Democracy and Leadership Require Accurate Information: What You Need To Know To Keep Up In Today’s World

This guest blog is a companion to the Voice America interview: Democracy on the Run: How Strong and Capable Leaders Can Impact Listen Now. The interview was recorded as part of the International Leadership Association conference series. The blog is reproduced and shared with permission by mastersincommunication.org.

 

Leaders and citizens need accurate and unbiased information to act responsibly. As citizens, we must develop an understanding of events unfolding in our environment and determine how we will engage. Voting is obviously one major action that requires comprehensive and unbiased information.

 

By the same note, leaders, those responsible for setting their organizational course, revising direction and engaging with employees to drive toward results must have accurate, complete and unbiased information.

 

In an era where leaders have access to more information, it has become harder to know where to look to find accurate, complete and unbiased information. For this, we must turn to the field of journalism and we must take responsibility for being well informed. The people we lead, and all of our stakeholders rely on us to make well informed decisions.

 

The information we need comes from journalists!

 

Today’s journalism is a far cry from what it used to be. In the past, you received the majority of your news and information from your local newspaper published every morning.

If you didn’t get it there, you watched the evening news after dinner. Add in a few national newspapers, and that was it.

Today, relying on only one source to receive all of your news and information seems unheard of. Newspapers are still around today, but we have so much more to go along with them. We don’t have to wait an entire day for our news anymore – we wait mere seconds.

Now we see the news as it’s happening instead of getting recaps of it the next day. With the rise of the internet and the 24/7 news station, we have an abundance of news sources directly at our fingertips.

Journalism as a whole has changed in response. Instead of having time to fact check, journalists are urged to be the first to break the story. This rush to first often leads to misinformation being published, causing confusing and sometimes outrage.

What used to be a cardinal sin is now less of an issue because being the first to hit publish is such a priority.

Let’s take a look at what journalism is today, and some of the people changing it.

What Really Is Journalism?

 

Journalism is the act of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.

Journalism is the product of every newspaper you read, every news station you watch, and every news article you read online.

Journalism is meant to place the public good above all else and uses specific methods to gather and assess information. In other words, journalism is meant to benefit the people, and journalists should routinely check what they’re reporting on to be sure the information is verified and accurate.

 

Why Data Journalism Matters More Than Ever

 

Another side effect of the internet and the amount of data at our fingertips is the rise of data journalism. Data journalism is the use of data and number crunching to uncover, better explain, or provide context to a news story.

 

Data can be the tool used to tell a story, the source upon which a story is based, or both at the same time. It often involves the use of statistics, charts, and infographics.

 

Data journalism has become important because, in today’s world, anyone with a smartphone and social media account can be a journalist. Multiple sources add information over social media, blogs, and videos as the news story is happening. It’s an information overload, and opinion often clouds facts.

 

The goal of data journalism is to be the one who provides context to an event and aims to explain what it really means.

 

An excellent example of data journalism is a story ProPublica published about animal extinction across the globe. Using data from recent biology studies, they found that today’s extinction rates rival those during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

 

Journalism In The Age of the Open Web

 

At the risk of beating a dead horse, the open web has changed everything. The way we consume data will never be the same.

Data used to come in a fixed, complete form. Books, newspapers, and documentaries. When you received it, it was finished and in its final form.

With digital news in the open web, your news source is almost a living, breathing thing. It is always changing, always evolving, and continuously being developed. That blog post you just read could be edited and revised several times over.

There is information everywhere that people consume anytime they want. They don’t need to go to the store to buy a book or a newspaper anymore. All they have to do is reach into their pocket and enter a quick Google search, and they’ll discover a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

Today’s journalists face a new set of challenges. They’re no longer the runaway experts in the fields they write in. Today, their readers may be smarter, and better informed than they are.

Now if you don’t listen to them, work with them, work for them, give them what they want and need, they’ll go somewhere else. And there are plenty of other places they can go.

 

What Journalism Is Missing Today

 

Even with the rise of the internet, 24/7 news stations, social media, and smartphones, something is missing from today’s journalism.

We’re more connected to the news that we’ve ever been. News companies have journalists working around the clock that can push us a story as it happens, no matter when it happens.

We’re more informed than we’ve ever been, and we have limitless choices of where we want to consume our news. So, what are we missing? The answer is simple.

Time.

The one thing journalists don’t have on their side anymore is time. They have to be first. They have to be fast. They don’t have time anymore to become deeply engrossed in their stories. They don’t have time to learn and ponder on their stories. They rely on quotes from other experts to shape their stories.

True investigative journalism is an art that is slowly fading. One of the main reasons is the money isn’t there for it anymore. Doing a real investigative piece takes a lot of time, which in turn takes a lot of money.

The ad revenue they’d earn for the story would likely be a small fraction of what it cost to produce it. Because of this, investigative journalism is being replaced by 5-10 blog posts a day that will never have as much substance as an actual investigative piece.

 

Battling Fake News

 

Something else that has come with the age of the internet is the rise of “fake news.” Anyone with a computer and internet access has the ability to make their own website and write news stories. However, not everyone is an educated journalist.

 

Your neighbor down the street that starts his own blog isn’t going to follow the same standards that the mainstream journalists follow. I mentioned earlier that journalism is meant to put the public good over everything else. That’s not always the case with the hundreds of blogs that pop up daily.

 

Most people that start those blogs are worried about pushing their own agenda and voicing their opinion. They only use facts that support their cause and ignore the rest.

 

Then they call everything that doesn’t support their opinion or push their cause fake news. When in reality, fake news is everything that isn’t based on fact and data.

 

Anyone can post their opinion, but not everyone can be a journalist. So when the news is so saturated by blogs and websites only worried about what fits in their narrative, how do we know who to trust? How do we separate fact from fiction?

 

We must keep an eye on the source. We need to be sure that the website or blog, or even Twitter account, that we’re getting our news from is only reporting facts without the bias of their opinion.

 

Here is a list of a few large journalism brands that report real facts, not alternative facts.

 

  • The New York Times – Some consider the New York Times the most influential publication around. The NYT upholds ethical standards of reporting and includes the classic elements of journalism in America.

