Three Problems of Power — Problem Two: Silence and Blindness

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This blog is provided by Margaret Heffernan, author of the book, “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together.”  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together” that aired on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021.  Last week, the blog featured Three Problems of Power – Problem One: Pleasing.  This week will look at problem two and next week will feature problem three.

 

Problem Two: Silence and Blindness

Richard was keen, intelligent, curious, well-read, and overflowing with good intentions. Ask him about his direct reports, he could provide a fulsome picture of each one, and he demonstrated real insight and nuance about their strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and dreams. He didn’t show it much, but he respected and cared for the people who worked for him.

Because Richard was so brilliant, he could solve just about any gnarly problem. But doing so implied that he didn’t believe anyone else could. So one day I suggested that he attend his next meeting and promise to say nothing. He looked puzzled and not a little intimidated, but he promised. What happened?

At first, he said, when an issue arose, he noticed that everyone was waiting for him to solve it. But when he offered no solution, they all scrambled for a while and then proffered their own ideas. These were excellent. What had Richard learned?

“I found out,” he said, smiling, “that they expected me to have the answer.”

What else?

“That they had lots of their own answers. Some of them much better than mine.”

What else?

“That I don’t need to go to all the meetings,” he laughed. Long pause. “That it might be better if I didn’t go to all the meetings…”

Richard had discovered that brilliant though he was, his power stifled the intelligence of his own team. They wanted to please him — and that, they thought, meant agreeing with him. His silence, or absence, liberated them to think for themselves.

One of the biggest traps of power is that the way that others respond to it. Most believe they get ahead by pleasing or, at least, not openly disagreeing. That means they contribute less than they might. This silence suppresses concerns; it also suppresses good ideas.

That they have this effect on people is something many powerful people fail to understand. I remember one CEO, whom I admired greatly, gnashing his teeth with frustration because his people so rarely stepped forward with ideas or initiatives. How did he explain it? He thought they just must be lazy. He himself had no insight into how, quite unconsciously, hierarchy silenced them.

At New York University’s Stern School of Business, Elizabeth Morrison and Elizabeth Milliken researched the phenomenon they call organizational silence. They found that the chief reasons for it are fear (of conflict or disagreement) and futility (I could say something, but it won’t make any difference, so why bother?) This exerts a high cost. Where power induces silence, it leaves decision-makers are blind. Think VW emissions or Boeing safety concerns. It also means many missed opportunities, invisible at the top but frequently obvious further down the hierarchy.

The desire to please, a fear of conflict, and a pervasive sense that only the senior voices count: these beliefs aren’t entirely irrational, so they have to be addressed. In recent years, it’s been fashionable to talk about the need to create a culture of psychological safety, to ensure that people speak up. Safety is crucial. But it’s often impossible to achieve in an age of high unemployment, layoffs, downsizing, and automation. In that context, anyone carrying a high level of personal debt (a mortgage) is already unsafe, and it’s obtuse to belittle or ignore it. That makes it all the more important to find mechanisms where people can see for themselves that it’s safe to be open.

After the poor decision-making that led to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, President Kennedy radically rethought how to develop real honesty and the widest range of options from his advisors. He asked multiple teams to tackle the same question with the same information. He used skip-level meetings so that the more junior diplomats and analysts could debate freely with their peers, something they’d never have done with their bosses present. This ensured that Kennedy had more perspectives and ideas to consider.

When Britain’s National Health Service was plagued with a number of scandals that derived from multiple, often minor, failures that most feared to articulate, nurse Helene Donnelly became an ambassador for cultural change at the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust. She isn’t a boss per se — that helps — but her role is to hear concerns that hospital staff have been unable to get addressed or that they are afraid to raise. She told me that the most important part of her job is to write up the story of how each problem really does get fixed. Positive action is what persuades people not to stay silent.

Why don’t bosses perceive the problem that power confers? Many tell me that they don’t feel themselves to be different. They are, they insist, just ordinary people doing tough jobs. The answer is naïve and inadequate. It’s foolish to imagine that how you see yourself is how others see you. And having power confers the responsibility to understand how it works. Like a weapon or a car, just having it requires insight, control, and finesse.

 

 

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

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

 

About the Author

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

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Three Problems of Power

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This blog is provided by Margaret Heffernan, author of the book, “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together.”  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together” that aired on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021.

 

The language says it all. ‘Working your way up’, ‘climbing the ladder’ are ways of describing successful careers: emerging from the dank basement to the wide bright vistas atop a hierarchy. Like Beethoven’s prisoners in Fidelio, the journey is from dark to light, from confinement to freedom: “up here alone is light.”

This narrative is so alluring that many who follow it fail to see its pitfalls. The climb changes what you do, what you can see and who you are. So compelling is the story that it’s easy to see such evolution as all positive. It isn’t.

Problem 1. Pleasing

Take Tom, a smart, keen engineer who joined a big energy firm and did well. He never had to apply for promotions, his excellent work ensured that he was chosen. With each bigger project, his skills expanded and he became more knowledgeable, more experienced and better connected. So his career acquired momentum as more people chose him for more projects that attracted more attention and their success more accolades. It was a great ride.

Until right at the top of a public company, he encountered a problem that was novel, at least to him. One of his ExCo colleagues was breaching the firm’s ethical guidelines. Worse still, everyone knew. This bothered Tom, he shrugged it off because it wasn’t, officially, his problem. But it continued to nag at him to the degree that he decided his only option was to leave.

This highly skilled, seasoned, connected, powerful man confronted a problem he didn’t know how to solve. Why was he capable of addressing all kinds of hugely complex issues — but not this one? The answer lay in his ascent.

Sure, he’d developed expertise and networks. But most of all what he had learned was how to please his bosses. Given clear expectations and processes, Tom was superb at understanding and doing exactly what was expected of him. That’s how he got to the top; it’s how most people get to the top. He was, he said, always ‘chosen’; he had never had to take the initiative. But now he was at the top, he was stuck. He had power, but nothing in his career had taught him how to use it.

