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



10 Leadership Lessons That Will Help Your Business Thrive

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This blog is provided by Angeline Licerio, as a companion to the interview with Greg Moran, titled Evolving Leadership to Navigate Significant Disruption on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future that aired on August 18th, 2020.


Building your own brand and establishing yourself as a successful entrepreneur requires a lot of preparation, trial and error, sweat, and determination. It’s like an on-the-job-training where you put all your resources, time, and energy. Some seek mentors to avoid the pitfalls along the way. But even if you don’t have an expert guiding you as you make your way to the top, self-mentoring and heeding the leadership lessons of successful business owners will help your business thrive.

We rounded up 10 great leadership lessons for you:

  1. Knowing your ‘why’ offers a good start.

No matter what you are selling, you should make it your proof of mission. Your brand is your statement, while your ’why’ sets the company culture where everyone lives up to the values of the business. Apple, for instance, does not just sell gadgets, iPhones, and laptops. They are selling a vision, and people continue to buy their products because they believe in their advocacy.

  1. Setting the tone of leadership is critical.

Regardless of how good your brand is or how skillful your workers are, you are the force that will set the course of your business. Even if you have many hats to wear during the initial stage of your business, it is vital for you to be the leader first. You must make decisions and lay down the guidelines to keep everything in balance. Leadership coach and consultant Kristi Hedges of ‘The Hedges Company’ said that leaders should be happy and motivated in their roles to avoid hurting the whole organization.

  1. Hiring employees with superior skills is a must.

Alibaba CEO and co-founder Jack Ma advises new entrepreneurs to hire people who will be significant assets in the business. By hiring men and women with superior skills, your focus is to lead your high performing team with excellence. As the leader of the pack, you need to create a winning team. Your team is your sustainable advantage because they are the first ones who will help build, support, and sell your ideas and products. There is no room for mediocrity and excuses when you want to grow your business.

  1. Being ready to pivot counts.

Change is constant in business. Bill Gates once said, ‘do not allow yourself to be lulled into inaction.’ You should continually evolve with the changes to ensure growth opportunities and profitability for your business.

As a business owner and leader, you must act with urgency to rise to the challenge and have a positive mindset. The pandemic, in particular, has created uncertainty and a set of challenges that leaders need to address. You need to pivot to recover the loss and rebuild to keep up with the competitors. Even big businesses like Google, Amazon, and Apple have already embraced the ‘new normal’ philosophy.

  1. Learning from mistakes is key.

You always learn from your mistakes, but you extract wisdom when you learn from the mistakes of others. There are many TED talks, books, podcasts, and testimonies of successful people in the business that provide profound lessons. Learning from their stories will help you determine the ropes and avoid the same mistakes. Thought leader Tim Ferris gained his massive following because he applies and advocates great lessons from top performers. You can learn their secrets and modify them to fit your business principles.

  1. The team and customers’ feedback are essential.

Walmart founder Sam Walton shared that his best ideas came from stock boys and clerks. Listening to feedback is important to the success of the business. The insights help leaders when they are struggling or experiencing a setback. An effective leader talks less and listens more to people who genuinely care for the business. The byproducts of active listening will help you gauge the performance of the company. When listening becomes your daily habit, you will be seen as a true leader.

  1. Customers are not always right.

The philosophy that ‘the customer is always right’ is not always advantageous to your business. The right customers will buy your product or service because they need it. Those who demand you to tweak or modify it to cater to their needs can cost your business more than the revenue generated and it can alter the core features of your brand. Learn to say no and stick to what you do best.

  1. Being kind is good for business.

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA and an investor on ‘Shark Tank’, is known for being a nice guy who is always willing to go above and beyond to make his fans feel appreciated. He believes that ‘being nice’ is vital to the success of any business. Promote respect, trust, and humility among your team to motivate them to make great things happen. When you are genuinely kind, they will rally behind you and support you all the way to the top.

  1. The best way isn’t always easy.

There is no shortcut to business success. No one opens his store today and gains back his capital next month. It goes through a process and levels of success. All entrepreneurs know that the easiest and shortest path is often not the best way. A solid business plan with a sound framework that is aligned with your values is important. In business, your personal integrity and your reputation are essential to attracting investors, customers, and peers. It is also necessary to be willing to work hard and dedicate your resources to keep going, especially during rough times.

  1. Appreciate by giving back.

At the end of the business day, you are part of a bigger community. Your success is mainly due to the people who trust your product and use your service. Giving back is a great way to show appreciation and attract more customers.

In summary

Choosing to practice all these leadership lessons will help your business thrive positively and hit your sales quotas. But the real measure of success for entrepreneurs is not always the profits, but making a difference in employees’ lives and contributing to the good of the bigger community.


