Avoid Feeding a Smear Campaign

 This blog is a companion to the interview with Barbara Marx Hubbard and Dr. Marc Gafni on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on March 21, 2017 focusing on navigating a smear campaign if you or your organization are targeted. It also recommends tactics to help individuals and leaders avoid unwittingly becoming involved in such a campaign.

Renowned futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard once said, “One of the most dangerous problems we face in the world is extremism on behalf of belief.  In many cases, extremists convince themselves that another faith or political system or individual is ‘evil’, and that they are justified in destroying them by any means necessary. We see this tendency, with tragic consequences, in the political sphere. We are now seeing it the so-called spiritual world.  People who claim to be apostles of higher consciousness see no problem with trying to destroy others without due process, open dialogue, non-violent communication or the possibility of resolving differences with compassion, forgiveness and healing.  Even more problematically they often hide their hidden agendas under the veneer of victim advocacy. The spiritual world is not exempt from malice. Malice, as Milan Kundera reminds us, ‘must never admit of itself so it must always plead other motives’.

This kind of behavior is terrorism. Violence of this sort is very hard to respond to creatively without becoming a terrorist yourself.  Yet we have to say NO!  to terrorism of any kind, including our own.

With this in mind I am called forth by my sense of justice to stand against the recent extremist process of cyber-attacks, initiated by a leader in the evolutionary spiritual community against Dr. Marc Gafni and the Center for Integral Wisdom and all other acts of extremism that demonize people and organizations because they are different or because they have opposing goals. Our democracy is strengthened by opposing perspectives—shutting them down is antithetical to our core values.”

We are at a new crossroads where extremism is evident across society. We see it in “fake news” that is, in many cases, intended to advance one position at the expense of another. Unfortunately, the news consumer is left to decipher what is true, what is untrue, and what is sheer deception. I believe that credible media sources work very hard to fact check their stories, yet, the very people they call to verify facts may misrepresent them.

For democracy to work, the citizenry must be well and accurately informed, and I am perplexed about inflammatory things that I read and try to discern what is true. I consume more news through a variety sources than ever before in my life, and I still believe I am getting partial truths designed to promote action and reaction. But whose action? Whose agenda? And for what purpose?

Back to the smear campaign targeting Marc…it was well orchestrated by skilled and credible people. Folks were asked to sign petitions, and many did without checking facts. If a petition is inflammatory and the antithesis of what they believe, good people will sign. I imagine most of us have signed petitions against environmental destruction, or killing of baby seals, or mutilation of girls, or sex trafficking. How could you not take a stand against these things? However, when you signed, did you explore who would benefit and how this information would be used? Did you seek to find out the source and who sponsored it? When I regularly signed petitions in the past I didn’t. I was busy and I wanted to preserve our environment and keep young women safe. I trusted the sources and I signed.

So, what can we do to avoid feeding a smear campaign:

  1. Check the facts. I was on the board of the Center when this started and I talked to Marc. I talked to other board members I trust. I know this isn’t always possible. What is possible, however, is to ask the question: How likely is this to be true? Marc is surrounded by smart and competent people. Some left after the smear campaign. I assume, in part, because of the impact the pressure had on their professional reputations. Many other people I deeply respect stayed. This is important evidence to me.
  2. Identify who benefits. During the recent election and after, we heard the new term “alternate facts.” Truth and fact are very different entities; one is subjective, the other is objective. When we see a preponderance of misleading stories, identify who stands to benefit from the situation.
  3. Examine the tactics. If you see tactics such as family members being threatened and threats to destroy the livelihood of those associated with the person being targeted, it is likely a smear campaign. These smears discredit not only the target, but associates and friends. When you see this behavior, you are likely observing a smear attack and not open discourse in an effort to understand. .
  4. Distance yourself if you have questions. It is hard to know what happens in the lives of others and why these things happen. I like the phrase “trust but verify,” and believe that most people are good and are doing the best they can and. If, however, I am unsure, I step away. There are enough causes to work toward that are positive. I don’t want to invest my energy in areas that besmirch individuals—even when the message is framed as “protecting” others.

As people who value the democratic system and as organizational leaders, it is important to be aware that we are all at risk of being victimized by—or unwitting participants in—campaigns that taint your reputation, or that of your organization. We have a responsibility to be conscious of the impact our actions can have and take deliberate action to avoid smear campaigns that impact others. By building an informed citizenry and being informed citizens, we remove the fuel that feeds these fires.

My invitation to everyone reading this blog is to follow the steps above, whether it is slandering an individual, an organization, or a political party. It is easy to let our emotions lead us and get caught up in the frenzied current climate of reaction. The flip side is when you have checked the facts and have a relatively clear picture—get involved and work to make the changes that will keep us a free and open society!

As a post script on the Center for Integral Wisdom, Marc, Barbara, and the folks at the Center for Integral Wisdom. They have been able not only to survive, but in some very real senses, thrive, despite the smear campaign. In part, that is because of the internal integrity of the people involved. It is also not unrelated to the astounding fact that Marc, as a key leader in the system did not allow the campaign to make him bitter, but keeps his heart open but instead kept going deeper into the work of the center. If you happen to be targeted by a smear campaign, surrounding yourself with supportive colleagues and maintaining focus on your missionalong with strong crisis management and legal counselis critical to both individual and organizational ability to take this terrible situation and create a positive outcome.

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

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

About the Author

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

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook series and the co-author of the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com.

Please note: I will only approve comments on this post that are constructive in nature. I will not perpetuate negativity and smearing behavior. While we promote different perspectives – they must be framed in a manner that promotes solutions to challenges we face and not framed as personal attacks damaging the people involved in the process.

Rollercoaster of Change

Rollercoaster of ChangeThis blog is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre and Dr. Dale Meyerrose on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on February 7, 2017, Focusing on the roller-coaster reality of complex change.

As we listen to leaders talk about their transformation success – it sounds as if they created a plan, executed on the plan and declared victory. In working with large complex change, this is rarely true. Things happen that derail the project, such as acquisitions, divestitures, and market changes. The test of a successful leader is how he or she responds to the changes that happen, pivots to revise the strategy for success, and implements the revised strategy.

The role of organizations is to deliver results aligned with their mission. In a complex and everchanging environment, organizations must change to keep pace.

Scott came into an organization that was in the process of making significant change. His job was to lead the portfolio of transformation initiatives and ensure the business continued to run effectively. This role meant that he needed a strong understanding of the current organizational operations, the direction of the change and the capacity to change.

Given the rate of change we are seeing across the business landscape, rarely do I see organizations that aren’t making multiple concurrent changes. I expect that this trend will continue well beyond my career. Organizations now need to adopt the ability to change as a core competency if they are to thrive long term.

Many leaders believe they are effective at change because they have led a few initiatives. As the bar increases, it is incumbent on you as a leader to continually hone this skill of leading organizational transformation, which means knowing how to both update yourself as a leader and transform your organization. For optimal effectiveness, both need to be done concurrently.

According to Dale, change falls along a continuum – and your approach needs to be adjusted accordingly. Here is the simple example of the continuum – you need to know which level of change you are putting in place:

  1. Fill potholes
  2. Repave the road
  3. Build new road

As a leader of change, it is helpful to categorize each change along the continuum and understand project dependencies as well as people impact. Your employees are the most valuable asset you have in implementing change. If you don’t take concrete steps to attend to the rate of change and their ability to adapt, you risk failure. People are resilient. If you are doing the “right things”, they will be actively engaged in managing through the transformation. You need to build trust and be appropriately transparent during a difficult transformation.

The more extreme the transformation, the bigger the people impact. How you handle people issues governs the success of the change. Because you have a limited number of employees who are familiar with your organization, they will govern the rate of change. While you can augment them with consultant or contingent workers, your long-term ability to perform will depend on your internal staff being prepared at the end of the transformation to operate the business. By attending to their capacity and building their resilience, you can accelerate the pace of change.

A key factor that is often overlooked during transformation is organizational culture. Are your changes aligned with the culture? Implementing change that is inconsistent with your culture can undermine the change initiative and the culture. For many companies the culture is the “secret sauce” of their success. If this is true for you, the recipe should be protected, which means it needs to be included in the change portfolio as a key factor and, in many cases, it should be one of the projects to ensure it is being attended to across the range of changes.

We have talked about people and culture but we have not yet addressed the question of turn-over. In many cases, some of the team will not fit after the transformation is complete. This could be because of the required skills and roles, or it could be because they don’t align with the culture. It is important to be aware of the expected attrition rate during a change and plan accordingly. People want to be treated fairly. When they see their colleagues treated with disrespect, you are at risk. That said, top performers want to be surrounded by top performers so they will expect their leaders to take action if team members are not meeting expectations. Action could be additional support or a different role. These decisions can be complicated because we are talking about employee’s livelihoods. Change leaders need to balance compassion for people with the requirements of the organization to implement the transformation.

By understanding the magnitude of change, planning the process, and taking into account the people and the culture, you will increase your probability of success. Every change runs into challenge, and with the support of your people, you will have the people involved who are committed to navigating the issues. If, on the other hand, you are not actively engaging your people at every step of the way, you risk failure.

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

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

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute

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

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook Series and the co-author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com.

Maximizing Team Interactions: Moving Beyond the Lowest Common Denominator’s Reign

Building Thriving TeamsThis blog is drawn from a paper published by Jim Ritchie-Dunham & Maureen Metcalf, Co-hosting: Creating Optimal Experience for Team Interactions, Integral Leadership Review, November 2016. Jim and Maureen also recorded a Voice America Interview airing on February 14, 2017.

Christopher, the CEO, walked into a planning session with the intent of getting his full team on the same page for how to move key initiatives forward for the upcoming year. His leaders were all in alignment on the core purpose of the organization and how to accomplish it. During the discussion, everyone gave unbiased input intended to move the organization forward irrespective of personal interest. Christopher was highly skilled at understanding the point of view of all participants and synthesizing the various points of view of his trusted leaders to create solutions everyone could support.

Does this scenario describe your normal business meetings? How is it different?

We would like to explore the idea that groups can leverage the skills of individuals across five key perspectives and create an environment in which each participant operates at his greatest level of contribution. We call this the alchemy of co-hosting, whereby the co-host, in conjunction with the participants, invokes a very different mindset and process for the team to function.

The Challenge

“Less than one-third of U.S. employees have been engaged in their jobs and workplaces [since 2000]. According to Gallup Daily tracking, 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged — meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Worldwide, only 13% of employees working for an organization are engaged.” – Gallup

Much of our work is done within teams comprised of many highly effective and highly compensated people. We have found that these teams often function at the level of the least common denominator. Many people, especially leaders, move from meeting to meeting all day, every day. They often do this with little awareness of the specific role they play in the meeting and the value they bring. This is the culture of many organizations. When asking a cohort of vibrancy community members what they experienced in these teams, they suggested that while the participants were generally strong employees with good skills, they were often disengaged and some actively disrupted the work or found ways to interfere with the meeting goals. In some cases, the participants did this as passive aggressive response, and in some worse cases, did it just for personal entertainment. So, what is the antidote to this high level of disengagement considering five key factors other than the highest rank present? How do we capture the highest level of input from each person to create a higher level “field” of operation than any individual would have access to by working alone?

The Approach

We look at five different perspectives or measures of intelligence, then explore how the art of co-hosting can leverage all five intelligences of the participants to create an environment that calls forth the greatest possible capacity in the group.

The five perspectives are:

  • Leadership maturity – describes how adults mature throughout their lifespan, attending to ever increasing levels of complexity in their thinking, emotions, and behaviors
  • State development – describes where people focus their attention ranging from what is immediately in front of them to what is abstract and spiritual
  • Years of experience
  • Skill to identify the perspectives in the room
  • Co-hosting skill – the ability to identify the perspectives in the room and create an environment and approach that leverages the maturity, state, and skills of the participants

It is interesting to note that each of these perspectives is important for an organization to create holistic solutions to the many complex challenges they face. For that reason, it is important to recognize each of these perspectives and be able to identify, recruit, and create environments that genuinely leverage the gifts of each.

By integrating the five perspectives individually, an effective co-host can create the “container” or space to leverage each to the participants’ greatest potential rather than the traditional lowest common denominator.

Summary

During this era of increased complexity and accelerated need for change, it is imperative that we identify methods and processes to help us navigate the challenges we face. Optimally, these methods and processes would create the greatest impact for all involved—creating an optimal experience for the individuals and a holistic solution for the organizations or groups involved.

We believe that the solution integrates a solid process that integrates five key perspectives and a presence of being within the co-host to create the desired outcome. Both elements are critical.

We have an opportunity to enhance the experience and the impact we have in trying to solve problems. By building the capacity to co-host and using this process, we increase the probability of solving our most complex problems and enjoying the process. Knowing that this is possible helps us regain hope that we as a society can resolve the mounting list of intractable problems we hear of every day on the news.

Authors

Jim Ritchie-Dunham is president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, a global research nonprofit, president of Vibrancy Ins., LLC, a global consultancy and publisher, president of the private operating foundation the Academy for Self-Discovery Leadership, an adjunct faculty member in Harvard’s program in sustainability leadership, and Adjunct Professor of Business Economics in the ITAM Business School in Mexico City.

Jim authored Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance (2014), co-authored Managing from Clarity: Identifying, Aligning and Leveraging Strategic Resources (2001), has written many articles on systemic strategy for academic and practitioner journals, and blogs regularly at jlrd.me.

As a student of human agreements, Jim Ritchie-Dunham brings over 25 years of research and insights gleaned from working with groups of all make-ups.  Jim named Ecosynomics, the emerging social science of the agreements that guide human interactions. Ecosynomics provides a framework rooted in economics and the sciences of human agreements that begins with an initial assumption of abundance, not scarcity, and a wider view of the human being.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute

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

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook Series and the co-author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com.

 

Star Trek & Leadership – What Do They Have in Common?

metcalf-uniqueness-nimoy-quote

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek, my co-author Dan Mushalko and I wanted to explore answers to this question: What traits from this iconic series apply to current leadership? That question probably seems particularly odd coming from me—the person who continually talks about the future of leadership.

Some background. In an interview with Dan Mushalko, General Manager of public radio station WCBE and a former NASA geek, and Jim Ritchie-Dunham, Harvard researcher and CEO of the Institute for Strategic Clarity vibrancy became a topic. And an interesting correlation emerged—the connection between the vibrancy theory, the vibrant performance of the radio station, and Star Trek. I wasn’t surprised given what I know about my colleagues, but I was delighted to share this in an interview. I have the good fortune of having these conversations regularly and find them quite fun.

As a foundation for this discussion, let’s start with what I think about innovating ourselves as leaders.

There are a few different tactics for effective leaders, but all include these:

  • Build on your past successes (should be about 80 percent of your development energy)
  • Identify what to change because it is getting in your way (should be about 20 percent of your development energy)
  • Identify what to stop doing even if it got you where you are—because the question is, will it get you to the next step on your journey(what you save here will add to your available energy)?

So, this blog post started based on a conversation about the similarity between the transporters on the starship Enterprise and transforming organizations. When the captain and crew use a transporter, their molecules are momentarily disassembled, beamed away as particles (hence the phrase, “Beam me up, Scotty!”), then rearranged whole again at their destination.

Implementing major organizational transformation feels much the same way, as though our molecules have been rearranged. For many of us, we find that we need to fundamentally change how we see ourselves as leaders; we rearrange our thinking, self-image, and mind-set. There are times I would truly prefer to have my molecules rearranged than spend time changing who I am as a leader. Yet this is the foundation of innovating how we lead: We innovate ourselves!

The parallels with Star Trek go even further. For example, there are enormous similarities between highly-effective leaders and the leadership modeled “on the bridge.” As we think about what we build on during our own pasts, looking at what has been true and effective for fifty years of Star Trek’s captains is a good place to start:

  • be aware of the new environment, and welcome changes as opportunities
  • there is infinite diversity through infinite combinations—everyone and everything creates opportunity
  • the more uniqueness you find, the higher potential you have
  • the Federation of Planets leverages collaboration; teams and departments do the same
  • everyone is seen and appreciated for their contribution—there is infinite potential in the world.

As you look at this list, how would you rate yourself on each item. If you used a 1-5 scale where 1 is low and 5 is high, where would you score over a 4? Does this list inspire you to ask questions about your mindset?

During the interview, we also talked with Jim Ritchie-Dunham about the idea of organizational vibrancy. One of the core principles is that our world is abundant. This is far from a wishful statement that evokes the image of wishful thinking or worse, it is based on the concept that there is infinite possibility in the universe to innovate out of our current challenges. It is through our diversity and uniqueness that we, as people, can welcome change and create opportunities to change our circumstances to improve our trajectory along with improving the trajectory of others. We create a vibrant world when we join together to create innovative solutions rather than when we discount people and their thinking and consequently forego opportunities.

As a leader, it is important to continually update mindset, skills, and behaviors. It is also important to recognize the foundational truths about how we work with other people that remain as effective today as they did in our past. What are your personal foundations which hold true for you? If you are a Trekker, what did you learn from Star Trek that you have taken into your own leadership roles?

To listen to the full Voice America interview with Dan Mushalko and Jim Ritchie-Dunham, click the following link, Creating Vibrant Departments in Large Complex Organizations.

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 and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute., is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She 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 the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

Dan Mushalko, General Manager, Operations & Program Director at WCBE-FM and Owner, Mushalko’s Radiophonic Lab. A bizarre, convoluted professional life has taken Dan everywhere from a short stint at NASA to a long ride in radio…with experiences often overlapping. The thread through it all? A mix of creativity and leadership. So call the culmination of the cyber-man you read before you a Creative Leader. That’s his current incarnation.  Specialties: Station management, creative concepts in audio (ads, news, and drama), implementing new communications technology, listener analytics, creativity fostering and consulting, “teaching” writing and science.

“Board Basics” Rule

Board basicsThis post reflects a collaboration between Dr. Dale Meyerrose, major general, U.S. Air Force (retired), president of the MeyerRose Group and Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, and is written in conjunction with a VoiceAmericainterview that aired on August 16, “Emerging Roles of the Board and Cybersecurity.”

Many aspire to join boards, and other leaders aspire to manage their boards in order to promote organizational success. Much has been written about responsibilities of boards of directors, but few distinguish those task lists from the essential roles of a board and its directors. By understanding those few, basic requirements of a board, the savvy leader can maximize effectiveness in driving organizational success.

Dan walked into the board meeting to discuss the company’s performance and strategy going forward. He was confident that this would be a smooth meeting because he meets regularly with board members and has a clear understanding of their values and past guidance. As a veteran CEO, he understands the importance of working closely with his board and that progress means that the entire senior leadership team is working from the same “sheet of music.” Key to his success as a senior corporate official is to comprehend everyone’s role and anticipate the board’s needs as they work together to ensure the organization’s success. So, what does Dan know regarding “board basics” and roles that allow him to have this confidence?

  1. He understands the importance of a collective corporate conscience. Board members must ensure that the entire organization acts in a socially responsible and ethical manner. While it is true that public corporations have the primary goal to deliver stockholder value and create sustained value, they must also act in a legal and responsible manner in the process. We submit that corporations that over-emphasize profit (some people would argue there is no such thing) can put the organization at risk by “cutting ethical corners.” A single, historical example says it all: While the complete case study of Enron is beyond our purposes at hand, their clear fixation of profit over ethics and unnaturally fast growth over sustained growth provided business schools with the stereotypical example of an organization lacking a corporate conscience or ethics.
  2. Shareholder advocacy is self-evident to most business people. However, Dan knows that stakeholder considerations go beyond just the shareholders. Leaders and boards are always making trade-offs to ensure all key stakeholder interests converge in the right way for the right reasons, at the right time for the good of the organization. The board is responsible for creating the strategy and oversight to instill trust of all stakeholders in the corporate culture. Shareholders can vote with their feet if they feel that their interests aren’t taken care of, as can rank-and-file employees and management. Further, partners and suppliers have options of price and contractual protections that potentially make the cost of doing business with the company problematic. While profit remains the main measure, it is not the only performance assessment of overall health and trends of the enterprise itself and its eco-system of stakeholders. We believe that John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods, embodies these principles. He is clear in his passion about his company making a strong and sustained profit—and that he sees part of that equation being fulfilled through the creation and nurturing of a healthy eco-system of employees, suppliers, partners, customers, and the environment. The results of his company in his market sector validate this approach by successfully meeting ALL stakeholder expectations.
  3. To ensure sustainability, Dan recognizes that the board serves as a “strategic compass” for the organization to safeguard corporate well-being and long-term growth. This means organizational focus is on the long-run and is constantly attuned to changes in the company, the industry, consumer tastes, technology, and society in general. The key is differentiating that which matters from that which is merely interesting or important, and anticipating future roles and values for the corporation. Again, there are many epic failures of a board being less aware, or completely unaware, of the conduct and performance of their company. We find that there are relatively few organizations with both the board and senior management capable of weathering changes over time. In 1950, the average company stayed on the S&P 500 for half a century. By 2012 the average company stayed on the S&P 500 for thirteen years. The dynamic forces facing corporations in the 21st century are changing the nature of business—and the speed with which change occurs compounds the complexity.

If you are part of senior management, like Dan, do you have confidence in dealing with your corporate board? If you’re one of “Dan’s” board members, do have the reciprocal trust in him? Understanding “board basics” is critical in today’s challenging business environment. If you are senior management, it is important to understand the roles that your board fills and to leverage them to ensure the success of the enterprise. If you are a board member, are you fulfilling these roles? Or, has the “to do list” and urgency of the present obscured your focus on these basics that rule? Or, as many in the workforce might say: “Basics rock!”

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Dr. Dale Meyerrose, major general, U.S. Air Force (retired) is president of theMeyerRose Group—a cybersecurity, executive training/coaching, and eHealth technology consulting company. He is an adjunct instructor at Carnegie Mellon University, Institute for Software Research running their Cybersecurity Leadership Certificate program. General Meyerrose, a Southwest Asia veteran, was the first Senate-confirmed, President-appointed Chief Information Officer for the Intelligence Community after over three decades of military service.

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, consultant, author, speaker, and coach.  Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

12 Characteristics of Great Leaders

Executive InsightThis is a guest post written by Mike Figliuolo. Mike was a Voice America guest on the show Lead Inside the Box and is a respected colleague.

The differences between a good leader and a great one boil down to a handful of traits that set the great leaders apart. Fortunately, all these traits are skills you can build over time.

Most of us are good leaders. Most of us aspire to be great leaders. Few are. What’s it take to transcend “good” and become “great?” What’s the secret?

There isn’t one.

The foundation for being a great leader is building a set of traits that inspire people to follow you and achieve outstanding results. In my experience, there are a dozen traits that are required before a leader can even hope to be great.

Building and demonstrating these traits does not guarantee greatness. Not by a long shot. But the absence of any one of these twelve traits will definitely hold you back from being great. In no particular order, here are some key leadership differentiators. Great leaders are:

Authentic – what you see is what you get. They share their hopes, fears, dreams, and failures. They truly care to know you as a person and want you to know them the same way. They strip away the façade and reveal their true selves to their team every day.

Visible – they’re known throughout the organization. They’ve built meaningful relationships with peers, subordinates, and superiors in seemingly every corner of the company. Their reputation precedes them in positive and powerful ways.

Influential – they can sway an audience with their words. They can make a case that’s clear and moves people to action. They’re able to explain not only what they want done but also why it’s beneficial for the listener to support their idea.

Memorable – their stories inspire others. They make their actions memorable and the lessons they teach easily accessible. Everyone loves listening to their stories not only because they’re entertaining but also because they inform, inspire, and instruct.

Compelling – they demonstrate gravitas in groups large and small. People are drawn to them because they know how to connect with their audience. Combined with their ability to influence and be memorable, the compelling leader galvanizes teams to action.

Efficient – they get stuff done. Fast. They’re mindful of how they manage their time as well as how they invest their energy in their team members. Their time investments are thoughtful. They invest based upon where they’ll get the greatest results long term for the time they put in.

Innovative – they see solutions that aren’t obvious. They challenge existing ways of thinking and generate new ideas on a regular basis. They think big and push the organization beyond what it believes its limitations are.

Strategic – the future is something they think about quite frequently. They consider possible scenarios, plan for them, and generate approaches for winning in the markets of tomorrow. The choices they make are mindful of the possible actions of others in the market.

Thoughtful – when faced with a problem or a challenge, they stop and think before acting. They have the ability to break big problems into smaller ones, understand true root causes, and generate solutions that solve the real issue at hand.

Decisive – once they’re done thinking and they’ve considered the options, they swing into action. While they may not have all the information, they have enough information to move forward. They’re able to balance judgment with risk and are willing to take calculated chances to have an impact on the organization.

Fair – when they’re negotiating, they don’t focus on winning for themselves. They focus on winning for everyone. They understand many negotiations are more about the long-term relationship than they are about saving a buck in an individual interaction. They’re able to prioritize fairness over profit. Whether the negotiation is with a team member who wants a day off or a supplier selling a multimillion dollar contract, these leaders strike deals that everyone finds acceptable.

Resilient – there’s no shortage of challenges and failures for leaders to face. The great ones know how to pick themselves up when they’ve been knocked down. They carry on. They dust themselves off and summon strength from deep within to carry on the fight.

Do those 12 characteristics guarantee a leader will be great? Of course not. But they’re a great start. Being deficient in any of them will hold you back from being the best leader you can be. I believe this so firmly that I’ve put together a two-day long learning event focused on helping leaders build these skills. I’m hosting Executive Insight 16 on November 10-11 at the Waldorf Astoria New York. It’s 13 sessions focused on practical, pragmatic approaches to building these critical leadership traits. I’d love to have you join us. Visit www.executiveinsight16.com to learn more about the program and register. If you register by September 8th, you’ll save up to $300 on the registration fee.

If you know you need to build any of these skills, find other leaders who already have them and see how you can learn from them. The sooner you improve your skills in these areas, the faster you’ll become the leader you’re capable of being.

Mike Figliuolo is the author of The Elegant Pitch and One Piece of Paper. He’s the co-author of Lead Inside the Box. He’s also the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development training firm. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog. His firm is hosting Executive Insight 16 on November 10-11 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. It’s two days full of great learning and insights on leadership topics delivered by experienced executives on the thoughtLEADERS team. Learn more at www.executiveinsight16.com.

CIO Tomorrow – Managing Your End-Users’ Appetite for Disruption

Thai LeeThe following post was written by Thai Lee as part of the Columbus Business First’s CIO Tomorrow Conference. Ms. Lee is one of the featured speakers in the Voice America Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations interview aired on April 26, 2016.

As “disruption” challenges “cloud” for IT buzzword supremacy, line-of-business owners (and the end-users they manage) are hungry to deploy new “disruptive” technologies in the workplace. While CIOs are eager to support the innovation that follows disruption, most are well aware that longtime, traditional IT partners still play an irreplaceable role in keeping their network and infrastructure available and secure. Today’s CIO works in the middle of legacy IT and user-driven disruptive technology.

Working in the IT channel since 1989, SHI was born and lives in the “middle.” We currently help over 17,000 IT organizations understand all the information they need to quickly evaluate, acquire and deploy traditional, disruptive and hybrid IT solutions that meet their technical, security and business needs. Based on that experience, here are three things we have found effective IT organization do to support end-user demand of disruptive technologies:

– Manage IT Assets – all the time. IT Asset Management: it’s not just for audits anymore! Any business case for deploying disruptive technology must survive a direct comparison to both your install base and your existing volume licensing entitlements. Despite their enthusiasm to roll out a new SaaS application, line-of-business owners (Marketing, Accounting, Sales) are rarely aware of an existing contract or “shelfware” that can exist elsewhere in enterprise and possibly be re-deployed to their group. An effective IT asset management program can empower IT staffers to immediately respond with an alternative solution that may make better business sense or provide tangible cost-savings.

– Normalization of consumption billing. Utilizing today’s disruptive technology often means resolving unpredictable consumption billing, which can be confusing and time-consuming. In addition to the difficulties in budgeting for varying usage levels, difficult-to-read invoices associated with consumption billing might mean unexpected lost cycles for someone within a business unit to resolve. IT organizations that can help normalize and interpret consumption billing provide a valuable service to the business units they support.

– Communicate early and often with line-of-business owners. Much like a CIO, line-of business owners are pushed by increasingly educated end-users to deploy the latest and greatest in disruptive technologies. Scheduling regular meetings with line of business owners to understand their goals and strategies (while explaining your need to remain secure and compliant) can help eliminate a political fight down the road over “who owns what.”

Never before has such powerful technology been so readily available to every level of an organization. But by supporting the effective acquisition and consumption of disruptive technologies when it makes sense for your organization ensure control, compliance and security can remain where it belongs: with IT!

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.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Thai Lee is described by Forbes as “the modest tycoon behind America’s biggest woman-owned business” and includes Thai on their top 20 self-made women list. Ms. Lee has been the majority shareholder, President and CEO of SHI International Corp since 1989. With projected 2016 revenue of over $7 Billion, SHI International is one of the largest privately owned technology companies in North America. Under her leadership, SHI transformed from a $1 million “software-only” regional reseller into a global provider of information technology products and services. SHI provides IT procurement, IT deployment, asset management and cloud computing solutions to tens of thousands of organizations around the world.

If Your Change Effort Failed to Deliver the Results You Wanted – Your Change Model May be Overly Simplistic


Impact Resilience

This guest post is provided by collaborator Jim Ritchie-Dunham  as a companion for the Voice America interview with Christoph Hinske focusing on How Big Change Happens in his keynote presentation to the World Green Building Council. Jim is president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, a trustee of THORLO, and an adjunct faculty member at the EGADE Business School and at Harvard. In this post Jim talks about his  “theory of impact resilience.” While a theory of change focuses on how a change in an intervention will lead to a change in specific means, which will drive change in a specific social impact–in a linear model–a theory of impact resilience looks at the system of causes, effects, feedback, and stakeholders that lead some interventions to generate a much more resilient system that delivers much greater, sustained impact. This information is for leaders who have struggled to successfully implement complex change using linear models and want to better understand alternative approaches that will increase the probability to success for much needed and highly visible change projects.

More and more people are looking to large-scale social change processes to leverage their impact around very complex issues. From poverty, health, education, epidemics, and inequity to water, air, green building, and renewable energy. Scaling collective impact is everywhere. I have been looking at, and engaging with many of these efforts, for two decades now. In trying to figure out how to support large-scale change, many groups are trying to become evermore strategic. As a big proponent of strategic clarity, I encourage the strategic dialog, and I encourage pathways that will support a group in getting to greater clarity about what they can do together and what will work.

In their strategic development processes, many groups now focus on developing a “theory of change.” I agree that it is far easier to learn and refine a strategy when you have a theory of what you are going to do. And, I see some inherent difficulties in the way many groups currently frame their theory of change. Hopefully a brief picture will clarify what I see as the intention and a better answer.

To start with, I see that most social-change efforts grow up around an effort that initially worked. There was an intervention and there was an impact. While not quite sure how it worked, the impact is there. We created a kitchen, and more people were fed tonight. In this experience, there is typically an implicit theory of “it just works.” We do this, and we see the impact. Usually the distance in time and space between the intervention and the impact is very low or immediate. We can see it directly. I see this as the lower-left quadrant in the 2×2 matrix below, low clarity of causality with a linear direction of causality.

This success often leads to the desire to scale the work, to get much greater impact.  To scale up the intervention often requires investment of greater capital.  Investors of this greater capital usually want to see a greater understanding of how the intervention will lead to the means that will drive the impact.  Greater investment wants to lower the risk of not understanding.  They want to see a theory of “change,” a “comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context.”  As far as I can tell, from what I see in foundation, nonprofit, and network reports and in my own conversations, most of these theories of change provide linear descriptions of how an intervention will lead to some specific means of change in a specific context that will lead to the desired social impact.  A to B to C.  I see this as the lower-right quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, high clarity of causality with a linear direction of causality.  While this greater clarity of causality makes it much easier for the intervention leaders and the funders to test whether the intervention leads to the expected means and impacts, this linear approach to complex social issues leaves out a critical reality–feedback.

If the decisions you make today affect the decisions you can make tomorrow, then there is feedback.  A to C to A.  If the decisions you make influence others who then influence you, there is feedback.  All complex social issues contain impacts of any intervention on other stakeholders and on resources that influence the ability to continue to intervene in the future.  They all have feedback.

As the complexity of an intervention increases, like trying to feed a whole city through a large network of kitchens, most efforts seem to try to continue what they were doing before with just a lot more resources.  They use the same logic, on a bigger scale.  Lots of intervention, mixed with lots of magic, leads to lots of impact; so goes the “theory of I think.”  I think that if we just …  I see this as the upper-left quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, low clarity of causality with a feedback direction of causality.  While the situation might be much more complex, with many more stakeholders and resources involved, I think if we just do a lot more, we will get much more impact.  It rarely works, often because of the unseen feedback effects, which is why social impact investors have moved more and more towards wanting to see something that demonstrates a greater clarity of causality.  Right now the best-in-class practice seems to be the “theory of change” I mentioned earlier.

To complete the high-level overview a theory of change provides of preconditions, pathways, and interventions to achieve the desired impact, many groups develop a complementary logic model and evaluation plan.  The logic model lays out a linear model of how the planned work with resource inputs and activities leads to the suggested outputs, outcomes, and eventual impact.  A very clean and relatively simple way to explain how to implement the theory of change.  The evaluation plan then provides measures to test the hypotheses for the different elements: the resource inputs; the activities; the outputs; the outcomes; and the impacts.  The strategy process then pulls together the theory of change, the logic model, and the evaluation plan, in a crisp, linear mapping.

Now, if (1) the social issues we face require much greater investment, influencing a greater number of stakeholders, in contexts of much greater feedback, and (2) a linear strategy based on a theory of change, logic model, and evaluation plan falls short of dealing with the feedback complexity, what do I suggest?  A “theory of impact resilience.” While a theory of change focuses on how a change in an intervention will lead to a change in specific means, which will drive change in a specific social impact–in a linear model–a theory of impact resilience looks at the system of causes, effects, feedback, and stakeholders that lead some interventions to generate a much more resilient system that delivers much greater, sustained impact.  I see this as the upper-right quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, high clarity of causality with a feedback direction of causality.

Over the past twenty years, with many colleagues around the globe, we have developed systems-based strategic approaches to engaging multiple stakeholders around complex social issues.  There is now a whole industry of such approaches.  It turns out that it is not hard to bring together many people who are passionate about any specific social issue, find out how they each contribute different elements of the solution, and how they can work together to change the behavior of the whole system.  In the past decade alone, people have applied this kind of approach successfully on six continents to hundreds of important, complex social issues.  It only takes the will to do it, a little know-how and a few elapsed months of work.  Not decades.

So, while I applaud the desire of social impact investors to dramatically increase the clarity of causality between an intervention and a social impact, it is time that we move beyond “keep it simple,” linear models of causality to incorporate multi-stakeholder, feedback models of causality.  A theory of impact resilience, based on systems-based strategic approaches suggests how.  It provides a systemic theory, it lays out the systemic logic of how the interventions lead to shifts in the system of stakeholder responses and subsequent systemic impacts, and it provides an impact resilience scorecard of the systemic measures that indicate how the interventions are leading to systemic shifts, to greater resilience, and to scaling of the impacts.

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.

Vibrancy: Case Study for Global Company Transformation

Vibrant Organizations - Ecosynomics FrameworkOrganizational Vibrancy is important topics. It is the topic of our interview this week (1/12/16) on the Voice America Business series. This body of work is making a great impact in pockets of organizations around the world and yet relatively unknown in others. I have personally found this model to have a great impact on several of my clients. It has helped them identify where they excel and what gets in the way of their teams bringing about the innovative solutions they say they want and need to have a thriving organization. The interview is with Jim Ritchie-Dunham, Annabel Membrillo, and  Ana Claudia Goncalves.

Discussion includes the following topics:
1. What is vibrancy?
2. How do agreements fit into this equation?
3. As the CEO of an international organization – what question were you looking to answer when you starting considering assessments?
4. Why the vibrancy assessment?
5. What value did you get?
6. What were the leadership qualities required to successfully implement the changes recommended to create a highly vibrant organization?

To accompany the interview, the participants provide an in depth case study for the project they discuss.

In this case study, English version or Spanish version, Annabel and Ana Claudia describe the experience of taking a group in a global financial services company on the journey to the experience of a higher level of harmonic vibrancy, through the development of new, more collaborative practices.  These practices led to demonstrable improvements in performance and outcomes.  As Annabel shares, “I am very grateful to have had a living lab that, despite the scarcity agreements and rules in its organizational structure, implemented initiatives that I had not seen in all my years of working with organizations. This was possible because the company incorporated the transformation process into the day-to-day activities of the corporate world.”

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

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

What is Required to Shift from Survival to Thriving Long Term?

Leaders Guide to ThriveAbilityThis guest blog post was written by Robin Lincoln Wood. Dr Wood is a renowned strategist, futurist, communicator and agent of transformation. He has spent 3 decades working at board level with the world’s leading organizations in 35 countries on 4 continents. He is deeply skilled in designing & catalyzing major shifts in large scale systems, & in inspiring & empowering the teams that deliver them. This post is an excerpt of a paper that will be published in the Integral Leadership Review in October 2015.

Robin will be a guest on the Voice America radio show on September 29. This post is a companion to that interview.

Earth’s 7.3 billion citizens are currently consuming 1.6 planet’s worth of resources, thereby guaranteeing runaway global warming, climate change and suffering for billions in the next few decades. Such a wicked problem needs a whole new kind of leadership, capable of thinking and acting on a planetary scale while maintaining local viability. New kinds of leadership are emerging in response, capable of working from perspectives that access the highest leverage points in human, social, natural and technical systems, while integrating multiple disciplines, methods and tools for beneficial change and transformation. This post is a primer for the book “A Leader’s Guide to ThriveAbility”, details where we are (a degenerative, exclusive economy); where we need to be (a regenerative inclusive economy); the integral framework undergirding the ThriveAbility Journey, which explains how we get from here to there; and the role and kinds of leadership needed to assure a beneficial transition.

Toward a Regenerative, Inclusive Economy

Imagine a world powered by renewable energy, where all human beings thrive in resilient habitats; where businesses operate in a circular economy that regenerates natural capital, without a particle of waste, and are led by enlightened leaders whose goal is to maximize the ThriveAbility of all their stakeholders; where each individual is empowered to pursue their passion and make a living in service to others; where governance systems are transparent, effective and wise in the ways in which they deliver their services to their communities and populations; and where intercultural appreciation and insight enriches the exchanges between the diverse worldviews and cultures embraced by humankind.

Does that sound like an impossible dream, or pie in the sky? The co-creators of ThriveAbility would point out that every single one of these “pockets of the future” is currently observable in the present, right here and right now, somewhere in the world. It is just that the future is distributed unevenly, and sometimes hard to see when one is up to one’s neck in alligators and trying to drain the swamp.

  • How would this desirable future scenario of a thriving human civilization on a thriving planet convert into practical outcomes that are measurable and manageable?
  • What would such a future look like?
  • What kinds of leadership are emerging to get us there?

We can begin by describing in very big picture terms what a desirable future scenario of a thriving human civilization on a thriving planet might look like.

The Six Desiderata of ThriveAbility

Based on the pioneering work being done by hundreds of thought and practice leaders around the world[1], we have framed six desiderata by which we can measure the endpoint of the ThriveAbility Journey toward a regenerative, inclusive economy:

Sustainability: Natural Capital; Manufactured Capital

​1. A Circular, regenerative economy 

  1. Natural and man-made materials and ecosystems are regenerated through circular economic processes
  2. All impacts are managed proportionately to the carrying capacities of the multiple capitals

2. Long term resource planning for intergenerational equity

  1. Technologies, Products, Services and Businesses designed for durability to continue serving future generations
  2. Innovations are inspired by natural systems by engineers, designers, entrepreneurs and others working with the grain of nature.

Organizational: Intellectual Capital; Financial Capital

​3. A Transparent and Level global playing field that delivers True Value 

  1. Apply true accounting principles that measure true costs including externalities, and calculate true returns with full transparency
  2. Level the playing field towards renewable and regenerative industries through true taxation and incentives

​4. Strategic Decision-Making to Scale-Up to ThriveAble Sectors 

  1. Nurture multi-stakeholder collaboration to amplify and scale up positive impacts
  2. Investment decisions based on the ThriveAbility Index

Socio-Cultural: Human Capital; Social Capital

5. Holistic Education to Develop Complex Systems Thinking & Leadership

  1. New open business models for education that integrate physical wellbeing, mental depth, emotional maturity and spiritual development.
  2. Developmental pathways based on co-working and co-creation between disciplines and sectors that are aspirational and compelling for future generations

6. Governance Systems Aligned to Inclusive Stakeholder Wellbeing

  1. Radically inclusive and transparent governance structures that serve the different priorities and needs of different developmental levels
  2. Innovative structures for and approaches to interworking between governments, NGO’s, businesses and academia that focus on Stakeholder ThriveAbility.

We believe that starting from this “end of the telescope”, what is required for regenerative, inclusive business becomes obvious fairly quickly to key decision makers and stakeholders. In this sense the ThriveAbility Approach and Index act as a powerful catalyst and producer of the aspirations and the cognitive dissonance required to make transformative changes a reality.

To put it bluntly, we have no choice whether we should move from a degenerative, exclusive economic system to a regenerative, inclusive one that can ensure the thriving of our biosphere and ourselves.

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.

[1] In the course of researching and writing “A Leader’s Guide to ThriveAbility” we met with and/or interviewed 83 global thought leaders, executives and investors shaping the future of business, sustainability and human flourishing during late 2014 and early 2015. Since then we have engaged with a further few hundred such leaders via ThriveAbility live gatherings, ThriveAbility Think Tanks hosted by Convetit, and videoconferencing.