The problem with pleasing is that it asks the wrong question: not ‘what is the best thing to do here?’ but ‘what does someone else want me to do?’ The first question asks that you think, as Hannah Arendt said, without bannisters. The second question is all bannisters, constraints and entanglements; it impedes thinking. So it’s a chastening thought that the pursuit of success specifically disables independence of mind.

The attraction of bannisters, of course, is that they show you where to go; you are relieved of the burden of decision. So they offer certainty, guarantees that become addictive. Over time, that certainty becomes the necessary quality of a good decision: one destined to succeed. But in an age of uncertainty, the need becomes incapacitating. There are too many unknowns, too much ambiguity. When the route is not clear, when you have to take decisions before all the data is in, the creativity to imagine options becomes fundamental. But a lifetime of pleasing erodes that capability.

At Stanford, the psychologist Philip Zimbardo used to run a class he called ‘deviant for a day’. It’s alarming, he told me, how profoundly we are driven to please those around us. So he required that each of the students do something, for just one day, that contradicted the expectations of the people around them. Some were slovenly, others punctual or late, a few went silent. It’s important, he explained, that individuals find within themselves the capacity to stand outside the expectations and norms of others, if they’re going to be able to think for themselves.

Hierarchies are natural and what makes them so powerful is that nobody needs to define or explain the exchange of power for independence. It’s inferred and self-perpetuated; pecking orders are ubiquitous. But hierarchies conceal a trap: the idea that power will give you freedom. It too often does just the opposite: stripping away the capacity to think freely, make choices and take action.

Next:

Problem Two: Silence and Blindness

Problem Three: Distance and Dehumanization

 

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

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

 

About the Author

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

140 Top CEOs Say These are the Most Crucial Challenges for Future Leaders

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This blog is provided by Jacob Morgan and author of the book, “The Future Leader: 9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade.”  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled “The Future Leader: Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade” that aired on Tuesday, January 12th, 2021.

 

Leadership has always been challenging, but the future of work will bring fresh challenges to future leaders. Over the next decade, leaders will have to face obstacles and challenges not faced by current or past leaders. But what are those challenges?

As part of the research for my book, The Future Leader, I interviewed over 140 top CEOs from around the world and surveyed around 14,000 LinkedIn users. One of the questions I asked was about the challenges future leaders would face. From their varied and insightful responses, I broke the challenges down to two main areas: futurize and humanize.

Futurize

Future leaders can’t afford to lead their organizations by looking in the rearview mirror. They need to futurize, or bring their organizations into the future. But of course, it isn’t that simple. There are numerous challenges that fall into this category.

Short-Term Vs. Long-Term Thinking

Many leaders think quarter by quarter to please their shareholders and investors. We’ve been conditioned to think in the short term and expect fast results. Future leaders need to be focused on long-term success for both the organization and the people. This requires courage!

Adapting to Technology

New technology is coming incredibly quickly, and it often seems like once we’ve finally mastered something, it’s outdated and there’s a flashy new solution. Leaders need to pay attention to technology and be able to change their perspective to understand what new developments are most important and what else is coming down the pipeline. Technology is not just for IT professionals.

“Today’s leaders need to either decide to embrace new platforms and technology or be prepared to be left behind.” John Legere, Former CEO, T-Mobile

Keeping Up With the Pace of Change

The world is changing incredibly fast, and future leaders will be challenged to keep up. They need to embrace change, stay agile, and be open to new ideas. Whether we look at climate change, globalization, technology, demographics, cyber security, geopolitical issues, competition, or any of the other numerous trends shaping our lives and organizations, it’s clear that change happens quickly and happens all the time. We will experience more change in the coming decade than we have experienced in the past hundreds of years.

“The pace of change is faster and while you don’t have to know everything, you do have to know how to get it. The commitment to being a lifelong learner, I think the premium on that is much higher now for our leaders.” William Rogers, CEO, SunTrust Banks

Moving Away from the Status Quo

Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it will still work in the future. Leaders need to be confident and bold to take risks that move away from the status quo just because that’s how things have always been done. Leaders must move away from the mentality of “follow me to greener pastures because I’ve done it and I’ve been there,” to “follow me into uncertainty, I don’t know the path but I have a vision of what we can create and together we will make it happen!”

Humanize

We tend to put a lot of emphasis on technology, but a company can work without technology; it can’t work without people. The challenges of humanizing involve balancing humans with technology and ensuring your people are prepared to succeed in the future. We can’t forget that business still fundamentally operates and exists because of people. What we are seeing now with COVID-19 is a very clear example of that.

Leading Diverse Teams

Not everyone in the world looks and thinks the same, and your organization should reflect that. Diverse teams bring in new perspectives. Future leaders need to put together teams of people with different backgrounds, genders, races, sexual orientations, and belief systems to work together towards a common goal.

Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

People are an organization’s biggest asset, but many companies face the challenge of finding and keeping great employees. Instead of job candidates trying to convince organizations they are the best choice, now leaders and organizations must convince potential employees they are a great place to work.

“We’re moving from an era of lifetime employment to lifetime employee ability where if your people don’t feel that they learn and progress and they’re up to speed in their areas of expertise, they will leave you because they will become themselves obsolete.” – André Calantzopoulos, CEO, Philip Morris International

Reskilling and Upskilling Employees

How we work and the tools we have are changing rapidly, and many employees find themselves not having the right skills to do their jobs or thrive in the future. Leaders face the challenge of knowing how best to upskill employees and give them what they need for future success.

Doing Good

People want to be part of organizations that care about more than just making money. But in many cases, the leaders and shareholders are conditioned to think more about profits than doing good in the world. Future leaders need to make sure their work is improving the world and then share that message with others.

Making the Organization Human

With automation and a focus on efficiency, many organizations fall into the trap of focusing on results instead of people. Each individual matters, and future leaders need to understand their employees as people, not just cogs in the machine.

