change and leadership at a big institution in the Netherlands, which was really great to develop a lot of my skills in designing programs, facilitating them, leading teams, and doing a lot of coaching. But something was still not sitting right with me because it felt like I'm just serving the top 3 to 5% of society, probably, where if I were to be a doctor, I would see everybody. Your working hours are for everybody, and now I felt like… If you look at the parking place where a lot of very expensive cars were parked for people that already have a lot of access to education, and to nice jobs, and to everything that you need money for. And I felt like I'm missing out on a lot of people, so this was not sitting right with me. Meeting the founder of Better Future, one of the founders of Better Future, and being at the Presencing Theory U course, that kind of changed my life because it started with a clip that showed -- it's called the ‘Girl Effects,’ you probably know. It's pretty old by now. And it really tapped into the right feeling of feeling powerless to change anything in the world. Like the world is too big, the world’s problems are too big, you can’t solve it by yourself. And I think everybody resonates with that feeling, right? It's too big, where should I start? And if you invest in one girl, you can change the course of history, is the message of that clip. And that really hit home, especially at that moment, I guess. I was probably in a transition anyway. And I felt like yeah, enough with not doing something about it, and do something about it, and take a next step in your career. And then, Better Future came along, and I jumped ship and became an entrepreneur. Had a panic attack right after I signed up for becoming an equity partner because this was never my plan, and there's nobody in my family who is an entrepreneur or knows how that works. So, I felt lonely, and I'm very happy ever since I did that. Even sometimes with ups and downs, I think everything that I want to do that I find important in life comes together at Better Future. And that is working with leadership, but with everybody who is in a leadership position. So, not just in big corporations, but also in small grassroots organizations, not-for-profits, foundations, and literally, every corner of the world. So, me and my team, we like to call ourselves 'corporate backpackers' because we feel comfortable in dusty villages somewhere in the south of India, but also in the high glass buildings on Wall Street, or here in Amsterdam, or Rotterdam, where you meet a lot of the boards in nice polished boardrooms. And I like to move between all those different roles and see that we, in the end, or experience, at least, that, in the end, we're a lot alike, and we all need to be valued for a lot of things. And we all want to make a difference, but all of us do need, sometimes, some push to get started just like I did.


Scott Allen  6:05  

Well, I love that visual of really transcending, whether it's, you said, the dusty village or the boardroom and all of those spaces in between. So, tell us a little bit about Better Future. Tell us about the mission, what it was about the organization, and what it was working to do to help the world that really resonated for you. Now, you're the CEO. So again, listeners have heard me say this a lot of times. I love having conversations with folks who have that theory, have that background, but then are also out in the world doing the work. And you are out in the world doing the work. And then, let's talk about some case studies. I'd love to hear some stories.


