Change Proof | Lori Winkler | People Leadership


What does people leadership look like these days? If you’re an HR leader, you’re faced with numerous issues like remote work, a global pandemic and the rapid development of AI. How do we navigate these changes and bring out the best in people? In this episode of the Change Proof Podcast, host Adam Markel engages in a compelling conversation with Lori Winkler, the Chief Human Resources Officer at Zimmer Biomet. Lori’s illustrious career, including roles at Johnson & Johnson and Cardinal Health, provides a rich backdrop for exploring the intricacies of the CHRO role. Lori shares her perspectives on embracing change, managing adversity, and fostering engagement in a world of remote and hybrid work. This transformative conversation is perfect for those seeking leadership inspiration and practical tips for navigating the complexities of the modern workplace. Don’t miss this episode packed with valuable wisdom and personal anecdotes that resonate with both seasoned professionals and those on the path to success!


Show Notes:

  • 03:00 Cultivating resilience
  • 10:33 A case against pivoting
  • 17:03 Energy, burnout, and balance
  • 23:42 Authenticity in leadership
  • 28:58 Leading rom a place of compassion
  • 33:21 The challenges of today’s CHRO
  • 43:50 Navigating workplace change
  • 47:06 Colliding in the best possible way

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How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world? 

The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.

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CHRO Chronicles: Navigating People Leadership In These Challenging Times With Lori Winkler

You’re going to absolutely love my guest. Her name is Lori Winkler and she is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Zimmer Biomet. Zimmer Biomet is a Fortune 500 global leader in the design, development, manufacturing, and marketing of orthopedic reconstructive products including knee and hip implants, sports medicine, biologics, extremities and trauma products.

In her role, Lori leads all facets of the human resources function spanning total rewards, talent management, learning and development, talent acquisition, diversity, equity and inclusion, M&A, HR-related activities and HR business partnering, which spans all business and functions. Lori oversees a global employee population of more than 18,000, spanning more than 25 countries in 4 regions, and leads a global HR organization of 300-plus employees. She is also a member of the compensation committee of the board of directors and is a Section 16 officer of the organization.

Lori joined Zimmer Biomet in 2020 as Group Vice President of HR for the Global Business Group, reporting directly to the chief operations officer. I will also say this. She’s a passionate advocate for the arts. Lori serves on the advisory board of the Creative Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, social and political advocacy organization in the entertainment industry. The Creative Coalition educates and mobilizes leaders in the arts and business communities on issues of public importance, specifically in the areas of arts advocacy and public education. What I can tell you right now is that Lori is a very insightful person. You’re going to get that immediately, but she’s also a good human. Sit back and enjoy my conversation with Lori Winkler.

Lori, so I’ve read a few bios in my day, a few different CVs across my desk. I’ve heard mine read. You have an epic career history and the trajectory of your career I think is super interesting, which is a big part of the reason why I wanted to have you on the show anyway. What is one thing, one singular thing that’s not part of that bio that you would love for people to know about you as we start?

I’m happy to be here, Adam. I’m very excited to have this opportunity to engage with you like this. Epic bio. I like that description. I don’t know that’s how I would describe it, but that’s very nice to hear. I would say that what is not reflected in my bio is that I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a creative writer, a poet. The first college I went to was a liberal arts school and I had a scholarship for writing and that’s what I most enjoy. I actually love writing as part of my job now, but that’s not clearly called out anywhere in my bio. I am a passionate writer and I do keep journals. I guess there’s a little bit of a poet in me. She’s still in there somewhere, but I was a published poet years ago. That’s something that I don’t always share, but it’s not in the bio.

I did not know that about you. My dad is a writer. At 87, he finished another novel somehow, a 400-page novel. It’s crazy. Fiction and I’ve been a non-fiction writer for many years now, and I have a love-hate relationship with writing. I got to say it is torturous for me probably because I’m still struggling with my own perfectionism. I could edit to death something until there’s nothing left of it. You have to know when to take your pen off the page or your fingers off the keys and all that stuff. I’ve had to learn that and hopefully, with the books, we’ve gotten good feedback about them. I’ll still look at them and tell you exactly what’s wrong.

I can relate to being a recovering perfectionist. They say acceptance is your best friend. Once I realized that I was a recovering perfectionist and accepted it, I was able to move through that. Maybe I can help you with that at another time.

I would love the coaching. I’m still working on non-attachment and so it’s interesting. We might travel down that psychological path later. I’ve been a student of business for a long time, I’ve been so involved in business since I was probably fifteen years old. Correct me if this is not accurate. In your experience, on a good day, business is so difficult. On the best of days, it’s filled with challenges and you got to be resilient is the word that I would use only because in large part we find that that’s a throughline in so many success stories, personally, professionally, and organizationally. My first or second question for you is about resilience. Is there a place in your career or personally speaking where you’ve had to be resilient, and Lori, what did that look like for you at the time?

