Can Employees Control A Company’s Culture? A Success Story!

This week we continue the Connex Executive Insights Series, produced in collaboration with Connex Partners, an invitation-only executive network that brings industry leaders together from the worlds of HR and Healthcare.

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

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

This article is by Heather Krentler, the Chief Administrative Officer for Continental, a food management company that specializes in “Food Your Way”; providing flexible food solutions for a flexible workforce.   It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Employee-Centric Leadership: A Leader’s Food for Thought airing on Tuesday, May 24th, 2022.

To one degree or another, emerging from the height of the pandemic has been a test of cultural resilience and management flexibility for all businesses.  Despite the operational and financial recovery, employers continue to face industry-agnostic challenges in the areas of recruitment and retention.  The “Great Resignation” may have less to do with shifting values or labor inflation and more to do with a simple, but powerful, concept: control.  After feeling out of control for so long, people are starved to regain a sense of power over their livelihoods and work-life experience.  While compensation and purpose may give the exit interviewee a soundbite, it may actually be about getting a fresh start . . . on their terms.

Continental, a food management company, with dozens of dining locations, hundreds of fresh food markets, and thousands of vending machines in Midwest workplaces, watched and listened as clients of all sizes struggled to get their populations to return to the office.  There was often a disconnect between what leadership sought to regain in the form of culture and what their people saw as the most productive way to perform.  Endless debate raged about in-office versus remote work and no one emerged the clear victor.

Internally, Continental was wrestling with similar challenges.  While designing “Food Your Way” (flexible food solutions for flexible workplaces) the concept of “Work Your Way” also emerged.   What better way to intimately understand clients’ needs for their shifting and often unpredictable workforces than to encourage our own people to decide how to deliver their very best to the business, in the way that works best for them?

Allowing our people greater control and influence over their work environment began in our largest distribution center, where for many years we had struggled with recruitment and retention.  At one point, we thought that increasing pay rates would do the trick, but as soon as we’d raise the rate, our competitors for talent would too.  Not only were we driving our own rates up through this cycle, we weren’t succeeding at stabilizing the team.

We even tried accepting a high rate of turnover as “normal” and challenged ourselves to streamline and automate as much of the recruiting and onboarding processes as possible.  We hypothesized that by reducing the burden of selecting and training high volumes of new hires, we could more easily bear the impact of turnover.  That, too, failed.  Without stabilizing a portion of the team, there was simply too much churn to keep the operation above water.

These two tactics, and a few others that didn’t deliver, all had one thing in common: they were solutions from leaders, not the people closest to the problem.

By the time COVID arrived, we were forced to accept that our methods weren’t working and that we needed to try a different approach.  We spent months listening to our people through surveys and focus groups, hoping to catch a glimpse of what kind of a workplace they wanted to be a part of.  They were open and honest . . . and we got to work.  Not the work of any one person or team, but operational leaders and HR partners coming together to bring a new work experience to life.  This meant overhauling total rewards, the food offering, gamifying production, improving manager training, and more.  We took a holistic approach to the experience these highly valued people deserved and we now have significantly lower turnover and a team of people who feel appreciated and heard.

While our greatest lessons were learned from our frontline workers, managing office workers also had to evolve.  Managers struggled with not being able to physically observe performance and new metrics were needed.  We spent a lot of time debating what the true measures of performance were and the same three concepts kept surfacing: People, Productivity, and Proximity.

At first, team members challenged whether or not personal relationships with colleagues could be as strong without in-person interaction and questioned how we would know if they weren’t.  But when we asked, “Do your interactions go beyond just transactional?”, “Do you have a sense of the stressors in your team members’ lives beyond their daily work?”, “What is your level of trust with this person and what do you believe their level of trust in you is?”, suddenly people started getting it.  Over time, if someone wasn’t investing time in people, we would see an increase in negative feedback around their performance and have a metric that pointed to their need to invest in others.

Productivity, while seemingly obvious, has a different flavor at Continental. We have long-used two tools to focus efforts and give clarity to progress: the Job Success Profile and Action Plan.  Unlike a Job Description, which is a list of tasks commonly performed, the Job Success Profile describes the optimal impact this position will have on the business.  It is supported by the Action Plan, which lists S.M.A.R.T. goals to be accomplished in that calendar year.  You can’t have one without the other.  Together, with a clear rhythm of check-ins, employer and employee have a mutual understanding of that person’s contributions and progress.

