Complexity-Aware Thinking is Ready for Prime Time

This blog is a guest post and companion to the Voice America Interview on “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” with Christopher Cooke and Sheila Cooke on October 17, 2017, Navigating the holistic Worldview Membrane.

The Netflix series, “Designated Survivor”, offers a refreshing story about a president who is able to manage incredibly difficult circumstances.

In the TV series, low-level cabinet member Tom Kirkman unexpectedly becomes president after a devastating attack on Washington, D.C. He gets in by emergency protocol because he was named “designated survivor”. In the conspiracy, his forced selection is intended to lead to social failure, making way for dictatorial takeover. Yet against all odds, he and his administration lead with aplomb.

Why? Because his thinking is different – he values civility and all life. He envisions novel solutions that work. He engenders flexible and creative thinking in others. He is unafraid of disturbing the status quo. Yes, it is fiction, but the fact that a TV scriptwriter could conjure this story tells us a new way of thinking is emergent and ready for prime time.

What’s really going on in this TV series?

It’s about the emergence of our species. Humans are continuously co-evolving with their life conditions. As the world complexifies, new capacities emerge, or not. This is what we define as human emergence.

Today’s life conditions are testing the limits of the adaptive capacities of all life forms, not just human. Earth is fragile. Society is fragile. Threats of nuclear war, the ever-widening income gap, and the sixth mass extinction challenge every basic assumption.

Surviving such complexity is challenging, and we offer a simple principle:

Be and act at least a half-step ahead of the life conditions.

“A half-step ahead” refers to the capacity to look back in from the balcony to discern what’s really going on, to flexibly morph and fit oneself to the circumstances, to lead from a strong sense of purpose that is aligned with all life. Such an individual can suss out trouble, navigate obstacles, and make quality decisions that impact positively on all life.

As long as old ways of thinking remain entrenched, latent complexity-aware capacities are unable to be released within an individual or society. Simply becoming aware that our development is not yet finished, and that more is possible, stimulates the legitimacy and utilisation of new ways and means.

How can one support one’s own emergence, or that of another?

It is possible to learn how to stimulate human emergence by using research instruments, such as those offered by 5 Deep Vital Signs. These instruments hold a mirror up to the individual or to the organisation, to reveal patterns of thinking that cannot be discovered through self-examination.

The next big wave of human emergence can only happen volitionally. In other words, we need to wilfully seek it. It is like deliberately rubbing your own magic lamp to call out your inner genie, the hidden treasure inside.

About the Authors

Christopher Cooke: (MSc. B.A. FellowRSA) Is the founder and a lead consultant for 5 deep. He is an international senior manager, consultant, coach, confidante, counsellor, therapist, trainer and qualified engineer, with over 28 years’ experience in pioneering and supporting personal and organizational change. He is focused on the release of latent human capacities to navigate gracefully through complexity, innovation and change. Christopher has become a leading figure in the practical demonstration of The Graves Technology, Spiral Dynamics, and Integral Theory since 1997. His commitment and focus has seen application in as many contexts as possible.

Sheila Cooke (MBA, B.A.) is a Director and lead consultant for 5 Deep. With over 20 years experience in leading international business, Sheila specializes as a designer and trainer of virtual and face-to-face collaboration processes that build resilience and adaptability within organizations to lead through complexity, by building capacity for self-organization. She leads Land and Livestock Management for Life (an operating division within 5Deep) which is part of the Savory Institute Network.

Check out the following link CLICK HERE to learn about the current virtual training offerings and products from 5 Deep.

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.

At C-Level #16: Implementing Transformations and Measuring Success

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is an Executive Leadership Development Coach at the Innovative Leadership Institute, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 Innovating Leaders, Co-creating Our Future interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”

 

In At C-Level #10-18, I write about three of the most successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, following a seven-step transformation model like the Innovative Leadership Institute’s Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.

 

Implement and Measure

 

Preliminary planning is communicated to the organization and transformation initiatives are ready to kick off. Those initiatives have metrics and goals for success that will naturally drive improvement in your overarching transformation metric(s), showing progress toward the mission and vision for the overall organization.

 

So, now it is time to start executing and your team is ready to go.

 

But, what about you? As a leader, your visibility, support, and participation are key to the implementation of these initiatives and how your transformation progresses. Your absence would show a lack of resolve and support for the transformation that YOU kicked off! I hope you’ve done some planning for this as well.

 

The level of your involvement will vary depending the needs of your team and the organization. Your vision, mission and values should drive a lot of decision making at the functional level, so you should not be needed to micro-manage the process. Let your team work their magic, grow, and develop during the transformation.

 

However, your visible support is critical. Be present, generally aware of happenings at the functional level, and, most importantly, be the main reporter of the major challenges and overall progress to the organization’s stakeholders on a regular basis.

 

Here is how we implemented and measured progress and achievement throughout the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:

 

  • Large Manufacturing Company. In our transformation to upgrade basic financial reporting controllers into true financial business partners in a large and growing company (our vision), we had two major initiatives:
    • implementing new automated accounting and financial reporting systems, and
    • creating a “controller-in-training” program to prepare up-and-coming and new controllers to be true financial business partners helping to grow the business.

 

To implement the new systems, we created a formal project team of current controllers serving as project managers and subject matter experts, accountants and clerical people with significant tenure in their jobs, and an internal auditor, using a well-known project management software. The make-up and experience in this team was key to the success of the initiative. The project re-energized team members who were ready to move on in their careers and were excited to contribute their company and functional expertise to making the implementation successful. They were among the most trusted professionals in the organization, maximizing the acceptance and the benefits of the new systems. The implementations were well managed, tracked, reported on, and successful, although they did take 30 to 40 percent longer to implement than originally expected. We opted for quality over speed – not an unusual tradeoff in these types of projects.

 

The controller-in-training program was modeled after comparable sales and operations training programs and consisted of potential controller candidates spending three months rotating through all the sales and operational departments in their facility, then spending three months in accounting and three months in activity-based costing and financial analysis roles. A team of senior financial people selected and hired the participants and I tracked their progress, but the facility people really made the training happen. About 25 percent of the participants landed their first controller jobs backfilling for turnover or being placed in the large new facilities the company was building at the time.

 

We were pretty good at implementing these projects and programs. However, I think we could’ve done better in terms of having more definition around what achievement of the vision would look like, as well as the metrics and goals that would validate our progress in transforming our controller group into “true financial business partners.” Our success on vision achievement would probably get mixed reviews depending on who you talked to in the organization.

 

In your own transformation journey, how will you measure ultimate success in achieving your mission and vision?

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. In our transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do,” and improve the lives all our five stakeholder groups, we had three major initiatives:
    • implementing lean manufacturing,
    • putting electronics repair operations in Europe and Asia, and
    • developing and implementing a strategy to better leverage our engineering and manufacturing capabilities and earn higher margin work.

 

Having the right people in the right seats on the bus was key to our execution.

 

In a conversation with our quality manager about his wanting to leave the company, I discovered he was a Lean Manufacturing expert! He agreed to stay and took on the role of leading that initiative. We also hired an operations vice president with significant Lean experience. Their execution on the implementation, including ongoing measurement and reporting was incredible!

 

The executive team leveraged the work of our global sales manager in identifying the right acquisitions and partners for us to expand our operations in Europe and Asia.

 

We also implemented lean in our new facilities.

 

Not planned, but totally in line with our mission, our first Agile software development resulted in a company-wide repair tracking system across all our facilities and lauded by our global customers.

 

We hired a new sales vice president with an engineering background who had significant experience growing companies in the embedded computer industry, which leveraged our engineering talent and commanded the much higher margins we sought.

 

Everything we did had measurement and reporting systems, and our execution was great.

 

Did we achieve our vision? We decided early on that we would have to hear that directly from our stakeholders – the ones we named in our five-stakeholder mission statement.

 

Eventually, we did start hearing from them. You can read more about this in At C-Level #4.

 

Do you have the right people in the right seats on your bus? Is there any unknown or underutilized talent in your organization that could help lead your transformation?

 

  • Global Internet Payments Company. In our transformation journey to turn around the culture, improve the operational and financial performance of the company, and increase the company’s value, we had three major initiatives:
    • a company culture change driven by a stated mission and operating guidelines, and a change in leadership mindset, communications, and actions,
    • the implementation of Agile software development in our company – which requires the involvement of all major functional areas of the company – and
    • new strategy development and implementation in marketing and sales.

 

The culture change was all about leadership communications and “walking the talk.” See more about that execution in “At C-Level #15 – Transformation Communications.”

 

We measured culture change in the success of the Agile implementation. Agile requires so much cross-functional collaboration and communication that if the culture did not change, that implementation could not succeed.

 

We measured the success of the Agile implementation,

  • quantitatively, by the 40 percent increase in our software development productivity, and
  • qualitatively, by the increase in the usability and functionality of our product.

 

Our software was easier to use, looked more professional, helped our sales efforts, and benefited from the input of all the major functional groups in the company.

 

And, we measured marketing and sales success and the achievement of our mission to help sellers sell more by increases in customers and transaction volume.

 

But were we achieving our vision of increasing the value of the company for its owners? We were. The company realized a 300 percent increase in value through a major financial transaction within two years of the start of our transformation.

 

Do you have regular reporting and review cycles for all your initiatives and the achievement of your vision?

 

Key takeaways from these transformations

 

Discipline and focus are key, as is building repeatable processes that become a way of life.

 

Metrics and goals were either developed in planning or were built into the implementation processes of lean and Agile. Follow-up reporting, reviewing and analysis for progress and completion were part these processes as well. And where we did not use Agile or lean, we still had regular reporting and progress reviews.

 

There was so much going on in each transformation, I couldn’t manage it all…so I directed it and left the management to the functional experts and leaders on the team. I constantly and consistently pushed the vision and mission and lived our values to the best of my ability, trusting the team to give them life by making decisions that were similarly aligned. If they were not, we stopped, discussed them, and did the right thing. This is typical of Strategist or Level 5 leadership. See “At C-Level #9: Evolving Leadership for an Evolving World.”

 

To see more about the results of these transformations, please see my LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/mikesayre.

 

In “At C-Level #17: Embedding Transformations,” we’ll look at what I’ve found to be the most challenging part of transformation work and the key takeaways that you may need to think about in your own organization’s transformative journey.

 

Thanks for following us! For more information or help, please visit us at www.InnovativeLeadershipInstitute.com.

At C-Level #15: Transformation Communications

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is an Executive Leadership Development Coach at the Innovative Leadership Institute, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”

 

In At C-Level #10–18, I write about three of the most successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, following a seven-step transformation model like the Metcalf & Associates Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.

Communicate

 

It is unlikely that you will ever over communicate in a transformation effort, unless what you are communicating does not resonate with your audience—and, in that case, it isn’t a matter of over communicating, it’s more likely that you are miscommunicating. Communication is effective when your audience feels you are sharing your passion and that you are authentic, see the path forward, and feel their contribution is vital to making a transformation.

 

Simply setting the example, saying it once, posting it on every wall, and thinking that it will sink in by osmosis just isn’t enough. You must live, breathe, and give testament what you believe every day!

 

So, before you start, you need to work with your team on the messages you are sending to your various stakeholder groups—your owners, board (if you have one), employees, customers, suppliers, and the various communities in which you live and work. Your messages need to be

  • consistent with your vision, mission, and values,
  • directional,
  • important to your audience,
  • delivered with an appropriate sense of urgency,
  • clear and concise,
  • translated into the languages the people in your organization speak and understand best, and
  • communicated consistently and often by your transformation leadership team.

 

At first, writing the messaging, as well as potential questions and answers, with the transformation team may be helpful. After a brief time, it should become second nature to everyone if it is constantly and consistently reinforced by the team’s leader(s).

 

When was the last time you stood in front of the organization and discussed your vision, mission, and/or values? When was the last time, someone brought a major challenge to you and you said, “Well, our vision is ____, and we say that we value ____, so we should ____.”?

Here is how we communicated throughout the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:

 

  • Large Manufacturing Company. In our transformation to upgrade basic financial reporting controllers into true financial business partners in a large and growing company (our vision), we communicated our vision, plans and progress:
    • at two to three regular or specially-convened controller conferences every year, where the controllers and their assistants traveled to our headquarters,
    • during trips we made to our various business units to keep up with our colleagues and talk about our vision and plans,
    • through conference calls and e-mail with the systems project team,
    • calls, e-mail, and visits I made to our business units, and
    • generally, not enough.

 

Yes, “not enough.” We communicated a lot on how we were getting the new system implemented and how our controllers were getting better training on the business and the new system. And, while we spent some time communicating our vision of the controllers becoming better business partners, we did not spend enough time communicating more precisely how they would do that with their new systems and training!

 

That’s not to say that we did not make significant progress. We made a lot of progress that had been needed for some time. But, did we communicate enough about our vision and the progress we had achieved towards it? In “At C-Level #16: Transformation Implementation and Measures of Success” I write more about this transformation.

Are there clear links between what everyone is doing in your organization today and, if you have them, your vision, mission, and values? What about your goals?

 

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. Leading a transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do,” with our mission to improve the lives of all our five stakeholder groups, left a lot of room for interpretation. There was a lot we did not know yet.

 

However, we did know that we had a basic command and control environment with a very high-revenue growth rate in low-to-no margin integration work. The combination was driving a high-pressure and negative working environment, inefficient and costly operations, unacceptable quality, poor on-time shipping performance, and low and inconsistent earnings. The good news was that we had revenue. We just had to figure out how to solve many of these other challenges before that revenue went away.

 

We started out doing what most companies do with their vision, mission, and values. We had posters made and hung them on the walls. We had wallet cards made and gave them to all employees. We had a couple of kick-off meetings. And that’s where we’ve seen a lot of companies stop.

 

But we continued. We had daily 15-minute order review meetings, daily and weekly Lean Manufacturing implementation meetings, weekly leadership team meetings, bi-weekly company update meetings, and company quarterly results meetings. In almost every meeting, we would ask people to take out their cards, read something from them, and/or talk about some examples where they were used or applicable, always pointing to the card and quoting from it. Our vision, mission and values were always front and center and a part of our daily lives.

 

More important and impactful than our meetings, was that we consistently communicated our vision, mission, and values through our actions. We simply walked the talk.

 

You know you have the right vision, mission, and values when you and your team are passionate about them, can talk about them, and live them out almost effortlessly every day.

 

Do you have posters of your organization’s vision, mission, and values hung up around your place of work? How often do you talk about those? When was the last time you discussed a particular challenge with your team and it was pointed out that the solution was already in your vision, mission, or values statement?

 

  • Global Internet Payments Company. In our transformation journey to turn around the culture, and, in turn, the operational and financial performance of this 10-year-old company now hampered with a start-up mentality that was very difficult to scale, group communications were vital. However, individual communications with the leadership team around the almost daily challenges that came up were even more important.

 

Structured functional and cross-functional Agile meetings with top leadership involvement and support keeping the mission and values fully integrated into how those meetings were conducted, started breaking down the silo walls that had been built.

 

However, there were still competing priorities at the functional leadership level that needed to be re-prioritized for what the company was trying to achieve. That meant a lot of impromptu discussions with individuals and small leadership team groups caught-up in the siloed culture that had developed in recent years. It meant a lot of repetition talking about what the company was all about, how we could move forward more successfully together, and how the practical day-to-day application of our mission and stated values would help us accomplish that. Eventually, the repetition metamorphosed into muscle memory and the leadership team members felt empowered to communicate in and between the functional teams without any facilitation.

 

How much of your time do you spend facilitating discussions and/or making decisions for functional team leaders with competing priorities? Does or could your organization’s vision, mission, and values reduce the need for your personal facilitation time and free up that time up for higher-level strategic interactions, discussions, planning, and execution (with internal and external partners)?

 

Key takeaways from these transformations

 

You cannot communicate enough. Pull people in early and keep them engaged.

 

Take the time to craft messaging around your organization’s driving vision, mission, and values that can be clearly understood at all levels inside and outside your organization. You don’t want to have to adjust your messaging around your high-level purpose and operating guidelines for different groups. You want them all to be disciples. Communications must be easily understood and easy to repeat, so they can be ingrained in the organization and people can easily rally around them over the longer term.

 

Having said that, getting the various stakeholder groups on board requires that they know what’s in it for them and what they have to do to help make it happen. Those communications must be more tailored to the audience within the context of the broader overall messaging.

 

Communicate and gain support at all levels of the organization, starting with your board, your boss, and your team, before going broader across the organization. They should all be part of developing the desired future state and crafting the messaging that helps them buy in.

 

In “At C-Level #16: Implementing Transformations and Measuring Success,” we’ll look at how the transformations of these same three organizations were implemented, how people were further motivated and their success measured along the way, and what the key takeaways are that you may need to think about in preparing for your own organization’s transformative journey.

 

Thanks for following us! For more information or help, please visit us at www.Metcalf-Associates.com.

Top Skills to Lead For the Future!

This post is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre, President and Chief Operating Officer of Metcalf & Associates on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on May 16, 2017: Seven Characteristics of Leadership 2020: A CEO Story. An abbreviated version of this post appeared in Columbus CEO on January 25, Preparing Aspiring Leaders for Key Roles. The following article is an article published in Forbes March 2017.

Technology, innovation, and geopolitical change are accelerating the need for U.S. companies to get (or stay) ahead of the competition. But for companies to fully evolve, attract the best people, and produce the best products and services, their leaders must evolve too. Leaders who don’t keep up will slowly be overtaken by those who continue to keep up with the changing tides.

Take technology, for example, and the evolution of flip phones to smartphones. While this evolution has been widely noticeable, many leaders don’t think of themselves as the “flip phones” of leadership.

Kate worked for a financial services company. The company occupied a competitive market space in a complex environment that was changing quickly. She began consulting as their CFO to address profitability and controls, and after a couple of months, she was asked to join the company as president.

Kate’s leadership skills and extensive business experience enabled the company to address some internal challenges as well as position it to be a much more valuable player in the industry. Specifically, she revised financial processes to ensure accurate payments, addressed organizational structure and moved people into roles where they would have a greater impact. Within three years of Kate joining the firm, the company was sold at a substantial increase in valuation.

In today’s quickly changing and complex environment, Kate exhibited the competencies leaders need both now and well into the future to succeed. In our book, Leadership 2050, Mike Morrow-Fox, Susan Cannon and I discuss the following qualities leaders should possess as the rates of technological and geopolitical change in our world increase exponentially more.

1. Be professionally humble. In the above example, Kate not only identified the company’s purpose and guiding principles but actually used them daily when communicating with people so they understood what she expected them to produce and how she expected them to behave. When everyone was aligned, they made the right decisions and took credit for the organization’s success.

2. Have an unwavering commitment to the right action. Everything Kate did was driven by the company mission and Kate’s personal values. On one occasion, she told a major customer they could no longer talk to her people because he continually berated them. As a leader, it’s important for your followers to understand the goal of difficult actions and their purpose.

3. Be a 360-degree thinker. It is imperative for leaders to understand their industry and trends driving future success. The changes Kate led the company through involved updating processes to position the organization as a bigger competitor in the industry. She needed to understand the company, the industry, and best practices from other industries. She invested in growing business units while defunding the commodity businesses.

4. Be intellectually versatile. Leaders who can draw from a broad range of knowledge are better equipped to anticipate and lead change. Kate was highly committed to the company she was transforming, yet she made time to continue to learn. She values her professional network and is highly involved with her family and the arts. These outside interests allow her to recharge and remain resilient, which is crucial when work becomes very demanding.

5. Be highly authentic and reflective. Leaders who continually seek feedback and model growth promote change-friendly cultures. Kate is authentic in that she not only lived her personal mission and values, but also sought feedback. Though she works long hours and delivers results, she also takes the time to think about how her actions will ripple through her business and how her partners, clients and competitors will respond and be impacted. It is this focus that sets leaders apart over time.

6. Be able to inspire followership. During this and other turnarounds, Kate’s attrition rate was minimal — even during layoffs. She was as transparent as possible in explaining the company’s challenges and the opportunities they were pursuing. She dealt with challenging issues head on in ways that aligned with her values. Her humility and commitment to the right action were also highly inspirational; her team knew she was working for the best interest of the organization and all its stakeholders — not her personal gain.

7. Be innately collaborative. Kate continually sought input from across the business, her board and her customers. Her goal was to create a highly successful organization, and she knew that she could only do it if she created an environment where everyone worked together. By hearing different points of views based on different roles, there is a better focus on solving problems and creating market-leading solutions.

It is imperative that leaders continue to develop their mindset as well as their skills and behaviors to stay ahead of the accelerating pace of change. Kate models the mindset and behaviors required to transform a company working in a highly complex, ever-changing and competitive space. These mindsets and behaviors are the foundation for leaders. By going through a structured leadership development process, leaders can build the skills necessary to create continual innovation in their organizations.

So don’t become the outdated “flip phone” of leadership. Invest in your development to help you evolve at the rate you and your company need to thrive.

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 and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

 

At C-Level #14: Transformation Planning

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is an Executive Leadership Development Coach at the Innovative Leadership Institute, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”

 

In At C-Level #10–18, I write about three of the most successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, following a seven-step transformation model like the Metcalf & Associates Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.

 

Plan Journey

 

Now that you have your vision, situation, strengths, team, and resources for this journey, it’s time to do some planning!

 

Any real transformation is going to take a significant amount of time – at least a year or more.

 

Your first plan will likely get you off in the right direction. However, the further in the journey you get, the more likely you will have to deviate from it, especially if it is a very detailed plan. I mention this so that you will not:

 

  • over-plan at the expense of getting started, or
  • stress out when the plan must change, which it undoubtedly will.

 

Most consultants I’ve used start with a high-level current/future state model. Then, they break that down into functional current/future state models to distribute planning, execution, responsibility, and accountability across the team.

 

It’s also the time to plan how functional initiatives and overall transformation progress will be measured and reported. Each functional initiative must have its own metrics and goals that will contribute toward the achievement of the transformation goals. All metrics and goals must be well-thought out and clearly represent the transformation’s positive impact on the organization.

What does your organization look like today? What will it look like years from now? What metric(s) would indicate the progress of the entire organization toward its vision?

Here is how we approached planning in the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:

 

  • Large Manufacturing Company. After our transformation to upgrade basic financial reporting controllers into true financial business partners in a large and growing company (our vision), we believed the future state would include:
    • an updated accounting and financial reporting system freeing up controller time for additional analysis of the periodic financials, trends, forecast comparisons, capital investment justification and progress reporting, financial consulting within the business, and people development;
    • controllers with the skills to use new systems and perform the analysis and business partnering functions as we envisioned them;
    • a pipeline of controllers for new plants and businesses with these skills; and
    • bottom-line results to show for it all.

 

The current state included:

  • a main-frame computer-generated trial balance manually input into spreadsheets for financials with a lot of detailed information and limited analysis;
  • some controllers with the skills to perform financial analysis and some with the business knowledge to also be a financial business partner, but few with skills in newer automated accounting and financial reporting systems;
  • some accountants/assistant controllers capable of being controllers with little to no development provided to get them there; and
  • a bottom-line that could be improved by this transformation to the future state.

The project team was formalized and began reconciling what had to be done to move from the current to the future state on automating the systems. Simultaneously, as the lead controller in the largest business group, I began working with the general managers and the rest of the controllers on controller development programs.

 

Later I realized that only planning out milestones for the completion of our initiatives in the transformation and not having any metrics or goals for the overall transformation created longer term challenges with sustainability. You’ll see how that played out in future “At C-Level” blogs.

 

If you have a transformation you are contemplating, how will you measure and report progress and success in the initiatives for the transformation and for the achievement of the vision?

 

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. As you can imagine, leading a transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do” left a lot of room for interpretation, but so did our future state:
    • a perpetual earnings per share growth engine for our shareholders;
    • a work environment our associates embrace each day with opportunities to grow in their careers;
    • the status of “Most Valued Partner” to our customers;
    • providing opportunities for our suppliers to grow and prosper with us; and
    • giving back to the communities in which we live.

 

The current state:

  • fast growing sales, yet little to no improvement in profitability;
  • high-potential employees in a work environment that was difficult to embrace with little apparent opportunity;
  • customers upset with quality and delivery;
  • suppliers growing and prospering while we were not; and
  • only occasionally giving back to the community.

 

We were not serving four of our five stakeholders very well. Several company-wide strategic areas quickly needed to be addressed, with the highest priorities given to initiatives that would have the greatest positive impact to current customers, whose purchases were required to fund our transformation to the future state.

 

Given that, our top priorities were customer service improvement, employee engagement, and profitability. Focusing on those would better serve our suppliers and communities as well.

 

We decided that a lean manufacturing implementation would quickly start to improve customer service, engage our people in what they viewed as a worthwhile effort, and result in service improvements and cost savings for current customers that also could improve our profitability—while we figured out what to do about our top line value and margin challenges. Lean requires the identification of key metrics, the ongoing monitoring and reporting of those metrics, and rigorous continuous improvement processes focused on metric improvement.

 

Our overarching metric was growing profitability. We already had a quarterly gain-sharing plan for all associates and it became a great measurement of our progress and how we were all working together as a team.

 

What are the priority areas in the transformation you are contemplating? Have you considered how you will fund your transformation? How would you measure the overall success in your transformation with a metric that the whole organization could relate to personally?

 

  • Global Internet Payments Company. The desired future state:
    • helping our sellers sell more (measurably);
    • providing a collaborative and fun work environment with great career opportunities for our best associates;
    • facilitating cross-border transactions and e-commerce globally, and creating more jobs;
    • providing software as a service (SaaS) and back-end payments processing to simplify the entire process for our sellers, while adhering to the underwriting requirements of the industry and governments;
    • building a platform company that could acquire other processors and their seller customer bases; and
    • building value for an eventual financial exit for the owner.

 

The then current state:

  • A $200M transaction volume processor still trying to run in start-up mode, highly siloed, not collaborative, lacking in product development, with flat top-line and declining bottom-line performance.

 

With our SaaS model and software development driving so much of our desired future state— and that development stifled by the functional siloes in the organization—we decided to implement an Agile product development environment that required constant communication, collaboration, and coordination across all functional areas of the company. Like Lean, Agile puts your organization into a more structured continuous improvement/development environment, and its implementation requires a level of rigor that becomes a new way of life within the organization.

 

We had many detailed metrics as you might imagine for a SaaS payments company, but we also implemented a profit-sharing program—both a measurement and reward system for how we were coming out of silo-mode and performing as one team.

 

Lean and Agile concepts have much broader applicability than just in manufacturing and software development, as well as across different industries, with similar benefits. Have you ever considered either program? What about profit-sharing as an overall metric of success to increase cross-functional collaboration?

 

Key takeaways from these transformations

 

Planning for transformations can be highly dependent on organization size, maturity, current state, desired future state, and available funding.

 

There was much more up-front planning in the $2B global Large Manufacturing Company and it was a well-defined functional transformation. The company also had significant resources to contribute to its transformation project.

 

The other two transformations were in comparatively smaller companies, requiring major strategic, cultural, and operational change across the company. Their businesses were technology-based and their business environments were quickly changing. The people transforming these companies had to do it while concurrently accomplishing their ongoing business objectives. We had to figure out how to reallocate resources and squeeze more profit out of both companies to finance our transformation efforts. In both cases, sharing those profits was a nice perk, but it was also a great measurement of team progress and a source of team pride.

 

The increasing pace of change in our world will likely require these kinds of ingrained continuous improvement processes in most organizations to simply survive, let alone thrive. Think perpetual innovation, evolution, and change going forward!

 

In “At C-Level #15: Transformation Communications,” we’ll look at the communications frameworks in these three organizations and what you may need to think about in preparing for your own organization’s transformative journey.

 

Thanks for following us! For more information or help, please visit us at www.Metcalf-Associates.com.

At C-Level #12: Building Transformation Teams

Mike Sayre is a highly experienced and successful software, e-commerce, and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO, and Board Director. He is an Executive Leadership Development Coach at the Innovative Leadership Institute, a trusted partner inspiring and enabling perpetual innovation, evolution, and growth in leaders and their businesses. Mike was featured in Maureen Metcalf’s May 2017 Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”

 

In At C-Level #10-18, I write about three of the most successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, following a seven-step transformation model like the Metcalf & Associates Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.

 

Build Your Team

 

In At C-Level #9, we discussed how leadership is now entering what we call the Integral era. In this era, technological, economic, and geopolitical change outpace the abilities of most Modern and Post-Modern leaders who think in terms of tasks, processes, and systems.

 

Leading transformations in the Integral era requires strong functional leaders on your team who can supplement and/or complement the strengths, abilities, and knowledge of the team leader, and who are very collaborative, adding mental and physical horsepower to your transformation engine.

 

Building your team to make the transformation successful and sustainable requires assessing your needs for the transformation, as well as assessing the people working with you today and their abilities and potential to fill those needs in their current or alternative roles (reference Collins’ “getting the right people in the right seats on the bus” in his book Good to Great). It may also include adding, subtracting, or replacing team members to get the right mix.

 

What are your personal strengths and weaknesses? Are you surrounded by people on your team who can fill those gaps today and bring their competencies and knowledge to the team in an additive way? Any gaps still?

This is how the teams were built in the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:

 

  • Large Manufacturing Company. Leading a transformation to upgrade basic financial reporting controllers into true financial business partners by implementing a new and fully integrated financial system needed more horsepower than I had alone. I was a just a new corporate financial analyst in this $2B heavy manufacturer with operations world-wide. There was too much I did not know that could keep the transformation from even getting off the ground. However, my research and our vision led me to develop strong relationships with the controller of the largest BU, one of the most senior controllers in the company and one of the most progressive information technology leaders in the company. All were passionate about our charge and we teamed up to co-lead the transformation. After selecting the software platform, we needed to make some role changes to benefit the transformation (“get the right people on the bus in the right seats”). The controller of the largest BU became the project leader, I was promoted to the controller position to lead one of the first BU implementations, and the senior controller joined the implementation team full time. With those changes, we were all more energized than ever and ready to drive the transformation forward (which we did)!

 

Thinking about your vision for your organization and the transformation to get it there, do you have all the right people in the right seats on the bus? Okay, clear your mind of all biases. First, what seats on the bus are required to drive it forward? Now think about the people. Who belongs in which seats? Are you the best driver of this bus?

 

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. As a new CEO in this $75M publicly-held electronics manufacturing company, leading a transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do” required evaluating our core businesses, our growth in them, and questioning the value of our offering going forward. My promotion had been packaged with the exit of the president and head of sales and I had too hastily promoted an internal candidate to vice president of sales who was already familiar with the current direction and leading an international sales initiative. The international initiative was to develop technology integration customers around the world, presumably because we had exhausted what we could do domestically in this highly-commoditized business. So, I went on one of our standard worldwide sales excursions that visited three to five countries with only two to three prospects per country and quickly decided that initiative needed to be terminated. After a longer and more thoughtful search, we hired a new vice president of sales who was very experienced in highly engineered electronic products companies, could leverage our high level of engineering expertise, and get us into a much higher value and margin business. I also brought in a high-powered industry operations person from a much larger company to help lead that part of the transformation. I just had not realized the overhead that came with an executive from a much larger company to a company our size. The next vice president of operations was very talented and hired from a larger company too, but was also ready for a step up in responsibilities.

 

Already extremely fortunate with our administrative and technology department heads, we were off to the races a little over a year after I took on the role. A big lesson for me – I had made my earliest choices to lead both sales and operations before I had a clear vision in my mind. The results could’ve been catastrophic, and I took full responsibility for those hires not working out.

 

How clear and committed are you toward your organization’s vision? Is your passion for your organization and your vision so strong that you could make the really difficult decisions regarding who the right people are for the required seats on your bus?

 

  • Global Internet Payments Company. Our vision here was transforming this 10-year-old fast-growing, but under-performing, “start-up” into a next-level high-performing and growing company. Our mission was providing the highest value to our clients (the sellers using our payment services), growing the company’s financial value for an eventual exit for its founder, and everyone working in harmony and enjoying their jobs working towards those two goals. I inherited a team of very talented individuals who had grown up with the company from its start-up roots and were now encountering growing pains they didn’t have the background and experience to effectively work with. The company had grown into functional siloes that were just not collaborating anymore. Its performance was suffering, as were its employees (a close correlation).

 

In the software development world, an Agile development environment requires the various functions of the company to work very closely together, and a software-as-a-service provider can be a great candidate for Agile. We did not have a high level of Agile expertise in-house, so we added a vice president of information technology experienced in leading Agile implementations. We had a vice president of operations who had been a terrific developer early in the company’s history and who had become an industry expert in all things payments. She was not particularly happy leading operations, which needed an overhaul the likes of which was not in her previous experience. She became a sorely needed vice president of compliance and I, as COO, took direct responsibility for the various operations areas. Additionally, in this business, accounting was a vital part of operations. I promoted underutilized and knowledgeable internal talent to backfill openings created earlier in this process.

 

In fast growing companies, the mostly highly talented individuals do not necessarily want to become vice presidents of much larger organizations, nor are they prepared to do so. Do you have anyone in your organization who may have those kinds of challenges in their current role and would be happier in a role more closely aligned with their qualifications and experience?

 

Key takeaways from these transformations

 

Hiring for top leadership team roles is better delayed until the vision is clear, you know what you need, and you get the right people in the right seats on the bus. The costs for the organization and for the individuals with short tenure may not be worth the short-term benefits, if there are any. Is your vision clear?

 

Some people promoted into top roles should probably be put in as interim leaders until everyone is satisfied that the best people are fulfilling the roles and that they really want to be in those roles. If it still doesn’t work out, thank them for contributing to the company in a time of great need, and try to place them in roles for which they are better suited so you don’t lose their valuable talents and company knowledge to someone else. Do your best to not let those shifts be negative experiences in any way, shape, or form.

 

When you need talent and experience that you don’t have – but know that in the long-term it will pay off – add someone to the team when you know they have a passion for the vision as well. Don’t hire them before the vision and need are clear, unless you need their help in that, too. Hiring a consultant to help work your team through a visioning process may be a better route. Is your vision clear (an intentional repetitive question to underscore its importance!)?

 

In “At C-Level #13: Pre-Transformation Analyses,” we’ll look at how the situations and strengths were analyzed for these same three organizations and what the key takeaways are that you may need to think about in preparing for your transformative journey.

 

Thanks for following us! For more information or help, please visit us at www.Metcalf-Associates.com.

Leading in Turbulent Times: What are International Leaders Saying?

As I write this article, I’m excited to reflect on the 2017 ILA global conference theme, Leadership in Turbulent Times, and share wisdom gleaned from 12 Voice America interviews I conducted in Brussels at the conference last October. This is the second year I have interviewed keynote presenters, top speakers, political leaders, board members, and organizers in the role of media partner. The interviews resulting from this collaboration began airing  January 9, 2018: Leaders Building on A Moral Purpose to Create A Just World with Jorrit Volkers, Dean Deloitte University EMEA and George Papandreou, Former Prime Minister of Greece. See full list of interviews with links at the end of this post.

With a necessary focus right now on terrorist attacks and geopolitical instability across continents, and with the increase of populism as well as the impact of the rapid pace of technological advances, the logical theme of the conference was “Leadership in Turbulent Times.” It sounds ominous, right? The word turbulence typically creates anxiety and fear because it is never associated with something promising or hopeful. It is defined as conflict, confusion, and unsteady movement. I’d like, however, to offer a new way to think about turbulence. Change is never a result of stagnation, and only by churning ideas and challenging old schemata can we evolve. Turbulence, therefore, offers new opportunities across a broad range of sectors. While the challenges are more complex, and the world feels less safe, we have greater opportunities to make positive change than at any other time in recent history.

Turbulence is an ongoing condition to be managed, not a problem to be solved. Here is a summary of my key take-aways from presentations, conversations, and twelve hours of interviews I conducted for VoiceAmerica.

  1. Leadership is an interplay between our individual purpose and values, our behaviors, organizational culture, and systems and processes. It requires continual adjustment to maintain alignment between all four elements, an adjustment that is akin to a finely choreographed dance. It is ongoing and requires continuous attention and expertise. All aspects of the dance start with leadership having a self-awareness of purpose and values. This self-awareness provides the inner compass from which the leader leads the organization.
  2. Purpose and self-awareness are the foundation of effective leadership. Self-awareness is not an activity to accomplish once. It is a practice to be done regularly and routinely. When asked, most people want to make the world better than they found it. Leaders who can translate this sense of purpose into their unique commitment to action in the world are more effective as leaders because they have a North Star to guide their actions. When they share this purpose with those they lead, they build trust and inspire commitment.
  3. Reflection takes time—and it is a requirement. Reflection and meditation provide a physiological advantage by impacting the neural network in your brain. One of the precepts of self-awareness is the “moment of awareness” when we take a deep breath, pause, and ask ourselves what outcome we want in a moment. This brief pause allows us to be fully present and clear before we take our next step. The ability to pause and reflect, for a moment or longer, allows leaders to stay centered and grounded in times of high pressure.
  4. Leaders have many roles, including chief culture officer. Culture leaders are akin to musical conductors. Through their actions and attitude, they set the tone of the organization and the underlying agreements supporting that tone. In doing so, leaders create the culture in organizations that supports the purpose and values they claim to hold. Organizations living their purpose do not show it in a poster on the wall but through the underlying rhythm and music of a strong dance performance. The conductor becomes the music that inspires, sets the tempo and tone, and informs action. If the rhythm changes, so do the movements of the dancers. A strong culture offers a competitive advantage and makes successful organizations hard or impossible to emulate. One recommendation I heard repeatedly is that leaders need to create a culture of openness and safety. Awareness of the culture provides leaders with multiple perspectives so that they can adjust quickly to changes in the environment.
  5. Leaders need to inspire followership and know when to follow. Leaders are those formally recognized for their leadership role, some of them have the title of leader and others do not. We rarely talk about leaders as followers. Most leaders report to someone including boards of directors. Leaders need to learn to both lead and follow. They also need to teach those who follow them how they would like to be followed. Back to the metaphor of the dance, each dancer is different, the interplay between different leaders and followers is unique even with the same music. Another topic generally not discussed, but highlighted at this conference, is the idea of ethical dissent — when we chose not to follow and how we courageously hold our leaders accountable.
  6. People want to perform effectively. Organizational systems need to support peoples’ positive intentions and skills. Spend less time creating systems to weed out shirkers and poor performers and more time creating a culture that enables people with purpose to do the work that fulfills them and that concurrently serves the organization’s mission and success.
  7. Teams have become far more important in the current environment. Effective teams are based on the members’ ability to communicate effectively, often across the globe. A key factor in effective team interactions is building relationships with individuals. This is best done in person and, then, can be sustained remotely. There is no substitute for strong relationships when navigating complex work.
  8. Effective communication and learning organizations have become more important with the complexity of the challenges and geographic dispersion of teams. Communication requires both strong listening skills and the ability to speak simply and concisely, including attending to conflict and complexity when necessary. It also means unflinching accountability. Leaders must be accountable for their role when problems arise, and look forward with vision of the future rather than looking back and fault finding. It is important to learn from challenges and mistakes and remain agile in the face of ongoing change. Vision forward and data analysis backward creates learning organizations.
  9. Organizations must align their purpose with that of the stakeholders within as well as with clients, and the local and global community. Making a profit is the fuel for company survival, but it is not the fuel to thrive. Companies must find the intersection between company success and social action in order to make a positive profit while, at the same time, making a positive social impact. John Heiser, the President & Chief Operating Officer of Magnetrol International, gave a beautiful example of hiring autistic adults to perform tasks for which they are best qualified. This approach allows the company to attract and retain people whose skills match their jobs as well as provide meaningful work for people in the community who often don’t find opportunities. He gave several examples of how companies could align their interests with those of the community.
  10. Global peace and security depend on recognizing our innate nature to be peaceful. When we follow our true nature, we are peaceful beings. Conference presenters and attendees I interacted with talked about the intersection of creating individual conditions in which people can express their inner goodness and, at the same time, create cultures and systems that promote peaceful work and lives.

I left the conversations feeling hopeful that compassionate, wise, and highly-successful academics, executives, politicians, and military leaders are sharing their best thinking with one another at the conference and beyond. They forge and renew relationships, and identify new opportunities to collaborate to make positive change. This forum is one in which leadership as an art and science evolves through people and their interactions.

9 Jan. 2018Leaders Building on Moral Purpose to Create a Just World

Interviewee: Jorrit Volkers, Dean, Deloitte University EMEA & George Papandreou, Former Prime Minister of Greece

16 Jan. 2018Maximizing Profit and Social Impact Concurrently – A Case Study

Interviewee: John Heiser, ILA Board Member; President & Chief Operating Officer, Magnetrol International, Incorporated

23 Jan. 2018 How Do We Work and Live with Purpose and Compassion?

Interviewee: Éliane Ubalijoro, ILA Board Member; Professor of Practice, Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University, Canada; Member, Presidential Advisory Council for Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Rwanda

30 Jan. 2018Dialogical Leadership: Understanding How It Impacts Success

Interviewee: Rens van Loon, ILA Board Member; Professor & Consultant specialized in leadership and organizational change and transformation.

6 Feb. 2018 Creating Mindful Organizations

Interviewee: Subhanu Saxena, Regional Director Life Science Partnerships, Europe at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation & Michelle Harrison, Global CEO, Kantar Public, the WPP Group public policy consulting and research business.

13 Feb. 2018 How Would We Lead If We Believed Humans Were a Peaceful Species?

Interviewee: Mike Hardy, ILA Board Member; Founding and Executive Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, UK.

20 Feb. 2018 Inner Peace Nurtures Global Impact

Interviewee: Kathryn Goldman Schuyler, Organizational Consultant, Leadership Coach, Public Speaker and Author; Editor of Creative Social Change: Leadership for a Healthy World

27 Feb. 2018 The Dance Between Leadership and Followership

Interviewee: Margaret Heffernan, Author of five books, Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Program & Ira Chaleff, Founder and President of Executive Coaching and Consulting Associates

6 Mar. 2018 Values and Storytelling to Deliver Results

Interviewee: Sebastian Salicru, Director of PTS Consultants, an Associate of Melbourne Business School – Executive Education, and Fellow of the Institute of Coaching (McLean/Harvard Medical School) & Michelle Harrison, Global CEO, Kantar Public, the WPP Group public policy consulting and research business.

13 Mar. 2018 Leveraging Polarities in Complex and Turbulent Times

Interviewee: Barry Johnson, Creator of the first Polarity Map® and set of principles; author

27 Mar. 2018 The Nexis of Leadership and Practice – Royal Dutch Shell and ILA

Interviewee: Jeroen van der Veer, Former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell plc & Cynthia Cherry, President and CEO of the International Leadership Association

I hope this article inspires you to listen to select interviews or, even better, the entire interview series! Interviews from 2016 are being used in academic and professional leadership development programs around the world. I encourage you to share this information freely. This complimentary set of interviews are content rich, exposing listeners to the subtleties required to build leadership acumen, and give insight into those who have made a commitment to work and to live at the intersection between exceptional research and practice in 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.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

The Best Advice for Leaders

This post is a companion to the interview with Skip Prichard, CEO OCLC on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on December 19, 2017Nine Secrets to Creating a Successful Future. The blog was written by Skip. 

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard was from Jim Rohn. He said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.”

That struck me as particularly odd at first, but this simple wisdom stuck with me and became a part of my thinking.

“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to work hard on your job. It will help you stand out, get noticed, and advance your career.

But, if you stop there, you’ll miss out. Working on yourself pays far better than a salary. When you work on your own personal development, you start an almost magical process. Your capabilities expand with each new skill and that sets you up for new opportunities that you likely can’t even imagine.

Take advantage of the magic of personal development, of working harder on yourself than on your job. You’ll be glad you did.

And, I must also mention that my upcoming book, The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future, will help you on the personal development journey. I share the nine personal development secrets that the most successful leaders employ.

About the author

Skip Prichard is an accomplished CEO, growth-oriented business leader, and keynote speaker. He is known for his track record of successful re-positioning companies and dramatically improving results while improving the corporate culture. He is a keynote speaker on topics ranging from leadership, personal development. growth strategies culture, corporate turnarounds, and the future of publishing. His views have been featured in print and broadcast media including the BBC, The New York Times, CNN, NPR, The Daily Beast, Harvard Business Review, Information Today, the Bookseller, Publishers Weekly, Christian Retailing, and the Library journal.

Click here to take advantage of pre-order bonuses, including 3 leadership e-books with every order.

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.

Combat Ageism With Leadership and Marketing

This blog is a companion to the interview with Karen Sands on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on October 24, 2017 Navigating the Graying Demographic: Rock Your Age and Manage Inter-generationally. It was written by Karen Sands.

Once in an Engage Boomers article on Mediapost.com, Expressing Herself: What Marketers Can Learn When Madonna Tackles Ageism, Mark Bradbury discusses how cultural attitudes about age commonly shift as people enter their 50s. Sharing negative ageist comments (e.g. “old hag”) made about, of all people, the vibrant, successful 56-year-old performer, Madonna, he inquires as to whether ageism is the last acceptable prejudice. He suggests that our satisfaction in life correlates to our feelings about aging, which should serve as a clarion call to marketers to provide realistic, positive images of dignified aging which ensure that Boomers can more easily embrace all aspects of growing older.

For decades, I have spoken at length about, and coached clients regarding, the need for marketing products and services to serve the fast-expanding over-40 demographic. I even devote a chapter to the subject of over-40 business wisdom in my #1 Amazon Best Seller, The Ageless Way. Here are just a few *sneak peek* excerpts below.

Everyone from solopreneurs to large corporations needs to recognize that this market is essential to staying in business in the future, or even in the present. Especially important is that Ageless Women themselves are in a unique position to serve this market just as they are in this market to be served. In other words, Gray is the New Green!

 As pioneering David Wolfe observed, “I believe companies are largely ignoring the largest and richest customer group in history for three reasons. First, stereotypical beliefs about older customers paint them as resistant to change, so why bother. Second, there is widespread uneasiness about how to market to older customers, so let’s spare ourselves the pain of failure. Third, people under 40, who are not in the same mental space as members of the new adult marketplace majority, dominate marketing processes. They relate most comfortably to customers of their own ages or younger.”

 Yet, the economy, business, and the workplace are all undergoing glacial change from the status quo, despite a combination of massive upheavals and a constant media focus on the aging Boomer population. Throughout history, chaos and major shifts have always been accompanied by renewed attempts to hold on for dear life to the (false) security of How Things Have Always Been Done. There is an ongoing conflict between the stories of our past and the stories of our future, and the battlefield between them is inevitably our present story…

 My message continues to be “Here’s how to stay in sync with the generation that keeps you in business.” I present to professional and corporate marketers, strategists and entrepreneurs (experienced and newbies) across many sectors. I attempt to wake up those who have the most to gain or lose in market share and reach if they close their eyes to the forty-plus market potential. While sharing my perspective on the truth about their future if they stay youth-focused, I cajole them by quoting popular lyrics like Fleetwood Mac’s “Yesterday’s Gone…Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” I warn them that they best get on board fast because their ability to monetize going forward will be based on their willingness to serve this enormous force field of new Boomer demand in the workplace, the United States marketplace, and around the globe.

 No matter your industry or field, those who recognize the new rules of the game will reap the benefits and gobble up market share. For starters the new rules are customer-centric, not product-centered, as has been the case for eons. At least until Millennials turn forty, youth no longer rules! But “Prime Time Women” do!

 Let’s get back to the here and now stats that should blow your socks off! Based on a briefing paper prepared by Oxford Economics for AARP it is estimated that “…a 106 million-plus market is expected to grow by over 30% in the next 20 years.” If you snooze, you lose. Any entrepreneur or service professional that ignores the enormous power of the Big Gray already on our threshold might as well kiss their business goodbye. To anyone not paying attention I must ask, are sure you want to leave money on the table by ignoring this forty-plus market?

 If you are not already serving or planning to serve the forty-plus market, you are not only missing out financially—you are missing out on the chance to align what matters with an audience that is consciously choosing companies that are making a difference as well as a profit.

 The aftermath of the Great Recession can seem like the worst possible time to focus your business on your values, but the opposite is true. Boomers are an indication of how your clients are changing. Living your values and focusing on what matters in your business is not only what you need, it’s what the world needs—and it’s what the world is willing to pay for.

 Businesses that want to tap into this trend must shift their focus from value to values, from the bottom-line to the Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, Profits…

A finding in a Nielsen study projects that by 2017 Baby Boomers will control seventy percent of the country’s disposable income. Whether or not you like Madonna’s style… or that of the millions of other active, engaged, energetic, successful performers over 50 (for starters: Michael Jordan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Betty White, Denzel Washington, Hilary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah, Nascar Driver Morgan Shepherd, or Yoga Teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch, 96…), there is no doubt that the new emerging story will be written by those marketers and product makers who recognize that it is worthwhile to get beyond the rampant malevolent ageism and misogyny in corporate marketing and product development decision-making.

What ways do you think the over-40 demographic can be best served by businesses? Have you seen examples of marketers already reaching out to this age group and doing it well? Have you seen examples of how savvy leaders and organizations leverage this workforce?

About the Author:

Karen Sands, MCC, BCC is a Visionary Game Changer and Leading GeroFuturist™ on the Longevity Economy, the Business of Aging, and Ageless Aging. An advocate for The New Story of Our Age, she is a “visionary with wrinkles” who empowers people to rock their AGE. High-impact Certified Master & Mentor Coach for visionary world shakers, conscious entrepreneurs, sacred activists and change makers 40+ who are ready to shape the world and their role in it. A Trusted Advisor and expert authority on careers post 40, midlife reinvention, Boomers and women 40+ in the new business of aging for go-getters who want to stay in sync with the people who keep them in business. #1 Amazon Best Selling Author, Firecracker Speaker and All-Around Trailblazing Game Changer.

10 Executive Leadership Insights from a CEO: Dwight Smith

This blog is a collaboration between guest Dwight Smith, experienced CEO and board member of several high-profile organizations, and Maureen Metcalf, CEO Metcalf & Associates, and is a companion to the Voice America Interview with Dwight discussing his executive experience, insights, and the “My Special Word” program.

At this juncture in time, we need great leaders and great leadership! Most of us, at one time or another, have been in the presence of a great leader and can recognize the characteristics of a great leader when we see them—and recognize when they are absent. Leadership development has become increasingly important. As the pace of change accelerates there is a call for a different sort of leadership than leadership of the past. The good news is that this transformational leadership can be found in all sectors. During difficult times, truly exceptional leaders rise to the occasion and take the reins.

According to the PwC CEO Survey for 2017, globalization has brought many benefits but also downsides. With greater convergence has come greater divergence in beliefs, values, and systems. CEOs are concerned about uncertain economic growth, over-regulation, and skills shortages. The focus in 2017 on CEO talent that can address these uncertainties reflects the continuation of a trend over the last several years.

As part of our discussion, Dwight described his top 10 list of beliefs and behaviors that great leadership requires. Although this blog began with referencing the current challenges we face today, these fundamental principles are timeless.

  1. Know your values and live by them—without exception. Values drive decisions and action, and ultimately your legacy. Servant leadership is unselfish, and aims at success for others and win-win situations in which everyone is uplifted. This is where leaders are about the greater good. When we think of the many leaders whose reputations went from positive to negative very quickly, it is often based on a values issue. These leaders sidestepped their values and used their positions of power to intimidate, harass, misappropriate an organizations research, and so on. It is hard to recover from a tarnished reputation because of a values violation.
  2. Find a mentor whose values match yours. We never succeed alone. Success is always a result of learning from those who were role models and who supported us. Some are formal mentors and others modeled who we want to become or avoid becoming. Find people who uplift you, care about you, and have passion for life. Think of the people who don’t see the glass as half full but completely full—it’s just that part of the contents include air.
  3. Find ways to respect and embrace differences. Being with people who are different—in beliefs, in ways of doing things, who have a different perspective—provides us with learning opportunities. Be personal learners. Acknowledge and accept and embrace differences and learn from others who see the world differently. Seek to understand why others see the world differently, but most importantly, respect the differences whether you understand them or not. Multiple perspectives generally create more “durable” solutions.
  4. Act with grace and kindness. Find the goodness in others especially when they are most frustrating to you. This is not to say we lack discernment; we must be both discerning and kind. We must show respect to get respect. When we agree to value differences, we will be stretched into areas that are uncomfortable and, in some cases, frustrating. It is important to be gracious with ourselves as well as others.
  5. Make time to reflect. Set aside time, optimally every day, to dial back electronic connections and replace these with personal reflection, human connection, and inspirational activities such as meditation and prayer. We need time to recharge and refresh our physical bodies and our spirits. We need to reconnect with our values every day—even if it is simply quiet time during a commute.
  6. Be forward thinking and strategic. We are facing dramatic change in our world. It is critical to stay abreast of trends that will impact you directly and tangentially. When you see trends, face them head on, try to understand the impact and identify the opportunities these changes may create for you and your organization. Change always creates opportunity for someone, will you find ways to leverage it?
  7. Find passion and follow it wisely. Whether as a vocation or as a hobby, passion recharges us and gives us purpose. We may find that passion in our full-time jobs or in other areas of life. Dwight is heavily involved in an organization called “My Special Word.” In addition to his demanding work, Dwight invests his time and energy in this program because he is passionate about children and the impact his program creates.
  8. Be personally responsible and accountable. Everyone faces adversity in life. It is unavoidable. How you respond defines who you become. You are responsible for your reactions to events and their impact on yourself and others. We chose how we respond. We have the choice to take responsibility or become victims. How can you develop the capacity to own your situations and make the best of them? Think how many small decisions in life impact your day. Are you responding based on your values and your best self?
  9. Align words and actions. Whether you are aware or not, people are always watching what you do and if your words align with your actions. If your words and deeds conflict, you lose credibility and the trust of others. This can be tricky sometimes because others may not see the nuances you see or understand why you changed course. Communication is a deciding factor. Because others don’t know or see what we see, it is our job to help them understand when they perceive a misalignment. If trust is gone, people are less likely to be engaged and perform at their best for the organization.
  10. Take the time to thank people. Success and the success of an organization are built on team efforts that are the engine driving success or failure, satisfy customers, and deliver value. Make sure that all the members of your team feel appreciated.

Leadership is an honor. We serve an organization’s mission, its employees, its clients, its financial stakeholders, and our communities. We balance many requirements while keeping pace with trends and adjusting our offerings. When done properly, it is as beautiful as a well-rehearsed symphony. How would you score your performance on this top 10 list?

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 Authors:

Dwight Smith is an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Skilled in Budgeting, Business Planning, Analytical Skills, Sales, and Entrepreneurship. Strong business development professional with a MBA focused in Finance from The Ohio State University. Dwight serves on several Boards including the Federal Reserve Board of Cleveland and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Dwight created the “My Special Word” program and organization. My Special Word is a not-for-profit program with the aspiration of inspiring our youth to think about the wonderful people they are and that they hope to become using positive words. Their vision is to encourage, inspire and excite our youth to become the amazing people that they are meant to become and to strive daily to reach their greatest potential and aspirations.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.