 

  • The Wall Street Journal – The Wall Street Journal is the largest circulated newspaper in the US. The WSJ is still the top brand among daily business publications in the entire world. It has won several Pulitzer Prizes for editorials and columns that are backed up by thorough fact-based reporting and bold arguments.

 

  • The Washington Post – The Washington Post is the paper that brought down Nixon during the Watergate Scandal, and it upholds it’s intellectual traditions today. Under the ownership of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the Post is perhaps the most forward-thinking publication of the day while winning Pulitzer Prizes, hiring the best and brightest reporters and producing big scoops.

The Need to Support Journalism

Even with all the fake news and alternative facts that run rampant today, journalism is still critical for ours, and any democracy in the world. We can’t let the bad apples tarnish our opinions of the journalists with integrity that report facts and information.

 

The most important function of journalism is to convey information. This is a critical part of the democratic decision-making system because it brings transparency and makes sure that the decisions being made reflect what the people really want.

 

When people claim that the media is the enemy, they are doing a disservice not only to the real journalists but to the people in their society. Without a free press, the line between fact and fiction will be blurred, opening up a Pandora’s box of problems.

 

While there are problems that need to be fixed, journalism at its core is desperately needed.

We Live In A New World

 

We’re no longer dependent on a single news source anymore. We have more information available to us than ever before. The freedom we have to access and share news is a fantastic thing, but it also comes with great responsibility.

Our access to data and news sources from around the globe is absolutely incredible. The amount of good we can create due to the open web can change the world.

But it can also cause hate and divide entire nations. Anyone can post their opinion and call it fact. They can disregard fact and call it fake news. The potential for hostility is just as high as the potential for good.

Journalism isn’t the issue. Journalism at its core is the process of spreading news and information. We have to protect journalism and instead go after the entities perverting it.

 

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.

What is Your Leadership Vision 2019

This blog is an excerpt from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers as a companion to the Voice America show  aired on November 20, 2018, Love at Work: The Essential Guide to a Life of Inspired Purpose. This show was a conversation with Olivia Parr-Rud with host Maureen Metcalf talking about their aspirations and visions as successful leaders.

If you plan annual goals, this blog will serve as a helpful foundation. It spells out the exercise to define your personal vision and gives an example of  Demetrius as he completed the exercise.

It is important to note that many people will complete this exercise and still not have a clearly articulated vision—this is because defining personal vision requires a great deal of introspection for most people. While some people grow up knowing what they want to do for a living, others find that identifying a vision is a process of gradual exploration and will take more time and energy than completing a single workbook exercise. You will likely refine your vision as you progress through blog posts based on the information you learn about yourself. Because the visioning process is iterative in nature—a process of self-discovery—these exercises in this book will serve as the foundation for a longer process that may take considerably more time to complete. It will likely change as you gain experience and as your introspective process matures.

Define Personal Vision

Follow the steps defined below:

  • Step 1:  Create a picture of your future. Imagine yourself at the end of your life. You are looking back and imagining what you have done and the results you have created.
    • What is the thing of which you are most proud?
    • If you had a family, what would they say about you?
    • What did you accomplish professionally?
    • What would your friends say about you?

For the rest of this exercise, let that future person speak to you and help you set a path that will enable you to look back with pride and say things like, “I feel fulfilled and at peace. I lived my life well.”

  • Step 2:  Write a story.  Now that you have that image of what you will accomplish, write a brief story about your successful life. Include details about the questions above. Make it a story of what you went through to accomplish each of the results for the questions you answered. What you are trying to create is a roadmap for your journey that gives you more insight into what you would want if you had the option to design your perfect life.
    • Who helped you along the way?
    • What did you enjoy about your daily life?
    • Who was closest to you?
    • What feelings did you have as you accomplished each milestone along the way?
    • How did you mentor others and contribute to the success of others?
    • What did you do to maintain your health?
    • What role did spirituality or religion play in your journey?
    • What job did you have?
    • What role did material success play in your life?
    • What type of person were you (kind, caring, driven, gracious)
  • Step 3:  Describe your personal vision. Given the story you have written and the qualities you demonstrated as a person, write a two to five sentence life-purpose statement—a statement that talks about your highest priorities in life and your aspirations. This statement should capture the essence of how you want to live your life and project yourself.

An example – My vision is to develop myself to my greatest capacity and help others develop and thrive in all aspects of their lives. I will live consciously and courageously, relate to others with love and compassion, and leave this world better for my contribution.

  • Step 4:  Expand and clarify your vision. If you are like most people, the choices you wrote are a mixture of selfless and self-centered elements. People sometimes ask, “Is it all right to want to be covered in jewels, or to own a luxury car?” Part of the purpose of this exercise is to suspend your judgment about what is “worth” desiring, and to ask instead which aspect of these visions is closest to your deepest desire. To find out, ask yourself the following questions about each element before going on to the next one: If I could have it now, would I take it?

Some elements of your vision don’t make it past this question. Others pass the test conditionally: “Yes, I want it, but only if…”  Others pass, but are later clarified and distilled in the process. As you complete this exercise, refine your vision to reflect any changes you want to make.

Example: Demetrius’ Vision Development Process 

When I look into the future I want to be proud of the person I have become and the life that I have lived. In particular, I want to ensure that my wife and I have raised a beautiful family in which our children think independently and are able to articulate their own personal visions. I would like for my children to be able to say I have been there for them every step of the way, and allowing them to experience life while guiding them away from danger when possible. For me, family and family interactions are highly valued, so the closest people to me are my wife and our children. However, I don’t discount the close friends I have known since high school and those I’ve met along the journey since college.

Professionally, I want to create an organization whose culture represents my personality: relaxed and laid back, yet focused and driven. I want to create a work environment in which people are excited about their work and where they can accomplish their professional goals.  Finally, my organization must take into account our community and to find ways to give back every chance we get.

My Vision

My vision is to develop myself to my greatest capacity and create a healthy and loving environment in which my family will thrive. I strive to be a friend who can be counted on in every way. I will create a business that delivers value to our clients and community and has a culture where people can thrive and grow personally.

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.

Authentic Leadership For Progress, Peace And Prosperity

This post is a report from the December 5, 2018 Forbes.com article Authentic Leadership for Peace and Prosperity. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview to air on January 29, 2019 with Dr. Gama Perruci, Dr. Sadhana Warty Hall, and Dr. Karen Ford, Evidence Based Practices for Leadership Development. This interview is particularly important because companies are investing large amounts of money and time to build strong leaders and some programs provide much better returns than others. Programs that teach leaders to be better leaders rather than those that teach leader about leadership provide different results. Programs that offer 1. strong frameworks (including the knowledge of how context and culture play a role in leading and following), 2. teach leaders to become more self-aware, and 3. perform better using the new frameworks and self-awareness provide the highest returns. The interview is part of our partnership with the International Leadership Association to bring you the latest and most relevant leadership information.

The following section is from Forbes. I am keenly interested in understanding how leaders progress their business agendas as well as the global agenda in times of significant geopolitical shifts. I attended the International Leadership Association’s conference, Authentic Leadership for Progress, Peace & Prosperity, in West Palm Beach, Florida, where keynote speakers, academics, award recipients and leaders across industries and the globe discussed their perspectives on the subject. This article summarizes my key takeaways.

With 39 countries represented at the conference, the focus on the volume, complexity and rate of change in the current climate continued to inform the conversations. So too did the political landscape, particularly the disillusionment with democracy and the move toward populism. The conversation was also impacted by several events happening in the background, such as a bomber delivering 14 bombs to democratic leadersand supporters, who was actually apprehended near West Palm Beach, where the conference was being held. There was also a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in the morning of the final day at the conference.

These events called to question what more we, as members of an international association, can do to focus on the intersection of leadership, scholarship and practice at a conference that focuses on progress, peace and prosperity.

The following themes are based on my discussions with thought leaders around the world and sessions I attended.

1. Leadership certification needs to be a strong consideration.

Many professions require certification before performing a job, like realtors, massage therapists, electricians, attorneys and certified public accountants. This is in strong contrast to the number of leaders holding key roles with no education and, in some cases, little experience.

While hiring is always complicated, certification can reduce the risk of costly hiring mistakes. Certification is important for leaders who want to stand out by demonstrating their competence. And organizations will have a greater degree of assurance that the person they are hiring is competent based on an objective standard and a rigorous certification process.

2. Leadership is the interplay between the organization’s internal environment and external ecosystem.

We train leaders in leadership concepts but don’t address the importance of helping leaders understand how they need to flex their leadership approach based on their context and their followers. The most effective leaders “sense” the needs of their followers and adapt their leadership accordingly. They help followers understand their leadership style and set clear expectations as well take into account their followers styles, so everyone can focus their energy on accomplishing goals.

3. Leaders need new tools to solve highly complex problems.

Many of the problems organizations face are emergent, and they may not have faced them before. Therefore, leaders must have the tools to address them. The most effective leaders balance inner knowing with strong analytics and collaboration. 

4. Leadership ethics are key. 

There are questions about leaders learning ethics versus gaining ethics as part of the process of maturing. Are ethics the guidelines people comply with? Is there a call for leaders to develop a strong inner compass that ensures they follow the spirit of ethics as the rules change? I believe it’s important for leaders to have a strong inner sense of both the impact you want to make on the world as well as the “guardrails” you use to accomplish that impact.

5. Leaders operate in an interconnected system and need to consider the broader impact they make.

Conference participants were clear about the importance of profit as the fuel for the business and that businesses are among the most powerful institutions across the planet. They are positioned to enact important changes that involve issues such as climate change, for example.

During the conference last year, there were many discussions on identifying leadership values. This year, speakers reminded us of the mandate for leaders to live their values and pay attention to how their actions impact their organizations, and by extension, the world.

6. Resilience remains a key concern.

It was acknowledged that everyone is now or will soon be impacted by some level of change to their organization, their climate, their community and their government. These changes require that we deliberately tend to the resilience (ability to absorb change and remain highly functional) of our people, our organizations, our communities and our governments. It is important to ensure these have the capacity to metabolize change without going into crisis mode.

7. Learning to harness the power of women and a diverse workforce is critical to addressing the upcoming talent gap.

Even with artificial intelligence and other forms of workforce augmentation, participants projected a huge talent shortage now through 2030 and beyond. The size of this change is expected to grow from 2020 to 2030.

Companies need to leverage the best talent to thrive. It will be important for companies to find ways to identify the right people and create a work environment that fosters attraction and retention and expands the old norms that caused talented people who wanted to work but not within restricted bounds to leave. 

As leaders in this era of turbulence, if we want to create a more prosperous and peaceful world, we need to look at new ways of leading and of identifying and developing leaders of the future. This is a call to action to revisit what you are doing now and how you can evolve your own approaches that enhance your ability to lead from a stance of authenticity.

Are you learning from thought leaders, academics and practitioners? Each holds a piece of the complex solution we all need to thrive in the short and long term.

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 of the Innovative Leadership Institute, a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

 

The New Battleground for Business: The Customer Experience

This post is written by guest blogger, Nick Glimsdahl and is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations focusing on Conscious Capitalism with Mark Kovacevich focusing on Conscious Capitalism as a business accelerator.

The great entrepreneur, Vanilla Ice, once said, “Stop, collaborate, and listen”. In today’s business environment, that sage advice can elaborate to: stop and evaluate your current state, collaborate with experts, and listen to your customers.

Business leaders who champion customer-centric business models have stopped, collaborated and listened. And, in today’s digital age, being customer-centric requires a business model to effectively take advantage of current technologies to meet customer expectations.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Hence, a company’s business model should first and foremost orbit around the customer, specifically their customer experience (CX), addressing:

  • The customer needs and wants
  • The current state of the customer experience
  • How the customer’s journey can improve

What is Customer Experience and why does it matter?

The customer experience is the new battleground for brand loyalty and a true differentiating factor for companies. It can be defined as the customer’s perception of an organization – often gained through contact center interactions – and how seamless or frustrating that interaction is. Shep Hyken, a customer service expert, author, and speaker said it this way, “A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.”

Beyond perception, CX is about delivering an expected outcome, and while the customer experience looks different for each company, common themes are:

  • Response time
  • Overall customer satisfaction
  • Ability to obtain sought out information effortlessly

A customer experience-centric model considers more than just key customer-company touchpoints; instead, the model considers the entire Omni-channel journey from the customer’s perspective.

There are three ways to measure and improve your customer’s experience:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • NPS® measures customer experience and predicts business growth. (i.e. 0-10 scale on how likely customers would recommend a business to a friend).
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
    • CSAT measures how products and services meet or surpass customer expectations. A CSAT score is the sum of respondents answering between “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied”.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
    • CES, measures customer service satisfaction with one single questions. (i.e. The company made it easy to handle an issue).

Mature CX organizations monitor and understand the voice of the customer through these metrics.

Why should business leaders get behind the CX movement?

Forrester research found 71% of business and technology decision makers say that improving Customer Experience is a high priority in the next 12 months. But why? Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors, explained it well: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Brand loyalty is not what it was 20-30 years ago. A customer’s experience positively correlates to brand loyalty, and it is much more important because of the ease of switching service providers or ordering a product from Amazon. According to the Temkin Group, 86% of those who received excellent Customer Experience were likely to repurchase from that company, compared to only 13% of those who had a very poor Customer Experience.

The trend of the increasing purchasing ease will continue as will customer-first business models delivering effortless experiences. The remaining question is what businesses will stop and evaluate their current states, collaborate with experts, and listen to their customers?

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

Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.

 

Leadership Lessons from Star Wars

You don’t need to be a Star Wars devotee to recognize the franchise’s most iconic characters and moments. They’re so well-known that they became memes long before the internet was a thing. Talk about staying power!

While intergalactic adventures might not be for everyone, the themes and messages that creator and director George Lucas instilled in every leap to hyperdrive are. They’re particularly important for leaders of all stripes to take to heart, even if they’re more Team Trekkie than gaga over one Leia Organa.

Ready to soak up some knowledge straight from the stars? Read on for our favorite leadership lessons from Star Wars.

Know When to Ask for Help

One of the hallmarks of a great leader isn’t that they have all the answers; it’s that they know what they don’t know and they’re not afraid to ask for help. Case in point: Leia, princess of Alderaan and general in the Resistance.

Our introduction to Leia as a character is through her holographic SOS call to Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. While she seems like a damsel in distress, that illusion is quickly destroyed. Instead, Leia is revealed to be a fierce leader who can and does join the fight. Still, she knows she won’t win without assistance—and neither will you. Go ahead, raise your hand and make the ask, already!

Put Your Plans into Action – Remember, Real Leadership is More Experimentation than Certainty

The most effective Leaders know that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Sound familiar? It’s Murphy’s Law, and 99 percent of the time, it’s right on the money. Just because you’re worried about your next great idea taking a nosedive, though, it doesn’t mean you should stay in perpetual planning mode. At some point, you need to leap. You need to do.

When leaders take the on the “mindset of a scientist” they don’t expect to be right. They will be directionally correct and take action that is scaled appropriately for an experiment or proof of concept before they take big action that could increase the organizational risk profile.

Leadership is about the right balance between thinking, preparing and. This iconic Yoda moment says it all: Do or do not. There is no try.

A leader doesn’t pussyfoot around an issue. Leaders minimize risk—that’s where the preparation comes in. When they’re reasonably sure they have a handle on a situation (good at developing experiments), they go for it, knowing that the results won’t be perfect. There will be course corrections. There will be mistakes. There will be starts and stops and learning along the way. But if you don’t start—if you don’t push that big red button—you’re never going to move forward. And, as a leader, that’s your job.

Trust Your Instincts and Verify

Our instincts have evolved over 200,000 years to become highly accurate sensors for risky situations. That gut instinct we talk about is valuable because it tells you instantly when something is a no-go and when you should proceed with caution. Whether you live in the Star Wars universe or your feet are firmly planted on planet Earth, this sort of heads-up system is essential to making good choices for the future.

Of the original trio of Star Wars characters, Luke is the most emotional. He’s the most in touch with his feelings and his instincts, which makes sense, given his natural talent for channeling the Force. And, goodness knows, he needs it! From the moment Luke Skywalker encounters R2D2 and C3PO, his life is a wild ride packed with death traps, rescue missions, and daredevil stunts. He relies on his instincts the way any leader or future leader should: to let him know when he should proceed and to decide if he needs more preparation. The best leaders balance the ability to trust their instincts with a highly developed ability to analyze situations and get input from others. Luke looked to Yoda and others as he honed this ability. By balancing inner wisdom (the force) with strong reliance on data and trusted others who will see your blind spots, you will be well prepared to act and learn.

Give Prompt Feedback

Saving up all your dos and don’ts for an end-of-year review isn’t an effective management strategy. To get the most out of your team, you should offer in-the-moment feedback when it’s most useful—and when they can apply your corrections and make changes on the fly. Sitting on your complaints and stewing over pet peeves isn’t good for anyone, and it won’t result in a top-notch project.

Feedback can and should take the form of learning from your action/experiments in the form of “after action analysis” for the team and project. It should also include personal learning – what was each individual’s role in the success and contribution to the short falls? Having the courage as a leader and as a participant to build on strengths and correct mistakes and short falls is necessary. This also assumes you as the leader have created a culture where mistakes are the fuel of learning not torture. Think of the many hours Jedi’s trained with Yoda. With each success and each failure, they took the feedback as an opportunity to build skills. If Yoda was not brutally honest, the Jedi would die in battle. Withholding honest feedback reflects weakness in the leader. Yes, it is hard and required to create a world class organization.

To be clear: Do not Force-choke or otherwise torture, assault, or threaten your employees. Whether you have thousands of followers awaiting your command or not, it’s better to lead by respect rather than fear like Darth Vader. Still, we appreciate that he … ahem … nips problems in the bud instead of lets them fester.

Always Look for Silver Linings – Positivity is Contagious

Cynicism and snark might be popular, but they won’t do you any good when you’re leading a group of people. Hope inspires. Optimism motivates. Purpose inspires. Results inspire. Opportunities for growth inspire.

You don’t have to go around like a modern-day Pollyanna but do try to keep one eye on the good in every situation, even while you take stock of the bad. As we build a culture of action and experimentation, each action will have successes and failures. It is the leader and the organization that can honestly learn and grow that will win. This is only possible by finding the success along with the course correction. Everyone’s favorite bad boy does it, so can you!

It always seems a little incongruous that someone so rough-around-the-edges and practical as Han is also so positive when the Rebels, and, later, the Resistance, are fighting a seemingly unwinnable war against the Dark Side. The hope he has is what keeps him pushing forward, and that’s something we could all do with a little more of.

At the end of every Star Wars movie, the prevailing lesson is that a win doesn’t come straight from the top. While leadership is essential, it’s a team exercise—and that’s a lesson George Lucas and his cast of characters never let us forget.

As you apply these Star Wars leadership lessons to real-world situations, we have one more tidbit to share: May the Force be with you.

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.

Leadership Trends to Watch for 2019 and Beyond

With 2018 coming to a close, many of us are looking to 2019 and beyond. This article was originally published on Forbes.com in August 2018 summarizing the trends that emerged from the last 100 interviews conducted on Voice America Radio, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations interview series.  It is the companion to an interview between Christopher Washington, PhD and Maureen Metcalf Top Leadership Trends in 2018 and beyond.

I host a weekly radio show that helps leaders update how they lead. The interviews are with key business leaders, global leaders, thought leaders, authors and academics. Each year, I publish the main themes we discuss on the show as well as in my consulting work with senior executives around the world.

I have now completed more than 150 interviews, and volatility was a recurring theme. This article is a synthesis of what we can take away as key factors for leaders and executives to focus on for the next four years.

1. Leaders must pay attention to trends and predictions.

As the rate of change accelerates, if you take a “wait and see” stance, you will be caught unprepared. The intersection of volatility, changes in technology and global interconnection means there are threats and opportunities on all fronts and a large pool of organizations poised to leverage both. Speed continues to matter.

2. Leaders and their organizations are becoming agiler.

A McKinsey survey of more than 2,500 organizations of different sizes, specialties and regions reported that “37 percent of respondents said their organizations are carrying out company-wide agile transformations, and another 4 percent said their companies have fully implemented such transformations. The shift is driven by proof that small, multidisciplinary teams of agile organizations can respond swiftly and promptly to rapidly changing market opportunities and customer demands.”

As leaders, it’s important to adopt a nimble mindset and culture. Being nimble means paying attention to trends and identifying small “experiments” you can run to keep up with or even ahead of the changes happening around you. Once you are clear about what will work for you and how it will work, pilot that change. Truly agile companies are always experimenting.

3. Organizations and their people must accelerate their pace of learning.

With an increase in agility, people and organizations will need to accelerate learning. In 1978, Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Chris Argyris wrote Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective. This work continues to evolve and increase in importance, as learning provides a competitive advantage.

Take, for example, how organizations are automating more work. Employees who continue to learn and update their skills will be able to find new roles, while others who are not continually learning will be left unemployed or underemployed as their roles diminish.

4. Age range in the workforce will continue to expand.

As life expectancy continues to increase, many people will want to and need to work longer. Organizations will need to find ways to attract and engage older workers. They will also need to address the dynamics created when multiple generations of employees are working together on the same team.

With the decrease of age-based seniority, leadership will be taken by the best person for the role and will likely shift frequently in an agile environment. Organizations need to be creative in promoting engagement and teamwork across multiple generations.

5. Leaders need to identify and build talent at an increasing rate.

As technology evolves and organizations change more quickly, employees need to learn faster, and organizations need to identify workers to fill changing talent needs. Some of these needs will fall in the technology space, but not all.

We referenced older employees remaining in the workforce and returning. We also need to find ways to engage talent who have been previously overlooked. This could mean people leaving incarceration, people with disabilities who would, in fact, be great fits for certain roles, or adults who work from home because they are caregivers to their children or parents, to name a few.

6. Employee engagement will continue to be important in volatile times.

The importance of human interaction will continue to increase even as more of the workforce is working remotely – many rarely, if ever, meeting their colleagues. Leaders and organizations need to focus on soft skills such as emotional intelligence that have a strong impact on engagement and the effort employees put into communicating.

7. Communities must come together to solve quality-of-life and economic issues.

With the level of change, segments of the economy can easily be excluded from the workforce. The gap between economic haves (those with education, access and resources) and have-nots can increase, and the cost can be significant for the individuals, families and businesses impacted by a worker shortage.

Successful regions create organizations to tackle these challenges. This means organizations that traditionally compete for resources and clients also need to work together to solve challenges that impact them.

8. Effective leaders are conscious of their impact across a broad range of factors and stakeholders.

As we talk about conscious capitalism, the main idea is that “conscious” organizations tend to the health of a broad range of stakeholders. It becomes increasingly important to pay attention to the needs of competing stakeholders and balance these demands. Conscious capitalism is one mechanism that helps leaders explore the broader range of stakeholders and understand their drivers.

Business is getting more complicated and requires leaders to continually update their skills as well as their mindset and focus. This article summarizes some of my key learnings.

As a leader, are you seeing similar trends? What’s missing? What are you doing to prepare yourself and your organization to succeed during the next four years?

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.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO of Metcalf & Associates is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

What Does the Future of Work Look Like?

This blog is a guest post by Anna Kucirkova as a companion to the October 30 Voice America show with K R Ravi, CEO and Co-founder of Metcalf – Innovative Leadership Institute India. The interview focuses on Enterprise-Wide Success As A Result of Talent Development and the ATD BEST Award

When this country began, our hunter-gatherer, farming ancestors worked to live. Not a single iota of energy was wasted in a day. Wasted time equaled starvation.

In this new century, our country is working from the fruits of the industrial revolution, the robotics revolution, and the technology revolution.

Just as our ancestors might have wondered what the future held in working, we are living their future and wondering about our own.

What exactly does the future of work look like?

The Fluctuating Current Work Environment

The worlds of industry, commerce, healthcare, education, and many others are fluctuating, which is causing considerable anxiety. Labor-market opportunities between high- and low-skill jobs, unemployment and underemployment, stagnating incomes for a large proportion of households, and income inequality demonstrate that the job market is already trending toward the future.

Automation and artificial intelligence promise higher productivity, economic growth, increased efficiency, job safety, and convenience. But these technologies also have a broader impact on jobs, wages, skills, and the nature of work itself.

Lots of tasks that workers handle today could be automated. Simultaneously, job-searching sites like LinkedIn and Monster are altering and increasing the ways people look for work and how companies recruit talent. Freelance work has become very enticing with digital platforms like Uber, Upwork, and Etsy making working for yourself much easier.

Another newer trend, especially in tech companies, is remote and virtual employees. This not only allows things to get done around the clock, without commuting, but also provides companies with employees who have hard-to-find skill sets and is a way to accommodate employees who don’t want to move to work for the company.

These shifts in how jobs are done as well as how talent is recruited create both uncertainty and benefits. One of the biggest questions is what role automation will play.

Automation Is Coming

Through current technology, about half the tasks people are paid to do could hypothetically be automated. It is encouraging to note that less than 5 percent of all jobs consist of tasks that could be completely automated.

But, in about 60% of professions, at least a third of the tasks could be automated, which could lead to workplace transformations and redefinition of job duties for workers. Taking a look at current technology and estimating how quickly automation could replace human workers, only about 30% of hours worked globally could be automated in the next decade.

The impact of automation on employment depends greatly on occupation and job title. Automation jobs would most likely include physical ones in predictable surroundings, like making fast food or operating factory machinery. Data collection and data processing are two other jobs that have the potential to be done better and faster with machines. This particular AI innovation could displace hundreds of workers in mortgage origination, accounting, paralegal work, and back-office transaction processing.

There are, of course, jobs that absolutely require human labor forces, such as management, scientific research, and customer service. So, will the displaced workers have to change careers to keep a job?

What Job Sectors Will Sustain or Grow Their Numbers?

Displaced workers are easily identified, but new jobs that are created due to advancements in technology are less obvious and exist in different sectors and regions.

Experts estimate that, globally, 250 million to 280 million new jobs could be created due to rising incomes on consumer goods, with an additional 50 million to 85 million jobs created in health care and education spending.

In 2030, researchers estimate there will be at least 300 million more people aged 65 and older than in 2014. As people age, their spending on healthcare and other personal services increases, taking their consumer dollars out of retail and luxury purchases. This will increase new demand for doctors, nurses, and health technicians, as well as home-health aides, personal-care aides, and nursing assistants. There could be 50 million to 85 million new jobs in healthcare by 2030.

And let’s not forget the jobs created by the development and implementation of new technology. Spending on technology will double between 2015 and 2030. About half the spending would be on information-technology services. This could create 20 million to 50 million new jobs by 2030.

Even with substantial growth in technology and AI, there are still jobs that require human labor: architects, electricians, engineers, carpenters, and construction trades. The world is also increasing its interest in renewable energy, so there will be more jobs in renewable energy, like manufacturing, construction, and installation of new energy options.

So, it’s possible for a former auto factory worker from Detroit could be retrained quite efficiently in manufacturing for renewable energy. But, what would that training entail?

Job Training for the Future

To make sure the human labor force can accommodate newer jobs, people must be prepared to learn new skills. According to Pew, automation and AI are “taking a bite out of manufacturing; automation, robotics, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) have shown they can do equal or sometimes even better work than humans who are dermatologists, insurance claims adjusters, lawyers, seismic testers in oil fields, sports journalists and financial reporters, crew members on guided-missile destroyers, hiring managers, psychological testers, retail salespeople, and border patrol agents.”

People will not just train for the jobs of the future, they will create them, and technology is ready and waiting. Pew Research conducted extensive polls to find out what the members of the current job market see for the future:

Theme 1: The training ecosystem will evolve, with a mix of innovation in all education formats

The next decade will bring a diversified world of education and training options where various entities design and deliver services to those who want to learn. They expect that some innovation will be aimed at emphasizing the development of human talents that machines cannot match and at helping humans partner with technology.

They say some parts of the ecosystem will concentrate on delivering real-time learning to workers, often in formats that are self-taught. Also, more learning systems will go online. Workers will be expected to learn continuously. Educators have always found new ways to train the next generation of students for jobs of the future.

Theme 2: Learners must cultivate 21stcentury skills, capabilities and attributes

Will training for skills most important in the jobs of the future work well in large-scale settings in upcoming years? Improvements in education are expected to continue. But, many of the most vital skills are not easy to teach, learn or evaluate in any educational setting.

Those skills, capabilities and attributes include emotional intelligence, curiosity, creativity, adaptability, resilience and critical thinking. The skills needed to succeed in the future are curiosity, creativity, taking initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking and empathy, skills that machines cannot yet demonstrate.

Theme 3: New credentialing systems will arise as self-directed learning expands

While the traditional college degree will still be a necessity in the near future, more employers may be willing to accept alternate credentialing systems because traditional college is becoming less popular. Online learning is the education of the future.

Employers will also begin to consider experience and skill sets over education. It is likely that employers will appreciate a college degree, as it does demonstrate a willingness to attain goals with determination and discipline. However, those characteristics can also be demonstrated in the workplace. Deeply detailed reference letters may begin to carry more weight than a college degree.

Theme 4: Training and learning systems will not meet 21stcentury needs by 2026

Jobs of the future may change too quickly to allow today’s workers to get up to speed in time to fill positions. Many workers are unable to take on or unwilling to make the self-directed sacrifices they must to fine-tune their skills.

This leads educators to emphasize STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in our public schools. Teachers and politicians are working to ensure the next generation is well-trained in technology in the hopes of staving off a job market starving for qualified candidates.