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

Angeline Licerio is a content writer for Elevate Corporate Training. Like the rest of her teammates at Elevate, Angeline believes that she can help create better bottom lines, happier and healthier staff and build communities where people engage with each other in high functioning relationships.


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

Better Leadership, Positive Peace and More Positive Cultures

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This blog is provided by Mike Hardy, Board Chair of the International Leadership Association and Professor at Coventry University, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Better Leadership to Promote the Positives in Peace and Culture that aired on Tuesday, October 27th, 2020.


Of all the consequences of effective and ethical leadership, a positive impact on peace and peacefulness for us all is the one that matters to me most. The quest for better leadership is a continuing one, and the needs and urgencies for positive impact grow with intensity each year.

As Board Chair of the International Leadership Association I have watched, this year, with humility and astonishment how teams of scholars, business leaders, practitioners and (some) policy makers have strained sinews to elaborate and articulate how those with influence can use it better, and how those with reach can reach more and further.

At the close of the ILA’s Ottawa Global Conference in 2019 I observed how this quest for improvement must be a movement and not a moment. This continuing work needs to be distracted by moments but never stopped by events. We could not have foreseen the unprecedented events of 2020, the challenges for communities and policy-makers alike. But we must remain true to our commitment that better leadership can push us all towards a better world. And we must not be too worried about precise and constraining definitions; better leadership must not just be about doing the right things…but it must also embrace doing things in the right way –a commitment to ethics as well as effectiveness. In the same way a better world must include conditions more likely to deliver both a positive peace and more positive cultures.

A positive peace is far more than the mere absence of violence and conflict. It is a way of being, a set of attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peacefulness in and between communities and societies. Like bad leadership it is often much easier to point out the negatives, the absence of peace. Similarly, positive culture is more than a description of characteristics and identities. It is a set of values, behaviours and attributes that enable and promote human flourishing, reinforce collaborative compassion and peaceful co-existence. We are still struggling to secure both. Both are critical factors for human flourishing –with peace and in peaceful times we can begin to address many of the sources of human insecurity- but often we remain more aware of its absence than its existence. And a positive culture is also elusive –a culture that promotes civic awareness, and participation, social equity and the well-being of a community, hence peacefulness for families and neighbourhoods, can often be more difficult to observe than a malevolent culture that strengthens some groups to initiate and perpetuate exclusion and at times violent conflict.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare our vulnerabilities, divisions, falsehoods and brutal inequalities. Since this global human crisis took its toll on all of us – the forces of division and hate too have been placing the lives of vulnerable communities including religious and ethnic minorities, migrants, women, children and youth, in peril. Even old people and those with disabilities have not been spared. It is especially disheartening to witness a surge in hate speech, xenophobia, racism and many forms of discrimination. These deep fissures in the fabric of our societies weakens our resolve for peace and question what it is about our culture that creates so much room for insecurity.

So, our agenda for better leadership is more vital than ever as a part of a change agenda that promotes the positives in both peace and culture. I have been drawn to a powerful thought from this moment for our movement; a thought captured in a big question:  When this is all over –how do we want the world to be different?

As we battle the COVID-19 pandemic, and the many associated challenges of rising job-losses, deepening economic inequalities, the alarming increase in hate crimes across the world, we need to look beyond the moment and look to how culture and its development can help create a better world of tomorrow.   We need to face up to the real and gloomy conclusion that the distrust and fractured relationships in our neighbourhoods that feel so current in our culture have a common core: a real and hostile divide between people who are regarded as different; a dehumanisation of the “other”.  We seem to have a culture that looks to hold someone else responsible for the moment in which we find ourselves. Despite the crises that we face, we are nowhere near being able to answer this question about how we want the world to be. We know where we do not want to go and be: our social capital –relationships and networks in our communities that encourage calm and harmony, must help rebuild the confidence that the generations that follow will have more not fewer opportunities. And we must restore the beliefs that we once had by default that our created health, education and even financial systems, cherished institutions and welfare state are more than illusions. We must actively banish the dark forces than breed exclusion and divide.

Positive peace and positive cultures matter: a more equal, inclusive culture supports a safer, kinder and more prosperous society. Specific policies to meet the urgent needs of less advantaged groups can deliver a fairer world and lay the foundations for economic recovery and build resilience to future crises.

This is a moment when the convergence of energies towards better leadership and those towards positive peace can create provoke some positive change for the lives of people worldwide. This is not a small agenda -and it is quite a backdrop for our work in growing knowledge and understanding of leadership for a better world. A future world with positive peace and positive culture will help us to re-emphasise our belief in the importance of hope, and it will be through hope we can see evidence of a better future. But even hope will not bring the different world we wish for… that needs direct actions and a new direction and these require more effective and strongly ethical leadership.

Better leadership has two important roles to play: it must help us all to make sense of the turbulences and uncertainties, help shine a clarifying light on our challenges, and it must help us manage the changes that we need and that are taking place.

No small job then! And a compelling reason to make sure that you attend the ILA’s 2020 Global Conference –“Leading at the Edge”

Leading at the Edge
22nd Annual Global Conference
5-8 November 2020 | A Live Online Virtual Event


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

Professor Mike Hardy is the Founding Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, in the UK. After a distinguished career, he returned to the academic world in 2011 as Professor of Intercultural Relations at Coventry University. Mike is active with UNESCO and the UN Alliance of Civilizations; he is currently lead advisor to the World Forum for Intercultural Dialogue in Baku, the World Peace Forum in Indonesia and directs the RISING Global Peace Forum at Coventry. Professor Hardy has been twice honoured, awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2001 for his peace-building work in the Middle East, and appointed a Companion of Honour of St Michael and St George in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, in June 2010, for his work internationally in Intercultural Dialogue. Mike is a trustee of The Faith and Belief Forum the leading interfaith charity in the UK and Board Chair of the US-based International Leadership Association.



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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?


  • 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

How to Keep Business Level During the Pandemic in the “New Normal”

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This blog is provided by Bill Higgs, speaker, author and expert authority on culture.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Culture Code Champions: 7 Steps to Scale & Succeed in Your Business that aired on Tuesday, October 13th, 2020.


The pandemic-fueled recession forced businesses to take a hard look at their expenses and make judgments about what is a necessary expense, what is a luxury, and what is an out-and-out waste.

As uncomfortable as that might be for many business leaders – especially if it means cutting someone’s job – it’s clearly critical to the organization’s survival to figure out ways to conserve cash whenever hard times descend on both a company and the economy at large.

At Mustang Engineering, the company I helped found, we used the phrase “plug all the holes in the bucket” as a metaphor for finding ways to conserve cash before it trickled out through the leaks. Those “holes in the bucket” could be labor costs, lease space, and all sorts of general expenses. Ultimately, anything that had the potential to kill profitability was a “hole in the bucket” that we were determined to plug.

Actually, we chose to be tight with money right from the beginning with our company, largely because we needed to be. For example, like many new businesses, we couldn’t really afford a dedicated sales team. And, in fact, Mustang didn’t hire its first full-time salesperson until we had been in business for seven years. We just did without. In the meantime, I did the selling myself.

We also were forced to gather a lot of experience making do with less because we went through four major downturns that were different in their details but similar in their economic impact to what we’ve experienced with the pandemic. Banks went under, there were foreclosures on every street, and hundreds of businesses disappeared in Texas.

In between there were nine other significant downturns, all related to the oil price that was whipsawed around by war, politics, tariffs, embargos, transportation restrictions and OPEC.

Despite those difficult times, we never went down in revenue when they hit because we were continuously preparing ourselves for the next downturn. We didn’t know where it would come from, or when, but we knew it would happen eventually, so we wanted to be ready.

Ever since the pandemic hit the U.S. and the recession quickly followed, businesses have had to make the same type of frugal and practical decisions we did.

So, whenever a crisis like this hits, you have to ask yourself: What do we absolutely need? What can we do without?

Take notes on everything you have done so far to “plug holes” and reduce cash outflow to insure you do not let any unnecessary expenses creep back in. Examine your profit-and-loss statement in detail and see if you can identify other cuts you can make.

Be ruthless.

At the moment, this is a matter of survival. But learning to practice frugality now will also make you much stronger in the long term. You want to make this a habit, not just something you do when dire circumstances arrive.

Imagine how much better shape you would have been in when this recession hit if you had been “plugging those holes” all along.


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

Bill Higgs, an authority on corporate culture, is former CEO and founder of Mustang Engineering, which he took from zero to $1 billion in annual revenues based on a people-first culture. He is also the ForbesBooks author of the just-released book Culture Code Champions: 7 Steps to Scale & Succeed in Your Business. His culture podcast and training modules are available through www.culturecodechampions.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.


Inclusive Leadership During a Crisis: How to Lead Equitably and Compassionately

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This blog is provided by Taryn Oesch DeLong, managing editor of digital content for Training Industry.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Research Findings on Women’s Access to Leadership Development that aired on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020.


“The coronavirus pandemic has cast an irrefutable spotlight on social and workplace inequity — and places an urgent demand on employers to lead responsibly and with compassion.”

This statement from a report by Time’s Up, the organization created by 300 women in the entertainment industry in response to the #MeToo movement, reflects a current concern of many leaders, especially those managing remote teams or creating leadership training programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interest in TrainingIndustry.com articles on topics related to leadership, supporting employees, managing in a crisis, and diversity and inclusion has increased in recent months — which is good. It means leaders, and learning and development (L&D) leaders in particular, are looking for ways to lead compassionately and equitably during a year that sometimes feels like a never-ending crisis.

In a recent article for TrainingIndustry.com, “Leading During a Crisis: Retooling Leadership,” Maureen Metcalf wrote that effective leaders, particularly during a crisis, have an “unwavering commitment to right action.” They identify the right course for the organization and its people, and they alter that course when needed. One right action, the importance of which has been highlighted by recent events, is inclusive leadership.

What Is Inclusive Leadership?

According to Training Industry’s glossary, “Inclusive leadership is present in organizations and leaders that make a concerted effort to promote and support diversity and equity in their teams and companies. Inclusive leaders create environments of transparency and psychological safety to encourage idea sharing and innovation by embracing perspectives from diverse backgrounds.”

In other words, leading inclusively means going beyond values statements and diversity pledges. It means ensuring equitable opportunities for all employees. It means creating an environment where people are valued for their intrinsic worth as human beings rather than on surface achievements or attributes. And, it means honoring each person’s unique gifts and contributions.

Why Is Inclusive Leadership So Important in a Crisis?

As months of COVID-19 have gone by, we’ve seen that the impacts of coronavirus have not been distributed equitably. People who already lived with inequities, such as people with disabilities and chronic health conditions and people of color, have been disproportionately affected both by the illness and by the economic fallout. And the challenges of working from home, often while managing a household with children and/or elderly family members, have placed an added burden on women, who already faced an often uphill climb to career success.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first crisis to have a harsher impact on disadvantaged groups of people, and it will not be the last. Fortunately, the more we develop leaders who know what it means to lead inclusively, the better equipped we will be to handle such crises in the future.

How Do Inclusive Leaders Support Their Employees?

Inclusive leaders not only strive to have teams that include diverse perspectives, but they also work deliberately to ensure that those diverse perspectives are honored and the people who share them feel that their gifts are valued and cultivated.

For example, Training Industry research has found that women who believe their managers support their career development are more likely also to have equitable access to leadership development when compared with men. This finding sounds obvious but is critical for organizations to understand, especially if they are to succeed during a crisis.

A manager’s job is not just to assign work and make sure it’s completed. In our current job market, workers are looking for jobs that go beyond putting food on the table and also provide them with development opportunities to grow their skills and advance their careers. LinkedIn Learning’s 2018 “Workplace Learning Report” found that 94% of employees would stay at their employer longer if it invested in their career, and the most common reason “employees feel held back from learning is because they don’t have the time” — in other words, their managers are not giving them support, in terms of time, to grow.

During the pandemic, employees who started working from home due to health and safety concerns found themselves with blurred lines between work and life, and many had to juggle their parenting or other caregiving responsibilities with their work responsibilities. With such demands on an employee’s time or energy, learning can all too easily fall by the wayside. During this crisis, inclusive leaders have sought with compassion to understand their team members’ needs and identify ways to support them. While it may have meant that their employees put less time in on the clock, it almost certainly meant that the work they did do was of a higher quality, because they were able to focus more of their energy on it.

How Can Organizations Develop Inclusive Leaders?

Including information on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in leadership training programs is important to developing inclusive leaders. DEI training is notoriously difficult to implement well, but in general, if a program goes beyond lip service, includes practical and relevant information, and is led by a credible instructor, it can be effective in cultivating inclusive leaders.

It’s also important to teach leaders how to coach and, especially, how to coach employees from underrepresented or disadvantaged groups. Coaching is an effective tool for behavior change and personal development. It also, according to Training Industry research, can bridge the gender gap in leadership development access. Female survey respondents who had received formal coaching reported almost equal levels of access to leadership development when compared to male respondents. Inclusive leadership training, then, helps managers learn how to provide personalized coaching that meets the unique needs and preferences of their female employees.

Finally, as Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson, author of “INCLUSIFY: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams,” wrote in a TrainingIndustry.com article, “If we are to train leaders to be inclusive, we need to know what makes people feel included.” Her research identified uniqueness and belongingness as keys to an inclusive culture. In a work-from-home pandemic workforce, the ability of leaders to understand team members’ unique needs and make sure they feel like they belong is more challenging — and more rewarding — than ever.


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

Taryn Oesch DeLong is managing editor of digital content at Training Industry, where her work has received an APEX Award of Excellence and a Regional Bronze Azbee Award. She is also the co-host of “The Business of Learning,” the award-winning Training Industry podcast, and contributed to the 2020 book “Global Perspectives on Women’s Leadership and Gender (In)Equality” (Palgrave Macmillan). Taryn is the board secretary at The Power of the Dream, a nonprofit creating jobs for adults with autism and IDD in the Raleigh, N.C., area and a coach for Miracle League of the Triangle. She serves her faith community as managing editor of Catholic Women in Business and assistant editor and contributing writer for FemCatholic.

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.