Annemarie de Jong  6:48  

Well, the bigger mission of Better Future is, like it’s said, to create a better world, a more fair world, because I think we believe that it's possible. And there are so many big movements going on that really create that mission worldwide, like the Paris Agreement, the Social Development Goals, for example, which you think is the world's agenda. And we all agree, and it's easy to agree with. And our work is about mobilizing people to do the work, and not just to say, “Yes, oh, that's really important. I'm so happy that my company signed up for this.” But we believe it starts with people, and it starts with curiosity and really wanting to connect to people outside of your world. So, we have kind of three buckets of questions that companies call us for. And the first is developing leadership connected to an impact goal, and sometimes, we have to help an organization pick which of the SDGs, for example, or which impacts ambition fits the company but also fits the world. And then, we design and facilitate leadership programs in which we connect people from a corporate organization or commercial organization. And we go look and find a not-for-profit partner. So, that's one of the key ingredients. So, leadership development programs are connected to an impact goal and connected to an impact organization. Because I strongly believe that by getting to know people who literally live in a different world, geographically, but also in business, have different perspectives and look differently at things or have a different drivers. And that's something you really can learn from. I'll go into that a bit more when I go into case studies. The second bucket is about changing trajectories in companies. Today, that's a lot about, “Oh, can you help us become more inclusive, and we have to do something about our diversity policy,” which I always find very interesting because, I think, today, we look at it too much as a goal in itself, where, to me, being diverse and fostering an inclusive culture is really about staying relevant for the future as a company, future proof if you will. So, that's also a big part of our work in helping companies to create that inclusive culture and also see it through a lens of innovation rather than a goal in itself. And the third one is about becoming B Corp, because we're certified B Corp ourselves. And I think that's the biggest global network of like-minded companies that actually permit to impact goals by how they do their business. Leadership programs, change programs, and help with certification and also the strategy of becoming a B Corp. One of my favorite stories, and one of my favorite clients to work with, is a European company that's a trader in water techniques and water solutions. So, from irrigation systems to swimming pools and everything in between. Their CEO, I think, is a very visionary guy who really dares to take risks. And I already worked with him before I joined Better Future, and we started working again, and his question was, “I have this leadership team which is a very competitive mess. Everyone wants to be the best, and therefore, we don't leverage any other synergy or talent, the numbers are dropping. But, to me, this whole leading company game is about the money, but it's not just about the money. And it is about adding something to the world that really matters because we only have a limited time and I want to make an impact.” And I thought, “Well, you're in water techniques. So, how about getting your whole strategy also contributing something to SDG Number 5, which is about access to water?” That sounded like too hard for him to start with, but he trusted us, and he also figured once we get everybody aligned around the same impact mission, that makes it probably easier to get people aligned. So, we designed a whole program with some interventions in Europe first to kind of get the whole group talking to each other and have a better sense of the whole strategy. And I promised him, the CEO, to take this whole group to an area where the scarcity of water is really very visible. We're connected to a big health NGO in Africa as one of our social partners, which is called AMREF Flying Doctors. They're a great African-based, African-run health NGO that really has a strong philosophy and a strong track record in creating lasting health change in Africa. They know all about scarcity of water, and the consequences, and also had to deal with that. But they also struggle a bit because they, of course, are predominantly donor-driven. So, they always have to find money to do all those things. So my not-so-hidden agenda was how we probably create a social enterprise between these two, where a mega group, the company comes a little bit more social and is really committed to make impacts, and AMREF becomes a little bit more social entrepreneurial, and we actually solve and fix a problem? So, after a few sessions in Europe with the leadership team of this company, I said, “Well, I have very exciting news for you all, I prepped this whole journey to Kenya, and we're going to the rural area in Kenya to meet the water specialist of AMREF.” Totally quiet. And then, somebody raised his hand and said, “What kind of shots do I need?” “What's the dress code do I need to have?” Like, okay. I was super, super like, “What? Your CEO is giving you the opportunity to travel to Kenya and to have a deep dive into what actually scarcity of water and no access to water means, and for you, the opportunity to do something about it.” But I didn't realize it at first because I travel a lot myself that it might be super scary to go to an area like that, and maybe not knowing what to run into. But they went. I have to say that, a lot of questions about what to take with me - 'How many mosquito nets do I want to bring?,' and 'What kind of medications do I need to take?' They all went, and they showed up in their out-of-Africa gear the first morning, but it kind of a transition to their normal wear. And I think what happened in that week, what makes it super special is the connection with the local AMREF people and really being able to connect on a human level. It's not conceptually talking about access to water anymore, but it becomes very personal. Their counterparts are from the AMREF’s side, but we also went to visit Maasai communities; for example, they get a chance to talk to local communities, and have dinner around the fire, and share what their life looks like. And so make it really personal, very human, as a starting point for the rest of that week, to really dive into the challenges locally, but also dive into their personal challenges, and their team challenges. The three levels that we always hit, like, it's about you, but it's also about your team, and it's about something that matters. Working in cross-cultural teams is very confrontational in many aspects because it's, yeah, it makes you aware of your assumptions, who you are, what you find important, and also what scares you, and how life has shaped you. And it's, I think, the combination of these ingredients to make it super personal, have a closer look to your team dynamics, but also, the intercultural dynamics, what helps to create something that lasts, an impact that lasts. So, this my not-so-hidden agenda became a reality. And the teams on both sides are way more successful than they were at the beginning of the week. So yeah, that's one story. And with this client, we moved to the next level as well because, of course, this was for a limited group of people that can travel to Kenya, you cannot take the whole company on a plane. So, there was also a next step. In this phase, we're working with them in creating more impacts in their day-to-day business by inviting the whole value chain into a room. If you really want to make an impact as an organization, you can't do that by yourself, that's simply not possible because you're part of a bigger system, part of a bigger value chain. Discussing with him like, “What would be your next step?” He said, “Well, yeah, should I take more people to Kenya, it doesn't make sense. We don't want to fly too much, and it's also not bringing it closer to home for the whole organization.” And when we dropped this idea of, “Well, what about taking you to a transformational area, like, create a context where you see transformation from old industry to innovation, and we invite your supply chain partners, or your value chain partners, so clients and suppliers in the room, and share and challenge each other on how you can actually make more impact?” And that was like magic because it's… I was surprised about the openness, the willingness to share, the transparency, and the honesty of their suppliers in sharing. Like, yeah, we already have a lot of this where you can make better business, but also in a better way. But you don't ask for it, and you don't want to collaborate with us. And all these kinds of things, again, that's about connecting on a human level, making it super personal, but translating it to business right away. So, that's why this CEO and this client is, I think, a perfect example of what we do.