“A leader of the future will have to be astute enough to balance automation with the human touch. They have to decide what types of tasks to automate so that they can spend more time on high-value activities. But also decide which businesses will continue to benefit from human judgment.” – Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson, of Biocon

These challenges are widespread and require serious effort. Based on the survey I did with LinkedIn looking at 14,000 employees around the world, most leaders and organizations aren’t ready to face these challenges. The good news is that we still have time, but we need to start now to develop future-ready skills and mindsets.

 

You can purchase Jacob’s newest book here.

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

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

 

About the Author

 Jacob Morgan is a four time bestselling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores leadership, employee experience, and the future of work. He is the founder of FutureofWorkUniversity.com, an online education and training platform that helps future proof individuals and organizations by teaching them the skills they need to succeed in the future of work. Jacob also hosts the Future of Work podcast, a weekly show where he speaks with senior executives, business leaders, and bestselling authors about how the world of work is changing.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

 

Leading Sustainability: Look to the Future, Make Bold Choices and Don’t Go It Alone

This blog is provided by Trista Bridges and Donald Eubank, co-founders of Read-the-Air and authors of a new book, “Leading Sustainability: The Path to Sustainable Business and How the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) Changed Everything.”  It is a companion to their interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Leading Sustainability: The Path to Sustainable Business and SDGs that aired on Tuesday, January 5th, 2021.  This article shares practical steps from their book to advance your business efforts to put sustainability at the core of your strategy.

 

The business world is at a fundamental crossroads. The age of the stakeholder is rapidly superseding that of the shareholder. More than just a buzzword, the idea of the stakeholder recognizes that companies have always existed as an inseparable part of the communities and business networks in which they operate, however vast and physically distant.

Contrary to what the shareholder model often implied, good business decisions have never really been driven purely by profit motives. It is becoming increasingly obvious that what is good for society—and thus, by definition, for the environment—is good for business.  This new embrace of responsibility does not preclude the design of efficient, lucrative business models. In fact, when done properly, precisely the opposite is true: socially responsible and sustainable business decision-making opens up brand new, exciting, profitable—and, in all its meanings, sustainable—revenue streams.

Today’s reckoning is not purely an altruistic choice made by businesses; new demands from various civil society organizations and the consensus-driven initiatives of the United Nations have been shepherding along the changes required to make business operations sustainable for years. With the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the implementation of the Paris Agreement, these constituencies have outlined new expectations for not only how governments function, but also how businesses must function in a sustainable society.

The SDGs—more than 50 years in the making—provide a comprehensive framework for understanding all aspects of social, political, and business actions. They are powerful statements of human ambition for a fair, just and sustainable society. Many in the business and investing world today are calling them “A gift”, as the SDGs can provide us with a broader definition of sustainability and a framework to quickly and effectively guide businesses’ efforts to align their operations with the meaningful goals that society desires.

The successful businesses of tomorrow will be the ones that fully embrace sustainability today.

Almost two years ago, we set out to find and catalogue the practical steps that companies today must take to create the new sustainable business models they will need to survive in the year 2030. We interviewed more than 100 business leaders, investors, policy makers, NPOs, researchers and other changemakers, and researched a broad range of companies from across the world, of varying sizes and across multiple industries, that were taking practical steps to improve business practices and become more sustainable. Here’s some of the main takeaways that were collected for our new book “Leading Sustainably—The Path to Sustainable Business and How the SDGs Changed Everything.”

Our takeaways

  • Look to the future of your business—to achieve the best tomorrow, prepare today for the worst.
  • Make changes to your strategies based on the big picture, not on the small problems (unless they are warning you about dangers arising in the big picture).
  • The past created the world we live in today—its environmental crises and social unrest—but it also has been building the platform and the thinking that’s needed to move past these crises. That is, the SDGs, the Paris Agreement and a business world more focused on becoming sustainable for the long run.
  • The business case is already there—the whole business environment is pushing for more sustainable models, from consumers to investors, employees to competitors. Catch up, keep the pace, set the speed or get pushed out of the way.  And watch out, because a whole new generation of “mission-driven” companies have a head start already, having established themselves as fully aligned with society from the get-go. They are laser-focused on bringing fully sustainable innovations and business models to sectors that have struggled to do so on their own, and they are achieving remarkable societal and financial impact.
  • Don’t get confused by the Alphabet soup of methodologies for measuring and managing impact—choose what looks best for you, try them out, see if they fit, and whether do or don’t, adjust, retry, expand, until you figure out what works for your company. Get started today.
  • Capital managers, and even retail investors, believe that sustainability is the way forward, and they are going to talk to you about it. If you are aligned with them, they will provide you capital at a reasonable rate—if not, you will pay more or even be left empty-handed.
  • Be systematic. Understand the steps that you as a business have to proceed through to achieve a sustainable business model. Apply smart managerial and leadership strategies to move through these steps. Make bold decisions. Engage the whole organization. Communicate your directives and the reasons. Build an “A team”. Pursue a multi-stakeholder approach. Be flexible, make assessments and adjust. Work with your customers. Consider outside acquisitions. And leverage the SDGs.
  • You can’t do this alone. Bring your industry along for success and to ensure a fair playing field. Reach out to your industry associations, but also look to new partners, whether from civil society, international organizations, or cross industry. If a few key industries do this right—health and wellness, insurance, fashion, real estate, and tourism—we’ll all be in a better, more sustainable, place.

Before we close, two points bear repeating: For success leverage the SDGs— recognize their power to help and guide the organization and your teams; and be systematic to align your business planning and operations with sustainability principles.

Plus, remember this final, key piece to getting it done: You must bridge the knowledge gap—provide your teams with as many opportunities as possible to learn what they need to know to make sustainability-driven business decisions.

 

See more details about the important lessons from companies—in a range of industries—on how to achieve sustainability in our new book “Leading Sustainably”, available now from Routledge and 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 and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Authors

Trista Bridges is a strategy and marketing expert with extensive experience across various geographies and sectors including consumer products, financial services, technology, and healthcare.

Donald Eubank is an experienced manager who has worked across the IT, finance, and media industries in Asia.

They advise businesses on sustainability and are co-founders of Read the Air, a coalition of strategy and operations professionals, and co-authors of “Leading Sustainably—The Path to Sustainable Business and How the SDGs Changed Everything” (Routledge).

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Leaders Need to Defeat Unconscious Bias

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This blog is provided by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias that aired on Tuesday, November 10th, 2020.

 

How can leaders defeat unconscious bias? First, you need to know what unconscious bias is.

Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, and so on. It differs from cognitive bias, which is a predictable pattern of mental errors that result in us misperceiving reality and, as a result, deviating away from the most likely way of reaching our goals.

In other words, from the perspective of what is best for us as individuals, falling for a cognitive bias always harms us by lowering our probability of getting what we want. Despite cognitive biases sometimes leading to discriminatory thinking and feeling patterns, these are two separate and distinct concepts.

Cognitive biases are common across humankind and relate to the particular wiring of our brains, while unconscious bias relates to perceptions between different groups and are specific for the society in which we live. For example, I bet you don’t care or even think about whether someone is a noble or a commoner, yet that distinction was fundamentally important a few centuries ago across Europe. To take another example – a geographic instead of one across time – most people in the US don’t have strong feelings about Sunni vs. Shiite Muslims, yet this distinction is incredibly meaningful in many parts of the world.

As a frequent speaker and trainer on diversity and inclusion to address potential unconscious discriminatory behavior, I regularly share in speeches that unconscious bias in recruitment is quite common. Take for example an entrepreneurial start-up with just over 80 employees that provides businesses with video and email marketing services. The company’s senior leadership approached me a few months ago to coach their managerial and HR staff on recruitment practices to address implicit bias.

In the middle of our initial Zoom coaching session and as participants were describing their existing hiring process to me, I stumbled upon a common – but nonetheless counterproductive – pattern when they hire staff. Despite processes in place to ensure that discriminatory behavior will be avoided, the company’s recruitment and hiring managers often relied on gut instincts when making decisions.

This results in a workplace that isn’t diverse and inclusive. It eventually promotes people with the same profiles to leadership positions – who will then make the same kinds of hiring decisions, thereby instituting and fortifying a self-reinforcing loop.

It happens because most employers tend to decide with their guts over their heads and end up hiring people who they like and perceive as part of their in-group, instead of basing decisions on applicants’ qualifications. While there are certain situations where relying on gut instinct makes sense, it’s a bad idea when hiring staff or promoting employees.

In this common scenario, unconscious bias manifests when recruiters and hiring managers pick candidates who are similar to them in race, gender, and socioeconomic background. This can extend to minor things such as speaking and gesture styles, and even clothing choices. Our gut automatically differentiates the people who can be part of our in-group due to their similarity to us, and this raises their status in our eyes. Hiring managers who heed this instinct give in to unconscious bias, as I explained to the coaching participants.

However, I was careful to clarify that this discrimination is not necessarily intentional. Such cultures are perpetuated by internal norms, policies, and training procedures, and any company wishing to address unconscious bias needs to address internal culture first and foremost, rather than attributing discriminatory behavior to certain employees. In other words, instead of saying it’s a few bad apples in a barrel of overall good ones, the key is recognizing that implicit bias is a systemic issue, and the structure and joints of the barrel needs to be fixed. This is what I told the start-up’s leadership team when I gave my feedback before we buckled down and made plans to address the issue.

Taking Decisive Steps to Address Unconscious Bias

The crucial thing to highlight is that there is no shame or blame in implicit bias, as it’s not stemming from any fault in the individual. This no-shame approach decreases the fight, freeze, or flight defensive response among reluctant audiences and coaching participants, helping them hear and accept the issue.

Still, in the case of the start-up company, I received feedback that implicit bias was still affecting some of the hiring managers even after two coaching sessions. It was clear from this behavior that these particular participants didn’t immediately internalize the evidence presented to them. It was much more comforting for them to feel that their gut instinct is right, and they are reluctant to follow the processes in place to avoid discriminatory behavior.

The issue of unconscious bias doesn’t match their intuitions. Thus, they rejected this concept, despite extensive and strong evidence for how it negatively impacts the hiring process and workplace diversity and inclusivity.

It took a series of subsequent follow-up conversations and interventions to move the needle. A single training is almost never sufficient, both in my experience and according to research.

This example of how to fight unconscious bias illustrates broader patterns you need to follow to address such problems in order to address unconscious bias to make the best people decisions. After all, our gut reactions lead us to make poor judgment choices, when we simply follow our intuitions.

1) Instead, you need to start by learning about the kind of problems that result from unconscious bias yourself, so that you know what you’re trying to address.

2) Then, you need to convey to people who you want to influence, such as your employees or any other group or even yourself, that there should be no shame or guilt in acknowledging our instincts.

3) Next, you need to convey the dangers associated with following their intuitions, to build up an emotional investment into changing behaviors.

4) Then, you need to convey the right mental habits that will help them make the best choices.

Remember, a one-time training is insufficient for doing so. It takes a long-term commitment and constant discipline and efforts to overcome unconscious bias.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Gleb Tsipursky:  An internationally-recognized thought leader known as the Disaster Avoidance Expert, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is on a mission to protect leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases by developing the most effective decision-making strategies. A best-selling author, he is best known for Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019), The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships (New Harbinger, 2020), and Resilience: Adapt and Plan for the New Abnormal of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic (Changemakers Books, 2020). He published over 550 articles and gave more than 450 interviews to prominent venues such as Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, CBS News, Time, Business Insider, Government Executive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fast Company, and elsewhere. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts. It also stems from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral economist and cognitive neuroscientist. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, LinkedIn, and register for his free Wise Decision Maker Course.

