It’s Your Aptitude Plus Your Attitude That Sets You Apart

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Connex Members are part of a cutting-edge community, finding actionable solutions to their most pressing business challenges via high-value peer exchanges and curated resources including tools, platforms, partners and c-suite networking opportunities.

Executive Insights features highly-respected and engaging guests who share novel ideas and practices related to the latest leadership topics.

This week’s article features an interview with Alice Yoo LeClair, Divisional CHRO at Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC originally published in Inside CHRO, the go-to magazine for HR leaders brought to you by Connex Partners. It is a companion to her interview on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast episode, A Competitive Advantage: Building Communities Within the Business, that aired on Tuesday, January 25th, 2022.

Watch the two-minute video of Alice

 

Listen to the full conversation with Alice and Maureen

  • What is your best leadership advice?

It’s your aptitude plus your attitude that sets you apart as a leader. These two things build the story of your personal brand and can accelerate your development over your peer group. This advice applies whether you have worked at an organization for two months or 25 years, whether you’re a senior leader or just taking the lead as a contributor in a meeting.

  • If you could go back in time and meet your sixteen-year-old self, what would you tell them?

Firstly, when you hear about this thing called ‘Bitcoin’ that goes for sale, buy it immediately in mass quantities! The second thing I would tell myself is ‘chin up’. Over the course of time, you will see a material shift when it comes to Asian inclusion and representation. There will even be an Asian superhero, Shang-Chi, brought to life on the big screen, in mainstream culture. It’s really tough now – but know that the world is going to learn faster, collaborate more and come together as a global community in the very near future.

  • What is the most-read book on your shelf?

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I discovered this book through Bill Gates’ book blog, Gates Notes, and he cited it in a New York Times article as one of his favorite reads. The theories the author presents about why sapiens, of all the species that have inhabited this planet, have been able to develop enormous infrastructure, technologies, religions, governments and currencies are fascinating.

One of his theories is that as a species, our ability to imagine and apply our imagination to our real-life circumstances is what enabled our brains to create all of these institutions. I recommend it to anyone who is curious as to how we went from hunter-gatherers to doing things like cryptocurrency in the present day.

  • What’s the one film, TV show or podcast you would urge every CHRO to check out, and why?

I have a different approach to this. I don’t actually have an HR industry-specific magazine or podcast that I regularly turn to. What I have curated for myself instead are ‘digital mentors.’ In the HR and business worlds, there are incredible leaders who, through their public content, answer questions and give advice on topics I would have asked them to elaborate on through those mentorship coffee sessions. It was through this curation of digital mentorship that I discovered my career aspiration to become a Chief Experience Officer. I got there from the online presence of an executive named Julie Larson-Green who held the role at Microsoft and Qualtrics.

 

To read this article in full, and to find out more about how the pandemic has shaped Alice’s views on the future of HR, sign up to receive Inside CHRO, the new magazine written by – and for – HR leaders. Brought to you by Connex Partners, the #1 executive network for HR.

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

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

 

About the Author

Alice Yoo LeClair is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Euromoney PLC’s Financial & Professional Services (FPS) division. She is responsible for leading talent management, DEI, recruitment and performance enablement initiatives, in alignment with the organization’s strategic objectives. In this capacity, she also serves as a member of the division’s executive committee and the group’s HR leadership team. Before joining Euromoney, Alice was the Head of HR for the Americas GTM region and multiple product verticals at Refinitiv, an LSEG (London Stock Exchange Group) business. Previously, she held global people strategy and commercial program management roles at IPC Systems, IntelePeer and Level 3 Communications (now Lumen Technologies). Alice holds a bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of Hartford where she double majored in Piano Performance and English. She also has a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell, Cornell University’s external education unit

 

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

 

 

Stewards of the Future – A Guide for Competent Boards

This week’s article is an excerpt from “Stewards of the Future – A Guide for Competent Boards”, by Helle Bank Jorgensen, CEO of Competent Boards, which offers the global online ESG Competent Boards Certificate Program.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Stewards of the Future: A Guide for Competent Boards that aired on Tuesday, January 18th, 2022.

 

“Stakeholder concerns are shareholder concerns. The increasing focus by investors, consumers, and other stakeholders on sustainability is directly influencing value creation.” — Jane Diplock, chair, Abu Dhabi Global Market Regulatory Committee; director, Value Reporting Foundation

 

Case study – Ørsted

One company that has successfully managed the transition from passive to active engagement is Ørsted, Denmark’s largest energy utility. Ørsted has undergone a dramatic transformation since its inception in 1972 as Dansk Naturgas, and later as Dansk Olie og Naturgas. For the first thirty years of its existence, its business centered on coal-fired power plants in Denmark, and offshore oil and gas drilling rigs in various other parts of Europe. In 2006, however, it decided to shift its focus to green energy, closing its coal-fired plants and putting its resources instead into offshore wind farms. As of 2020, the Danish company was the world’s leader in offshore wind power, with a 30 percent market share; it forecast that it would produce enough power for more than 30 million people by 2025.

Stakeholder engagement has been a key pillar of the transition strategy. In 2007, for example, the company began fostering a dialogue with activist groups such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and the Danish Society for Nature Conservation. Rob Morris, a senior editor at the London Business School, noted in an article that Ørsted “had to convince people that the future business could be as successful as the old one.” One example was a lengthy op-ed piece in Denmark’s Politiken newspaper written by then-CEO Anders Eldrup in which he stressed that transformation would not be an overnight miracle. Eldrup publicly debated the company’s climate action strategy with Greenpeace’s then-executive director Mads Flarup Christensen at a 2009 meeting hosted by the Copenhagen Business School.

While the Danish government still owns 50.1 percent of Ørsted’s shares, the company has been listed on the Copenhagen stock exchange since 2016.  The following year, it opened another useful avenue to tell its story to international investors by launching its first green bond.

“A lot of it starts with a company needing to be clear about what its purpose and its real priorities are, and that can be quite difficult to formulate,” says Ørsted’s current board chair Thomas Thune Andersen. “We have a wide debate about strategy that covers everything from the annual strategy plan to the long-term strategy, to our strategic priorities. If you’re able to really explain what your strategic priorities are, you’re able to get the shareholders and others to buy in.”