Scott Allen  16:15  

Well, it sounds like it's a win on multiple levels. What I love about this is that not only… And again, I love that starting place of, look, we're going to connect as human beings. And in some ways, taking folks out of their normal context makes everybody vulnerable on a certain level. And, very quickly, you're not just at a high ropes course for the afternoon. You are immersed in a new context, and you are learning, and you're building relationships and connecting, and serving multiple purposes, it would seem.  Not only are you building the team, but you're building relationships; you're also doing some good in the world, building relationships between organizations. How are you facilitating out, then, some of the learning that's occurring? Are you immersed as well? You’re with them, correct? 


Annemarie de Jong  17:10

Yeah, definitely. 


Scott Allen  16:

And then, you're just looking for learning moments in facilitating dialogue and conversation as well, right?


Annemarie de Jong  17:18  

Yeah. We design a program around it. And, of course, it's also flexible regarding the circumstances. But we're very much aware of the different ingredients, about the individual learnings or coaching hours. We always start with a working breakfast where people share reflections in the diaries. You can imagine, for example, I was just sharing the story with my colleagues of 11 guys heading their business and being part of that management team who are not used to reflecting on their emotions, not used to writing about it, and not used to sharing about it. How hard it was sometimes to get them started. And how much I have fun looking at the [Inaudible 17:54] through the roof above us where we had breakfast outside. There were a lot of monkeys sitting on that roof, but they were kind of really mirroring the behavior of the guys that were at my breakfast table.


Scott Allen 18:06  



Annemarie de Jong  18:06  

Yes, the same as what's happening around the table. 


Scott Allen  18:09  

Yes. That's beautiful. That's wonderful. Okay, so let me hear another story. I'm excited to hear something else that stands out for you.


