Conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1992.
Hosted by Will Bachman.

Episode: 36

Ben Dattner, Executive Coach and Organizational Psychologist

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Show notes

Ben received a BA in Psychology from Harvard College, and his MA and Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from New York University, where he was a MacCracken Fellow. His doctoral dissertation analyzed the relationship between narcissism and fairness in the workplace, and his masters thesis examined the impact of trust on negotiation. Currently, Ben is an executive coach, an organizational psychologist, and the Founding Principal of Dattner Consulting, LLC. You can reach out to Ben on Linkedin.


Key points include:

  • 02:22: The social psychology of organizations
  • 15:44: Valuable psychometric tests
  • 32:11: Favorite team building exercise

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92-36. Ben Dattner


Ben Dattner, Will Bachman


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to the 92 report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman and I’m here today with my friend Ben Dattner. Ben, welcome to the show. Good to be here. Thanks


Ben Dattner  00:16

for having me,


Will Bachman  00:17

Ben. So tell me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.


Ben Dattner  00:22

My journey since Harvard actually started at Harvard. In this our fall semester of junior year, in 1990, I had the great fortune to take Richard Hackman course, the social psychology of organizations, which by design met at 830 in the morning, because he wanted to ensure that anybody who actually rolled out of bed and showed up was legit interested in the subject as I was. And I took the course. And it really fascinated me sort of the intersection between psychology and business, individual motivations and organizational life. And it was really my calling. And so 32 years ago, at 830. In the morning, as we met, I really had a sense that this was the field for me. And I know there were several other members of our class who were also in that course, some of whom have gone on to do many other different things. But as far as I know, I was the only attendee and participant in that course who actually turned it into a career. So after graduation in 1992, I worked at a bank for three years Republic National Bank of New York, which is now part of HSBC. I was in a management training program, and I was the CEOs personal assistant. Then I went to NYU, got my PhD in organizational psychology, my master’s thesis was about trust and negotiation. My doctoral dissertation was about narcissism in leaders. I then worked at an internet startup with Ross Garin, who’s from class of 1993, which was an early kind of social media company, which unfortunately, succumbed during Bust. In the early two.


Will Bachman  02:06

is a great term for


Ben Dattner  02:11

dot bomb, and then hung out my shingle in 2000 as an independent coach and consultant, and I’ve been doing it ever since then, and I love what I do.


Will Bachman  02:22

Okay, so a lot, a lot to explore. There are a lot of angles. So first, let’s go back to that course. Tell us what is it about the social psychology of organizations unpack that term for me a little bit? What? What’s that even mean?


Ben Dattner  02:40

Right. So how, how social dynamics, dynamics between people, whether within groups or between groups or in departments or in larger organizations, the sort of cultural and social forces that impact impact how people feel, what they believe in what they do, how they react. In organizational life and in the workplace. Hackman had done a lot of work about sort of intrinsic motivators, the job characteristics model, which talked about what motivates people to be successful in their careers or to be motivated in their careers, and things like forming, storming, norming and performing, Hackman had done some groundbreaking work about group habits, about organizational mindlessness, and the kinds of pitfalls that organizations can have if they succumb to groupthink, or things like that. So it was just very, very interesting. My father is an architect. And my mother is a clinical psychologist. And somehow, social psychology of organizations really sort of melded two different kinds of disciplines and worldviews that I had grown up with.


Will Bachman  03:51

So then, tell me a bit about you went into the bank, right? What was it like being personal assistant to CEO?


Ben Dattner  04:02

It was a great bird’s eye view of the organization. It was, you know, there were 5000 people in the bank. And even though I wasn’t at the sort of highest hierarchical level, I was definitely sort of an insider at 450 2/5 Avenue where the republics offices where there was a private elevator, which I had the privilege of being able to ride in because I was working on the executive floor. And it was really a bird’s eye view. And interestingly, several years after I was the CEOs, personal assistant, I met at a party, the guy who had been my successor was done and it was a very fascinating experience. He and I came from very different places. I grew up in New York City, he grew up in the Philippines. We had very different families and very different experiences and very different education and things like that. And yet, as we said at this party several years after I wrapped up, my so During the Republican National Bank, it was very interesting to see how even though he and I were very different, we had very similar perspectives about our boss, about the people and about the dynamics in the organization. So it was a real eye opener to what it means to sit in a seat versus to, you know, be ourselves, we often think how we see things is so much a function of just who we are. But this experience of being in that job, and then meeting my successor in that job and seeing how similar, we viewed things really made me think that, you know, our social roles determines so much more of how we think and feel and react and perceive things than we usually aware of.