Ørsted now conducts a thorough materiality assessment each year, which involves identifying its most material stakeholders as well as assessing shareholder priorities and how these priorities intersect with society’s overall challenges. It has identified five key stakeholder groups: political stakeholders and authorities, local communities, employees, investors and shareholders, and NGOs/multiple stakeholder networks. The company has a specific interest in each group. Political stakeholders are vital allies in its plans to develop green energy. Local communities and employees provide valuable input on skills, talent retention, education, and local environmental initiatives. Investors expect strong financial returns as well as robust performance on environmental, social, and governance issues. Finally, the company engages NGOs and multi-stakeholder networks on topics such as biomass sustainability and human rights. It has worked to strengthen implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and has identified minerals and metals in its supply chain where environmental and human rights risks are greatest. The Danish company also has no problem collaborating with other utilities to develop wind farm projects. For example, in March 2020, it joined forces with Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings to bid for an offshore wind power project in Chiba prefecture, near Tokyo. The two companies have several other joint projects.

Ørsted has set a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2025 and no carbon emissions at all by 2040. Corporate Knights magazine named it the world’s most sustainable energy company for three years in a row, from 2019 to 2021, and ranked it number two across all sectors in 2021. But sustainability has not come at the expense of financial performance. Ørsted’s market value has more than doubled since its listing in 2016, surpassing rivals such as BP with a far greater dependence on fossil fuels. It achieved a 10 percent return on capital and a 4 percent advance in operating profit in 2020. As of mid-2021, its share price had almost quadrupled since the 2016 initial public offering.

Taken from “Stewards of the Future – A Guide for Competent Boards”, by Helle Bank Jorgensen, now available in hardcover and ebook.

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

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

About the Author

Helle Bank Jorgensen is the CEO of Competent Boards, which offers the global online ESG Competent Boards Certificate Program with a faculty of over 95 renowned international board members executives and experts. A business lawyer and state-authorized public accountant by training, Helle helps global companies and investors turn sustainability into strong financial results. She was the creator of the world’s first Green Account based on lifecycle assessment, as well as the world’s first Integrated Report and the first holistic responsible supply chain program. Helle has written numerous thought leader pieces, is a keynote speaker, and is interviewed by global media outlets.

 

Photo by Damir Kopezhanov on Unsplash

Considerations for Scaling

This week’s article is by Greg Moran, a C-level digital, strategy and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled What Leaders Won’t Talk About When Scaling a Business that aired on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022.

 

No cute titles, no click-bait tag lines – just an honest conversation about some of the things I’ve learned from creating, launching and getting through the first couple of stage gates on scale.  I spent most of my career working at big companies like Bank One (Chase), Ford Motor and Nationwide Insurance attempting to transform to meet competitive pressure or to maintain the status quo of a business model that hasn’t changed since before I was born.  Starting a company is way more fun, but much of my experience did little to prepare me for the challenges of actually going through the process in a leadership role – kind of like how watching the Tour de France on TV does little to prepare you to ride your bike 100 miles in a day.  For this blog, I’ll summarize the headlines that we cover in the accompanying podcast.  I encourage you to listen so you get the nuance of what the words mean because they can look obvious on paper without hearing the dialogue.

 

Back Office

The thing about back-office investment is that you don’t want to make the investment until you need to, but when you need to, it’s usually painful and distracting – like changing the tires on a car that’s going 70 mph.  The trick of it is to be ahead of the curve, but not too far ahead of the curve.  I’ve found it useful is to remember 2 things:

  • “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” – Wayne Gretsky
  • Tech costs a lot less than people do, so get on platforms that will make sure your back office stays off the critical path of your growth, otherwise you will have to compensate with people.

 

DEI and ESG

Nobody wants to talk about this because they are afraid of getting canceled or saying the wrong thing and getting attacked.  There are some cold hard truths you need to know about this space if you are starting a tech company (and many other types of companies as well):

  • The talent pool of people that can tolerate the perceived risk of a startup is not as diverse as the general labor pool.
  • The talent pool of people that are experienced in the functions you need to fill AND have start-up experience is even less diverse, and you rarely have the luxury of time to go find that unicorn.
  • The people who are attracted to the risk profile of the startup world expect to be compensated with equity in a way that rewards them for the risk and have little practical interest in the other ‘equity’. Everyone has a good set of talking points these days, the expectations remain (I’m living this now, even though we are well beyond the risk-equity phase of growth).
  • Your ability in the early days to create ESG metrics will be limited and probably irrelevant.

So what does this mean for you?  My suggestion is the following:

  • Have a clear set of principles on DEI and ESG that guide the company’s decision-making and are very transparent to the board, the leadership team, every employee and every prospect.
  • Back up the principles opportunistically at every turn, without compromising the integrity of your commitments to existing employees and investors. In the early days, compromises on competence will stick out like a sore thumb and may kill the company if the role is important enough.
  • Rely on advisors to help bolster/refine the thinking of the team over time.
  • As soon as you can begin to build a pipeline, invest in talent resources that have the clear accountability to do so.
  • Use search firms to amplify your reach to great diverse candidates.
  • Insist on equally engaging events and practices within the company.
  • Don’t virtue signal with grand statements that you can’t back up and just invite criticism and ‘gotchas’.

 

Space and People

Scaling and Covid combined have raised some interesting questions on space and people.  As you grow, does your philosophy on space and employee experience change?  Is remote your new operating model – going full virtual?  How do you handle in-person collaboration when it benefits the company and/or the process and/or the individuals who may desperately want to have and build personal relationships?

I think any singular answer to this question would end up being a ‘one size fits none’ solution, so I’ll stick to some principles we have embraced (for now) in light of the ever-shifting landscape in which we all find ourselves:

  • Don’t be definitive and don’t show a preference for remote vs. in-person. If you really want to allow either to give you access to more talent and allow you to grow faster (or whatever reason), then truly embrace and invest in both.
  • Model both from a leadership standpoint, even if you have a strong preference. Your modeling will empower.
  • Make in-person compelling – give people a reason to come in, regardless of the frequency.
  • Do the same for remote – support the gear that makes it a great experience for the remote employee and those they interact with. Provide stipends and perks to enhance the remote experience.  Create quality virtual events – serious and fun.
  • Communicate and get feedback as the game changes.

