As a scientist, educator and president and CEO of Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry (COSI), Frederic Bertley applies the organization’s motto — “Science is Everywhere and for Everyone” — to leadership. He meets the audience where they are to form effective connections and creates synergistic partnerships for indelible results. By following the scientific practices of achieving clarity through data, analysis and objectivity, he says, you can get to “next” in a very powerful way.
Trevor Brown 0:13
welcome to the podcast leadership forum, a conversation with leaders who serve the public good. My name is Trevor Brown, and I'm privileged to serve as Dean of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University, where we aspire to fulfill a simple phrase that Senator John Glenn used to describe what we do, inspire citizenship and develop leadership. I also have the honor of serving as the host of this conversation series. So welcome to a thoughtful and reflective conversation about leadership. I'm joined today by Dr. Frederic Bertley. Dr. Bertley is a scientist, scholar and evangelists for innovative thinking particularly in STEM education. He is president and CEO of Columbus's Center of Science and Industry, otherwise known as COSI, which strives to engage, inspire and transform lives and communities by being the best partner in science, technology and industry Learning. Prior to his role as COSI Dr. Bertley was the Senior Vice President for Science and Education at the Franklin Institute, a premier science museum based in Philadelphia. After graduating from McGill University, where he studied physiology, mathematics and the history of science and earned a PhD in immunology, Dr. Bertley worked internationally in preventive medicine and basic vaccines in Haiti, the Sudan and the Canadian Arctic. He continued this focus by joining a vaccine research group at the Harvard Medical School focusing on the development of DNA vaccines for HIV and AIDS. And part of his continued interest in communicating science to a wide audience. Dr. Bertley is the host of the primetime television show, QED with Dr. B in partnership with WOSU public media. Frederic, welcome to our podcast. And thank you for joining me for a conversation about leadership in the nonprofit sector.
Frederic Bertley 2:02
Dean Brown, it's an absolute honor to be on your show, I do want to thank you for supporting COSI, as you know, we have the John Glenn inspirational word, it is a premier award for an incredible leader of the community. It's the first of its kind for the nation, you and your institution, were instrumental in supporting us to launch that. So thank you very much. It's an honor to be on your Leadership Forum Podcast.
Trevor Brown 2:25
Well, thank you. And thank you for continuing to celebrate the legacy of John Glenn, we miss him dearly, but his life lives on through great organizations like ours and yours. So thanks for that. So to that end, let's talk a little bit about COSI, a nonprofit Science Museum, tell us about the mission of COSI, and the primary means by which you and the museum pursue that mission.
Frederic Bertley 2:50
Yeah, so the mission is simple, three powerful words to engage, inspire, and transform lives and communities by being the best partner in science, technology, industry learning. And so we take that engaged aspire, transform seriously. And the reason why we do that, in the milieu of science, is we have another mantra at COSI, which is science is everywhere. And science is for everyone. And if you don't think that's true, see if you can wake up tomorrow morning, their audience of challenging you see, if you wake up tomorrow morning, and get through the entire day, without specifically being impacted through science and technology, it's near impossible, unless we're living off the grid, we have a different lifestyle. And so because we know science is everywhere, and because we know science is for everyone, we want to be one of the many rich institutions reasonably, you know, nationally and internationally, that give the opportunity to any and everybody to be exposed to the wonders of science, get excited by it. And whether they become an astrophysicist, or they're a bus driver. They have some vocabulary and appreciation for this really cool enterprise called science and its offspring engineering. And that'll hopefully lead to a better them, and they'll contribute in a better way to society. So we really take engage, inspire and transform literally, and metaphorically. And we do that in partnership, which is why again, I'm ecstatic to be on this podcast with you. We do a ton of work, as you know, with OSU, and you're one of our signature partners, but we have other partners as well. And that allows us to have that impact that we try to have.
Trevor Brown 4:26
Awesome. Well, we'll talk about all of the great themes. You laid out that introduction there, but I want to immediately turn to you the organizational leader. So as I mentioned in my intro, you're a trained scientist and a practicing scientist for a good while. But before you went into running a museum, what are the things that you learned from your scientific training in your research experience that you found have directly applied to your job as an organizational leader?
Frederic Bertley 4:53
That's a great question. And before I dive into the answer, I want to say I am a trained scientist you read through the intro kind of my pedigree, but I'd like to say I'm a trained scientist who saw the light, light side, which is for me the wonders of science communication for a bigger world. And that's really what COSI any science museum is about. It's about communicating science. As I mentioned, getting people excited. As a scientist, what did I learn in terms of leadership? And that's a great question. And I didn't realize it till, you know, several years into my leadership career. So before I got to COSI, as you mentioned, I was a senior vice president at another science museum. And year over year, I started to realize my training as a scientist, and I want to be clear here, scientists and science are not a group of facts. But science is a process of being Socratic, if you will, asking a question about whatever it is usually about the natural world. And then doing experiments, collecting data, small, medium, or large, to try to get you to understand that natural phenomena. And so the science vehicle gets us closer and closer to the truth by doing experiments, and then collecting the data analyze the data. Why do I say that I see that that training has been so important. And it's helped me to be an effective leader, because one of the things we are and you know, the original, Dr. B, my father would say, Son, humans are not logical. They're psychological. And that's the psychology, the emotion, the spirit, all that stuff, when that weaves into your leadership. While emotions are important, don't get me wrong. And obviously psychology is critical. But when that weaves into your leadership, a lot of times, you're not being objective, and you're not analyzing the leadership problem properly. And so by falling back on that kind of natural training, I say natural, and then I've learned being a science. So we are, but right now, it's innate in me falling back on that, hey, what's the problem? What's the question? Let's collect some data to address that question. And then let's analyze that data and make the best guess decision based on the data and others this concept of data driven, we hear it all the time data driven, that's actually really important, because that allows you to navigate that sometimes murky web of leadership, where people are looking at you, and you know, you're trying to lead people behind you, or even when you're trying to follow people, and you gotta you know, because leading part of following is part of leading and so so how do you move the needle forward? Well, instead of just falling back on kind of emotional, psychological tendencies that we often do, and any throw this three letter, word ego into it, and that muddies everything, when you can fall back on clarity, through data, through analysis, through objectivity, you can often move mountains and get to next in a really powerful way. And people will fall behind you as a leader, because it's not the Frederic Bertley opinion, or even the COSI opinion, it's an opinion based on data that's been analyzed and teased by all the people involved. And so that has been a fundamental anchor that I've learned a lot. I'm not the perfect leader, and I always strive to better myself, that has been helpful in the having some success.
Trevor Brown 8:06
So thanks for opening the door. I'm not the perfect leader, when the message we want to get across to everyone is there is no perfect leader, everybody has strengths and weaknesses. And you clearly have many, many strengths. But I'm sure in again, making that move from scientist to organizational leaders seeing the light science communicator, there were some deficits. And I'm curious, were there deficits rooted in you being a scientist that you had to overcome? So for example, you know, we I'm right there with you, I celebrate the analytical process and the reliance on analytical objective data. But one of the risks that I always run is that I fall prey to paralysis by analysis. So we need more information. And we need you know, the best kind of information and somebody's like, no, no, we need to make a decision. But what what deficits have you had to overcome in your role as leader?
Frederic Bertley 8:58
Yeah, well, so So I'll tell you about a scientific deficit to your point. While science is not a book of facts, it is a book of as close to the truth as we can get to, and we build on it and get closer and closer. One of the things I have to realize real quickly, is as much as I like to be data driven, and do that analysis you talked about is to avoid that paralysis by analysis is to understand that in the real world, meaning the world based on human bodies and psychology and emotions, you're not going to get that precision to the eighth decimal place. It's not going to happen in the workplace. And so that learning to balance and pull back and say, Well, no, no, no, yes, we know logically, it can be this, again, weaving in this understanding that while logic does say this, humans are not logical. We have some logic aspects of it, but we are psychological. That allowed me to step back and not distance myself, but understand the power of being scientific and being analytical, but also knowing that there comes a a almost subjective a decision or step you need to make in the process. So that's one of those kinds of transitions for being a scientist, you know, where's that data? You know, to? Okay, wait a minute, it's a little fuzzy. The other thing, though, that I have to get over, which was a lot harder for me, is, while I'm a scientist, I've always been very, in tune with the non science part of the brain, if you will, like, I feel like, I wanted to be a writer, you know, I was, I was balancing and in high school in college, I'm not going to go into the writing side and go into the humanities, because I love history. I love philosophy, I love writing, or I'm gonna go to science side, and I was conflicted. And that's where he talked about I studied the history of science that was packing in a little, my science to be, but later with that, because I'm a very emotive person, I get excited, my adrenaline goes, zero to 60. And, you know, that's just how I am. But I had to learn navigating this leadership space. Yeah, I had to learn to hold back what I call the the, I want to be clear, it's always important to be the authentic you period, but especially as a leader, so I'm not trying to be someone I'm not. But I have to pull back that over exuberant overexcited over, sometimes emotional response to something and temper myself and catch myself because, wait a minute, you know, I'm leading a whole lot of other people, I'm leading an institution, and I gotta be able to balance how reactive and excited I can get or upset on the other side of the curve. With Hey, you know, you're a leader, you know, just calm down to keep keep moving, sir.Trevor Brown:
I'm loving the enthusiasm and the excitement, it gets me excited and inspired. So let's keep going down that road. And you laid some of these breadcrumbs out in your your first response. I mean, you are really a remarkable communicator. And that's something that you're excited about. So I want to talk a little bit about how you make science sexy and inclusive. Right? So we'll do this in two parts. First, what is your strategy for making a subject that many people and their grade school years were like, Oh, God, I want to avoid science. I want to stay away from this. It's hard. It's challenging. It'll reveal my inadequacies. How do you get people excited? And how do you motivate people to engage COSI?Frederic Bertley:
So that's a great question. And I have to say, anything that I'm good at, I pay homage to June Bertley, and Lille Bertley, anything that I'm not good at, because I own it, because I'm a knucklehead like the rest of us. But um, so I say that because my parents were amazing educators. And so I grew up in this microenvironment of being scholarly, very being erudite, and being an effective teacher and communicator. So that is just because of the environment. I mean, my brothers and sister, same way, we all love explaining stuff. We love connecting with people. But and you know, this being an academic, the cardinal rule in successful education, or impact is you got to meet the audience where they are, right? So when you're doing history and literature, you got to meet them where that when you're talking about a thing called Science, which a lot of people unfortunately our society get turned off. And in late elementary school, middle school, it's the more terse, esoteric, weird topic they feel alienated from it, or I'm not a nerd. I did my last science class in grade eight. You know, it's a really weird topic. So you have to be that much more diligent and thoughtful about how can you meet that person where they are with this topic that they're pretty uncomfortable with? How do you connect? How do you square that circle? How do you connect those dots? And so so what I do, because as I just explained you science is everywhere for everyone, you know, the computers we have in our pocket that run our lives, that's all science and tech, there is a science, or science and engineering, something that resonates with all 7.8 billion people on the planet. You just need to think about what that is and how to approach them. And then you want to democratize the capacity for them to understand it. So you have to meet them with their vocabulary, right? You have to meet them with their lexicon you can't come with a highfalutin language that we PhDs in the hallowed halls of ivory tower, like to talk about and pull over the people around the world understand it. And we think that makes us smarter. No, you got to speak, the word, the Gospel, the site, whatever you want, in a vocabulary, and an imagery and iconography that resonates with the individual. So I'll give you an example. The audience I'm sure you heard if I said to you, f of x squared is