Then there was Proximity.  This wasn’t just about being physically proximate to other team members, although that could certainly be part of it, it was about maintaining a deep knowledge of our operations and industry to create new solutions for an evolving and rapidly growing business.  For example, if an HR team member had a strong understanding of warehouse operations two years ago, but hadn’t set foot in one since COVID hit, they would be woefully underqualified to design retention tactics with the leaders of that operation.  With every role that could be performed remotely, we expected people to find their own ways of maintaining that operational connection, whether in person or virtual.

In all three of these categories, employees were given clarity on outcomes and control over their methods.

What started as a journey to give more control to our people became a lesson in letting go of control ourselves.  This proved to be scary, but also freeing.  And it all came down to trust.  Our discovery that it’s our job to facilitate culture, not control it, is now influencing the ways we recruit, onboard, and engage our people.  Our job as leaders is to message and model the values and mission, then give people the authority and support to bring them to life.

RESOURCES:

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  1. Read the Forbes article Are You A Future-Ready Leader – free
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  3. Purchase a comprehensive online course ILI Leadership Mindset Program for $174.99
  4. Purchase a Comprehensive Innovative Leadership Development program – see options in the Innovative Leadership Course Library

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future via iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotify,  Amazon Music,  AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Considerations for Scaling

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

 

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

 

Back Office

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

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

 

DEI and ESG

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

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

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

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

 

Space and People

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

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

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

 

Value Chain Balancing

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

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

 

Avoiding Distraction

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

About the Author

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

Evolving an Iconic Brand

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

About the Author

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

 

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

 

Why Meeting Efficiency Should be Your Goal for 2022

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

 

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

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

Meetings: Only when needed

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

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

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

Tracking to keep on track

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

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

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

Transparent by default

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

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

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

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

The takeaways for more efficient meetings

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

About the Author

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

Vibrant Agreements Supercharge Hybrid Work Environments

This week’s article was originally published by Maureen Metcalf for Forbes Coaches Council on June 8, 2021.  It is a companion to the interview with Greg Moran  titled The New Role of Leadership in a Hybrid Workplace on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future that aired on Tuesday, July 20th.

 

Companies are taking a range of approaches to return to work. A Harvard Business School study on remote workers “showed that many professionals miss their colleagues and other aspects of being in the office, and some want to go back. But, since they proved they were able to perform, and even excel, during the pandemic, they want more flexibility.” The study also found that:

  • 27% hope to work remotely full-time
  • 61% would like to work 2-3 days a week from home
  • Only 18% want to go back to the office full-time

This raises a question: How do we create a future-ready, post-pandemic environment that allows organizations to meet their missions and employees to thrive and manage the stress, mental health and engagement challenges?

To add to the challenge, many employees want to retain some flexibility. However, companies that don’t get their culture and work-from-home approach right risk struggling to attract and retain the talent required to succeed during a tight labor market.

Creating a vibrant culture that supports high productivity and engagement and accelerates change readiness is vital. Vibrant organizations have the cultural secret sauce. The authors of a McKinsey report, “Organizing for the future: Nine keys to becoming a future-ready company,” write “Among the most successful companies, culture forms the backbone of organizational health and fuels sustained outperformance over time: companies with strong cultures achieve up to three-times higher total returns to shareholders than companies without them.”

Vibrancy-based organizational agreements are crucial enablers to creating a culture that attracts and retains top talent to deliver results consistently. A vibrancy-based agreement is a shared understanding of how we interact with others. Vibrancy-based agreements differ from standard agreements because they explicitly look at what we can do to create a positive environment and achieve high-impact results. These agreements underpin the business operating models, processes, behaviors and culture and must be explicit to ensure they generate the desired outcomes.

Agreements often happen over time and somewhat unconsciously. They are the unwritten rules of “how we do things around here.” Like most things that evolve unconsciously, they are likely to become outdated, out of step with the organizational complexities and socio-eco-system.

Harvard adjunct researcher Dr. Jim Ritchie-Dunham conducted extensive research on the science of abundance-based (vibrancy-based) agreements that create engaged and highly productive organizations. His research started with the question, why are people continually attracted to some organizations above others? This question led him to look at organizational agreements at three different levels:

  1. Slow To Change

What are we delivering with our existing systems and processes? How can we be more efficient within our current systems and processes? Many organizational agreements fall primarily into this category. We make the best of our current situation, we have limited resources and we use them efficiently. The kinds of associated limiting statements might be things like “Don’t over-commit” and “That improvement would be nice, but we don’t have the budget to do it.”

  1. Development-Focused

How can we accomplish what is possible? What do we need to build, learn, grow and develop? Moving from level one to level two means organizations focus on delivering results and creating the growth mechanisms to grow, transform, learn and improve. Organizations at this level talk about what they are doing to grow their people, increase capacity and address shifting priorities. They are more agile and willing to experiment as they achieve results.

  1. Aspirational

What is possible? What do we want to accomplish? Organizations that evolve to the third level are “abundance-based.” They see opportunities and potential. They realize that if they can see the potential clearly, they can develop the capacity and deliver the results in a sustained and resilient way. At this level, they leverage the capacities they developed in level one and level two, continuously evolving their capacity to develop and deliver potential over time while simultaneously creating thriving dynamics within their organizations.

So now that you have read about the levels, where would you want to work? It seems like a simple question, yet getting there requires leaders to understand the transformation framework and methodology.

The transformation journey begins with examining the organization, viewed as a system with a flow of energy. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the organization’s current capacity to 1) engage their collaborators and their available resources, 2) envision, leverage and transform that capital in the organization’s unique way and 3) create, scale and transfer the value to the organization’s stakeholders. All three are key to avoid “leaks” in the system and tap into the potential to embody a future-ready company.

Most organizations start with the majority of their agreements somewhere between level one and level two. The most prominent wake-up call is looking at the cost of scarcity or missed opportunities. The cost of suboptimal agreements can be a 50% reduction in service levels and financial measures. This cost is the norm for organizations in level one. An organization can unlock its impact by engaging, transforming and transferring its creativity, each aligned within the next level of agreements.

As a rudimentary example, I worked with an organization whose staff was struggling with burnout. During a facilitated session focused on building resilience, the team defined how they wanted team members to feel at work and identified agreements about how and when they would communicate and what they expected of one another. These agreements allowed team members to clarify expectations and plan their work and personal lives to be and feel successful. One distinction with vibrancy-based agreements is that they consider people’s energy levels, impacting their health, engagement and commitment. They manage interactions to maximize recharge and minimize depletion.

As we build future-ready companies that continue to evolve and thrive in ever-changing situations, we need to look at the underlying agreements. These agreements allow us to grow our organizational impact and solve some of the world’s most significant problems; they allow us to generate far greater value for ourselves and all of our stakeholders. It is a choice.

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

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

 

About the Author

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

 

Make Your Organization Cyber Resilient in Five Simple Steps

This blog is a guest blog from Matthew Stern of TechFools.  It is a companion to the interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled A Dozen Lessons Learned Running Dunkin’ Donuts that aired on Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

 

Cybersecurity refers to a series of measures put in place to prevent threat actors from penetrating IT infrastructure. But implementing such measures merely reduces the risk of a major attack. Today, organizations have to use a wide range of IT equipment, the internet, and mobile devices to conduct business. The ever-expanding attack surfaces make 100% prevention impossible, and that’s where cyber resilience comes in.

Cyber resilience refers to the measure of how well an organization can continue operating regardless of technical failures, downtime, and other disruptions that could stem from a successful cyberattack. Cyber resilience takes a holistic approach to cybersecurity. Having a cyber resilience strategy will help you manage risks and protect your business.

Different Cyber Risks Faced by Companies

Every day, businesses fend off thousands of attacks targeted at their IT infrastructure. Attackers can launch attacks using a wide variety of techniques and technologies with minimal effort and expenditures. Eventually, one of these attempts will end up in a successful breach. It’s a question of ‘when’ not ‘if,’ and your business needs to be ready. This section looks at some of the most common types of cyber risks faced by organizations.

Ransomware

One of the most common attacks targeting businesses, ransomware is a form of malware that blocks the victim from accessing their systems. The cybercriminal demands a ransom to restore access, and if you don’t pay, you risk losing your system files permanently.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

Attackers will initiate a DDoS attack to overwhelm your network with a high volume of unwanted traffic. The goal is to exhaust bandwidth and render the victim unable to respond to legitimate queries. If you get overwhelming traffic on your website, your organization may be facing a DDoS attack.

Phishing 

Cybercriminals will use all kinds of clever tricks to steal sensitive information from individuals and organizations. Phishing is one of them. It’s one of the most common types of attacks amply conducted by cybercriminals. Fraudulent emails aimed at tricking recipients into divulging sensitive data such as passwords, banking credentials, credit card numbers, etc., are common. Make sure members of your organization know how to detect potential phishing scams.

 

5 Ways to Create a Strong Cyber Resilience Program

Cybersecurity is primarily about protecting your organization against a wide range of cyber threats. But as stated earlier in the article, 100% prevention is not possible.

Therefore, apart from having security tools like antivirus software to detect and remove malware, firewalls to keep external threats at bay, and encryption tools such as a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect your data online, you also need to make sure that your business survives and thrives even when that protection fails.

You can do that by building a robust cyber resilience strategy. Here are five ways to build a strong cyber resilience program for your business.

Formulate a Plan

To be cyber resilient, you need to have an adequate business continuity plan. Create a formal plan to deal with successful cyberattacks and other threats while maintaining key business operations. What critical resources do you have and what would be the business impact if they were to malfunction in the aftermath of the attack?

Get Insurance Cover

Financial loss is part and parcel of the aftermath of a cyberattack. Also, a successful data breach will almost always end up in a lawsuit. Organizations must protect themselves from financial loss resulting from a cyberattack by getting insurance cover. This type of coverage will typically include liability cover.

Create a Risk and Incident Management Plan

In case of an attack, having a proper risk and incident management strategy will help your organization react swiftly to neutralize the threat and restore operations. Establish an incident response and disaster recovery plan and work on improving it through regular testing.

Maintain a Proper Backup

Backups help organizations retain and retrieve critical information in the event of a cyberattack or data breach. Creating a backup for all the important company files, data, and bandwidth capabilities is one of the most successful ways to bounce back from a cyberattack and ensure cyber resilience.

Get Leadership Buy-In

For your cyber resilience strategy implementation to be effective, you need your leaders on board. You can achieve this through executive and board engagement. This level of involvement in your cyber resilience program delivers a strong message to your employees, partners, vendors, etc., about the company’s commitment to the fight against cybercrime.

Cybersecurity tools can’t fend off all cyberattacks. Even if your defenses prevent 99% of attacks, you still need to deal with the 1% that get through. Cyber resilience principles are centered around reacting to successful attacks, implementing secure redundancy for critical business processes, and business continuity planning.

 

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

Matthew Stern is a technology content strategist at Assignyourwriter.co.uk. As a tech enthusiast and an advocate for digital freedom, Matthew is dedicated to introducing his readers to the latest technology trends and teaching them how to gain control over their digital lives.

 

Why Should Leaders Look After an Employee’s Financial Health?

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This blog is provided by Ashley Johnson, a business blogger, as a companion to the interview with Jack Modzelewski and his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Leadership, Communication and Credibility in a High-Stakes World that aired on April 14, 2020.

 

Your responsibilities to your staff go beyond simply signing their paychecks, granting their leave requests, and assigning work. It is also your duty to look after their financial health, especially in light of recent developments that have pushed America into an economic crisis. In these times, 15% or more of any given workforce is struggling financially. Part of this is due to flat-lining income levels that, when adjusted for inflation, are a mere $50,000 annually per household. In other words, there is a good chance that many of your employees are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and are possibly deep in debt. The question for today’s business leaders is what should they do about this?

Financial hardship equals poor performance

The above scenarios can lead to financial stress, which can be very debilitating for employees. In a Marcus feature on the link between physical and financial health, money coach Elisabeth Donati explains how money-related stress is almost as bad as health stress as it is directly tied to a person’s drive to survive. Failure to attain this drive, in turn, worsens stress, and can result in some serious health problems like depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and psychosomatic symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and even pain. In other words, financial stress can take not only a mental and emotional toll on your staff, but also a physical one that can affect how they work.

Indeed, a Reuters article on financial health by journalist Beth Pinsker describes money stress as being “as bad for workplace productivity as back pain.” In a 2018 survey of 1,600 working adults, some 15% admitted to missing work due to health problems caused and exacerbated by financial stress. Around 40%, on the other hand, admitted to being distracted due to thinking about their finances, leading to a reduction in workplace productivity. The situation today is likely the same as that of 2 years ago, if not worse, given the unsettling events of 2020 and their adverse impact on the American economy.

The physical, mental, and emotional toll of financial hardship underscores why you, as a leader, need to look after your employees’ financial health. Put simply, doing so is good for business, as financially healthy staff will be more productive, especially since they won’t be distracted by thinking about their financial issues. Crucially, making sure your employees have sound finances will help them avoid the health-related pitfalls of financial stress, and will cut down on missed work days due to health concerns involving money anxiety.

Ensuring employees’ financial health

So, the question is: How can business leaders ensure the financial wellbeing of their employees? Amway chief HR Shantanu Das recommends three financial wellness strategies you can implement, beginning with giving competitive compensation, which should ideally be above market standards. Staff must be compensated based on merit, so as to encourage a high standard of work and to keep them motivated. You can also offer a variety of financial assistance programs, like emergency loans, educational sponsorships, and even car payment subsidies. Make sure that you also give everyone all the benefits — 401(K), medical insurance, etc. — they are entitled to, and more if possible.

Finally, it would be a good idea to connect your team with financial planners, who can give them expert advice on how to attain financial independence. These can range from one-on-one meetings to group seminars on everything from retirement savings to cultivating healthy money habits. While a business cannot be directly responsible for how an employee spends their money, having these services in place shows them that you are prepared to go beyond the usual parameters of most companies. Such advice, along with your financial programs and support, will help ensure your staff’s financial wellbeing, and keep them productive and happy at work in the process.

Leaders Lead

Your job as a leader isn’t just about running the business and counting the numbers. It is all about stepping up and being someone who your employees can count on for a wide range of issues. Marie Miguel notes in ‘Why Mental Health Awareness is Important for Leadership’ that good leaders lead, and that means taking care of your people so you can motivate them to be productive and efficient. In this context, taking care of your employees means keeping them happy, which you can do by looking after their financial health as well as their physical and mental health. This is what it means to create a healthy work culture that will inspire those who work for you and encourage future top talent to seek out your company. We hope the above points will help you have a better understanding of how and why you should look after your employees’ financial health.

 

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:
Ashley Johnson is a business blogger who specializes in following the latest leadership trends. She hopes her articles will inspire new and veteran business leaders alike, and help them establish a better company culture. In her free time she loves to hike with her family.

Revive Your Business — Shed Overhead, Thrill Your Clients and Boost Productivity

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

This blog is provided by Mitch Russo. It is the first half of Chapter 1 from his book Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs Are Creating Thriving Virtual Companies ©2015 and used with permission. In his book, Mitch shares how leaders can begin the process and enjoy the benefits of a successful Invisible Organization, which is one that embraces the work from home atmosphere. If you would like to find out more, you can purchase his book here. This blog is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, Building a Community Around Products and Services which aired on May 5th, 2020.

 

The whole world is moving in this direction. Your competitors may already be working virtually at some level. Some companies have tried and failed, others are succeeding and winning. You may already have a few people who work from home. That’s great, but it’s just a start. Transitioning to an Invisible Organization requires much more, and the rewards are much greater than you are aware of.

Why is it worth the effort to build an Invisible Organization? You can create more free time, higher profits, greater business success, and probably best of all, greater fulfillment for you and your staff. You might not realize it, yet the future of your very business may depend on it.

It’s not hard, but it does take determination and the willingness to rethink the way your company operates. The steps I provide are simple and direct regardless of what type of company you have or what industry you are in. I’ve done it myself, and I’ve helped others do it—with tremendous results. Now it’s your turn.

The goal of this book:

To get you into action quickly so that you can begin the process and enjoy the benefits of a successful Invisible Organization sooner rather than later.

The process will require you to master several new skills and strategies which will be the keys to unlimited business success. You’ll be challenged to find ways to become “invisible” in all areas of your company.

You’re going to evaluate every department, each staff member and every system you’re using now from a different perspective. You’ll discover ways to work more efficiently, and as a direct result, expand your business.

This process will take some time, but the cumulative results will be undeniable. You will create maximum results with minimum effort and cost.

Inevitably, this will enable you to increase your income.

When asked how they run their sales organization, some business owners might say, “We just pick up the phone, call a prospect and ask for the order.” That answer is no longer good enough. You need to break down exactly what it is you do into a series of steps that you follow with every single client or customer.

When you know exactly what it is your company is doing, you can tell a person exactly what it is you do with confidence. This leads to more business because people like systems. If they’re looking for someone to help them with a specific problem or service, they feel comfortable knowing that there’s a tried-and-tested series of techniques in place to get that job done.

Besides selling with confidence, good systems will make expansion easier and training more precise. They will let you build in and repeat successful processes. You can set up the training for your staff and track their results and improve them. You’ll know how long it takes to accomplish each action.

Once clearly defined systems are in place, you’ll then be able to easily discover ways to maximize your exposure with more effective marketing.

Your marketing system is a crucial piece of your business that will ultimately be generating income for you on its own. It will become a major component of your Invisible Organization.

The following chapters will share marketing techniques that go beyond the now-common Facebook and Google ads. These techniques will become huge profit generation systems when used in an Invisible Organization. If you already have great marketing systems in place and want to expand sales while cutting expenses, you are in the right place, too. I’ll show you how you can increase productivity and profits while improving the lifestyle of the CEO, the management team, and your staff.

How do I know this for sure? I did it myself. Now I want to help you do it as well.

As the CEO of Business Breakthroughs International, I built a multi-hundred-person organization spanning seven countries and with over 10,000 clients. We doubled our business three years in a row and managed twelve divisions, seven of which had their own Profit and Loss Statement and were profitable. At its peak we generated over $25 million in revenue per year with over five hundred clients every month. On average we had more than fifty working coaches and nearly 100 salespeople, all of them working from the comfort of their own homes. We didn’t own a single copy machine, and yet anyone who dealt with us thought we occupied a huge facility with a lot of parking spaces.

The company started as Chet Holmes International and evolved into Business Breakthroughs when Tony Robbins became our joint venture partner.

We collectively assisted thousands of companies with high-level consulting services, coaching and education. I created several new divisions, all profitable almost from day one.

I ran the entire organization as President and CEO from a home office, my spare bedroom converted to a workspace. It was comfortable, easy to work from, and it saved me countless hours and dollars I would have spent maintaining a professional, outside facility. Even though my personal assistant was 2,000 miles away, we functioned as a great team.

Before that, I was a CEO consultant and a venture investor. In that role, I saw hundreds of business models and directly participated in several as an operating executive.

Back in 1985, I built, ran, and sold the most popular time accounting software company ever built called Timeslips Corporation. At one point, Timeslips Corp had over 250,000 clients. We sold that business for over $10M.

With an Invisible Organization you won’t need the physical infrastructure you are currently using. Just imagine how much money you could save if you no longer had to pay for rent and utilities. Your first response may be, “That won’t work for our company.” But think about it. Wouldn’t it be a great way to boost profits and create leverage for your business if it were possible?

How much money could you really save? Let’s take a look.

A small architect’s office in Ashland Massachusetts has 12 employees. One is the CEO, another the bookkeeper, another is receptionist, and there is one tech to support the infrastructure. The remaining eight are engineers and draftsman. They have a 4,000-square-foot office space with a conference room, a reception area, and ten individual offices. After understanding their concerns about maintaining their “presence” in the area, I recommended the following, as their lease was up for renewal:

Current Monthly Costs:

Rent at $32/SqFt:                                 $10,666

Electricity                                               $816

Gas for Heat                                           $437

Leased Servers Onsite                          $2,850

Custodial                                                 $300

Coffee Service                                         $195

Snacks                                                      $150

Phone System Lease                             $532

Internet                                                    $450

Phone Service                                         $295

Property and Facilities Insurance       $310

 

Total:                                                        $17,001 per month

 

After the CEO decided it was time to become “invisible,” most of these costs were eliminated. The company downsized to an 850-sqare-foot office, which allowed the CEO to maintain his presence with the receptionist. This included a full conference room and two guest workstations with the equipment the company already owned.

The CEO returned his leased server to the leasing company and signed a contract for a cloud-based server, eliminating 3/4 of the company’s monthly expenses (and that included new equipment at his hosting company every two years with 24/7 tech support and backup). He sent his entire engineering staff home and gave them each $75 a month to pay for their Internet fees. They were delighted to save money on fuel and lunches, plus they were happy that they didn’t have to commute an average of 80 minutes anymore.

After going invisible, the company’s monthly costs were:

Rent at $36/SqFt                            $2,550

Electricity                                          $327

Gas for Heat                                      $196

Coffee Service                                   $48

Snacks                                                $54

Internet                                             $250

Phone Service                                   $96

Property Insurance                         $144

Remote Server Lease                      $650

Added Internet for Staff                 $750

Total:                                                 $5,065 per month

That’s an $11,936-per-month savings—about $143,232 per year— because they converted from a physical location to a virtual organization. Besides the savings, everyone loved working from home, except one engineer who didn’t have the self-discipline and had to be let go. As a result productivity soared, the quality of work increased dramatically, and people were logged into their servers from home at all hours of the day and night, willing to work extra if needed without complaint.

Just imagine how much you would save on office furniture, partitions, phone sets, phone systems, and in most cases, even the cost of computers. Since you won’t maintain any of your own hardware anymore, you will no longer need a tech support person. Instead you’ll rely on your cloud system’s provider for help.

In the above example, profits soared and staff became more productive even before we started implementing the really cool stuff: interconnecting all their systems, building their document vault, and creating their automated training environment. That’s the next step, and that’s where your world will change when it comes to scalability.

Today’s cutting-edge systems will open doors you didn’t even know existed. Even if you own a manufacturing plant, or operate a medical center, or need manual labor, there are still certain departments that could operate virtually. When you have the proper training systems in place with clear policies and procedures, you can send your sales and administrative team home while watching their productivity increase. They will be happier and will keep more of their net pay.

It’s best to transition gradually. Start with just a few people to get used to how it works. Then begin to migrate, and watch the magic happen. Everything I’ve discussed in this book can be done without physical infrastructure.

The Invisible Organization by Mitch Russo © 2015

 

To purchase The Invisible Organization, click here.

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

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

 

About the Author

Mitch is the author of the bestseller The Invisible Organization: How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies, which is the CEOs guide to transitioning a traditional brick and mortar company into a fully virtual organization. It became an instant bestseller on Amazon across several categories. He cofounded Timeslips Corp, which grew to become the largest time tracking software company in the world before it was sold in 1998. Then, Mitch went on to join longtime friend Chet Holmes as President, later to join forces with Tony Robbins and together created Business Breakthroughs, International with nearly 300 people and about 25 million in sales. Mitch says, Make it Happen and he’s doing that with yet another great company he founded, called PowerTribes. His websites are MitchRusso.com and PowerTribes.net.

To connect with Mitch Russo, email: mitch@mitchrusso.com

 

 

Leveraging Technology To Improve Leadership Development

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In the current Corona virus crisis, this interview may be useful to those looking to use online platforms in place of in-person instruction. The following blog is a republish of an article appearing in Forbes written by Maureen Metcalf. It is a companion to the interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on titled Leveraging Online Kajabi Platform To Build Thriving Brands.

 

As a university adjunct faculty member, consultant and coach, I have been using the tagline of “Innovative Leadership” for many years. This sets the bar for how I commit to my work as well as the services I deliver. I recently started to explore how I could refresh my use of technology to teach leadership in conjunction with coaching and workshops. I am looking for options to accelerate the leader’s learning process and offer a broad range of tools for different learning styles. I want to share my experience of how I am leveraging this technology to support leaders in their development.

I researched the many robust online delivery options and selected a tool that was a solid fit for my work: Kajabi. I selected it because of the strong technology platform, strong start-up support, cost-effectiveness, integrated payment and affiliate tracking modules and the ability to communicate with participants by product.

With the support of the online platform, I am rethinking what is possible. Right now, I am using the online training for the following three applications initially and I will expand these as we use the platform.

  1. We recently launched a 10-month IT leadership development program. This program was designed to build skills in the IT community in order to build the talent pipeline for senior roles. It will be delivered through monthly in-person sessions in conjunction with our local CIO forum. The online platform allows us to deliver training that integrates structured exercises, case studies and audio interviews with local CIOs and executives. One of the key objectives of the in-person sessions is to learn content and build a network. We expect the online element to significantly accelerate the building of leadership skills for mid- to senior-level IT professionals.

The online platform allows us to track payment and engagement with the materials. As the facilitator, this lets me manage the finances easily and also identify who is highly engaged so we can offer additional resources to enrich their experience. It also tells me who is less engaged so I can reach out and troubleshoot.

  1. We often augment our leadership coaching programs with a series of exercises designed to help participants build self-awareness, knowledge and skills. Especially for emerging leaders, we deliver a hybrid of training and coaching to prepare them to step into larger roles. For this group, we created a standard curriculum with exercises, case studies, audio interviews and videos. I can monitor client progress through the platform, and in this case, they share their progress prior to coaching sessions and discuss how their learning can improve their leadership work.

The online platform offers the option to package the leadership development curriculum by leadership level. I can sell packaged offerings of coaching and online training. It also gives the option to support affiliates so the other coaches and consultants in our organization work from a single platform with consistent processes and offerings.

  1. We offer online development programs as standalone offerings for individuals and companies to provide effective (and cost-effective) training for their emerging and current leaders. These programs can be combined with other programs the companies are conducting. Because this program is comprehensive and participants work through it over time, it provides the opportunity to internalize the learning, not just attend and depart.

The online platform allows us to customize materials for specific groups and tweak other courses where appropriate to reinforce and build on the in-person development investments they are making.

Another element we will be building into the platform that we are very excited about is an assessment that will be used by those taking courses, and it is also offered as a standalone service. Because an online platform can support a range of services, we are able to create a clean and user-friendly purchasing experience.

I have struggled for years to present a simple path for clients. Our company website is highly complex and positions us as a thought leadership and executive advisory firm. While that works for some audiences, it is inappropriate for others. Using Kajabi as our online platform and linking it to our main site and our book website, we can tailor the user experience to the target audience in a manner that is cost-effective for us and easy for the user.

I talk about the most effective leaders acting like scientists. This endeavor is one of my experiments. I did my homework and selected this platform. We are implementing several modules and we will continue to test and refine our experiment as we go along. For other coaches and consultants looking to extend your offering, I encourage you to explore the broad range of options for technology to enable and even extend the strong impact you are already having on clients.

 

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

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

About the Author

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

Using Language to Create a Generative Culture In a Dynamic Business Environment – Huntington and Sophisticated Systems

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

This is a companion blog to the interview Words Drive Actions -Changing Culture With Value Based Words with Dwight Smith and Stephen D. Steinour that aired on December 17, 2019.

 

Words can be powerful. For anyone who has spoken a harsh word to a child, a loved one, or even a colleague, we can often feel the impact in our gut when we see their faces look back at us filled with hurt or sadness. We, as busy leaders, employees, and family members, often allow our stress to seep through in our language. “My Special Word,” corporate purpose statements and guiding principles can serve as an aspirational reminder setting the tone for the environment we are committed to creating.

Does this type of statement help? Is it just window dressing that sounds good in our recruiting videos?

I believe having an aspirational statement about who we want to be as individuals and organizations AND creating an environment of accountability to encourage us to act in alignment with our aspirations creates the conditions where we are more likely to act according to our aspirations. This doesn’t mean we hit the mark every day in every action. Aspirational means that is the standard we set, we measure ourselves against it, and we measure our colleagues and organization against it. Another key is we put structures in place to help one another hit that aspirational goal. We discuss our success stories and our challenges. This aspirational culture is created by both giving deep thought to the qualities we care about and creating systems and processes that underpin the culture.

In our leadership development programs at the Innovative Leadership Institute, we take participants through a process where they explore their purpose and values. For many busy leaders, while they are highly principled, they have not taken time to write down their deepest held values and evaluate their behavior against those values. The process can be instructive and an invitation to remember the values they were raised with or aspire to in their quiet moments. One of the challenges is how do we create the conditions to “operationalize” these deeper values in business?

In a conversation with Steve Steinour, Huntington Bank CEO and Dwight Smith, Founder, My Special Word, and CEO/Founder Sophisticated Systems, they explore approaches they have used to be explicit with their values personally and organizationally. This transparency is particularly important during a time when we, as citizens, are continually disappointed by the behaviors we see from those we were raised to trust. This behavior could emanate from our business leaders, civic leaders, and, occasionally, our religious leaders. In my view, we as leaders can’t completely stop the negative behavior, but we can be visible as the positive leaders that fill our communities. There are a few bad apples that get lots of press, and there are thousands or hundreds of thousands of good people who want to be great parents, employees, leaders, and family members. Steve and Dwight are highly visible and successful men in their community who are modeling their values through their words and their actions!

In this blog and the interview series, we have been talking about the trend that successful companies are focused on both profit AND being companies that serve the broader community. Huntington’s Purpose statement and Values model that trend. Huntington’s purpose is “to look out for people,” their Purpose statement is: “We make people’s lives better, help businesses thrive, and strengthen the communities we serve.” Huntington is committed to doing the right thing for its customers, colleagues, shareholders, and communities by seeking to “Do the right thing” with the following three Values…

  • Can-Do Attitude
    “Enthusiastically work and succeed together.”
  • Service Heart
    “Inclusive spirit to put yourself in each other’s shoes—then help.”
  • Forward Thinking
    “Always look ahead for ways to be the very best.”

These values help guide Huntington in all the company does in running an effective and successful enterprise where people are treated well, and where they treat their clients and communities well. Treating people well includes civility, which means looking out for people. One way Huntington looks out for colleagues it through its business resource groups. These groups come together with common interest to share their views, which then help guide and inform others around the company. These groups drive actions in the company such as the military Business Resource Group driving benefit change for Military employees and clients. To me, a major point is Huntington sets an aspirational vision and behaviors, then it acts and measures how effectively they meet that aspiration.

Dwight talks about kindness, respect, and the ability to listen to others. These words become the foundation of a culture where values show up on how people talk and interact with others. People’s diverse values are respected. People are encouraged to share their values and aspirations – creating a safe place to succeed and also a safe place to experiment and learn and make mistakes.

Moving culture from unconscious action to deliberate choice is a complicated process and unique to every organization. Here are a few steps to consider as you look at your own culture and words to see if you are saying and acting the way that aligns with your aspirations.

  • Define/refine/revisit your purpose
  • Clarify the words that most resonate with and enable your purpose
  • Identify the processes and people (like business resource groups) that turn aspiration into action
  • Measure and refine

In an environment that is changing quickly, leaders must create positive cultures that reinforce the aspirations we have as people and as organizations. This positive culture includes qualities such as respect, civility, and supporting others in accomplishing their goals and dreams.

What are your organization’s aspirational words?

 

This online course contains the companion tools and assessments for people getting to develop become Innovative Leaders. The course is based on a proven six-step process in an interactive format that includes audio interviews with top leaders and thought leaders, videos, worksheets, articles, and reflection questions designed to support you in enhancing your practical effectiveness as an Innovative Leader.

It contains links to the online measurement platform and leadership assessments you and your coach will use.

Follow the process, and you will become more effective as a leader!

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