I think resilience is something that you cultivate through experience. You get knocked around enough and that tests you and it’s either sink or swim. I learned that at a fairly young age. I would say that I’ve had and continue to have a pretty good run. As you said, business can be challenging, but I’m a problem solver, so I actually enjoy those challenges. That’s not to say I don’t have bad days. We all do. I enjoy the challenge of what comes across my desk or across my computer on a daily basis because I find it interesting and I do like to solve. I do like to look for solutions. I’m very oriented that way.

Change Proof | Lori Winkler | People Leadership

People Leadership: Resilience is something that you cultivate through experience.


In terms of resiliency, I would say that on a personal level, I had a series of very challenging personal events that took place a couple of years ago. One was the loss of a parent, very closely followed by the end of a long-term relationship, very closely followed by a relocation and then a new job. I had pretty much all the stressors you could ask for within let’s say, I don’t know, a 60-day period. It was a very condensed experience and then the pandemic hit.

I would say that in the moment I don’t think, “I’m resilient and I’m going to get through this.” My attitude is that I will get through things one day at a time. Sometimes it’s one hour at a time, sometimes it’s a minute at a time. I know that as long as I don’t overthink or over-project into the future, I know that if I apply that thinking of one day at a time, let me deal with what’s right in front of me, I tend to manage through it well, and I think that’s the foundation for resiliency. I’m not an expert, but I think it’s the way I handle it

That resonates with me. I did an episode at the end of the year, start of the year thing, and I did it by myself as a solo cast. I was sitting with the idea of a world that’s as complicated as it is nowadays, and it’s always been complicated, but I think there’s an energy of it feeling complicated and complex and more so by the minute, I suppose. I was thinking about the advice, being in resilience space as I’ve been and helping in whatever ways I can, I thought, “What’s good advice for me at the same time as it might be for others?”

It’s what you said a moment ago. I was suggesting that maybe the only responsibility, if we think of what this moment entails, what’s our responsibility in this moment to get the moment right mentally, emotionally, whatever that might mean, we could play with that. We can experiment with that working at that level in that micro-manner. I think that you described that one day at a time, one minute at a time. Even one moment at a time.

When it’s tough, I remember that the only way out is through. You can’t go around. I say, “Whatever’s right in front of me, I’m going to get through it and get through it the best way that I know how.”

The only way out is through. You can't go around. Click To Tweet

I know that phrase. It’s one of the most impactful things that I’ve ever heard. I heard it some years ago when I was in Costa Rica. It’s another story. We won’t get into it in a moment, but the only way out is through. That’s what you said. How often it is do you see that people look away? Sometimes we want to bury our heads in the sand or resist, especially change. You’re involved in a business that’s complex. Change is happening all the time. You are managing a lot of people, thousands of people, in fact. My experience having written a book called Change Proof, the research tells us that people aren’t that great with change, Lori. They don’t like it very much. Is that your experience as well? Could you share a little bit about it?

Yeah, sure. Certainly, professionally, I don’t think people like change because it’s disruptive and it’s fear of the unknown. The interesting thing is that there’s a sense of a lack of control. When it comes down to it, we don’t control anything other than ourselves in any situation. That’s a tough lesson for me to learn, but I learned it. I would say change is something that is frightening, but I always encourage folks to do their very best to embrace the change.

Typically with change comes growth and learning. You get something out of the experience, whether it’s a positive or not-so-positive experience. I do see a great deal of resistance to change, particularly in corporate environments where we are changing all the time. It’s the dynamics of business. You have to be able to pivot. You got to be agile. You have to be able to go with the flow. Resistance is an interesting concept because again, and I sound a little philosophical here, but what I’ve also learned in life is that what you resist will absolutely persist. I don’t know who came up with that, but I love it.

Change Proof | Lori Winkler | People Leadership

People Leadership: What you resist will absolutely persist.


It’s the truth. The more you resist something that’s coming your way, the more it’s going to continue. It’s like the physics of life or something or the laws of the universe. That’s why I live with this motto, acceptance is your best friend. That doesn’t mean you have to like it or you have to agree with it. If you’re fighting it, you’re only creating more issues for yourself. When change is coming and can’t control it because it may be something that’s being done to you, in essence, it could be being done for you.

If you could change that thinking with one word, I think it takes on a whole new meaning. I’ve had a lot of changes in my life that I didn’t want. I did not want the changes that occurred in my life. What I learned through that experience was that the more I resisted it, the more difficult things became. When I finally said, “Evidently this is the path that I’m supposed to walk one day at a time. I’m going to accept it and embrace it,” and that made me feel a lot better.

Lori, you’re giving me chills honestly because embracing the unknown, embracing uncertainty. You said you’re a recovering perfectionist. I’m a recovering control freak.

That’s a tough one. Me, too.

There’s this realization that what we control is so infinitesimally small, that it’s almost non-existent. You can control how you think in this moment. When people are asking for what is the tactical and the tangible way that we deal with these things, philosophy is helpful because philosophy to me is a foundation. I want to come back to philosophy in a second. In the moment, the one control that we all have is what is our current thinking. What’s our next thought going to be?

Also, our reaction. We can control our reaction.

We can, yeah. Especially if we breathe. If we take that moment to take a breath, then we can be more responsive than reactive. When you say acceptance, again, I’m trying to put myself in the seat of somebody reading this and going, “Except that sounds like accepting defeat,” especially in business. There are a lot of warriors out there who think that somehow or another they have to constantly be in a mode of assertiveness or something even more aggressive, honestly. When we say acceptance, we’re not talking about resignation.

That’s a good point of clarification, Adam. I’m not talking about accepting circumstances that are unacceptable. I’m not suggesting that persistence and assertiveness and doing and giving all that you can to achieve something that’s very important isn’t the way that I believe folks should operate. I operate that way.

Let’s say you’ve given everything and you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do and you’re going after that deal or you’re trying to put this team together. I can give a lot of different anecdotal references here, but what I will say is that for whatever reason, if it’s not working, I’m a firm believer that it’s not supposed to happen. That deal is not supposed to happen. That team is maybe not supposed to come together right now. Maybe we don’t have the right people or the right synergies. I wouldn’t say acceptance is passivity. I think it’s more of a healthy way to deal with things that you cannot control.

I was thinking the serenity prayer always comes to mind when I consider this.

I have it in two places on my desk.

It’s so powerful that we have to be able to distinguish, to be able to discern between the things that we actually can change and the things that we cannot, because the things that we cannot, we must accept. If we have the wisdom, that prayer goes to discern between the two. In resiliency terms, we don’t squander our energy because it’s the one thing we actually have each day if we’re lucky. We wake up. We’ve got this amount of energy that we can put to whatever our creative endeavors are, whether that’s to write as we talked about or it’s to lead, to think, to decide, to speak whatever it might be.

We have to be able to discern between the things that we actually can change and the things that we cannot, because the things that we cannot, we must accept. Click To Tweet

All of these things, as you said, you love problem-solving, so do I, but you need energy and you need energy to solve problems. The greater the problem, the greater the energy that’s required, creatively speaking in some way, shape or form to work through that problem. When you leak energy, the depletion that occurs is what leads to the anxiety that we’re seeing around us. The burnout is almost at its own epidemic levels. You sighed. Tell me, what was that sigh about?

I think that burnout is pervasive right now, and I have my own thinking about that. I don’t know that it’s a data-centric point of view, but it’s an observation. I think it starts with the pandemic where everything became blended into one. There was no such thing as work-life balance anymore. It was one fluid experience. I don’t know what the experience was, but we were brought into people’s homes. We literally couldn’t get out. We couldn’t socialize to the extent that we had previously experienced. We took it for granted, frankly.

This is again my own thinking on this. I think in order to somehow overcompensate for the fact that we were working out of our homes for a protracted period of time, we wanted to overcompensate by working because we had to demonstrate that we were still adding value even though we weren’t in the confines of an office.

There’s no such thing as a workday. It was like one fluid working experience and then interjected by the rest of our life’s experiences. The one thing about the pandemic is that for those of us who can continue to work, it gave us a lot of focus because there wasn’t much else we could focus on. We couldn’t focus on traveling and seeing family and friends and this thing. I was living in the Northeast during the pandemic. I lived in the Northeast for about twenty years and it was very difficult, particularly in the wintertime.

The net of it is that I think this has been the foundation for the burnout that we’re seeing now where people have left the workforce in all dimensions of the workforce. It isn’t in corporations. You see it everywhere. I see it in my local Starbucks. I think that it absolutely shifted the dynamics of working, of how we work, and also created this overworking approach that folks have taken because we weren’t in an office. You do have to feel like even though you’re sitting in front of your computer. You may be in your ripped jeans and your flip-flops or whatever but you’re still creating a lot of value.

That’s an insight I haven’t heard expressed in that way, Lori. Being a researcher myself and studying the burnout of so many people, there are a lot of things that we can attribute it to. The idea that there became a new habit formed of proving that you are still valuable even if you can’t be in and among the other people who are assessing you.

Yes, on some level, we’re all feeling that we’re assessing, we’re being assessed. I’m not trying to say that it isn’t important because I think it is in our world in a lot of ways but the proving, it’s exhausting all by itself. You talk about where we leak energy at times, proving that we’re of value starts early in our lives, often. That we’re good enough, that we’re worthy, that all those kind of stuff. When we were holed up wherever we were and feeling isolated and then wanting, as you say, to keep our stake in the ground, keep our position and not lose ground.

As I said, this is not a data-centric statement. This is an observation.

It is but I’m curious about it because I’ve not heard that as part of the equation. I’m going to look into that and I’ll get back to you.

Let me know if there’s any credibility to what I’m saying.

Anecdotal things are amazing in that respect because, first of all, we can ask people about it. We can survey it and dig into it and see where it triggers and may bear where this is more pervasive than we would’ve thought. I’ll get back to you on that. That’s amazing. I want to ask you about leadership. What do you value in terms of leadership?

I see leadership as the first domino. Our organization gets brought in often to other organizations to help them with the blind spots because it’s so difficult when you’re in the bowl, like as a goldfish, to see it, to feel it. Even the best of people, when you’re in that environment, you can’t see it objectively.

We have this great privilege and an honor to do that at times. Often, what we have to start with in assessing how the culture is doing, for example, how people are feeling, what’s the human experience like within this complex organism? We realize that leaders are the first domino. What leaders do, how they speak, what they believe, what they think, what their habits are. It impacts everybody. We haven’t covered your history so much. We’ll come to that in a second. What you value in a leader is what it means.

It’s going to sound a little bit of a standard answer, but I feel this way. Authenticity. I relate to and admire real people, whether they are nice real people or maybe not-so-nice real people. As long as they’re real, I put a premium on that because what I have found is that folks in leadership positions that aren’t genuine, that don’t come from a genuine place, from the heart, from a place of love, you can be like cats have whiskers that can sense things.

People know. People are not stupid. You put a leader in place who is direct, clear and honest. Maybe they don’t have to be elegant speakers. That’s a whole other story. This is maybe a better way to say it. I over-indexed on substance versus style. I like a leader who’s real, authentic and has substance to them. I don’t care about how articulate they are or the story they can tell, which is nice to hear. I enjoy that, but I like to see the real person. I try to be that way. That’s my goal. When I’m looking at leaders who have impacted me personally and professionally, it was those who were the real deal. Authentic, real people. Not showbiz, but real.

Authentic leaders have the most personal and professional impact on the people they’re leading. Click To Tweet

This is an opportunity for a little bit of a shout-out if you want to. You could either use a person’s name or not. It’s up to you. Share maybe something about how you have been mentored in the past and what that looked like, how that person shared or showed their substance to you through their actions versus the college.

I’m happy to do that. I’ll probably use an example from the past, and that would be the many years I spent at Johnson & Johnson. I worked with a lot of wonderful leaders who helped to shape and inform how I operate as a leader. I had the privilege of working for a very senior-level person at J&J. I was his head of HR for about six years and he was very generous with his time and a really nice, good, authentic person who had worked his way up throughout his career. I put a lot of premium on that too. Nothing was handed to him. He grew up in Philadelphia and he worked his way up through finance and was very successful but also never lost the essence of who he was as a person.

He’s very family-oriented and very generous with his time. Also, I wasn’t very strong in one particular area. That has to do with numbers. I have this math anxiety that I’ve had since I was a kid. We could talk about that offline too sometime. He was always very considerate of that. He didn’t say, “For crying out loud, can’t you get this down?” I have dyslexia with numbers. I have a hard time. He was very considerate of that and didn’t make me feel less than.

Through experiential learning, I got so much from that experience. It changed the trajectory of my career. It changed a lot of things for me. It was a wonderful experience. He is somebody that I’m happy to say a couple of times a year, I get to say hello. That’s one example. I have many examples. I’ve been very fortunate.

I want to ask you a follow-up to that. I’m assuming you do, but I’m asking you, how do you translate that experience and that example of mentorship and care? It felt like that’s a person who put love into their work. That is how they literally nurtured your development. How do you mentor people to this day? Back now from there to the present time, how does that inform your way of leading others now?

I try to lead from a place of caring and compassion. I care about the folks that I work with at all different levels. Whether they’re my peers or folks that work for me or folks that I mentor or any of our team members, I care about them as people. I try to demonstrate that in how I speak to them and engage with them. I can’t say I do it all the time because we’ve got to get stuff done. That’s what I’m known for. I get stuff done and I like having people around me that get stuff done. I’m very fortunate because I have an amazing team, but I happen to like my team a lot. I like them as people and I like to learn about them. I try to bring some level of humanity into how I lead and how I engage with folks that I work with. I think it’s important. You got to care about the people first because they know when you don’t.

I think that is a tough question. We’ll see. You’re going to find in your role, as you do, I know that there are people that have weaknesses or meaning that there are parts of the package that the second baseman might be great at and wins a gold glove every year, but they bat 200. In music, it could be the person who plays great rhythm guitar, but if asked to create a lead, a lick or something, they can’t do it. It’s not their thing. When you are looking at your team and you find that there’s an area, like for example, numbers with you or math, that’s a weakness for them or not optimized or whatever the right word is, how patient are you to this day with those things? What’s your method?

I’ve evolved over the years. I’ve been doing this for a long time. We don’t have to get into how many years, but a long time. What I’ve learned over the years is that you’re better served as a leader to leverage the heck out of strengths on your team. You’ll find that there are complementary skills. Somebody might be great at data analytics and great at putting those projections together. You have somebody else on your team who’s amazing at building relationships.

Change Proof | Lori Winkler | People Leadership

People Leadership: You’re better served as a leader to leverage the heck out of the strengths on your team.


For me, as long as I have folks on the team who are demonstrating and optimizing their strengths, I think we can mitigate those opportunities. That being said, we do do feedback. We do performance reviews and we do give anecdotal feedback. I try to do that in real-time. I’m pretty direct because I like it direct. I don’t like anything sugarcoated. Just tell me. I think I’m that way with my folks and I don’t know if they appreciate that or not, but my sense is they probably do because I don’t play any games.

Your role is as a CHRO for Zimmer Biomet. I’d love to know what you think is the most important part of being an effective CHRO. As you said, you and I have been around the block a time or two, so we’ve seen a lot of change and there’s more change on the rise. In fact, I think the velocity of change is only increasing. Everybody out there, get used to it. It’s not going anywhere. Zimmer itself has been through change and transition as well as J&J and other companies that you’ve probably been around. I’d like to get a sense of what’s the most important part of being an effective CHRO team.

Here’s what I would say. There’s a lot that comes with this role, a lot of responsibility. I would say it’s a privilege to be in this role but comes with a lot of responsibility. All of those responsibilities are important. I think what’s critical is to fully understand and appreciate that we have to continue to drive engagement with our employees in the context of ongoing remote work. I realize that some companies have mandated return to office.

We’ve been a little more flexible. In other words, we’ve said it’s at management’s discretion. If you want to go into the office, you go into the office. There’s still that flexibility. It scores very high on our engagement surveys every year. I would say having an intentional, well-thought-out plan on how you’re going to continue to drive engagement and productivity in the context of not necessarily being in an office five days a week.

We’ve been very successful at this, but it was a journey and it continues to be a journey. As a CHRO, in my opinion, you need to understand and appreciate that there is no new normal, we are in the normal now. This is it. Maybe there’ll be another shift in another couple of years, but this is what it is right now. When we interview candidates for our positions, depending on the level, and we tell them, again, depending on the role and the level, “You don’t have to relocate. You just have to travel,” it’s a differentiator for us with our competitors. In my experience, folks want that level of freedom and flexibility and we offer that. I think to be progressive in one’s thinking around that and understanding that norms have changed and in embracing that and also creating not just engagement, but how we do learning and development.

How are we delivering that? We had to get very creative on our approach there. These are things that are, important. I think being a CHRO, you need to have a good understanding of that. How is AI impacting your business? How is it going to impact your function? Are you building those capabilities that you’re going to need for future states? Strategic workforce planning sounds like it’s a very catchy phrase that people like to throw around, but if you’re doing it right, you’re planning to have the right capabilities for the future aligned with your business strategy. You need to be doing that.

In my mind, being a strong performing CHRO, you are focused on talent, culture engagement, change and your coaching. However, there’s a lot that goes underneath those headers right there, as you know. I think it’s being cognizant of the new way that we’re working and finding creative and innovative ways to drive that engagement, to make sure folks are getting development to appreciate what the workforce is looking for now and meeting those needs, not resisting it.

What the workforce is looking for now, that couldn’t be anymore meeting the moment, I would say. From a learning and development standpoint, is there something that you hone in on at the moment? Are you keyed in on something? Are you sensing using your spidey senses or your cat senses with regard to the learning development opportunities to meet the moment?

To be very frank, because I am very frank, I have a great team.

Should I call you Frank? Maybe I just call you Frank.

Why not? People have called me worse. I’ll take Frank. I would say I have a great team and I have a wonderful head of talent management, learning and development. I think she was very proactive about the approach here. We are delivering meaningful development programs that are done both remotely and in person, and they’re done globally, where we’re bringing cohorts to different parts of the world where we operate, where we manufacture, and where we have big sales hubs. I think that’s been very effective.

Some of our deliverables, like we have a global new hire orientation that is all done virtually now, but it’s best in class. It was done with a lot of thought. I would say some research went into it. It’s situational, but we’ve adapted, and Andrea led this. We adapted to the needs of our team members and didn’t necessarily say adapt to the way we wanted to do it. We were very thoughtful about how we were going to approach this given the virtual work environment

That makes a world of sense. Often, it is that the organization itself is culturally stuck and because it’s inflexible, then, as you said, it requires everybody to adapt to it. It’s the way we’ve done it around here as opposed to what you’re saying, which is much more creative.

By the way, none of this can happen without the right leadership at the very top of the house. If you have a CEO who embraces this and supports it, and I do, then it makes things a lot easier. It’s a team effort. Everything that we do is a team effort. Also, we’re a Fortune 500, but what I love about our culture is that we are agile and we do move fast. We’re not bureaucratic. It’s a very liberating experience to work at this company. That’s a big part of our story. That starts at the very top of the house.

At the top of the house is somebody that you’ve known for years. There’s a little bit of backstory there, which you and I were chatting about before we even hit record. It’s not so much a story, a chronological history or whatever. I think it’s important to come to a place. There’s an understanding and even a wisdom, an insight that I think it would be good to share with folks.

I’m happy to do that because I think also even folks at my company are unclear about how long we’ve known each other and what the circumstances were. It’s very simple. We were both working for a Johnson & Johnson operating company because J&J is like 300 operating companies or they used to. We were working down in Miami and Ivan Tornos, who’s our CEO, he was I think a VP of product marketing. If I don’t get this right, it’s not good. I can’t remember. It was a long time ago. In our neurological business, I was a newly promoted director of HR and I was his HR business partner, not just his, but for that particular organization. We worked together for only two years. I think it was from 2002 to 2004.

I was relocated up to New Jersey and we lost touch. Ivan stayed with the company. I think he went on to do a lot of great work, both at J&J and outside of J&J. I stayed with Johnson & Johnson for 23 years. Over that period of time, we were not in touch. He had a personal loss in his family that a mutual contact had told me about. I reached out to him to express some condolences there. That was probably 2008 or 2009. We were not in touch at all.

I was working for another company. I’d left J&J and I went to another company and we were looking at the time for a president of international and the recruiting firm presented a shortlist and his name was on it. I said, “I know historically this is a very talented person with tremendous global experience. Let’s see if he’ll interview with us.” The recruiter said, “No, he’s not interested.” I said, “Can you tell him that Lori Winkler is at the company? He might give us a shot.”

He did. We interviewed him and we offered him the job and he turned it down. This was in 2018. A month later, I saw on LinkedIn that he had joined Zimmer Biomet. I didn’t hear from him. A year later, the same month, October of 2019, he texted me and asked if I’d be interested in joining Zimmer Biomet as a group VP of HR. It was completely unexpected. I was not actively looking. It was the beginning of that series of changes that I told you about earlier on that were very challenging. Eventually, I did join the company, but we did know each other way back when, but we were not in touch for years and years. It was very sporadic.

It’s an interesting thing because in the world that we’re living in right now, where, as you said, there’s a lot of change in the workplace and the demographics of the workplace are changing as well, and it’s skewing younger as it always is. Leadership is changing hands and will continue to do that coming out of a pandemic where people, as we were talking about earlier, have experienced a great deal of siloing and isolation. There’s been that ripple effect of that.

One of the things that can be lost, especially when we’re in more of a hybrid or even work-from-home environment for many people is the connection that can happen, the deep relationships that can form. When I heard you share this, what came up for me was the idea that your career and even Ivan’s career, in many ways, has been impacted by those relationships.

You could call it synergy, you could call it synchronicity, you could call it coincidence, whatever you want. The fact is that your being at Zimmer Biomet has something to do with the fact that you maintain a connection with Ivan. I’m sure he’s got the people in his life where that’s been the same thing, that your trajectory, the way you’ve moved in your career has had everything to do with those connections. I’m concerned about one thing, I think it’s important that people know how important that is. Nobody gets to a role, like the role you’re in or the role he’s in, or any role of import meaning and impact without a lot of other people being involved. You don’t do it on your own. Is that fair to say?

That is so true. It made me think too that when I left Johnson & Johnson, I went to work for another company because two people who worked with me at J&J before recruited me to that company too. Building relationships and maintaining those relationships is important. You’ve got to build your network. Your network doesn’t just have to be people that you’ve worked with in the past, but certainly, folks that have had an influence on you that have impacted you personally.

It’s not a new concept but you should have your own board of directors. Sitting at that table are your mentors, maybe family members, folks who have come in and out of your life that have had an impact. Certainly, it will be folks that you’ve worked with before. The business is about relationships. We know this and relationship building is an important competency to have. I’d say certainly a leadership competency, but at any level because things don’t get done without those relationships and collaboration.

Business is about relationships. Relationship building is an important competency to have. It’s a leadership competency. Click To Tweet

I’m cognizant of time, so I’ve got a couple of quick questions here to wrap things up. I do want to ask you as a follow-up to that. In terms of getting things done, in terms of that collaboration, is there something on your mind when it comes to that virtual workforce to the part of Zimmer? This is not just Zimmer because we know it’s everywhere. There’s a group of folks that are working exclusively remotely, except during travel, etc., and some that are in hybrid situations. Is there a way that you’re thinking about, for the future, creating more of those collision zones? The opportunity for people to actually collide in the best possible way. Meaning, they connect and they start to develop those relationships that are so important.

We do that very intentionally because we have different sites around the world and we have site engagement strategies that are specific to that site. We will ensure that folks are coming in for either mission ceremonies or town halls or to do something for the community events if it’s to have a collaboration meeting. We’re very thoughtful about that. We’ve been doing that for several years now. It isn’t like a new concept. I don’t see that going away.

The way we measured that success was in our engagement survey results, which were the highest they’ve ever been in years. We did the engagement survey in August shortly after Ivan became CEO and the engagement survey results went up to the top quartile. We feel that there’s a lot of contributing factors to that. One would be the thoughtfulness that we put into engagement. I can’t speak for the masses. I can’t speak for the 18,000 employees that we have. We have employees that were always remote prior to COVID. I was. I’ve been remote since 2016 before I even came to Zimmer. I would say I can’t speak for the masses but I think we’ve done a good thoughtful job on bringing people together in person for the right reasons.

I don’t think we take enough time to celebrate, frankly. I’m speaking even personally about things that go well. We go, “That’s amazing. Yes,” and then move on to the next thing that we’re getting done and all that kind of thing. Since our organization had the great privilege of working with Zimmer on engagement, to hear you talk about that, Lori, that’s a little snippet that I know our team will be thrilled to hear we’re having. Thank you for saying that. That’s beautiful. I want to lastly ask you about what is hanging behind your head?

I was waiting for that.

I married a Jersey girl. I’m from New York, originally. She is, too, but she won’t admit that. She spent the first seven years of her life in New York but she’s a Jersey girl. As you spoke about J&J, they’re a Jersey-based company. If you’re from that area, you call it Jersey. You don’t usually say New Jersey. In the town where we were raising our kids for many years, it’s Freehold, New Jersey. Freehold, New Jersey is special for a lot of reasons, but what’s one of them, Lori?

There’s only one. Other than the fact that you raised your children there and lived there, Bruce Springsteen, that’s his hometown. I’ve been to Freehold many times in hopes of catching a glimpse. It’s never happened.

You got to know where to go. Federici’s in town, the local pizza place. That’s a spot we see him at with a baseball cap. Of course, the cap pulled down over his head, but if he ever walked up, we would not do this. People would come up to him. He was always a regular. Talk about authenticity. We used that word earlier. I want to tie that together because I first was introduced to Bruce probably right after Greetings from Asbury Park came out.

My buddy’s older brother was a fan of Bruce and had all these bootleg tapes of his live performances. Once I heard Growing Up, that whole album, front and back, because back then, it was like two sides of the thing. It was an A side and a B side. Every song was different than anything I’d ever experienced before. What is it that you love about Bruce? Maybe you tie it to this concept of authenticity.

I first heard Bruce Springsteen on a transistor radio, so I’m dating myself, when Rosalita came out. I was a young kid. I think I went right from The Partridge Family, which I’m dating myself, to Bruce Springsteen. I heard Rosalita. I said, “What is that?” I’ve never heard anything like that. It’s a whole story. I feel like he’s talking about these characters that I grew up in Brooklyn. He’s talking about characters that I’ve interacted with on the street or at school. It was fascinating to me.

I have been a fan since I was eleven years old. I am a huge fan. People have seen him hundreds of times. I’m on my 69th show. I’m probably going to see him again a few times when he starts up again. I’m putting any political association aside because people sometimes want to go right there about his politics. I don’t. I care about his music. That’s it.

What I love about him is that his writing is so authentic and his ability to relate to his audience is so real. When you’re in that venue and there are 70,000 people singing the same song and there are grown men crying in the front row that he can see, it’s a very emotional experience. There’s a great article that you should read. It’s older. I think it was in the Wall Street Journal. Bruce Springsteen in The Art of Leadership.

It’s an amazing little story and it talks about a lot of different things that he’s done well like succession planning on the band with Clarence and Danny out, what he did there and how he engages with his audience. Here’s one thing I will say. In his Broadway show, which you should see if you haven’t, you can watch it on Netflix. I saw it live.

Yes. To our audience, please, if you haven’t seen this, you have to see this.

It’s amazing. What I love about it is that he gets up there and he actually says, “I’m from New Jersey. There’s a little bit from the Jersey Shore where it’s tinged with fraud. Not everything is on the up and up and so am I.” He proceeds to say, “I wrote about cars and girls and I didn’t know learn how to drive a car until I was 25. “it was almost like, I don’t want to hear this. This much authenticity is a little too much for me. I need to still see you as this romantic hero. The fact that he can speak so genuinely about that resonates with me.

Spirit in The Night was the other song on that album.

My dog is named Janie.

I haven’t done that. You and I talked a little too about books before and I haven’t read his, I guess it’s an autobiography. It talks a lot about his depression and other things that he’s gone through. That’s on my list.

It’s 600 pages, so get ready.

That’s nothing. I only say that jokingly because I finished this thing called The Snowball, which is Warren Buffet’s biography that was written some years ago. Alice Schroeder was the biographer. This is, I don’t know, 900 pages. I know when you get into somebody’s life like that and it’s so good and the writing is excellent, you can’t put it down. I literally read this in the hot tub. That’s what it looks like. It looks like a Jersey girl’s hair.

I’m not going to say much about that.

My wife’s hair, to this day, she can get it up big if she wants. Lori, I could literally talk to you for hours and we’ve got a time constraint here. I want to say thank you so much for everything you shared. These episodes are always fascinating to me because I try to follow the breadcrumbs. I don’t know where they’re going to lead. Frankly, sometimes they don’t lead to the greatest place. I like to think they often are great, but I loved following our little threads.

I enjoyed it, too, Adam. Thank you for having me.

To the audience, stay tuned for a bit of a recap. If you’ve got comments or questions, you know what to do. Leave those comments or questions. It won’t be AI. It will not be a bot that answers them, I promise you. Of course, if there is a friend, family member or colleague that would benefit from reading some of the things that Lori shared. I think so many of these insights are born of wisdom. They’re valuable in a way that I think we need more now than maybe we’ve ever needed before. Share it with somebody that’s helpful to us. I appreciate you doing that. Our community has grown exponentially and it’s grown mostly because you’ve all been willing to do that, share these things with other people. Thank you for that as well. I’ll say ciao for now.

As promised, even to my own expectations, I feel like what Lori was able to share with us exceeded what I would’ve reasonably expected from a conversation that has to take place within a constrained period of time. It can be artificial. What I wanted and knew that would occur because of the person that Lori is, would be that we would get after it and there would be this instant opportunity for deep dive and collaborative conversation.

I know that’s what occurred for me. It’s my perspective of course, but you’ll be the great judge of that. You, as the audience, will determine whether or not this was valuable for you. I feel as though there’s great value in the stories, in what are atypical ideas around leadership nowadays, as well as insights around what’s happened in our world and in our work world in particular.

I love so much of what was shared and we talked about authenticity and then ultimately we’re able to even come back and close the loop on that idea and that word in reference to something that is very important in Lori’s life and has been to me. I’ve been a music lover from the time that I was young and I love live music in particular, and being witness to something unique that happens on a stage with musicians.

Lori is as deeply committed, if not more committed to that. In particular, to Bruce Springsteen, and the live shows. I think she said she’s seen 69 live shows. She is going to see more when Bruce is once again on tour. We talked about how it is that we handle adversity and often what causes our suffering is the attachment that we have to things and perfectionism and proving often that we are good enough or that we can get it done or get it done right, etc. All that pressure that comes along sometimes with those personality traits also contribute to our success. Lori shared a secret ingredient to her success, which is acceptance.

We unpacked what acceptance looks like, that it is not resignation, but something far more powerful than that. I didn’t know that Lori is also a writer, and that’s one of her passions. I learned that about her. We talked about what it means to create something powerful in the moment and that ultimately, being resilient might boil down to embracing change even when it’s unknown as it most often is.

Also, what embracing change can look like in order to contribute to our resiliency? Chunking it down even further to how you manage the day and how you manage the minute and even how you manage the moment. That was a particular part of our conversation that I absolutely loved. We also talked about engagement and the importance of creating plans to drive engagement with remote workers. In the situation where we find ourselves, where it’s so many hybrid work situations now and how important it is that we create connections for the development of an individual.

We have to recognize that individuals don’t succeed by themselves. Nobody ever does. Nobody I ever met who’s attained anything meaningful has done it by themselves, done it in isolation. Yet, in many ways, coming out of the pandemic, we’ve dealt with a lot of isolation. We’ve seen what silos can produce, and often can produce anxiety, an environment where there’s no separation between our work life and our not work life. That leads to depletion. It leads to exhaustion and even burnout. We talked about some of those things as well.

This is one of my favorite conversations. I know that it’s something that is worth sharing. Please take the time to do that with a friend, a colleague or a family member even that might benefit from reading some of the wisdom that Lori Winkler shared with all of us. Of course, we’d love to get your comments and thoughts as well. Let us know how you feel about the episode. If you take the time, the moment to give it a rating on the platform where you consume it, whatever that platform might be, that helps the algorithm. It helps us. We appreciate your willingness to do that.

This community has grown exponentially over a very short period of time, I think, because of the quality of these conversations and hopefully, the ongoing value that they provide. Thank you for taking the time to give it your thoughtful rating, and of course, check out how resilient you are feeling in the moment. It’s a snapshot in time. It only takes three minutes, and you can simply go to

Three minutes later, after answering sixteen very simple questions, but don’t take it for granted. Simple isn’t profound. You’ll get insights as a result of your answering those questions in three minutes or less that will blow your mind and resources and tools to increase productivity, increase your energy levels to give you more capacity to do the things that you love and want to do and accomplish in your life. With that, again, I want to say thank you so much for being a part of the community. Thank you for being a part of this whole experience. I’ll say ciao for now.


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About Lori Winkler

Change Proof | Lori Winkler | People LeadershipMs. Winkler joined Zimmer Biomet in February 2020 as Global Vice President of HR for the Global Business Group and was appointed as Chief Human Resources Officer in March 2021.

Prior to joining Zimmer Biomet, Ms. Winkler served as a Worldwide Vice President of Human Resources in the Cardinal Health Medical Segment where she was responsible for 10,000 employees in over 70 countries. Before that, she served as the Global Head of Human Resources for Finance and Procurement at Johnson & Johnson (J&J). In this role, Ms. Winkler was the HR leader for the Chief Financial Officer of J&J and a member of the CFO’s senior staff, responsible for 6,000 employees worldwide.

During her tenure at J&J, she served on a number of Global Management Boards as the HR leader for integrated, commercial businesses as well as large scale global functions including the Corporate Office of Science and Technology, Research & Development and Corporate Affairs.

Ms. Winkler received a Master of Science in Human Resources Development from Barry University, a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Florida Atlantic University and an Executive Leadership Coaching Certification from Georgetown University.