 

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

 

 

Mentoring in Reverse

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This blog is provided by Bob Fisch, founder and former rue21 CEO.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled OK, Boomer, OK, Millennial; Time for Collaboration Instead of Combat that aired on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020.

 

What’s the best way to find out what others around you might know that will help you and your business? First, ask them. Then, listen to them, no matter Millennials or Baby Boomers, or position in the company.

The smartest people often don’t speak a lot, it was pointed out to me by a global industry analyst, Steve Richter, I met at a Columbia University retail conference.

His wise observation is in the “Listening” chapter of my book, Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer (ForbesBooks 2019).

Mentoring in Reverse

In Fisch Tales, I advocate Mutual Mentoring to bring the generations together for the greater good. A variation of that, now catching fire in the corporate world, is Reverse Mentoring.

Just because I was in charge of 1200 stores and 20,000 employees at specialty apparel retailer rue21, I didn’t assume I had all the answers, or all the right answers. Knowing what you don’t know is a strength, not a weakness.

Ninety-percent of our people in the field were under 35, and 75% of the support center staff were 20-30 years old. I know first-hand that, given the right opportunity, Millennials can help accelerate success. Now, more than ever, they are the key to growth at both the top and bottom lines.

I didn’t assume that their age meant they had nothing to teach me. I enjoyed nothing more than walking around the office, or listening on a conference call, to find out what they thought, and learn something in the process. That was the only way our company could stay current and connect with our customer base, which was mostly the same age group.

Estee’s Esteemed CEO
Currently, the best example I’ve come across of Reverse Mentoring is what CEO Fabrizio Freda is doing at Estee Lauder. On his watch, the global beauty brand has been riding a phenomenal growth curve since he took the reins of its U.S. group a decade ago. The company’s market value today is more than $70 billion. When Mr. Freda joined the company, it was less than $7 billion. He also doubled sales volume during that period to $14 billion, double the sales when he came aboard. There’s no arguing with that kind of success.

Impressive as that is, the real story is how he did it. I suspect Mr. Freda, a Baby Boomer, would be the first to say he couldn’t have done it without the energy, enthusiasm, and brainpower of Millennials.

He explained his rationale to Harvard Business Review by saying that “the future could not be informed by the past.”

I love that attitude! I couldn’t agree more because that’s the way I always ran any company I headed. At rue21, I learned from experiences elsewhere that we’d be more successful by not following the industry’s conventional wisdom. There definitely will be those who doubt you, but I’ve found that they’ll be the ones stuck in the past as you discover new opportunities.

That’s also what Fabrizio Freda is doing with his Reverse Mentoring program at Este Lauder. It has proved to be so effective, it now numbers almost 500 reverse mentors working with 300 senior executives in more than 20 countries, according to WWD Beauty.

Teaching Up the Organization

Who knows better than Millennials how to manipulate social media for maximum impact in the marketplace? So, he has Millennials teaching senior executives at Estee Lauder all about how social media influencers work.

By deploying Millennials in the company on such a large scale today, Mr. Freda is future-proofing Estee Lauder’s business for its leadership tomorrow.

The bonus benefit is that the reverse mentoring Millennials feel more valued and respected. That stimulates them to up their game and their contributions. With this innovative dynamic that Fabrizio Freda has put in place, upper management stays abreast of cutting-edge thinking among the company’s younger ranks, and the Millennial employees groom themselves for bigger responsibilities as they ascend the corporate ladder. It’s a classic win-win for all concerned (another kind of Reverse Mentoring that any business leader already should be practicing is listening to their customers, who may be the best mentors of all).

We once were taught growing up to “respect your elders.” Nothing wrong with that. It’s sound advice, but it doesn’t stop there.

You see, Reverse Mentoring works only if the elders take it to heart, put their ego aside, and stay open to learning new things, by respecting their juniors.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Bob Fisch is the author of Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer and is recognized as a pioneering merchant for his bold and successful innovations in value-priced, fast-fashion retailing, notably at rue21. As CEO, he took rue21 from bankruptcy to a fast-track winning streak that included a hot-stock IPO, building a national network of 1,200 stores, and a billion-dollar-plus valuation. Bob began his career at Abraham & Straus (A&S) New York and within a dozen or so years had risen to become president at Casual Corner, a division of U.S. Shoe.  The prestigious retail magazine Chain Store Age named Fisch one of “10 CEOs to Watch in 2010.” The criteria for making the very short list, wrote the magazine, was “the influence they wield in their respective categories—and because they are willing to shake things up a bit.”

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

GREAT LEADERS PIVOT, DISRUPT, TRANSFORM

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This blog is provided by Marcia Daszko, speaker, author and strategic advisor.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Pivot, Disrupt, Transform: How Leaders Beat the Odds and Survive that aired on Tuesday, October 20th, 2020.

 

Is your job, business, or industry facing new challenges, opportunities, or threats?  What do WE do? Great leaders see the needs of customers or society, and they rapidly pivot their direction, disrupt the status quo, and transform to make a difference!

Why do some leaders struggle, flounder, and fail while others see possibilities and opportunities and passionately are inspired to create a new future?

Leaders (at home and at work) transform to make progress with new, different, bold ideas and actions. Leaders see new markets and opportunities to serve and make a difference. That’s transformation: thinking and adding value like never before!

When we face challenges in life and a crisis such as a pandemic, some people quickly discover their natural leadership and internal courage. Others shrink, hunker down, and take no accountability. There are varying degrees of leadership and various places where it shows up.

Some people can jump into action and accelerate their creativity and innovate because they have a great foundation of strategic thinking and can use a Strategic Compass tool.  They’ve invested in themselves and their colleagues and have been learning to lead. They quickly gather an action team, create a plan, and launch into action.

 

Do You Know How to Think Differently and What to DO?

