Looking to the Stars to Find Common Ground
Amanda Fennell: Welcome to Security Sandbox! I'm Amanda Fennell, chief security officer at Relativity, where we help the legal and compliance world solve complex data problems securely—and that takes a lot of creativity! One of the best things about a sandbox is that you can try anything. This season, let's explore how curiosity and personal passions inspire stronger security. Grab your shovel and let's dig in.
In today's episode, our sandbox heads to the stars for a revealing discussion on how self-introspection and awareness can lead to better high-functioning teams in the workplace. Joining me for today's discussion are Beth Clutterbuck, chief human resources officer at Relativity, and Emily Parker, an American astrologer who's been practicing and teaching astrology for over two decades. So here's your sign to turn up the headphones and settle in.
Self-introspection ... You have to know yourself before you can truly work well with a team, with a partner, in any dynamic. Right? So I'm going to say, when you're trying to find out about yourself, if somebody were to look for the stars—I'll start with you, Emily. What do you think a layperson should know about astrology if they've just never encountered it? Or even worse, if they're like, "Oh, my God, no. Astrology is horrible." What's some of the things you think you would tell somebody if you're at a party and they ask you about it?
Emily Parker: Astrology does give a lot of insights into all areas of life, but it really does help us to work to reflect on ourselves and who we are—and also who other people are and how they work in our lives. What's the dynamic? What can we do with them? How creative can we be? What successes can we have and how do we pursue that?
AF: So this is supposed to be a tool, really, for trying to figure this out.
AF: Beth, I feel like after working with you now for a while, we use a lot of tools here in HR for this fostering of self-introspection. Do you see some tools that are similar that you're using with HR? Any techniques?
Beth Clutterbuck: Oh, absolutely. And there's so many out there and almost all of the techniques and tools involve collecting feedback—either asking those around you to provide input or asking tough questions of yourself. And typically, the first one, we collected via 360 reviews, focus groups, interviews, and the second is via diagnostics, of which there are so many flavors. DiSC, MBTI, Strengths Finder, Hogan, Herman Whole Brain ... I could go on and on. So I'm really excited about astrology! [Laughs]
AF: Did you do your strength finder? You've done yours before?
BC: I have, but I haven't looked at it in a long, long time. The last one that I did was Hogan. And Herman Whole Brain, I did that for a very long time, and I used to be certified at MBTI. But there's just so many out there.
AF: What is MBTI, for anyone who doesn't know?
BC: It's Myers-Briggs, and it's actually quite a robust methodology to really kind of look at different components. I am an ENTJ for those that are in the know.
AF: I didn't know ... I'm an INTJ.
EP: I'm also an INTJ.
AF: I feel like you could have guessed that though.
BC: The I and the J, yes, absolutely.
AF: Didn't think the T?
BC: Didn't think the T. I'm actually a huge J, lower on the E. I'm actually borderline EI. When I get more energy I actually have to have alone time, which is interesting, but I can play the extrovert really well.
AF: That's legitimately how I am. I have to play the extrovert. I'm like 90 percent at this point. Every time I take it, it gets worse. It's like I'm infected or something with introversion. But you know, it's one of those things that, it's just—we lose our energy over time when we're happy to be around a lot of people. It's just that the recharge is very much the home alone. Reading a book with a glass of wine. That's my recharge.
BC: Yes, yes. And introspection and being introverted is actually a huge strength, just as all differences are.
AF: For you, Beth, what does inclusion look like today when you think of this? Because it used to be simple. It was like, "Oh, it's race, it's gender," and so on. Is inclusion different now?
BC: I'm going to go kind of off on a tangent here, and I hope that you've seen the movie Shrek.
EP: Who hasn't?
BC: Right? Because Shrek is like—I have three kids. I watch Shrek and all of the Shreks like gazillions of times. One of my favorite parts in Shrek, the first one, is when Donkey is talking to the ogre, and he's trying to say that an ogre is like a parfait made of layers.
AF: It's an onion! [Laughs]
BC: And the ogres goes, "Oh, no, an ogre is not a parfait. It's an onion." Well, the whole point is that either a parfait or an onion, it's layers, right? And every human is made of multiple layers based upon all sorts of different aspects that make us uniquely who we are. And I think when I think of inclusion, I think it's first embracing that concept and then understanding how your layers might be complementary, might be different, and then really being okay with, actually, difference is wonderful. And let me explore that. Let me find both the commonalities and the different areas, and then really use all that great intel to find an authentic common ground, to have a conversation, to build trust, to deepen the relationship. So that's kind of what I think about. I sometimes smile because I'm like, it's parfait! It is! We're all made of layers.
AF: Beth, this is great.
EP: I have never used the parfait. I've never used that. I just wanted to say, Beth, you sound like an astrologer. Everything you just said—
AF: I was going to ask you, this sounds like astrology! So tell us how it's the same.
EP: The most specific thing that she said is the diversity within someone, I believe is how you were putting it, Beth? People are extremely complex, and there is the ability to look at a chart and see certain inclinations that a personality may develop in someone, you know; how they develop their personality, I mean. Then when you talk with them, and you learn about their life experience and how they've applied different strengths, how they've dealt with different weaknesses that they may have that they've then found ways to work through meeting challenges ... you do that with a with a lot of different tools. Astrology is just one of them. And being able to really be open to who that person is and listen to them is a really key thing.
AF: I think that must be where the inclusion part always seems to come in and is the most important. You can acknowledge that people have different perspectives, but do you genuinely listen to them? Are you listening and hearing them? There's a line from another movie that's like, "Can you hear it or are you listening?" It's two different things. And so it's something that you have to keep in mind—that those different perspectives, when they come up, you should embrace them and listen to them and allow some space that they may be right. I've often seen that come up with a lot of things in security. Someone from the team will want to do something that I absolutely just don't agree with, based on my experience or et cetera or my risk appetite, and at the end we end up doing it, but I always caveat it to say, "Just so you know, I don't agree with this, but I'd like to give space for the fact that I could be wrong. So let's go for it." And sometimes it works and it is what it is.
EP: And you can be pleasantly surprised with some of the results, which is wonderful.
AF: If I always thought I was right about everything, how boring would that be if I never gave space to anything? I'd never see anything new. I would never embrace anything new and exciting. And as the panelist here today who's an Aries, new and exciting is my forte, so that is what I like to look for.
BC: Fantastic. And I would just double-down on the fact that the reason why there are so many tools and diagnostics out there is really so that people have all sorts of different methodologies to find more about themselves, to really be able to look at it from different angles. And then once you get well-equipped at looking at yourself, you can then apply that to others around you, and you can find the nuance and you can say, "Okay, well, this is how I can adapt my style." This is how I can adapt my approach so that I can actually have a better and more fruitful interaction." And it could be all sorts of things. And I love the fact that we're talking about astrology, because over my career, I've done so many different tools and diagnostics, but I've never really thought about actually looking at astrology.
AF: We're going to have Beth be our resident astrologer.
EP: Beth, you really do. You just sound like an astrologer, like the way you think, which I think is really great. Astrology is so much about people, and you know people so well because of what you do, and you have such high interaction with them. And I don't know, I just love your point of view and where you're coming with things. It's great.
BC: Oh, thank you.
AF: Actually, I even thought about that when I was thinking about the preparation for today. And stuff like this is so awesome because this is about people getting to know themselves. And Beth loves people. This is the thing she does. She tries to figure people out, right? It's very good.
This is one of the things that I was wondering about ... I think people hear about astrology. They hear that it's, you know, you're trying to be introspective, learn more about yourself. What can or can it not predict or forecast? We do a lot of forecasting and predictions in security and especially at a tech company. This is what we do. A ton of our strategy is about predictions, forecasts, and so on. What are the limits of astrology?
EP: Currently, in my opinion—and I think a lot of other astrologers’ too—we don't really know the limits of astrology. There's a lot of really serious study and thought in the world about it. But we do know that we as humans have a lot of really big influence on how we live our lives, as we all know. That free will is a real thing. And we can look at trends, we look at cycles in astrology, and we try to see where things might go, how they might go, and what we can do to incorporate better changes if possible. And usually there are. Usually there are a lot of things that we can do to make things better. But we do investigate a lot of different areas. Just like in, probably cybersecurity, you check out a lot of different things to discover what's going on and why and what can be done.
AF: This is great—to be able to use tools for introspection or to identify something that you could say is, for lack of a better way, something that's hardwired into you. But when do you stop using that as a copout for something like, "Oh, I can't be patient because I'm just not, that's not how I'm wired." When does emotional intelligence kick in and what does that look like?
BC: I think any time we try to hide behind a piece of data or a framework, it's just usually a symptom that we're worried about showing our vulnerability and that we're worried about coming off as being less than, which is a true human reaction. Unfortunately, it puts a barrier up, and you don't actually get to the level of trust to be able to build the relationships. And so I think I certainly see when people do that, and for me that's a sign that I have to come at it from a different angle and not allow that piece of data or that framework to actually define someone. I think if someone said, "Well, I'm an Aquarius and therefore I'm eccentric," which is what they say about Aquarius. And yes, I am slightly eccentric at certain things and other things I'm incredibly the opposite. But if I use that all the time to validate actions that were inappropriate or things that I did that were harmful to others or hurtful to others and use that as my rationale, that's really the opposite of what we're actually talking about. That's putting up barriers and not really understanding yourself or using what you know about yourself to build better relationships with others.
EP: I did want to add one thing to what Beth said and address the fact that you could use astrology or any other thing. You could say you're an Aquarius, you could say it's Tuesday, and this is the reason why I'm acting how I'm acting. It's really about emotional intelligence, like what you're saying, Amanda, and it's about maturity. And in every sign of the Zodiac, with every planet, with everything that we're looking at, we look at the higher and lower energies and how they get expressed. And what we're trying to do is bring our best to the table.
AF: Are there—and I'll ask this actually for both of you in your industries. I'm going to start with Emily, because it's going to be the easier answer. Is there a nonstarter for you? Is there something, if you see in a chart, you're like, nope, not getting involved, not interested, with astrology?
EP: Absolutely not. I'm going to say that most astrologers are going to look at a chart and look at the positive potentials of any individual, and I mean that. Any individual. And they're going to try to explore how that could be expressed best. We have a lot of history where we can look at people that didn't give their best or did things that were cruel or not great. We have experiences. We have events in the world that we can look at. We can actually look at the astrological information and look at that data and see what it's doing and look at consequences, look at what fed into that.
AF: So for events in the world, are you saying you look back at 2020 and it was—this was predictive?
EP: It was. And there were astrologers that did predict that. There's a lot of astrologers in the world, and just like any other field, there are good astrologers and ones that aren't as good. And so, unfortunately, sometimes who was getting the attention might not be the astrologers that are more experienced or who do good practice. That's not to disparage anyone or anyone in any practice, but it takes a long, long time to study, and people just don't get that. They think they read one book, and they're an expert or whatever it is. But that's everybody that's human in any subject. [Laughs]
AF: Well, if you knew how many experts in COVID there are right now...
EP: Oh my gosh. Yes, exactly. Well, that's why there were only a few astrologers, and they were very good astrologers who actually said, listen, we had similar configurations to the pandemic back during the black plague. We had this and that. And they said, listen, we're not saying that it's going to happen. We're saying some stuff might go down. You know, prepare. Like I told you, Amanda, there was an astrologer who actually moved to a remote area of Australia. They were like, "Oh, my God,” they left Britain, and they went to Australia to just kind of like hide out until it was over. And they predicted that things will get better, by the way.
AF: Beth, to go back to that question about the non-starters, I'll ask because you're in charge of HR at a company that is wildly successful. We are super powerful, growing, doing so many amazing things, and empowering so many people to do their best in their career. When we do a lot of these different assessments and tools and try to figure out self-introspection, and also team dynamics, are there any nonstarters there? Are you like, "Oh no, this person's not going to work out here."
BC: You know, surprisingly, just the same as Emily has iterated ... Everyone has different layers, different experiences, different strengths, different areas that are underdeveloped. There's no nonstarters. It's basically trying to find that authentic common ground as a starting place. And once you have that, you can start to build trust, build relationships. So definitely no nonstarters for me. The more that you can actually understand about others and really look at it from their point of view versus from your own point of view, I think I certainly see the most rapid development when individuals are starting with others, and they're embracing difference being something that's wonderful, something to explore, something to understand more. That's where I really kind of see the magic happen.
AF: If you have introspection, if you have people's Myers-Briggs, or so on, and you have a high-functioning team, how do you approach that integration? How you try to interact with everyone? Is it something that you reevaluate every year? Do you just keep it top of mind as you approach complex or difficult situations? How can we best wield these tools for self-introspection?
BC: There's so many great best practices and techniques out there, but the first is obviously to talk about it. Talk about it as a team, really understand. First of all, it's always helpful to have an expert help you understand your interpretations—I love the analogy to Emily in astrology because if you have someone who might be certified in Myers-Briggs or Strengths Finder, they're going to be able to digest the information in a way that is really easy to consume. Once you have that and everyone's had that experience, then come together and be really transparent about what you’ve learned about yourself. Were you surprised by that? What do you think? And that really starts to open up the feedback, and people will start talking. And listening. And then once you actually get past that point—and sometimes that can be all sorts of messy and all sorts of great, it really depends on what's coming out and what the vulnerability of people willing to share. But once you actually have that on the table, then you can say, okay, well, let's agree how we want to work together. What do we think now with this information that we have? What would be the most optimum way for us to organize how we work together? You know, for example, and this is not personality or strengths, et cetera, if you know you've got individuals who are just self-declared, not morning people, and you as a team have said, “Hey, listen, we want to have a really important stand-up every week,” it’s probably not a great idea to organize it at seven o'clock in the morning because you know that your colleague is not going to show up at their best. Similarly, if you've got a vegan friend, you're not going to invite them over for dinner and then make steak. So it's like, how do you make sure that you're accommodating and you're creating your team dynamic and your ways of working to bring out the best in everyone?
AF: I've got three areas that I feel like have really bubbled to the top here, and I'm going to pull them together and see if this is what you both agree on. We seem to see a really obvious connection between high-performing teams that are happy and introspection and learning about yourself in terms of astrology. I think this importance of the onion and the layers is a big one, and we can't get out of here without many Shrek references so expect that on social media. But the importance of the onion, the layers, the complexity that each individual brings—and embracing that—I think is just a really prevalent one.
Another is leveraging experts or data or interpretation of data in some way for that self-introspection, whether that's astrology, Myers-Briggs, and so on. But leverage someone in a professional capacity in their area that could help guide you through that data. I know that we've actually had Emily do something as a team-building event before with some of our people. Not everybody believed in astrology, and some people really didn't want anything to do with it, but they had a lot of fun learning about each other on their own, regardless of what the data said. But I think having some interpretation of something there and just being open-minded to what's being said is very good. It's a big one. So, definitely leverage an expert.
And this third one, it feels like it's about finding and curating what the feedback loop should be in your life to make sure that you're being the best that you can be. Those signs—the pluses and deltas. It's really about that great change, is it?
EP: That's a great point.
AF: Is it? Oh, yay!
EP: Yes, that's like the best point ever. That's awesome. Because really, we tend to repeat the same mistakes if we don't learn from them, right? And that's kind of like what you're saying. I think what Beth said earlier, too, she's talking about people finding details about each other so that they can then seek similar goals, create real goals that can be achieved. In finding achievable goals, which is something that ... We may put goals out there, but we might not necessarily get to that mark, and the way to get there is to work together. Collaboration is extremely important and synastry is important. That's when you put charts and people together, and you learn and you build bridges and you do; as cheesy and as clichéd as that might sound, it's really true. You build a place where you meet together and you say we're in this together. I'll use another analogy: We're in the same boat. What are we going to do? How are we going to do it? How are we going to succeed? And what does that look like, right?
BC: And if you're optimizing for bringing out the best in everyone around you, and it's less around how can I show up as being the best or the most important, but how can I ensure that I'm creating the environment where my team or my colleagues can be at their best? And if everyone is operating at their best collectively, oh, my gosh, you're going to totally smash it.
AF: I do always end on a quote, and there's one that's bubbling up for me. I don't know why, I feel like I just have like a dictionary of quotes or a little lexicon here, ready to go. But there's this idea of, we're all trying to do something here where we feel like we contribute and we're being better and we're learning along the way. There's one—and I know that Emily will love this one. Stephen Hawking …
EP: Oh, yeah!
AF: … has a quote. He says, "Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist." Anyone who's made it to the end of this episode, I can tell you these last two words will be the most impactful: Be curious.
BC: I love that! Oh, I love it! Absolutely, and be open! Be curious and be open. Difference is great!
AF: Yes. It's been wonderful! Both of you have been so awesome to have on. I feel like this should be a repeat episode because we had about 50 other things we didn't get to.
EP: And it's great to be in the sandbox. It's awesome.