We had the good fortune of connecting with Gianna Biscontini, M.A. Ed.H.D., BCBA and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gianna, can you tell us about a book that has had a meaningful impact on you?
Into The Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart, by James Doty, has had the biggest impact on my life by a mile. It’s an incredible account of his life and the vehicle by which he learned about mindfulness and, later, all forms of compassion. I read it at a time in my life where I was looking for more meaning in my work and was feeling very unclear. Without knowing the state I was in, a friend gifted me the book and I read it in a matter of days. Having the neuroscience and the story behind his mindfulness journey, I started my own meditation practice. I came to see that integrating multiple forms of mental, emotional and physical wellbeing into the way leaders and companies work was not only my next career move but a lifelong dedication. Doty’s work not only ignited my interest in compassion and mindfulness, it was undoubtedly the catalyst to the welbeing and leadership pivot I made in my career.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My favorite subject! I collaborate with executives to first elevate their own capabilities with some outside-the-box, creatively designed work on themselves and their team (yes, we get vulnerable!). From there, we work together to establish a vision and actionable strategy for how to break our current ways of thinking throughout the company with the full support of the executive table. This is the first step to changing culture, whether the aim is to improve wellbeing, performance or other indicators of success. The biggest differentiator in this work is a more effective and modern methodology that integrates psychology, mindfulness, organizational behavior and analytics – (not to mention humor!) that allows me to assess and analyze companies on the back end, then turn the results into a more relatable, tangible advisory process by executing the programs the team decides on. In regards to organizational wellbeing, it takes many forms- from movement and mindfulness to removing ineffective, stressful variables like archaic processes and meeting formats- so it’s necessary to complete an analysis first. We want to make sure we know what will work before expending resources. At the end of the day it was a long hustle to reach this point. But it’s heartwork, it feeds me. This is such an exciting time, as we are in the early adopter phase where everyone is constantly learning and exploring. By far the best part of this work is the ways in which we can use information to create solutions and culture elevators uniquely effective for each client. I’m a firm believer in having fun with everything I do, and it’s been a blast getting to sit in the front row of this work with executives who are all in, for themselves, their people and the future of their company.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My next favorite topic! I always recommend my neighborhood, South Park. It has a community feel like no other place I’ve ever lived. Take a walk and check out the historic craftsman homes before hitting up Communal Coffee (a dirty chai to die for) or the original Cafe Madeleine (my favorite croissants in the U.S.). Shop at Graffiti Beach and the nearby vintage stores to work up an appetite, then visit Buona Forchetta’s Enoteca for some wine and small bites before heading to the other side of Balboa Park to Azuki Sushi. Take a sunset walk around Park West and see the bell tower lit up at night. My Saturday ritual is a Bird Rock latte, a run along the San Diego Harbor then spending a few hours at the Little Italy Farmers Market before yoga at Resilience in Golden Hill. Other adventures for visiting friends include the cliff side meditation gardens in Cardiff, Mr. A’s for a sunset drink, Kindred in South Park for an incredible vegan meal (and my favorite cocktails in the city), and a walk or bike around Coronado, my rescue pup’s favorite place in the world.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Not surprisingly my first debt of gratitude goes to Dr. James Doty for his passion and dedication to bringing compassion and mindfulness to the attention of the west, along with Dr. Richard Davidson and Daniel Goleman, who wrote Altered Traits. Wellbeing as it relates to work is still in the early adopter phase, which has made it all the more important to have a community of inspired people who are fueled by the same purpose. I’ve found the most energizing support from those who are naturally walking the same path in regards to wellbeing or to making the world better in some way. The tribe of social entrepreneurs from my 2019 executive program at Stanford are high on that list. We forty-some individuals from around the world are in constant contact, encouraging and cheering one another along. It’s provided me with a solid network of individuals who get each other, who understand what it means to work with purpose, and to have both heart-breaking and celebratory moments along the way. Nikhil Saraf and Raghu Venkat deserve special gratitude for supporting me on both the personal and professional level. I also have to thank my soon-to-be partners at Courageous, Rhett Power and Ryan Berman, for their candor, energy and vision for the work we’ll be doing together through our new endeavor, Courageous Leadership.