In recent months, we have seen leaders emerging around the world.  They step up individually, in organizations, and in nations. They reach across communities, industries, and countries to collaborate, partner, and find rapid solutions.

Leaders see the challenges and what needs to be done to beat the obstacles. What will it take? Leaders Pivot and transform!

Here are key Pivot Points that leaders use:

 

  • BECOME AWARE. Leaders anticipate crises. When it hits, they quickly assess and grasp the situation. They strategically see its probable impact and step up to address it. They sense and respond.

The Question for You: What are you aware of and how will it impact you?

  • BELIEVE. Leaders believe that by working together a crisis can be addressed. They have no doubt that they will make progress to serve customers, brand new markets, and society. They don’t waste time. High speed is their modus operandi.

The Questions for You: Do you believe that you can succeed and serve fast enough? Do you believe you can deliver an AMAZING EXPERIENCE OF VALUE THAT IS NEEDED?

 IF WE BELIEVE IT, WE CAN ACHIEVE IT. 

  • CREATE. Creative people are full of ideas in a crisis. Their creativity is contagious as they engage other people to explore and discover new, different, possible solutions. The more creative people are, the easier and more fun their work and solutions flow.

The Questions for You: Are you constantly discussing and exploring new ideas and choosing which ones you will implement? Are you learning and acting fast enough?

  • CAN DO. Innovators make their ideas happen. They influence, leverage, and connect with others to achieve their goals.

The Questions for You: Do you rapidly make your Plan (it might take 10 minutes or 2 hours to discuss and agree on a Plan of Action (do not take a week or month to make an Action Plan to address a crisis!) and act on it? What works; what doesn’t? Revise your Plan; do it again. Faster! You’ll can implement the Plan-Do Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle. It’s just one tool to use to make a difference.

 

Where Do We See Pivots during the COVID19 Outbreak?

 Jobs. Thousands of restaurant and salon workers have lost their jobs. It’s uncertain if or when their employers will re-open. Workers who pivot immediately can find companies who are hiring and secure a new position.

Digital Education. Thousands of students, staff, administrators, and faculty pivoted into a digital learning platform. There has been wide variation with its success, and educators and families around the world are continually adapting to meet education needs. In the future, virtual and hybrid learning will continue to be adopted and integrated into the curriculum.

Telemedicine. Healthcare has transformed for thousands of patients who have been able to connect with their doctors via a Zoom platform to be diagnosed for minor illnesses and receive treatment or prescriptions without needing to go into the office. Telemedicine is a transformation that is widely welcomed and when possible, will not go back to the old way of medicine.

Hand sanitizers and ventilators. Small and large breweries and distilleries across the U.S pivoted from making beer, gin and vodka to making hand sanitizers.  Auto manufacturers pivoted to produce ventilators as seven ventilator producers increased their productivity on 24-hour shifts.

Mask sterilizers. Three Midwest companies transformed 100’s of toaster ovens into mask sterilizer units that can sterilize 150 masks per hour and donated them to hospitals low on mask inventory.

Virtual events. Consultants, trainers, and speakers shifted to virtual classes, events, and conferences to share significant intellectual property.

There is power in the pivots! Pivots in life are perpetual. If you face a challenge, rise up and pivot. The more you prepare yourself for continual transformation (let go of the status quo), the easier it is to embrace new futures.  Wherever there are needs for solutions or there are opportunities to seize, innovators are intrinsically inspired to create new organizations, products or services.

Your power is in your pivot!

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Marcia Daszko has helped leaders at home and at work for 25+ years pivot to save or exponentially grow their organizations to navigate crises or embrace new opportunities.  A professional global keynote and workshop leadership speaker, she is a trusted strategic advisor, and facilitator for executive teams.  She is the bestselling author of the book “Pivot Disrupt Transform” and co-author of “Turning Ideas Into Impact: Insights from 16 Silicon Valley Consultants.” She has also taught MBA leadership classes at six universities across the U.S.  Contact her at md@mdaszko.com and access her resources at www.mdaszko.com

Leadership: It’s a Matter of Trust

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This blog is provided by Deke Copenhaver, consultant, author and former mayor of Augusta, Georgia.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Art of Building Better Leaders that aired on Tuesday, October 6th, 2020.

 

During my adult life I’ve been blessed to serve in many leadership roles and to have been mentored by people I consider to be great leaders. Today I still consider myself a work in progress and an ongoing student of leadership. Through the years I’ve developed some definite ideas of what good leadership does and doesn’t look like. Foremost among these is that for anyone to be a great leader people must be willing to follow your lead without being coerced to do so. Simply put in any leadership position long-term success depends on having a servant’s mentality and developing fundamental bonds of trust with those you serve.

In 2005 at the age of 37 I made the lifechanging decision to run for mayor of Augusta, Georgia. Having no political experience, I was told early on by a group of local business leaders that I shouldn’t run because I hadn’t paid my dues. I reminded them that I had run a small business and a nonprofit as well as chaired several boards. When I told them I thought my experience in leadership positions made me the most qualified candidate this argument was simply brushed aside. Fortunately, I didn’t listen to conventional wisdom and, in a campaign primarily run by a group of energetic twenty and thirty somethings who were political novices as well, I ultimately won the election. I then went on to win two more which allowed me to help lead Augusta as a public servant for nine years.

I stress the words public servant because that was what I was focused on being. I was raised by a father who had served as a B-17 bomber pilot in World War II who instilled in me the values of duty, honor, integrity and service above self. These values remained at the forefront of my mind throughout my time in office. From the outset I set about winning the public trust by treating all of my elected colleagues and the citizens I served with dignity and respect. I made no promises I couldn’t keep and never viewed myself as being above those I served.

Through diligently pursuing this approach I was able to work with a governing body which had a reputation for being racially divided. My colleagues didn’t always like my decisions, but they trusted and respected me, so they were willing to work with me. Working together we were able to complete multiple major municipal building projects while at the same time creating thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in our local economy.  Although building trusting relationships took a great deal of time and effort it ultimately served the greater good to the benefit of our local citizenry as a whole.

