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

Honesty is a Muscle You have to Work At to Be Good At

This week’s article is provided by Ron Carucci, is co-founder and managing partner at Navalent. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled To Be Honest: Lead with the Power of Truth, Justice and Purpose that aired on Tuesday, November 9th. The following article has been adapted from Ron’s book  To Be Honest: Lead with the Power of Truth, Justice & Purpose.

 

Of all my findings, the revelation that honesty is more than a character trait or moral principle was the most important. It’s more than an aspiration; it’s a capability. To be good at it, you have to work at it. And that begins with believing you can be better at it than you currently are.

To be sure, leading this kind of life and team takes work. It demands practice. Embodying truth, justice, and purpose requires real competence. These aren’t just ethical qualities you either have or don’t. My research revealed that honesty is a muscle, and like any muscle, to make it strong you have to work on it. Regularly. When an athlete leaves the gym or a patient leaves physical therapy, they feel sore but satisfied. Becoming good at honesty is no different. When you declare that you and your organization wish to serve a worthy purpose, you have to eliminate the distractions and contradictions that keep you from doing so. This process takes insight, ongoing feedback, and creativity. It takes grit to deflect the naysayers and courage to remove the obstacles.

When you set out to create a more just organization, you will be tampering with deeply embedded institutional biases that, likely unknowingly, have privileged some people over others. You have to be willing to interrogate your processes of accountability—what you measure, how you acknowledge contributions, how you create opportunities for others to advance and shine, and how you talk with those you lead about their contributions—to make sure everyone has the same chances of being successful, no matter who they are. That may require disappointing some people who’ve benefited from the biases in the old system and helping them recognize the need to create accountability that is based on dignity and justice for all. It means being vulnerable with those you lead and building sufficient trust with them, as only then will you be in a position to hold them to account for commitments they make and talk openly about when they fall short. And you have to model what it means to acknowledge your own shortfalls and improve.

There are plenty of platitudes I could offer about why being more honest and just is “good for you,” though you’ve undoubtedly heard those since kindergarten. But I deeply believe that understanding the conditions under which we, and our organizations, encourage dishonesty and injustice can bring greater levels of contribution and satisfaction, and ultimately meaning. I want you to discover, painful though it might be, the ways your organization unknowingly encourages employees to withhold or distort the truth or act unjustly, and how to fix the conditions that create this behavior. From there, you will be much more empowered to make different choices. And, as you will see, choosing truth, justice and purpose can make you and your organization healthier, higher-performing and significantly more competitive, and ultimately, more joyful.

In the end, my hope is that To Be Honest will help you live a more honest life—one in which you tell the truth, act with justice toward others, and live your purpose with deep satisfaction and impact. I have no intention of defining your moral compass or value system; that’s yours to do. But I want you to feel proud of the people and organizations you lead, knowing that you’ve created the conditions in which people will choose honesty. That way, when you return home at night, you’ll be able to look your loved ones in the eye and know you are exactly the person they believe you are.

What you will find on the pages of To Be Honest is the roadmap for doing just that.

 

Read my new book To Be Honest: Lead with the Power of Truth, Justice & Purpose and download our free How Honest is my Team? assessment here

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Ron Carucci is co-founder and managing partner at Navalent, working with CEOs and executives pursuing transformational change for their organizations, leaders, and industries. He has a thirty-year track record helping executives tackle challenges of strategy, organization and leadership.  From start-ups to Fortune 10’s, non-profits to heads-of-state, turn-arounds to new markets and strategies, overhauling leadership and culture to re-designing for growth.  He has helped organizations articulate strategies that lead to accelerated growth, and design organizations that can execute those strategies. He has worked in more than 25 countries on 4 continents.  He is the author of 9 books, including the recent Amazon #1 Rising to Power and the forthcoming To Be Honest, Lead with the Power of Truth, Justice & Purpose. He is a popular contributor to the Harvard Business Review, where Navalent’s work on leadership was named one of 2016’s management ideas that mattered most. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes, and a two-time TEDx speaker. His work’s been featured in Fortune, CEO Magazine, Inc., BusinessInsider, MSNBC, Business Week, Inc., Fast Company, Smart Business, and thoughtleaders.

3 Industries Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Over the Next Decade

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

 

Artificial intelligence as a field has existed in one form or another for centuries, but only in the past decade or so has it reached the critical point of going mainstream. No longer confined to science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) is at work behind Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s search engine, and many other technologies we use every day.

These applications of AI, while exciting, are only the beginning. Over the next decade, we can expect AI to transform many industries, including these three: agriculture, manufacturing, and the military.

Now that the Pandora’s box of AI has been opened, there are very few fields that artificial intelligence won’t affect in the near future. We’ll never stop finding new ways to add intelligence to dumb processes or inanimate objects.

With this transformation comes the chance to invest in and adopt these new technologies, but to seize the opportunity, you’ll have to first understand what to expect from the shifting landscape of industries.

Industry #1: Agriculture

The first industry worth exploring in relation to the rise of artificial intelligence is agriculture. Historically the largest industry, agriculture has long been in the crosshairs of innovative technologies. From plowshares to cotton gins to factory farming and GMOs, each innovation seems to increase yield and decrease the number of people required to work in this grueling sector. The influence of AI is expected to be no different.

One way AI will reduce required labor is through monitoring of soil and crop conditions and targeted deployment of solutions. For example, John Deere announced the acquisition of a company that leverages machine-learning vision systems to automatically spray weed killer directly onto plants, reducing herbicide use by 90 percent.

Several other companies, such as ecoRobotix, are creating chemical-free, mechanical weed-pulling robots. Many of these robots are also capable of targeted insecticide deployment, helping stave off many of the unintended consequences of overspraying, such as bee colony collapse. And speaking of bees, there’s now a pollinating robot called BrambleBee. Furthermore, nearly 90 percent of crop losses are due to weather-related events, and the task of weather prediction is tailor-made for big data and machine learning.

Monitoring all the details of million-hectare farmlands is daunting work for humans yet perfect for machines, which is why you can expect to see a massive intersection between AI and agriculture in the coming decade.

Industry #2: Manufacturing

Next, let’s take a high-level look at how AI will impact manufacturing. Even in the early 1950s, automation was taking over manufacturing tasks in Henry Ford’s automobile factories. Our collective and persistent fear of automation goes back even further—just look at the Luddites of 1811, who famously destroyed high-tech cotton mills.

It’s true that automation, along with outsourcing, has contributed to a decrease in manufacturing jobs in first world nations. Still, over 8 percent of Americans earn a living in the manufacturing industry, which is over 11 percent of US GDP. Much of the technology needed to automate the remaining jobs currently exists: robotic arms, logistics machinery, quality control systems, and the like. So how will AI change things?

The introduction of AI into manufacturing takes automation to the next level by turning expensive specialty robots into general purpose cobots, or collaborative robots. Rather than huge, clunky welding robots, blind to the world and programmed for a narrow range of tasks, cobots can be taught many different tasks, retooling themselves automatically.

Cobots are also aware of their surroundings, capable of working side by side with humans on complex tasks. This allows cobots to slowly ease their way into a workspace and take over more work, limited only by an exponentially growing intelligence. Cobots may not be able to do all tasks, but they can do enough to bend that 8 percent of jobs down a few points while reducing waste, cost, and overhead.

Industry #3: Military

Lastly, artificial intelligence will undoubtedly transform the military. For the military, AI poses a siren song that’s too attractive to ignore: perfect knowledge of world events from governments to battlefields, paired with robots that bend the casualties on your side toward zero.

AI can better support troops by improving training systems and creating novel curricula for war games. It can provide smart weapons and better intelligence, along with the more pedestrian benefits of industry, like optimizing logistic challenges in the world’s most challenging situations, or helping troops with maintenance tasks.

Autonomous weapons are increasingly augmented with AI, such as smart-camera-controlled tactical missiles. Even if control ultimately remains in human hands, the myriad of complexities that would take humans years to learn can be partially automated, allowing operation from fewer specialist hands, like flying attack drones. Moreover, the ability to correctly detect targets can drastically reduce collateral damage and innocent deaths.

These are only a few straightforward examples and may not even scratch the surface of the many uses for AI in the military. At the very least, increasing automation may allow countries to shrink their military budgets in favor of more civilian expenditures.

The Time to Invest in AI is Now

I’ve only scratched the surface of how AI will transform agriculture, manufacturing, and the military, and as you can see, the potential uses for the technology are myriad. Artificial intelligence is already making an impact on our daily lives and most profitable industries, and its influence will continue to grow.

Even if you don’t work directly in tech, now is the time to get involved in the AI revolution. Historically, the people and companies that profit the most from emerging technologies are the ones who adapt and invest in them early. Moreover, these early adopters drive further adoption of the technologies, forcing everyone else to catch up.