 

Value Chain Balancing

As you scale a business, maintaining balance throughout your value chain is essential.  You really are only as strong as your weakest link and if you are over-invested in one element of your business, but constrained in another, you are just wasting money.  One of my friends that had exited a start-up gave me some great advice as we started our company.  ‘Never confuse having a product with having a company’, he said.  It was brilliant advice and has value chain balance at its heart.  If you build a better mousetrap, the world will not beat a path to your door.  In fact, the world will probably never know you exist.  If you have no pipeline, hiring people to close deals is a waste of money.

Pay attention to and build specific metrics around your funnel – know the numbers for you and for your industry and stay on top of it!  Keep the operations functions off your critical path by making sure they have the capacity to support your growth – HR, Finance, Facilities, etc.  Force business case discipline on your product and engineering functions (which is not to say don’t place bets, but the business cases force the homework to be done and give you data on which to base the bet, which will lead to better decisions and board-level buy-in).

 

Avoiding Distraction

One of the most insidious things that can happen as you scale is that the world will want to talk to you and your team about your success.  The temptation to do so is pretty irresistible and you should fight it aggressively.  When you start up the steep scaling curve is when the company needs focused leadership the most.  I’ve seen great young companies and budding CEOs get totally derailed by the seduction of publicity that makes them feel good but does nothing for the company, its customers or its team.  Do a couple of carefully curated and well-managed events per quarter and stay focused on your broader objective.

 

I hope this practical approach is useful.  I’m not looking to impress you with clever aphorisms (I have a bunch that perhaps I’ll drop in another blog someday), but rather to give you some super simple, easy-to-implement concepts.  Upward and onward!!

 

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

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

 

About the Author

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

Use Purpose to Help Your People Perform Their Best

This week’s article is by Nell Derick Debevoise, Founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital, a certified B Corp that offers purposeful leadership development content and programming to accelerate the movement of business as a force for good.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Going First: Courage to Lead Purposefully and Inspire Action that aired on Tuesday, January 4th, 2022.

 

The way we work is broken. Workplace trends show that employees are resigning in greater volume than ever, jobs are being created at a slower rate than any of the prior 7 months, and employee wellbeing is flatlining at best. The seeds of employee distrust were planted well before Covid-19 and now they become a problem that no employer can ignore.

Employees used to spend years or entire careers at one company with blind loyalty to the corporate mission. Today employees are looking to belong to a greater purpose and aren’t afraid to jump from job to job until they find one that resonates.

Creating a People-First Workplace

Not only the way we work has changed, but also the work to be done. Technology and globalization mean that employees are doing the work that only people can do, like collaborating, innovating, and empathizing. Employees can only perform these higher-level tasks when they are operating with healthy minds, bodies and spirits.

Gone are the days where employees can be treated as cogs in a wheel, incentivized to produce as much output as possible. Trends in the business landscape met with the simultaneous crises of the 2020’s have shifted power from employers to employees. Employees demand a meaningful work experience. They want to know why they’re doing what they’re being asked to do.

How can companies bring back the magic that makes employees care about their work? Connect them to the purpose of what they’re doing. It is one of the greatest human joys to achieve something larger than ourselves, working in a team towards a common goal.

Living – and working – purposefully means connecting your choices and behavior to something important in the world that you want to achieve. Purpose provides a reason to get you out of bed every morning beyond your own wellbeing or wealth. Companies need to focus on providing purpose as much as other benefits.

Celebrate Purpose in Your Organization

It’s time to throw a party, but this is a different type of party. Free beer and kombucha and promises of Summer Fridays are table stakes. Now employers must empower people to be fulfilled, by guiding them to recognize why the work matters to them as individuals, and the impact it has on people and planet around them.

It’s time to throw a purpose party. According to Marc Spencer, CEO of Summer Search, “A life of purpose is a life of joy! When you understand how your life has meaning, it brings joy, clarity, awareness of aspirations.” A purpose party is the first step to getting below the surface with your employees. It doesn’t take months of planning or a catering budget. It only takes conversations that go deeper than the day-to-day activities of your business.

Like most 2020s parties, set up a zoom link and start a new type of conversation. Choose your favorite party chat opener, like “Can I ask you a weird question?” or “This might sound random, but bear with me.”

And then dive in. Try this, “My best days are when…” Or “I am excited to come to work on Mondays because…”. Ask employees to answer those same questions. Listen, and ask more. It might be awkward at first, but creating the space for these conversations is the first step.

While throwing a purpose party scratches the surface of conversation, it’s important to make this a recurring event. Continue these conversations and questions in other meetings as openers or part of a weekly check-in. It only takes a few catalysts engaging in these types of conversations to help grow the movement. Encourage your party guests to host their own purpose parties with other colleagues around the firm.

It doesn’t take long for positive things to catch fire. As Lorie Yañez, Head of DEI at MassMutual, commented, “We’re at a tipping point. With 50% of leaders at advanced levels of cultural competence, those of us championing an inclusive approach don’t feel alone anymore.” By making purpose a topic of conversation in your immediate circle, you can reach that tipping point.

Start these conversations and watch the benefits accrue. Purpose is the most powerful, and most authentic, motivator out there. Sandi Kronic, CEO at Happy Dirt, says “When I’m in my purpose, it doesn’t even feel like I’m doing anything for anyone else!”

Bring Purpose to your Workplace Today

A purpose party doesn’t need to be a big event. Bringing intentional conversation to your workplace can start with one-on-one conversations or team meetings. Make time to discuss why you do what you do to help everyone remember what brought them each to this work. Engaging employees on their purpose will help them contribute to outcomes that are only achievable when everyone comes together. And that is motivating!

