Hello, and welcome to the Leadership Done Right Podcast, Episode 26: Learning the Human Side of Organizations with Duke Okes.
Get to Know Duke
Our guest today is a knowledge architect specializing in quality management. He has been in private practice since 1985 working with organizations in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean, Asia and the EU. He was formerly a quality professional in TRW’s automotive sector.
He was elected Fellow of the American Society for Quality and holds degrees in technology, business, and education, and completed doctoral coursework in applied management and decision sciences.
Duke has served as an adjunct university faculty member teaching statistics and management research. He is also a graduate of the international program in the Gestalt approach to organization and system development.
Duke the Author
He is the author of three books and more than 60 articles on quality management topics, and is a frequent speaker for professional and trade audiences.
He conducts seminars for a variety of professional societies, training organizations and universities, and has served as an examiner for the Tennessee Performance Excellence award. He has also worked as a volunteer SCORE counselor to small business.
My Connection To Duke
I had the privilege of attending one of his classes on root cause analysis and it was evident that he is very talented, knowledgeable, and a leader in his field. Our guest today is Duke Okes. Duke, welcome to the show!
Leadership is Influence
Duke’s lifelong desire has always been to find out how things work. He accomplishes that by studying, reading, and learning. “I am always fascinated with learning. Always doing this since I was a kid. I’ve been taking things apart, trying to figure out how things work. Obviously when you get into leadership it’s more complex, because people are not nearly as predictable as the laws of physics.”
Learning the Human Side of Organizations
Duke’s most challenging or difficult leadership experience occurred with his first job as an entrepreneur. His expertise was in technical and system analysis and had a contract for quality management work in a foreign country.
Because of his background, he thought he knew what he needed to know. As a result of that project, he learned of the whole other side… the people side of organizations. When you get into organizational dynamics, it’s a whole other story.
Even though the client was satisfied with the result of the work, Duke was very unsettled with the experience. When he got back to the U.S. he spent the next five years studying fields the people side. He studied organizational psychology, organizational development, and any other topic related to the human side of organizations. That experience had a dramatic impact on how he works with organizations now.
He read Social Learning Theory by Albert Bandura that explains how we learn from each others through social learning. He learned that other people were learning from his actions, but wasn’t sure they were learning the right things. It was a turning point for him in his leadership.
Other Great Topics
In addition to the topics above, Duke and I discussed overcoming public speaking fears, the breakdown in ethics, etc.
Overcoming Public Speaking Fears
As a new entrepreneur, Duke had to speak in front of people on a regular basis. Duke explained techniques and strategies he followed to become a better public speaker.
Breakdown in Ethics
By working in a training environment, Duke gets a broad and open perspective on many organizations. More recently, he has learned that the many of the failures seen in organizations is not due to competency. Instead, it is due to a breakdown in ethics. The ethical failures are due to a breakdown in values among many individuals.
It goes deeper than people just making mistakes on ethical decisions. Rather, people are knowingly doing things that are unethical. That leads to extensive and very deep problems.
The only solution is to teach more values and take steps to encourage positive behaviors. Unfortunately, although it sounds simple and easy on paper, this is a complex challenge. Duke referenced the book called, The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It… Every Time by Maria Konnikova.
We are really gaining a lot of knowledge on how the brain works. Through the study of neuroscience, we are able to help people with disabilities, or other learning challenges. This expands to far more relating to how we learn, teach in organizations, manage in organizations, lead, etc. Referenced book: How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
The Speed Round
- Who is the one leader you look up to most and why? Elon Musk because he has fantastic ideas and pushes to make them a reality.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? Continual learning and persistence because they are essential to get where you are going.
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? Discourses of Epictetus because his field of philosophy explains that “things in life are going to go wrong, but get over it.” It explains that worrying solves nothing. The book explains steps you can take to deal with the real world.
- On a light-hearted note, what is your favorite hobby? Taking time to sit and do nothing. This gives a chance to disconnect from our devices and be at peace.
Connect With Duke
What’s the best way to connect with Duke?
- Website: Aplomet.com
- Duke’s phone number is on the website and it allows you to submit questions.
One Final Question
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice when you first started your leadership journey, what would it be and why? “Start it sooner. So much of learning and study was on the technical side. Nothing really exposed me to the human side. When thinking about organizations, they consist of two majors parts: the technical system and the social system. Learning and understanding that earlier on would have been very beneficial.
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