Three Problems of Power—Problem Three: Distance and Dehumanization

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This blog is provided by Margaret Heffernan, author of the book, “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together.”  Margaret’s interview is also part of the International Leadership Association Interview Series.   It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together” that aired on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021. The past two weeks have featured the first two problems.  Problem one was Pleasing and problem two was Silence and Blindness.  This is the final week of the series.

 

Problem Three: Distance and Dehumanization

When CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld was driven from his home to a heliport, then helicoptered into Manhattan, driven in another limo to the bank’s offices where a private elevator sent him up to his office. This ornate commute ensconced him in a physical bubble that no weak signals or accidental encounters could penetrate. This physical manifestation of power may look like luxury but it comes at a cost. The bubble of power seals off bad news, inconvenient detail, hostile opinion and messy reality, leaving leaders free to inhale the rarefied air of pure abstraction. Like the cave dwellers of Plato’s parable, the powerful risk mistaking shadows for reality.  Power inserts distance between those who have it and those who do not. It determines whether you fly in the peaceful isolation of a private jet or the middle row in economy, next to the mother who needs help with her restless child. Power lets you, like the Google founders, arrive at meetings via paraglider, not stuck in San Francisco traffic.

The physical distance experienced by the powerful is amplified by the psychological distance of hierarchies. Frances Miliken, who helped to pioneer the research into organizational silence, also studied how those in power communicate differently from those without it. Her language analysis showed a more common use of abstractions and a tendency to over-optimism. Experimentation showed that people given power demonstrate more stereotyped thinking. Further from the action, reinforced by a sense of their own capability, the combination of power, optimism and abstraction made them more confident of their own judgement. The more cut off from others, the more certain they were of their decisions about people and detail they did not know.

That it is a problem is obvious in catastrophes like the COVID pandemic and Hurricane Katrina or, in the UK, the fire at Grenfell Tower. In each case (and there are many more) big decisions are made by confident, optimistic people who think largely in abstraction. Some even regard this as an asset, as when one executive recently suggested to me that it would be better for layoffs to be decided by leaders too far from the action to know the people impacted by their decisions. Distance, dehumanization were seen as assets.

This is the third problem of power. Its status and rewards erode judgement. This isn’t wholly inevitable; a few leaders I’ve known have had the humility and tenacity to fight it, to reach into, rather than over, the crowd. But it is phenomenally difficult to disbelieve the worship of the crowd. If the world chooses to throw all these goodies my way, it must be because I’m worth it — mustn’t it?

I retain a visceral memory of this from the 1990s. Running tech companies, I saw many of my friends and colleagues get rich fast. They went from pretty humdrum individuals in January to exhilarated millionaires by June. And most of them believed the money.

It confirmed that they were special. They’d always thought that might be true, but here was proof. The rare few just put the money away and carried on before. When I asked them, saying they’d been lucky. They didn’t believe the money, seeing it instead as a market fluke. But most got sucked into a reaffirming circle: more money, more power, more confidence, greater distance from the crowd.

They make — and we make — the same mistake: an attribution error. It’s logical, but not necessarily true, that the success of an organization owes something to its figurehead. But how much? Did GE flourish because of Jack Welch or has it failed because of his legacy? Did Apple succeed after Steve Jobs’s return because of his unique magic, or did his hapless competitors’ lame innovation play a role? In the statistically implausible 41 quarters out of 42 that Microsoft met or beat its market forecast, was that the genius of Bill Gates or of his accounting team? If Johnson & Johnson is so well run, how did its role in the opioid scandal occur? If Fred Goodwin was, as celebrated by a Harvard Business School case study, the “master of acquisition,” why did the Bank have to be rescued by the U.K. government?

You can’t run the experiment. It’s impossible to cut the company in half and run half with one leader and half with another. So it is beguilingly simple to attribute success to the powerful individual at the top. And it is supremely difficult for most people, at the height of their power, to see how much their success owes to circumstance, the talents of others, the weakness of competition and to sheer luck. Easier to believe the money. Easier to believe the power.

Such attribution errors flourish in part because we feed them. Believing that a company or a country succeeds or fails because of one mighty person is simple and alleviates our anxiety. It turns a complex world into a simple narrative: we have only to change the person to change the story. Context, apparently, counts for nothing.

The problems of power are damaging not only for those with power — but for the rest of us too. The more we believe in the leadership myths, the more we absolve ourselves of responsibility and action: just wait for Superman or Superwoman to turn up, and everything will be fine. The costly investment in leadership training (said to be over $300 billion) is a sign not of its effectiveness but our urgent desire to simplify and to believe. Critics argue most of this money has no effect. The reality may be worse than that: worshipping leaders may exacerbate the problem it pretends to fix. As long as we believe in leaders, we need not examine our own failure to act on our values and insight.

Of course, all three problems of power feed each other. Failure to learn to think for oneself makes us more credulous of leadership, and it can paralyze those given power. Absence of conflict and debate perpetuates the problem. And if we make it to the top, years of passivity and conventional wisdom make it likely we will believe in our own celebration. This risks making us more aggressive; it can also make leaders justifiably afraid.

I’ve always been wary of the concept of leadership. In part, this was a language problem: when translated, the words duce and fuhrer had unpleasant connotations. We used to talk about bosses or managers but in the late 1970s, that started to change. This is also the period when American economic inequality began to increase markedly. Since then, the clamor for leadership has grown louder as inequality has become more pronounced. The expectation that a sole individual can, singlehandedly, alter complex realities has inflamed faith and guaranteed disappointment.

It’s time for a reset.

 

 

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, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Margaret Heffernan is the author of the best-selling UNCHARTED: How to Map the Future Together, nominated for a Financial Times Best Business Book award. She is a Professor of Practice at the University of Bath, Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co., mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organizations. She is the author of six books and her TED talks have been seen by over twelve million people.

Photo by Grant Durr on Unsplash

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.

 

LET THE SPARKS FLY: Innovation Needs a Culture that Fosters Fireworks

This blog is provided by Charles D. Morgan, CEO, First Orion Corporation, as a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future. This interview The Biography of a Finally Successful Startup aired on 8/27/19.

One of the paradoxes of modern business is that success tends to stifle the innovation that made a company successful in the first place. If you think about it, that’s not all that hard to understand: Innovation breeds success, success breeds expansion, expansion breeds bureaucracy, bureaucracy breeds logjams and a kind of complacent short-sightedness, borne of the sheer weight of that success and the processes that support it. So companies that have become big and successful by creating a successful product tend to focus on continuing to make that product better or on improving the service around that product, rather than on doing the hard work of branching out – of creating something new and different. But this is a recipe for disaster. Today’s business world moves too fast, and if you don’t keep innovating, one of these days you’re not going to be around anymore.

Let me tell you a story: For 35 years, I ran a company called Acxiom Corporation. In the early ‘70s we started, with just 25 employees, as a “service bureau,” which meant we rented out space on our computers to other companies. But as computers became more prevalent, and therefore less expensive, we could see that we were rushing headlong toward a dead end. So we pivoted to direct marketing, and eventually to data mining and database marketing. One by one, we landed the big banks – Citi, Chase, Amex, JPMorgan, you name them, we had them. Between 1982 and 1991, our annual revenue increased from $7 million to some $90 million, the vast majority of it from the banks, who increasingly depended on us to give them accurate information on potential credit card customers. We went public in 1983, adding stockholders to the people we had to please. Growing like a weed, we were adding layers of managers and VPs and directors faster than we could print their business cards. By the middle of the 1980s, I could walk down our main hall and see people I didn’t even know.

To my mind, one of the greatest requirements of a successful CEO is to be able to keep one eye on the far horizon. In the midst of the maelstrom I was looking ahead, and the problem I foresaw was that we couldn’t continue processing greater and greater amounts of data in the same old way without becoming less and less accurate. If we kept doing what we were doing, eventually we would be of no use to the banks, and that would be that. “But,” I said to one of my partners, “what if we could give everybody in the U.S. – and every single address – a number?” Such a thing had never been done. But I knew that if we could come up with a series of constant numbers, we could eliminate much of the time, computer power, and uncertainty then inherent in data processing.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t even a choice –it was either disrupt every single process that we had worked for two decades to establish, or face the fact that we were on our way to becoming a dinosaur. But oh, the screams, the wails, the hand wringing! I had to finally threaten to quit the company before my people came around and faced the inevitable. And yes, it was hard. It took a couple of years to create the data mining system we called AbiliTec, and several more years to implement it throughout our business – about five years in all. But once done, it kept us relevant. When I left Acxiom in 2008, we were the global leader in data mining and its accompanying technology, with 7,000 employees worldwide and $1.5 billion in revenue.

Today I’m the CEO of a tech company called First Orion, whose product is spam and scam protection for the major telecoms. We started with three employees in 2008 and now we’re up to nearly 200. We’re in the process of building our own headquarters building in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A lot has changed in business since those pivotal days back at Acxiom. Today, innovation is the name of game – of everybody’s game – and I’ve made sure to create a corporate structure that fosters innovation: no more than three layers of reporting; nimble team-based product and process units; open encouragement for people to try things, to play around with the fireworks of creativity – even if what they come up with doesn’t immediately lead to anything.

You never know where the spark for your next billion-dollar idea will come from, so you better make it easy for the sparks to fly.

 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.

 Charles D. Morgan is the visionary former Chairman and CEO of Acxiom Corporation, and is now Chairman and CEO of his latest tech venture, First Orion.  His new book is Now What?  The Biography of a (Finally) Successful Startup.  Morgan lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.  For more information, please visit https://firstorion.com.

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

 

 

The Inauthentics — Ignoring The Value Of Values

This guest blog is provided by Soon Yu.  Soon was a guest on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on June 26, 2018.  His interview can be heard here:  ICONIC ADVANTAGE: Don’t Chase the New, Innovate the Old .

Just last month Facebook’s VP for Product Policy and Counterterrorism, Monika Bickert, appeared on CNN to be grilled by Anderson Cooper. The company was being criticized for keeping up a fake video of an apparently drunk Nancy Pelosi, albeit with a disclaimer saying that it had been identified as untrustworthy content. In her defense, Bickert said, “Our job is to make sure we are getting them accurate information.” Yet the company still allowed the distribution of this inaccurate information, generating millions of views and helping the company earn money off the back of it.

This isn’t about politics. This is about hypocrisy. Facebook’s mission statement is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Yet this behavior has the opposite effect. Allowing such polarizing content on their platform is fueling the divide that’s pulling America apart. And although they claim to be protecting people from misinformation, they’re actually allowing this particular misinformation to spread.

But let’s not single Facebook out as the sole offender.

In 2017 State Street Global Advisors installed the Fearless Girl statue in Wall Street. It’s a four-foot high image of a young girl defiantly standing up to the iconic charging bull. A message below it read, “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.” This was a brilliant piece of marketing for a fund they had launched featuring companies with a higher percentage of women in leadership. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? However, about six months later, the company was the subject of a lawsuit for discrimination. They were found to be privately underpaying women and ethnic minorities while publicly championing them.

And it doesn’t stop there. Many organizations appear to state one thing and do another. In a business world that harps on about the importance of “authenticity,” these companies are The Inauthentics.

 

Values Are Actually Valuable

The Inauthentics are companies whose words differ from their actions. They may have a wonderful-sounding mission statement and a set of lofty values, but when push comes to shove, they go where the dollars are. The advertising legend Bill Bernbach once said, “It’s not a principle until it costs you money.”

However, values are worth protecting because they will earn you money in the long term. Research conducted by CEB Inc. found that out of all the people who said they had a relationship with a brand, 64% claimed that “shared values” was the primary reason. If a company undermines those values, it betrays these customers and damages that relationship. That impacts sales. And once you’ve lost people’s trust, it’s really hard to regain it.

Values Aren’t Just For Show

This is not just an external problem. Purpose and values are the very things that unify and motivate employees. And when employees’ values clash with the actions of the company, it creates problems. Uber has seen the brunt of that with strikes and protests from its drivers. The company says that its mission is “to ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion.” But with drivers having to work long hours without receiving basic benefits – within a company that aims for a market value of $100 billion – the opportunity seems to be pretty one-sided.

Values are what drives your employees’ behavior. It’s the company’s values that guide their decision-making when they’re faced with tricky situations or ethical dilemmas. And that’s the behavior that really defines a brand. It’s the soul of brand authenticity.

Is Your Company One of The Inauthentics?

The Inauthentics is a large and growing group that you don’t want to belong to. So how can you avoid this?

First of all, make sure you actually have values. And that these values are useful, believable and achievable. Interrogate each of the values to see if there are situations it wouldn’t apply to. If there are exceptions, you probably have to revisit the value or rethink your business.

Next, make sure they resonate with your employees. Ask your employees what’s important to them and what they expect from their colleagues. Pressure test these values with employee groups and teams. And once they resonate, make these values visible and share them frequently.

Finally, you need to show employees how they should apply the values in real life situations. Share examples of ethical dilemmas that the company has faced and how the right decisions, even though there may have been some short term sacrifice, helped define the company in the long run. Everyone needs to understand that you’re serious about them, and you expect employees to act on them.

If you do those things, you’ll succeed in staying out of the least exclusive group in business. And you’ll have immediately improved your chances of becoming a brand that customers will be proud to have a relationship with for years to come.

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.

 

Soon Yu

Soon Yu is an international speaker and award winning author on innovation and design. His book, Iconic Advantage, challenges businesses, from Fortune 500 to venture-backed startups, to refocus their innovation priorities on building greater iconicity, and offers deeper insights on establishing timeless distinction and relevance. He regularly consults business leaders on developing meaningful Iconic Signature Elements, Iconic Brand Language (TM), Signature Moments and Signature Communication. He most recently served as the Global VP of Innovation and Officer at VF Corporation, parent organization to over 30 global apparel companies, including The North Face, Vans, Timberland, Nautica and Wrangler, where he created a $2 billion innovation pipeline, established three global innovation centers, and initiated industry-leading design best practices. Prior to this, he worked at The Clorox Company, Chiquita Brands and Bain & Company. As a former CEO/founder for numerous venture-backed startups, he was recognized as the Northern California finalist for the prestigious Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award.

This is a republishing of a Forbes article that can be found here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/soonyu/2019/06/06/the-inauthentics-ignoring-value-of-values/

Career Pivots are Driven by Values

Values drive the pivotThis blog is an excerpt from the International Award winning book,  Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers. The post is a companion to the Voice America show that aired on April 2, 2019 Making the Pivot, Leveraging Opportunities talking with two very successful leader,Greg Moran and Nicholas Papanicolaou, about the evolution of their careers.

First, you will define your future, and from that vantage point, clarify your vision and values. Values are deeply held views of what we find worthwhile. They come from many sources:  parents, religion, schools, peers, people we admire, and culture. Many go back to childhood; others are taken on as adults. Values help us define how we live our lives and accomplish our purpose.

  • Step 1: Define what you value most: From the list of values (both work and personal), select the ten that are most important to you—as guides for how to behave, or as components of a valued way of life. Feel free to add any values of your own to this list.

Innovative Leadership Personal Values Checklist

 

Step 2: Elimination: Now that you have identified ten values, imagine that you are only permitted to have five. Which five would you give up? Cross them off. Now cross off another two to bring your list down to three.

Step 3: Integration:Take a look at the top three values on your list.

      • How would your life be different if those values were prominent and practiced?
      • What does each value mean, exactly? What do you expect from yourself, even in difficult times?
      • Does the personal vision you’ve outlined reflect those values? If not, should your personal vision be expanded? Again, if not, are you prepared and willing to reconsider those values?
      • Are you willing to create a life in which these values are paramount, and help an organization put those values into action?

Which one item on the list do you care most about?

In our recent post, Demetrius told us his vision, now he indicates his values.

Top three values in rank order:

  1. Family
  2. Integrity
  3. Humility

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.

Authentic Leadership For Progress, Peace And Prosperity

This post is a report from the December 5, 2018 Forbes.com article Authentic Leadership for Peace and Prosperity. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview to air on January 29, 2019 with Dr. Gama Perruci, Dr. Sadhana Warty Hall, and Dr. Karen Ford, Evidence Based Practices for Leadership Development. This interview is particularly important because companies are investing large amounts of money and time to build strong leaders and some programs provide much better returns than others. Programs that teach leaders to be better leaders rather than those that teach leader about leadership provide different results. Programs that offer 1. strong frameworks (including the knowledge of how context and culture play a role in leading and following), 2. teach leaders to become more self-aware, and 3. perform better using the new frameworks and self-awareness provide the highest returns. The interview is part of our partnership with the International Leadership Association to bring you the latest and most relevant leadership information.

The following section is from Forbes. I am keenly interested in understanding how leaders progress their business agendas as well as the global agenda in times of significant geopolitical shifts. I attended the International Leadership Association’s conference, Authentic Leadership for Progress, Peace & Prosperity, in West Palm Beach, Florida, where keynote speakers, academics, award recipients and leaders across industries and the globe discussed their perspectives on the subject. This article summarizes my key takeaways.

With 39 countries represented at the conference, the focus on the volume, complexity and rate of change in the current climate continued to inform the conversations. So too did the political landscape, particularly the disillusionment with democracy and the move toward populism. The conversation was also impacted by several events happening in the background, such as a bomber delivering 14 bombs to democratic leadersand supporters, who was actually apprehended near West Palm Beach, where the conference was being held. There was also a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in the morning of the final day at the conference.

These events called to question what more we, as members of an international association, can do to focus on the intersection of leadership, scholarship and practice at a conference that focuses on progress, peace and prosperity.

The following themes are based on my discussions with thought leaders around the world and sessions I attended.

1. Leadership certification needs to be a strong consideration.

Many professions require certification before performing a job, like realtors, massage therapists, electricians, attorneys and certified public accountants. This is in strong contrast to the number of leaders holding key roles with no education and, in some cases, little experience.

While hiring is always complicated, certification can reduce the risk of costly hiring mistakes. Certification is important for leaders who want to stand out by demonstrating their competence. And organizations will have a greater degree of assurance that the person they are hiring is competent based on an objective standard and a rigorous certification process.

2. Leadership is the interplay between the organization’s internal environment and external ecosystem.

We train leaders in leadership concepts but don’t address the importance of helping leaders understand how they need to flex their leadership approach based on their context and their followers. The most effective leaders “sense” the needs of their followers and adapt their leadership accordingly. They help followers understand their leadership style and set clear expectations as well take into account their followers styles, so everyone can focus their energy on accomplishing goals.

3. Leaders need new tools to solve highly complex problems.

Many of the problems organizations face are emergent, and they may not have faced them before. Therefore, leaders must have the tools to address them. The most effective leaders balance inner knowing with strong analytics and collaboration. 

4. Leadership ethics are key. 

There are questions about leaders learning ethics versus gaining ethics as part of the process of maturing. Are ethics the guidelines people comply with? Is there a call for leaders to develop a strong inner compass that ensures they follow the spirit of ethics as the rules change? I believe it’s important for leaders to have a strong inner sense of both the impact you want to make on the world as well as the “guardrails” you use to accomplish that impact.

5. Leaders operate in an interconnected system and need to consider the broader impact they make.

Conference participants were clear about the importance of profit as the fuel for the business and that businesses are among the most powerful institutions across the planet. They are positioned to enact important changes that involve issues such as climate change, for example.

During the conference last year, there were many discussions on identifying leadership values. This year, speakers reminded us of the mandate for leaders to live their values and pay attention to how their actions impact their organizations, and by extension, the world.

6. Resilience remains a key concern.

It was acknowledged that everyone is now or will soon be impacted by some level of change to their organization, their climate, their community and their government. These changes require that we deliberately tend to the resilience (ability to absorb change and remain highly functional) of our people, our organizations, our communities and our governments. It is important to ensure these have the capacity to metabolize change without going into crisis mode.

7. Learning to harness the power of women and a diverse workforce is critical to addressing the upcoming talent gap.

Even with artificial intelligence and other forms of workforce augmentation, participants projected a huge talent shortage now through 2030 and beyond. The size of this change is expected to grow from 2020 to 2030.

Companies need to leverage the best talent to thrive. It will be important for companies to find ways to identify the right people and create a work environment that fosters attraction and retention and expands the old norms that caused talented people who wanted to work but not within restricted bounds to leave. 

As leaders in this era of turbulence, if we want to create a more prosperous and peaceful world, we need to look at new ways of leading and of identifying and developing leaders of the future. This is a call to action to revisit what you are doing now and how you can evolve your own approaches that enhance your ability to lead from a stance of authenticity.

Are you learning from thought leaders, academics and practitioners? Each holds a piece of the complex solution we all need to thrive in the short and long term.

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: Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

 

The New Battleground for Business: The Customer Experience

This post is written by guest blogger, Nick Glimsdahl and is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations focusing on Conscious Capitalism with Mark Kovacevich focusing on Conscious Capitalism as a business accelerator.

The great entrepreneur, Vanilla Ice, once said, “Stop, collaborate, and listen”. In today’s business environment, that sage advice can elaborate to: stop and evaluate your current state, collaborate with experts, and listen to your customers.

Business leaders who champion customer-centric business models have stopped, collaborated and listened. And, in today’s digital age, being customer-centric requires a business model to effectively take advantage of current technologies to meet customer expectations.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Hence, a company’s business model should first and foremost orbit around the customer, specifically their customer experience (CX), addressing:

  • The customer needs and wants
  • The current state of the customer experience
  • How the customer’s journey can improve

What is Customer Experience and why does it matter?

The customer experience is the new battleground for brand loyalty and a true differentiating factor for companies. It can be defined as the customer’s perception of an organization – often gained through contact center interactions – and how seamless or frustrating that interaction is. Shep Hyken, a customer service expert, author, and speaker said it this way, “A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.”

Beyond perception, CX is about delivering an expected outcome, and while the customer experience looks different for each company, common themes are:

  • Response time
  • Overall customer satisfaction
  • Ability to obtain sought out information effortlessly

A customer experience-centric model considers more than just key customer-company touchpoints; instead, the model considers the entire Omni-channel journey from the customer’s perspective.

There are three ways to measure and improve your customer’s experience:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • NPS® measures customer experience and predicts business growth. (i.e. 0-10 scale on how likely customers would recommend a business to a friend).
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
    • CSAT measures how products and services meet or surpass customer expectations. A CSAT score is the sum of respondents answering between “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied”.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
    • CES, measures customer service satisfaction with one single questions. (i.e. The company made it easy to handle an issue).

Mature CX organizations monitor and understand the voice of the customer through these metrics.

Why should business leaders get behind the CX movement?

Forrester research found 71% of business and technology decision makers say that improving Customer Experience is a high priority in the next 12 months. But why? Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors, explained it well: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Brand loyalty is not what it was 20-30 years ago. A customer’s experience positively correlates to brand loyalty, and it is much more important because of the ease of switching service providers or ordering a product from Amazon. According to the Temkin Group, 86% of those who received excellent Customer Experience were likely to repurchase from that company, compared to only 13% of those who had a very poor Customer Experience.

The trend of the increasing purchasing ease will continue as will customer-first business models delivering effortless experiences. The remaining question is what businesses will stop and evaluate their current states, collaborate with experts, and listen to their customers?

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

Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.

 

Aspiration – Making the Pivot

Aspiration Courage HumilityThis is a guest blog by Greg Moran as a companion to the Voice America show aired on September 4, 2018, Leadership Happy Hour: Aspirations- Fuel for Results. This show was a conversation with Greg Moran and Terri Bettinger with host Maureen Metcalf.

During that episode, we explored ways that aspiration affects outcomes – particularly as it relates to people in their careers. What people believe is possible in their lives has a huge impact on what they end up getting accomplished. Our dreams/vision statements/goals (pick your word) initiate the creative tension in us that drives us forward until we achieve. In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

As a follow on to this discussion, I wanted to illustrate using my own life as an example. In May of 2016, I left a highly compensated job at a Fortune 100 company. Over the ensuing months, I did some consulting, began working with a fledgling startup and did the normal headhunter thing. I ended up picking 2 companies to interview with and received C level offers from both, the lower of which was a 30% raise from what I’d been making in my last job. I ended up turning down both job offers and taking a 90% pay cut from what I could’ve been making to join the fledgling startup. This seems like an odd move for a 51-year-old at the peak of his earning curve. So why did I do it?

Aspiration, of course!

How can taking a pay cut and giving up all my resources as a C level exec be aspirational? Seriously, I went from having 2,000 people on my team (my team was large enough that I had a group that did nothing but report the operational data from my shop) to being one of the people that regularly take the trash out at a startup.

For me, it is all about learning and growing. As I evaluated my future back in the summer of 2016, I realized that going back into a corporate role was not going to teach me anything – in fact the reason I got the offers is because I knew the answers to all the questions the CEO’s threw at me. I found I was experiencing a strong allergic reaction to re-entering the corporate world with little hope of growth.

What excited me about the startup, now known as Wiretap, was the chance to not only work on a worthy product with a small group of people I trusted and shared values with, but also the chance to learn and grow. I was energized by the challenge of re-inventing myself as a professional who knew how to start a company and build a value chain from scratch. I was energized by the challenge of completely re-booting my professional network from a bunch of corporate staffers and the people that sold stuff to them to the people who fund and grow companies. I honestly knew nothing meaningful about that world.

The key to this was finding both courage and humility. The courage was about believing – aspiring to successfully launch a company. The humility is about accepting the reality that any prior success or power/resources tied to my past positions and success were almost completely irrelevant in this new context. On top of that, I had to re-create all my mental models about risk, leadership, capital deployment, etc.

So, how’s it going? IT.HAS.BEEN.AWESOME! …not because I’ve achieved some big pay day (that is not my goal – I would consider this pivot a staggering success if I broke even on my corporate career), but rather because I found once again the joy and power of aspiration when you don’t know the answers or even the destination. The power of not knowing the answers but believing you can find them. Feeling compelled to work hard to find the answers – not because they seem impossible (though sometimes they do), but because you believe in your soul that they are possible. Embracing the pressure of knowing that if you don’t solve the problems you face, then a lot of people you are on this journey with won’t get to experience the high of doing something that very few people truly get to do. We are giving life to a new organization – a community that has a unique culture and a set of differentiated capabilities that has never existed in the world before!

I’ll pause there with this story, because there are many chapters to write and I must get back to work! If you are still unclear of the message, go back and re-read the Goethe quote 3 times. Cheers to a 2019 filled with aspiration in your life!

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

Greg Moran is a C-level digital, strategy and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience. He is the COO of Wiretap in Columbus and sits on the board of Koios Medical in NYC. He led corporate strategy for Ford and designed the plan that Alan Mullaly used to turn around the company. Greg held C-level IT positions in app dev, infrastructure and core banking applications at Ford, Nationwide Insurance and Bank One/JPMC, respectively. He began his career in consulting with Arthur Andersen/Accenture, working across industries with ~100 companies over the course of a decade. He is passionate about leadership and culture and teaches part time on the topic at Ohio University.

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.

Team Effectiveness, Brexit and Theresa May

This blog is a guest post by Simon Mac Rory as a companion to the November, 27 Voice America interview where he talks about his latest book, Wake-up and Smell the Coffee: An Imperative for Teams.

While writing my recent book “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative of teams” all around me was the Brexit discussion. I could not pick up a news feed and not see something on the negotiations in terms of the UK position, the EU position and the Irish question. I must admit, despite a keen interest in the outcome, both as business person and an EU/Irish national living in the UK, I remain in a confused state as to what is happening. I cannot make head nor tail of the UK position!

Observing the UK Brexit team and the confused narrative that emerges, I got to wondering how effective are they as a team? Do they have the capability for success? Brexit is such a critical issue for the UK overall and can even be viewed as the greatest existential threat to the UK since World War II, if the negotiations are not a success.

To be effective there are a number of critical issues that teams need to address. If they can improve on these through their own efforts, they can drive their overall effectiveness substantially. I define team effectiveness as – “The ability of a work team to be successful and produce the intended results. For the team, success is achieving the results, but effectiveness is about capability for success.”

I have attempted to map the Brexit team to the factors and criteria for an effective team. These are my views and generated as a distant observer (as I can only be). What do others think – does Theresa May and her Brexit team have the capabilities for success? The model I use is displayed below and is comprised of six factors. Each factor in turn contains two criteria that impact team effectiveness. In the table that follows I have given a brief definition of each criteria and my opinion of the Brexit team in relation to 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.

About the Author

Simon Mac Rory is a specialist in team development. He works with senior staff leaders to help them discover that edge to becoming a truly high performing team. Over his 30-year career he has worked globally with a blue-chip client base in both the private and public sectors.

He founded The ODD Company in 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to the international markets. Simon
operates the business from London with a Dublin-based development and support office.

Simon received a doctoral degree for his work on the application of generic frameworks in organizational development and is a Visiting Research Fellow at Nottingham Business School.

Follow Simon on Twitter @SimomMacRory