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Nell Derick Debevoise is a thought partner to purpose-driven leaders, as well as speaker, author, and Founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital. Debevoise’s guidance helps CEOs and CHROs expand their impact, grow their businesses, and build powerful legacies. She has lived and worked on 4 continents, and collaborated across sectors with Japanese executives, Palestinian community leaders, French high school students, and Mozambique education ministry officials among others. Debevoise also studied leadership, innovation, and intercultural dialog at Harvard, Cambridge, Universita di Roma, and Columbia and London Business Schools. In 2011, she moved to New York and founded Inspiring Capital, a certified B Corp that offers purposeful leadership development content and programming to accelerate the movement of business as a force for good. Debevoise is a Senior Contributor for Forbes, and her first book, Going First: Find the Courage to Lead Purposefully and Inspire Action (available early 2022) is an International Best Seller.

Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash

Evolving an Iconic Brand

This week’s article was written by Maureen Metcalf.  It is a companion to the interview she conducted with George Limbert, President of Red Roof Inn on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Red Roof Revisioning the Future that aired on Tuesday, December 21st, 2021.

 

Since the pandemic, everyone has been talking about the new normal. The new President of the Red Roof family of brands is proactively evolving how the hotel industry and its brands meet their stakeholder needs in a post-pandemic world.

On August 26, 2021, Red Roof®named George Limbert as President of the company effective immediately. George was the interim President beginning in October of 2020.

George served as Red Roof’s General Counsel for the previous eight years. He was on the core leadership team that guided the company throughout the pandemic. As a result, Red Roof has overcome these challenges as a well-positioned leader in the industry, seeing consistent increases in all performance metrics.

Immediately after being named President, George invited his senior leadership team to look at how they would evolve the brands. He started with the founder’s mission. Next, the team explored how to evolve the strong legacy of this iconic brand to meet the changing needs of all stakeholders.

The founder, Jim Trueman’s Mission was:  To offer clean and comfortable rooms and attentive guest service – and charge less for it.

With the support of an Innovative Leadership Institute facilitator, the team came together and co-created the updated vision.  The new vision is: To provide the best experience and value in the lodging industry for our guests, owners, team members, partners, and communities.

When we look at missions and visions, many think of a group of leaders sitting in a corporate headquarters coming up with nice slogans that are neither realistic nor inspirational. While the senior leaders created the new Red Roof vision, this process differed from most. After developing the vision, several leaders went on a “look and listen” tour of a sample of the 660 hotels to hear from the franchisees and employees. Next, the team participated in two annual franchise conferences, where they spent more time in person with the franchise owners. The next step is a gathering in February with all employees. At each step, the team looked to validate and find holes in the vision to ensure the final version accurately reflected the true promise of the brand family. This process is ongoing, and while brands don’t regularly change their visions, this brand is “stress testing” its vision to ensure it is an accurate and inspirational evolution of the founder’s legacy.

After putting the vision on paper, the leadership team broke into groups to define what that vision would look like as it turned into reality. Some groups focused more on people while others on processes and measures. The result was a consolidated story of how the brands and the organization will evolve. This step is critical in the organizational change process. The leadership team and the organization need to align around the what before identifying and agreeing on the how. They answered a range of questions about culture, processes, measures. These questions ranged from processes related to aligning as a team to how they view and build on quality. Evolving a brand takes a concerted effort by a well-aligned team. The story starts, “Five years from now, we will be an extraordinary reflection of our best selves. We will have grown with purpose because we pooled our greatest strengths: our diverse talent, our culture founded on trust, honesty, transparency, and our iconic brand.”

The Red Roof team will continue to share their evolution as they progress in their transformation. The Innovative Leadership Institute is honored to support this iconic brand’s evolution.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO, the Innovative Leadership Institute, is dedicated to elevating the quality of leaders globally.

 

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

 

Business Leaders: Don’t Be Afraid of Gen Z

This week’s article was originally published by AnneMarie Hayek (Evans) for Forbes Business Council on November 9, 2021.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Power and Promise of Generation Z Part 2 that aired on Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

 

The past few years have been some of the most turbulent in living memory. My consulting work with dozens of companies has shown me that, beyond economic and political uncertainty, many business leaders are also afraid of Gen Z. What’s behind this fear?

It turns out there are several factors. When business leaders look at Zs, they see a generation that isn’t afraid to publicly take powerful people to task, or boycott organizations for misappropriating words and cultures. They fear the change Zs around the world demand. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, they worry they’ll become Gen Z targets too.

Many of the business leaders I talk to are uncertain about how to interact with this volatile generation. This may be true for you, too. But to thrive in the world Zs are creating, you cannot be afraid of them. You must learn to engage with them on their terms, or you will be left behind.

The Myth Of “Cancel Culture”

It’s easy to read stories about Zs calling out powerful people and assume Zs are hellbent on creating “cancel culture.” However, that misses the point of what Zs are trying to do. Zs are focused on accountability, not canceling. Their goal is to get us to critically examine our culture and systems to find ways to improve them and make them more inclusive.

Through their devices and platforms like TikTok, Zs have had a front-row seat to the biggest issues facing our world since childhood. They witness the raw, gritty, diverse lived experiences of other Zs all over the world firsthand, every single day.

Because of this, they aren’t afraid to engage in difficult conversations among diverse perspectives. In my experience, Zs don’t self-select into echo chambers the way older generations tend to do online. They seek to engage broadly and are not shy about holding everyone (including each other) accountable.

Many organizations find this uncomfortable. If they want to succeed, though, companies must get used to it, because, unlike prior generations, Zs want to engage on a deep level. Zs view calling a company or an individual out as an invitation for a real, crucial discussion. They won’t settle for the trite, superficial sound bites prior generations often accepted. They know it can be uncomfortable, but they believe engaging in critical discourse is the only way to make things better for everyone.

The Upside To Engaging Zs

Gen Zs often feel dismissed because of their youth. But trivializing them is a mistake. Collectively, Gen Z is huge: They’ve surpassed Millennials in numbers. They’ve amplified their immense size with digital unity and an incredible ability to mobilize. And, despite having a median age of 17, Zs’ spending power is $143 billion.

Zs aren’t afraid to use their power to hold companies accountable. In 2019, for example, they called out Victoria’s Secret for failing to represent body and gender diversity. When then-CEO Leslie Wexner refused to make changes, the backlash affected Victoria’s Secret sales.

When companies get it right, though, the benefits are tremendous. Take Aerie, American Eagle’s underwear line: They are body-positive, featuring user-generated content of real customers with a range of bodies wearing their underwear. They are demonstrating the kind of inclusivity Zs value, and Zs have rewarded Aerie with 26 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth.

How To Engage With Zs

Understanding the importance of engaging with Zs is one thing. Knowing how to do that is something else entirely. Luckily, though, the process isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

First, give Zs meaningful representation in your company. Remember, they want a real seat at the table. Take the social platform company Triller, for example. It hired the successful 18-year-old social media creator Josh Richards as their Chief Strategy Officer. The team knew there was nobody better than a Z to help them compete with their main rival, TikTok. Their savvy move helped bring them exponential growth.

Second, engage your Z audience as co-creators. They’ve been creating on TikTok, YouTube, Minecraft and more since they were young, so they value unfettered creativity. It may feel strange at first, but giving up some control and letting them co-create your content will demonstrate how much you respect and value them and their input.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask Zs questions. Want to know how to use TikTok in a way that resonates with Zs? Ask them. Wondering how you can demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity without coming across as fake? Zs will tell you.

Working with an advisory board composed of Zs is an especially smart move, because it allows you to get their input on every decision you make. Engaging with Zs like this is a great way to avoid “tokenism” (the symbolic appearance of inclusion) and other similar missteps.

Embrace What Zs Have To Offer

There’s no question that Zs have a far different outlook than prior generations. However, once you realize Zs aren’t “cancel culture” zealots whose only goal in life is to tear our systems down, you can start engaging with them on a meaningful level.

Give them a seat at the table. Start involving them as co-creators with your brand and your products. And start asking them questions. Be willing to go below the surface and engage in deep, meaningful discourse with them. I promise you: Zs are not your enemy. There is no reason to fear them, and every reason to engage with and embrace them.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

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

Photo by Benjamin Ranger on Unsplash

Disposable Housing and the Circular Economy

This week’s article is provided by Dr. John A. Kilpatrick, an economist specializing in real estate investment and housing issues. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled What Leaders Need to Know About Circular Economy that aired on Tuesday, December 7th, 2021.

 

There is an economics story making the rounds about the coal miner and the coal mine owner each buying a new pair of work boots. A cheap pair costs $5 and will last a season. A better pair will cost $20 and last five seasons. Unfortunately, the coal miner is never able to squeeze together $20, and so each season is only able to buy a $5 pair. The coal mine owner, of course, can afford the better pair. At the end of 5 years, the coal miner has spent more money than the boss ($25 versus $20) and has thrown away 5 pairs of used boots.

We have a not dissimilar problem at the heart of the world’s very significant housing crisis. It is most obviously manifested in the lack of housing affordability but is inextricably tied to the life-cycle wastage in housing resources.

Globally, housing now costs an economically unsustainable portion of a working person’s budget. Inseparable from housing affordability is housing availability. At the bottom rung of the economic ladder, housing is simply not to be had. Gregg Colburn, a real estate professor at the University of Washington, has done ground-breaking empirical research into the homeless problem to arrive at an extraordinarily simple finding – cities with the most expensive housing have the most significant problems with homelessness.

Attempts to address the problem since World War II may have actually made the problem worse and almost certainly violated the principles of a circular economy. For example, after WW-II, in the UK, vast arrays of temporary “modular” housing was constructed to address the immediate shortages. These homes were designed to have 10-year life spans, but in many corners of the UK these flimsy dwellings are still standing. As an ironic side note, many of these pre-fabs contained asbestos, lead-based paint, and other structural problems. In the US, many modular units such as mobile homes were purposely built to the most cost-cutting standards and had significantly foreshortened lifespans and lack of future adaptability compared to traditional stick-built, site-built homes. Interestingly enough, these flimsy substitutes were considered the new modern convenience in the 1950’s and promoted in movies such as the Lucile Ball – Desi Arnez hit, “The Long, Long Trailer.”

In Japan, the problem has been exacerbated by stylistic choices. Newer homes have been highly preferred to older homes. Japan saw a wave of post-war construction, but “new” and “modern” became more fashionable, and each passing decade has seen older homes become valueless in as short as 20-30 years. As such, homes in Japan are not built to last, and in some suburban towns, homes built in the 1960’s are no longer standing.

Apartment dwelling has proven to be no solution, and in fact has contributed to the wastage problem. Post-war apartment buildings were often constructed with 30-40 year economic lives. After that, the cost of replacing mechanical systems, tired or failed window and door systems, and overall heightened maintenance favors tear-down and replacement rather than rehabilitation.

This race to the bottom in housing quality and the shortening of the economic lifespan of housing inevitably drives up the long-term cost of providing adequate housing to a growing population. While short-life-span housing may have an attractive up-front cost, the need for regular replacement drives up the cost and saps resources. In short, workers needing a roof over their heads have been forced to invest in the housing equivalent of $5, disposable boots.

At the core of the concept of a circular economy is the notion of reducing the price consumption by extending the lifespan of the goods consumed, in this case, housing. Finding a sustainable, circular solution to the simultaneous problems of housing cost and housing lifespans will not be simple. For one, health and safety standards today mandate materials and systems that were either unknown or had unacceptable substitutes in past generations. Examples include adequate and cost-efficient heating, cooling, and ventilation, window and door systems that contribute to energy efficiency, improved sanitary facilities, and kitchen and utility appliances that optimize the time spent on cooking and cleaning. These systems have short life spans, and remodeling/rehab have not proven to be efficient solutions in the past.

There is however significant research underway. The 2016 African Real Estate Society Conference, held in Addis Ababa, was devoted to sustainable development. Architecture and design researchers from universities in the Netherlands are presently working with colleagues in Malaysia where housing demand and affordability are nearing crisis levels. By designing future flexibility into housing units, they hope to simultaneously conquer the affordability problem for younger consumers, the space availability problems of growing families, and even the downsizing issues of empty nesters. Researchers in Australia and Germany are focusing on the results of the 100 Resilient Cities Program (100RC) developed by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2013, which aims for “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience”.

The Houseful Project, sponsored by Housing Europe, kicked off in 2019 with three themes related to housing and the circular economy: Integration of circular solutions in energy efficiency, further development of feasible circular economy business opportunities in the housing sector, and identifying buildings that are willing to implement some of the tested solutions. These solutions include, but are not limited to, containment of materials wastage in the construction process, improvement in the handling of wastewater, and energy conservation.

Australia has been a focal point for much of the research on this topic. In that country alone, over 20 million tons of waste from the construction industry are sent to landfills each year. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and several other universities, with funding from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, hopes to address these and related issues and help guide that country’s housing production toward increased sustainability. Finally, just this month at Canada’s McGill University, researchers held a webinar to address the problem of information silos related to housing and the circular economy, and to find ways to more efficiently share data and methods.

Housing faces real problems in affordability and availability. Increasingly, the housing sector is recognizing that adopting the precepts of a circular economy is a way of holistically addressing these issues.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Dr. John A. Kilpatrick is an economist specializing in real estate investment and housing issues.  He is Managing Director of Greenfield Advisors, based in Seattle, and also serves as a Director of the Washington State Economic Development Finance Authority. Is an author or contributing author of 10 books, most recently Real Estate Valuation and Strategy (McGraw Hill, 2020).

 

Photo by Marcus Lenk on Unsplash

2021 Top 10 Interviews on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future

As we enter into the last month of 2021, we at the Innovative Leadership Institute want to take a moment to look back at the year and recap what interviews have stood out to our listeners.

We also want to extend a big THANK YOU to every subscriber of this newsletter for trusting us with your time and helping to grow this newsletter to over 73,000 subscribers in 15 months.

Our passion is to bring you thought leaders in the area of leadership, to share an article written by those who have looked at a situation differently, solved a problem others face as well, researched and analyzed a facet of leadership, or gave us something to contemplate.  We strive to bring you timely interviews by these same people so you can hear their thoughts on leadership and provide you the opportunity to learn from others, implement new ideas, and upskill your leadership.

Today’s article is a countdown list of the top 10 most listened to shows of 2021.  Links to each of the shows are included for ease in accessing this valuable content.  The links direct you to the Voice America platform but any of the shows can be accessed via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

  1. Sponsorship and Being Sponsored (8/17/2021)with Ricky Robinson and Keith Powell, both of C-Crets, a career advice platform offering career coaching services, online courses, and topical content through blogs and a podcast.

The leadership journey can be a challenging one with unseen challenges that ruin reputations. Skilled people can be left wondering what went wrong if they don’t have effective sponsorship. These challenges are even more pronounced for underrepresented people in leadership roles. Ricky Robinson and Keith Powell of C-Certs will talk about the importance of having a sponsor and of being sponsor-ready.

 

  1. Management Vs. Leadership: How Coaching Skills Make a Difference (5/25/2021) with Jonathan Reitz, an executive coach and CoachNet FLUXIFY’s Director for Training/CEO.

Coaching skills are not just for the life coach or the executive coach, they are every leader’s secret weapon. Managers can become the leaders that are needed when they understand how to use coaching skills that put the development of their team as the top priority and multiply their impact. Want to move from managing your team to leading your team? Coaching skills are the key. Jonathan Reitz joins Maureen to share how managers can move toward leading by learning some simple coaching behaviors.

 

  1. The Science of Dream Teams (9/14/2021) with Mike Zani, author and CEO of The Predictive Index, a talent optimization platform that uses over 60 years of proven science and software to help businesses design high-performing teams and cultures.

Sophisticated assessments, data, and software are giving CEOs and managers within any organization or industry detailed insights into human behavior. As CEO of The Predictive Index, Mike Zani has witnessed firsthand how the application of data and science can impact, and completely change, the way we function in our professional lives. In his new book, THE SCIENCE OF DREAM TEAMS: How Talent Optimization Can Drive Engagement, Productivity, and Happiness, Zani details a data-driven approach to talent strategy that makes hiring, motivating, and managing people more efficient and effective than ever. Mike joins the show to share his research on how to build a dream team.

 

  1. Applying the Innovative Leadership Concepts (7/27/2021) with Tom Grote, the chief catalyst for the Edge Innovation Hub, and Christoph Hinske, an associate professor at the School of Finance and Accounting at SAXION University of Applied Sciences, covering Systems Leadership and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.

Several of the Innovative Leadership Institute’s certified facilitators join the show to share how they have taken the concepts that they learned from a 9-month program and applied them to their business functions. Tom Grote and Christoph Hinske joined Maureen to discuss how they have extended the program content and built a values-based systems mapping that helped shape both of their professional and personal journeys.

 

  1. The Essentials of Theory U (2/23/2021) with Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer at MIT and co-founder of the Presencing Institute.

Theory U blends systems thinking, innovation, and leading change from the viewpoint of an evolved human consciousness. Otto Scharmer joins Maureen to discuss his latest book: The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications, a book that meets a crucial need during this point in history in helping us bring necessary changes to our foundational systems from a place of deep consciousness and perspective-taking from all key stakeholders – including the future as a key stakeholder.

 

  1. Flex: The Art and Science (9/21/2021) with Jeffrey Hull, author and CEO of Leadershift, Inc., a leadership development consultancy based in New York City.

In the past, to move up the corporate ladder and succeed at the top, you simply had to set goals, motivate the troops, delegate to underlings, and groom a successor. Now, if they are leading a team, chances are that they are managing a kaleidoscope of people from a variety of cultures, across a range of ages, all of whom are wired together 24/7. These changing demographics and structures have led to a seismic shift in terms of the tools needed to successfully manage and grow within a company: charisma and strategic thinking abilities now matter less than qualities such as vulnerability and relatability. Jeffrey Hull joins the show to discuss the research he has done on the art and science of leadership in a changing world that is featured in his book, Flex.

 

  1. Mental Toughness: How to Embrace Stress for Greater Success (7/6/2021) with Colonel Deb Lewis, a retired Army Colonel, a West Point graduate, and a Harvard MBA.

Women (and men) face unhealthy stress and anxiety daily – it’s a wonder they’re still standing. Too few of us have stress tools powerful enough to put stress to work for us so we can enjoy the journey. Once you’ve learned how to be mentally tough, you will use stress to your advantage. It becomes your superpower! Colonel Deb Lewis joins the show to share her experiences and how you can learn to effectively use stress to your advantage.

 

  1. The Power and Promise of Generation Z (10/5/2021) with Anne Marie Hayek, a cultural consultant, generational expert, and social agitator who deeply understands society’s evolutions. She founded and leads two companies, Global Mosaic and ZSpeak, with a passion for navigating the cultural movements shaping our world.

AnneMarie Hayek joins Maureen to share about her new book, Generation We. In this book, she joins forces with thousands of Zs to tell their powerful story—one that impacts all of us. From new ideas on capitalism, politics, and climate change to education, gender, race, and work, AnneMarie explains how Gen Z thinks, what they envision, and why we should be hopeful. Zs are not naïve idealists. They’re hardened realists with a bold vision for how we can transition, re-create, and progress. Generation We is your invitation to see the future they will create as it’s unfolding.

 

  1. The Future Leader: Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade (1/12/2021) with Jacob Morgan, 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.

There has been a lot written about leadership for the present day, but the world is changing quickly. What worked in the past won’t work in the future. We need to know how to prepare leaders who can successfully navigate and guide us through the next decade and beyond. How is leadership changing, and why? How ready are leaders today for these changes? What should leaders do now? To answer these questions, Jacob interviewed over 140 CEOs and partnered with LinkedIn to survey almost 14,000 of their members around the globe to see how CEO insights align with employee perspectives. Jacob joins the show to share insights he gained from this research.

 

  1. Becoming a Better Leader: Daily Leadership Development (2/9/2021) with Ron Riggio, the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College. He is the author of more than a dozen books and more than 100 research articles and book chapters in the areas of leadership, organizational psychology, and social psychology.

“Great leaders are great learners” is often quoted but how can leaders implement this into their very hectic day? Ron has created a year-long leadership development guidebook that offers day-by-day instruction in short excerpts to provide leaders with the knowledge and practical application ideas. Ron joins the show to discuss his new book “Daily Leadership Development,” his lifetime achievement award, and his views on the current state of leadership.

 

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

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

 

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

Why Meeting Efficiency Should be Your Goal for 2022

This week’s article is provided by Darren Chait, the Founder and COO of Hugo. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled How Collaboration Is Changing and Modern Team Dynamics that aired on Tuesday, November 23rd.

 

Meeting culture and company culture are tightly related—in fact how a company meets is a good indicator of the company culture as a whole. Effective meetings are indicators of effective companies, and an indicator of the respect that employees have for one another. Fortunately, there are many straightforward practices to improve meeting effectiveness that lead to a dramatically better working environment.

Most companies won’t be as strict as Hugo, which sets a standard of no more than 10% of employees’ time in internal meetings, but it’s a good exercise to try. However, with years of experience in creating software that streamlines meetings—and what happens in between—Hugo can speak authoritatively on the kinds of practices that any organization can implement.

Meetings: Only when needed

The first rule of effective meetings is to call meetings only when needed, and only with the people who are needed. Synchronous meetings should be limited to the “Three Ds”: Debate, Decision-making, and Discussion. Status updates, reporting and other routine information sharing can be done in asynchronous channels, such as Slack, e-mail, Notion, Miro, and Google Docs. Likewise, quick check-ins and questions can be done through chat, voice messages, video recordings, like Loom, or even by simply picking up the phone.

While two years ago, this rule of thumb could be implemented quite strictly, since more people are working from home or remotely, using a strict system for meetings can end up neglecting some of the human interactions that people need to develop deeper trust within an organization. Technologies such as Teamflow can create an “in-office” environment for remote teams. Other companies have developed explicit practices such as virtual happy hours or regular check-ins in small groups or pairs. Especially with the level of stress many people are feeling due to the global situation or isolation at home, it’s important for managers to work in processes for ensuring that people are cared for. The companies with the highest retention rates and productivity are those where employees feel the company cares about them.

The right combination of synchronous and asynchronous methods will increase the efficiency across the organization. High-touch asynchronous methods such as video and voice recordings can help teams communicate effectively across time zones without losing the nuances of facial expressions and tone of voice.

Tracking to keep on track

Two common problems with meetings are the lack of structure and the lack of follow-up of action items. While people know that they “should” have an agenda, notes and action items, most companies do not have any specific procedures in place for making sure that happens.

Hugo formalizes and operationalizes the agenda, note-taking, follow-up and action-item assignment for meetings, while at the same time retaining flexibility. Most companies will use multiple types of meeting templates.

Daily stand-ups, retros, strategy meetings and one-on-ones have different structures. In fact, in interviews with managers we found that they often mix it up when it comes to one-on-ones with their team members, alternating between the manager setting the agenda and the employee setting the agenda. With group meetings, it makes sense to give everyone the opportunity to list agenda items or even comment on other people’s agenda items. With a transparent structure for meeting planning, it may turn out that some of the agenda items get resolved among a subset of the meeting members, even before the meeting takes place.

Transparent by default

With the rapid shifts in technology and culture, modern companies have found that transparency leads to greater efficiency. By making information known throughout the organization, solutions to problems can come from anywhere in the organization.

Meetings are no exception—looking at someone’s calendar tells you a lot about what they are doing with their work day. Having transparency into the meeting agenda and notes gives people within the organization a quick view into what their colleagues are up to. While it’s not necessary for everyone to see everything throughout the organization, access to that information is part of the company culture and leads to employees taking a higher level of responsibility.

As managers move from status meetings to team meetings that highlight brainstorming and problem-solving, having visibility throughout the organization can create a richer environment for creative solutions and proactive solutions. This goes one step beyond asking team members to come up with solutions—it allows them to have a view of the entire organization and contribute across teams.

Meeting note transparency also provides rigor in terms of understanding how and why decisions were made. Needless to say, many decisions turn out to be incorrect, and having excellent meeting notes can allow people to go back and find out why they made that decision. Rather than relying on people’s memory, meeting summaries allow an honest review of the decision-making methodology and logic, helping the organization to avoid repeating the same mistakes or making the same types of incorrect assumptions.

