Kelley Bonner, LCSW, Expert Company Culture Strategist, Award Winning Podcaster, and Founder of Burn Bright Consulting, transforms workplaces by reducing burnout and bias, resulting in increased innovation and inclusion. She has been called “revolutionary” by Anita Hill and “a benchmark in her field” by the Pentagon.
Kelley provides a framework for leaders to understand the deeper organizational issues that lead to symptoms of burnout and how to solve them at their core. Having served on the Gender Policy Committee for the White House as well as the International Women’s Economic Security Council, Kelley impacts culture and policy across the globe.
She was also hand-picked by the Biden Administration to develop a national framework for workplace safety and harassment. Kelley is a thought leader in the realm of sexual assault, sexual harassment and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
She has worked with several federal and international organizations to create safer environments and strategies for violence prevention, including the U.S. Military, Library of Congress, National Academy of Sciences, The United Nations, and NATO.
As a licensed therapist with both a masters in social work and in criminal justice, Kelley built the number one behavioral modification program for the New York State men’s prisons to reduce violence through policy development and program evaluation.
She also hosts two daily podcasts called Burn Bright and Black Girl Burnout, with over 50,000 downloads. Kelley currently resides in Bethesda, Maryland where she enjoys the fine arts, reading, and traveling.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Kelley Bonner: I’m Kelley Bonner, LCSW, Expert Company Culture Strategist, Award Winning Podcaster, and Founder of Burn Bright Consulting, who transforms workplaces by reducing burnout and bias, resulting in increased innovation and inclusion. I have been called “revolutionary” by Anita Hill and “a benchmark in her field” by the Pentagon.
I provide a framework for leaders to understand the deeper organizational issues that lead to symptoms of burnout and how to solve them at their core. Having served on the Gender Policy Committee for the White House as well as the International Women’s Economic Security Council, I impact culture and policy across the globe. I was also hand-picked by the Biden Administration to develop a national framework for workplace safety and harassment.
I’m a thought leader in the realm of sexual assault, sexual harassment and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. I have worked with several federal and international organizations to create safer environments and strategies for violence prevention, including the U.S. Military, Library of Congress, National Academy of Sciences, The United Nations, and NATO.
As a licensed therapist with both a masters in social work and in criminal justice, I built the number one behavioral modification program for the New York State men’s prisons to reduce violence through policy development and program evaluation. I also host two daily podcasts called Burn Bright and Black Girl Burnout, with over 50,000 downloads.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Kelley Bonner: Businesses can thrive in 2022 by really becoming introspective about the approach that they take to generating revenue. I truly do believe that the last couple years have taught us that it is not by ignoring people that you attain profit, but by putting people first.
I think that’s the number one lesson that I’ve learned. From a business perspective and from a personal perspective, another thing these past few years have taught is the importance of re-evaluating what work is, what meaningful work looks like, and how to attain that.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Kelley Bonner: Businesses should focus on looking internally first at their revenue structure. Employees care now more than ever about how they are treated by their employer and how they spend their valuable time.
The Great Resignation isn’t happening because people don’t want to work, but rather because people are expecting better treatment at work as we progress. My advice would be to take a hard look at the inner workings of your organization, and find potential triggers that could cause employee burnout.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Kelley Bonner: As someone who trains and does a lot of strategic planning and hands-on work, being in front of people has been where I’ve gotten some of my energy from.
So, transferring and adjusting both my products and my deliverables in a virtual setting has been a challenge. Work-life balance is paramount in my life. That means that I actively and consciously try to limit how much time I am in front of a screen, but on average, it is between four and five hours a day.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Kelley Bonner: I wish someone had said to me, “pace yourself.” At the beginning of the pandemic, I was rushing to figure out how I could salvage the rest of 2020. Then I spent time trying to predict what would happen in the coming years.
2022 has allowed me to be mindful of the present and pace myself when thinking about the future. I allow myself to dream big and have a vision for the future, but I am more realistic about how I get to those goals, and I allow myself to take smaller steps to get there.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Kelley Bonner: I think 2022 will continue to find us adjusting to this new online world. We will have to adjust to living, working, and spending online. Businesses that make this pivot to online will be the ones who succeed.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Kelley Bonner: On average, I spend about 4-5 hours a day in front of a screen. In creating my own company, one of my goals was to have a stronger work-life balance, and so I limit this as much as I can.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Kelley Bonner: The power of storytelling and the ability to connect themes with stories will never go out of style. Therefore, I frequently use this. For example, I talk a lot about burnout and how it exists in systems, and I illustrate that with my personal experience and how I have navigated past workplaces with high levels of burnout.
I use my own lived encounters with burnout to illustrate the system’s deficiencies, but also to connect to my staff and team members and humanize myself as a leader. This lets them know that I’ve had these challenges paired with tactics to overcome them. Stories also influence how I lead a team and how I do business. Ultimately, I recommend utilizing stories to humanize yourself, to impart some kind of skill or development moment, and to encourage and inspire confidence in your team and your leadership.
My own personal experiences with burnout have helped educate my staff on how to develop boundaries to prevent burnout and to create space for them to come to me if they are struggling.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Kelley Bonner: I think the biggest challenge that is happening with businesses is this tension between profit and people. We are amid The Great Resignation, we are in the midst of people quiet quitting and really thinking about what it means to work.
I believe that it’s not about this tension between people or profit, but rather that the road to profit is through people. By keeping your workplaces safe and inclusive, people will bring their best selves to work and contribute in a way that enhances and ensures the business success.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Kelley Bonner: Obviously, it’s important to understand evolving currencies and technologies, but I think what we really need to be talking about is evolving what has traditionally been called soft skills, but what I believe should be renamed to essential (leadership) skills.
That is what I’m most interested in developing in myself and in making sure it influences the work that I do and how I develop the people I work with. I want to spend more time exploring what the essential leadership skills are. I’m also very interested in psychological safety and inclusion, as well as how to enhance a worker’s productivity without breaking them.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Kelley Bonner: I’m going to give most leaders credit and say I don’t think they are in denial. I think they are in fear. They don’t know what to do. I think leaders are seeing the data and thinking, I hope that’s not me, but I don’t know what to do if it is.
It’s a combination of panic and confusion for some. The change that I think needs to happen is that people leaders need to understand that the path to profit is through people, and to achieve this, it requires honest evaluations of their companies and theirselves.
How are they doing with making people feel that they can show up and bring their best ideas to work—that they can make mistakes and recover from them quickly while still feeling valued, that their identity has not become a liability, but rather is part of what makes them wonderful and valued at the company. People need to relook at the lies that we’re telling about work and reward thoughtfulness. When those changes happen, people will stop quitting. We’ll lose The Great Resignation and create The Great Reengagement.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Kelley Bonner: Oh, great question. If I had a business superpower, it would be the ability to make change instantaneous. I’d love to have a magic wand that would make toxic workplaces disappear and to be able to make the changes immediately that would turn people from feeling disgruntled to enthusiastic about their workplaces.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Kelley Bonner: Success in 2022 is about redefining the word success. Instead of having these lofty income goals or metrics to measure my success, I thought about what kind of life I want to live, what kind of qualities I want to demonstrate for the team I lead, how I am nourishing myself, and how I am making space to nourish others in the way that I lead.
When I shifted my focus to these things, it made 2022 my most profitable year in business yet. Because as I prioritize my own health and my own needs, the innovation, income, and success follow.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kelley Bonner for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Kelley Bonner or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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