76: Learn from #metoo: why your sexual harassment prevention training is failing and what to do instead with leadership educators Dr. Larry and Lawrence Hiner

ep 76 FB learn from MeToo why your sexual harassment training is failing with Dr Larry and Lawrence Hiner on the TalentGrow Show

Is the culture in your workplace conducive to sexual harassment? With the recent spotlight on sexual harassment in workplaces --well beyond Hollywood-- I've invited leadership educators Dr. Larry Hiner and Lawrence Hiner to discuss why sexual harassment prevention training is failing and how to fix it. In this first two-guest episode of the TalentGrow Show, learn why sexual harassment prevention training can be improved, what every leader can learn from the #MeToo movement, and how to avoid creating or enabling a harassment culture in their own workplace and facilitate a culture of civility, respect, dignity, and trust instead. Listen now!


Dr. Larry Hiner enjoys over 30 years’ experience in education, healthcare, and technology. He has worked for major universities as teacher and administrator and has served in senior roles for industry leaders such as Johns Hopkins University and IBM, leading successful organizational learning and knowledge management projects. He has recently focused on employee enablement, addressing some of the turbulence facing the workforce in the 21st century by applying principles of postmodern organizational learning.  He currently champions Intentional Learning Organizations as co-owner of Workforce Equanimity. In 2007, he completed requirements for a PsyD in Organizational Psychology at the Professional School of Psychology, authoring a dissertation on Innovation and Leadership. Dr. Hiner has earned national certifications as Counselor and Executive Coach.

Lawrence Hiner, also co-owner of Workforce Equanimity, has 8 years of training experience with a focus on Retail deployment strategies for organizations up to 2,500 employees. His success comes from understanding the interface between management staff and customer facing employees. Lawrence has also facilitated training programs encompassing a full range of implementation. Starting with needs assessment, program development, classroom instruction, post assessment, and scheduled reinforcement. He has extensive experience with retail, call center, and virtual training environments.


  • Why does sexual harassment prevention training not seem to work? Dr. Larry and Lawrence weigh in (3:57)
  • Dr. Larry talks about the costs associated with harassment and bullying in the workplace (5:08)
  • Can leaders prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and can training programs even help? (5:31)
  • Dr. Larry explains the importance of respect, dignity, and trust in the workplace (6:15)
  • How leaders can help by taking charge of the culture in their business (6:55)
  • The Hiners’ basic approach to leadership, and their vision for what an ideal culture in the workplace should look like (7:53)
  • What are some signs a leader can look for to find out if their culture is suffering from a lack of respect, dignity and trust? (10:12)
  • What we can learn from the recent sexual harassment scandals in Hollywood regarding the role of the “silent bystander” (11:08)
  • Dealing with harassment on a team level (14:08)
  • Do the Hiners think that there is a lot missing from typical sexual harassment training for leaders? What could be improved? (16:22)
  • Halelly talks about one of the biggest jobs of any leader: developing others, and recommends  an episode of The TalentGrow Show that you can listen to if you want to learn more about how to be a more coach-like leader! (18:36)
  • The importance of asking questions to facilitate professional development (19:54)
  • Halelly plays the devil’s advocate with the Hiners (shocking, right?), and asks how we can balance having honesty and transparency in the workplace with today’s culture of political correctness and sensitivity (20:40)
  • Halelly shares a quick tip for facilitating a culture of transparency and authenticity (22:37)
  • What’s new and exciting on the Hiners’ horizon? (25:23)
  • One actionable tip that leaders can take today to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace (27:21)



Episode 76 Hiner

Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow and I’m happy to present you with a show that is unusual in three different ways from our typical show. The first is that it features two guests, not one. The second is that those guests are related to each other – they are a father and son team who own a business together. And the third way in which this show is unusual is because it’s about a topic that if you were to ask me several months ago whether I’m interested in this topic, I like to think about it, would I like to teach you about it, it would have said a resounding no. I’m not interested. I don’t like thinking about it. But guess what? With everything that’s been going on in the news recently about sexual harassment in workplaces, well beyond Hollywood, and the whole #metoo movement that sprung out from it, this seems to be a rampant epidemic. There is a lot of sexual harassment still going on out there, even though in most workplaces we have sexual harassment prevention training. So apparently something is broken, and that’s why I thought, “I need you bring you some insights about this,” and I found these guests who have a lot of great insights to share with us about what isn’t working about sexual harassment prevention training and what are some of the things that we can do, not only to do something better than that in terms of how to help others prevent sexual harassment, but also ways in which we can be on the lookout to be sure that our workplace has a culture of respect, of dignity, of civility, of trust, that is not somehow conducive to sexual harassment?