You can get involved by learning more about how artificial intelligence will transform your industry, whether you work in agriculture, manufacturing, the military, or practically any other industry—AI is coming to disrupt them all. Prepare to be the first among your competitors to implement new AI solutions in your business, and like Amazon, Apple, and Google, you’ll position yourself to win.

 

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

 

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

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

 

About the Author

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

 

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

 

 

 

How Leadership Has the Power to Unite and Inspire

This week’s article was originally published by Maureen Metcalf for Forbes Coaches Council on February 12, 2021.  It is a companion to the interview with Janet Fouts on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Recognizing & Managing Triggers in Challenging Situations that aired on Tuesday, October 26th, 2021.

 

As leaders, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help our employees and organizations transcend personal differences and better align with our organization’s purpose. Leadership research out of Christopher Newport University suggests that political differences are a more significant sticking point, as only 28% say they are comfortable with a leader who holds opposing views, and only 34% would follow such a leader.

This data suggests that during a time of political division, organizations will struggle to accomplish their missions. Leaders need to help employees align with the organization’s purpose and values and transcend their differences.

I will use my organization as an example because we have colleagues with significantly different political views. We are working to find common ground that allows us to work together respectfully while honoring our differences as a path to providing greater value for our clients.

I imagine some people read this and think it sounds soft — that we need to tell people what to do and they will follow. I respect that the leader-follower relationship looks different for different leaders.

Here are some of the key leadership traits that can be tapped to inspire and unite those with different worldviews.

Be professionally humble: Care more about the organization’s success than your personal image.

As a professionally humble leader, I am committed to my organization’s purpose above all else. I have been revisiting my purpose as the CEO and asking myself if I am still committed to it. Next, am I living it? I work with an exceptional team, and they can tell when I am disingenuous with myself and with them. Next, I need to be clear about my values and the organization’s values and make sure we live them. I recently updated our purpose and values on our website. This exercise of publicly posting them creates accountability. I also asked my team to review and help revise them to know what they are and how they fit for us.

Unwavering commitment to right action: Be unstoppable and unflappable when on a mission.

Right action is an interesting phrase. Right, according to who? I believe our purpose and values help us determine what is right, but this is not enough. We need to engage with one another and have honest conversations — some are not easy.

We are also starting to talk about right today versus right to create the future we want to see. We are asking about the longer-term implications of our current actions. By looking through this lens, we can see where our focus is changing. We can be more disciplined in our choices and actions and eliminate some activities that require time and energy.

Be a 360-degree thinker: Take a systems view and see the interconnectedness of people and systems.

Like most organizations, we are facing changes in the work we deliver and how we work together. As we look at these changes, we evaluate the overall systems and how the changes will move us toward meeting our purpose and values or how they will move us away.

Be intellectually versatile: Commit to lifelong learning.

With the increased level of discord brought on by political polarization and the global pandemic, we are trying to understand our colleague’s perspectives. We also need to understand changing global trends. In some cases, we have worked together for decades and have not explored our colleague’s values. It is easy to focus on the work and not understand a valued colleague’s suffering because we don’t want to discuss taboo topics such as politics.

I suggest that we might want to seek to understand — to use the Steven Covey phrase. I am not suggesting we delve into political debates but instead ask the colleagues we value and respect probing questions with deep regard for their challenges, hopes and fears.

Be authentic and reflective: Focus on personal growth and emotional courage.

Reflection is one of the essential skills to allow people to grow and develop. This time in our history certainly requires the courage and skill to accept and support our colleagues who see the world differently. How many of us feel comfortable working with people who don’t share our worldview? Yet, if we are secure in our values and mission, we can generally find the strength to embrace people — even if we disagree with their beliefs.

Inspire followership: Connect with a broad range of people around a shared vision.

If people don’t follow us, we aren’t effective as leaders. If followers don’t want to follow leaders with different political beliefs, we need to find ways to inspire them. We must open ourselves up to challenging conversations to understand others and their diverse views. These conversations will require all of our emotional intelligence to build relationships that allow us to work together to meet our mission.

Be innately collaborative: Seek input from diverse points of view to create novel solutions.

This behavior is where we test our ability. If we have done each of the previous actions well, we can bring people together who see the world differently and feel safe to share different perspectives. We need to synthesize those differences to create new and better outcomes.

As leaders navigating the dynamics associated with an emotionally charged election and political unrest, we need to bring our teams together to meet our purpose and create stronger leader-follower relationships and teams.

 

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 rob walsh on Unsplash

Improve Employee Capabilities and Retention for No Cost

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

 

There’s the old line:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

About the Author

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

Photo by Matthew Osborn on Unsplash