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Play, Vulnerability, and Courageous Leadership Blog

Courageous Leadership, Vulnerability, and Play

When you think about courageous leadership, what comes to mind? Perhaps you imagine heroic acts, like rescuing someone from a burning building. Or maybe you think about small acts of courage, like going to a party by yourself when you don’t know anyone. Now I’m not a mind-reader, but I’m guessing that none of you pictured a room full of adult professionals playing a name game at a leadership development workshop. But at Ziksana, that’s exactly what courage looks like.

Through play, we make a call for courage when we ask leaders to stretch beyond their comfort zones in order to try something new and learn from it.  

The Importance of Play in Developing Courageous Leadership

In all of our training programs, we design and incorporate activities that invite people to let down their guard and take a risk by being playful. For example, instead of walking around the room talking to each other, participants dance and sing “mingle, mingle, mingle!” before connecting with someone and answering a question.

On the surface, this activity might seem like a light-hearted icebreaker that simply helps people loosen up. But on a deeper level, it’s asking them to take an interpersonal risk with their colleagues – to have the courage to be vulnerable.

For children, being playful isn’t a risk. But by the time we reach adulthood, this type of behavior is far less frequent and acceptable. For adults, being playful, silly, and imaginative feels vulnerable – we fear that others will judge us to be less credible and that we won’t be taken seriously if we show our playful side.

The Power of Vulnerability: Play Instills Courage

In play, the power of vulnerability is on display – accepting vulnerability requires courage. So why do we insist that adults should play at work? Because it accelerates vulnerability and invites courage. In this sense, play, courage and vulnerability are intertwined.

Play requires courage and vulnerability, but when courageous leaders learn how to be vulnerable, a sense of security also grows in their teams, as they build psychological safety.

  • What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety is a shared belief that an environment is safe to take interpersonal risks. Courageous leadership and the encouragement of play — and vulnerability — can foster psychological safety within a group

According to research by Google, teams with high levels of psychological safety better leverage each other’s ideas, bring in more revenue, and are rated as effective twice as often by leadership. For leaders and teams, playing together is the practice of shared courage, and teams that play together create environments where it is safe to speak up, share mistakes and ideas, and disagree with one another in productive ways that lead to better outcomes. 

Vulnerability in Leadership Inspires Courageous Cultures

Leaders have a distinct role in building psychologically safe cultures. They set the tone for whether or not people feel safe to be vulnerable. A courageous leadership style is contagious.

Brené Brown, one of the leading researchers on the topic of courageous leadership, argues that vulnerability in leadership is a necessity in today’s business world, where leaning into tough conversations and making transparent decisions are often the exception rather than the norm.

According to Brown, leaders who are courageous enough to “rumble with vulnerability” create cultures where it is safe for others to do the same. For example, teams are more likely to discuss and learn from mistakes when they have a leader who is open about their mistakes because it demonstrates that this behavior is safe.

Brown’s book, Dare to Lead, is all about how courageous leadership can be learned through practice, and we believe play is the perfect way for leaders to practice “rumbling with vulnerability” at a Ziksana leadership development training event.

Practice Courageous Leadership Through Play

Developing courage requires us to push past our comfort zones and productively confront fears. For leaders, practicing courage might look like admitting to your team when you make a mistake or don’t know the answer. Or it might look like singing “mingle, mingle, mingle!” while dancing across the room at a Ziksana workshop.

The courage it takes to be playful in the corporate world is similar to the courage it takes to make hard decisions, lean into tough conversations, and openly accept feedback. The world needs more leaders and teams who are courageous enough to play.

Want to start building your capacity for courage through play? Join us at our next PlayTank event on September 9, 2021, at 11 a.m. PST. Come have some fun while growing into a courageous leader. Sign up now, and we’ll see you there!

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CALL US

619.354.8326

EMAIL US

info@ziksanaconsulting.com

ADDRESS

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Team member Jim

Jim Babcock

Adjunct Facilitator

Connect with Jim

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Experience

Jim had a long and rich career with The Walt Disney Company that spanned 35 years. He joined The Walt Disney Company in 1986 as a Cast Member at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. He spent a majority of his career in development and communication roles across multiple Disney businesses, including Disney Store, Disney Consumer Products and Disney Institute. In these roles, Jim facilitated numerous skill-building and team-building programs. He has led classes ranging from coaching, customer-service, presentation techniques and behavioral styles that provide a blend of instruction, exercise, and role-play while linking the debrief back to company-specific objectives.

Jim has also been a host for an array of events. Since 1989, he has hosted hundreds of internal and external events for Disney and other companies/non-profits with audiences ranging from 15 to 2,000. The events have included award presentations, fund-raising galas, red-carpet interviews, and televised home shopping appearances.

What I Do At Ziksana

Jim is a Faciliatator with Ziksana Consulting, providing Leadership Development training to public and private sector clients in areas of communication, coaching, trust, motivation and innovation. His humorous and relatable teaching style makes him a participant favorite and often-requested facilitator.

How I Like To Play

Jim enjoys performing in improv shows and going on adventures with his niece. Since moving back to Michigan in 2021, he has started working part-time at a bakery and absolutely loves it.

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Kelby Kupersmid

ZIKSANA FACILITATOR

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Experience

Kelby is a Global Business Leadership and Coaching specialist who brings positivity, curiosity, and intellectual rigor to all of his projects. His diverse professional background, from working at a pre-revenue startup to a multi-billion-dollar financial institution, informs his unique approach to workplace innovation and efficacy.

Kelby is also a Co-Founder of Innovation Journey, a company that organizes business trips to Israel to explore its unique innovation ecosystem. He serves as Director of Leadership Programs, designing and facilitating unforgettable learning experiences to help professionals lead innovation in their careers and organizations.

What I Do At Ziksana

As Founder and CEO of Kinetic Development, Kelby partners with local and global organizations to increase their leadership effectiveness so they can enhance business results. He draws on his multidisciplinary experience to find a targeted approach that works for each client, combining assessments, individual and team coaching, and large group facilitation.

As an Executive Leadership Coach, Kelby helps ambitious professionals refine their mindset and skillset so they can unleash their full potential. He helps clients “get out of their own way” by illuminating blind spots and challenging limiting beliefs. Through crystal-clear development goals and strategies, they accelerate leadership skills to improve performance and business outcomes.

Background

Kelby is a first-generation U.S. American born to Jewish-Argentinian immigrants. He was born and raised in Southern California, has worked and studied in Latin America, Europe, and Asia, and traveled to over 20 countries across 5 continents. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Business from San Diego State University and a Master of Science in Global Business Leadership from the University of San Diego. He also holds a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential from the International Coaching Federation.

How I Like To Play

Kelby is a lifelong musician, having played guitar and rapped in award winning jazz, orchestra, and rock bands. He is currently on a 6-month road trip across the US in an RV.

Team member Chris W

Chris Watz

ZIKSANA FACILITATOR

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Experience

Chris has influenced senior leaders to achieve greater impact in rapid growth organizations for over 15 years. He has experience leading a variety of change initiatives including leadership development, culture change, and end-to-end business process improvement. For 10 years, Chris managed continuous improvement efforts at World Vision International. He led projects to enhance collaboration, develop leadership bench strength, and streamline resource and information flow across 90 countries. In partnership with McKinsey, Accenture and Booz Allen Hamilton, Chris’s leadership and evaluation expertise helped two industry pioneering projects make critical adjustments to achieve greater return on investment. As a result, World Vision began operating more effectively at a global scale, during a time of rapid organizational growth.

Chris received his M.A. from Claremont Graduate University in Organizational Behavior Psychology and Program Evaluation. He also holds certificates in Project Management, Lean /Six Sigma (Green Belt), and Structured Behavioral Interviewing. Chris also founded Watz Productivity, a Consulting Company that uses data-driven solutions and coaching to support Executive Teams undergoing rapid growth.

What I Do At Ziksana

Chris is a Facilitator, Consultant, and Executive Coach with Ziksana Consulting.

How I Like To Play

Chris has worked and travelled in 44 countries, and loves rock climbing and photography while visiting new places. He is passionate about helping people find fulfilling careers that help them do the things they love most in and out of work.

Team member Kane

Kane Luong

GRAPHIC DESIGNER & WEBSITE DEVELOPER

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Experience

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Kane received his B.A in Graphic Design from San Diego State University. He began his career with San Diego State University and then started his own design studio. He has worked with many local clients which include, Goal Success, Pho Ca Dao, Zeroline Golf, Solarflexion and Therapies For Success. He has a passion for solving complex business problems through design thinking, and consistently strives for the betterment of his work.

What I Do At Ziksana

Kane is Ziksana’s graphic designer and web developer. He designs participant workbooks, presentations, and supports website development.

How I Like To Play

One of Kane’s favorite activities is playing badminton. He also enjoys trying out new food, exploring places around San Diego and finding new trails to hike. Kane loves to travel internationally, and wants to explore more of Canada!

Team member Courtney

Courtney Hale

EXPERIENCE DESIGNER & PLAY PRODUCER

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Experience

Courtney is a graduate of The Edward R. Murrow School of Communication and began her career in Broadcast News as a producer at Washington State University. From there, she moved to Los Angeles, California where for over 10 years, she produced, wrote, and developed television programs for The Weather Channel, SyFy Network, Fox Sports, Sony Pictures Television, ABC Disney, NBC and CBS. In addition, she oversaw all aspects of production and prepared daily production plans for operations and filming. She relied heavily on her communications and client relations background as a liaison between cast, crew, agents, managers, publicists, the studio and the network.

Courtney also worked for The Found Animals Foundation; a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the use of euthanasia in the United States. She was brought on as the program manager responsible for developing, managing and launching their National Microchip Program and free Microchip Registry, partnering with shelters, clinics, rescue groups and veterinarians. Her other responsibilities included developing and producing the foundation’s corporate videos that were shown at trade shows and conferences. In addition to that, she spearheaded the Found Animals Foundation Awards where she was responsible for all event logistics, promotions, and marketing.

What I Do At Ziksana

Courtney is the “producer of play” and likes to wear many hats. Some of her daily activities include designing innovative and impactful experiences for clients, helping lead internal culture initiatives, and producing company events & videos.

How I Like To Play

Courtney feels lucky to be a part of the San Diego Improv community where she gets to perform regularly. Courtney also enjoys exploring lesser-known festivals (avocado/margarita festival, anyone?), discovering new vacation spots with her family, trying out new dinner recipes, and writing Hallmark Holiday movie scripts just for the fun of it.

Team member Chris P

Chris Pizarro

PLAYFUL PROJECT MANAGER

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Experience

With three years of experience in the field of event and project management, Chris excels in filling a critical gap in the field of Leadership Development. He was hired by the Center for Creative Leadership in 2012 as a Program Coordinator, delivering programs throughout the United States and in Latin America for non-profit and Fortune 500 clients. In this role, Chris was responsible for all program logistics, serving as the primary point of contact for the delivery team and participants. He was later promoted to a Sr. Program Coordinator role, overseeing the San Diego campus’ Open Enrollment product line. Chris also spent 3 years as an Assistant Store Director for Sprouts Farmers Market, managing around 100 employees from entry level to first time managers.

What I Do At Ziksana

Since joining the team in 2018, Chris has been providing operational, communications, and business process support to Ziksana Consulting. He is the master of Project Management and enables Ziksana to deliver exceptional services to multiple clients.

How I Like To Play

Chris enjoys living locally in his hometown of San Diego, CA. He takes pride in his city and enjoys attending and supporting local sporting events. On his time off, Chris enjoys spending quality time with his wife, daughter, and two lovable dogs. His passion for barbecuing is unparalleled.