My season in office taught me many more leadership lessons in the crucible of public life. I realized early on that no title makes you a leader.  Although winning an election or being promoted to the C Suite may confer on you a title with more individual power and prestige it doesn’t confer on you the mantle of leadership.  A title is given and fleeting while becoming a trusted leader is earned and has lasting impact.

I also came to understand it’s more important for a leader to know what they don’t know than what they do know and to surround yourself with good people who make up for your own shortcomings. Being elected mayor didn’t teach me to run a city of 200,000 people. In my decision-making process I had to learn to rely on the input of a team of talented professionals who I came to trust through the years. Listening to and trusting the team around me allowed me to make well informed decisions based on professional input and not political whim.

One final lesson I learned is perhaps the most important. Those in leadership positions who use fear and intimidation to achieve their desired outcomes significantly undermine trust in their leadership as opposed to building it. Realistically, this isn’t leadership at all but simply amounts to bullying. True leadership is about uniting those you serve around a common goal while making them feel secure, included and that their voices are being heard. In the end, leadership is not about seeking power but rather about seeking to empower those around you and for good leaders the only power that really matters is the power to inspire. You can trust me on that!

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Deke Copenhaver (www.deke-copenhaver.com) serves as principal of Copenhaver Consulting, LLC, and is the ForbesBooks author of the book The Changemaker: The Art Of Building Better Leaders. Copenhaver was elected mayor of Augusta, Ga., serving from 2005-14, and has spoken at national conferences on topics including city design, economic development, healthcare, veterans’ issues, and the nonprofit industry. A former radio show host, he authors a column on leadership published by the Georgia Municipal Association and has been recognized numerous times by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians.

How to Balance the Three Rings of Your Personal Market Value as an Innovative Leader

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This blog is provided by David Nour, CEO of The Nour Group.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Curve Benders: The Intersection of the Future of Work and Strategic Relationships that aired on Tuesday, September 29th, 2020.

 

During times of uncertainty, we begin to question ourselves. We wonder if we are on the right path, are we accelerating in our leadership, or do we have all the education and experiences we need to succeed as a leader? Instead of throwing this time to the wind, the global pandemic could be used to assess our value and emotional investment.

Just like Walmart or Apple, each of us should be thinking of our perceived market value. There are essential areas that you need to focus on to make sure you are at the highest value. At a time where global jobs are at risk for significant cutbacks or replacement by accelerated technology such as automation and AI, many leaders are in a global war against obsolescence. That’s why you need to attend to all three areas of your personal market value: people, personal, and professional.

 

Core Ring: People 

Your central ring is founded on people you can’t live without: your friends and family. The core of your social sphere needs to be composed of individuals who provide a loving home and a stable social life. If your home life is unstable and disruptive, it will show up in how you lead at work. It will stifle your creativity, innovative ideas, and problem-solving with and through your team. However, when your core group is a loving ecosystem of close friendships, deep partnerships, and rich family interactions, it will provide you with the foundational support to accomplish any stress in your leadership style.

Having a nurturing infrastructure builds our leadership resilience. Many top leaders we admire confess that their success is often credited to their nurturing family and spouse.

Choose wisely who you spend your downtime with. It’s better to be surrounded by fewer authentic friendships with equal emotional investment than to be surrounded by 100 acquaintances who, frankly, don’t care about what you’re doing. The world and our leadership obligations naturally put pressure on us, and if we don’t have a solid foundation to stand on, it is a struggle to get ahead. If this is an area you think you need to pay more attention to, actively elevate it.

 

Second Ring: Personal 

No pandemic, economic crisis, or war can take away your investments in your personal development as a leader. Crisis or not, we are at a time where we are living longer: the United Nations projects that the average life will be 95 for women and 90 for men. That means we don’t just have longer lives; we are working longer too. Every leader, regardless of their tenure should be investing in his/her life-long education, spiritual grounding, and unshakable values. These are developments that are immediately in your control. Industries will always develop and evolve; therefore, life-long learning will be mandatory.

When we continue our leadership education, it will show us how to adapt and upgrade to the ever-changing framework we live by. No one this time last year would have expected we would be predominately if not exclusively working from home. Many who have thrived during this time have prioritized upgrading their digital infrastructure and mastering new remote leadership tools such as digital whiteboards.

That openness also expands to our spiritual selves. Whether you prescribe to an organized religion or consider yourself curious, we need to have personal spiritual grounding to believe in something more than ourselves.

When you focus on these non-negotiable values, they become guardrails for future direction and keep you in your preferred lane.

 

Third Ring: Professional

The final ring of your personal market value is the professional sphere. This is seen as your acumen: how you blend your knowledge and skills in the manner which you lead. Your past actions and expertise will inform your future decisions and problem-solving accurately. You will be better at cutting and adjusting productivity, revenue, and costs. This business acumen allows you to see the bigger picture, evaluate available options, and confidently make high-grade options. This is also leadership by modeling the business behaviors you want to see in others.

Your ability to focus on a few, strategic priorities necessitates leading others toward a common mission, vision, or against a possible enemy. That’s where your leadership presence comes into play. You want to captivate a room or a person. When you have them on the edge of their seat, you have honed your gravitas. Aspire to be measured with your language, hold yourself confidently, and command the right kind of servant leader attention. These individuals don’t throw around SAT words and leave their audience confused; they are succinct and careful with their message, recognizing the incredible power of the verbal and written language.

Lastly, you must develop your emotional courage to lead. There will be situations where uncomfortable topics or feelings arise. You must be willing to experience feelings like discomfort, risk, and disappointment. But the true leaders are the ones who push through the discomfort and take charge of their emotional courage and compassionately have a conversation. If you’re not willing to examine any of those things, you won’t be able to handle anything.