I met Dr. Larry and Laurence Hiner a long time ago because all of us were chapter leaders in our professional association, and met at one of the chapter leader conferences. In fact, I was one of the speakers. They came up to talk to me afterwards and we’ve kept in touch all the years after. So I know that they are good guys and I look forward to sharing their insights with you.

Dr. Larry Hiner is a lifelong educator, with 40-plus years of professional experience, including a Doctorate in organizational psychology, and he is the co-owner of Workforce Equanimity. He believes that to be an effective workforce, all must be enabled through persistently mindful preparation to learn, think and act, with intention in an environment that honors human dignity. Dr. Larry’s son, Laurence Hiner the fourth has 15 years of experience in designing and facilitating workforce development programs and his clients include Verizon Wireless, several major grocery retailers and the State of California. Recently Laurence has spent time collaborating with employee law attorneys in California to solve the epidemic of sexual harassment in U.S. businesses. That is the topic of today’s conversation. Welcome to the show!

Larry: Absolutely honored to be here, Halelly, and to be asked to do this. It’s a great honor. Thanks.

Laurence: Thank you Halelly.

Halelly: You’re very welcome, and thank you for agreeing and coming on so very quickly. I look forward to also sharing your knowledge and wisdom and experience with the audience. I have to say that usually I am not a big fan of things that do with compliance, compliance training, and I’ve done my share of sexual harassment training when I started my business, but it was one of the first things I let go of when I was strong enough and big enough to start saying no to clients. Recently, anybody who is alive and not under a rock has been watching the news and seeing what’s going on with this whole #metoo epidemic, and we know that there is sexual harassment prevention training pretty much in every organization of a certain size, and yet it doesn’t seem to be working very well. So, why? Why isn’t it working? Why is sexual harassment prevention training failing?

Laurence: Halelly, it’s a lot like what you just said. The reasons why that the training is not working, is that people are not necessarily taking it seriously and may not understand how it connects to their work and that the scenarios are seeing in training and the lack of support around the training applies that it’s just a “check the box” kind of a think. So what we wanted to do is to fix that.

Larry: I admit in my many years of driving, I have had a couple of tickets, and then you go to driver’s school online and you have to be on a page for a particular amount of time before you can hit the space bar and go onto the next page. And sexual harassment training often is very much like that. You’re there, just for the experience of doing it. You’re trying to get it done, trying to get through it, and like Laurence said, just check off the box. One of the things we find is that leadership is not cognizant of all of the costs that harassment, bullying, sexual harassment certainly, cause in the workplace. There’s a lot of cost associated with that. It’s not just litigation costs, but is productivity and engagement costs.

Halelly: Can leaders really prevent discrimination, harassment, all these problems in the workplace? Is this something that is doable and can going through some kind of a training program actually get us there?

Larry: We believe that it can. Otherwise we wouldn’t be doing some of the work that we’re doing currently around this. We’re collaborating with some attorneys and dealing with that part, the compliance part and the legal part. Giving us examples of litigation and those things. Laurence and I are working more on the people side and what happens at the leader level, at the ground level, how changes need to be made in the culture, in order to get ahead of the harassment. If we can get ahead of this and instill a sense of dignity, of trust, of civility, of teamwork, of respect for each other and dignity in the workplace, then we get way ahead of it and we don’t have as many instances and that’s our operating theory here as we’re working with this team and developing these workshops. We’re showing what it is that will happen about the cost and that end – what are the motivators for doing some change – and then we tell the people how to change and do that training in the work.

Laurence: As leaders of the business, what we really want to add to that equation is based on the company’s culture. As leaders of the business, I mean, that’s a cliché sort of, you’re really a leader of the culture of the business. When you’re able to affect the culture of the business, then you’re able to stomp out things like sexual harassment and other demeaning activities, because the leadership not only says that it’s not tolerant of that activity, they show that they’re not tolerant of that activity.

Halelly: I think that many people believe that that’s what they do. I don’t think anybody believes they create a culture that supports harassment. Pretty much anyone would answer the question, “Of course not. I respect everyone I work with and I would never support that,” but because it happens, because it’s prevalent, how can we even identify that it might be happening or that that might be something that we’ve unintentionally contributed to, and then specifically what can we do to change it?

Larry: When you talk about leadership, our basic approach to leadership – whether you’re leading a project team or you’re the CEO of the company, our approach to leadership is to establish a vision, to align people with that vision, and then to enable that vision to come about. Now, that’s borrowing from some of the work that we’re doing with the Everything DiSC with John Wiley and some about the work of leaders, and we have incorporated that into our model, this vision, alignment and enablement.

Establishing the vision, well, the vision has to be one of respect and dignity, in this particular area. If that other vision as part of your company is to do this, to provide this service, provide these products, and that’s good – in this case we’re talking about a vision that includes respect, trust, dignity, civility. So establishing that vision so that it can be realized. The alignment part of it is communicating that across the organization in such a way that it is really understandable. We are moving in this direction. We are going to improve our trust and transparency and emotional intelligence and we are going to go through that in order to provide you the tools to do that. That’s part of the enablement. So we have vision and alignment, clear communication of the vision is, and then enabling that vision to come about. You’re right, people would say, “Yeah, we’ve got a good culture here. People get along. People get things done.” And yet you still have these incidents. We believe that almost every company, every organization, can improve this through a heightened sense of, again, emotional intelligence, dignity, civility, toward each other. Teamwork, and how to work together as a trusted team. Does that make sense to you?

Halelly: Yeah, and I still think that there’s kind of abstractions, like the concepts are very abstract. Dignity, civility, most of the people I meet believe themselves to be those who perpetuate those kinds of things. Most people don’t see themselves as uncivil or disrespectful. So what are some of the things that can help someone know that this might be a problem in the organization? What are some of the telltale signs, other than someone filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against you, which is too late?

Laurence: Some of those signs are going to emerge based on people’s ability to read others. A big challenge with, taking sexual harassment as a good example, is that there’s a power struggle that’s enabled that to happen in workplaces, so sometimes it was obvious and sometimes it was hidden, sometimes you have the rumor of the leader that is knowingly or unknowingly taking advantage of that power dynamic in the workplace. A lot of times, that crosses a line between adults. Sometimes it’s like a consensual line that gets crossed or fogged. I think that a lot of that comes from decades of the workforce becoming more diversified and the tolerance for that kind of behavior is more and more demonized. Now it’s gotten to the point where there’s sort of a critical mass, and I think that’s what we’ve seen in the past several months coming out of Harvey Weinstein’s activity and that hitting the news, and then the snowball effect with the #metoo movement. Now there are new behaviors in the workplace. There are new signs that leaders can look out for if people are feeling uncomfortable, and those people are feeling more comfortable coming forward and the more they can feel comfortable communicating their challenges, their distaste with the workplace and not having to necessarily look to human resources as a mediator for that, that they’re able to have those discussions more freely, that’s what I think we mean by a leader creating an environment where that comfort is there, where that intolerance is communicated. Intolerance of harassing behavior or antidiscrimination kind of efforts, that that becomes more obvious in the workplace. That they’re a true champion for.

Halelly: Okay, so be more clear and assertive and outspoken about the things that are not okay, and then maybe calling them out.

Laurence: That’s a real big part of it. And then recognizing that the workforce is another big part of that. So the people that they’re leading, that they’re encouraging them to come forward.

Halelly: Again, part of that whole story in the news that we’ve been watching unfold has been about how many silent bystanders there seem to have been along the years. This is not a new problem. Everybody recognizes that this has probably – for example in Hollywood – it’s like, “Oh, yeah, the couch interview.”

Laurence: The casting cough. Yeah.

Halelly: Like it seemed like everybody just sort of knew it and enabled it to happen, or just kept silent about it, but even in organizations a lot of times people, I think they’re not sure if it really did cross the line and they don’t want to get someone in trouble for something that they maybe didn’t really do something wrong. Or, maybe I'm being too sensitive, or maybe I’m just making assumptions based on seeing it from the sidelines, but I don’t actually know what’s going on. For whatever reasons, or of course the worst is if they’re afraid to speak up because they’re afraid of having some kind of retribution happen to them as a result. What is the role of the silent bystanders, and what do you think is going to happen as this obvious shift in the culture is causing more and more people to speak up?

Larry: Excellent point. Leadership needs to enable bystanders so that fear of retaliation or retribution is not cultural. It’s not accepted. It is monitored, that those kinds of things, so that people feel more free to speak up. Where we’re going with this is not just in a reporting kind of a way, but dealing with it at the team level. Calling it out and saying, “This is not appropriate, what you did.” Or, “None of us enjoyed that joke that you just told, so stop it.” Don’t bring those in anymore. Establishing that with the bystanders. The bystanders are part of that. They’re part of the team. Whether they’re victims directly or not, they are suffering the effects of this power differential and this struggle and this harassment, this bullying, these inappropriate behaviors. They are responsible, then, for intervening. But, they need to have the skills, Halelly. We can’t just say, “Do that.” And even set and example as a leader, which is important, and communicating and enabling and doing all of that. People need to have the skills to be able to, as Laurence said, read each other. They know what their communication styles are like, they know what their work styles are like. They have these workshops that wind up being mini retreats where people get to share with each other and develop a skillset where they can actually create that trusted work environment. They can do that. It’s theirs to do, they just need the skills and the practice of doing that.

Halelly: Okay. I think what I’m hearing you say is that we need to help develop leaders – obviously my role, and your role, is developing leadership skills in others, but even leaders themselves, whose job is not leadership development per se, are developing leadership skills in others. So all of us need to seek opportunities to get the skills and practice in a safe environment, so that we can actually do this and see it done and know what it looks like and how to do it and feel comfortable doing it in real life. Obviously it’s one of the things you’re offering in your workshops, but do you think this is missing? Is that the part, doing those online check-the-box kind of trainings are just not doing, not building that skill?

Laurence: I think you’re right. I think what you described just now is the way that leaders are coaches, that they are regularly deciding if the people that they are leading are in alignment with their message and with their vision. That they’re there to be the guardrails for that. If they’re noticing behavior that is not in step with the direction that they want to go, that they know how to not only recognize that that’s not okay, but that they know how to talk to that specific individual about that, and that they know how to talk to their team about that, and that is really a specific leadership skills. It’s something that takes a lot of time to perfect, and it takes a number of other communication skills to be able to recognize and then to deliver a good message around it.

Larry: In our workshops, for instance, when we’re doing other workshops on emotional intelligence or enabling mindful managers or workgroup leaders, when we do that, we always have people set goals that they want to accomplish themselves, and then go out and do coaching 15, 20 minute sessions, over the phone, and we do coaching with each one of those folks, and say, “What was it you set for a goal and how are you getting along on that?” To set an example for how leaders really behave, coaching is an essential part of that. And guiding. As Laurence says, it’s kind of guardrails and it’s also giving the directions the lines in the road. It’s the street signs. It’s a checkpoint, to see how you’re doing in your own learning plan. Everybody’s got to have a learning plan. Everybody needs to grow. And the role of manager, leader, coach is to help people along that line.

Halelly: Totally. I mean, amen! I believe that so much. We are always, all of us, are on a journey of development, of self development, and as leaders one of our biggest jobs is developing others. Sometimes leaders don’t see that as their job, but that’s part of my mission. It sounds like yours too, just to help them. Hello, this is your job here, to develop others. There’s a great episode, I think it was 31, with Michael Bungay Stanier, where he talks about how in using good questions, any leader can be a coach in 10 minutes or less, so that’s a great one to listen to if you’re thinking about this more deeply as you’re listening, and wanting to grow your own skills at being a better coach. Also, I would say, look for mentors and coaches and you don’t have to necessarily pay one, you can even just, as Dr. Larry just said, a 15 minute conversation with someone, they can help be a sounding board to you. They can ask you some important questions. They can allow you to maybe do a dry run practice of a scary conversation you’d like to have, and all of us have mentors and people around us that we can rely on that we can draw on, and we can of course provide that to others too.

Larry: Precisely. I know Michael, all the effort he’s putting out there, is just fantastic. The tools that he offers and the books. But asking those questions, that’s key to help uncovering some of these areas. If you’re a leader, you’re a manager and you’re not asking questions of your employees or your direct reports, then you’re not going to know. You’re not going to know them and you’re not going to know how they’re doing and how they’re growing and what they’re learning.

Halelly: At the risk, we’re getting to the point where we need to start wrapping up, and Halelly has a question that she wants to ask that’s going to potentially put us right down a whole rabbit hole! So I’m putting that caution out there. Your challenge is to answer this quickly! But I will ask. I’m thinking about what I know, I sometimes put on that devil’s advocate hat, but I can just hear based on some of the learners I’ve interacted with in the past, I know there’s someone out there who is going, “You know, people now are so sensitive and they need to go to their safe space and everything is a trigger and everything is offensive,” and so how can we have a culture of transparency and openness and communication and trust and yet be walking on eggshells because almost anything that I say or do that has a benevolent intention can be misconstrued by anybody on my team as harassment? What should I do?

Laurence: I think the answer to that is to know that. When we start out with a group, usually we start from a point of emotional intelligence, and if you as a leader are confused about whether someone will react in a particular way, negatively with an action that you’re taking, then you don’t really know the people you’re in front of. Sometimes it is difficult to do that, particularly if you lead a lot of people, and it is a significant challenge. But the better a leader can hone their emotional intelligence, the better they’ll be able to moderate themselves and deliver their message effectively.

Halelly: Gotcha. Okay, good, I like that. I think what you’re saying is know your audience, and then tailor your message.

Laurence: Know that at an emotional level. That doesn’t necessarily mean, like psychoanalyze them or something like that. That’s not the point. The point is to be able to read their cues and understand their sensitivities and then know how you as a leader have to modify your own message so that your message can be heard and not misinterpreted, like you say.

Halelly: Huge. This is something that I teach a lot, intention and impact are two different things. You know your intention, but one trick that I sometimes suggest is even if you want to create a culture of vulnerability and transparency and authenticity, sometimes maybe even acknowledging out loud your tentativeness about how a message might fall. Even if you say something like, “I wanted to tell you something, and I was kind of weighing how to best say it, and I worry that it might land this way. Here’s my intention, now let me try and let me know know how it works.” Sometimes even just by giving people the permission to tell you or for them to recognize that you’re aware that it may or may not work the way you’re doing it, and that you’re trying your best but you’d like to hear their feedback, it makes it so that you can at least talk about it, so you have this meta conversation about the conversation by outing yourself and your intentions and your inhibitions about it.

Larry: That’s a great example of having sort of training wheels on when you need to disclose those things in order to establish a sense of transparency and trust and vulnerability, as you say, as [inaudible 00:23:45] says about the vulnerability-based trust. And be able to have that. Once that is established, once you’re riding the bike without the training wheels, once that’s established and people trust in what you say, and trust that it wasn’t offensive, it wasn’t directed at me to demean me. Someone just said something because that was an issue or that was an item or that was brought up as an idea in a meeting or something. They weren’t taking you down a notch. There’s not the power, not the struggle, if you have that trust. Getting to there is a process. We’re not saying that you can walk in one day or one workshop and be able to do that. That’s why we have, why we address multiple layers. We have something we call the intentional learning organization that’s a framework for all of this. And then we go in and offer these specific areas. Sexual harassment training, harassment training, is one of those areas that now we said, “Oh, this is important.” We were approached by these attorneys and it’s like, “Can we do something together?” And we said absolutely. I think a blend of our skills will really lead to some good information. But it’s not the be all, end all, of what we do. We try to help people change that culture at those different levels.

Halelly: Definitely. I called on you for a very specific topic, which is just one speck of the very many types of values that you add for sure. Since we’re pretty much running out of time, we always have you give one specific action that listeners can take, and before we do that, what’s something that’s new and exciting on your horizon and has got your attention these days?