Annemarie de Jong  18:15  

Yeah. Also closer to home in my… I'm also the chair of a foundation called Heilige boontjes in Dutch, which literally translated is holy beans. Holy Beans, it's a coffee roasting company. And Holy Beans, the Dutch translation, has a connotation, which means somebody who pretends to be very brave, and very, very well behaved. It's a coffee roasting company, and it's also a program for dropouts and formerly incarcerated people to reenter society in terms of creating an educational future or job, and they have to go through this program. And I am part of their foundation. And I'm very much in love with everybody there because, well, they’re kind of tough cookies, and they know a lot about leadership. I can tell you that. The founder is like my age, and he has been in prison for five years. He's lived on the street for years, and we always make jokes about it, like, yeah, the way he learned about leadership is so much different from what I did being in academics and leading teams in nice organizations. But, in a way, we share a lot of the love for leadership and how we deal with it. He founded that organization because he was strongly convinced that everybody deserves a second chance. I always like to connect that organization to commercial partners, and I've done it a few times, to a retail organization or to a bank. And when you bring the team of Holy Beans in the room with the board of a bank, you'd be amazed how thin the line sometimes is between… Someone who’s on the board of the bank said, “Well, yeah, I could have been in your place because, when I was 16, I was doing a lot of shitty stuff, almost ended up the wrong way, and now I'm C suite level in this organization.” We also like to do in a management development program of a big retail supermarket in the Netherlands, we also connected them with a team of Holy Beans. And one of my starting questions was about sharing assumptions you have about each other. Just write down all your assumptions you have about the retail organization people and the other way around. And that was like one of the things that really stayed with me and with that group forever, I think, because the group of the retail organization, they wrote down really nice things like, “Oh, they are so committed to making a better future for themselves, they’re really trying hard, very committed, blah, blah,” all nice things. Whereas, if you really looked at those guys who were tattooed from head to toe, wearing black hoodies, some of them were not easily approachable. So, it didn't really make sense to have all those nice sugary lines about, “They're so committed blah, blah, blah.” And they wrote down, like, “Yeah, you're bragging about your cars. You're not proud about yourself, but you're proud of your kids. We dare to say that we're super proud because we quit our addiction six years ago, or we quit drugs six years ago, and you feel sorry for us.” That's what they wrote down. And between brackets, you should not do that. Talking about leadership, that kind of exploded because, well, somebody felt really offended from the Supermart people. And said, “Why are you offending us like this? Because we really look at you and really want to encourage you taking a second chance.” But yeah, it's very condescending, in a way. It's not looking from a mutually equal level. And I think from that moment, the real conversation started about who you are. and what makes you happy, what triggers you drives you. Nobody ever forgets that conversation, which was, I think, the most important ingredient in that part of the program.


Scott Allen  22:18  

What's fascinating to me is, even as a professional, some of the situations that you're placing yourself in, because I think a lot of consultants, I can name some organizations, there's a system they've been taught, and they have to use that system. And it's very buttoned up and closed down, and locked in. You're putting yourself in situations where you don't know how some of these are going to turn out. You don't know what will emerge, and, in real-time, you're responding to the dynamics, and, in real-time, I almost think of Ron Heifetz with Case-in-Point. We're going to prop up some questions, and then, some dynamics are going to emerge. And then you're reacting and trying to capture the learning and trying to keep a safe space for that learning to occur, correct?


Annemarie de Jong  23:06  

Yeah, that's definitely true. There is a philosophy behind it, but it's not a system behind it. It's like I know the building blocks, I know the ingredients, but you have to also listen to my young team members, “There's so much going on.” That's true. That's really true because you have to keep an eye on the strategic part. So, what are we aiming for? But you have to really be in the moment and be with what's happening around us. I feel alone, or I feel scared, so maybe that's not just me; that's maybe probably something in the system of the group. Yeah, it requires a lot of courage and being willing to really go through the mud and then see what really happens. For me because sometimes, I feel like, “Jesus, what am I doing? Why am I doing this? Why not have a nice job behind the desk writing memos?” Because I love the uncertainty, and I also love it's so real because we're dealing with real people, real issues. And also, with my own fear, my own anxiety, my own happiness, my own… Yeah, everything that comes up for me as well. I learn so much every day. They don't know, but they pay for my biggest MBA in life right now.


