The 7 Transformations in Vertical Leadership Development

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This blog is provided by Antoinette Braks, Thought Leader in Vertical Leadership Development and Author of Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership. It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Transformative Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership on June 16th, 2020.

 

There are seven key transformations in executive leadership capacity in the world today. They form the progressive stages in adult maturity or Vertical Development, in contrast to horizontal learning that takes place within a stage. The seven transformations are:

  1. Opportunist
  2. Conformist (Diplomat)
  3. Specialist (Expert)
  4. Achievist (Achiever)
  5. Catalyst (Individualist)
  6. Synergist (Strategist)
  7. Alchemist (Constructivist – Alchemist)   

The stages of development form a holarchy where the strengths of each stage are incorporated in the following stage. As we progress through these stages of development we gradually release our shadow or personal reactive patterns based on the ego’s sense of insecurity and feeling “not good enough.”  As we develop our leadership capacity, we grow in terms of perception, consciousness and perspective, and gradually embrace all of who we are with awareness, understanding, kindness, compassion and wisdom.

The stages of vertical leadership development were successively developed by three pioneering scientists: Jane Loevinger, Susanne Cook-Greuter and Terri O’Fallon. The descriptions of the stages is based on my studies with Susanne and Terri and Bill Torbert, and my decade of coaching experience explicitly focused on later stage vertical development for strategic divisional leaders. Let’s look at each stage in turn.

The Opportunist

The Opportunist is concerned with survival and security, Maslow’s first two needs. They are self-interested, relatively isolated and will get away with whatever they can. They operate on a day-by-day or minute-by-minute basis without a care for consequences. Their view of the world is that it is unsafe and everyone else is assumed to be an enemy. They play only to their own advantage.

The Opportunist is deceptive and manipulative. They are the executives who steal your ideas without recognizing their source, who always blame others when things go wrong, and seem to be unavailable when immediate help is needed. They will also attack first in order to defend themselves when feeling threatened and are completely adverse to feedback.

The Opportunist lives in fear, trusts no one and operates largely in fight, flight or freeze mode. This view of the world is their Autopilot. In 1995 some 4% of the Executive population were anchored at Opportunist, although this proportion has since reduced to 0%. Whenever our safety and security is threatened in the succeeding stages, it is relatively easy to regress back to the level of the Opportunist and resolve our situation based on self-interest alone.

The Conformist

The Conformist decides to play it safe. While they still view the world as a very challenging place to be, they believe that if they abide by all the rules and do what people in higher authority ask or tell them to do, they will be safe. They conform. They are risk averse and will only take action if instructed to do so. Most will also need a step-by-step approach mapped out for them. Their level of voluntary participation is relatively low.

In complying, Conformists give away their personal authentic power to positional authority. This leads to a sense of personal ineptitude that moves them to complain. In other words, when we give our personal power away to comply with others, we address this imbalance by complaining about others. If you know anyone in your workplace who complains a lot, they will be operating from a Conformist mindset. Around 10% of the Executive population are anchored at Conformist although there are very few anchored at this stage in organisations that invest in leadership development. It is a common fallback position for succeeding levels when under stress.

Conformists use reactive emotional strategies to get what they want. The three key strategies are appeasing others by being nice and bending over backwards to fit in – usually towards more senior people; controlling others by criticising, berating and offending others – usually towards more junior people; or otherwise withdrawing from people altogether by avoiding all communication and even eye contact.

All are unconscious emotionally manipulative techniques that produce workplace drama in the form of passive-aggressive behaviour manifesting in bullies and victims. We subconsciously base our boss-subordinate and peer-based interpersonal strategies on those we employed to get what we wanted as a child within the comparable context of parent-child and sibling dynamics.

The Specialist

The Specialist devotes themselves to their work. They wish to develop their skills, perfect their craft and focus on the details to get everything absolutely right. They switch their primary focus from being compliant and fitting in, to standing out through the course of their work. They are experts in their field and strong contributors dotting i’s and crossing t’s for as long as it takes to get something perfect. They can make up some 38% of the Executive population (1995) but this proportion too has dropped to under 10% in deliberately developmental organisations.

Specialists largely work individually and are focused on the quality of their work and mastery of their craft. They will drill down to the detail and ensure complete accuracy taking a perfectionist rather than pragmatic approach. A micro-manager is typically operating at the Specialist mindset. Their personal identity merges with their work so they take feedback very personally. They tend to be emotionally reactive on the receiving end of constructive feedback and emotionally responsive to recognition and praise.

While the reactive behaviours are still present, they are now more associated with their work than trapped within the power struggle of the endemic parent-child and sibling dynamics. They are driven by the need to perfect their work, which is a quantum step up the spiral from Conformist. Focusing on increasing the quality of our own work based on our own albeit critical view of self and others, leads to continuous improvement.

The Achiever

The Achiever is a pragmatist rather than a perfectionist. Their goal is “fit for purpose” rather than perfect. The Achiever begins to consider how their work meets the needs of colleagues, customers and clients. Their focus extends to the impact of their work rather than just the work itself. They are open to feedback on their work, can manage change, drive projects, meet deadlines, produce results and heed the customer.

Achievers also shift from working individually to working effectively with others as team players. They enjoy being in the driving seat and driving initiatives forward. They are competitive, strong performers, will do what it takes to win and enjoy the glow of success. Achievers can also be very black and white. This enables them to be decisive and proactive albeit somewhat shortsighted compared to more advanced stages of development when life becomes shades of grey.

Customer-centric organisations adopt an Achiever mindset by creating feedback loops and generating team accountability for customer interactions and the customer experience. The introduction of scorecards to drive results and address gaps in performance supports the Achiever’s competitive, capitalist worldview.

In the mind of the Achiever, the world is made up of winners and losers and their primary focus is to strive for more. This keeps them on the treadmill of doing more, wanting more and getting more. What they have is never enough. This vicious cycle is extremely stressful!

In 1995 they made up some 33% of the Executive population. The proportion peaked at 60% in organisations investing in stage development (2005) and is now dropping as more executives develop their leadership capacity at the later post-conventional level of Catalyst.

The Conventional World

Opportunists, Conformists, Specialists and Achievers are all mindsets in the conventional world. In 1995, 78% of a sample of 4,510 adults in the US held a conventional mindset (Cook-Greuter); in 2005 this was down to 70%, and in 2015, at 59% (Harthill Consulting, PwC) albeit their population sample is drawn from organisations actively investing in stage leadership development. Achievers work extremely well in the world.

However at these stages of leadership development or conscious awareness, we are not able to work on the world. We are not able to introduce and sustain transformational change that will create a better world. To do this we must make the shift to post-conventional later stages of leadership capacity. While this “new” world is uncertain and ambiguous, by developing our conscious capacity to navigate and transcend the chaos, we are able to redeem peace of mind, restore personal wellbeing and build the world anew.

The percentage of Catalysts is growing at the rate of approximately 10% in each of the last two decades. At this stage, we begin to navigate our world with a view to creating change but this novel capacity does not manifest fully until the following stage of Synergist. Only Synergists have been found to have the capacity to lead sustainable transformation in an organisation (Rooke and Torbert) and their numbers have only inched up slowly from 5% to 8% in the last 20 years.

It would seem that the container of the organisation can support the Catalyst mode of diverse open engagement, yet still inhibits the presence of Synergist leadership that can bring about real transformational and sustainable change. Thus a greater investment in leadership development that liberates Synergist capacity is essential to reinvent the organisation, the collective, at the corresponding evolutionary levels of green and teal (Laloux).

The Achiever tends to be very hesitant before they make the leap into what appears to them to be the great unknown. They must make the shift from the external world to their inner world. At this point the guidance and encouragement of a later stage Coach is invaluable to them. Indeed I would go as far as to say that Executive Coaching in Leadership Development with a Strategist or Alchemist Coach is essential to ease this shift and also a powerful investment by organisations that genuinely wish to foster global sustainable shared prosperity and community wellbeing.

The Catalyst

The Catalyst is the first post-conventional stage. It represents a leap into a new growth zone and an unfamiliar world. At the individuation phase of the Specialist we were focused on perfecting our work. At the individuation phase of the Catalyst we are focused on understanding ourselves: our thoughts and feelings, motives and fears, reactions and responses, and our deepest desires and aspirations. We ask existential questions: “Why?” “Why am I here?” and “What is the meaning of life?”

At Catalyst, we move into our personal growth zone where growing and evolving becomes our natural way of being. Even though the challenges we encounter along the way may be unfamiliar and disconcerting, for the participant, life is forever enriched. We shift from being satisfied with a life based on cause and effect to feeling our way forward in the world despite uncertainty in order to lead a more purposeful and fulfilling life based on conscious intention and committed action.

Catalysts are focused on engaging others, igniting change and working across boundaries. Their focus turns from the impact of their work on customers and clients to the input into the design and nature of the work itself through active early genuine engagement with all stakeholders. They are attuned to leveraging strengths, fueling personal growth and collaborating with others in order to exercise mutual power to co-create the best possible outcomes for the whole community.

The capacity to genuinely innovate and collaborate is initiated at Catalyst. At this mindset the inner world of the individual becomes more important than the external world within which they operate. In other words they heed their intuition and feelings to make decisions and generate new insights and ideas. They also listen from a much deeper place of inquiry and can therefore create a deeper connection with others and develop the ability to build real trust with others.

Many words beginning with “in” are associated with the Catalyst worldview: insight, innovation, intrinsic, innate, inquiry, introspection, intricate, inclusive, inquisitive, interest, intimacy, intuition and inspiration.

The Synergist

Executives anchored at Synergist still number just 8% today, even in organisations investing significantly in leadership development. At this point in their journey of increasing expanding consciousness, they have become self-aware and other-aware and have the ability to be discerning and self-validating. They do not seek approval or permission from others. They have developed strength of character and their integrity is evident.

Synergists have the vision, courage and presence to generate and sustain transformational change (Torbert, 1998). They have adopted the mantle of personal authentic power in the interests of serving their whole community and not just selected interest groups. This represents a shift from ‘not good enough’ at Conformist, looking good at Specialist, doing well at Achiever, doing good at Catalyst and onto focusing on the greater good for all concerned at Synergist, now and in the longer-term future.

When led by a Synergist, the organisation shifts from being customer-centric to community-centric. It succeeds in achieving medium-to-long term sustainable outcomes that make a real, significant and beneficial impact on the people they serve and affect now and in the future. They generate a new world through their convictions and intentions, living by their principles and in tune with their life purpose while embracing others with compassion and enthusiasm.

The mature Synergist is an authentic, inspiring and strategic leader. They lead confidently from the ‘inside-out’. They are able to consistently stand and hold their ground while holding a nurturing space for the emergence of a transformed world. They are extremely mindful, highly considered and passionately articulate in their advocacy for a better world and are able to take purposeful action in the moment to raise conscious awareness and liberate the emergence of latent potential across the organisation and amongst all stakeholders.

The Alchemist

The final stage that can be observed and calibrated in the post-conventional world is the Alchemist. They number 1%. The Alchemist can have a far-reaching impact on their world. They are the iconic leaders who ignite and generate social evolution as well as transform global industries. Illustrious figures such as Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson and Anita Roddick would appear to have realised their potential as Alchemists. However there are also Alchemists who are amazingly effective behind the scenes in niche markets and uniquely tailored roles such as executive coaching!

The Alchemist embodies their own intuitive guidance and employs mutually collaborative power to generate transformational shifts in the world that respect common humanity and all of life. They are able to hold and embrace wonderful future possibilities while standing firmly in the present and being cognisant of all that has preceded and led to the current situation. They look at events symbolically and value both the shadow and the light in the psychodynamics of common human interactions.

The Alchemist has released the shadow of the ego through grief and forgiveness, and surrendered their personal will to be an instrument in the divine orchestra on earth. They live to evolve in tune with the cosmos listening into the dark and the deep recesses of their soul’s voyage in life. They feel free to be uniquely themselves, liberated from any social or cultural conventions, and can feel both delighted and tormented as they perceive, attend to and process the vast cacophony of thought and emotion that swirls around them. They are able to be fully vulnerable yet vitally alive and vigorous as they give their conscious, compassionate attention to the dynamic interplay in each and every moment to exercise wisdom in action.

The Post-Conventional World

We need the perspective of the Synergist and Alchemist to navigate our way through the interconnected global crises we face today. Only at these levels can leaders transcend the turmoil, cut through complexity, trust in emergence and transform and evolve the economic, education, health and environmental foundations of society today. We are being invited to generate a more sustainable, healthy and equitable world.

Until recently we thought it took 5 years of focused development to shift to later stages. However, we now know that an executive coaching program explicitly focused on vertical development to Synergist can expedite this vertical growth in just one year.

In my recent PhD Research Study 100% of the participants surprisingly and inspiringly all shifted a full stage in leadership development in a single year, most from Achiever to Catalyst. Two shifted two full stages to Synergist, and five went on to land at Synergist a little later. This is in direct contrast to the commonly held view that it takes several years to make a vertical shift to later stages of development.

The participants were all engaged in an Executive Coaching Program focused on strategic and holistic leadership development. In other posts I explain how 8 key drivers reflecting a blend of “outside-in” and“inside-out” coaching transcending conventional organisational operating norms and cultivated their latent, emergent potential as authentic, inspiring, strategic transformational, quantum leaders (Zohar).

The implication is the extent to which conventional operating norms are stunting our leadership development. To my mind there is not a dearth of leadership potential in most organisations today, there is simply a very tight lid on the container for growth. Instead of providing the opportunity for executives to become more aware of their role in the interplay of life and the freedom to express themselves more fully and make conscious decisions that will create a more sustainable, healthy and equitable world, organisations have become pressure cookers.

Organisations and political parties can make substantial gains from later stage executive coaching from the Synergist/Alchemist perspective. It is essential for senior executives and aspiring future leaders to transform their perspective on life and become fluent co-creators in shaping their organisation and the communities they serve. Post-conventional vertical leadership development enables us to realize our potential to generate an economic and social transformation, redeem peace of mind, restore shared wellbeing and renew our world so that we all thrive and flourish.

The higher our self-expression and the deeper our self-awareness, the richer our life experience and the greater our soul evolution. ~ Antoinette Braks

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Antoinette Braks is a thought leader in Vertical Leadership Development and a Master Certified Executive Coach with greater than 3,500 coaching hours with over 250 strategic leaders from across the private and public sectors. She has a proven track record in expediting rapid shifts to later stages enabling strategic leaders and executive coaches to realise transformative outcomes. She is renowned for enabling executives to transcend the turmoil and cut through complexity, trust emergence and navigate uncertainty, and transform their world to spark ingenuity.