Laurence: Our recently activity with the employment law attorneys to help affect this sexual harassment problem has really opened our eyes to ways we can partner with others and put together what Dr. Larry was talking about, that intentional learning organization. There’s a lot of very specific areas of growth that a company can engage in to better their workforce, to lower a lot of their costs and increase their productivity. We’re finding more and more ways of doing that. We’ve been exploring other opportunities to partner with likeminded folk in the area of lean systems thinking and behavioral assessments and that sort of thing. That’s one of the things we’ve got on the horizon as a business.

Larry: And we’ve taken some space in a co-working facility, called [inaudible 00:26:25] in Sacramento. There are a lot of startups there, and they get their funding and they need to grow. They need to establish a culture. They need to establish a framework. They don’t want to do it, not your father’s Oldsmobile, that old commercial. They don’t want to do it the way that it was done in the last century, with command and control. They want something different, and so we come to them and say, “Here’s how you can organize that different. Set up this culture. Train your people to be more emotionally interactive and understanding and trusting. Civility, decency, dignity.” So when we do that, we enable these startups, really, to grow in a way that the companies that were in the last century that I worked for did not have those skills or command and control.

Halelly: What’s one specific action that listeners can take today, tomorrow, this week, that can help them maybe create more emotional intelligence in the workplace or avoid harassment or build a culture of civility, whatever your lens is. What’s one specific action they should take?

Larry: If you are a leader, manager, I would recommend that you approach at least some of your people as a trial, more in a coaching type relationship. Explore, ask questions. Like Michael says. Ask those questions, engage in a relationship that is more coaching than monitoring productivity. If you can do that with a couple of people, then you can expand it to all your direct reports and I think that’ll be one step to making your workplace a better place.

Laurence: I’d say, kind of a two-part action, is if you do not already have a one-on-one schedule set up with your team, I highly recommend it, and to the person to whom you report. Get that one-on-one scheduled, and the reason for that is so that you can find out what the growth pattern is for those people. Probably the best thing you can do as a leader is to grow somebody else in the area they want to go. If you don’t know what that is, it’s tough to be a good leader.

Halelly: Ask the questions, definitely. I say this a lot. Cool. How can people learn more about you, stay in touch, follow what you’re doing and learn from you?

Laurence: We are creatures of social media, so you can find all of our stuff at our website, which is WorkforceEQ.com, and we’ve got a pretty healthy presence on LinkedIn and Facebook these days.

Halelly: Awesome. We will link to all of that in the show notes, and I really appreciate you both spending time with us today and helping us think about this hornet’s mess of sexual harassment and how to create a workforce, a culture of civility in the workforce. Thank you very much, both of you, Dr. Larry and Laurence. Appreciate you.

Larry: We appreciate you, all the work you’re doing as well, Halelly. This is a great avenue. We appreciate that. Thank you.

Laurence: Thanks Halelly.

Halelly: Thanks for tuning in, TalentGrowers. I hope you found this episode valuable. I’d love to hear what you thought. As always, your feedback is very welcome, and the links and everything we talked about are over in the show notes page which is TalentGrow.com/podcast/episode76.

Did you know that in iTunes when people search to discover new shows that they would like to listen to, usually they’ll put in some kind of a keyword like leadership or something like that? And iTunes has an algorithm that gives preferential search results treatment to shows that have more listener reviews. So, when you want to show me your appreciation, a review, a short one, two or three-sentence review on iTunes is the best gift you can give me. It’s not only a way for you to let me know that you like the show – and of course that makes me feel really good – but it actually helps extend the benefit of your value that you’re finding in this show to other people who might be more likely to discover this show and help me reach more people with the work that I’m already doing. If I’m already putting it out there, might as well help as many people as possible to be the kind of leader people actually want to follow. So I’d love that favor from you. It doesn’t take very long. Really, it’ll take three or four minutes to do, and I even have a tutorial of how to do it in case you’re not sure. That can also be found at the bottom of the page, on the show notes page on my website. Think you in advance for considering it, and of course I’ll read your review on the next show if you put it in there. That would be my way of thanking you. Please do it, okay? Thanks.

I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow, and until the next time, make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.

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