The takeaways for more efficient meetings

Meetings will always be an important part of working together. These best practices  will boost meeting effectiveness and employee satisfaction, and contribute to a positive company culture:

  • Hold synchronous meetings only for the Three Ds: Debate, Decision-making and Discussion
  • Use asynchronous communications for updates, reporting and quick questions
  • Set up an agenda document prior to meetings, and allow all participants to review and contribute to the agenda
  • Utilize templates for each type of meetings for fast agenda-making, note-taking and follow up
  • Integrate meeting note-taking and action items with the existing project management tools in the organization
  • Use “open by default” documentation, allowing everyone at the organization to view meeting agendas, summaries and action items
  • Try creating an upper limit of 10-20% for internal meeting time

The most effective way to implement these types of changes is to use a meeting productivity hub such as Hugo. Whether you use automation or implement these changes through workarounds, you’ll see rapid changes in your company efficiency as you maximize the impact of your company meetings.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Darren Chait is the Co-founder and COO of Hugo.  Starting his career as a corporate lawyer in sunny Sydney, Australia he made the move to San Francisco to start Hugo with a longtime friend, following years of shared frustrations with unproductive meetings. Darren also writes for Quartz, The Next Web, Thrive Global and numerous blogs, has appeared on well-known podcasts and speaks at conferences around the world.

Moving the Needle for Your Organization

This week’s article is provided by Pete Martin, the Founder and CEO of AskMyBoard. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled One Big Idea: Helping Leaders Focus and Grow Their Organization that aired on Tuesday, November 16th.

 

“I would be a terrible employee!”

This is precisely what I told the Vice Chairman of KPMG when I sold my consulting firm to them in 2014. To get to that point of a successful exit, I decided to focus on only one “big idea” per month. Without this level of focus, I would never have had that meeting. Let me explain.

We live in an age of distraction. We are bombarded with interruptions from co-workers, email, inbound calls, the crisis of the day, not to mention personal obligations. So as a leader, how do you focus on what really matters – those activities that move the needle in your organization and make a measurable difference.

Our recommendation is to focus on one, and only one, “big idea” per month.

Leaders of growing companies are pulled in a thousand different directions from “fire-fighting” activities to those strategic tasks you never seem to get around to working on. And if you are struggling to focus on the right set of priorities, how can your team members understand what is truly important in growing the business?

There are countless books written about time management, so that’s not the focus here. Nor is getting into detail about how to decide what your focus should be. But we do suggest you develop enough of a strategic execution plan that you can objectively choose the most critical levers to drive your growth, then ensure that you are spending at least some time on it every day. Many well-meaning advisors promote “growth strategies,” which is well and good, but what you focus on every day – the actual execution – is what matters the most. A good strategy without effective implementation is a map to nowhere.

In our work at AskMyBoard as a strategic advisory firm, we work with business owners that struggle with “what to work on next.” As an outside observer, it is often is easier for us to see through the fog of daily priorities of our clients to identify the handful of activities that will propel the business forward faster.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, I was the CEO of a professional services company I sold to KPMG for 12 times EBIDTA – and no earn-out. What enabled me to accomplish this was the realization that I was too involved in the day-to-day running of the business, especially in client acquisition. It wasn’t until I made extracting myself my single focus did the company start to grow and flourish.

My “big idea” that I worked on for six months was unshackling the constraints to scaling by implementing streamlined and consistent processes that didn’t have me at the center of them. I identified all areas where we didn’t have a documented process or where I was too deeply involved. I committed to spending some time every day to “fix” these constraints.

I can tell you that it was both a blow to my ego and a huge relief that when I took myself out of selling every client, the business grew faster. When I sold my business to KPMG, the deal almost fell apart because it was the first and only time that KPMG acquired a firm where the CEO didn’t go with the deal. When we discussed that the entire selling process, organization, and operations didn’t involve me personally and that if I went with the sale, “I’d be a terrible employee,” we were able to close the deal – without me as part of it.

Our firm helps business owners improve all eight drivers of company value, but we tend to spend the most time focusing on the top three; team, cash flow, and customer acquisition. We have developed a few “big ideas” that move the needle across each of these drivers, and we encourage our business leaders to spend time every day focused on at least one of them.

For example, finding and retaining great employees is increasingly difficult, so we have been helping companies refine their approaches to recruiting, hiring, and retaining a fully engaged workforce – even if those team members are part-timers or freelancers.

One big idea that is paying off for our clients is to approach recruiting employees as strategically as finding new customers. Very few companies have identified the specific values that best align with the company’s culture. Most companies will either copy and paste a job description from the internet, list the dozens of skills and credentials that the candidate must have, or create a bland and generic description of the role that wouldn’t excite anyone to join your company.

Get this right by developing an ‘ideal employee avatar.’  Analyze the personal values of your best employees and create a position description that focuses first on the “why” someone should join your company and then the set of values that someone should have to be a successful team member. By doing this, you’ll most likely attract a bigger pool of candidates and, most importantly, one that will align with your company culture. The best example of this and the most effective recruiting ad I’ve seen in a long time is from Amazon. Check it out here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZIQXEqveCY.

I understand that very few companies can afford to offer what Amazon does in this commercial, but I think it is one of the most spot-on recruiting ads in terms of speaking to the needs and desires of a potential employee. Hire first for values aligned with your culture, then core competencies, then any skills truly needed to succeed in the role. If your recruiting is as focused on how your company and the specific role meet the needs and desires of a potential employee as effectively as the commercial, you will attract a pool of qualified candidates.

In summary, what you do matters and sends clear signals to the rest of the organization about what is important. So pick the right things to work on each day.

 

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

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

About the Author

Pete Martin is the Founder and CEO of AskMyBoard, a company focused on helping business owners unleash their business’s highest potential value to grow faster and more profitably to put you in a position to exit at the highest price or confidently detach from the business. As a serial entrepreneur, Pete has started, scaled, and successfully exited four previous companies, including his last to KPMG for 12 times EBIDTA and no earn-out.

 

Photo by Kurt Liebhaeuser on Unsplash