Antoinette’s expansive StageSHIFT coaching approach incorporates strategic systemic organisational leadership, evolution and transformation, and personal holistic leadership based on psychodynamics, reframing narrative and shadow resolution, while realising the highest aspirations in life, career and business.

Her corporate background includes C-suite leadership of People and Culture with Vector NZ during the merger integration of their gas and electricity businesses, Director of Strategic Culture Transformation at Businesslink NSW Australia and Regional Strategic HR Management with Shell International Latin America and Africa. Antoinette also led Leadership Capital Solutions for Korn Ferry Asia Pacific and consulted with Hudson Talent.

As well as a Master Executive Coach, Antoinette is a strategic facilitator, leadership consultant, coaching supervisor, and conference presenter. She presents at Coaching, Leadership and Integral Conferences to share her unique insights into the non-linear spiral nature of vertical leadership development to later stages e.g. the Spectrum Stage Shift, the 2-Step Square Dance and Vertical Development Theory based on her PhD research.

Her new book, Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership: The Drivers and Dynamics in Vertical Development, will be published by McGraw Hill in May 2020.

Antoinette has an MBA from London Business School, has submitted her PhD thesis in Vertical Leadership Transformation, and studied the Oxford Brookes Professional Certificate of Advanced Study in Coaching Supervision.

Antoinette.Braks@Join-the-SHIFT.com

www.stageshift.coach

Photo by Markus Spiske

 

Using Language to Create a Generative Culture In a Dynamic Business Environment – Huntington and Sophisticated Systems

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This is a companion blog to the interview Words Drive Actions -Changing Culture With Value Based Words with Dwight Smith and Stephen D. Steinour that aired on December 17, 2019.

 

Words can be powerful. For anyone who has spoken a harsh word to a child, a loved one, or even a colleague, we can often feel the impact in our gut when we see their faces look back at us filled with hurt or sadness. We, as busy leaders, employees, and family members, often allow our stress to seep through in our language. “My Special Word,” corporate purpose statements and guiding principles can serve as an aspirational reminder setting the tone for the environment we are committed to creating.

Does this type of statement help? Is it just window dressing that sounds good in our recruiting videos?

I believe having an aspirational statement about who we want to be as individuals and organizations AND creating an environment of accountability to encourage us to act in alignment with our aspirations creates the conditions where we are more likely to act according to our aspirations. This doesn’t mean we hit the mark every day in every action. Aspirational means that is the standard we set, we measure ourselves against it, and we measure our colleagues and organization against it. Another key is we put structures in place to help one another hit that aspirational goal. We discuss our success stories and our challenges. This aspirational culture is created by both giving deep thought to the qualities we care about and creating systems and processes that underpin the culture.

In our leadership development programs at the Innovative Leadership Institute, we take participants through a process where they explore their purpose and values. For many busy leaders, while they are highly principled, they have not taken time to write down their deepest held values and evaluate their behavior against those values. The process can be instructive and an invitation to remember the values they were raised with or aspire to in their quiet moments. One of the challenges is how do we create the conditions to “operationalize” these deeper values in business?

In a conversation with Steve Steinour, Huntington Bank CEO and Dwight Smith, Founder, My Special Word, and CEO/Founder Sophisticated Systems, they explore approaches they have used to be explicit with their values personally and organizationally. This transparency is particularly important during a time when we, as citizens, are continually disappointed by the behaviors we see from those we were raised to trust. This behavior could emanate from our business leaders, civic leaders, and, occasionally, our religious leaders. In my view, we as leaders can’t completely stop the negative behavior, but we can be visible as the positive leaders that fill our communities. There are a few bad apples that get lots of press, and there are thousands or hundreds of thousands of good people who want to be great parents, employees, leaders, and family members. Steve and Dwight are highly visible and successful men in their community who are modeling their values through their words and their actions!

In this blog and the interview series, we have been talking about the trend that successful companies are focused on both profit AND being companies that serve the broader community. Huntington’s Purpose statement and Values model that trend. Huntington’s purpose is “to look out for people,” their Purpose statement is: “We make people’s lives better, help businesses thrive, and strengthen the communities we serve.” Huntington is committed to doing the right thing for its customers, colleagues, shareholders, and communities by seeking to “Do the right thing” with the following three Values…

  • Can-Do Attitude
    “Enthusiastically work and succeed together.”
  • Service Heart
    “Inclusive spirit to put yourself in each other’s shoes—then help.”
  • Forward Thinking
    “Always look ahead for ways to be the very best.”

These values help guide Huntington in all the company does in running an effective and successful enterprise where people are treated well, and where they treat their clients and communities well. Treating people well includes civility, which means looking out for people. One way Huntington looks out for colleagues it through its business resource groups. These groups come together with common interest to share their views, which then help guide and inform others around the company. These groups drive actions in the company such as the military Business Resource Group driving benefit change for Military employees and clients. To me, a major point is Huntington sets an aspirational vision and behaviors, then it acts and measures how effectively they meet that aspiration.

Dwight talks about kindness, respect, and the ability to listen to others. These words become the foundation of a culture where values show up on how people talk and interact with others. People’s diverse values are respected. People are encouraged to share their values and aspirations – creating a safe place to succeed and also a safe place to experiment and learn and make mistakes.

Moving culture from unconscious action to deliberate choice is a complicated process and unique to every organization. Here are a few steps to consider as you look at your own culture and words to see if you are saying and acting the way that aligns with your aspirations.

  • Define/refine/revisit your purpose
  • Clarify the words that most resonate with and enable your purpose
  • Identify the processes and people (like business resource groups) that turn aspiration into action
  • Measure and refine

In an environment that is changing quickly, leaders must create positive cultures that reinforce the aspirations we have as people and as organizations. This positive culture includes qualities such as respect, civility, and supporting others in accomplishing their goals and dreams.

What are your organization’s aspirational words?

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

This online course contains the companion tools and assessments for people getting to develop become Innovative Leaders. The course is based on a proven six-step process in an interactive format that includes audio interviews with top leaders and thought leaders, videos, worksheets, articles, and reflection questions designed to support you in enhancing your practical effectiveness as an Innovative Leader.

It contains links to the online measurement platform and leadership assessments you and your coach will use.

Follow the process, and you will become more effective as a leader!

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute  is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.

Fighting a Lot of Fires? —– You may be the Arsonist.

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This is a guest blog provided by Dr. Michael Colburn. The interview of Aleksandra Scepanovic as well as this blog challenge us to reflect on our leadership skills, even in hard times, and what we can learn to be a become a better leader. The interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future with Aleksandra Scepanovic aired on 10/22/19.

Ever have one of those days?  Crises abound and it feels like you are spending most of your time putting out fires?  Action is taken to solve the crisis at hand.  At best, the cost of the crisis is minimized.  However, your time is taken away from the high value activities that you want to work on.  A crisis is an unexpected event that has a cost assigned to it if it is not resolved.  There are crises that are truly unexpected, and we just have to deal with them.  But there are others where we need to ask the question: What are some things that I do that may create or magnify crises?  Here are five tips you may find helpful in preventing the fires from happening in the first place.

Tip 1:  Communicate openly and honestly even when it hurts.
It is not just the issue that makes something important.  It is often the lack of time to respond to the issue.  When a red or yellow flag goes up, it is time to communicate.  The earlier you communicate about a possible crisis, the more time you will have to create alternatives (eg., get help from a colleague, negotiate a time extension).  Your boss or client may not be thrilled, but they will be informed.  The problem is not compounded.  At worst the impact is minimized.  At best the problem may be prevented.  You communicated and accepted responsibility.

Tip 2: Anticipate potential problems and take preventive actions.
When planning for any project, get in the habit of questions like: What could go wrong? What can I do to prevent it from happening? What corrections can I take when a red flag goes up?  Ask colleagues who have had similar projects the sane questions.  Accelerate your learning from yours and others’ experiences.  Build in preventive actions to reduce the risk of crises.  Plan contingent actions to respond quickly to the unexpected.

Tip 3: Make realistic commitments.
Some golfers’ optimism gets them in a lot of trouble.  If I can manage to hit the ball under the limb, curve around the tree and go over the water, I can reach the green.  Some people, like this optimistic golfer make “best case” estimates to the client to make the sale, to impress the boss or to relent to pressure.  The seeds of crises have been sown.  When commitments are not met, excuses are made, and credibility is damaged.  You need to be both realistic and courageous.

Tip 4: Establish regular communications with the boss and clients.
Take the initiative to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with the boss to review progress, agree on priorities and discuss resource needs.  Openness and candor do not often thrive in group settings.  These accountability meetings keep small problems from growing into crises.  Your initiative eases the need for the boss to check up on your projects.  Have similar meetings with your critical internal clients and teammates. One proactive meeting eliminates many reactive ones. 

Tip 5: Continually improve your processes.
Poor processes create crises. We know this at the organizational level, and it is also true at the individual level.  This may include personal planning, project management and communication methods with the boss, teammates and clients.  Look at your key value creating activities and take a step back and describe as if you were going to teach them to someone.  Identify ways to reduce wasted effort an increase the time you spend on the highest value activities.  Be your own lean consultant.

Next Steps
Review the five tips and choose one that resonates with you.  Identify one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to apply this tip to your professional or personal life.  Success breeds success.  Each step you take will enable you to take control of the seemingly uncontrollable.  Let me know how it works at dr.mjcolburn@gmail.com.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Dr. Michael Colburn has built his career on performance improvement at the organization, team and individual levels for a broad range of clients in the private and public sectors for more than 30 years.  He recently retired as an Associate Professor of Management at Ashland University where he taught Organization Development, Operations Management, Strategic Management and Self-Management & Accountability.   Michael has authored numerous papers in academic, professional and trade publications.  His first book, Own Your Job: Five Tools for Self-management and Accountability in the Workplace will help you think more entrepreneurial and teach you self-management skills and increase your performance and influence. Check out more of Michael’s blogs on his website.

 

How Leaders Can Prepare Themselves For A Digital Transformation

The following blog is a republish of an article appearing in Forbes written by Maureen Metcalf. It is the companion to an interview conducted with Mark Kvamme, co-founder and Partner at Drive Capital on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on Tuesday, August 6th titled Business Disruptions: Are You Disrupting or Being Disrupted?

Many leaders have likely been hearing about the “rate of change” in a variety of ways. The World Economic Forum, for instance, published its 2018 report on global risks and trends to analyze where the world could be heading. This past year, the Harvard Business Review also published a piece about the importance of digital transformation. Both suggest that the rate of change is accelerating, and we need to be aware of the changes so we can take action. I’ve seen many companies adopt new technologies to automate tasks. For many, this is no longer a change of the future; it is happening now.

To be prepared for a transformation, I believe leaders must update their mindsets and behaviors. Below are my suggestions for getting started:

  1. Focus on what’s best for your organization.

As change accelerates, focus on getting the best outcome for your organization above being right. When facing challenges you have not previously mastered (and, in some cases, have never faced), evaluate, gather data and input from others, and plot a course of action you can experiment with. You likely won’t have the perfect plan, but this way, you can have a rough direction of where to move, which can, in turn, help you correct your course when necessary.

  1. Be prepared to make tough decisions.

Sometimes, leaders have to make tough calls to ensure the organization thrives. Implementing innovative tools can help keep your company competitive, but they will also impact your workforce. This is why it is critical that leaders balance the organization’s values with mission and profit.

Ask yourself the following questions if you’re feeling stuck when facing tough decisions:

  • Is my decision aligned with my values?
  • Am I willing and able to take the action required by this decision?
  • Does this decision align with our cultural values?
  • What system and process changes will be required to implement this decision?

I often see that leaders put forward proposals that meet one or more of these criteria, but when they look holistically at the implications of that proposal, they see flaws in the plan. An example was a restaurant I worked with that proposed limiting the amount of food employees consumed during a break. When examined further, this policy change made eating too much became grounds for termination. Managers were unwilling to terminate employees for eating too much during a shift because it conflicted with their values as a company.

  1. Think critically.

Complex thinking is also an important skill. As a leader, it’s critical that you understand any extended systems in your organization and how your decisions will ripple through the entire system. But I’ve observed that sometimes, this information is limited, which requires you to make quick decisions while thinking critically.

When this happens, determine the smallest decision you can make, given the information you have. What are the first, second and third level impacts this decision will have? By shifting the decision process to small decisions during times of uncertainty, a leader can break the inertia caused by uncertainty and gather important information from the small action. This approach reduces the risk of making incorrect large decisions.

  1. Stay curious.

From my perspective, leaders are now impacted by tangential forces; they need to be intellectually curious to ensure they are sufficiently informed to make strong decisions. Leaders must be open to the fact that they don’t always know everything. Ask yourself:

  1. What do I need to do to stay informed as a leader?
  2. What do I need to do to get more comfortable within myself being a continual learner?

Once you ask yourself these questions, remember to be open as you’re learning. Seek input from others and consume different forms of media to keep learning.

  1. Develop yourself and others.

As business ecosystems change, new tools and technologies emerge, and the competitive landscape can morph as well. This is why developing yourself and others is key. What are you doing to build your own skills and abilities, based on your current and emerging landscape? How are you developing your team? Building on the recommendation to stay curious, leaders should stay informed in order to continue their development, such as through reading publications outside your foundational content toward tangentially or loosely connected publications.

  1. Inspire others.

During times of uncertainty and change, I’ve found having the ability to inspire others is extremely valuable. In my experience, people often look to leaders they trust during times of change to ensure their safety and security. It is important for you to be keenly aware and sensitive to this need. Assess how well you relate to your team, and try to understand their goals and stressors. To build this strong rapport, communicate openly and honestly with your team and follow through on your commitments. I believe being trustworthy is now more important than ever.

  1. Learn from other perspectives.

When facing new situations and opportunities, it is critical to gather input from a diverse group of people. Encourage others to share candid input, which you can then utilize to craft solutions that accomplish the collective objectives of your organization and align with the company’s mission and values. Four important questions to ask yourself include:

  1. Have I included all critical perspectives to work through this issue?
  2. Have I created an environment where people feel encouraged to give open and honest input?
  3. Do people feel valued for their differing points of view?
  4. Do they see how their involvement created a more robust solution?

Leaders must ask for input, act on it, give feedback and recognize contributors in order for their team members and employees to feel confident in voicing their opinions.

While there is no magic solution to the challenges leaders face, I believe we are also at a point in time where leaders can make a huge impact on the world. From my perspective, your impact is possible when you are willing to develop yourself and learn how to navigate the personal discomfort of changing yourself and your organization to better navigate new opportunities.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out this and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the ILI LinkedIn.

About the author

Ms. Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute (formerly Metcalf & Associates) is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.

 

 

Influence Is All About PEOPLE

This blog is provided by Brian Ahearn, the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC, as a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future. This interview Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade aired on 9/3/19.

When it comes to influence I believe it’s all about PEOPLE. I write that because we don’t try to persuade things. Dale Carnegie had it right when he wrote, “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you’re in business.” The more you know how to ethically influence people the better your chances are for success at the office and happiness at home.

When it comes to PEOPLE I encourage you to think about the about the Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. Let’s take a quick look at each component of PEOPLE.

Powerful

Who says influence is powerful? Here are what a few well known people from history had to say about persuasion:

“Persuasion is often more effective than force.” Aesop, Greek Fabulist

“If I can persuade, I can move the universe.” Frederick Douglass, American social reformer, abolitionist, writer, and statesman

“The only real power available to the leader is the power of persuasion.” Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States.

In addition to those intelligent people, we have more than 70 years of research from social psychology, behavioral economics and more recently neuroscience, to tangibly prove how powerful persuasion can be.

Everyday

Unless you’re Tom Hanks in Castaway you interact with people every single day. Quite often in your communication with others you make requests hoping to hear “Yes!” Nobody goes it alone, especially the highly successful. Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO said, “Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished through other people.”

Here’s something I love about persuasion; it applies at work and home, a 24x7x365 skill. At work you try to persuade your boss, direct reports, coworkers, vendors and customers. At home influence helps with your parents, significant other, children, neighbors and anyone else you come in contact with.

Opportunities

In virtually every communication you have there will be opportunities for you to do seemingly little things just a bit different to potentially reap big rewards. For example, wouldn’t you be interested to find out what the Cancer Society did to increase their volunteer rate 700% in one area of town or how Easter Seals doubled the number of donors? Both were accomplished by doing a few, nearly costless things differently to employ a little psychology.

The problem is, all too often people miss the opportunities that are right in front of them. However, once you begin to learn the language of persuasion you’ll be amazed at how often you spot the opportunities to engage psychology to leverage better results.

Persuade

What exactly is persuasion? The definitions I hear most often are “to change someone’s mind” or “to convince someone of something.” Those might be good starts but they’re not enough. In the end you want to see people change their behavior.

With a focus on behavior change I think Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, put it best when he said, “Persuasion is the art of getting people to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”

Lasting

Sometimes your interaction with another person is “one and done” but quite often it’s an ongoing relationship. In those relationships you don’t want to go back to the drawing board time after time. No, you want to have communications that change people’s thinking and behavior for the long haul.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood the power of persuasion to create a lasting effect when he said, “I would rather persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.” Done right, persuasion can have a lasting impact on others.

Ethical

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, manipulation is, “to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner.” That’s not so bad but another definition for manipulation is, “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”

Manipulation makes most of us bristle because it connotes taking advantage of someone. I’m confident in writing this next statement – no one likes to be manipulated. I’m reasonably certain the vast majority of people don’t want to be known as manipulators either.

When it comes to the difference between ethical influence and manipulation I like the following quote from The Art of WOO (Richard Shell & Mario Moussa), “An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affections. So does the cad who succeeds to take advantage of another’s heart. But when the cad succeeds, we don’t blame the flowers and candy. We rightly question his character.”

Conclusion

Your ability to ethically influence others will be a big determinant when it comes to your professional success and personal happiness. Knowing that, and knowing how much you use this one skill each day, doesn’t it make sense to get better at it?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most other online sites.

His LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out for Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities this fall.

Check out this and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the ILI LinkedIn.

 

Leadership Trends to Watch for 2019 and Beyond

With 2018 coming to a close, many of us are looking to 2019 and beyond. This article was originally published on Forbes.com in August 2018 summarizing the trends that emerged from the last 100 interviews conducted on Voice America Radio, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations interview series.  It is the companion to an interview between Christopher Washington, PhD and Maureen Metcalf Top Leadership Trends in 2018 and beyond.

I host a weekly radio show that helps leaders update how they lead. The interviews are with key business leaders, global leaders, thought leaders, authors and academics. Each year, I publish the main themes we discuss on the show as well as in my consulting work with senior executives around the world.

I have now completed more than 150 interviews, and volatility was a recurring theme. This article is a synthesis of what we can take away as key factors for leaders and executives to focus on for the next four years.

1. Leaders must pay attention to trends and predictions.

As the rate of change accelerates, if you take a “wait and see” stance, you will be caught unprepared. The intersection of volatility, changes in technology and global interconnection means there are threats and opportunities on all fronts and a large pool of organizations poised to leverage both. Speed continues to matter.

2. Leaders and their organizations are becoming agiler.

A McKinsey survey of more than 2,500 organizations of different sizes, specialties and regions reported that “37 percent of respondents said their organizations are carrying out company-wide agile transformations, and another 4 percent said their companies have fully implemented such transformations. The shift is driven by proof that small, multidisciplinary teams of agile organizations can respond swiftly and promptly to rapidly changing market opportunities and customer demands.”

As leaders, it’s important to adopt a nimble mindset and culture. Being nimble means paying attention to trends and identifying small “experiments” you can run to keep up with or even ahead of the changes happening around you. Once you are clear about what will work for you and how it will work, pilot that change. Truly agile companies are always experimenting.

3. Organizations and their people must accelerate their pace of learning.

With an increase in agility, people and organizations will need to accelerate learning. In 1978, Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Chris Argyris wrote Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective. This work continues to evolve and increase in importance, as learning provides a competitive advantage.

Take, for example, how organizations are automating more work. Employees who continue to learn and update their skills will be able to find new roles, while others who are not continually learning will be left unemployed or underemployed as their roles diminish.

4. Age range in the workforce will continue to expand.

As life expectancy continues to increase, many people will want to and need to work longer. Organizations will need to find ways to attract and engage older workers. They will also need to address the dynamics created when multiple generations of employees are working together on the same team.

With the decrease of age-based seniority, leadership will be taken by the best person for the role and will likely shift frequently in an agile environment. Organizations need to be creative in promoting engagement and teamwork across multiple generations.

5. Leaders need to identify and build talent at an increasing rate.

As technology evolves and organizations change more quickly, employees need to learn faster, and organizations need to identify workers to fill changing talent needs. Some of these needs will fall in the technology space, but not all.

We referenced older employees remaining in the workforce and returning. We also need to find ways to engage talent who have been previously overlooked. This could mean people leaving incarceration, people with disabilities who would, in fact, be great fits for certain roles, or adults who work from home because they are caregivers to their children or parents, to name a few.

6. Employee engagement will continue to be important in volatile times.

The importance of human interaction will continue to increase even as more of the workforce is working remotely – many rarely, if ever, meeting their colleagues. Leaders and organizations need to focus on soft skills such as emotional intelligence that have a strong impact on engagement and the effort employees put into communicating.

7. Communities must come together to solve quality-of-life and economic issues.

With the level of change, segments of the economy can easily be excluded from the workforce. The gap between economic haves (those with education, access and resources) and have-nots can increase, and the cost can be significant for the individuals, families and businesses impacted by a worker shortage.

Successful regions create organizations to tackle these challenges. This means organizations that traditionally compete for resources and clients also need to work together to solve challenges that impact them.

8. Effective leaders are conscious of their impact across a broad range of factors and stakeholders.

As we talk about conscious capitalism, the main idea is that “conscious” organizations tend to the health of a broad range of stakeholders. It becomes increasingly important to pay attention to the needs of competing stakeholders and balance these demands. Conscious capitalism is one mechanism that helps leaders explore the broader range of stakeholders and understand their drivers.

Business is getting more complicated and requires leaders to continually update their skills as well as their mindset and focus. This article summarizes some of my key learnings.

As a leader, are you seeing similar trends? What’s missing? What are you doing to prepare yourself and your organization to succeed during the next four years?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO of Metcalf & Associates is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

Leaders Must Now Think Like Scientists To Leverage All Generations!

I had lunch with colleagues today to discuss the changes they are facing in their organization. Among the opportunities they see, one stands out: succession  – involving multiple generations and different ways of working into one highly successful organization. To fully leverage this opportunity, the organization will need to continue to evolve their agreements about work processes while holding fast to the foundational principles that have kept them successful for decades.

This is a common challenge across industries. In response to our conversation, I wanted to share this Forbes article (see text of the article below) I wrote in September 2016 and a Voice America interview focusing on Leading with Vision: A Key to Successfully Attract Millennials. 

The reason I selected this combination is, while there are rules of thumb about how to work across generations, every organization is different with specific applications that will work for them. Leaders must take the broad concepts about generational difference and determine which ones apply to them. They need to continually experiment and learn to ensure their enterprise continues to grow and thrive and remains a great place to work. One key for me – everyone in the organization needs to find a common way to work together, this requires give and take from everyone!

During the industrial revolution, leaders managed effectively using command and control and leveraging best practices to solve problems that were common across multiple industries.

Now, however, the most effective leaders work more like scientists. They scan best practices, but also create competitive advantage by creating new and innovative solutions in the face of chaos.

Take Bill, a recent client who runs a mortgage firm in the U.K. June’s vote to exit the EU has thrown the British economy into uncertainty. Rates are dropping and the forecast is uncertain. Bill doesn’t know which direction the market will go, how fast, and what actions will be most effective. He looked to thought leaders before the vote and learned that a true Brexit was unlikely. Well, it happened, and now he needs to move forward and make the best of the uncertainty. The change might even be good for him if he makes the right calls

Many leaders, like Bill, are facing unprecedented challenges. In the past, they could look to best practices and study what others in their industry were doing. Now, in many situations, leaders need to respond immediately, but there is little time to study and no prior model with the same level of complexity that provides a low-risk solution. As leaders, we weren’t trained for this. We were trained to set a vision, build a plan, and work the plan.

With the advent of such changes, companies are responding with strategies like “cross-functional” teams, “early delivery,” and “continuous improvement.” Terms such as “fail fast” — which tell us we need to experiment and learn faster than our competition — have become popular. Learning fast differentiates us from our competitors who are still looking for the best practices. In reality, we are the ones creating the next round of best practices.

But many of us are still stuck between the old ways and new ways of leadership. We haven’t fully embraced what it means to be a leader today and now. First and foremost, we need to rethink our role. We need to change our mindset and behavior from directing to experimenting while realizing that as leaders in complex times, we are creating new solutions rather than drawing from the past. In many situations, history will determine what was right, but if we expect to know it before we take action, we will be paralyzed.

So, what do we do?

One of the most difficult challenges for leaders isn’t changing behavior (that’s the easy part) — it’s changing how we think of ourselves. It is easy to say, “I will act like a scientist,” but when someone comes in with a challenge and the leader has no idea how to proceed, this is a moment of truth. The leader without an answer will likely feel embarrassed and frustrated. The scientist, on the other hand, might actually be excited about the challenge.

As we begin to change our mindset, we begin to approach our leadership as a scientist. Here’s how to get started:

1. Get the best people together for specific opportunities. The members will be dictated by the challenge. It is critical to have people with differing points of view. The people who disagree are often the most important to help identify blind spots and unanticipated challenges. The size of the group and the duration of discussions and evaluation will depend on the time required to respond. The participants should be from multiple geographies, functional departments and organizations.

2. Formulate a hypothesis. The group pulls together all of the perspectives and crafts a clear hypothesis of how to proceed to generate the best overall outcome given the resources, goals and constraints.

3. Formulate experiments. Using the hypothesis as the foundation, it is time to craft experiments that test the hypothesis. Experiments should be designed to prove or disprove the initial hypothesis and give enough information to support taking informed action going forward. The goal is to position the organization to take timely action, minimize risk, and maximize positive impact and learning and scale intelligently based on learning.

4. Conduct the experiment. Once the experiment is crafted, it is time to execute. This usually looks like implementing a well-defined pilot with clearly articulated metrics designed to prove or disprove the initial hypothesis. This is also the opportunity to identify barriers to proper execution.

5. Evaluate, learn and refine. One of the keys to experimentation is to learn as much as possible from each experiment to build success. This is where you will harvest your learnings form the measures as well as barriers or challenges that arose.

I work with a client who formerly worked as a physicist for NASA and now runs an organization heavily impacted by technology change. The culture of his organization is one of experimentation because it is natural to him. When I walk into his office, I see remnants of physical experiments, like a part of a drone, and the tone of the entire organization is open and excited. The physical space is one of the worst I have seen, so it isn’t the architecture but rather the tone of the leader. The leader’s mindset permeates the culture and the organizational systems. People are rewarded for launching new programs and eliminating those that are less effective.

Moving toward this mindset of experimentation allows us to master transformation and build the capacity for ongoing “renovation” of our organization. If this ability to respond quickly becomes a core competency of the organization, because of the mindset of the leader and the resulting culture, organizations are positioned to thrive. For leaders who take on the mindset of the scientist, experimentation becomes fun, they drive interesting innovation, and they inspire others to do the same.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO of Metcalf & Associates is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

Do Not Let Machine Learning Advances Outpace Your Organization

This blog a companion to the Voice America Interview on “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” with  James Brenza and Joe Hammond, founders of XDS on May 18, 2018, Machine Learning and Analytics: Case Study.  The blog is a guest post provided by James Brenza. James is the coauthor of the Innovative Leaders Guide to Implementing Analytics Programs.

The future of many industries and businesses is increasingly about data and how analytic models can increase agility, accelerate decision velocity, and improve outcomes. Whether you are working in retail, manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, financial services or public sector, you are probably already feeling the pressure. As the clouds are forming on the horizon are you, your leadership team, and your organization embracing this change?

The machine learning and artificial intelligence tsunamis are not about to arrive; they have already arrived. The effort to integrate data and develop analytic models has been compressed from weeks to hours. The effort to deploy models has been compressed from hours to minutes. Some of the most advanced firms are revising models intraday. The future of your organization and personal leadership is being measured by your ability to embrace and adopt the agility created by these technologies.

An entrepreneur’s perspective

As entrepreneurs, we have embraced this new reality into the fabric of our organization. As a team, we have aligned ourselves on customer centricity and agility. When we refer to customer centricity, we mean understanding their primary challenges and their barriers to adopting productive solutions. We accomplished this by listing all of our constraints and our customers’ constraints. We then systematically design and deploy solutions that step over those barriers.

Our focus on agility certainly applies to technology. All of our development is done in weekly sprints and two month iterations. This allows us to make small course adjustments very frequently to ensure we are being responsive. We can also adjust our strategic plan when better information becomes available. Beyond technology, agility also applies to how we run our organization. All initiatives and campaigns are managed with agile principles. We continuously test outcomes and adjust our course as needed. While a strategic plan is necessary, adaptability is the new key to survival. Through that lens, a major portion of our strategy is to remain agile and responsive.

The impact on analytic products

Our products and services are based on analytics. Many organizations have had analytic initiatives trudging along for years without significant benefits. Other organizations have tried to start for months without any demonstrable progress. Analytic agility has become the key to our success (and probably your future). We designed our solution architecture to embrace agility and continuous change. While we work predominantly with structured data (i.e., organized tables that contain billions of rows), our analytic model capability is completely agile, responsive, and based on machine learning. We have adapted to slices of data that can arrive periodically. Our models must adapt to every revision of these datasets. Rather than fight that reality, we designed our products to embrace it and take full advantage of our ability to respond quickly.

Recent transaction outcomes are treated as just one more data source with every model execution. This allows us to capture the very best outcomes from prior model executions as well as input from business experts. Since our machine learning engine is highly automated, it can build multiple models concurrently, select the very best features, create hybrid models, and allow experts to compare the model outcomes. This has reduced weeks of work to just hours. By continuously incorporating recent outcomes, we have integrated continuous change and learning. The future of automated machine learning is not on the horizon – it’s here and it’s now.

How can a leader respond?

  1. Embrace change as your primary link to surviving the future. We need to look beyond just revising business plans annually or quarterly. We need to evolve plans and develop products that learn and adapt continuously.

360 degree thinker

2.       List your barriers and have your team focus on removing them. If you put your barriers on a list in front of you (instead of letting them swirl in your head), you can attack them more vigorously. For every barrier you list, challenge yourself to list three creative solutions that let you step over that barrier.

unwaverin commitment

3.       If you and your team cannot overcome barriers, enlist external perspectives. The only shame is not enlisting assistance and allowing it to sink your ship in silence.

inntely Collaborative

4.       Create a culture that flourishes on innovation. We recommend creating a team that is dedicated to staying on your forefront, providing them with a collaborative environment, guiding them to the problem (without shackling their solutions), and injecting some impatience for solving problems. Hint: work in one-onth iterations to demonstrate small solutions quickly rather than allowing the problem to fester for multiple months.

professionally humble

5.       Make sure your personal leadership inspires a commitment to change. This needs to include both your external voice, internal voice, and observable actions. Your team will know you are sincere when you are interested and “in the game” with them.

inspire followership

Do those items sound like leadership platitudes? Here is the translation for getting into the continuous change analytics game:

  1. Create a one-line statement that declares how you will use analytics to guide your day-to-day business.
  2. Identify the barriers to that statement and list experiments to overcome them.
  3. Partner with an expert when your team cannot create a breakthrough in one month.
  4. Collocate your business and technical vanguard team. Let them focus on creating a single, demonstrable solution in one month.
  5. Remain visible to the team, set guardrails, support them, but do not micromanage them. They need to own their outcomes and learn through that process.

Embracing this new pace of change created by these technologies is going to be difficult. Ignoring it seals the fate of your organization. While you may not know all of the answers, you can create a culture and organization that will adapt and flourish.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About James Brenza

James is an Information Technology and analytics leader with twenty years of diversified experience and success in delivering analytical, functionally rich, complex solutions. A hands-on leader that carefully balances strategic planning, business communications and technical delivery. Extensive experience with motivating mixed-shore teams to deliver high quality, flexible results.

The top 3 benefits James provides are strategically aligned solutions, cost savings and change leadership.

Specialties: Alignment of business and technology strategy, data analytics, business process improvement (Six Sigma and Lean), data management (data warehousing and business intelligence), program management, contract negotiations, traditional SDLC and Agile solution development.

 

10 Disruptive Leadership Trends for 2018

This post is the companion to a Voice America interview with Tracy Wilen, researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, and careers on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” Digital Disruption: The future of Work, Skills and Leadership airing on April 17, 2018.

The world is in disruption! You are at the forefront of change. Increasingly, everything we do is impacted by technology from how we communicate with others, connect at work, learn at school, and live our lives. As technology continues to seep into our lives we become accustomed to it and dependent on it, putting pressure on workplace leaders, education systems, and even ourselves to rethink how we approach this divergent world of work, leadership, lifelong learning, skill development, and careers. The

continuing accelerated pace of technology and competitive forces is causing workplace environments to become more technical, diverse, and in need of leaders who understand how to deal with disruption.

This new landscape requires contemporary styles of leadership and new techniques for managing organizations. Today, there are unique pressures on company leaders, workers, and educators to change the ways they prepare and plan for modern-day jobs and careers. This interview and Tracey’s book, Digital Disruption: The Future of Work, Skills, Leadership, Education and Careers in a Digital World, offer educators, executives, and students a fresh approach for how to navigate the future to ensure success. They cover the key forces impacting the future of work, industries, leadership styles, skills, and education with a focus on how to remain relevant in an ever-increasingly complex digital world.

Here are the 10 disruptive predictions for 2018.

  1. Disrupted Society. Society is hyper‐connected, dependent and, in some cases, addicted to continuously being “connected.” And the expectation is that this will be increasingly the case. If you sleep with your phone, panic if it is missing, text numerous times a day, have numerous apps you use daily, frequently post selfies on social media, and buy most items on‐line, and are an Amazon prime member, it is a seamless part of your life. This is you.

 

  1. Disrupted Work. There are many shifts in the work place. One is extreme longevity, meaning many people will work 60 years to afford to retire. This also means a multi‐generational workforce. How we work together will need to change, in addition to how many years we work.

 

  1. Disrupted industry. We often hear about Uber, Air BNB and Amazon. Traditional industries are being disrupted at an accelerated rate. It is imperative that leaders pay attention to not only their industry but also those tangentially connected to monitor trends—and anticipate the impacts they will have on you.

 

  1. Disruptive Leadership. If work and industry are disrupted, do we need disruptive leaders? To compete, leadership needs to change because a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world requires new kinds of leaders.

 

  1. Women as disruptive leaders. Women are Corporate America’s killer app. Women are skilled, educated, have modern-day leadership skills, collaborate, trust, see the big picture, promote employee engagement, and have in-demand skills.

 

  1. Disruptive Diversity. Diversity is strategic for disruption. Innovation and diversity go hand-in- hand invest in 2018. Delivering products and services to a diverse customer base means having a diverse design team and workforce.

 

  1. Disrupted Careers. With all the changes to work and industry, jobs will most certainly change. It is important to keep current with technology, make lateral moves and continually build skills.

 

  1. Disruptive skills. Everyone will need additional and new skills, for some people, Social Intelligence will need to increase, in a digital world. Do you see how you are perceived as a leader or team mate? Can you read the room and get a feel for what people think of you? Others will need to increase their ability to make sense of the increasing volume of data and turn the insights into action.

 

  1. Disrupted Education. Education must supply the world with capable people who can work, think and be relevant in the digital world they will work in. Integrated work and learning strategies is a path many colleges are taking with employer Internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and summer jobs.

 

  1. Disrupted selves. Are you taking time for a “career selfie”? Have you mapped out your career trajectory? Do you collect data and review your progress on a regular basis? If not, you are likely to be missing opportunities to make the series of small changes that will keep you current and relevant.

Disruption is on top of everyone’s mind. As technology rapidly accelerates, so does fear of the future. People are worrying about the impact of future technologies on our lives, how we lead firms in the digital era, our personal careers, and future jobs. Some people are tackling this head on and some are somewhat resistant or frozen in their track because the newness and pace of change. What are you doing in each of these areas to ensure you manage the disruption rather than being disrupted?

About the author

Dr. Tracey Wilen is a researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, leadership, education, and careers. A former visiting scholar at Stanford University, she has held leadership positions at Apple, HP, and Cisco Systems. She was an adjunct professor at several Bay Area colleges, teaching classes in business, technology, and women’s workforce topics. Dr. Wilen has authored or co-authored twelve books including Employed for Life (2014), Women Lead (2013) and Society 3.0 (2012). She has appeared on CNN, Fox, and CBS News and is a regular guest on radio and TV shows across the US as an expert contributor. Dr. Wilen was honored by the San Francisco Business Times as the Most Influential Woman in Bay Area Business.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

At C-Level #15: Transformation Communications

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is also the president & COO of Metcalf & Associates, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”

 

In At C-Level #10–18, I write about three of the most successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, following a seven-step transformation model like the Metcalf & Associates Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.

Communicate

 

It is unlikely that you will ever over communicate in a transformation effort, unless what you are communicating does not resonate with your audience—and, in that case, it isn’t a matter of over communicating, it’s more likely that you are miscommunicating. Communication is effective when your audience feels you are sharing your passion and that you are authentic, see the path forward, and feel their contribution is vital to making a transformation.

 

Simply setting the example, saying it once, posting it on every wall, and thinking that it will sink in by osmosis just isn’t enough. You must live, breathe, and give testament what you believe every day!

 

So, before you start, you need to work with your team on the messages you are sending to your various stakeholder groups—your owners, board (if you have one), employees, customers, suppliers, and the various communities in which you live and work. Your messages need to be

  • consistent with your vision, mission, and values,
  • directional,
  • important to your audience,
  • delivered with an appropriate sense of urgency,
  • clear and concise,
  • translated into the languages the people in your organization speak and understand best, and
  • communicated consistently and often by your transformation leadership team.

 

At first, writing the messaging, as well as potential questions and answers, with the transformation team may be helpful. After a brief time, it should become second nature to everyone if it is constantly and consistently reinforced by the team’s leader(s).

 

When was the last time you stood in front of the organization and discussed your vision, mission, and/or values? When was the last time, someone brought a major challenge to you and you said, “Well, our vision is ____, and we say that we value ____, so we should ____.”?

Here is how we communicated throughout the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:

 

  • Large Manufacturing Company. In our transformation to upgrade basic financial reporting controllers into true financial business partners in a large and growing company (our vision), we communicated our vision, plans and progress:
    • at two to three regular or specially-convened controller conferences every year, where the controllers and their assistants traveled to our headquarters,
    • during trips we made to our various business units to keep up with our colleagues and talk about our vision and plans,
    • through conference calls and e-mail with the systems project team,
    • calls, e-mail, and visits I made to our business units, and
    • generally, not enough.

 

Yes, “not enough.” We communicated a lot on how we were getting the new system implemented and how our controllers were getting better training on the business and the new system. And, while we spent some time communicating our vision of the controllers becoming better business partners, we did not spend enough time communicating more precisely how they would do that with their new systems and training!

 

That’s not to say that we did not make significant progress. We made a lot of progress that had been needed for some time. But, did we communicate enough about our vision and the progress we had achieved towards it? In “At C-Level #16: Transformation Implementation and Measures of Success” I write more about this transformation.

Are there clear links between what everyone is doing in your organization today and, if you have them, your vision, mission, and values? What about your goals?

 

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. Leading a transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do,” with our mission to improve the lives of all our five stakeholder groups, left a lot of room for interpretation. There was a lot we did not know yet.

 

However, we did know that we had a basic command and control environment with a very high-revenue growth rate in low-to-no margin integration work. The combination was driving a high-pressure and negative working environment, inefficient and costly operations, unacceptable quality, poor on-time shipping performance, and low and inconsistent earnings. The good news was that we had revenue. We just had to figure out how to solve many of these other challenges before that revenue went away.

 

We started out doing what most companies do with their vision, mission, and values. We had posters made and hung them on the walls. We had wallet cards made and gave them to all employees. We had a couple of kick-off meetings. And that’s where we’ve seen a lot of companies stop.

 

But we continued. We had daily 15-minute order review meetings, daily and weekly Lean Manufacturing implementation meetings, weekly leadership team meetings, bi-weekly company update meetings, and company quarterly results meetings. In almost every meeting, we would ask people to take out their cards, read something from them, and/or talk about some examples where they were used or applicable, always pointing to the card and quoting from it. Our vision, mission and values were always front and center and a part of our daily lives.

 

More important and impactful than our meetings, was that we consistently communicated our vision, mission, and values through our actions. We simply walked the talk.

 

You know you have the right vision, mission, and values when you and your team are passionate about them, can talk about them, and live them out almost effortlessly every day.

 

Do you have posters of your organization’s vision, mission, and values hung up around your place of work? How often do you talk about those? When was the last time you discussed a particular challenge with your team and it was pointed out that the solution was already in your vision, mission, or values statement?

 

  • Global Internet Payments Company. In our transformation journey to turn around the culture, and, in turn, the operational and financial performance of this 10-year-old company now hampered with a start-up mentality that was very difficult to scale, group communications were vital. However, individual communications with the leadership team around the almost daily challenges that came up were even more important.

 

Structured functional and cross-functional Agile meetings with top leadership involvement and support keeping the mission and values fully integrated into how those meetings were conducted, started breaking down the silo walls that had been built.

 

However, there were still competing priorities at the functional leadership level that needed to be re-prioritized for what the company was trying to achieve. That meant a lot of impromptu discussions with individuals and small leadership team groups caught-up in the siloed culture that had developed in recent years. It meant a lot of repetition talking about what the company was all about, how we could move forward more successfully together, and how the practical day-to-day application of our mission and stated values would help us accomplish that. Eventually, the repetition metamorphosed into muscle memory and the leadership team members felt empowered to communicate in and between the functional teams without any facilitation.

 

How much of your time do you spend facilitating discussions and/or making decisions for functional team leaders with competing priorities? Does or could your organization’s vision, mission, and values reduce the need for your personal facilitation time and free up that time up for higher-level strategic interactions, discussions, planning, and execution (with internal and external partners)?

 

Key takeaways from these transformations

 

You cannot communicate enough. Pull people in early and keep them engaged.

 

Take the time to craft messaging around your organization’s driving vision, mission, and values that can be clearly understood at all levels inside and outside your organization. You don’t want to have to adjust your messaging around your high-level purpose and operating guidelines for different groups. You want them all to be disciples. Communications must be easily understood and easy to repeat, so they can be ingrained in the organization and people can easily rally around them over the longer term.

 

Having said that, getting the various stakeholder groups on board requires that they know what’s in it for them and what they have to do to help make it happen. Those communications must be more tailored to the audience within the context of the broader overall messaging.

 

Communicate and gain support at all levels of the organization, starting with your board, your boss, and your team, before going broader across the organization. They should all be part of developing the desired future state and crafting the messaging that helps them buy in.

 

In “At C-Level #16: Implementing Transformations and Measuring Success,” we’ll look at how the transformations of these same three organizations were implemented, how people were further motivated and their success measured along the way, and what the key takeaways are that you may need to think about in preparing for your own organization’s transformative journey.

 

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