Will Bachman  05:42

Let’s talk a bit about your work that you’ve been doing for 20 years running your own consulting practice as an organizational psychologist. What types of projects to work on? And what are the types of questions that you think about and ask as you work with organizations? I’m curious how it might be different what you do, versus a typical organization consultant, right, with with your particular training? Or how is it different from a psychologist who would work with an individual? Right?


Ben Dattner  06:19

Well, 99% of what I do is sponsored by the organization. So I’m sort of engaged by the system by the ecosystem, in order to help an individual team department, or the entire organization itself, there are basically four pillars of what I do. And sort of two by two, I would say, one is assessment. And the other is development. And in terms of assessment, what I often do is clients engage me to assess candidates for roles. So for example, a private equity firm would say, we have a portfolio company, help us determine which of these three CEO candidates we should hire, which of these three CFO candidates, we should hire, that kind of thing. And so in that case, I would give them psychometric assessments, do behavioral interviews, compare them to other candidates, and help the owner or the company make a decision, a database to decision about who’s most likely to be successful in the role. So that’s the sort of assessment piece. The second piece at the individual level of analysis that I do using my training is profiling. So CEO profiling board member profiling or things like that, where, for example, a financial services firm might come to me and say, we’re trying to understand the motivations of the CEO. What motivates him or her? Do they believe that their company can turn around? How would they react if an activist investor came along? How should we engage them? If we want them to do a deal with us? Can we trust them? Are they motivated by money? Are they motivated by ego? How are they likely to react to different market conditions? Or yeah, and this and the kind of profiling work that I often do is totally from a distance where you never interact with the person or anybody that the person knows. This is very much kind of behind the scenes, there was recently an article in The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow, wrote this article about how expert networks try to glean information, for example, about the Twitter whistleblower. And in that situation, that article sort of details how people tried to get in touch with people who knew the Twitter whistleblower in order to ascertain how truthful he was, and, and that kind of thing. So what I do when I do profiling on behalf of clients, it’s totally from a distance. It’s only through publicly available sources. But it’s sort of amazing how much you can learn through deep dives on the internet and through other sources, about for example, will somebody be open to selling a company? Will they be open to spinning off their aerospace division? How can you get them to come work for you? So a private equity firm came to me recently, and said, Here’s this superstar CEO. How do we motivate her to leave her current job where she’s very successful, and to come work for us? And so to do that, you sort of read interviews with this target CEO, figure out what she talks about what seems to motivate her and sort of tailor the pitch accordingly, in order to make to raise the likelihood that she would be willing to contemplate leaving her current role in order to switch jobs.


Will Bachman  09:40

Wow, that is very interesting. I have certainly heard of folks that get hired to assess candidates. That that’s a kind of a common offering. You’ll have firms like GH smart. I get think to do that and other other I haven’t heard of this idea of profiling from a distance to figure out okay, how do we will the CEO sell their company year what would motivate them to do a deal with us? That’s fascinating. And so what are you looking at? Are you looking at transcripts of speeches? Are you looking at,


Ben Dattner  10:08

you’re looking at earning, you’re looking at earnings calls, you’re looking at videos, you’re looking at YouTube, you’re looking at Panels they’ve been on, you’re looking at the annual report, and basically trying to glean what are their values? What are their real values? What are their stated values? How motivated are they by material things? How motivated are they by reputation? Who do they view to be their key constituencies? You know, are they optimizing for ESG? Are they optimizing for shareholders? Do they want to run for office someday? How close are they to retirement? And that kind of thing? Would they take a deal? Are they more interested in their salary? Or their stock upside? That kind of thing? How do they need to be viewed? How are they? How is he or she hero or heroine in their own sort of narrative? And what is their sort of career Mo? And what motivates them in terms of their professional identity? What do they want to be seen as? And then how can you understand that in order to either engage with them constructively, or realize that, you know, they’re unlikely to want to change to sell the company, that kind of thing. So and it’s amazing how much you can glean just, for example, in the body language of somebody, a CEO, I looked at recently, where he was talking about all the consolidation in his industry. This is a publicly traded company, he was talking about the can the consolidated consolidation in his industry, and how many firms had been bought out by private equity, and how many had gone private. And it was pretty apparent just by looking at some of the nonverbals that he wasn’t optimistic about the company’s future, as a publicly traded company, and my clients were interested to know if he would be open to selling, I told them, I thought would be open to selling and actually, several weeks later, he actually put the company up for sale. So that’s an occasion where that kind of hypothesis or prediction was validated. But sometimes it’s a bit more subtle than that. And it’s harder to sort of validate one’s predictions, because there are many complicated variables involved. I actually recently made a list of all the things that I look at when profiling an executive from afar, and it’s it’s probably 150 different things.


Will Bachman  12:27

With the I’m sure you’re more familiar with the work than I am the work that Tetlock does on forecasters and super forecasters and expert expertise and so forth. How do you think about kind of judging the accuracy of your predictions and recommendations? It’s always so hard to know what the counterfactual is, right? You could say, yes, the CEO is willing to sell her company, and your client approaches them. And then she says, No, you’re like, Well, okay, maybe you didn’t offer her enough, right? It’s hard to say, you know, someone else could be flipping a coin and saying, yeah, she’s willing. No, she’s not. How do you know, if you’re better than a coin flip? How do you know, you’re better than you know, than just sort of an educated person’s guess?


Ben Dattner  13:15

Right? Well, there was a great article in the Times or somewhere a couple of years ago, about experts in the 40% trap. That, you know, experts basically say when asked, What do you think the probability of that thing happening is? They say, 40%, which is sort of like credible enough? If it does happen. But then if it doesn’t happen, you know, it was like you were airing somewhere below 50%? You know, I think there are different ways to look at it. Part of it is like, do things even kind of logically make sense? Are you telling a coherent story about this person? And is the way the predictions you’re making about them? And or the way you’re endeavoring to approach them consistent with that? So it’s sort of a face validity kind of logic? And is there an internal consistency and reliability in all the different pieces that you’re trying to predict? Or put together? But it is very hard to know, for example, you know, an activist investor might ask something like, should you be public? Or should you be private? Should you be friendly? Should you be unfriendly? Should you approach them directly? Or should you approach them through trusted intermediaries or things like that? To your question, you know, I might look at it and say, this is somebody who very much values, his or her circle of experts and, you know, respected colleagues or seniors or mentors or things like that. And you might say, I think the best way to do it is to go through intermediaries, because that’s, you know, won’t feel as confrontational or as direct and that kind of thing. But to your point, it is very hard to know the counterfactual. What if you had taken out an ad in the Wall Street Journal and said you need to spin off your aerospace division? You don’t know You know, so so it is kind of hard to


Will Bachman  15:02

validate. Tell me about some of the psychometrics. Particularly, I’m curious, because at least one of the ones that is commonly used when I was at McKinsey, every person had to go and get a Myers Briggs test and you would do team learning and you’d say I’m an ISTJ, and, or whatever you were, and at least my understanding is that now a lot of professionals would see that as kind of just bunk, right? We’re just basically kind of make believe, and you will Bachman can make up the will Bachman test just randomly, at least the Myers Briggs I took it basically asks you Are you an introvert? Are you an extrovert or an introvert or an expert? And like you say, Yes, I’m an introvert. And then it comes back since Guess what? You’re an introvert. You know? So what, tell me about some of the psychometric tests that you favor that you think are valuable and predictive and useful? And, you know, and trash the ones that you think are crumb?


Ben Dattner  15:57

Sure, well, one of the one of my proud accomplishments since we graduated, as I’ve written about 25 articles for Harvard Business Review, and included in those is how to use psychometric testing and hiring at my website, which is dat and There’s a link to that article and others, as well as some resources about psychometrics some sample tests, some sample questions, some critiques of those articles. But to your point, yeah, the Myers Briggs was not intended for personnel selection, and is not, you know, not intended to be used for that purpose. Companies often use it. And the analogy I’ve made in some of my writings on this topic is off label use, like, you know, a test drug hasn’t been validated by the FDA or hasn’t been approved by the FDA for a particular purpose, but the doctor prescribes it anyway. So I think there’s a lot of off label use of these things. But what I would say and so yeah, the Myers Briggs has very low reliability, even test retest reliability people, 50% of people get a different type six months after they take it for the first time, and so the psychometrics really aren’t defensible. But that said, I think if you use things as a point of departure, rather than a point of arrival, it’s more about the system within which those predictions are validated than about the predictions themselves, right. So one of the articles I wrote in Harvard Business Review was the bias undermining your people analytics. And even when you look at something like hard data, so for example, a law firm hired me to do a huge analytics program, where we looked at hundreds of associates and we looked at their undergrad grades and the prestige of their institutions and whether they were on Law Review and whether they clerked for a judge, and how long they took in between college and law school, and all of that, and we had all of these predictor variables, but then when you engage the firm in a question about in a dialogue about what constitutes success, who are your superstar associates? And who are your average ones? Law firms, in particular often have a very hard time answering that question. So back to the Myers Briggs, if we’re we want to say okay, well, the Myers Briggs doesn’t really predict anything. It’s if it’s an independent variable, you know, there isn’t validation of that against dependent variables, but very often organizations are even missing dependent variables with which to correlate anything, the Myers Briggs, or anything else, if that makes sense.


Will Bachman  18:38

That’s surprising. I mean, at least the McKinsey, I thought the evaluation system was first class. I mean, it was really good. Were because it was very objective criteria. It was not just oh, how good is the person on a scale of one to five? It was, you know, relationship building, you know, excellent. Would be clients personally love this person and request this person specifically to be the Engagement Manager on their project. I mean, it was very specific things. You couldn’t just say, oh, yeah, they’re good. It was, you know, they do it or they don’t, right,


Ben Dattner  19:12

right. Well, but you would expect a place like McKinsey would have a good game in that area. And a lot of organizations really don’t.


Will Bachman  19:18

Okay, so this law firm didn’t even have that to fit. They weren’t really confident of their performance management scoring. So they didn’t know who was good and who is not.


Ben Dattner  19:28

But you see that all the time. I mean, many organizations really haven’t defined performance. So other other than subjectively, so for example, at this law firm, the genesis of this whole thing was that some of the attorneys said I’d rather have the person who graduated last in her class at Harvard Law School than the person who graduated first in her class at Suffolk law school and using Suffolk law school by the way, I mean, no disrespect. No disrespect to my father in law went there and is have an extremely smart and successful attorney. It’s just less selective, right? So if you think of it as selective, and so they said, Well, who’s right? Who should we have? And that was the genesis of this giant analytics project, which couldn’t really answer the question, because of the lack of dependent variables.


Will Bachman  20:19

That’s interesting, you would have thought that it could at least look at who eventually ended up becoming a partner and say, Well,


Ben Dattner  20:25

you know, let’s say, but you know, very few people make partner. And then, you know, we looked at let’s look at Billings, well, that varies by office or varies by tenure, or it varies by function, or it varies by economic cycle, right? Or, you know, pro bono work, or how many, you know, that kind of thing. It’s very squishy when you start probing. All right.


Will Bachman  20:47

So you mentioned that there was four services, we’ve only talked about two. So let’s talk about the other two.


Ben Dattner  20:53

Right. So the other two are executive coaching, sort of assessing individuals and their strengths areas for development as they navigate transitions into more leadership, more responsibility, more visibility. So in that case, you do 360 degree feedback, and help them define goals and engage with the organization about what success looks like, help them come up with a development plan. Usually, I work with people for about six months. And so in a way, it’s using the candidate assessment stuff and the profiling stuff. I mean, first of all, my coaching clients are often very interested to say, to see Ben, what do you think of my external visibility? What impression Am I giving off? Is it congruent with the impression that I want to give off so I was working with a very successful vice president at a large technology company, i There were videos of her on panels and things like that. And the feedback that I gave her was, she seemed to almost be apologetic, for her level and for her authority, and like, it’s almost like she was working hard to see not to be high level or not to be successful or not to be dominant in some ways. You know, it almost seemed like she could have been somebody at a much more junior stage of her career. And she agreed that she agreed that she had come across that way. And by the way, I didn’t tell her you need to come across differently. It’s more that she had said she wanted to come across as more senior to be viewed as a potential CEO for her next job and that kind of thing. And so in a friendly, supportive way, sometimes an executive coach can give, give feedback about that kind of thing, how somebody’s actually coming across. And sometimes it’s also profiling when I’m coaching somebody helping him them get inside the head of their boss, or their stakeholders, or their critics, or their shareholders or their constituencies, or other individuals or groups or organizations to see, you know, what, what’s really motivating them in how they’re looking at you or the criticisms or the feedback? Or the positive regard? How can you sort of, you know, how can everybody hack others without being hacked himself?


Will Bachman  23:04

Right? And then what’s your fourth category?


Ben Dattner  23:07

The fourth category is team building. Right? And that’s very much based on hack humans work about defining team team objectives, thinking about what constitutes doing our jobs, what constitutes doing them well, what are our individual accountabilities? What are our collective accountabilities? What’s our individual authority? And what’s our collective authority? And you know, even just asking those four very simple questions and a team building context, you know, what, what are individuals responsible for? And what our groups responsible for can lead to some very interesting questions. Just today, actually, I was working with a financial services firm, where people said our team meetings really aren’t team meetings, it’s hub and spoke, were all presenting and reporting out to the leader. But we really don’t have what they didn’t use these terms. But what Hackman would refer to as a true team, where there’s interdependence of effort, shared feedback, shared accountability.


Will Bachman  24:06

I can imagine, I’m not about what a psychologist looks at when they study or interview or work with an individual. I just have some intuition into that, but no expertise, of course. But I’d like to hear more about what an organizational psychologist does when you look at an organization in terms of, can you tell us a bit more about what are some of the questions that you ask what are the kinds of pathologies that exist? Or are there different types of successful organizations in terms of how they can be or are there and I know for individuals, there’s these five big personality, very variables. Is there something similar for organizations tell us a little bit about the basics of just what organizational psycho ologists now.


Ben Dattner  25:01

Yeah, so organizational psychologists sort of look holistically at people processes, culture incentives, and that kind of thing, in order to try to determine what’s going on, and what are the challenges, what’s preventing this organization from adapting, and evolving. So recently, I was working with a financial services organization, the CEO brought me in, and he said, We need to be more flexible and more innovative and less kind of rigid and how we do things. So in observing his team meetings with his management team, they sat at a round table, and they would go around the table in order of seniority. And each person would present until the most junior person if there was any time left in the meeting, would present what they had to present. And so my friendly feedback to the CEO who would engage me for this purpose was to say, what if the most senior person doesn’t have an important topic? And what if the most junior person does, right? So so in that case, I wasn’t kind of imposing any sort of idea of how an organization should run, I was just saying, if you want to embody more innovation, or flexibility and less rigidity, even in this meeting itself, it’s kind of the play within the play, or like a work of literature, where the parts sort of reinforced the whole, you know, if you want to convey that we’re going to be more responsive and adaptive and flexible and fast moving, maybe a way to do it is to not have it be a hierarchical report out, but a sort of issue based thing where truth can speak to power and truth, you know, the end juniors can get the limelight


Will Bachman  26:45

for so like for individuals know that there’s this classification scheme, right? I forget all of them. But there’s an openness to new experience versus not there’s neuroticism there’s the three of the ones that I forget. Is there a similar kind of mnemonic,


Ben Dattner  27:01

a good mnemonic for that is canoe or ocean, which is conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience and extraversion.


Will Bachman  27:09

Okay, perfect. So thank you. Thank you. It’s an anagram of ocean canoe or ocean canoe or ocean. Alright. So what’s is there an analogy for organizations where people have sort of classified the personality style of an organization is that a thing?


Ben Dattner  27:27

It may be a thing, but it’s not a thing that I sort of work on or subscribe to. I think each organization has its own unique challenges and opportunities. And I generally try to avoid typologies. One other thing I should mention is I wrote a book which was published 12 years ago called credit and blame at work, where I talked about sort of organizational psychology writ large and writ small, and how the dynamics of credit and blame are a very important part of individual group and organizational success. And that organizations that have cultures of blame, really underperform over the longer term.


Will Bachman  28:04

Talk to me about status. I’m currently reading this book on on my Kindle, that’s really good status and culture by W. David Marks and


Ben Dattner  28:15

well, cast by Isabel Wilkerson is also an amazing book, which I highly recommend. But yeah, I mean, humans are wired we are hierarchical primates, and attempts to deny that usually backfire. So the question is, there’s going to be status, and there’s going to be rank. And everybody in our class, who had the good fortune of attending Harvard, who’s listening to this podcast, you know, is is high status.


Will Bachman  28:44

Tell me a bit about your work of publishing in Harvard Business Review, is obviously super prestigious. What’s it been like to, you know, get your first piece they’re about to have an ongoing publishing relationship with them. And, you know, how do you come up with new ideas and pitch it to them? Or do they reach out to you and say, Ben, we?


Ben Dattner  29:06

I pitch them ideas. So for example, how to do a team building retreat, how to use structured debate to avoid groupthink, how to think about people analytics, how to have interviews, scorecards, and that kind of thing. And so I’d say they’ve accepted maybe one and three, one and four of the ideas that I’ve pitched to them over the years. Sadly, my most favorite editor Sarah Green, Carmichael, who was really amazing. Left and is now at Bloomberg. But there are other great editors there as well.


Will Bachman  29:35

And then you have also written that one book you mentioned, but what’s what’s going to your writing process? I know some people make a point of writing every day no matter what are you always kind of doing some writing every day to push some idea forward or


Ben Dattner  29:52

no, it’s what I find is, you know, there are two kinds of college quad, right? There’s the kind where there’s the grass and then they make Extra pavement and you will walk through on the paved road. And then there’s the other where we just have the grass, see where people walk, and then we pave it so much more of the ladder. I find after I’ve done some things several times, or explained things several times, or had to sort of synopsize and share things a certain number of times that I just write them up, and then use that. So for example, one of my Harvard Business Review articles is how to participate in your employees coaching, which is thinking about executive coaching from the managers perspective, right? How does he or she support the individual who is being coached? And the reason that I wrote this article is because many times when I was engaged by HR, or by an individual or by his or her manager, it’s like, what are the different roles, responsibilities and boundaries of each of the people in this relationship? So there’s the coach, there’s the boss, sometimes there’s the boss’s boss, sometimes there’s HR, and that kind of thing. So having to explain parameters of confidentiality, and what it means to sponsor and support the coaching of somebody who reports to you a direct report, I had to explain that so many times that I thought, why don’t I just write it up? And then it’s an article that I can share, or team building, right. So I did an NPR series several years ago called workplace woes on Morning Edition. And the first segment that we did was about team building retreats, and how team building can sometimes undermine the purpose or the goal of the team building. So for example, if we’re doing paintball or go karting, we say what we want to do here is bring everybody together. But instead, what we’re going to do is put on military garb and hunt each other down in the forest, that might not necessarily create a sense of, of team building. Or we’re in go karting, and I’m trying to run you off the road, in the go karting. Right, so that was an article about that subsequently became a Harvard Business Review article about how to do team building. And to think about doing team building that’s congruent with the goals that are stated, rather than undermining a sense of team.


Will Bachman  32:11

What is your favorite team building exercise?


Ben Dattner  32:14

You know, there’s a very clear answer to that, which is cooking,


Will Bachman  32:18

I was gonna say that that was my answer, cooking


Ben Dattner  32:21

meal, cooking a meal together, and then eating it together at some primordial level. You know, if we’re eating together, we’re not killing each other. You may not believe me, unless either of us is going to be the meal. We’re probably at peace with each other.


Will Bachman  32:35

Yeah, cooking classes, cook, doing a cooking class together is a great fun activity. Although it’s like you can maybe bond with the one other person that you’re cooking with. It’s it’s fun, though, because you cooked it together. And you’re like,


Ben Dattner  32:46

well, but you rotate first you chop the onions, and then you raise the beef or whatever. And you know, you can talk to different people at different stages of the cooking.


Will Bachman  32:56

Yes, I think cooking class is great. balloon ride might be fun, too. So you, so that’s interesting. So these aren’t so much just like purely academic ideas, but it’s more, you’ve done them a few times, you’re kind of saying okay, well, I ought to write this up, just not even to publish it. But I want to build the next client I have, I want to be able to send them my thoughts on how to make this work with the manager involvement. And then you’re saying, Well, we’re gonna write it up for that. I might as well see if I can get it published. Right, exactly.


Ben Dattner  33:29

And then people who I don’t even know read it, I recently got called by a dental practice that had read one of my Harvard Business Review articles and said, You got to come to Team building for the dentists.


Will Bachman  33:42

What? Tell me, you know, just running your own practice. That’s a world that I’m very interested in with Umbrex? And what tell me about just how you’ve done business development and client development over the years, has it been mostly like that inbound from your published writings and from being known out in the space and from being in PR and so forth? Or?


Ben Dattner  34:06

Yeah, I mean, some of it comes from that a lot of it comes from networking, a lot of it is referrals. So people who I’ve worked with over the past 22 years who know me, and trust me and recommend me to work with others. And I host events, I’ll do a lunch at the Harvard Club for HR and leadership development executives from financial services firms. I try to help colleagues and friends find jobs, whether they’re hiring other people, were looking for their next gig themselves. I try to be a connector and try to add value in the network of people I work with and respect


Will Bachman  34:44

that a little bit about hosting events over the years. What what sort of events do you do? Is it sort of like a small group for people at breakfast or larger events at the Harvard Club or with 2030 people or something? Tell us about that.


Ben Dattner  34:57

Yeah, so like, for example, I host an annual Will financial services HR organizational development and leadership development launch, where I’ll just invite like 20 to 25 HR leaders from financial services firms, biggest New York, private equity firms, hedge funds, commercial banks, insurance companies, FinTech, that kind of thing. And there’s no agenda. Everybody just comes, there’s no panel, there’s no PowerPoint, there’s no nothing. Everybody just comes usually to the mahogany room on the third floor, and just chats. Many of these people know each other. And there’s always the explicit statement and commitment that everything’s off the record. And people can share best practices, things about return to the office policies, recruitment, vendors, shared concerns and things like that. And they find it very, very helpful. When I first did this, you know, I was a little nervous, there’s no PowerPoint, there’s no panel, there’s no expertise, there’s no nothing. Are there is there going to be enough for people to talk about, but I was amazed, within a few minutes, as soon as the first three or four people showed up, how much they had to talk about with each other, and how much they appreciated not to have to sit through some boring presentation before they could network with each other.


Will Bachman  36:12

That’s why people come to these, right, they don’t really want the lecture, they want the


Ben Dattner  36:16

Exactly. So why give them what they don’t want.


Will Bachman  36:19

You’re just dialing down to zero the parts that people want to skip. And that is awesome. It’s you know, there’s so much opportunity in the world to create value by by being a connector and being that person who makes people helps people come together, right, who want to be connected, do you is that is like a stand up walk around kind of breakfast thing? Or? I’m curious about the physical actual environment?


Ben Dattner  36:46

It’s a buffet, you know, there’s sort of a, you know, drinks for the first half hour and a buffet and then drinks afterwards.


Will Bachman  36:55

Yeah, so the, you don’t want people sitting down, you want people to be able to mingle and and move around. Right? Yes.


Ben Dattner  37:02

And people do.


Will Bachman  37:05

We talked to you hit on this a bit at the beginning. One question I always ask guess is, you know, what courses are professors that at Harvard still resonate. And you mentioned, obviously, Richard Hackman, any other courses or professors that you had at Harvard, you know, continue to resonate with you.


Ben Dattner  37:23

Um, I’m trying to think who else was great. You know, Donald fangers, Russian literature course was great. And, you know, reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and stuff like that. I think having a background in literature is actually an a grounding in literature is actually quite helpful for the work that I do and trying to understand characters and their motivations. So that was definitely a great class, Irvin divorce, human behavioral biology known by another name, as you know, was also a great course speaking of status and hierarchy and that kind of thing. You know, I know some of those hypotheses or things that were talked about or are talked about are, are controversial and that kind of thing, but it’s just an interesting way to look at the world and to think holistically about what motivates people.


Will Bachman  38:19

Then you mentioned it once before, but I want to make sure we highlight it here at the end. For folks that wanted to find out what you’re doing, you know, get an easy links to all of your writings, where would you point them online? That inner Fantastic. We will include that link in the show notes. listeners. If you are so inclined to give this show a five star review on iTunes. It does help others discover the show. And if you want to get a weekly email notification of the latest episode, go to 92 and sign up for the newsletter. Ben, this was fantastic. Thank you so much for joining today. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.