Theme 5: Technological forces will fundamentally change work and the economic landscape

There is a loud cry in the job marketplace that advances in technology will overtake the time it takes to train new people. Many see a society where AI programs and machines do most of the work.

There is no doubt there will be many millions more people and millions fewer jobs in the future. But, if industry does a good job increasing skills training, technology may not quite take over at the rate many see as inevitable.

Conclusion

Regardless of automation and AI, there will always be a need for a human labor force. While robots and smart computers can take over some menial tasks, as well as cognitive driven tasks, humans will be required to maintain and program our artificial workforce.

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

Anna Kucirkova works as a copywriter for over 4 years. She speaks 3 languages, loves traveling and has a passion for kids and writing. While she has been to many places in Europe and South East Asia, she still wants to explore the rest of the world.

Winning in the Face of Adversity

This is a guest post by Patt Hardie, Leadership and Talent Management Expert. It is the companion to the October 23, 2018, Voice of America interview with Joyce Beatty and Doug McCollough, Congresswoman for Ohio’s 3rd District and CIO for the city of Dublin, Ohio, respectively; aired on VoiceAmerica, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations”: Winning in the Face of Adversity: Overcoming Challenge with Grace.

We’ve all enjoyed times in our professional lives when we’ve had a major success, knocked it out of the ballpark, and know how amazing it feels to bask in the glow of well-deserved kudos and celebratory pats on the back. It would be awesome if we could ride that wave of good feelings all the time, yet we know that life isn’t always that way. We know that reality at times, is going to make life interesting, more challenging (maybe even more controversial), and in some cases, provide opportunities to change the world.

Congresswoman Beatty and Doug McCollough both exemplify leadership at its best through continually focusing on purpose-driven change for the future; finding opportunities to advocate and influence for diversity and inclusion at the top; and impacting young talent through role modeling and bringing others along with them through mentoring and standing with them.

How might you describe their leadership style? Agile, respectful, civil, tactful, decent, poised, leading with courteous goodwill and with finesse, maybe even simple elegance. All words found in the definition of GRACE. They are both others-focused, being driven from family values deep from within, well-honed from navigating many challenges and, in some cases, controversies over time. It is these life lessons they’ve carried forward to maneuver through obstacles today: know who you are and build on who you are; life isn’t always easy… expect challenges and know how to respond with courage, grace, and perseverance; be positive, be better, move forward, focus on solutions; expect to win, and bring others with you.

Facing obstacles is a normal part of life and learning how to deal with and overcoming them is what builds character and resilience. It’s so easy in our toxic world to get caught up in playing victim, or ‘poor me’ since we are human, and forget that it is often at these opportunities that we grow and learn the most if we’re open to it. Every difficulty we’re able to confront serves to strengthen our self-confidence, our motivation, and our skills for future challenges. The Greek philosopher, Herodotus, said, “Adversity has the effect of drawing out strengths and qualities of a man that would have lain dormant in its absence.”

So, while we don’t expect ourselves to look forward to obstacles, what can we do to be ready for them and manage them when they do occur so we can approach these times more gracefully and with less stress? Z. Hereford offers a few good thoughts on how to get started in his article Tips for Overcoming Adversity.:

  1. Be aware of and accept that adversity is inevitable in life. Adversity is everywhere in the world, much of which is out of your control.
  2. Build your internal resources. Before adversity hits, work on cultivating emotional strength, courage, and discipline.
  3. Build your external resources. Build a support system of family and friends.
  4. That which does not kill you doesn’t always make you stronger. Not necessarily true!
  5. Take inspiration and learn from others who have dealt successfully with adversity. There are many inspiring stories of those who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds.

When we think of conquering adversity we also think of courage. We heard it referenced often in the rich storytelling referenced in the podcast as well in simple ways as speaking an opinion clearly with conviction when others were silent. Courage is a mental and emotional preparedness and ability to deal with difficult, challenging, and sometimes seemingly impossible circumstances. It is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, intimidation, and other threats. And it can be cultivated and honed.

When we work to develop courage, we acquire skills to manage life’s challenges and empower ourselves to confront issues head on. In the article Live a Life of Courage, there are several ways to become more courageous:

  • Acknowledge and understand that it’s not the absence of fear.
  • Muster up the willingness to do so.
  • Read literature, the latest news, and watch movies about tales of courage.
  • Start small but start somewhere.
  • Develop faith and confidence.

Congresswoman Beatty and Doug McCollough were able to take everyday injustices and obstacles and transform them to gain momentum and make a difference for themselves and others. You can do the same yourself by taking one step at a time. How about it. Are you willing to make a difference for yourself, perhaps others, and possibly the world?

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

Patt Hardie, Principal and Founder of The Hardie Group LLC, and works with Metcalf & Associates. She has 30 years of business experience across healthcare, chemical, utility, contract research and retail industries as an expert leadership consultant, coach, and advisor. Patt delivers impactful, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership / team development and organizational challenges. She is recognized as a collaborative partner and progressive thought-leader who can connect with the business and synthesize needs into successful strategies for sustainable results.

Building Trust in a Noisy World

This post by Nick Glimsdahl is the companion to an interview with Michelle Harrison, CEO of Kanter Public, the WPP Group public policy consulting and research business, on Voice America where she talks about the first of its kind report that Kantar Public released at Davos focusing on the challenges governments face across the planet and how the current loss of trust impacts their ability to navigate current challenges.

Everyone — including me — is vying for your attention. We live in a noisy world, bombarded by advertisements, news, campaigns, emails, messages, and social media notifications.

So, how can a business build trust and credibility in today’s noisy world?

This deceptively simple, relevant question is up against a distrusting world. In America specifically, the state of trust is dire. The Edelman Trust Barometer’s Executive Summary reports, “It is no exaggeration to state the U.S. has reached a point of crisis that should provoke every leader, in government, business, or civil sector, into urgent action. Inertia is not an option, and neither is silence…no work is more important than re-establishing trust” (p. 7).

Rather than feeling overwhelmed, business leaders should take a strategic approach to build trust and create positive brand awareness to help ensure messages are received. While increasing revenue is vital to a successful business, focusing on revenue without prioritizing content, awareness, and trust is futile. Hence, a company’s first priority should be to make sure customers view its content, marketing, and brand as credible, trustworthy, and customer-centric.

Eight Trust-building actions to weave into a business strategy:

1. Base the customer experience on what is simplest for the customer, not what is simplest for the company

2. Weave technology into the fabric of the business strategy, demonstrating that the business is ‘with the times,’ aware of customer expectations, and able to quickly resolve issues with modern solutions

3. Create effortless, memorable interactions with your customers so they willingly return

4. Seek ways to provide value to others first

5. Ask for and respond to reviews and highlight them on your site

6. Create an online reputation and have a consistent brand

7. Make sure online interactions are secure

8. Have timely coverage of business news

Building a trustworthy brand results in many benefits. In fact, according to Forbes, trust is the most powerful currency in business. Beyond being a currency of its own, trust leads to referrals, stronger collaboration, a stronger business, and the ability to work through challenges internally or with a client.

Building trust requires time — a currency of itself; however, as the most powerful currency, trust requires the utmost attention for a company to reach its highest potential.

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

Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.

The Business Case for Diversity

This is a guest post by Troy Mosley. It is the companion to the Voice America interview on Increasing Inclusion to Drive Results and Build a Better World aired October 19, 2018 with Troy.

The Information Age has made the world smaller. Technology gives consumers greater access to worldwide markets in seconds. The near real-time accessibility of information brings people closer, sharing and reacting to the same data across oceans. This “smaller world” makes many feel like global citizens and increases market competition. Consumers are now more selective about purchases and  often choose brands that reflect their values over those with the lowest price point.

Businesses that understand this shrinking effect are postured to dominate global markets for the foreseeable future. A key component to selling in dynamic global markets is having a diverse workforce that can connect with this broad customer base. As a twenty-year combat veteran and health administrator I have studied inclusion, diversity, strategic planning and leadership principals, and developed an appreciation for what drives consumer behavior. In military planning circles it is said that “the best way to stop a tank is with another tank.” Similarly, the best way to sell products and services to women and minority groups is to have women and minorities in your R&D, IT, Marketing, and Operations departments. This isn’t just diversity for the sake of diversity, but a varied team of professionals in key positions with the requisite education and training to help develop and implement your company’s strategy.

Nike is a prime example of how to leverage diversity to connect with consumers. In September 2018, Nike launched an ad campaign with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of the campaign and the motto “Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything.” Kaepernick became a household name by refusing to stand for the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and racism. President Trump suggested that those kneeling for the national anthem were “Sons of Bitches” who should be fired. The day after Nike released their ad campaign some costumers videoed themselves burning Nike products. Nike’s stock fell 3% but rebounded to 4.2% by week’s end. Nike’s online sales jumped 25% the following week and their stock is now trading at an all-time high. They had the guts to take a huge risk because Nike’s staff is among the most diverse in the industry. They were able to understand and connect with their consumer base in a way that positively impacted their bottom line.

Women influence 70-80% of consumer spending and make up 51% of the work force, yet comprise only 5.5% of Fortune 500 CEOs. This gender imbalance exists in virtually every industry from fashion to finance. The numbers for ethnic minorities are similarly striking. Blacks constitute roughly 13% of the US population, and spend an estimated $1.3 trillion on consumer goods annually, but make up only 2% of fortune 500 CEOs. This lack of representation directly correlates to missed opportunities for increasing market share in a rapidly changing consumer base. So what can an organization do increase its diversity?  Ah, I’m glad you asked.

Steps to Increasing Diversity in Your Organization

  1. Awareness. What is the demographic makeup of your organization? And that of your consumer base? If your personnel generally reflects your desired base, well done, keep up the good work! If your organization falls short on reflecting your ideal base, read on.
  2. Inclusion. This means creating a culture that values diversity and removes barriers that could prevent under-represented groups from fully participating. And inclusion starts at the top. Leaders set the tone for organizations through what they do and what they evaluate. Minorities are familiar with marginalization; they can smell insincerity a mile away. If you are insincere about establishing a culture of inclusion you will fail.

The military can offer many lessons on inclusion. The armed forces ended the practice of segregation in its ranks in 1948, six years before the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education. Women achieved pay equity in 1943 and were admitted to previously all-male uniformed service academies in 1976 when women still needed male co-signers to obtain credit cards. Today, women comprise 5.5% of flag officers (CEO equivalents) and 17% of the total force. Black generals come from a long tradition of women and minorities advancing to the top ranks since the early 1970s. These achievements didn’t happen overnight. They were made possible by a serious commitment to building leadership that reflects those they serve.

  1. Recruitment. If you are unable to find personnel with the perspectives you lack, you may not be looking in the right places. Talent can be found everywhere; opportunity can’t. Often when we think about recruiting, our thoughts immediately venture to Ivy League or other elite institutions. If your search begins and ends there and you still can’t establish a diverse management force, widen your aperture to include paths less travelled. America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) turn out thousands of minority professionals annually.
  2. Objectives, Metrics and Measures. Establish objectives, metrics, and measures to gauge your success before launching your inclusion strategy. Develop concrete, quantifiable goals related to your inclusion efforts and diversity program. Metric development specifically for inclusion is something you may want to consider outsourcing to a consultant who specializes in such work.
  3. Think Broadly. Don’t limit your strategy to the traditional definitions of diversity; give consideration to generational, regional, and socio-economic diversity.

Technology will continue to have a shrinking effect on global markets for the foreseeable future.  A diverse workforce, who are trained, strategically placed within one’s organization, and part of an inclusive corporate culture will become an increasing part of an organizations’ agility, and strategic positioning within markets.  Diversity is not only ethically prudent for businesses, it is a sound practice that yields positive returns.

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

Troy Mosley is a healthcare administrator by training. He spent the first twenty years of his professional life serving as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. He was raised in Jacksonville Beach, FL raised in the 70s and 80s in an upper middle class, predominately white community. He has always enjoyed writing, history, and is obsessed with the ideals of American Democracy, fair play, and inclusion.
He recently published Unwritten Truce: The Armed Forces and American Social Justice.