Anthony Mitchelle, chief potential officer, talks to HRD about his company's success
HRD Australia speaks with Anthony Mitchell, co-founder and Chief Potential Officer of Bendelta, about setting up the right sorts of human-related people processes and systems, the design and delivery of tailored leadership development programs, and “Potentiology,” a guide to turning human potential into business performance in the cyber-physical age.
Kylie: Hello and welcome to HRDTV. I'm Kylie Speer, and today I'm talking with Anthony Mitchell, chief potential officer at bendelta. bendelta is the five star employer of choice winner for 2023. Welcome to you, Anthony. Congratulations and thank you so much for joining us today.
Anthony: It's lovely to be talking with you and obviously very excited to receive the award as well. So thank you.
Kylie: Well, firstly, bendelta enables organizations, teams and individuals to reach their full potential. How does your firm's approach achieve this?
Anthony: You know, this has always been part of our DNA. So when we first created the organization 20 years ago, we were very clear as founders that what we wanted to do was to focus everything what we do on the realization of human potential. That's what we felt was was our part of making the world a better place. Really, if you look at the services that that we offer, we come at it in two complementary ways. If I can use a metaphor, one, one is putting the making sure that the garden is good in good shape and the other is making sure that the individual plants and trees actually grow well and flourish. So so what I mean by that is in terms of the garden, we do work around strategic planning, around organizational design, about setting up the right sorts of human related people processes and systems and of course the culture. So really shaping that. Then on the other hand, we work with teams individual through things such as the design and delivery of tailored leadership development programs, executive coaching and so on, to really help each one of those people achieve their full potential. Of course, it's not quite as binary as I may have made it sound. Those two things really interact with each other. You might be developing leaders, but it influences the culture. You might be working on the organizational design, and that makes it a more propitious environment for leaders to achieve their potential. But really, it's about those two things coming together. So as a result, it can benefit individuals, it can benefit teams, can benefit the organization, and in some cases it can go beyond that as well and benefit customers, communities, even broader society, depending on the role that the organization plays and the way that it interacts with its ecosystem.
Kylie: bendelta also brings together strategists, psychologists and learning pioneers. Could you explain how this dynamic operates to deliver results for your clients?
Anthony: Yeah. Again, since the very early days, we've always believed in the power of diversity. Before, it was as hip as it is these days. We've always believed that bringing different kinds of people together, if done well, can create something magical. Now obviously mean that in terms of things such as gender or cultural background and everything else you might think about, but it's also about technical ability and skill sets and styles, ways of working. While, you know, I come from a background that includes psychology. If our organization was all psychologists, I don't think it would have the power that it has. Likewise, if we were all strategists, if we're all organization, design people, analysts, whatever the case might be, it wouldn't be quite as powerful. But when we put those two things together, if you think about what I just described about getting the right sort of garden and then helping those individual plants to flourish, those bring different skill sets. And when you combine them, you start to get some of the alchemy coming through. So you put a strategist together with a psychologist, with an organizational design expert, with a data analyst, and on you go, you start to get a richer kind of solution by fusing all the you know rather than just seeing just the forest or the individual trees. You see both. And you create a system wide solution that can work. So that's I guess probably how we do that is to really believe in that diversity of skill sets. And rather than siloing them and having people work in different practice areas and never interact, we do the opposite. We look for every opportunity for people to interact and work in that multidisciplinary way to create more holistic solutions.
Kylie: Over the past 15 years, bendelta has invested 1,000,000 hours into the development of potentiology. A Guide to Turning Human Potential into business Performance in the Cyber physical Age. What are you doing with all that research?
Anthony: Good. Good question, Kylie. And look, it's only continued to grow. So, you know, it's a never ending journey, really. We're always trying to find better ways of realizing human potential. Our goal is to do it better than we've ever done it and eventually to do it better than anyone in the world has done it. And that's an amazing journey. And there's just so much ground still to be uncovered. I think even at this point, the understanding of how you truly help individual or a team or an organization achieve its full positive human potential is not really figured out. But every year we get a bit better. You know, we learn from our successes. We also see where we could do things better as well. We are constantly scanning research. We are constantly looking at the results that we're getting, talking to our clients, trying to understand what's going to have the greatest amount of efficacy and then other things change as well around it, right? So technology changes and suddenly we have technological enablers that didn't exist before that work more efficiently or effectively. The societal context changes, you know, suddenly post-pandemic. People have a very different view about what it means to to think about their potential and their their pursuit of it. In many cases, people have a much greater passion for it now than they perhaps did previously. So all of those things are factored. So the answer to your question is we take it all, we apply it. All of the projects that we conduct, we analyze and assess it. We work out where it can get better and we just keep on going, keep on going on that journey, endless exploring, if you like. I think that's very much our stance on this, is that that that great work in our sphere is all about being an explorer. And we hope that it's not just us exploring, but us in our clients working together, collaborative exploring.
Kylie: In your view, Anthony, what is the key factor or skill set that allows bendelta to stand out in the sector?
Anthony: Well, I think part of how we stand out is some of the things that I've described in terms of we really believe in diversity and inclusion and we really forge all of those diverse perspectives together. That does enable us to take a more solution oriented approach rather than these are the tools, you know, what can we do with them? So I think that's an important part. I think I think clients pick up on our culture that it's a pretty special and magical place where we have something called the the Delta Code that we formed well over a decade ago. And it sets out really important principles. You know, principle number one, which everyone in the organization knows by heart, is that there are no rules. And what we mean by that, we're not describing anarchy. We're saying that this is an environment where people join, are an adult. They deserve to be treated as an adult long before, you know, flexibility became popular. We've always regarded that people should have complete sovereignty in the way that they approach their work. But at the same time, we have other principles, such as we collaborate and make it very clear that we're not the kind of traditional organization driven by hierarchy, authority, power, paternalism, any of those sorts of things. But but instead it's holographic. You know, everyone's working together not just to solve things for clients, but also to make bendelta better as well. We're certainly not perfect and we never will be perfect, but we believe in the power of people working together to make things better. And I think that comes across. And that Explorer mentality is something that our clients pick up on. We're sometimes asked What kind of clients do you want to work with? And people might think that we're going to answer that in terms of what sector they're in or what size they are or what kind of shape they're in. But our view is we'll work with anyone if they've got ambition, if they've got a real appetite for changing things, maybe an eight out of ten today and maybe they're only a one out of ten, we've honestly don't mind. It doesn't matter where you start from. What matters is how much hunger have you got for becoming something better, something better for your people, something better in terms of how your organization performs. And so I think we attract the Explorer clients out there, the ones that say we don't want to do the same thing over and over. We want to explore that terra incognita and discover something that might be far more powerful than what we have today.
Kylie: If we can return to bendelta enabling your clients to reach their full potential. How does the term full potential have a different meaning now than it may have had a few years ago?
Anthony: I think there's a different realization of it. I mean, think at one level, potential is potential, but think now how many more organizations are so much more purpose led than they used to be? Those existed in the past, but they might have been little nuggets in a rather sparse landscape, whereas these days it's almost de rigueur to consider those things as essential to the way that you operate your business. Think about the increased emphasis on societal and environmental responsibility. So people are really showing up at work, not just thinking about it as a job. You know, they are thinking of it as a source of of meaning, of significance in their lives.
Kylie: The pandemic aside, which obviously necessitated hybrid working models, what are the factors or movements are causing organizations to change so as to maintain their employees happiness?
Anthony: That's an interesting question. And what a whirlpool we've been through. You know, we had a we had a period of time pre-pandemic, you know, which we all recall vaguely now. And then we went into a crazy time where it was scary, you know, for people. And so the people functions of organizations really stood up at that time. You know, I think a lot of the people and culture functions showed just how valuable and important they were. And kudos to a lot of leaders of organizations that recognize that this was a time that people's happiness and well-being really had to be prioritized. And then we've moved out of that and into the great resignation and a really intensified war for talent. So let's change the role once again. You know that the emphasis on making an organization as attractive as possible to be able to attract, retain, engage people has become a priority. But now we see more recessionary currents. We see organizations that in some cases are having to shed staff and are facing more challenging economic times. Not everywhere, of course, but certainly there are significant pockets of that occurring. And so what you're then seeing in organizations is a real balancing act. So if I take your hybrid point a year ago, we might have said, Well, we're just going to give people what they want, you know, because the war for talent is so intense, the great resignation is so profound that that's the way we need to operate. Whereas the calculus is evolved and there's now more of a consideration of the right balancing between how employee engagement goes hand in hand with with organizational effectiveness. So I think that's really interesting. And at the same time, it's an exhausting time for leaders in organizations. They are simultaneously thinking about the questions I just raised. How am I going to attract and retain my people? How am I going to develop them? How am I also going to meet our commitments to our community and our environmental and societal targets? How are we going to make sure that customers are happy? How are we going to make sure that we're meeting our ethical obligations? Maybe doing what we need to do in terms of the rules, the rules of the sector that we play in, all of those things. And so it's tiring for leaders and so many of them. No need to be very focused on my people's well-being, but we need to look after my own as well. So I think these sorts of tensions are at play. So if think of people working in the HR function, they are needing to help their leaders strike the right balance between focus on people, focus on the business, focus on other people's well-being, focus on my own well-being. And those are just two examples of the tensions at play. So I think right now is helping leaders who find themselves in a maelstrom, in a vortex and really helping them to to swim successfully rather than drown.
Kylie: And finally, Anthony, do organizations ever reach their full potential or are we now in an era where that definition is continuously updating and changing?
Anthony: I think we have to always be updating what would have seemed like an incredibly impressive organization of a hundred years ago would just seem ludicrous, you know, utterly anachronistic to us today. We would be dismayed at their practices, how unevolved they were and said a century ago. But we might say some similar things about organizations, maybe only ten years ago, things that we would look at and say, Really? That was how you approached well-being. That was how you approached inclusion and belonging. That was how you approached your responsibilities to the environment and community that, you know, there's this ever evolving sophistication and we have to keep pace with it. It will never come, you know, in the same way that we can look back at people of the past and say how could you ever have held such beliefs? So will people look back at us today? Don't know what that future will look like. Kylie I just know that it will be a wiser time than we have now, just as this is a wiser time than what came before. So again, in Delta, we don't know the answers, but we're really passionate about exploring, keeping pace and indeed leading on where things go in terms of what full potential really looks like.
Kylie: Well, congratulations once again, and thank you so much for your time today, Anthony. It was lovely speaking with you.
Anthony: A delight to speak with you as well. Kylie, Thanks. Thanks for those stimulating questions and hope I've given satisfactory answers to them, but really appreciate the questions.
Kylie: And thank you, of course, to our viewers for watching the latest episode of HRDTV. We look forward to seeing you again soon.