Scott Allen  24:27  

(Laughs) Well, you used the word that I absolutely love earlier, which is curiosity. And that curiosity, and how, again, how do we kind of start with that baseline of building relationships and tapping into everyone's humanity, and then do some good and orient ourselves towards helping the world be a better place, whether it's some of the Sustainable Development Goals. And how can we move our energy? What I also love about it, Annemarie is just that you're then also capturing the learning, and building teams, building relationships, and connecting the learning while doing some good. It's a beautiful model. Was this the original intent of the organization? This was how it was, was it designed to connect these organizations? And it's a beautiful model.


Annemarie de Jong  25:18  

Yeah. I think what's really in the DNA of the organization because we were founded 20 years ago, so we’re becoming real adults next year. So we're going to celebrate our 21st anniversary next year. And it really started with taking leaders from the Netherlands to the Gambia. Also, from this point of view where people who have a lot of resources and people who don't have a lot of resources and access to education. And it kind of came up spontaneously, and realizing that the connection of these two worlds was so powerful for everybody involved. So, the core to everything that we do today by connecting worlds that would usually never meet; that's just one prerequisite for me to do that. So, that's why we always invite a social partner. It’s also taking people out of their office because I don't believe that sitting in an office and thinking about other people does really make a difference. But you also have to create a kind of a level playing field, also something from day one, and that we really stay true to. And the third one is that you have to be invested in somebody else. It's about you, but it's not just about you. I always like three core points. So, it's being really inclusive, in that sense with including other people, it’s invested, and it's really immersive, taking people out of their space.


Scott Allen  26:40  

It sounds like you're fairly provocative from the very beginning with the groups by asking early on, “Okay, what are some impressions you have, or what are some biases that you have of this other group?” That's getting into it quick.


Annemarie de Jong  26:57  

Yeah. That is definitely true. And I think that is part of the magic, though, because I think we all know we have all these assumptions, even people who say, “Oh, I'm very open.” There's always a big [Inaudible 27:09] next to me. No, you're not, because we're wired differently. We're wired to kind of look for safety. And what's safe to me is something that I'm familiar with or somebody that I'm familiar with, or that I understand or know. And if you're taken somewhere else, or you're in a surrounding that you don't know, or a foreign context, or exotic context… There's one other example that came to my mind that I think I realized was very powerful in how that works. We're working with a financial institution. They hired us to work on an inclusive culture, which is hard because, well, there's a lot of [Inaudible 27:45] and steel people in the board. But they know they had to do something about it. They were really, but rationally, they knew they had to do something about it. And we ran some sessions with the board, and we ran some sessions with ambassadors on this topic within the companies. But, to me, it felt a bit like a dragging project because I didn't see any progress, and it was more talking about, talking about, talking about. And I felt like five minutes after I leave the room, nobody remembers what we'd done actually, nor did I, by the way.


Scott Allen  28:21  

(Laughs) Which is the core indicator that we’re not getting anywhere.


Annemarie de Jong  28:26  

Yeah. But I also realized I did propose earlier to say, “Well, maybe we should take you outside, maybe we should do this, maybe we should do that.” But it was right after COVID, and I also felt like I could not be too demanding because, of course, I have to really rebuild the business as well after two years of being very difficult to get people together and to travel. So, I compromised my core values, I think, a bit until a point where it gets so fed up with it and I said, “Well, listen, we can do it another way, another time at your beautiful office, have a nice conversation, but then we leave the room and nobody remembers anything, or what I like to do is to take you outside to a place like a very rough industrial area where there's an exhibition of art created by psychiatrists and mental health patients, and nobody knows who created what, and it's a very edgy space. And I invite an outside group in, like a social enterprise that's focused on creating a career perspective for kids with migrant backgrounds.” And if you don't like that, that's okay with me, but then hire someone else because this is what we're good at, and I'm not good at facilitating any of these conversations anymore. I did say more in a nicer way. And then, suddenly, they said, “Okay, yeah. Sure, it sounds like an amazing plan.” And I realized this because, of course, some of the board members that we took out, hated us upfront because they had to dress up in their jeans because it was super cold. And they didn't know who they were going to talk to. And usually, when you're a board member, you kind of control the agenda, you control the people that come in, and people are always a bit scared to meet you. But this was a whole different game because they all came into that space, and there was just kind of gross coffee, and it was cold. And they had hardly seen each other dressed up like this in their leisure wear. And this whole group of youngsters from Amsterdam came all with a Muslim background. And they were like, “Okay, how does this work?” So, everybody felt equally uncomfortable. And I think that's the best starting point you can have because, well, then you have to start from who you are, not from your business card or not from your position. And the most beautiful conversations arose because, well… we also asked them, at some point, “Share a bit about the kinds of assumptions people always have about you, and how does it make you feel? And can you also share a bit of the assumptions you have about each other in small groups? And be honest because it's what happens every day.” And we did that after some connection exercises, obviously, but it's pretty straightforward and pretty early on in the process to ask it of people. And you could feel, without even hearing what people were discussing, how deep the connection was, really a heart-to-heart connection. And I think that was, like, for me, a beautiful example of how I have to stick to my game and really do what I'm good at. And take people out, make them uncomfortable. I'm comfortable with being uncomfortable with my clients and then creating something that really matters and creates an impact that stays because, this one, they will remember forever.


Scott Allen  31:55  

Yeah, they will not forget that experience. They will not forget that experience. On really either end. Have you seen that Danish commercial?


Annemarie de Jong  32:03  

Yeah. All That We Share, you mean. It makes me cry every time. I've seen it like 20 times, still crying. 


Scott Allen  32:09  

I am going to put that in the show notes for listeners.


Annemarie de Jong  32:11  

Yeah, please do.


Scott Allen  32:13  

Because that, in some ways, dances around some of what you're talking about, about some of the questions or assumptions that we make based on how people look, and again, when it comes down to our humanity, we share so much.


Annemarie de Jong  32:26  

We do. Yeah. And I think it starts from those kinds of experiences that we take it further. Then we really create something that people can work with in terms of how they hire people, and how they develop people in the organization. So, it starts with those kinds of experiences, and then, how do you want to roll that out in your organization? But you have to be heated somewhere, like touched in your heart.


Scott Allen  32:53  

Yeah. It's not an exercise, and I'm logically thinking about this. I've felt this, and then that becomes the starting point at which some pretty transformational work can probably occur. But, to your point, sitting around the boardroom that we're normally in five days a week, it's not the place where it's probably going to happen. (Laughs)


Annemarie de Jong  33:16  

No. From my experience, it doesn't.


Scott Allen  33:19  

That's the place where… The reason they're having you come in is because that's what all that other stuff happens day-to-day, which isn't getting them somewhere new. And you're bringing them somewhere new. Annemarie, I just have so much respect. I think as we begin to kind of wind down our time today, what I would love to know is, do you have anything else that you would like to share about Better Future with listeners. Where can they learn a little bit more? And then, I have one kind of final question for you.


Annemarie de Jong  33:50  

It was so much fun to take you through some of the stories of the work that we do, and I feel like I just got started. So, what I hope that you'll take from these stories is that we strongly believe that everybody wants to make a change in the world and make the world a better place, that we nudge them and help them do that by taking people along with us outside of their office, meeting people they would never meet, connect to unusual suspects from heart-to-heart, and create learning experiences, and make them step into a transformation together where you live inclusively without talking about it even, and do it, and make impacts. And really some tangible, lasting impacts, and be proud about it. And also earn money with it. I think that's the best combination you can get, and that's what I love to do.


Scott Allen  34:40  

I just absolutely love the model. And so how can people learn a little bit more about your work?


Annemarie de Jong  34:45  

Well, they can follow us on Instagram. Of course, go to our website. They can sign up for a newsletter where I write a column every month and share some of our learnings and we share very interesting sources of inspiration from artists, scientists because I strongly believe they have to read, see, and watch a lot of different sources, not just about leadership, but about everything in the world. They can send me an email, of course, if they want to sign up for a Better Future.


Scott Allen  35:16  

Well, what I will do is put all of that information in the show notes so that people can access that. And you just mentioned looking to other sources for learning; what have you been reading, streaming, or listening to that stood out for you recently that listeners might be interested in? What has caught your attention?


Annemarie de Jong  35:36  

Seen a movie recently, ‘Tar’ starring Cate Blanchett. I love Cate Blanchett and everything she does. S, there was no doubt I was going to see that movie. And I loved it because I think it's a very uncomfortable movie. It's not a nice streaming movie where you go sit on your couch with a bucket of ice cream; it does something because it's about a very relevant topic on safety at the workplace. And it's about power. It's about ambition. It's about ego, not so much eco. And also, the whole movement of the triangle of who's the victim here, and who's really the offender, and who's the advocate, the helper. And I think that whole combination, seeing somebody who really wants to go for the top position in her professionalism, but also gets stuck in a kind of a power play, and brings herself down, is brought down by other people. Yeah, but the complexity of the topic, I think, it really struck me.


Scott Allen  36:38  

Oh, incredible film. Annemarie, it was a Sunday morning, I think, and early. My wife and I get up early, and so, we oftentimes will watch films then because our kids are asleep and we can… So, it's Sunday at 7:00 A.M., and we turn on ‘Tar.’ (Laughs)


Annemarie de Jong  36:57

Wow, really harsh. (Laughs) What did you think about it?


Scott Allen  37:00  

Well, same thing. Literally, we looked at one another, and it was such an incredible performance, such an incredible film. And it was hard. It wasn't pleasant. It wasn't a good experience, but it was just… It was almost like, have you watched ‘The Whale’?


Annemarie de Jong  37:22  

Not yet, no. I have to, right?


Scott Allen  37:24  

A similar experience where just an incredible performance and incredible story, but challenging and difficult. And so, both of those, I watched both of those in the same week, and just multiple emotions, kind of, holding multiple emotions. And I love art like that, which challenges me to feel a lot of different things at once. It's not just that they're running off in the sunset, and everyone's happy, and I feel happy. But, there are many emotions. And so, that's how I felt after watching ‘The Whale’ as well. But ‘Tar,’ yes, you are correct. Just an incredible performance. Incredible.


Annemarie de Jong  38:09  

And it did piss me off. And it made me also like, “Yeah, you're a woman in a position like this, you should succeed, you should be…” And also like being confronted with my own conceptions about what a woman in a position like that should be or do, like, oh, man, that was also very confrontational. And that movie makes you so uncomfortable.


Scott Allen  38:28  

Yes, that's a good word for it. That’s a good word for it. And, again, I think they've done a masterful job of bringing you to that place. So good to catch up with you. I am so excited that we are connecting in this way. And thank you for the good work that you're doing in the world, Annemarie. It's incredible, it's so much fun to hear about. And I really, really appreciate your time today. Be well.


Annemarie de Jong  38:54  

Thanks. It was a pleasure. 


Scott Allen  38:57  

I just have so much respect for what Annemarie and her team are doing. They're bringing together unique participants, maybe some individuals who wouldn't have crossed paths otherwise. They are connecting at a very base human level and building relationships sometimes in unique places where neither group is necessarily comfortable and familiar. They are orienting their work towards something good. And, in the process, building teams, building relationships, and developing individuals and those communities. Sounds like seven wins to me. The recipe, the formula, the approach is just brilliant, and I love it. And I hope that you will check out Better Future and the work that they're doing, and reach out to Annemarie if you have questions because they're just doing incredible work in a unique and interesting way. So, Annemarie, thank you for all that you're doing for the world. Thank you for all you're doing for our communities, and for those participants that I am confident are having some pretty transformational experiences in your programs. For all of you listening, thank you so much for checking in. As always, go out and do some good in the world. Take care. Bye bye.



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