Team member Laura

Laura Fleig

ZIKSANA FACILIATOR

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Experience

Laura is a New-York native with a degree in Criminal Justice & Psychology from the University of Albany. She moved to San Diego in 2014 and began working as a residential counselor for youth in the foster-care system. During this time, Laura became deeply interested in how to create a therapeutic group environment where people could heal and grow.

In 2018, Laura began working in the field of Learning and Development as a group facilitator at The University of California, San Diego. Using a high-ropes course as an experiential learning tool, Laura has facilitated over 50 leadership and team development programs for children, young adults, and professionals. Additionally, Laura has been guiding and facilitating transformational outdoor adventures since 2018. Using lessons from the outdoors, she facilitates impactful experiences that help people grow both personally and professionally.

What I Do At Ziksana

Laura is a Designer, Facilitator, and Coach at Ziksana. She also runs Ziksana’s social media accounts.

How I Like To Play

Laura enjoys taking on challenging sports and activities that push her physical and mental limits. She can be found skateboarding down Mission Boardwalk, catching waves at Ocean Beach, and sport-climbing throughout the Western United States.

Ziksana Founder Akshay Sateesh

Akshay Sateesh

FOUNDER & PRESIDENT

Connect with Akshay

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Experience

Akshay started his career as a Business Development & Project Leader at DuPont’s BioMedical, where he led product development teams to launch medical device implants for surgeries. During his career at DuPont, he led two product development teams and developed collaborative partnerships to take the medical devices to market. His passion for leading others jump started his innovative approach to leadership development.

In 2008, Akshay combined his love for improvisational theatre and leadership by founding Ziksana Consulting. He began delivering playful workshops to biomedical companies, and quickly expanded to other industries based on Ziksana’s initial succees. Akshay has a M.A. in Leadership Studies and Group Dynamics, and is a Certified Stakeholder Centered Coach. He has facilitated programs in leadership development, innovation, and team dynamics for adults and children in the U.S., Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, India, and South Africa.

Akshay served as an Adjunct Faculty member for the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego for over 5 years, as well as a Consultant for the Centre for Organization Effectiveness.

What I Do At Ziksana

Akshay is the founder of Ziksana Consulting, and serves as a Workshop Facilitor, Executive Coach, Experience Designer, and Keynote Speaker.

How I Like To Play

Akshay enjoys spending time with his young family and is known for his play versatility (he can play almost any sport and give you a run for your money). Apart from dancing in the car, playing a clown at his kids’ schools, and playing with strangers on his Nintendo Switch, Akshay loves photography, surfing, playing tennis, and diving with his wife, Brooke. He would like to spend more time developing his ukelele and magic skills.

A white man smiling in a green circle background

Akshay Sateesh

FOUNDER & PRESIDENT

Connect with Akshay

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Experience

Akshay started his career as a Business Development & Project Leader at DuPont’s BioMedical, where he led product development teams to launch medical device implants for surgeries. During his career at DuPont, he led two product development teams and developed collaborative partnerships to take the medical devices to market. His passion for leading others jump started his innovative approach to leadership development.

In 2008, Akshay combined his love for improvisational theatre and leadership by founding Ziksana Consulting. He began delivering playful workshops to biomedical companies, and quickly expanded to other industries based on Ziksana’s initial succees. Akshay has a M.A. in Leadership Studies and Group Dynamics, and is a Certified Stakeholder Centered Coach. He has facilitated programs in leadership development, innovation, and team dynamics for adults and children in the U.S., Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, India, and South Africa.

Akshay served as an Adjunct Faculty member for the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego for over 5 years, as well as a Consultant for the Centre for Organization Effectiveness.

What I Do At Ziksana

Akshay is the founder of Ziksana Consulting, and serves as a Workshop Facilitor, Executive Coach, Experience Designer, and Keynote Speaker.

How I Like To Play

Akshay enjoys spending time with his young family and is known for his play versatility (he can play almost any sport and give you a run for your money). Apart from dancing in the car, playing a clown at his kids’ schools, and playing with strangers on his Nintendo Switch, Akshay loves photography, surfing, playing tennis, and diving with his wife, Brooke. He would like to spend more time developing his ukelele and magic skills.