equal to log x base 10. People you can be educated and undergrad, you can even have a grad degree if the thought of math or science and you're like f of x is equal to log x base 10. You run scared, you're upset. Oh my gosh, I hated math. I was never good at it. Right. So you're trying to teach this to kiddos? Well, you've lost the kiddos. yet. I can tell you, Dean Brown, and I've done this a million times. You can assemble four or five year olds 100 of them, put them in a room and say hey, How many I want $1 from Dean Brown? Kids will be like ok I'll take a $1? Can you say, Okay, how many y'all want $10? Oh, my god Dean Brown said, did he say I bet, if I give you $100, we'd be excited. Now the round the whole room, all these 100 kids are losing their mind, you're excited to get your money. And then if you tell them $1,000, they will lose your minds, they're four years old, they can be rich, poor, black, white, didn't matter their demographic, they will be super excited. And they did it instantly, they instantly understand log x base 10, they understand the growth of magnitudes in base 10. But you share it with them with money that resonates with anybody versus, you know, the growth of co2 percentage over and over. And you have these funny charts. So there's an example of a scientific in this case, a mathematical construct that a lot of people struggle with. But everybody instantly understands it. Well, why? Because it was communicated in a way that the analogy was something that is meaningful to them, use the vocabulary that they can understand. And then they had you at Hello, and you have them at hello back. And so that's the key to getting people excited about science. I mean, you know, this, we're born out of our mom's wombs, curious, we're scientists at birth, right. That's how we learned to walk, talk. It's all about trial and error experiment, collect data, we're actually excited about exploring the universe. And then, you know, unfortunately, much of the cases, we have ahead of us. And so so that's my trick.Trevor Brown:
Well, but I also want to call out one more. And I love that example. And I love your explanation. But I'm so glad you use your your science voice in there for a moment. How much of it and I'm curious, as you wade into this world, you were trained in the hallowed halls of the ivory tower, where my guess is you were conditioned to be sort of monotone. And it's just all about the data. And it goes back to your the difference between right left side of your brain, etc. But now just listening to you, you not only bring great explanation, and you talk to people where they are, but you don't put on some fake voice, you use your voice, your authentic voice, and it's an excited exuberant voice. How much do you think the success you've had is a part to just your passion for this, this issue as opposed to just I'm reading dryly from some, you know, textbook.Frederic Bertley:
I love that. And that's part of the recipe, in this case is the authentic me. But you know, you know this, I wear jeans and Chuck Taylors and I walk around sometimes with a blazer, sometimes a t shirt and a baseball cap throughout COSI. And people like you to see or hear me not always in a suit. Well, because you want to break the myth that to be a scientist or to think intelligently what everyone find out, that means that you need to look a certain way you need to, you know, be an old man with thick glasses and pocket protectors that makes you a scientist, but you can't be a young woman who's dyed her hair, orange, you know, or an African American person with dreadlocks, I mean, so again, meeting people where they are when they see an image that they can connect to just on the visual, that you broken down so many barriers there by walking around with a lab coat and pocket protectors and glasses. Even at COSI, I will put off some people and we're in a science museum, right? So so part of it is really, again, you got to be your authentic self. And part of it is if you can both verbally and physically connect with somebody, you're halfway there, they're going to be open and receptive to what you have to say, then you got to make sure you break it down in a way. Then Zell says, on Philadelphia, break it down to me like I'm a three year old. And then that's the recipe for understanding.Trevor Brown:
Well, I've loved throughout you, you've just celebrated the diversity of people who can be excited and engaged by science to talk about how important it is for you as a leader to make science education inclusive. And are there specific steps beyond the ones you've just mentioned, of how you're pursuing that goal?Frederic Bertley:
Yeah, absolutely. So so first of all, there's just the practical ideology of why diversity, and inclusion is important for everything but less than this case, we're talking about science, right? So let's take the United States demographic roughly 51 52%, female 48 49% Male, right. And then when you look at the Black and Brown population, Pacific Islanders, throw in members of the LGBTQ community, etc, about a good 49 50% of the population. So from a practical standpoint, since genius knows no color, genius knows no socio economic status knows no religion. There are geniuses in all of us at whatever, you know, whatever percentage. And so if half the country is women, and we don't have programs that engage women in the science, technology, engineering, math enterprise, we're losing 50% of the potential geniuses that are going to come up with the next cancer cures the next mission to the moon, etc, etc. Similarly on the Black and Brown population, if we're not providing ways for them to access these incredible things like science and math, as a nation as a world, we're losing the potential genius. Yes. And just so forget about politics. And is it right? Should we do the right thing or not from a practical from a selfish Darwinian survival perspective, we want to make sure the best and brightest and creative minds out there that are gonna do all the wonderful things that make keep our planet healthy and make us go to next, we want to give them the best shot. So that's why you have to make sure science is for everyone and accessible to everyone. You know, then there's the betterment of society standpoint, when you understand science, whether you're a plasma physicist, whether you're an environmental PhD scientist, or you just learned a good amount of calculus and biology at the undergraduate level, that training allows you to be much more analytical and critical as you navigate your life. So you remember the subprime crisis of 2007 2008 that dragged down the world into this cyclic epicenter of just disaster. And we've climbed out of it because of bailouts and things like that, if the average person had a general understanding of compounding interest, right, just general, I'm not talking about high PhD mathematics, you just understood interest and compounding interest and balloons just did just understand the basic math, they would know that that house that's $800,000, but I got a $30,000 a year salary. And oh, this looks attractive at this 1% interest rate, but they're telling me, it's gonna balloon to 12% and 3%. In two or three years, if you set a basic understanding what you'd like, there's no way I can do this. But this illiteracy around it, that many of us are hit with on the science and math side, puts a puts us at a disadvantage to analyze a lot of basic stuff, whether it's should you take vaccines up, get out of a pandemic, whether it's climate change is a real thing? Well, all these things, we're we're making decisions day to day buying that mortgage, or getting that mortgage, a basic understanding of how to be critical, and analytical can help you go a long way. So there's so many of those, those two and other reasons why being inclusive in this concept of science, education and science experience in science opportunity is critical. What do we do COSI, we have all kinds of programs. I mean, we believe that we want programming for you, from the womb, to the tomb, and everything in between, we got something for you. So we got programs for you know that we are in underserved rural and urban settings, we got programs we're in, you know, undergrad schools across the country, we got programs locally here in the center, in central Ohio and Columbus base region, we got programs in about 14 other states. And we're slowly trying to get to all 50 states, and we have programs about five different countries. So we believe, again, falling on the sword, science is everywhere for everyone. So we're going to make sure that everyone as best as possible has a chance to have that exposure.Trevor Brown:
Let's turn you mentioned that one of the pillars of your your mission, your approach is partnership. And you know, COSI I think all of us in the Columbus area, think of it as a physical location, but you just described this amazing reach. And that can't be done just by the museum downtown. So how important are partnerships? And what are the sort of the prototypical types of partnerships that allow you to extend your reach?Frederic Bertley:
So thanks for setting it up. You know, we're building we're right now in the epicenter of downtown Columbus, you know, beautiful Peninsula, great location, we're three football fields, long to give you a size of our building 320,000 square feet. It's a great physical building. But we want to have an impact in the building. So if you come here, we want to make sure you have a great experience. We also want to serve sides, as I said, in concentric circles outside our building, whether that's in central Ohio and beyond. And as a non for profit. We have limited capacity. Right? We're not the size of Amazon we're not the size of Google, you know, but we're very, you know, talking about 150 employees, you know, we're a small institution, you know, and the bigger skill sets. So to have a real impact, we can't go it alone. So we take the concept of partnerships, really, really seriously. And that has allowed us to have such a major impact. So we are in, lemme give you an example is that we're in all 88 counties in Ohio, because we've partnered with the superintendents of all 611 districts. We partnered with the governor, we partnered with mayors from numerous cities throughout the these counties. We've partnered with county officials, and of course, all kinds of other state legislators that's allowed us to get in these communities and take the COSI brand and more importantly the excitement around science to communities throughout the state and then beyond. But we've also partnered with Battelle, you mentioned Battelle in your in your warmup we partner with Mattel we partner with ADP we partner with nationwide we partner with Huntington, we partner of course with OSU we also partner with capital, Ohio, Ohio University Otterbein, Dennison, Columbus State, etc. By partnering with all these individual organizations, you can create a beautiful spectrum of myopic partnerships that are doing these specific similar things to slightly broader partnerships that allow you to have a wider cast a wider net and have a larger footprint and everything in between. And that has been the key to our success. And why have we been successful at it? We've been successful at it, because we don't just partner for the sake of saying we partner, every single partnership, Dean Brown, we look at us and the prospective partner and we say, where is this a synergistic opportunity for each of us to contribute something important? So we don't ever do 100%, one sided partnerships, or 95 5%, that's of no interest that's with us. Just being you know, I get calls every day. I'd love to be your partner and really means how can we come to COSI for free? How can we do this for free, or vice versa? Hey, bank Huntington, give me you know, $500,000, because because we're nonprofit, just help us out? No, there's always a quid pro quo in a meaningful way. And that's the key when you bring your authentic self to the table, and you have something to offer to institution X. And they to have something that's never 50-50, that can be 55-45, it can be 60-40 30-70. But when there's real give and take, that moves mountains, and that's how you have an indelible impact. And we've been fortunate in this great community to have all kinds of partners that allow us to cohabitate similar places, and deliver on a promise in a concerted way.Trevor Brown:
Thanks for both explaining its importance, some examples and sort of your sort of philosophical approach. I'm curious. And this is again, a sort of leadership versus organization question, how much of the this commitment to partnership, and the development and maintenance of those partnerships is you your personality, your personal connections, you being out there and engaged in the world and running 110 miles an hour versus how much of it is now structural and embedded in the life of the organization and their prophecies, etc. So you mentioned you got a lot of partners, there's no way you can personally manage all of them. But I'm guessing you were part of the genesis for a lot of these because you're an outward facing gregarious person. So So talk a little bit of that balance between I Frederic Bertley, I'm out there, I want to make all these partners and how much of this is now embedded, when I walk out the door, this commitment to partnership is going to continue?Frederic Bertley:
You know, that's a great question. And I appreciate you say, you know, I may have driven the genesis of it, by virtue of my personality, what have you, but I can't take credit, I give credit to this great community partnerships were all over the world finally. But in this case, I give credit to this great community, not being from Columbus. But now being of Columbus, when I first came to be recruited for this job, at COSI, I learned of this thing called the Columbus partnership, and the Columbus way. And you know, you hear about a new (unintelligible) oh yeah, all these organizations get together and their leaders, you know, get together to for the greater good of the city. I'm like, I've I've been Philly, I've been in New York, I'm in Boston, I've never seen that happen. And then when I came for the job interview, the search committee that made the decision for the next CEO of COSI had eight members of COSI's board and nine members that were non COSI board. And I learned that wow, they're serious about partnerships in that they want the community to have a majority say on who the next CEO is. That's a that's never happened in any city I've lived in, you know, the institution has always the Board of Trustees, and they hire firm, and they make the decision. And when I saw that here in Columbus, I think they are serious about that. I learned more about the Columbus way and the partnership. And so this is definitely in the Central Ohio DNA to want to partner for a greater good for all of us. That's one, two. That's what excited me about the opportunity. Yeah. So in residence back to your point, it resonated with my DNA in terms of I'm a community centric person. I like to build relationships. I love partnering. So that was a net win right there. And then I got here, and then you're leaving. And you want your institution to understand the the excitement around partnerships, and the joyous outcomes that can come when you have a partnership mentality. And so that was a learning curve. But the best thing here, Dean Brown is that when you can lead by example, and show them these outcomes by doing x in this case, the power of partnerships, the team bought in so when I came here, one of the big things we had was the Eclipse. Eclipse and so asked the team Hey, you know, what are we doing for the Eclipse? Now I'm a new guy COSI. I'm a month in I'm about 12-15 years younger than my predecessor. I look completely different my predecessor and I'm trying to win the team, of COSI onto my side as the new CEO. And so it's today what do we do for the eclipse and they rattle off all these things and are all internal. All these things we're doing inside COSI? I said this is great, but I tell you what, the eclipse is outside the building, I want you to come up with all kinds of things, all kinds of partnerships, all kinds of relations from the community that we are taking the eclipse to them. And they looked at me funny, what do you mean, I gave some examples. And then to their credit, three months later, they came back. And the stuff that was happening at COSI was minuscule compared to what we did for the eclipse. We were in every one of the 23 library branches of Columbus library, right. We're in eight metro parks, we were an Easton, we were in bars and pubs across the city. All because our team created partnerships with individuals to take science around the Eclipse to them, we like to say where you live learn and lounge. And when they saw the success when they saw the headlines in the media, the next day, COSI smashed apartments, smashed the Eclipse and everybody got to COSI, COSI, the team now started to drink that Kool Aid of how powerful partnerships are. So one, you know, civic, Columbus in Columbus partnership, Columbus way, two resonated with me, three, do some examples have some wins with the team to see the power of partnerships and how it manifests itself. And then to your last point, it can't be Frederic Bertley. So now you have to hire strategic people who get that hopefully coming in, or you can educate that if they're ready, and and then they run like the wind. And I've been fortunate to have some incredible team members. And in particular, I won't say because I don't want to shout out one name on the podcast, one in particular, one of my executives who really, you know, understands the power of practices and frankly, leaves it for the institution, he and myself have built this kind of capacity within the institution. And people love outcomes. People love out positive outcomes. People love when you can show that you move the needle. And we've shown that partnerships are instrumental to achieving that.Trevor Brown:
So one last question before we close and it's a personal one, I can only imagine the last couple of years in any organization, were challenging, you run a residential museum or an in person Museum, I'm sure COVID had plenty of impacts. And any period, it's hard to run an organization. But this was a particularly challenging period. How have you personally stayed so positive, so upbeat, so enthusiastic, that drives the community, it drives your team, it stimulates these partnerships? What's the secret sauce?Frederic Bertley:
So you know, that's a really complex question. And what's good for me, you're not catching me off guard, because I've had some of this discussion over the last six, eight months with colleagues, especially in the nonprofit space. And it really speaks to one of the things that I'm now learning as I'm growing and developing as a leader, is Cardinal to being an effective leader is you have to be able to take it on the chin, you know, but show strength, resolve, courage, and vulnerability. It's not about trying to be Superman, you got to also show that you're by again, being your authentic self, I'm a very well, you got to be vulnerable. And when you can do that, with the sincerest of intentions, the folks who you're leading whether it's individuals and institution will rally behind you. And I say that to say, don't get me wrong, when you know when to when 2020 rolled out in January and February, and we're getting into this thing called the global pandemic, it was not easy, you tee that up in the interim marks, we're a non for profit institution, we depend on foot traffic, people buying tickets to come to COSI. If that doesn't happen, the lion's share of our revenue is in peril. If we don't have revenue, we can't keep the lights on, we can't keep staff. And like many other institutions, I had to go through massive staff reductions to this day, it's almost three years later, I still feel bad about it. In particular, for the team members that I had to let go. These are men and women who gave 5, 10 In some cases, 20-30 years to COSI, but you know, they can't pay people to air balls and oxygen squares. So we have to make these tough decisions. So I want to be clear, there were times where it was really tough, and really challenging and add soul searching, etc. But at the same time, and I tell this the team all the time, it doesn't say Bertley on the other side of the building, it says COSI, and part of this is is you know, type A personality, I said, I'm not going to be that person, that this great institution born in central Ohio that people love. I'm not going to be the person to which under which it's going to fail. That's not going to happen. So went through the staff reduction and went through these tough times, and then challenged the rest of the team to say, hey, we believe science is everywhere. We believe science is everyone. So if our building is closed, so what there's a way for us to still be relevant. And let's figure out what that is. Then let's figure out how to monetize it so we can have a lifeline. And that's what we did challenge the team and to their credit the team rose to the occasion and we ideated ourselves out of this Dean Brown. We came up with all these incredible concepts that we were flirting with pre pandemic But the pandemic forced us to activate on and create a few other ones. And that allowed us to start climbing out, doing decently doing good, and then doing really well. And so when you can lead authentically, show your vulnerability, go through those pain points, but at the same time, grab yourself by the bootstraps and motivate and get people excited around what we could do. And then you achieve some things. That is what allows me to come and smile in front of you today and join this podcast with a very pleasant, optimistic approach. Because, you know, it's it's again, always growing as a leader, not a perfect leader. But with a great team, here at COSI, we've been able to wait to lead our way out of this. And that's, you know, that's why I keep a smile on my face and keep a pep in my step.Trevor Brown:
Well, you wouldn't give yourself credit. But I will. Thank you for a really inspiring and informative conversation. Dr. Bertley. And thank you fundamentally, for what you've done for your team for for the City of Columbus and the Central Ohio community. And as we've learned today, all of the state and perhaps good parts of the nation in the world it is it is much appreciated to demonstrate that authentic leadership and it's much appreciated.Frederic Bertley:
Well, I'm likewise Thank you, Dean Brown, for your great leadership with the Glenn College. Thank you for having this fantastic Leadership Forum and having myself and COSI to share a little things we may have learned along the way, but it's been a pleasure to speak with you and it really is a testimony of this great Columbus community. So thank you for your support.