Are you lacking in any of these three areas? Start from the core and work your way out. If you find yourself coming short in one spot, consider investing in your growth today.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

David Nour, a senior leadership/board advisor, educator, executive coach, and bestselling author, is internationally recognized as the leading expert on applications of strategic relationships in profitable growth, sustained innovation, and lasting change. The author of eleven books, including bestsellers Relationship Economics® (Wiley), and Co-Create (St. Martin’s Press), as well as the forthcoming Curve Benders (Wiley, 2021), Nour serves as a trusted advisor to global clients and coaches corporate leaders. He is an adjunct professor at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University and Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management and was named to the Global Gurus Top 30 Leadership Professionals list. A Forbes Leadership contributor on the Future of Work, and an Inc. contributor on Relationship Economics, Nour’s unique insights have been featured in a variety of prominent publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, Huffington Post Business, Entrepreneur, and Knowledge@Wharton. He’s also the host of the popular Curve Benders podcast.

Born in Iran, Nour immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager with $100, limited family ties and no fluency in English. He graduated from Georgia State University with a bachelor’s degree in business management and went on to earn an Executive MBA from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. He resides in Atlanta, GA, with his family. Learn more at www.NourGroup.com.

 

The Mindset Leaders Need to Grow with Customers Today

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This blog is provided by Todd Hockenberry.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles that aired on September 15th, 2020.  

 

To drive revenue growth in an uncertain environment, leaders need to change their thinking about how they view buyers.

The old formula of more: more marketing campaigns, more sales resources, more budget no longer assures leaders of a direct return.

Buyers, and the way they find information, evaluate options, consider vendor choices, and make decisions have changed. Yes, you say, of course the buyer has changed, and we have a better website, more content, and a social media presence.

But systemic shocks are accelerators of trends that were already underway. The rate of buyer behavior changes and buying process change is accelerating.

Has your thinking about buyers changed accordingly? What you knew about buyer behavior two years ago is probably obsolete at this point.

The companies that survive and thrive with predictable revenue engines in the new, new age of buyer control will be the ones that become inbound organizations – ones that are built for and solve for the customer, where everyone is aligned around the goals of the customer, and fully invested in the success of the customer.

“Many companies recognize the need to change marketing tactics, to use content, develop a digital marketing presence, and adapt to the ability of buyers to control the process. Few see it as fundamental to the operation, structure, and strategy of the entire organization.” *

People demand more from the companies they buy from. Companies, even those B2B companies in traditional industries, must realize that they are not just selling a product but delivering an entire customer experience from the first touch until the buyer no longer uses the product. Each step and each touch with the buyer either add to or detracts from the experience.

The goal is not the customer experience. The goal is to enable your customers to share their great experience and become your best advocates.

Customers that love the experience of working with your company will be your best marketers and best salespeople.

“The first and most important step is to shift the organization’s mindset to focus on solving for the customer. Make decisions based on what’s in their interest—because what is in the customer’s interest is in the organization’s interest too.” Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot.

But wait you say, we put the customer first. Maybe your sales team does, maybe your product team does. But does your back office? Does your accounting team? Does your service team, or do they just react when the phone rings? Do you ensure your customers are successful with your product or do you set it up, get them going, and then forget about them until they have a problem?

Look at your marketing. Is the content of your campaigns, the text on your website, or the content of your presentations about your products (features, specifications, technical info) or is it about your customers? Does your sales team act as change agents and business peers or are they product-focused order takers?

Do you really know why and how your customers buy, or do you just hope the order shows up?

 

How do you make your entire business attractive, not just your inbound marketing?

Building an inbound organization starts with a mission and culture that places the goals of the target customer as the top priority. Solving for the customer means that everyone in the organization is aligned around the mission of the company. Your mission is the agreement and expression in a brief statement of how your company’s people, resources, time, products, and services help your target customer solve their problems, do the jobs they need to be done, and achieve their goals.

Very few companies we work with have a mission framed in these terms. If they have one at all it is usually full of buzzwords like best in class, high quality, and outstanding service, none of which mean anything to your customers or to your employees.

Can you state your company’s mission statement as you read this article?

The mission is important because it serves as a guide to all employees as they make decisions every day about how to use their resources to solve for the customer.

A vision is where your company wants to go, the mission is how it is going to get there. And both involve putting the customer’s goals and outcomes at the core.

Creating a clear mission also serves to tell your customers why you exist and becomes an attractive signal that your business is focused on them and their needs. Buyers have abundant options, even for most complex purchases, and they will increasingly choose to work with businesses that state and share their values.

The same idea holds for employees – if you want the best people you need to attract them with a compelling mission that aligns with their personal goals and beliefs.

 

Building a mission and culture of helping customers first

If your business develops a clear mission, then your culture is the environment that either drives everyone towards the mission or stands in the way. Culture is the sum of the values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of leadership applied through the entire company.

Your culture drives alignment to the mission. A customer-focused culture aligns everyone with the goals of the customer.

“An inbound organization is guided by a philosophy, a set of core beliefs, and best practices that impact every person in every department to provide value and build trust with customers, partners, and anyone they touch.” *

Why does a customer-focused mission and culture drive revenue?

As Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A culture of customer focus, solving for the customer, with everyone aligned around the needs of the customer, and making sure customers are successful is the way to grow your business in this age of buyer control.

When leaders understand that their organizations are not as customer-focused as they think they are, they can explore how to align their mission, strategies, action plans, and tools with the way their buyers think, learn, discover, and purchase.  These inbound organization ideas will help leaders focus their business on customers and succeed at attracting and keeping them at a rate that outpaces the competition.

* Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles, Wiley (2018)

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Todd Hockenberry and Top Line Results specialize in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on Business-to-Business, manufacturing, technology, and capital equipment.

For over 11 years Top Line Results is a leader in educating and helping Business-to-Business companies adapt to the new realities of Internet-driven changes in buying behavior and to successfully grow their businesses.

Todd is the co-author of the book Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles.