Improve Employee Capabilities and Retention for No Cost

This week’s article is by Mark Herschberg, an author and instructor at MIT.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Essential Skills for Success No One Taught You that aired on Tuesday, October 19th, 2021.

 

There’s the old line:

Question: What if we train people and then they leave?

Answer: What if you don’t train them and they stay?

As we head into the new normal of a covid-norm world (post-covid doesn’t seem to be the right term because covid seems like it will be there to stay) what does it mean for our organization and the development of its members? Companies are already seeing higher than average turnover due to the great recession and expect to see it for another few quarters. Knowing a certain, higher than average percentage of your training dollars will walk out the door seems like a bad investment. Besides, HR and leadership are already stretched thin from re-opening offices, navigating the new normal, and dealing with a labor shortage; who has time to start a new program! But what if you could train for an insignificant amount of dollars and increase your retention at the same time?

Training traditionally is implemented with the “sage on the stage” model. Your employees are sent to listen to an expert. It means bringing the expert in or sending your team to some offsite training. Either way, it’s big dollars in direct costs, plus potentially additional travel time and costs. Today we can get that training virtually, but we know people tend to be less engaged watching a video for an hour.

Fortunately, there are existing models we can turn to. For decades, top business schools have used the case method. This is a form of active learning in which the class doesn’t simply listen but actively participates. It can involve case studies, discussion problem solving, reflection, or other techniques in which the members of the class don’t just listen but actively participate. It’s the technique we also use at MIT’s famed career success accelerator program.

A low-cost, easy to implement method is to implement learning pods at your organization. In business school students are broken into cohorts, groups of people with a mix of backgrounds. During a case study, each person contributes their thoughts based on their own knowledge and prior experience. The students learn in a stone soup manner, everyone contributes some insight to the discussion to create something much more valuable than anyone could have created on her own.

The cost of doing this is little to none. One method is to use a book. That’s basically the cost of a lunch per person, certainly not going to break your budget. You can also use free content, such as online articles, videos, blogs, or podcasts. What matters is that there is common content everyone reviews ahead of time. They can engage with content in 15-30 minutes and then have a discussion 45-60 minutes long. That’s a time cost of 60-90 minutes per cycle.

The groups can then meet, say twice a month to discuss the content. Much like with a business school cohort, it’s the class discussion itself that adds to real value. The content was just the nucleus around which the content is created.

There are several ways to structure this. The simplest is to create small groups, typically around 6-8 people, send them the content, and let them self-direct the conversations. So, with zero cost, and a couple of hours of planning overhead, you can create this training program at your organization.

If you want to go further, you can structure the groups in a number of ways based on seniority, department, or other factors. You can also be more proactive in guiding the discussion. For example, you can create discussion topics or questions for the groups to consider. You can ask groups to share their thoughts in an email thread, or on a company wiki so groups can share knowledge with each other. You can also do more advanced types of learning including bringing in speakers and workshops or running actual case studies. Organizations such as The Innovative Leadership Institute (ILI) have free resources that you can employ, such as the ILI’s six-year podcast library.  You can also organize people into larger groups, but that takes more active organization since you need to actively moderate discussions of more than a dozen people or so.  The Innovative Leadership Institute builds cohort groups based on the Position Success Indicator assessment to ensure learning partners are matched for optimal learning.

So far, we’ve created a no-cost development program. But it offers so much more. There are multiple, great secondary benefits from such a training program.

First, you increase employee engagement. Whether they’re on the brink of leaving or are currently happy in their roles, employees will feel more engaged with the company. It’s no longer just work for pay, but a company that cares about them and wants to train them up. This will only help with engagement and retention.

Second, it’s a chance for employees to build those important internal networks. If you create groups mixed across departments people will get to know co-workers, they might not otherwise come across. This helps to break down silos and increase cross-departmental communication.

Third, it creates a common language. If everyone has read Good to Great you can say “hedgehog”, and everyone knows what you’re referring to. Models, stories, analogies, and terminology now become part of the common language of the company, helping to improve how people communicate with each other.

This is not to say you shouldn’t do other types of training, but as HR resources are stretched actively recruiting, this is a low-cost, low-effort program to engage and improve your employees. You can create this on your own or use free online resources like The Career Toolkit Development Guide available at https://www.thecareertoolkitbook.com/resources.

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

From tracking criminals and terrorists on the dark web to creating marketplaces and new authentication systems, Mark Herschberg has spent his career launching and developing new ventures at startups and Fortune 500s and in academia. He helped to start the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, dubbed MIT’s “career success accelerator,” where he teaches annually. At MIT, he received a B.S. in physics, a B.S. in electrical engineering & computer science, and a M.Eng. in electrical engineering & computer science, focusing on cryptography. At Harvard Business School, Mark helped create a platform used to teach finance at prominent business schools. He also works with many nonprofits, including Techie Youth and Plant A Million Corals. He was one of the top-ranked ballroom dancers in the country and now lives in New York City, where he is known for his social gatherings, including his annual Halloween party, as well as his diverse cufflink collection.

Photo by Matthew Osborn on Unsplash

For Zs, Choosing to Work Somewhere Isn’t Just About Making a Career Choice. It’s About Casting a Vote.

This week’s article is by AnneMarie Hayek, a cultural consultant and generational expert.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Power and Promise of Generation Z that aired on Tuesday, October 5th, 2021.

 

Recently, some members of my team at ZSpeak (all between the ages of 19 and 24, placing them squarely at the upper age range of Generation Z) hit me with a bombshell. It all came about when I asked them how they make career decisions.

As someone who’s spent years studying generational evolution, I wanted to hear from them how their decision-making process compared to that of millennials. Plus, the organizations I consult for are often desperate to find better ways to recruit this new generation—because, far too often, they’re missing the mark in hiring effectively.

What I learned from my Zs was eye-opening, and the further research we’ve done supports what they shared. Turns out, when Zs make employment decisions, they view it as casting a vote for the kind of world they want to build.

This is a far cry from millennials and reinforces an important lesson for employers: Zs are not simply younger versions of their predecessors. If you engage with Zs the way you would a millennial job candidate, they’ll quickly move on. However, if you understand who Zs are and how to give them what they want—something I’ll walk you through in this article—you’ll be far more successful in attracting and retaining talented Zs.

Zs Are Not Millennials

To understand why Zs look at their career choices as a vote toward building the future they want, you first have to understand one fundamental truth: Zs grew up completely differently from millennials, which means they have wildly different career priorities.

Millennials are the “Instagram” generation. People shared often-superficial, filtered posts intended to show how perfect their lives were. As a result, millennials gravitated towards the appearance of fun and perfection. Employers recognized this and focused on offering perks in their workplaces: cool outings, game rooms, baristas, and more.

Zs, on the other hand, grew up with 24/7 digital access to all that’s real and raw in the world. They’re the “TikTok” generation: they see the world as-is, without filters and superficiality. Because of that, they gravitate towards things of substance.

To Zs, perks feel contrived and fake. They don’t care about the rooftop views or the double caramel macchiato frappuccinos; they care about good pay, health care, and mental health support. When they are considering prospective employers, they’ll “cast their vote” by working for the ones who support healthy, employee-centered workplaces.

The Creator Generation is Here

While important to Zs, a company’s compensation and benefits package is just one consideration. Unlike millennials, who grew up consuming content through their social feeds, Zs grew up creating content via platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and even Minecraft.

As a result, Zs don’t want to simply “work;” they want to be given a voice and the ability to express themselves creatively. They’re ushering in a radical explosion in the Creator economy: there are now 32 million digital creators. Zs are savvy about monetizing their creativity—they know that anyone with more than 500 followers can make money as a creator online.

Zs sees the traditional 9–5 job as just one of many career options. If they don’t like their corporate options, they’ll create their own. To attract them, then, companies must prove to Zs they value their unique perspective and talents. If they don’t, Zs will look elsewhere.

From the Individual to the Collective

Millennials entered the workforce at the height of startup culture, which romanticized the 24/7 hustle and was defined by a marketplace in which each individual had to fend for themselves, with little loyalty on either side.

Zs have grown up in a world of constant instability. Through their devices, they’re continually exposed to the climate crisis, gender and racial inequality, and deep political divides. They’ve also experienced turbulent economic periods and a global pandemic. As a result, they crave security and are far more interested in collective wellbeing than an individualistic orientation.

This devotion to the collective means Zs are willing to stand up for what they believe is right—together. They will advocate for better work, pay, and benefits, just as they will for climate regulations, gun control, and racial justice. Collectively, Zs know they hold incredible power. They view who they work for as a vote about how people are treated, who is represented, and who holds the power—and once they cast that vote, they will stay with those companies.

Do’s and Don’ts of Recruiting Zs

Given all this, when it comes to recruiting Zs to your workforce, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, clearly outline the requirements of the position upfront. Be transparent about salary, benefits, and responsibilities. This is far more effective than relying on vague buzzwords (“digital ninja,” “boss babe,” “marketing rockstar,” “guru,” and so on).

Next, spend more of your budget on comprehensive benefits (rather than perks), paid time off (PTO), and fair wages. Zs are looking for security and reliability, not trendy office snack bars.

Finally, don’t gloss over your company’s culture, values, and impact. Zs believe companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues. They want to see that you recruit under-represented communities: women, people of color, immigrants, bilingual and bicultural individuals, as well as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

Remember, above all else, Zs think of their employment decisions as casting a vote, and they are determined to work for places that positively impact the world.

For more on how Generation Z is impacting the workforce and the world, go to annemariehayek.com or find We Generation on Amazon.

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

AnneMarie Hayek is a cultural consultant, generational expert, and social agitator who deeply understands society’s evolutions. She founded and leads two companies, Global Mosaic and ZSpeak, with a passion for navigating the cultural movements shaping our world. AnneMarie and her team of experts have advised the world’s largest companies, organizations, governments, and presidential candidates for more than twenty-five years. She has a graduate degree from the University of Chicago and previously served as SVP and VP of Global Strategy at BBDO and Leo Burnett.

Photo by Jed Villejo on Unsplash

Setting the Virtual Table: How to Build a Culture of Belonging One Cyber-Meal at a Time

This week’s article is an article by Jeffrey Hull, CEO of Leadershift, Inc.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World that aired on Tuesday, September 21st, 2021.

 

After a year of forced remote work, Zoom overload, and a substantial loss of work-life balance for many of us, the news is stark: virtual work is here to stay. That is according to workplace expert, Dave Burkus, who I had the privilege of interviewing recently for the Institute of Coaching at Harvard. But the news is not all bad. As Dave points out, research shows that many benefits outweigh the drawbacks once we learn how to optimize our work lives in virtual spaces: we have more work-time flexibility, no commute, can spend less on work “costumes” and can potentially work anywhere there is a good internet connection. Virtual work can also increase a worker’s sense of autonomy, which according to research on self-efficacy by Richard Ryan, PhD at the Center for Self Determination Theory is one of three evidence-based factors, along with competence and relatedness, that underpin performance and motivation.

The trouble is that the third factor, relatedness, is particularly difficult to maintain, let alone enhance, in cyber-space. So how do we build a sense of connection, community, and belonging when we’re sitting alone watching tiny boxes on a two-dimensional screen? The answer may surprise you. As Dave points out in his excellent book, Working from Anywhere, the key to connecting in virtual spaces is being intentional about re-creating those experiences that foster cohesion and collegiality.  First among them? Food.

For centuries, human tribes have communed by breaking bread together. Either sitting around the fire or the dining table, the simple act of sharing a meal ensemble has been part of all human cultures. As Burkus describes, a perfect example can be found in Sweden, with the “cake and coffee” culture known as “Fika:” where employees share a drink and a bite to eat with co-workers (not alone at their desks like many Americans) on a daily basis.  It is a deeply important ritual that underpins their well-known collegial, yet high-performing, work culture.

Yet, as regenerative design expert Ben Preston points out, it is challenging to “feel” that same emotional arousal provided by the lived experience of taste, smell, tone, and touch through a two-dimensional screen. The human parasympathetic system needs a certain amount of stimulation to mediate the “fight or flight” response, to bring us into a state of calm rapport.  Eye contact, gestures, smiles, and yes, the arousal of our taste buds and sense of smell, are keen aspects of how humans build trust. So how do we do it virtually?

Well, if you have ever watched a cooking show on TV, or recently saw Stanley Tucci devouring homemade pasta on his gastronomic tour of Italy for CNN, you know that just watching someone eating delicious food can make your taste buds tingle. Breaking bread in cyberspace can work. But you have to pay attention to the details. So here is my five-step recipe for virtual dining that is sure to delight, and inspire, a high-performing team.

  1. Get serious: Food and drink are the lifeblood of vitality for all of us. When we dispense with mealtime gatherings due to remote work we are missing out on something important.  Leaders take note:  creating an opportunity for your team to come together over a shared meal – even if very much BYOB – is serious stuff.  You may not be able to take your team out for lunch or dinner, but you can bring them together, turn off the “to-do” list and share the intimacy of a meal. In fact, by having your team bring their favorite foods, or perhaps a special drink concoction into the mix, the experience can not only be fun but can become a cross-cultural learning experience.
  1. Get personal: Food and drink, are actually just the appetizer, for it is in the stories we share about the highs and lows of living life—taking care of friends and family, overcoming obstacles, watching our kids grow and achieve—where bonds are forged. The virtual meal is an opportunity for leaders to invite everyone into a shared experience. Norms, myths, symbols, and intangible “moments” are what coalesce into a culture of teaming (and psychological safety).

It is important, however, for the circle to be complete by encouraging — not demanding — everyone, even introverts, participates. The key for leaders in this regard is to be the role model: share with humility and vulnerability some triumph or failure, which gives others permission to let down their hair, be human, and imperfect. Cultures of safety and trust are not born of competition, one-upmanship, or “sucking up” to the boss.  It is imperative that the interaction be facilitated well — that employees feel relaxed, supported, welcomed in their diversity and uniqueness.

  1. Get physical: Another key element of meal gatherings that is often taken for granted in the “real world” in the sense of tactile connection afforded by varying our somatic movements, postures, seating arrangements, and so on. To include this physical and energetic component in cyberspace requires intention and attention – to detail.  A leader might suggest people “dress up” (remember office attire?) or wear a costume.

It might be appropriate to suggest participants invite significant others to join in, or bring a child or pet to the “dinner table”.  One way to bring sensory experience into the meal is to have everyone bring a symbolic object that is meaningful for them — to “show and tell” — and share the meaning with which an object or symbol is imbued.  Another possibility is a poetry reading or musical interlude. Often at pre-covid gatherings, we would invite a co-worker to play an instrument or sing. This same activity can be accomplished online: a musical interlude adds color and flair to a virtual meal. Finally, consider adding variation in the use of physical space:  have everyone join in on some dance moves, stretch, or breathe together.  The key: get up and move!

  1. Get game: Last, but not least, in contrast to all of the above; don’t take the whole thing too seriously.  What makes gatherings special, memorable, and relaxing in the “real world” is also true virtually: stuff happens. Make space for slip-ups, jokesters, break-downs. Take time for fun and games. Dining together, virtually, should be what I would call “serious fun.”

One of my clients plays virtual charades with her team, another had a cocktail invention contest (e.g. They sent around a list of ingredients, all non-alcoholic, and then proceeded to find creative ways to mix and match for the best flavor combos). Another leader held an impromptu karaoke event on Zoom, which brought out the best and worst – in everyone.  The key here is to be playful, light, inclusive (invite the introverts, gently, to participate), and serious, all in the name of bonding.

 

There is a reason why the most important scene, the finale, in one of the longest-running Broadway musicals, recently celebrating 25 years of success across the world, is set in a restaurant around a big dining table. The cast of RENT sings the famous anthem La Vie Boheme while, eating, drinking, and dancing on the table. This ritual celebration symbolizes the ultimate experience we all crave as humans: to belong.

So as the RENT cast might say, there is no time like today. If you are leading a remote team, get serious, and get playful. Bring everyone together on Zoom, Teams, or whatever platform you like, set aside work for a bit, and instead, set a virtual table, eat, drink and make merry. Your team will be glad you did.

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author
Jeffrey Hull, Ph.D. BCC is CEO of Leadershift, Inc. a leadership development consultancy based in New York City and author of the best-selling book, FLEX: The Art and Science of Leadership in A Changing World, from Penguin-Random House in 2019. A highly sought-after speaker, consultant, and executive coach with over twenty-five years working with C-suite leaders worldwide, Dr. Hull is also a Clinical Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School and adjunct Professor of Leadership at New York University. He is the Director of Global Development at the Institute of Coaching, a Harvard Medical School Affiliate. Dr. Hull has been featured in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, Investors Business Daily, and a wide range of media. He can be reached at www.jeffreyhull.com

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Stratified Systems Theory Applied To Dream Teams

This week’s article is an excerpt from The Science of Dream Teams: How Talent Optimization Can Drive Engagement, Productivity, and Happiness by Mike Zani, CEO of The Predictive Index, a talent optimization platform that uses over 60 years of proven science and software to help businesses design high-performing teams and cultures.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Science of Dream Teams that aired on Tuesday, September 14th, 2021.

What do you have to do next week? What will be on your plate four months from now? How about in two years? If you pose these questions to different people in your organization, you’re sure to get very different answers. Some will provide full to-do lists for different scenarios, while others will shrug, wondering why you’re asking questions that seem irrelevant to their jobs.

People across an enterprise hold wildly different ideas about the future. During the Cold War, a psychologist named Elliott Jaques carried out research on this subject and called it the Stratified Systems Theory. The idea, which was especially useful for the military, is that different jobs require different time horizons. Certain people are comfortable projecting far into the future, while others limit their view to a single week, or even a day. So the trick for a large bureaucracy, Jaques wrote, was to layer the talent according to people’s time horizons.*

If that sounds a tad theoretical, consider concrete examples. An engineer is heading up a team building a manufacturing plant. Working on the construction might be a welder who handles assignments thrown his way. He doesn’t have to plan too much for tomorrow or the next day. His time horizon can be counted in hours.

But the engineer takes a longer view. He has to consider the supplies he’ll need next month and the month after. By that point, winter storms might be blowing through. How will that affect supply chains and construction? He’s dealing with a number of variables over a time frame of several months. Next year, he knows, he’ll have a different project. But he doesn’t have to plan for it.

His boss does. She’s a regional manager who has financial responsibilities, a profit and loss report due every quarter. She’s already prospecting for next year’s projects, some of them in Europe. She’s busy calculating how many workers she’ll need, considering currency hedges, and gauging the risk of banking on contract laborers, which hinges on the job market next spring. She has to think ahead, at least a year or two.

She reports to a chief executive, who might be plotting an Asian strategy, including a massive acquisition in Japan. This person has to weigh variables far into the future, perhaps a decade, even longer.

When Elliott Jaques was drawing up his Stratified Systems Theory for the military, the expanding time frames, Strata 1 through 5 (see Figure 4.1), fit neatly into a rigid hierarchy. Privates didn’t need to think about the future, only to follow orders hour by hour. Each ascending rank required a longer vision, until you got to five-star generals, who had to consider the geopolitical implications in 5 years, or 10, of nuclear weapons development or the containment strategy of the Soviet Union.

While few of us run companies as hierarchically rigid as the military, it’s still valuable to measure the time horizons that employees are comfortable with, and to use them in the deployment of talent.

There are tremendous advantages in a workforce marked by higher strata proficiency. We strive for it in our company. One big plus is that a person who envisions what’s ahead is more likely to figure out what to do—thinking through the steps that lead in the right direction. These people need less management, and are frequently self-starters. They’re more likely to generate ideas because they’re imagining the future and scenario planning. People who think far ahead also have potential to climb into management and executive roles.

Getting a grip on strata is fundamental for designing reporting relationships in an enterprise. Think of what happens, for example, if a chief executive has an administrative assistant who functions on a Strata 1 level. To manage this person, the CEO must drop down to Strata 2, allocating perhaps 15 minutes every morning to go over what the assistant is going to do and how to handle certain calls and emails and calendar items. This is not time well spent. And for this reason, many CEOs hire executive assistants who function at high strata levels. These elite assistants can see the entire operation, and anticipate what’s ahead and what needs to be done. Often, they shed the assistant moniker and become executives in their own right.

If you’re in a small startup, you don’t need to think much about reporting relationships. But as a company grows to 200 people, it develops new levels, with executive vice presidents and division leaders. It’s while managing talent in such an enterprise, with five or six levels, that the strata take on importance. Ideally, each level will have to drop only one strata to manage its reports. Big gaps waste time and lead to frustration.

How do you test for strata? Tom Foster, a management consultant and author, proposes a question, such as: “When you finish what you’re working on now, how do you get more work?” Some people say they wait for their next assignment. Others ask their manager. Others might start to enumerate everything they know that needs to get done. The answer often reveals a person’s time horizon.

I often test for strata during the hiring process. After all, if we want high-strata employees, the job interview is a great place to screen for it. I might ask candidates to tell me a story about the most complicated project they ever undertook in their youth or early in their career. I’m not looking for altruism or team play or any other virtues. I’m focused on comfort with complexity and long-span thinking.

Some people, eager to flash their entrepreneurial credentials, tell me about a business they started. But when you poke further, there’s little there. For example, someone designs a website in college. It’s pretty good. And a local business pays him $500 to make another one. Pretty soon, he has a small business of his own, which pays a chunk of his expenses through college. That’s great, but it doesn’t show a strategic vision.

One of the best strata stories I heard was from a former high school actor named Rich Weiss. He and his friend worked on sets for a high school play. That didn’t sound so complicated to me at first. But then he described the constraints. There wasn’t much money or space. They had to figure out how to make a set that fit into the gym, one the school used for all kinds of activities. So the set had to be compact, moveable, and affordable. They had to plan in September to build it over the winter holidays, without interfering with basketball and gymnastics, and then stage it in March. Rich was clearly a strategic thinker. He now uses those skills to run important processes at our company. He doesn’t have to wait around for someone to tell him what needs to be done.

Excerpt from The Science of Dream Teams: How Talent Optimization Can Drive Engagement, Productivity, and Happiness by Mike Zani, pp. 60-65 (McGraw Hill, July 2021).

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author
Mike Zani is the author of The Science of Dream Teams: How Talent Optimization Can Drive Engagement, Productivity, and Happiness and CEO of The Predictive Index, a talent optimization platform that uses over 60 years of proven science and software to help businesses design high-performing teams and cultures. Zani is also the co-founder and partner at Phoenix Strategy Investments, a private investment fund. An avid sailor, he was the coach of the 1996 US Olympic Team. He holds a BS from Brown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

 

Photo by Leon on Unsplash

The Spirituality of Work and Leadership

This week’s article is provided by Paul Gibbons, academic advisor and author.   The article is an excerpt from his new book The Spirituality of Work and Leadership: Finding Meaning, Joy, and Purpose in What You Do.   It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Finding Meaning, Joy, and Purpose in What You Do that aired on Tuesday, September 7th.

 

VOCATION AND SPIRITUAL FIT

“Most people’s jobs are too small for their spirits.” ~Studs Terkel, from Working

People spend nearly half their waking lives at work, perhaps 100,000 hours in a lifetime. In the previous chapter, we argued that the time one spends working should be joyfully and purposefully spent, contributions should be a source of meaning and fulfillment, and social interactions should be a significant source of community and connectedness.

In this chapter, we start with questions about vocation and mindset: Which matters more: what you do, or how you do it? Can you bring a spiritual mindset, say of gratitude or service, to any job? How much responsibility for the worker’s experience lies with the worker, and how much with the employer?

CHOOSING WORK – BALANCING SECULAR AND SPIRITUAL

“Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess.” ~ Father Thomas Merton

One workplace spirituality “killer-app” is vocation choice, sometimes called fulfilling your purpose in life, finding your calling, or “following your bliss.” This subject has birthed hundreds of books. A few, such as Connections between Spirit and Work in Career Development, are academic in approach. Others are more inspirational and practical, such as True Work, The Purpose Driven Life, The Leaders Way, The Work We Were Born To Do, and The Art of Work.

The above books rightly say that the feeling of being called may be immensely powerful. For the called, it may provide motivation to make drastic life changes. Calling provides a narrative for work that can help you soar in the good times and transcend the bad times. It helps leaders lead with greater passion and charisma—indeed, many leadership development programs help leaders create a powerful career narrative about their highs and lows and the learning from those that has shaped who they are. In my programs, leaders used to explore this by creating a timeline of life and leadership experiences that had shaped their vision and values and that shape what is unique about them and what they stand for as a leader.

There is a question of whether calling comes from “out there,” the Universe, a Higher Power, God, or whether (as existentialists would have it) there is no purpose “out there,” but we are liberated to choose for ourselves. Different strokes.

For the existentialists or people without a deity, this freedom of choice, of accepting responsibility for those choices, and of doing the work of creating meaning can be hard. In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”

When reflecting upon your calling, using one of the many guides available, you want first to focus on the spiritual, the meaning derived from work, and on intrinsic satisfaction rather than on skills, interests, job opportunities, financial rewards, and traditional views of success. Secular concerns press upon us all the time, so we give priority to the less urgent but more important. There are various tools career coaches use to help with this: narratives, dreams, symbols, poetry, visualization, and insights from the past.

Once you’ve used these “spiritual tools,” you balance spiritual with secular concerns.

One simple tool, the Ikigai (“reason to live” in Japanese), helps readers think through the tension between the secular and spiritual worlds53.

Diagram V-1: The Ikigai career purpose tool

To use this tool, spend about an hour thinking about each of the petals and the tensions between them. Ask yourself which petal is most or least fulfilling in your current role. (I have formalized this process with a questionnaire and in workshops, but the do-it-yourself approach works well if you dedicate the time to it.)

Where some books on calling are wrong

“If you’re having work problems, I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems but meaning ain’t one.” ~99 PROBLEMS, JAY-Z , paraphrase

Coaches and self-help gurus sometimes draw a distinction between societal and parental influences, the tangible pressures of living (paying rent), and what the “inner-self” or “real you” or “true self” is called to do.

This distinction is false and unhelpful because there is no “you” bereft of any historical or cultural influences – your likes and dislikes, talents and shortfalls, personality, and values were shaped from an early age by dozens of influences. You can’t untangle the threads and find a “pure you” in there. Humans have many scripts running – you just get to choose which you pay attention to. You also get to choose to set some influences aside and give more weight to others.

We gain information about the world of work as we mature.  Sometimes I advise young people that early jobs are as much about finding out what you dislike as what you like. Choosing a career is always a balancing act of dozens of factors including some fairly prosaic geographical ones such as where you prefer to live, where your spouse prefers to live, where the schools are good, where parents, friends, and relatives live, as well as all the different factors covered by the Ikigai.

Another faulty assumption of many spiritually oriented career counselors and coaches is that the practical matters of earning a living, developing skills, and finding a job will “unfold” once finding a calling unlocks the passion and commitment that lie within you. I don’t think this is helpful or true. There is a certain kind of spirituality, usually New Age, that holds that once you find your calling and put your career intentions “out there,” the Universe will provide a living.

Well, as they say in the Middle East, “…trust Allah but tether your camel.” Even though the Universe is on your team, put the hard work in. Circumstances, opportunity, luck, the economic environment, and your job-hunting skills will play a part in the realization of your calling. Adults need to balance passion and practicalities in the world of work – and (again) need to balance secular and spiritual concerns. (There is a 12-Step expression: “God does the steerin’, I do the rowin.’” For Humanists, it might be, “the purpose I’ve created does the steerin’, and I do the rowin.’”)

Another faulty assumption of some spiritual approaches to calling is that finding your calling and doing it is necessarily a source of great joy. Maybe. Life stories of great saints suggest that not everyone who is “called” finds it easy. It sometimes demands great change and sacrifice. You might be called to earn a quarter of what you do now. Or are you ready to uproot your family? Are you ready to go back to school? Do you want to be called to sacrifice? Do organizations want their workers to be called? Typically, in the 21st century, we want the “goodies” from calling or vocation without the sacrifice.

Coaching people out the door

“They attain perfection when they find joy in their work.” ~The Bhagavad Gita

Finally, coaches focus on worker self-actualization for (or so they should even if they are performance coaching), but many times when I’ve coached a mid-career executive on career matters (paid for by the company), they decide to go self-actualize somewhere else. When my firm ran a leadership development program for a few dozen senior investment bankers (partners in a big firm), we talked about choice, self-expression, joy, balance, work-family, and goal setting. Five of our initial group of 12 were gone within a year (retired, began independent consulting, or moved to another firm).

In the long run, empowering self-actualization that leads to someone quitting may benefit the business, creating an opening for someone whose passions may be more aligned. (After all, you should prefer employees who are passionate about being there.) The employee’s departure increases the amount of big-picture happiness in the world—you’ve done a good thing. In the short run, though, it looks like financial folly—investing in executive coaching to watch your employees leave and then incurring the cost of losing and rehiring a worker.

The challenge for businesses is how to improve their recruiting and interviewing processes to better identify those who are truly called to work for them. How can organizations best hone and express their mission so prospective employees can discern whether they should be working there?

There is a bigger challenge we get to later which is how businesses can they make sure their insides live up to the glossy outsides of recruitment pitches.

THE SPIRITUAL FIT

“…you are someone who has a particular passion or a particular personal philosophy, and you’re able to turn work into an instrument of realizing the deeper meaning in pursuing your personal philosophy or passion.” ~Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Satya is talking about what I call the “spiritual fit” how well one’s purpose and values fit with the specific mission of our employer.  However, a courtship might produce a fit and result in two people deciding to marry but working on the fit does not stop there. Even if you find a job in the Ikigai sweet spot – that is:

  • Work that the world needs,
  • Work we are passionate about,
  • Work that tests us and uses our skills,
  • Work that remunerates us well.

… the “marriage” demands work on both sides. For firms, the fit isn’t just about hiring workers who fit, it is about helping new workers onboard.

Back in the day, even at my blue-chip former employers, the boss “onboarded” new hires, thus: “there is your desk, the bathroom is down the hall, and the coffee machine a bit further.” That is it. There was zero effort to help new hires fit – to help them make sense of the values of their new firm, and how their skills might contribute to their passion and purpose. Our connection to purpose, if it happened, was left to chance.

In the 1990s, PwC offered new employees a whole day onboarding! That whole day was then seen as indulgent by some but would seem ridiculously short to today’s HR professionals – and today PwC’s process is six months long. Leading firms take onboarding very seriously: Google also devotes six months to it, kicking off with an intensive two-week immersion into “being Googly” (the culture) but also the structure and strategy of the business and the architecture of the platform.

Hiring and onboarding help with internal fit. One could recommend companies look more deeply into values and purpose at the recruitment stage, but as values questions become more personal, they may veer into off-limits territory or may be potentially discriminatory.  Fits won’t be perfect or permanent – some employees don’t know what job they want until they see it – and at 25, you ain’t seen much. Some jobs look juicy from the outside but don’t feel right once you are in them. (And sometimes, as the song says, “you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone”.)

Choosing the right profession and the right company to work for can be a long journey. You have to constantly reassess your priorities, values, fit with your employer, and whether the path you are on is one you value and admire. Mormon, Steven Covey said cleverly, “there is no use racing up the ladder of success if it is leaning against the wrong wall.”

However, I recommend strongly against daily or even monthly questioning of values and fit and purpose in life. I think that is a recipe for misery. Rumination, experts say, is among the unhealthiest psychological habits. The question “Is this the right job or profession for me” is one to be taken seriously, but only periodically – semi-annually, or annually. Once you commit, you stop asking the question for another six or twelve months – when it pops into your head, you set it aside.

Having said that, you should put your values, fit, and purpose to work in daily life – questioning yourself hard on whether you are living up to them. That is the spiritual challenge – not to get too comfortable with yourself, but also having a depth of self-compassion for your stumbles. Few of us can walk in and say “take this job and shove it” without consequences. Daily, you recommit to where you are and to the sorts of attitudes that make you happier and make you a nicer person to work with.

This, clearly, speaks to the necessity of making time for annual (or so) reflection upon your purpose and values – again not ruminating daily, but when the time that you set aside comes, engaging in purposeful life-design (or re-design.) Once, you commit to change, it will still take a long while to enact your new vision or profession. When I coached mid- or late-career people who desired or were approaching a major career transition, I used to advise that such transitions take a year to envision, plan, and execute. If you are retiring from a 40-year career, I suggest (unless your only goal is the hammock) that it takes five years to build up a portfolio of stimulating, enriching service and commercial opportunities.

A final source of misery is people who suffer at work, decide to change, and who fail to take action. They wake up each day with “I need to change jobs” for months or years without acting – getting a little unhappier and a weakening sense of their own power and agency. Usually, they need support in planning and being held accountable for taking the baby steps to realize the change.

This discussion has mostly been about fitting the job to yourself, that is finding work that aligns with your purpose and calling. However, there is another spiritual job alluded to above, fitting yourself to the job with the right mindset.

IT AIN’T WHAT YOU DO, IT’S THE WAY THAT YOU DO IT54

“For works do not sanctify us, but we should sanctify the works.” ~Meister Eckhart

While vocation choice concerns itself with “doing the work you love,” the alternative is “loving the work you do.” In other words, how do you “get your head right”? Which work attitudes and beliefs affect your experience of work? For example, if work is approached as a place of service or giving, rather than a place of being served or getting, would one enjoy it more? Was St. Francis right in saying, “It is better to understand than to be understood, to comfort than to be comforted, to love than to be loved, better to give than to receive”? Is the secret of happiness not doing what one likes, but liking what one does? At one spiritual retreat I spent time with a Benedictine Abbott and even though 25 years ago, I remember his questions: How is life treating you, Paul? More to the point though, how are you treating life? 

Meaning making

“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.” ~Marcus Aurelius

Ancient spiritual texts and modern writers on humanism suggest that taking personal responsibility for meaning “creates the work reality.” Viktor Frankl was able to find meaning in a concentration camp. In the yogic spiritual tradition, the concept of Karma Yoga suggests that working with love and enthusiasm can turn a chore into a spiritually enriching experience. The Buddhist spiritual path (bodhisattva) recommends going forth for the welfare and benefit of the world to prevent suffering. In Hinduism, the concept of right livelihood affects one’s karma, one’s inheritance in the next life. Christian monks maintained “laborare est orare” (to work is to pray). These views suggest that enjoyment of work is “an inside job”—if you can bring the right attitude and actions to work, you can transform your experience of it.

Recall the parable of the stonecutters. The third stonecutter’s narrative was: “I’m creating a magnificent cathedral.” We get to decide which cathedrals we are building by creating our own narratives.  This illustrates, again, that meaning isn’t “out there” but is created; it’s created in this case by—the why of our work. Sadly, the prevalent and contrary view in society is that what happens determines what we feel and do: “He made me furious” or, “Work is killing me.” If one’s mood is determined by context, then it will ebb and flow with the fortunes of life. If the actions of others determine one’s response, then there is no freedom, only reaction.  Many spiritual orientations make you more responsible for your feelings and actions:

  • “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” (Marcus Aurelius)
  • “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves.  The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  • “Look at the word ‘responsibility’ – “response-ability” – the ability to choose your response.” (Steven Covey)
  • “Man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked.” (Viktor Frankl)
  • “Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” (HH the Dalai Lama)

Their essential message is that our perception of the world, and our reaction to it, are a matter of choice. And right attitudes and right actions manifest themselves not only in an improved internal experience, but also in relationships with others, including our relationship to the world. This deeper connection to self, others, and world was part of our definition of spirituality, the practical face of the spiritual journey.

What do “real people” say gives their working life meaning. In a survey from US consulting firm BetterUp55 conducted in 2018, today’s workers report that they find most meaning:

  • “… where I’m trying to make other people’s lives better…”
  • “…when I’m working to help others grow and see their potential…”
  • “…when I am able to push my abilities to the utmost is the most fulfilling…”
  • “…when my work revolves around helping others especially the disadvantaged and needy…”

This leads to a paradoxical situation. On one hand, meaning happens between our ears—and ultimately, only we can be responsible for the meaning we create. On the other hand, the employer, culture, work environment, job, and leadership can make it hard or easy to find meaning in a given job. Does the idea of personal responsibility for meaning-making give employers a free pass? Is it all “on you?”  Of course not.

Here we find one of the most incisive criticisms of the whole idea of spirituality and business – the idea that finding meaning and purpose at work can be found if the individual works hard enough at it no matter how oppressive the circumstances may be.

We saw that meaning and purpose can be found in the humblest of jobs: humans can reshape their narratives to a great extent. But, leaving all the spiritual heavy lifting to workers isn’t right—for them to enjoy a shitty job, they would have to become spiritual giants, master meaning-makers. There is also something deeply cynical about expecting someone who earns ten times less than you to get with the program and find the right attitude to make “loading 16 tons”56 meaningful.

The attitude of gratitude

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

One attitude, though not by any means a uniquely spiritual one, is gratitude.57 Gratitude means being thankful, not just for specifics, as when a colleague does you a kindness, but generally, toward life, toward the people in it, and for circumstances (even those that seem harsh). As the saying goes, “Happiness isn’t getting what you want; it is wanting what you got.”

But like most valuable things in life, the attitude of gratitude takes practice and cultivation. The general “attitude of gratitude” creates an other- rather than self-orientation—an appreciation for what one has, rather than entitlement and grasping for what one lacks. As British author G.K. Chesterton said, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

Another way that the gratitude mindset is expressed is a “get to” rather than “have to” orientation. “Have to” people see a world with little choice, one whether they comply (grudgingly) with demands put upon them. “Get to” people may be doing the same thing, but with a different narrative—I “get to” do what I’m doing. This simple shift in narrative can be transformative.

Nietzsche, of course, had an even deeper take on gratitude. He suggested that true gratitude was being willing to live your life, just as it has happened, over and over again in eternal recurrence. (One of his signature ideas.) Only then, said he, when you accept all that has been, and are willing to live as such over and over, will peace and gratitude be found. “And then you will find every pain and every pleasure, every friend and every enemy, every hope and every error, every blade of grass and every ray of sunshine once more, and the whole fabric of things which make up your life.”58

One of the biggest obstacles to having attitudes at work (and in life) that create a better experience is the intrusion of negative thoughts. Everybody “knows” they should be grateful, everybody “knows” that they are the author of their own experience – but that “knowledge” can be of little use when the sniveling shipwreck of a human being in the next cubicle tries to take credit for your work, or you have to work past 9PM for the third time this week.

Everybody has thoughts that are not in the interest of the thinker. Everybody has impulses to do the wrong thing. Most of us ruminate a downward spiral of worry, fantasy, and resentment at least sometimes. How do we overcome negative thoughts, sometimes called the “itty bitty shitty committee” in your head? Let’s look at mindfulness.

 

53 You can find the ikigai and dozens of tools on purpose and calling in Reboot Your Career, a workbook that I co-authored with career coaching specialist Tim Ragan in 2016.

54 From poppy one-hit wonder group Bananarama and Fun Boy Three in the 1980s. Try to get that earworm out of your head now.

55 www.betterup.com

56 “You load 16 tons, and whaddya get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don’t you call me, ‘cos I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.” (Folk song from 1947.)

57 Sometimes spiritual writers use the terms spirituality as if “all that good stuff” – humility, integrity, gratitude, passion, and conscience were uniquely spiritual. You can arrive at those attitudes through Humanistic psychology or many other ways. (No psychologist would take exception to the mentioned goodies.) We should not pretend that only spirituality, or only our own version of it is the only path to desirable human qualities – although our position is that the word “umbrellas” inner and outer work and includes those virtues and an ethical stance on life..

58 From The Gay Science, published in 1882.

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author
Paul Gibbons keynotes on five continents on the future of business, particularly on humanizing business, culture change, ethics, and the future of work. He is currently an academic advisor to Deloitte’s Human Capital practice – creating the future of change management He has authored five books, most prominently The Science of Successful Organizational Change and Impact, and he runs the popular philosophy podcast, Think Bigger Think Better. Those books are category best-sellers on Amazon in organizational change, decision-making, and leadership. After eight years as a consultant at PwC, Gibbons founded Future Considerations, a consulting firm that advises major corporations, including Shell, BP, Barclays, and HSBC, on leadership, strategy, and culture change. From 2015 to 2018, he was an adjunct professor of business ethics at the University of Denver. Paul is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a hyperpolyglot, has been named a “top-20 culture guru,” and one of the UK’s top two CEO “super coaches” by CEO magazine. He is a member of the American Philosophical Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and lives in the Denver area with his two sons and enjoys competing internationally at mindsports such as poker, bridge, MOBA, and chess.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Leverage Change: If You Want to Transform Your Organization, Start by Changing Your Own Paradigms

This week’s article is provided by Jake Jacobs. President of Jake Jacobs Consulting and author of Leverage Change, 8 Ways to Achieve Faster, Easier, Better Results.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Leverage Change: Achieve Faster, Easier, Better Results that aired on Tuesday, August 24th.

 

Transforming organizations takes years, is hard work, and often leads to disappointing results.  This is common wisdom.  It’s been proven time and again.  It goes with the territory.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most approaches to organization transformation are littered with flawed paradigms.  Paradigms that inherently lead to these efforts falling short of the mark.  Want different results?  See the world in new ways.

Uncommon wisdom makes it possible to achieve faster, easier, better results with any transformation effort, in any organization, made by anyone.  The approach we’re describing is chockfull of new paradigms, fresh perspectives on problems that have plagued organizations for years.

Welcome to the world of Leverage Change.

Leverage Change

Leverage Change1 is a flexible approach to applying eight ways for individuals, teams and organizations to transform faster, easier, and better than you believe possible.  You can use it to turbocharge a change method you’re already using or as the foundation for one you’re developing.  It applies equally well to simple efforts involving a few people to complex ones engaging tens of thousands.  Benefit from it as you launch a transformation effort and reap rewards if your work is already underway.  Be the “go to” person when it comes to change, advancing your career and organization alike.

Adopt the paradigm of leverage and accomplish more with fewer hassles, headaches and problems.  Archimedes, a third century B.C. Greek mathematician described the power of leverage when he said, “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and single-handed I shall move the world.”  You can move your worlds in the arena of transformation by changing your paradigms about how it happens.  Leverage Change is your guide map along this journey.

Leverage Change is comprised of eight levers, or smart, strategic actions, that yield profound results.  Each addresses a common problem that prevents transformation efforts from succeeding (see Table 1.)  While there are eight powerful ways available in creating effective transformations, we are going to focus on one that addresses a frequent frustration of leaders:  change taking too long.

Organizations pay a steep price for slow transformation efforts, even when they can eventually claim victory from their work.  While you are toiling away, competition is winning new markets, commercializing leading-edge technologies, making valuable process improvements, and creating cultures that lead to advantages in the recruitment and retention of top talent.

 

Living in a Leverage Change World

How can you reduce the time it takes to transform an organization from years to months?  Embrace a new paradigm, the lever noted above of Thinking and Acting as if the Future Were Now!  Instead of seeing the future as something “out there” that will occur at a later point in time, choose to live it today.  Here.  Now.  When you and your entire organization make this shift, transformation occurs rapidly, even in some cases instantaneously.

Your old paradigm told you that transforming culture takes years.  Plenty of experts will tell you the same.  Don’t buy it.  Your new culture will take years to create because you believe it will.  If you want a more participative culture, think and act as if this close collaboration already exists.  This paradigm shift immediately changes the game.  In this new reality, who should be in the room for your next meeting?  What criteria should you be using to make decisions today?  How much power should different stakeholders hold right now?  Stop talking about the future.  Start living it.

Then encourage others to join you in this journey.  Create an organization that subscribes to this new paradigm.  Benefits of effective change work accrue to the bold.  Colleagues previously reticent to jump aboard the transformation train see and hear change occurring all around them.  Their belief that this time it’s for real increases significantly.  As they begin thinking and acting as if the future were now, their colleagues’ faith in the future being real creates a virtuous cycle of ongoing transformation.  At the same time, you’ll be collecting financial, quality, customer satisfaction and other “winnings” sooner…and being able to reinvest them, further stoking the engine of your transformation efforts.

A Transformation Challenge

You have a new strategy where sales people partner in new ways with each other in the field.  It’s smart, strategic and sure to give you a leg up on the competition.  If you implement it before they make their next competitive move.  But how do you get that job done well?  And done now?

5 Steps to Transforming Your Organization

How does the lever Think and Act as if the Future Were Now! accelerate implementation of your new strategy?  I outline how to do this, providing answers to the above implementation effort as examples.  Pick your own transformation work – for yourself, your team or your organization – and respond to each of the steps for your own benefit.

Step 1:  Describe the essential elements of the preferred future you aspire to create.

A rapid response implementation where we gain substantial market share through the new partnership roles for sales people across the company.

Step 2:  If you were already living in this preferred future, how would you be thinking and what actions would you be taking right now?

  • Commissions are shared with the whole team
  • All team members are performing all sales functions
  • Customers are pleased with the comprehensive service they receive
  • Marketing and sales personnel are working seamlessly together

Step 3:  Recruit and request the help you need from a support and accountability partner to live into this new future now.

Our sales team has a “wants and offers” negotiation session with the marketing department.

Step 4:  Invite others to join you in Thinking and Acting as if the Future Were Now!

The entire sales organization is cross-trained on critical tasks; finance takes the lead in new commission structure.

Step 5:  Assess the impact.  What can you see, hear and feel that is different from applying this lever?

We gauge success by tracking market share and customer satisfaction scores against historical trends.

Paradigms help us make sense of our organizations.  They can also get in the way.  Change your paradigms.  Transform your organization.

 

1Jacobs, Robert Jake, Leverage Change, 2021, Berrett-Koehler, Oakland

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

 

Jake Jacobs is President of Jake Jacobs Consulting, a global consulting firm focused on helping clients achieve faster, easier, better results than they ever imagined possible.

 

The 5 Main Reasons Why People Get Stuck and Stop Growing

This week’s article was adapted from The Self Help Book by Jared Graybeal.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Self Help Book: Practical Ways to Never Stop Growing that aired on Tuesday, August 10th.

 

Do you ever feel stuck in your own routine? If the feelings of momentum and growth seem elusive in your current life phase, you may be interested in learning how to get “unstuck.”

However, I firmly believe that there’s a seriously important step before moving into the action phase. We need to look at why you’re feeling stuck in the first place.

Without first acknowledging some of the things that hold us back, we may never have the humility and maturity to approach growth with the right mindset.

To help you identify the source of your stagnation, I’ve compiled a list of the five main reasons why most people get stuck and stop growing. See if any of these resonate with you.

Reason #1: We stop making an effort to learn.

Unless they’re forced to learn things at work in order to keep their job, most people don’t commit to a life of continued education. This could be because of burnout from the education system, or it could simply be because committing to a life of never-ending learning is hard.

There are a lot of easier and more immediately rewarding things to do with our time after we get off work, like watching TV, scrolling on social media, or hanging out with friends.

Reason #2: We stop setting goals.

According to the latest research, less than 3 percent of Americans have written goals, and less than 1 percent review and rewrite their goals on a daily basis.

Why? I believe lack of self-confidence, fear of failure, laziness, and impatience keep us from looking forward to the things we want to achieve.

Unfortunately, the minute we stop setting goals, we become aimless.

Reason #3: When we set goals, we suck at it.

Studies show that less than 25 percent of us actually stick to New Year’s resolutions after thirty days, and only 8 percent accomplish them. Clearly, there’s something wrong with how we are setting goals.

Why? Because most of us just don’t know how. Brian Tracy, self-development author and goal-setting expert, says, “One of the greatest tragedies of our educational system is that you can receive fifteen to eighteen years of education in our schools and never once receive a single hour of instruction on how to set goals.”

Reason #4: We are one-track minded about growth.

Most people think growth is linear, assuming you can only grow in one way at one time. Then they get stuck on it.

For example, if you’re trying to get a promotion, you dial into the lifestyle it takes to get that promotion and forsake everything else. Or if you’re trying to lose weight, you do a mediocre job at work, maybe hang with your friends when it’s convenient, but give your fitness goals 100 percent of your attention.

The problem with this is that we stay there, and even once we’ve reached our goal, we don’t think to diversify until we’ve sunk into the depressive state of being stuck again.

Reason #5: Growth can be painful.

When I was in high school, I was 4’11” until my junior year. I prayed daily to grow, but nothing happened…until eleventh grade. I grew seven inches that year (and about three inches more since then, thankfully), and I can remember how painful that was. Seven inches in one year is an unusual growth spurt, and it caused a lot of pain to my joints, especially my hips.

But as I was going through that pain, I was also very thankful, because I had gotten the growth I had been praying for. Personal growth can be much like that. Both the work required and the change that comes with the results can be painful at times, and some people aren’t cut out for that level of discomfort. Once you accept that pain is a part of growth, you will also be able to enjoy the fruits of it later on and live a life of constant, positive change.

What’s keeping you stuck?

It may not be just one reason. You may identify with several of these reasons, and that’s OK. It’s not that you’re more stuck or hopelessly stuck.

It’s that you’re human and honest and ready to move forward. Now that we’ve covered the bad news and the not-so-fun statistics, here’s the good news: you can change.

Getting unstuck isn’t that hard—I promise. It’s just a few small, simple steps done consistently over time. You can live a life of greatness, fulfill your potential, and be happy doing it. Most importantly, you can start right now.

Not next Monday, next month, or next January.

RIGHT NOW.

For more advice on personal growth, you can find The Self Help Book on Amazon.

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Jared Graybeal’s mission is to encourage, educate, and empower others to live happier, healthier lives. I am a NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, behavioral change specialist, CrossFit Level 2 trainer, and corrective exercise specialist with an education in marketing and psychology from the University of North Florida. I own and operate two companies. One is Superfit Foods, a healthy, subscription-based, fully customizable meal prep company. The other is E3, a business consulting and marketing agency. I’ve done a few cool things, like exhibiting Superfit Foods at Forbes Under 30 and giving a TEDx Talk on nutrition and mental health, and every day I get to work hard at doing what I love.

 

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

We Must Get Workers Ready for the Post-pandemic Economy

This week’s article is provided by William Bonvillian and Sanjay Sarma, authors of a new book from MIT Press, Workforce Education – A New Roadmap. It is a companion to their interview Workforce Education: A New Roadmap on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled that aired on Tuesday, July 13th

 

The pandemic has forced the American workforce into a massive resorting.  Significant numbers of workers were forced to leave sectors like hospitality, retail and travel, and those jobs will not be waiting for them when the pandemic fades. They will have to learn new skills for jobs in the post-pandemic economy. Workforce education must be part of our economic recovery.

The dimensions of the jobs lost during the pandemic are staggering. Restaurants lost 5.5 million jobs in April 2020, then re-openings that summer let the industry regain some jobs, only to lose jobs again with the fall spike in infections. They are picking up now with re-openings but many restaurants will stay closed. Similarly, in April, retail lost 2.3 million store jobs, rebounded by a million jobs by June 2020, but in-person retail will not go back to prior job levels. In travel and tourism, 35% of the jobs were lost after February 2020 and unemployment was at 15% in December, with recovery taking more time than hoped.  Manufacturing is still over a half million jobs short of where it was pre-pandemic.  These aren’t the only hard-hit sectors but they are big ones. Retail has been hit by massive store closings and mall shutdowns, and with the shift to online commerce, in-store jobs won’t be recovered. Bankruptcies in restaurants and tourism are pervasive—many of these firms won’t come back either.

A McKinsey study suggests that perhaps 17 million U.S. workers—28% more than pre-pandemic research had forecast—may need to change occupations by 2030. This means not just changing jobs but changing occupations, which takes longer, is more disruptive, and requires more reskilling. This shift means that the share of employment in low-wage occupations may decline by 2030, while higher-wage occupations in healthcare and STEM professions expand.

Many workers in these hard-hit sectors are going to be stranded.  This will make American economic inequality problems even worse than they were before the pandemic. Workers from these sectors will need quality jobs. Healthcare is embracing suites of new technologies that will require skilled technologists at good pay. Manufacturing and utilities have aging workforces and will require millions of new workers in coming years, but for increasingly skilled jobs.  How can our worker pool reskill?

Unlike many European nations, the U.S. never built a real workforce education system. Americans know what our high school and college systems look like, but if you ask what our workforce education system looks like you will get a blank stare. Although there are parts of a system here and there, we need a robust system now.

Employers, high schools and universities will all have new roles. But we already have a cornerstone of the new system: community colleges.  These colleges, in turn, will need new building blocks:

  • Form Short programs – people who have been in the workforce won’t be able to take time off for two- and four-year degrees; they have families to support and obligations to meet. They need short programs of 10 to 20 weeks with focused programs for technical skills.
  • Embrace credentialing – we need certificates for these programs for specific groups of related skills, based on demonstrated competencies. Since college degrees and credits remain the most recognized credentials, these should be stacked toward degrees. Certificate programs can provide workforce education opportunities for students with limited time availability, as well as meet specific skill requirements for particular employers.
  • Support competency-based education – today’s education is based on an agricultural calendar and pre-determined seat times (time to complete) for credentials. Instead, organize workforce education around demonstrated skills are broken down into particular competencies. If students show skill competency they get the certificate, regardless of how long they have spent in the program. This can cut time in school, student costs and reward practical experience.
  • Bring on online education – online education can’t replace effective instructors or hands-on work with actual equipment, but it can be quite good in conveying and assessing the foundational information behind the skills. Bring blended learning into the system—let online do what it does best, and let instructors do what they do best. Online modules will be critical if workforce education is going to scale up to meet the post-pandemic need.
  • Break down the work/learn barrier – schools have been too disconnected from the workplace; they too need to be deeply linked. Link-programs—apprenticeships, internships, coops—are needed to get students into the workplace earning money while they build skills. This lets them see very directly the link between the competencies they must learn in school programs and job opportunities.
  • Improve completion rates – at too many community colleges only a third of students complete their programs. Workforce education would significantly improve if we make that completion 70%. One of the biggest problems is that many students never get to college courses because they get frustrated with required remedial prep courses. Instead, integrate the remedial course work into students’ study program for career skills so they can clearly see how the remedial work is relevant to their career opportunities.
  • Embed industry-recognized credentials into educational programs – Academic credentials are not enough. Many employers want the assurance of skill knowledge that an industry-approved and accepted credential provides. It creates an additional and parallel pathway to help students toward employment. It also ensures that academic programs are relevant to actual industry needs.

Is creating a workforce education system that follows these new models a mission impossible? We have many studies that tell us what we need to do. States, with backing from federal education funds, need to step up their game and get on board with implementation; fortunately, some states and their community colleges have begun to embrace these steps. After World War II, 16 million veterans returned from overseas while we were shutting down our defense economy.  Congress passed the GI Bill and sent them to school to build their skills. It was perhaps the most successful social legislation our government passed and laid the foundation for a postwar boom.  Recently, researchers and companies created new vaccines in eight months that will save countless lives around the world.  We can create a workforce education system that reskills 17 million. This should be a critical goal.

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Sanjay Sarma is a professor and vice president of MIT Open Learning, leading online education development.  William Bonvillian is an MIT lecturer leading research projects on workforce education. They are authors of a new book from MIT Press, Workforce Education – A New Roadmap, that sets out the new policies needed for a true workforce system.

 

Today’s Deep Tech Solutions are Tomorrow’s Household Names

This week’s article is provided by Eric Redmond, a twenty-year veteran technologist and author. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies that aired on Tuesday, June 29th. The following article has been adapted from the Deep Tech book.

 

If you’ve seen 2008’s Iron Man, a movie that reinvigorated the superhero genre, you can probably picture the high-tech laboratory of main character Tony Stark. Over a decade ago, much of the technology featured in his lab—augmented reality, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, autonomous robotics, Internet of Things—was largely confined to the realm of science fiction and academia.

A few years later, these emerging technologies are past the research and development phase, just on the cusp of scale, but not quite yet available for prime time. They’re deep tech: technology that is barely feasible today but will become pervasive and hugely impactful in day-to-day life tomorrow. Why does this matter to you as a business leader?

Deep tech offers the potential for enormous growth to businesses that adopt or invest in it at the right time. If you get in early—but not too early—you can leverage tech that will soon be so ubiquitous, they’re household names as recognizable as the iPhone.

When to Get Involved in Deep Tech?

Successful adoption of deep tech is all about timing. By its definition, deep tech practically begs to be undervalued in its early days, but those who seize on the opportunity at the right time almost always end up the winners. The trick is answering the question: when is the right time to get involved?

If you grab on too early, you may find yourself as Yahoo or Friendster. Jump on too late, and you’re Bing or App.net. But right on time?

You’re Google or Facebook.

The goal should be to not merely adopt emerging technologies but invest in and drive their adoption, forcing everyone else to catch up—that’s how you get ahead of the competition.

There are seven technologies poised to drive somewhere between 50 and 200 trillion dollars in new economic impact in the decade between 2020 and 2030: artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, and quantum computing.

The right time to get involved in these technologies? Now.

Deep Tech Matters in Business

You might be thinking if the deep tech hasn’t hit the mainstream yet, does it matter to my business? The answer is yes. Whether you’re in finance, sales, design, logistics, or any number of fields and industries, we live in a world increasingly dominated by technology.

Over a hundred years ago, factories were the cutting edge, powered by the assembly line, and the world was dominated by those who used them. Then came electricity. Then business structures like the firm. Then supply chain optimization. Then the world belonged to those who cleverly leveraged financial instruments.

Today, we live in a fully digital age, and the major division is between those companies that respond to that change and those that are left behind. As corporate tech expert Patrick Fisher said in Reuters, “all companies are technology companies now.”

Leveraging emerging technology is an effective way to get ahead, and on the flip side, ignoring it can cost you significantly. Recent history is littered with corporations refusing to make the transition into leveraging technology appropriately, from the loss of a century of Sears dominance to the upstart of Amazon to Hertz bankruptcy due to a billion ride-share cuts.

The biggest danger in being ignorant of the current docket of deep tech’s coming of age is apathy, which in other words is a recipe for irrelevance. Whether you’re beginning a startup, or you’re a CEO or a thought leader, don’t allow yourself to flirt with the lines of Luddite groupthink and be drawn into ignoring what you don’t want to believe.

Deep Tech is a Pathway to New Lines of Business

If you want a concrete example of the benefits of understanding deep tech, consider the Winklevoss twins. You may be familiar with these brothers, Cameron and Tyler, as popular foils in the Facebook creation myth. But what’s more interesting is how the Winklevosses made their billions after Facebook: by keeping a keen eye on deep tech.

In 2013, they saw the Bitcoin revolution coming and chose to act on it. They bought in on Bitcoin (BTC) early, starting when the going rate was around $10 per BTC. Then they bought more and more, finally amassing a 1 percent stake of the total number of Bitcoin. To support the technology and community, they worked as ambassadors for the power of the decentralized digital currency. All the while, their investment grew. Once Bitcoin hit $10,000 per BTC in 2017, they both became the world’s first Bitcoin billionaires. What a difference a decade makes.

Like the Winklevosses, deep tech can be a pathway to new lines of business for you and your company. Whether you’re looking for new revenue streams, process effectiveness, or other cost savings, deep tech is the most important avenue to investigate. You’ll get the most value by adopting early and implementing the technology before your competitors.

Act Before Deep Tech Turns into Popular Tech

In 2008, Tony Stark’s lab tech was still science fiction, but today, we’re living with much of it, and the next level of advancement is right around the corner. Remember, deep tech refers to the stage the technology is in: impossible yesterday, barely feasible today, and soon to be so pervasive it’s hard to remember life without it.

The key to leveraging deep tech to your maximum advantage is timing your involvement right. Adopt and invest early, just before the technology is ready for mass market. Moves to adopt deep tech at the right moment are what turned Amazon, Google, and Facebook into the juggernauts they are today.

Technologies considered deep tech now—artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, and quantum computing—will be household fixtures tomorrow, so lean into the opportunity and get involved.

For more advice on emerging technologies, you can find Deep Tech on Amazon.

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Eric Redmond is the Forrest Gump of technology: a twenty-year veteran technologist who always happens to show up wherever deep tech history is being made, from the first iPhone apps to big data to Bitcoin. He has advised state and national governments, Fortune 100 companies, and groups as varied as the World Economic Forum and MIT Media Lab. He has also authored half a dozen technology books (including two tech books for babies) and spoken on every continent except Antarctica. Today, he’s a husband, a dad, and the leader of a global tech innovation team.

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Innovative Health Care Leadership

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This week’s article is a sneak peak at an Appendix to recently released, Innovative Leadership in Health Care book that was authored by Maureen Metcalf of Innovative Leadership Institute and Erin S. Barry, M.S; Dukagjin M. Blajak, M.D., Ph.D.; Suzanna Fitzpatrick, DNP; Michael Morrow-Fox, M.B.A., Ed. S.; and Neil E. Grunberg, Ph. D.  This book provides health care workers with frameworks and tools based on the most current research in leadership, psychology, neuroscience, and physiology to help them update or innovate how they lead and build the practices necessary to continue to update their leadership skills. It is provided to supplement the interview with Eric Douglas Keene on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Diversity Recruiting: Changes and Retention that aired on Tuesday, June 8th, 2021.

 

I have strong memories of an eye-opening conversation I had with some friends when I began work in a suburban hospital.  I met my friend and his wife for a snack at the hospital cafeteria when they visited for his routine physical.  I teased him about how nice he was dressed.  He looked at his wife and then back at me.  He smiled as he replied, “We have to dress up when we go to this hospital,” he said.  “Otherwise, the security staff wants to escort us to our physician’s office.”  After that conversation, I noticed several instances of African American patients, families, and staff receiving ‘special help’ from the hospital security staff.  I was taken aback at both the hospital’s racist institutional behavior and my complete obliviousness to the racism.

This section is about innovative leadership for JEDI.  Innovative leadership for JEDI refers not to STAR WARS mind control techniques, but the other JEDI—[Social] Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.  Innovative leadership for JEDI is the ability to impact individuals, teams, and systems to create a fair and engaging health care organization. For patients.  For families.  For health care workers. Of all backgrounds, genders, colors, and beliefs. The Innovative Leadership JEDI section is divided into three subsections.  Bias and health care, the health care crisis resulting from bias, and a pathway for leaders to address the JEDI health care crisis in their organizations.

Bias and Health Care

Our experiences are that most health care organizations and most health care leaders try to create a welcoming JEDI environment.  Most health care organizations and leaders truly value the principles of JEDI.  Research and experience, however, reveals too many health care organizations that are unwelcoming and un-inclusive.  In the absence of malice, how does a health care organization create an unwelcoming and un-inclusive environment? We submit the answer may lie in cognitive biases that allow organizations and leaders to believe a problem exists, but… “It’s not me and not us.”

Emily Pronin notes, “Human judgment and decision making is distorted by an array of cognitive, perceptual and motivational biases.” Most health care professionals receive training in statistical practices aimed at eliminating biases in clinical practice.  Pronin goes on to describe a phenomenon termed blindspot bias writing, “Recent evidence suggests that people tend to recognize (and even overestimate) the operation of bias in human judgment – except when that bias is their own.”

Banaji and Greenwald have further described the blindspot bias as a bias people can readily see in others but have great difficulty seeing in themselves.  Blindspot biases manifest in statements like, “I know there is a lot of racial prejudice in the world, but I don’t see color, only people,” or, “I know most people that don’t understand cultural norms can be offensive, but I understand respect, so I am never offensive in any culture.” When someone is aware that a phenomenon regularly exists in others but denies the possibility that it could exist in them, a blindspot bias may be the reason for their confidence. In the health care world, it is often misguided confidence that may dehumanize and disenfranchise others.

In addition to the blindspot bias, health care leaders can suffer from implicit biases. Harvard University’s Project Implicit describes implicit biases as, “attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report.”  Project Implicit provides the example of an implicit bias as, “You may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science.”

Mission statements and Diversity Departments in health care organizations echo a call to deliver the highest possible care and adherence to the value principles of JEDI.  This in contrast to the many patients, families, employees, and communities suffering consequences of social injustice, inequity, lack of diversity, and un-inclusiveness. The combination of blindspot and implicit biases create a JEDI crisis in our health care systems.  A crisis that hides in plain view through a cloak of “not me, not us” beliefs.

The Tale of a JEDI Health Care Crisis

The evidence on JEDI and health care delivery highlights systemic failures on almost every level.  Below are a few health care statistics illustrating the breakdown of principles of JEDI for our patients, their families, and our employees:

  • During the first ten months of the Covid-19 crisis, U.S. data from the COVID Racial Data Tracker showed mortality rates 150% higher for African Americans, 135% higher for Indigenous American People, and 125% for Hispanic Americans than for White Americans. Bassett and colleagues reported that African Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 had nine times higher mortality rates than their White American counterparts.
  • Marcella Nunez-Smith and colleagues found nearly one in three Black physicians, nearly one in four Asian physicians, and one in five Hispanic/Latino physicians have left at least one job due to discriminatory practices.
  • Dickman and colleagues note the top one percent of affluent males live on average 15 years longer than the lowest one percent of poor males. Low-income families are in poor health at rates 15 percent higher than their affluent American counterparts.
  • Using U.S. Census Data, The Center for American Progress reports women in the workforce earn $.77 for every dollar their male counterparts earn. Women are often pigeonholed into “pink-collar” jobs, which typically pay less. Forty-three percent of the women employed in the United States are clustered in just 20 occupational categories, of which the average annual median earnings is less than $29,000.
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that female physicians make up only 34 percent of all U. S. physicians.
  • More than 25 percent of African American women and nearly 25 percent of Hispanic American women live in poverty. Elderly women have poverty rates over double those of elderly men.
  • The Center for American Progress reports more than 10 percent of African Americans and more than 16 percent of Hispanic Americans are uninsured compared to 5.9 percent of White Americans.
  • African American adults over age 20 suffer from hypertension at the rate of 42 percent compared to 29 percent for White American adults.
  • In a survey of over 27,000 transgender respondents, Herman and colleagues reported, “In the year prior to completing the survey, one-third (33%) of those who saw a health care provider had at least one negative experience related to being transgender, such as being verbally harassed or refused treatment because of their gender identity.”
  • A survey of over 40,000 LGBTQ Americans aged 13 to 24 by The Trevor Project found almost half of the respondents engaged in self-harm. And 40 percent have “seriously considered” attempting suicide—in just the past year.
  • Ronald Wyatt reports, “The total cost of racial/ethnic disparities in 2009 was approximately $82 billion—$60 billion in excess healthcare costs and $22 billion in lost productivity. The economic burden of these health disparities in the US is projected to increase to $126 billion in 2020 and to $353 billion in 2050 if the disparities remain unchanged.”

JEDI Innovative Health Care Leadership Action

Reading the statistics above and the myriad of statics available, we find it hard to deny a systemic failure of the health care delivery system and our health care organizations.  How did it get this bad when we have so many well-intended and highly skilled leaders?  Blindspot and implicit biases can cause inaction in an otherwise effective leadership team.  Leaders with blindspot and implicit biases do not disregard problems; they render problems moot through the belief, “not me, not us.”  We hope the shortlist of statistics above brings some awareness that “me/we” are both the health care problem and the solution.

Innovative health care leaders can change the course of social injustice, inequity, lack of diversity, and un-inclusion.  Using their influence, leaders can take an evidence-based approach to JEDI, learn/teach cultural competence, practice cultural humility, create support for diverse populations, and grow communities to change the course of this systemic failure.  We elaborate with some definitions and examples below.

Pfeffer and Sutton wrote, “A bold new way of thinking has taken the medical establishment by storm in the past decade: the idea that decisions in medical care should be based on the latest and best knowledge of what actually works.”  Pfeffer and Sutton went on to write while the idea of evidence-based care is almost uncontested, physicians only make evidence-based decisions 15 percent of the time.  This is certainly of concern for clinical decision-making, and it is an equal concern for changing the tide of systemic JEDI failures.

As leaders, we must ask, “How would someone with a blindspot or implicit bias know if women, minorities, or people of non-traditional identities are experiencing injustice, inequity, or un-inclusion?”  The answer is evidence.  Do job applicants with the names Julio and Jamal have the same employment opportunities as applicants with the names John and James? Do our women and minority workers make comparable wages to our white male workers? Do immigrant patients feel respected when receiving care?  Are our employees reflective of the community in which we reside?  We are uncertain without evidence. Without evidence, our instincts and experiences guide us; instincts and experiences which can be skewed by biases.

Innovative JEDI leaders (like you) are actively pursuing evidence that their organizations are socially just, equitable, appropriately diverse, and inclusive.  Evidence—accurate data that is analyzed and understood; confirms or denies the existence of JEDI.  If a leader does not have JEDI evidence, the “not me and not us” biases may predominate the institutional consciousness.

Cultural learning opportunities should be readily available in your organization. Cultural competence, the ability to recognize, appreciate, and interact successfully with people from other cultures, is essential for any healthcare professional.  In addition, Tervalon and Murray-Garcia observed, “Cultural humility incorporates a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique, to redressing the power imbalances in the patient-physician dynamic, and to developing mutually beneficial and nonpaternalistic clinical and advocacy partnerships with communities on behalf of individuals and defined populations.”  Innovative leaders teach, support, and model cultural humility within their organizations.

We have had many conversations with health care human resource professionals observing, “We get minority candidates hired, we just can’t get them to stay.”  When diverse employees walk into a room with people who do not look like them, do not believe like them, may have preconceived negative ideas about people like them, it can be overwhelming.  Patients, their families, and employees need to feel the organization’s support, receive mentoring on the navigation of differences, and understand that their differences are vital for the community and organization’s strength.  Innovative leaders forge pathways of support for inclusion, mentorship, and engagement in their health care organizations.  Support groups, mentoring programs, organizational messages, and evidence gathering serve to support and retain diverse populations.

Innovative leaders look at the gaps in their communities and think about how to close those gaps.  In an article entitled, Physicians for Social Justice, Diversity and Equity: Take Action and Lead, Lubowitz and colleagues note, “Few orthopedic surgeons are minorities or female, and orthopedic surgery is not perceived to be an inclusive specialty. This is an obstacle to equitable diverse hiring.”  Despite the lack of diverse candidates in the profession, Lubowitz and colleagues passionately express the need to advocate, inspire, and continuously improve as a profession.

We agree. If there are gaps in finding physicians and other health care employees that are reflective of the community, start programs to recruit, train, and inspire the community.  Programs from elementary school to advanced educational grants can all serve to change a community.  Lubowitz and colleagues recommend, “In terms of minorities and women making a choice to pursue medicine and then orthopedic surgery as a desired medical specialty, we wield enormous impact and a most direct influence. We must consciously change our behavior and demonstrate that we are an inclusive medical specialty.”  Every innovative health care leader can demonstrate support for inclusion.

Most of us have experienced the patient that demands, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want a [Female, Jewish, Muslim, Gay, Old, Younge, Black, Hispanic, Other] physician.  This is my health, and I cannot afford to be politically correct.”  As if unsubstantiated biases are merely politeness.  Prejudice can be malicious hate or blindspot and implicit biases.  In any form, a lack of JEDI weakens the health care delivery system causing pain and suffering for the community.  Effective innovative leaders replace, “Not me, not us” with, “It could be me; it might be us” to ensure health care teams, organizations, and communities are just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

 

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, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  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.  She has captured her thirty years of experience and success in an award-winning series of books that are used by public, private, and academic organizations to align company-wide strategy, systems, and culture with innovative leadership techniques.  As a preeminent change agent, Ms. Metcalf has set strategic direction and then transformed her client organizations to deliver significant business results such as increased profitability, cycle time reduction, improved quality, and increased employee effectiveness. She and the Innovative Leadership Institute have developed and certified hundreds of leaders who amplify their organizations’ impact across the world.

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash