Six Ways To Prepare Your Team For A Digital Transformation

The following blog is a republish of an article appearing in Forbes written by Maureen Metcalf. It is the companion to an interview conducted with Mike Kritzman, Founder and CEO of SkillNet on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on Tuesday, July 23rd titled SkillNet: Personalized Learning Framework for Your Company.

Experts have been discussing technological changes, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, for a while now. I believe many professionals have accepted that this is how the world is unfolding, but they don’t necessarily have a clear view of what it means for their employees.

Many of the leaders I work with are curious about digital transformation and would like to be proactive, but they aren’t sure where to start. My role is to help them with a range of activities, including understanding opportunities and connecting them with our expert partners who can help them accomplish their goals.

I predict that many (if not all) industries will feel the effects of these technological advances, some at different rates and with different specifics. According to the 2018 jobs report by the World Economic Forum, at least half of the U.S. workforce will require significant reskilling by 2022.

I’ve developed a few ways leaders can become proactive and stay on top of these changes in the workplace:

  1. Continually update your mindset to demystify changes.

I’ve observed that many of the changes we are facing involve the automation of tasks in our lives. In my experience, keeping up with these changes can be as simple as taking the time to read articles from credible sources that explain the adoption of more technology. Make a conscious effort to understand more about what this tech is and how it could impact your organization.

Forbes Insights

  1. Take a look at what could be automated.

Ask yourself which aspects of your role or company can be automated by technology. As you explore the landscape of current and future software, do you see routine parts of your organization’s work that can be more effectively done by technology? I’ve found that this frees people to process the difficult cases that require more unique analysis. Plan any future changes in your company over time so you can schedule skill-building exercises that intersect with when these changes will occur.

  1. Determine a strategic approach to reskilling.

The World Economic Forum’s job survey also reported that the time it takes to reskill workers can vary among organizations. So, define and enable a plan for continuous reskilling. One plan, for example, might include using software that offers a range of content that is aligned with your development goals. Or, you could consider using a combination of online training and mentoring with coaching. I’ve found this can help provide more flexibility for busy employees, as well as combat the cost of in-person training so that you still receive hands-on guidance and strong learning outcomes.

  1. Address new job requirements with innovative hiring practices.

In my experience, it can be difficult to find good matches for open positions that cannot be filled via reskilling. I’ve observed a number of companies that are beginning to implement more digital practices of hiring to help save themselves some time. My own company, for example, uses a digital tool that allows job candidates to fill out an assessment before they’re ever interviewed, and we can then see if they are a match for the roles that need to be filled. This allows us to save time and find the best person for the job. So take a look at your current hiring process, and if you find there is room for improvement, brainstorm a few ways your hiring methods could be more effective and efficient — it might even help you in the long run.

  1. Consider utilizing microlearning tools.

I’ve found microlearning tools — content that is provided in a broken-up, easy-to-digest way — can help employees and organizations share the responsibility of upskilling. This way, you can enable an ongoing conversation and focus on reskilling, as well as ensure your team has the tools to recognize any gaps in their knowledge and can continue to improve. Find and utilize the tools that fit the needs of your business and team so they can set milestones and achieve development goals.

  1. Build a culture that supports ongoing skill evolution.

Beyond addressing one-time skill gaps, companies now need to create systems and cultures that ensure learning is easy to access and ongoing. In a business sense, I believe this will need to become as common as personal hygiene. Most of us would not imagine showing up in the office without brushing our teeth. In my opinion, as we go forward, the most innovative companies and employees will develop a similar view about learning: It’s a necessity.

I believe one of the simplest steps to encourage ongoing learning and skill-building is to choose one of the aforementioned recommendations to pilot. Experiment with these tools, and identify which ones fill your immediate needs. Then, expand on this exploration item by item.

As we step into what I like to call the “Wild West” of emerging technologies, I believe all leaders and employees will need to understand new trends and manage them to their advantage. An ongoing theme I’ve observed is that we as leaders must find ways to understand the changes our organizations need to make to meet our missions and ensure our teams are able to develop their skills. As leaders, you are uniquely positioned to invest in defining a comprehensive approach to identify and fill gaps on a regular basis and create work that is fulfilling for your team and your company.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the author

Ms. Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute (formerly Metcalf & Associates) is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.

Tips for Realizing Your Fullest Potential

This guest blog was written by Jeff Jones. It is the companion to the Voice America interview about the book EMPLOYEE CONFIDENCE: The New Rules of Engagement by expert Karen J Hewitt.

 

Your potential is limitless. Everything you desire under the heavens is achievable; believe that. Many people dream of achieving big things, for example, the first man on the moon, and despite many people around them doubting their ability, they thrived in their pursuit.

 

But why is it that you and I always fail on the things we set our minds to achieving? Well, because there are many hindrances that block us from realizing our full potential. In this article, we will look at seven of these hindrances and how to overcome them.

 

  1. Quitting prematurely

This will sound like a tired cliché but believe me; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Realizing your full potential means pushing yourself to the limit- sometimes beyond your human limits- until whatever you put your mind to is achieved. Of course, quitting is easier than persistence, particularly with too many naysayers at every corner of the way. Sometimes you will suffer setbacks that are too painful to fathom and too deep to recover from, but if you are to succeed, the last thing you should do is quit.

 

  1. Losing sight of the endgame

When you set your endgame, you need to focus entirely on it. Don’t let everyday distractions deter your vision. Always ensure that the bigger picture is at the top of your mind so that every small step you make, it points towards its direction. Sometimes you will need to make sacrifices in order to get to the bigger picture but believe me; it is worth it. If necessary, take pieces of advice from a leadership coach to help you remain on the right path for achieving results faster. w

 

  1. Lack of proper planning

If you are living life without a plan, then you will easily be disrupted. People around you will be taking advantage of you left right and center if you don’t show them how committed you are to your course. If you have a 5-year project, for example, you need to plan on what you will be doing every day, week, month, and year in order to reach somewhere. Create a checklist and use it as a guide on what to do every day. And while at it, remember that the key to accomplishing many tasks is incorporating your free time in your schedule no matter how tight it could be. Don’t miss dinner with your family or your morning gym sessions just to work. Plan well for a good work-life balance.

 

  1. Limiting thyself to ordinary things

Your potential is limitless and so are your opportunities. As such, you need to start seeing both ordinary and extraordinary opportunities. You need to develop a thick skin to handle all ordinary and extraordinary challenges that life throws your way. Remember that all the great innovations you see around were once seen as some extraordinary, probably impossible, goals. Whatever you are visualizing in your mind, no matter how huge, is realizable if you work towards that. Remember that if you keep doing what you do best will limit your chances of realizing your full potential.

 

  1. Negativity

Sometimes your enemy is within you. If you only entertain negative thoughts in your mind, then you will never move forward. You need to always cultivate a positive and optimistic attitude in order to reach your full potential. Tell yourself that it is possible even when everything points to the impossibilities. If you have any friends who ooze negativity, cut them lose before they intoxicate you with their negative attitude. The bottom line: You are your own cheerleader, motivator, and reinforcement. Believe in your ability and cheer yourself on.

 

  1. Time wastage

Cut loose everything that doesn’t add value to your life in order to save time. If you have too many pet projects, pare the back. If you are hosting your jobless relative at your home, ask them to leave if they are causing unnecessary noise. And if you are using too much social media to the point of sleeping less than 6 hours, delete those accounts ASAP.

 

  1. Undue pressure

Pushing your limit must not be mistaken for pressuring yourself. Always do enough but don’t overdo it to the point of losing your peace of mind. Take time to smell the flowers and appreciate the great things and people around you. Remember, some pressure allows you to hone your success, too much pressure limits your resilience and health.

 

Bottom line

 

Realizing your fullest potential is definitely not a child’s play. If you can’t do it on your own, just find a good coach and ask him or her to advise you accordingly.

 

About the Author:

Jeff Jones is a devoted career specialist at Animas Coaching, helping many students and people making the right career choice. He usually evaluates the individual’s background, training, and education in order to help and develop realistic goals and help guide them in choosing a profession or type of degree necessary to be successful. When he is not helping others, you can find her exploring the deepness of nature.

Redefining the Workforce: When Robots Pay Union Dues and Learn Too

This is a guest blog by Susan Harper as a companion to the Voice America interview with Dale Meyerrose, PhD, Redefining the Workforce: When Robots Pay Union Dues and Learn Too

 

What are the current statistics of our work force? As leaders, it is important to be aware of trends within the work force.  In January of 2019, the US economy had 7.6 million unfilled jobs and not enough applicants to fill them.  It is a trend that has been increasing 5-8% for the last two years.  It is predicted by Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm, that these numbers will get worse before they will get better.  Korn Ferry has also predicted the US will lose $435 billion dollars in lost productivity due to the lack of available talent.  This is not just a US problem as every industrialized economy will experience this lack of work force but most likely on a smaller scale.  This labor force shortage is a real concern for leaders as the potential to leave revenue unrealized due to the inability to have a work force to complete the work.

How do leaders find a solution for this work force shortage? In our current culture, not only is the work force changing rapidly, but also the nature of work is being changed by technology.   Recent statistics suggest that half of all the current work force will be affected by automated work force in the next four year.  The digital worker, an RPA (Robotic Process Automation) will automate the repetitive elements of the job and leave the highly valued, cognitive functions for the human work force.  Leaders need to be looking for ways to train their work force to be prepared to step into the highly valued, cognitive functions and leave those repetitive tasks to the automated work force in order to effectively use their work force rather than be in a work force shortage.

What are some of the tasks RPAs (Robotic Process Automation) can accomplish? RPAs can simulate human work activities such as sending emails, logging into applications, entering data, auditing activity, searching through data and compiling search results.  Identifying these tasks in each job would allow modern jobs to become more flexible and keeps the work force from being bogged down by repetitive, mundane tasks.

What does it look like to employ RPAs? A digital work force can be employed by any size of business.  It is best to employ these RPAs integrated with your human work force.  These RPAs would be credentialed to do specific tasks and then educate and train the RPAs just as you would do with a human work force.  Also, there is a point where the RPA may need to be “retired”, while this doesn’t mean a pension it does mean planning to replace outdated technology.

What view should we take of best practices of employing the digital work force? Rather than focusing on individual tasks and solutions, leaders need to focus on the enterprise-wide solutions to make the biggest impact.  Consider what your enterprise most often does and how to automate that.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

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, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in 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, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

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, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

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.

Doing Well by Doing Good: A Case Study For Technology Solutions

This blog post is the companion to the Voice America interview with Dale Meyerrose, Doing Well by Doing Good.  We have been hearing about the topic of doing well by doing good for a few years and the concept sounds good in theory. Many people have asked, how do you put it into practice?

According to Dale Meyerrose, in our interview, his belief that it is time to change how technology leaders think about how they introduce products and think about their work. He proposes that they should start with identifying the greatest need and moving from need to technology solution.

He illustrates his views by discussing the company whose board he serves as Chairman, Imcon International, Inc. On September 27, 2018, Imcon International, Inc., Syracuse University and Republic of Liberia Partner to launch a project known as 40 in 2021, A $150 million Blueprint to Digitally Transform Liberia Through Dramatic Expansion of Internet Connectivity.

The following two minute video provides more information about the project.

Imcon International Inc., the developer of the Internet Backpack, a remote connectivity solution that allows users to be able to communicate from almost every location on the planet, the School of Information Studies (iSchool) at Syracuse University and the Republic of Liberia will collaborate on a far reaching project that will digitally transform Liberia by increasing the nation’s current internet penetration of about 7% to 40% by 2021.

High ranking Liberia government officials acknowledged “the potential significant value to the country, especially the benefits to be gained by Liberia’s ailing Education and Health Sectors”.

As an integral part of the project, Imcon International will provide Internet backpacks for 6000 schools as well as edgeware, through its partner VMware, to the Republic of Liberia for education, healthcare, rural community and government use, connecting the internet to all schools and hospitals throughout the country. The project includes a project-based learning curriculum through Imcon’s education partner One Planet Education Network (OPEN). Through its partnerships with Humanity.co and OrbHealth, Imcon will also implement a nationwide broadband network dedicated to the nation’s Education and Healthcare system and deploy and maintain Liberia’s first Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system. The newly established non-profit Imcon Liberia Foundation will drive the goals of 40 in 2021. Syracuse University iSchool will lead research, education, cyberphysical network design, and implementation for the Liberia project.

“The Internet Backpack is a revolutionary technology and a groundbreaking solution with multiple applications for use across the planet,” said Mr. Loud of Imcon. “This alliance will dramatically jumpstart our ability to extend our proprietary technology and effectuate positive change for underserved people as well as for those in remote areas without access to standard connectivity. The Liberia project is the first of many projects we envision rolling out on a global scale over the coming months and years.”

“We are pleased to take part in this project with Imcon and lend our technical and research expertise to this important endeavor to increase Internet connectivity across Liberia and other locations around the globe,” said Dean Liddy. “The iSchool is deeply committed to leveraging our academic and scholarly resources to improve the world around us.”

This project is a shining example of cross sector and cross-country alliances to address challenges facing the country of Liberia. It is also an example of how a technology company evaluated their product compared to the applications it could address. They selected education for Liberian children because this application would provide the greatest good to the highest number of people. By looking at the greater good, this company is creating an organization where many employees and partners will engage because they make a real impact on the world. They will not need to offer the artifacts other companies do to motivate employees whose primary role is to make stockholders more money with limited regard for the social impact.

We are certainly not opposed to companies paying dividends and creating value that provides stock appreciation (that is how many of us fund our personal retirements). We do submit that there is an opportunity for more companies to expand or even shift their focus to add doing good to the equation and still delivering strong business results.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, 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.

3 Leadership Lessons from Hiking the Camino Trail Across Spain

This post is a guest post by Victor Prince.  The best way to become a better leader is to better yourself. Sometimes taking on a big adventure on your vacation is a great way to do that. Pilgrims from all over the world have walked the Camino de Santiago trails across Europe for centuries, making their way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, North-West of Spain. Today, more than a pilgrimage, the Camino is an unforgettable experience and unique journey. The pilgrimage to Santiago has never ceased from the time of the discovery of St. James’s remains in 812 AD, though there have been years of fewer pilgrims, particularly during European wars. This post is the companion to Voice America interview between Maureen Metcalf and Victor – The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain.

Last month, I hiked 200 miles (320 kilometers) over two weeks on the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain. It was my third Camino in five years. I go back because I have found the Camino to be more than just a fantastic trail. The Camino provides a unique social learning opportunity as I meet and share an intense experience with fellow hikers from around the world. It also provides me alone-time to reflect on my own life and career. After my first Camino, that combination inspired me to post a blog here on LinkedIn about the lessons I learned. That blog snowballed into a book deal with HarperCollins. This third Camino taught me three different, but equally powerful lessons.

1 – Find a Train to Jump On – During a stop on my book tour in June, I met a couple of readers who were interested in walking the Camino but had not yet made it happen. When they asked me if I was going again, I told them about my August trip, which was timed to celebrate the release of the Spanish-language version of my book. They were nice folks, and in the spirit of the Camino, I told them they would be welcome to join me. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but three weeks later I got an email. They had decided to do it and had gotten the time off work. About six weeks later, we all met for the second time on a morning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and climbed over the Pyrenees Mountains together into Spain (see picture). Many miles later, we parted at the end of the trail in Santiago de Compostela as fellow Camino pilgrims – and new friends.

Leadership Lesson – If you have a big, difficult goal and you find someone else with that same goal who has a plan to achieve it, jump on that train with them!

2 – Test Your Boundaries – Before Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, many Europeans believed that Cape Finesterre in Spain (pictured) was the western-most point in Europe, and thus represented the end of the world. After reaching the end of the Camino trail, many of these medieval pilgrims continued on for a few more days of walking to see for themselves. These pilgrims must have felt a surge of confidence after walking across Spain – something that may have seemed impossible to them before they did it. They wanted to see for themselves if other supposed limits were really true as well.

Leadership Lesson – When you have some belief that is limiting your potential, test it. Sometimes you will realize a big wall in front of you is just a bubble waiting to be burst if you just poke it.

3 – Seize Safe Moments to Try Crazy Things – After I walked to Finesterre, I was tired and not looking forward to retracing my steps on the 40 minute walk back to my hostel. I didn’t see many other options. Then I decided to try something I had never done before – hitch-hiking. While I never recommend getting into a car with complete strangers on the roadside, I knew this would be the safest place I would ever try it. Because the road went to the “end of the world,” everyone driving back were tourists like me headed back to town. It was a busy road in broad daylight and I had my phone on me, so I stuck out my thumb. Just before the five minutes I had given myself to try it ended, a nice couple of French women pulled over. We chatted a bit in English before I took up their offer to jump in their back seat. Five minutes later I was back in town with a couple of new friends – and a new story.

Leadership Lesson – Take advantage of very low risk situations to try out constructive new things. For example, on one solo business trip early in my career, I popped into a karaoke bar I walked by to sing a song. I hadn’t had many chances to do public speaking before, and that helped me fight stage fright in a low risk environment since I knew nobody in that town.

Sometimes a vacation can be a great way to do something that helps you in life after the vacation is over. If you are looking for an adventure that can help you long after the vacation is over, it is hard to beat the Camino – a trail people have been walking for over 1,000 years.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author: Victor Prince is a Corporate Trainer and Certified Executive Coach who teaches strategy, communication and leadership skills to clients around the world. His latest book, The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain (HarperCollins Leadership, 2017)has been a Top 100 Amazon bestseller in 8 categories and was listed as a top business book of 2017 by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Earlier in his career, Victor was a consultant at Bain & Company, a marketing executive at Capital One, and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has an MBA in Finance from Wharton. Learn more at www.victorprince.com.

Introspection Is Foundational for Effective Global Leadership

This blog a companion to the Voice America Interview on “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” with Jeroen van der Veer and Cynthia Cherrey, PhD on March 27, 2018, Nexus of Leadership and Practice: Royal Dutch Shell and International Leadership Association.  The following is an excerpt from the International Book Award Winning, Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders by Maureen Metcalf, Steve Terrell PhD, and Ben Mitchell.

The national economies of the world have grown to be so integrated and interdependent over the past twenty-five years that a significant number of companies operate today as if the entire world were a single market or entity, comprising many different, interconnected sub-markets, and crossing borders, cultures, time zones, and languages. This high degree of interconnectedness or globalization, brought about through the impact and use of technology, melds with the chaos and continuous change of today’s business environment to create a highly dynamic, complex, borderless, multicultural context within which businesses must learn to operate, or suffer the undesirable consequences of being left behind. Organizations must find constructive ways to adapt to survive, and the most adaptable organizations will be best positioned to explore all possibilities and to respond with innovative solutions to the complex challenges they face.

Organizations are discovering that globalization demands that leaders master different skills than were required in the past. The world is increasingly characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), and global leaders need new competencies that enable them to respond accordingly. Global leaders deal with intricacies that differ significantly from non-global contexts and must demonstrate cultural adaptability and sensitivity. Yet, many organizations are finding that their supply of global leaders, or even individuals with the potential to become global leaders, does not match the demand. In today’s world, the race is not won by the swift, strong, or smart—the race goes to the most adaptable, those who learn from experience and co-evolve with the complex adaptive systems within which they work and live.

Leadership plays a critical role in an organization’s long-term success, and innovation has become a strategic necessity in today’s business environment. In short, global leadership and innovation have a greater impact today than ever before. Despite the volume of resources exploring both leadership and innovation, most approaches provide directional solutions that are merely anecdotal and lack sufficient information to allow leaders to make measurable change. Add to this equation the importance of developing global skills, and leaders face an even greater challenge. Technology and increased access to information continue to accelerate the pace of business and of change and organizations are often too overrun with change to handle the torrent of emerging demands.

Questions on how to lead and where to innovate remain puzzlingly philosophically: What is the role of global leadership in a time of looming uncertainty? How will organizations innovate to overcome challenges that are largely unprecedented? In a new climate of business, is there a formula for creating success in both areas?

Becoming a better global leader and optimizing innovation jointly hinge on your ability, as a leader, to authentically examine your own inner makeup and diligently address some challenging limitations. Leadership innovation happens naturally and can be accelerated through the use of a structured processes involving your own self-exploration, allowing you to authentically enhance your leadership beyond tactical execution.

Despite their collective value, many conventional applications of leadership and innovation have often proven elusive and even problematic in real-world scenarios. For example, if the leadership team of a struggling organization drives initiatives that focus solely on making innovative changes to incentives, products, and services, without also advancing strategic purpose, culture, and team cohesiveness, they will ultimately miss the greater potential to create a comprehensive turn- around in the organization. Productivity and system improvements are undoubtedly critical, but how employees make sense of their work experience is equally vital to team engagement and commitment. Innovating products and improving functionality—without also creating a better and more meaningful team environment, or a more supportive organizational culture—often appears to pay off in the short term, yet produces lopsided decision-making and shortsighted leadership that create lasting adverse consequences.

Knowing that the future of organizations is irrevocably tied to a world of erratic change, we can no longer afford to improve our systems and offerings without equally advancing our leadership capacity. Leadership empathy and the ability to inspire cultural alignment, along with other important leadership activities, will make a significant impact on your organization and must be implemented as shrewdly as is strategic planning.

Combining global leadership with innovation, then, requires you to transform the way you perceive yourself, others, and your business. By earnestly looking at your own experience—including motivations, inclinations, interpersonal skills, and proficiencies—you can optimize your effectiveness in the current dynamic environment. Through reflection, you learn to balance the hard skills you have acquired through experience with the meaningful introspection attained through deep examination— all the while setting the stage for further growth. In essence, you discover how to strategically and tactically innovate leadership the same way you innovate in other aspects of your business.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, 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 also the president and COO of Metcalf & Associates, 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.

 

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