Top Ten on Demand Episodes on Innovating Leadership, Co-Creating Our Future

Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future is celebrating the completion of its 4th year!!  In honor of that milestone, we are sharing the countdown of the most listened to shows on-demand.  These shows can be listened to via the internet or via the Business channel on the Voice America app. Use the links to access the episodes and the guest bios.  Thanks for 4 great years of listening!

  1. How Does the Brain Impact Leadership Resilience? with John Wortmann aired on 9/11/2018

Resilience is a key factor in leadership success during times of stress. Our ability to manage our own energy and thinking have a significant impact on our ability to deliver personally and on our ability to inspire our followers. By building our resilience and creating a culture where others are expected to build theirs, we can make a significant impact on driving and sustaining our success as individuals and as organizations. Jon and Maureen start with defining resilience then move to the critical aspects of personal resilience. They include a focus on how brains and bodies react to stress and practices that will reduce the impact events have on leaders. discuss their areas of expertise in brain functioning. This interview includes a discussion of specific tools that allow leaders to build more resilient brains and reduce emotional reactivity. These tools help leaders manage feelings thereby also reducing stress. Equipped with these tools, leaders need to build practices.

  1. Winning In The Face of Adversity with Joyce Beatty, Congresswoman and Doug McCollough aired on 10/23/18

In a time when people are sharing more of their personal struggles, we talk to Congress Woman Beatty and Doug McCollough about their struggle and more importantly how they navigated those struggles so that she could make their greatest impact on the world. Congresswoman Beatty not only overcame, she changed the people’s view of what it was to be a successful black woman and she mentored women to make sure the pipeline behind her was strong and the country was better because of all facets of her service! She talks about how helping women succeed helps America succeed. She serves as a role model for inclusion globally by serving with grace and decorum! Doug shares how his focus on inclusion is expanding the field of employees working in technology in central Ohio. Through his board work as well as his work as CIO, he is creating a pipeline that allows unemployed people to get trained and find technology jobs. He is helping build the system that will close this gap long term!

  1. Position Success Indicator: Identify Where You Fit with Mark Palmer and Warner Moore aired on 11/13/18

According to a McKinsey study in 2018 focusing on the future of work: “technologies will transform the nature of work and the workplace itself. Machines will be able to carry out more of the tasks done by humans, complement the work that humans do, and even perform some tasks that go beyond what humans can do. As a result, some occupations will decline, others will grow, and many more will change. While we believe there will be enough work to go around (barring extreme scenarios), society will need to grapple with significant workforce transitions and dislocation. Workers will need to acquire new skills and adapt to the increasingly capable machines alongside them in the workplace. They may have to move from declining occupations to growing and, in some cases, new occupations.” The interview explores how the Position Success Indicator assessment identifies “job DNA” based on occupational traits that help people determine their best role fit to support workforce transitions.

  1. Sustainability: Why Hasn’t It Been Embraced? with Christoph Hinske, Michelle Thatcher, and Khoo Hock Aun aired on 6/25/19

Business as usual” can no longer be the leader thought pattern in regard to environmental impacts made by businesses. We are at a critical point where sustainability and impacts on the environment by business practices must be considered. What as leaders can we do to make a difference in these highly sensitive decisions? Christoph Hinske, Michelle Thatcher and Khoo Hock Aun discuss the options leaders have to encourage favorable corporate behavior and what leaders can do to make a difference.

  1. How Developmental Maturity Aligns with Organizational Maturity with Terri O’Fallon and Kim Barta aired on 9/25/18

During this show, Terri, Kim and Maureen talk about the interconnection between organizational issues and levels of developmental maturity. The conversation focuses on three types of issues and how they map to maturity as well as approaches to address them: 1. Existential, the group is moving to a new developmental level. How does it look for the organization? How do you see individuals? Do you have recommended course of action to help move forward? 2. Breadth, the group has the necessary philosophy and capacities at the level they are at, but they don’t have the skills they need. How does it look for the organization? How do you see individuals? Do you have recommended course of action to help move forward? 3. Shadow, the group has an adequate developmental level and skills but they have group shadow material that is holding them back. Let’s revisit what is shadow material? How should the team work to address it?

  1. Leadership Happy Hour: Aspirations – Fuel for Results with Greg Moran and Terri Bettinger aired on 9/4/18

This is the kick-off of our leadership happy hour series. During this conversation, Greg, Terri and Maureen discuss the topic of aspirations over the courses of their leadership careers. Aspiration has the power to expand our limits and potential by motivating us to test our capabilities and competencies further and in new ways. It has a completely different effect on us than its evil twin – desperation. Not that aspiration is inherently good or desperation is inherently bad, but when people believe, the paths they follow look very different than when they do not. The conversation will touch on the following among many others topics: 1. The power of aspiration as a means of creating opportunity where it is desired 2. Aspiration is necessary filtered through our values and priorities – and that’s okay! How do we remove the limits of aspiration when they have been indoctrinated into leaders for reasons that have nothing to do with their potential (i.e. race, gender, etc.).

  1. Ron Heifetz on Adaptive Learning and His Journey with Ron Heifetz, PhD aired on 12/6/16

During the Interview, we discuss Ron’s thoughts on leadership and his journey. Here is a preview: In times of change, people often try to hold onto the values of their culture that have had personal meaning and significance to them. When dominant cultures are confronted with stresses such as immigrants, they are called to examine their values and often required to take on very difficult integrative work. The leadership required must point out values such as: We stand for freedom and respect for all people, and our policy does not align with what we say we stand for. How do we make space for this evolution? What are the “gives” and “gets” required to evolve cultures? How can we hold steady to our cultural DNA and still evolve? In nature, when an organism adapts, it builds on its old capacity and generates radically new functionality. Ron suggested that “God didn’t do zero-based budgeting in evolution”. We honor our past and at the same time determine what can we release.

  1. 3. Top Leadership Trends in 2018 and Beyond with Christopher Washington aired on 8/21/18

Each year Maureen publishes a synthesis of the interviews she hosted and discuss the main themes she is hearing in the past year as well as in her consulting work with senior executives around the world. She has now completed more than 150 interviews. This interview is a synthesis of what she is taking away as key themes for leaders and executives to focus on for 2018 – 2022. This is a rolling synthesis, she will update it again in 2019 with new themes. Christopher Washington, PhD, hosts this show and discusses what he is seeing as a board member of Global Ties and EVP/CEO of Urbana University. The goal of this conversation is that listeners have a clearer understanding of the global leadership trends and what they might do personally to prepare themselves and their organizations to respond.

  1. A Case Study of Doing Well By Doing Good: The Internet Backpack with Dr. Dale Meyerrose aired 10/2/18

We have been hearing about the topic of doing well by doing good for a few years. Should tech leaders take adopt this concept to reevaluate how they do business? If so, why would they? How would they? To take the question further, what accountability (if any) do leaders have for the uses of their products and services? During this conversation, Dale and Maureen will discuss the questions posed above and a project Dale has been involved with where Imcon International Inc., the developer of the Internet Backpack, a remote connectivity solution that allows users to communicate from almost every location on the planet, the School of Information Studies (iSchool) at Syracuse University and the Republic of Liberia will collaborate on a far reaching project that will digitally transform Liberia by increasing the nation’s current internet penetration of about 7% to 40% by 2021. This project is a strong example to illustrate how technology leaders can solve global challenges.

  1. A CIO Story of Leadership: Maria Urani – NetJets with Maria Urani aired on 8/14/18

Leaders follow many paths to success – in a time of varying role models for exceptional leadership, Maria talks about how she developed over her career. She shares her values, her path to CIO, role models and the art of leadership. Many people develop visions but living them is the art. Maria talks about how she puts her values into action to create a positive workplace, great results and strong successors. She shares: 1. Her passion and how it connects to her work 2. the art of leadership 3. her path to leadership – career is lattice more than a ladder 4. her role models – actual and virtual 5. the value of inverted mentoring 6. the role of empowerment in IT transformation at NetJets She shares her insights and career journey with passion and wisdom.

Thanks for listening!

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

Compiled by Susan Harper

Relax. It’s Not a Problem with Your Virtual Team

This blog is provided by Jean Brittain Leslie as a companion to her interview for Voice America. This interview, Improving Virtual Team Success by Focusing on Paradox airs on 4/30/19.

A lot goes unresolved in virtual teamwork: issues that would take a few minutes to address in person end up wasting hours of time due to miscommunications; individuals hammer away at their tasks, while team bonding stagnates; you struggle with continued technological glitches and wonder if connectivity issues are really a sign team members lack engagement.

The bad news is that there are no solutions to these problems.

The good news is that these aren’t problems. These are polarities.

Unlike a problem, a polarity is ongoing, unsolvable, and contains a pair that need each other—neither is sufficient alone. In the example above, virtual teams need to be both task-focused and relationship-oriented. It’s easy to say these alternatives are in opposition to each other, but in truth, they’re complementary and interdependent. The trick isn’t solving a polarity (that’s problem-speak sneaking back in); the trick is recognizing the polarity for what it is and leveraging it effectively.

Recent research by the Center for Creative Leadership with 140 virtual teams from 56 organizations showed leveraged polarities are positively associated with virtual team effectiveness. What this means (back to our example) is that teams that were able to have sufficient focus on the tasks of the team and focus on building relationships to facilitate working together as a team have higher levels of performance, commitment, satisfaction and informal learning.

Here are a few common examples of virtual team polarities:

  • Verify & Trust
  • Advocacy & Inquiry
  • Formal Communication & Informal Communication
  • Unified Team & Diverse Individuals
  • Create New Processes & Use Existing Processes

Again, you might feel the urge to replace the ampersand with “versus,” but resist. Each of these pairs are needed in order to thrive. The goal isn’t for each pair to battle until the winner emerges. However, the pair may not always be in balance. There will be times when a given pair must take priority over its counterpart.

Central to effective virtual team leadership is the ability to leverage polarities, and the first step is to identify them. Here are a few questions to ask when trying to determine if you’re facing a problem or a polarity:

  • Is it ongoing?
  • Are there two alternatives? Does your success depend on the alternatives?
  • Can you only focus on one alternative for so long before needing to focus on the other?

If you answer “yes” to all of these questions, you’ve identified a polarity. If you answer “no” to any of the above, you probably have a good old-fashioned problem on your hands. If the latter, don’t worry, it’s solvable.  If the former, just keep telling yourself, “this is not a problem.”

To learn more about polarities, please visit the blog and radio show posted by Barry Johnson Balancing Competing Perspectives: Some Challenges Require Solutions and Others Balance.

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

About the Author

Jean Brittain Leslie is senior fellow and director of Strategic Initiatives in Research, Innovation, and Product Development at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®). With 26 years of experience working at CCL, Jean has made numerous contributions in the areas of research, publication, product development, and training. She has published more than 90 pieces on leadership, assessment, and feedback—in the form of peer-reviewed and popular-press articles, book chapters, and books. Jean also has presented over 50 papers at professional conferences such as the Academy of Management and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists.

Organizational Complexity is a Rapidly Spreading Virus that Needs to be Eradicated

This blog is a guest post provided by Jesse Newton is the author of Simplify Work; Crushing Complexity to Liberate Innovation, Productivity and Engagement. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview with Jesse Newton focusing on his book.

The Situation: An epidemic is affecting businesses large and small. This epidemic is debilitating complexity. The disease restricts innovation, limits productivity, disengages the workforce, and eventually leads to organizational failure. Debilitating complexity takes the form of unnecessary and complicated structures, processes, systems, rules, metrics, checks and balances, and so on. Businesses traditionally add more and more of these things as they grow. There seems to be an acceptance that as a business grows, complexity and complicatedness are natural by-products. And while complexity certainly does increase as businesses mature, it does not mean that it needs to stifle innovation and entrepreneurship. The same story plays out over and over again once a company gets to a certain size: the entrepreneurial leaders decide that their juvenile business is becoming an adolescent and want to be taken seriously, so they bring in an experienced “big company” professional. The big company person then sets about installing all of the “discipline” that a serious organization requires—defined roles and responsibilities, performance metrics, committees, strict common processes, and so on, and so on. Then, all of a sudden, people begin adhering to their newfound role expectations, they start to get lost in all the processes and paperwork, they become scared to step outside of their defined role, and spontaneous rich innovation becomes a distant memory.

The Data: In a recent study 74% of respondents rated their organization as complex. In this digital age, when technology is fueling rapid changes in consumer preferences and reshaping industries, it is critical that companies innovate well and fast. Companies that are bogged down in slow decision making, risk intolerance, and siloed protectionism are destined to fail.

The Cause: The current complexity crisis is largely due to many organizations holding on to outdated and obsolete methods of organizing how work gets done. These 20th-century approaches to organizational structure and management are strangling our productive and innovative potential. They are limiting the thinking power of our people and not effectively using the resources at organizations’ disposal.

The Imperative: From an individual perspective, how we protect and allocate our time and energy is becoming increasingly paramount. The most important resource people have is their time, and we are spending far too much of it on the wrong things. We are pulled in so many directions and have to spend so much time and energy navigating through a labyrinth of processes and structures that we have lost touch with what really matters. We simply do not have the time and energy to do our best work on the most important activities.

As we are working longer and longer on increasingly low-value work, we often don’t even realize it. We have become accustomed to the four approvals we require to do anything and accustomed to going through a leader to talk to someone in a different function. We’re accustomed to navigating through three separate systems to find the information we need, and we’re accustomed to dedicating a quarter of the year to complete the budgeting process. Let’s not forget about that report one of your leaders within the matrix needs; that clearly should take precedence over everything else.

Deep down we know something is not quite right. We are not spending quality time doing the work we were hired to do. We find that it is getting harder to stay on top of everything and enjoy a good balance or even a balance at all. This results in us simply checking out. Engagement scores across companies over the past 30 years have consistently decreased. According to Gallup, only 28% of the US workforce is engaged at work, the rest are either actively disengaged or merely not engaged.

The implication: for business is that things move too slow, people think and act in silos, it’s hard to get anything done, decision making is poor, innovation is missing, risk-taking is low, and it all leads to increasing costs and being left behind by more nimble competitors. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Companies that are mired in debilitating complexity can break free of its hold. With strong leadership support and a clear approach for attacking complexity companies can re-energize their people by bringing back the laser focus, reducing the clutter and releasing the reins on innovation. The epidemic of complexity is spreading throughout the world of business and if it is not reined in, those that have managed to keep it at bay will leap ahead and those that don’t will fall by the wayside.

The Opportunity: What if we could take a fresh look at our businesses, reconsider what is really important, and start to focus our time and energy on those things that matter. Imagine the positive effect it would have on your people if you told them they now have permission to do more of the work they were hired for. Imagine their sense of liberation if you removed a big chunk of the activities that soak up their time: low-value training, compliance, meetings that should be emails, expense processing, report building, budget setting, clunky performance management, and so on.
The time is right to simplify work

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

Jesse Newton is the author of Simplify Work; Crushing Complexity to Liberate Innovation, Productivity and Engagement. He is the founder and CEO of Simplify Work; a global management consulting firm that helps organizations throw off the shackles of debilitating complexity and reignite top performance.

jnewton@simplifywork.com

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Building Resilience – Lessons for Coping with Anxiety

This post is written by guest blogger Samar HabibIt is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future with Jon Wortman focusing on How the Brain Impacts Leadership Resilience. We also encourage you to take our free online resilience assessment. I am posting this blog because of the anxiety many people are facing with the combination of economic uncertainty, political uncertainty and geopolitical uncertainty to name a few. There are many different approaches to work with anxiety. An element that helps us navigate the anxiety and build our resilience is understanding how our brains and body respond to stress so we can counterbalance our physiology.

I’m on the balcony playing with pegs. Not quite two years old. Out of nowhere a bomb drops from the sky and explodes nearby. It’s a huge shock to my little heart. I scream. My sympathetic nervous system injects me with adrenaline and cortisol, propelling me like a rocket into my father’s arms.

I grow up in a war zone. Living in war is like being in a relationship with an emotionally volatile person. You spend years walking on eggshells, not knowing when they’re going to blow up next.

I’ve experienced both. Growing up in war and being in a relationship with a volatile person. Gradually, and without my awareness, I lose my sense of safety. Even long after I leave the war zone and that relationship ends, my anxiety remains. Just like a piece of toilet paper that gets stuck to your shoe long after you’ve left the restroom, anxiety follows me around.

And even though the world shows me everyday that it is a gentle and safe place that’s full of love, my body still expects everything to go to hell without warning.

When I look back on my life I can see how this stuck-fear turns me into a tiny Anxiety Mouse. As an Anxiety Mouse I’m afraid to leave a job that doesn’t utilize my full potential because I don’t know what will happen if I do. As an Anxiety Mouse, I’m afraid to ask the woman I like if she’s interested too, because I fear the sting of ridicule or rejection. As an Anxiety Mouse I abort many potential friendships because I don’t trust people’s intentions. And so when I finally become aware of how my fear oppresses me, or how I oppress myself with my fear, I set out to transform it. And in coping with anxiety, these are the lessons I learn.

Love Anxiety Mouse (with all your heart)

It takes me many years to even realize that I am afraid. Scientists say that when your body is used to being in a state of alert for so long, you stop noticing that it is on edge; it becomes your new normal.

In Life Unlocked, Srinivassan Pillay writes that certain brain regions involved in fear can be active without our conscious awareness. We can be afraid and just not know it. I first notice my subliminal fear in the backseat of a coworker’s car. I’m in my mid 30s. She’s very nice and invites me to spend time with her and a friend. But for some reason my chest constricts and I want nothing more than to get out of there. Instead of berating myself for this social failure, I turn toward my fear with curiosity and unconditional self-love.

When I get home, I do a meditation prescribed for people coping with axniety by Christopher Hansard in his book The Tibetan Art of Living. I lie on my back and close my eyes. I imagine that my breath is flowing in and out of my navel. And with every breath I feel warmer and more energized. I place my attention on my heart and I feel the anxious glow that emanates from it. It’s an icy cold, electric heat. I then imagine a miniature me lying in the center of my heart, just as Hansard instructs. She is perfectly safe and perfectly at peace. Nothing can harm her. And I sit with this perfect peace, together with my fear, for some time.

I learn from Hansard’s book that this peace is actually my inner wisdom and it is always there, accessible in the space between moments. For the ancient Tibetans, he tells me, this inner wisdom is the healer of the body and mind. In knowing how to contact this inner horizon, as he calls it, lies our ultimate healing. I now direct the image of my safe-self out of my heart and into the world. I color it with a bright, powerful light and allow it to radiate like a white sun. I let its rays permeate every aspect of my life.

Rest and let yourself receive the good feelings that come to you from doing this, Hansard writes. And I do.

I have just communicated with my sympathetic nervous system with guided imagery. I’ve brought the fear response under my sway. When I am not meditating I blast Anxiety Mouse with light and love every chance I get. Every time I notice her. Remembering the not-yet-two-year-old girl on that balcony, who was terrorized within an inch of her life, I wrap my now strong arms around the afraid parts of me and love the hell out of them. Wherever the fear is nesting in my body, I direct love with all my heart at it. Ultimately, it’s not our technology or our medicine but our love that heals. That’s what neurosurgeon James Doty writes in his book Into the Magic Shop, and that’s a neurosurgeon talking!

How to Send Love To Your Pain 

In the past I thought these ancient visualization techniques were archaic wishful thinking, now I realize they are truly medicine.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

I’m sitting in the back seat of a taxi. Next to me sits the object of my affection. I’d really like to ask her out for dinner but I just can’t. I’m so tense, if I was a guitar string I would snap. I’ve already read a dozen books on body language and nonverbal communication and I can tell I’m giving her all the wrong signals. You’re supposed to lightly touch your love interests here and there: on the arm, a little slap on the knee, maybe even a light touch on the small of the back if you’re ushering them through a doorway. If you have hair, flick it. And you’re supposed to make meaningful and non-invasive eye contact when they speak. Ask a lot of questions. Dress to impress. Connect emotionally. Yeah, I get it. All of it. But I just can’t bring myself to put my hand on a woman I’m attracted to.

What if she feels violated? What if I come across as sleazy? What if she’s straight and I misrepresent all gay women as predatory sex fiends for all time?

So you see, I just sit there, awkward and uncomfortable. Stewing in my closed off stance, my body turned away from her. She’s talking but I’m so caught up in my own nervousness, I have no idea what she just said. Seconds later she’s out of the taxi. Gone. I just missed my chance. I go home and I’m really tempted to hate myself. What a coward. I keep replaying our time together in my head, looking for clues. Does she like me? It never occurs to me that I could have just asked.

The fastest way to deal with anxiety is to do the thing that scares you. Once you’ve done what you’re afraid of, it can’t scare you anymore. That’s because anxiety is only possible when you think about the future and about what could happen. So feel the fear and do it anyway. This is literally the title of a best selling book by Susan Jeffers. Jeffers teaches me to say I’ll handle it, every time I catch myself worrying about the consequences of doing something. I just keep saying it over and over again, every time Anxiety Mouse rears her fragile little head inside me. If I keep giving all my money away, I’m going to end up homeless myself: that’s fine, I’ll handle it. If I quit this job I’m really not cut out for, I might never be able to find something better: I’ll handle it. What if America turns fascist and they start rounding up immigrants: I’ll handle it. What if I go on vacation and come back to find that my startup doesn’t exist anymore: I’ll handle it. Whatever you fear is going to happen that you’re theoretically worrying about right now, just tell yourself, I’ll handle it. And if the worst case scenario eventuates (it almost never does), Jeffers says in another book, tell yourself I can learn from this. I’ve just blown my last chance with this incredibly amazing woman by not asking her out. I can learn from this. I’ve just blown the entire fuse box fixing the electrics on my motorcycle. I can learn from this.

After I finally overcome my fear of losing money and start investing in the stock market, it crashes! I can learn from this.

I do learn a tonne from that last one, actually. I realize how ridiculous money is; how easily it can be made and lost. My fear of not having enough is transformed into my knowledge that material security is an illusion. It doesn’t make sense to continue being afraid of losing something (material security) that no one can ultimately have, does it?

Put Fear in a Larger Historical Context

My heart rate can go from 60 to 100 BPM instantly for no seemingly good reason. The first time this happens to me, I’m in high school. I see two police officers walking towards me and I feel the fear. I do a mental check of my school uniform. It’s a crazy thought to think that police officers are going to cite you for not having your shirt tucked in, isn’t it? They pass me without incident of course and I’m left wondering what the hell my reaction was all about. The same thing still happens to me sometimes when I see Border Patrol officers in foreign airports. And during the 2014 Ferguson protests I break into a cold sweat when a police helicopter hovers over my house for over an hour. I’ve been in war zones, why should a police helicopter make me feel like it’s coming for me? None of this makes sense to my logical mind. The physiological reactions happen in spite of my logic. In search for self-understanding, I come across the concept of epigenetics. Epigenetics teaches us that we can inherit the traumatic experiences of our predecessors even up to the moment of our conception.

What this means is that what happened during the lives of my parents and their parents lives inside me too. And so it all starts to make sense. My grandparents had to flee their family homes, they and my parents were persecuted. They lived in constant terror, hiding from genocidal militias for decades. Now that context is gone, but thanks to epigenetics my brain is still vigilant against those non-existent threats. I soon realize that Anxiety Mouse wants to make sure I survive in a world that no longer exists. I take a moment to honor the experiences of my parents and their parents before them. I close my eyes and I bless the souls of the living, and the souls of those whom we have lost. My eyes well up with tears as the fear that sits inside me takes on a new meaning. This fear is not an enemy but a precious relic from my family’s history that is asking to be acknowledged and healed.

I imagine that as I am healing my own trauma, I am also healing the trauma of my entire lineage. I feel the spirits of my grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins who were murdered in the war and to each one of them I acknowledge the pain and terror they must have faced. I take a moment to imagine what they would say to me and I listen for their messages. May you be happy, may you be at peace. Thank you for your sacrifice. I promise to live the life I am given  to its fullest potential. I bless the living spirits of my mother and father. My heart radiates tremendous love and the electric ice-cold fear transforms into a tender aching, like the pain of a fresh wound. I feel my heart opening to the unhealed traumas of my predecessors and I ask that they be released now and for all time.

Bert Hellinger, a German psychologist who invented a therapeutic methodology known as Family Constellation Work, claims that we can inherit the traumas of our predecessors and live out similar fates to them if these experiences are not brought to consciousness and resolved. He calls this phenomenon systemic entanglement. We might even harbor a sense of unconscious loyalty to our fallen loved ones and end up steering ourselves toward similar fates in solidarity with them. Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, a hungarian psychologist who founded family therapy, refers to this phenomenon as invisible loyalty.

My body, without my conscious awareness, makes me live out the same psychosocial distress as my predecessors. My body is motivated by unconscious love and deep family ties that live in the cells of my body. As I become aware of this dynamic the healing begins and I set out to write a new destiny for my life. One based on optimism and trust.

Take a moment to expand your awareness of that steel-cold existential fear that doesn’t seem to leave you alone. What aspects are based on your direct experience and what aspects could you have inherited?

Take a moment to acknowledge the pains and losses of your loved ones. The ones you know and the ones you don’t. Ask that they be acknowledged and healed. Surrender the pain to the greater love that governs and corrects all things.

Subliminal Fear Lives in the Unconscious Mind

I post on an online forum about a rare motorcycle part I need to repair my bike. The following day, I receive an email from a man named Steve telling me has has the part and to call him on a given number. My first thought isn’t oh, great! My first thought is is this a scam? I put the phone number into Google and sure enough, Steve is calling from a motorcycle salvage yard in Southern California.

Someone else wouldn’t have had that thought. But that kind of thought is my default mode. It’s the first thing I think in most situations. Is there a threat? How can I make sure there isn’t a threat? How can I keep myself safe?

I’ve lived with this way of thinking for so long I barely even notice it, but now that I can see my subliminal fear in action, I can also see how it’s interfering in all aspects of my life. For one thing, I don’t trust my friends. This means I can never rely on them. And because I don’t give people the chance to be there for me, I’ve ended up with a lot of superficial relationships. Unintentionally, I have been isolating myself from others in this way for years.

Another example is that I never trust that things will work out for me, or that I might just get lucky. This means I don’t take risks and it also means that undesirable circumstances in my life are slow to change. I realize that for drastic changes to occur in my life I need to create momentum by taking bold action. But since I’m subliminally afraid all the time, I haven’t dared to quit that stupid job. I recognize that I need to go deep into my unconscious mind to fix this. And I quit that stupid job.

 

Releasing Stuck Energy

The unconscious mind is that part of ourselves that carries out the bodily functions we don’t have to think about. Things like a beating heart, breathing, digestion and life-saving reflexes. My unconscious mind is the one that’s running my fear factory because it still thinks I need it to survive. I need to find a way to tell it that there is no threat. I need to find a way to tell it all is good. The war (at least for me) is over, if I run out of money I’ll handle it, and there’s really no one out to get me. And if there were, I’ll handle that too. I’m sitting in my bedroom after a long day of reading and writing on my desk. I have no reason to be afraid and yet there is a knot in my stomach. Above that, in the center of my torso and radiating all the way up to my heart, I also feel a stuck energy. I am not thinking anxious thoughts, I am simply observing the sensations we would normally call fear as they manifest in my body. My Sympathetic Nervous System is on alert, it’s ready to respond to threat. Except there is no threat and I know this, but my body doesn’t. How do I tell my body everything is ok?

I soon realize that the sensations of anxiety that I am feeling in my body are located in what Eastern mystics call chakras. Chakras are energy centers in the body. For a long time I thought they were just make belief. But I can definitely feel this excess energy in the places where the second, third and fourth chakras are supposed to be.

In his book Becoming Supernatural Joe Dispenza puts the idea in my head that these energy centers can experience blockages because of past traumatic experiences. Sometimes an energy center can move away from its alignment with the spine.

The idea makes sense because the sensation I feel in what’s supposed to be my second chakra is not in alignment with my spine, it juts out slightly to the left. After his meditation technique, Dispenza says, practitioners notice a realignment of those energy centers with the spine and the energy flows freely again.

I’m willing to have an open mind about this. If these energy centers are real and my unresolved emotional experiences of being threatened are actually stuck in my body, then if I do this meditation, I should be able to feel the difference.

I close my eyes and prepare myself for the breathing exercise he prescribes. I squeeze the muscles of my pelvic floor as well as the muscles of my lower and upper abdomen in tandem with inhaling a deep breath. At the same time, I imagine that I am using my core muscles to move the energy in my lower chakras up my spine, into my brain and all the way out of the top of my head. Once I get to the top of my head, I focus my attention there and hold my breath for a few seconds. As I exhale, I relax my muscles and prepare to repeat the breathing cycle all over again. After several minutes of doing this I return to breathing normally. I focus my awareness on each chakra in turn, beginning with the first one at the base of my spine, making my way up to the 7th, blessing each with love and gratitude as I go. Finally I rest my awareness on an energy center that is supposedly a few inches above my skull. That’s supposed to be the 8th chakra. When I finish blessing each center, I place my awareness on my entire body all at once, which now feels like a massive, pulsating field of energy. I feel bigger and lighter. To my surprise I don’t feel the symptoms of anxiety return for several days. Could it have worked or was it just a coincidence?

Teach Your Body to Trust Again

After I quit my job, I realize that other areas of my life have to change. I sit down at my desk and I make an inventory of all the times I suspected people of ill intentions and turned out to be wrong. I make a second list of all the times I was afraid something bad was going to happen and it didn’t. Looking at the lists I can see the absurdity of some of those thoughts! And I remember just how plausible the scenarios seemed when I imagined them. For example, when one of my clients gave me a mechanical keyboard as a present, I wondered if it was possible for someone to install spyware on your computer through an external keyboard. I even asked a software engineer about it. Why did my mind take this kind and generous gesture from my client and turn it into a possible episode of espionage? And what subtle effects does this have on my ability to connect meaningfully with people?

At its core this is a trust issueI have to teach my body to trust again.

I pick up Habits of a Happy Brain by Loretta Graziano Breuning. She explains that the feel-good brain chemicals are released when we form trust bonds. Breuning teaches me how I can increase these brain chemicals by offering my trust to others. I don’t have to trust everybody, that’s actually not such a great idea, she writes. Steve from the motorcycle salvage yard could have been a scammer after all!  But even if people go on to break our trust it’s better to assume trust initially. The joy we gain is in the act of offering our trust, not the outcome. We will feel much better for trusting people rather than living with mistrust all the time. In other words: look for people you think you can trust, initiate a situation where you’re offering your trust, and reap the brain chemical reward right there and then, regardless of whether they go on to honor or betray that trust.

Take for example the time a business owner contacts me about working with him on expanding his business. When we meet, some of his comments seem really off-kilter and abrasive to me. I feel immediate alarm bells in the usual energy centers of my body. I decide to feel the fear and offer my trust anyway. I agree to meet with him several more times. After a few encounters though, I can see that my initial assessment is correct. He is rude and abrasive, even if he isn’t aware of it, and I don’t have to spend any more time in his line of fire. I respectfully end our relationship and move on to the next business opportunity. By placing my satisfaction in my trust-offer rather than the outcome, I’m able to confidently end our relationship without feeling hurt or stupid for trusting him in the first place. And I feel good that I felt the fear and did it anyway.

7 Get Curious

Fear is an automated physiological response over which we have no control. But we can consciously maneuver our brain activity away from the automated fear response, toward other regions in the brain. We can do that by getting curious.

When my body initiates a fear response, I

  1. Assess the situation by asking myself am I in immediate danger? The answer is almost always no

  2. Breathe in deeply and direct self-compassion to the areas in my body where I feel the fear

  3. Accept the fear as a sensation completely and utterly, without judgment

  4. Investigate the sponsoring thought behind my fear. And the sponsoring thought is nearly always a fear for my survival (which isn’t being threatened)

  5. Ask myself if there is an action I can take to alleviate my concern and if there is, I take it. I don’t react or overreact, I simply act if needed

Let me give you an example:

I receive an offer to work on a very interesting project. My client and I draw up an agreement and I sign it. I start working but she doesn’t send me the countersigned copy. This triggers my fear response. My mind plays out a number of worst case scenarios. Is this a scam? Why hasn’t she signed the agreement? I notice my heart rate go through the roof and that’s when I decide to get curious about the situation. I ask myself am I in immediate danger? Obviously not, the worst thing that could happen is that I’d work for free for a few weeks. That’s literally the worst thing that can possibly happen in this situation. I accept my absurd thoughts, take a deep breath and send love to the areas in my body where I can feel the sensations of fear. At the same time I ask myself what is it that I am really afraid of?

The answer is nearly always the same for this question: the fear is for my ultimate survival. I’m not afraid of losing out on money owed in wages, the fear is much more primal than that. The fear is of having nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. This was a reality for many members of my family decades earlier, but it is not the case for me: an able-bodied, legal resident of a country with a thriving economy. What action can I take to turn off the fear response? Send an email asking about the countersigned agreement. I do and moments later my client responds with an apology for having forgotten to return it until now. I add this to my inventory of incidents where I suspect people of having ill intentions and I turn out to be wrong.

What Are You Exactly Afraid Of?

The limbic system is the oldest part of our brain and the most primitive. It doesn’t think, it reacts. The purpose of it is to keep us alive. My fear of not having enough is ultimately a primordial fear of death. But our brains have evolved so much and are now capable of thinking. And with my thinking brain (that’s the prefrontal cortex: the area of the brain behind the forehead), I can entertain philosophical and existential ideas. One idea in particular resonates with me. The Thai buddhist monk, Ajahn Chah, teaches me that I’m going to die eventually. In fact, that’s literally the one thing we can all be sure of. We are all going to die. Eventually. And so I realize that there’s no point of living in fear of the only inevitable and certain thing. I’m not saying let’s all hold hands and run to our deaths, I’m saying that existentially it is a little absurd to live a life in fear of the inevitable.

I decide to do a meditation on fear. I begin with my first memory of fear. That’s my memory on the balcony. After that I remember being afraid of my father’s angry voice and of my teachers as they’re deciding how to punish me. I remember my fear of mean girls at school as a teenager and my fear of asking a woman out as an adult. I remember my fear of police and border patrol officers and even my fear of police helicopters. Then I get to death. And strangely everything goes quiet. I realize that I have no fear of death. Astonished, I ask myself how is it that I can be afraid of a girl making fun of me for liking her and not be afraid to die? In my lack of fear of death I realize that I can be fearless to anything I meet in life. I realize that what I possess is the ultimate bravery of all. I realize that everything I am afraid of is really nothing. I am afraid of nothing. I break into laughter at the misunderstanding that I have been living with all my life.

I Turn My Fear Into A Spiritual Path

To self-identify according to your spiritual rather than material reality is enlightenment. Marianne Williamson, Law of Divine Compensation. I’m sitting in a classroom listening to a Kabbala teacher talk about waking up and feeling uneasy, or thinking negative thoughts for no reason. And he says that whenever his teacher feels those negative emotions he says to himself what a pleasure! It turns out that for the Kabbalists this psychological tension that comes out of nowhere is a sign that you are on the edge of a spiritual breakthrough. A seasoned Kabbalist gets really excited when they get anxious for no reason.And so my first thought is this guy is nuts. But actually he isn’t. It turns out that people who are just about to have a spiritual experience first have an overload of activity in the areas of their brain traditionally associated with fear and negative emotions.

To get to a spiritual experience you first feel a lot of distress. Sorta like the story of Jesus in the desert getting taunted by the devil, and the Buddha by Mara, sorta like that. Both have their spiritual breakthroughs on the other side of their respective freak outs. For this reason I can’t call Anxiety Mouse by that name any more. Sure I still have the physiological symptoms of fear every now and then but my thoughts about those feelings are not the same. Physical sensations are just physical sensations. We assign meanings to them and why should my feeling that we call anxiety be seen as such a bad thing? How do I know it’s bad? How do I know it’s not even awesome? What if it’s like a stargate into another dimension?


Pain Does Not Equal Harm

I am on an exhilarating spiritual path. I’m exploring the influence I can have on my body and my world with my conscious mind. Realizing this, I come to see that anxiety isn’t really anxiety, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to explore what I can and can’t do with my mind to influence my body. Every anxious moment is the perfect opportunity to master the skill of this subtle influence of mind on the body. I know we’re led to believe that we shouldn’t feel this way and if we do then something is wrong, but this feeling is not harmful. I can learn so much from this! And I do. Every day.

Authentic Leadership For Progress, Peace And Prosperity

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

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

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

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

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

1. Leadership certification needs to be a strong consideration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Leadership ethics are key. 

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

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

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

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

6. Resilience remains a key concern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Team Effectiveness, Brexit and Theresa May

This blog is a guest post by Simon Mac Rory as a companion to the November, 27 Voice America interview where he talks about his latest book, Wake-up and Smell the Coffee: An Imperative for Teams.

While writing my recent book “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative of teams” all around me was the Brexit discussion. I could not pick up a news feed and not see something on the negotiations in terms of the UK position, the EU position and the Irish question. I must admit, despite a keen interest in the outcome, both as business person and an EU/Irish national living in the UK, I remain in a confused state as to what is happening. I cannot make head nor tail of the UK position!

Observing the UK Brexit team and the confused narrative that emerges, I got to wondering how effective are they as a team? Do they have the capability for success? Brexit is such a critical issue for the UK overall and can even be viewed as the greatest existential threat to the UK since World War II, if the negotiations are not a success.

To be effective there are a number of critical issues that teams need to address. If they can improve on these through their own efforts, they can drive their overall effectiveness substantially. I define team effectiveness as – “The ability of a work team to be successful and produce the intended results. For the team, success is achieving the results, but effectiveness is about capability for success.”

I have attempted to map the Brexit team to the factors and criteria for an effective team. These are my views and generated as a distant observer (as I can only be). What do others think – does Theresa May and her Brexit team have the capabilities for success? The model I use is displayed below and is comprised of six factors. Each factor in turn contains two criteria that impact team effectiveness. In the table that follows I have given a brief definition of each criteria and my opinion of the Brexit team in relation to same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

About the Author

Simon Mac Rory is a specialist in team development. He works with senior staff leaders to help them discover that edge to becoming a truly high performing team. Over his 30-year career he has worked globally with a blue-chip client base in both the private and public sectors.

He founded The ODD Company in 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to the international markets. Simon
operates the business from London with a Dublin-based development and support office.

Simon received a doctoral degree for his work on the application of generic frameworks in organizational development and is a Visiting Research Fellow at Nottingham Business School.

Follow Simon on Twitter @SimomMacRory

The Business Case for Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

Steps to Increasing Diversity in Your Organization

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

Should IT Executives Show Their “Soft Side”?

This is a guest post by Patt Hardie, Leadership and Talent Management Expert.  It is the companion to the July 17, 2018 Voice America interview with David White, CIO of Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, aired on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations”: Should IT Executives Share their ‘Soft Side’?

Soft skills have many definitions, one key being emotional intelligence. Research has provided clear evidence that emotionally intelligent leaders are more successful. Many of these studies yield bottom-line results. Yet, many leaders miss the mark. Why? Maybe they believe that strong leadership equates to being tough, they lack confidence, or don’t want to appear vulnerable in their role. Or some may believe it seems too ‘touchy-feely’ or soft. The ‘Soft Side’ of leadership spans beyond technical leaders to all leaders, and really isn’t about being soft (or any of those other things) at all. What it IS about is being confident and secure enough to be yourself with others; its about being humble, approachable and personable; and treating people with dignity, concern and appreciation. It’s also knowing your people, about having compassion and restraint; listening with purpose and responding with care; and caring about the impact of decisions on people. Finally, it’s about sincerity, self-awareness and learning. The ‘Soft Side’ of leading doesn’t eliminate the important responsibilities of managing performance and holding people accountable. It is a ‘both/and’ combination of strengths that leaders need to have to be successful.

As an IT Leader and someone who works in technology, David talks about why the soft side of leading is a significant contributor to success. As technology leaders, we need a diverse set of skills including a heavy dose of soft skills to be a highly successful business leaders beyond our technical skills. These skills range from awareness and management of our mood, an ability to be present and focused to skills in establishing and managing a positive culture where a broad range of perspectives can be explored and synthesized.

David has a strong understanding about the ‘Soft Side’ of leading and demonstrates it effectively.

The soft side of leading is a hot topic today for many articles and books under titles such as Authentic or Gracious Leadership, or the Genuine or Compassionate Leader because it couldn’t be more important than in today’s environment, in our culture, our communities, and in our organizations and its impact to bottom-line business results. The beauty of it all is that when leaders are willing to be their authentic self in business relationships with key stakeholders: teams, peers, customers, etc., great outcomes emerge:  trust builds, morale and engagement increases, teamwork and collaboration multiplies within and between groups, and empowerment and accountability grows. Better decisions are made, ‘conflict’ becomes ‘problem solving’, and over time, if practiced by enough leaders, authenticity becomes part of the culture. The old saying that the leader sets the tone couldn’t be truer. All of these lead to higher performance and business results.

Maya Angelou, the American civil rights activist and poet once said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Janet Smith Meeks, business leader says in her book Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before ‘Gracious leadership represents the intersection of ultimate respect ad optimal outcomes.’ These inspirational quotes represent what the soft side of leading are ultimately about: Sharing the best version of yourself in service of others. Yet, how do you do that well? It’s often the little things surprisingly, it’s consistency over time. Here are a few tips with examples:

  • Be personable, humble, authentic:
    • Make eye contact, initiating conversation with those you encounter on the elevator, in hallways, in the cafeteria, in meetings (even if you’re introverted)
    • Get to know your people, team members, key stakeholders; remember names, important information; let them get to know you
    • Acknowledge mistakes, ask forgiveness; show gratitude; be sincere
    • Ask for coaching, mentoring, training, support when needed
    • Drop by offices or invite staff to your office to chat
    • Have your meetings in the cafeteria or other casual spaces at the office
    • Have lunch with team or 1-1 with team members/others

Author personal example: When I have meetings in cities where team members are located, I always make time to meet and have lunch with them to discuss current issues and learn more about them personally.

  • Treat people with dignity, concern and appreciation:
    • Show compassion with a personal note of condolence, get well card; work from home in special circumstance if you can, etc.
    • Say thank you, send notes of appreciation
    • Celebrate accomplishments/milestones individually/team
    • Never be too busy to reach out to become aware of what’s going on with other’s needs
    • Manage performance issues with dignity
    • Do more listening than speaking so that others feel heard
    • Give people undivided attention when they come into your office to talk; put everything down, don’t answer your phone

Author personal example: I recall a time when my team was working on a lengthy project and we were closing in on our deadline. We were working long hours, so over the weekend, I put handwritten motivational notes on small post-it’s on everyone’s desktop monitors… simple sayings like ‘Stay awesome… we’re almost there!!!’ and ‘Hang in there, you’re doing GREAT!!!’ I was amazed at the impact that small gesture had the following week on the entire team!

  • Self-awareness and learning:
    • Seek feedback for yourself from others regularly
    • Know what you know, know where your gaps are; fill your gaps with learning and supplement some with smart people and utilize them well
    • Be clear about your personal leadership philosophy; your own development plan; your organization’s mission/vision/values and share it all with your team and have them hold you accountable

Author personal example: In all my regular 1-1 meetings with team members, I always ask what else they need from me to help them in their role…

Leadership is about building the next generation of leaders. People want to know how their work contributes to the achievement of results and are eager to provide their discretionary effort. People want to feel fully appreciated for the work they do, they want to matter. Step up to the leadership they deserve and deliver them the best version of yourself that you can. You won’t disappoint, and neither will they… I promise!

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

About the Author

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

Four Common Types of Difficult Employees And How To Deal With Them

This post is a companion to one or our top Voice America Interviews featuring Mike Morrow-Fox talking about bad bosses and the impact they have on organizations 

One of the jobs of managers is to create an environment that promotes employee engagement and produces organizational results. Difficult employees adversely impact the team members who work with them. Managers need to find productive ways to address these difficulties or they risk negatively impacting the entire working team. According to a Gallup article published in December 2016, “Compared with disengaged teams, engaged teams show 24% to 59% less turnover, 10% higher customer ratings, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity, 28% less shrinkage, 70% fewer safety incidents and 41% less absenteeism.” The research clearly suggests that managers who address these difficult employees will produce better organizational results than those who do not.

The following is a guest post written by Jackie Edwards, professional writer experienced in the HR side of finance and banking,. It’s the reality of being an employer that your team might not always be filled with employees who support your vision and work hard for you. At some point you’ll have to deal with a difficult personality in the workplace. As stated in the Journal of Business & Economics, difficult employees can become of the most challenging issues you face, according. Here are four common types of difficult employee that you’ll likely have to come across and tips on how to tackle them effectively.

Dark-Side Dan

This is the employee who’s always negative. When you bring up an exciting project, he’ll tell you why it won’t work. It can be frustrating to deal with someone who’s always raining on everyone’s parade while thinking his way is the only right one. But a good tip is to see him as offering constructive criticism. He might show you the worst-case scenarios of corporate decisions that could help you make the right choice.

But dealing with such a difficult personality can actually be quite straightforward. Hold a meeting with your team and give everyone a chance to talk about their skills and struggles, see what this difficult employee says and coax them for a reply. You want your team members to be vulnerable at times, as it makes for a supportive, cooperative team.

Power-Hungry Pam

This is the employee who wants your job. She’ll take on leadership roles, such as by trying to be seen as holding a position of power with her co-workers, or trying to derail your authority, such as by ignoring your instructions. The best way to deal with highly-ambitious employees is to give them lots of work to do so that they won’t have time to try to manage other workers. Therefore keeping the workplace peace intact.

Mr. Excuse

You asked your employee to have a task completed by the end of the day, but he had something important to do across town or he had to deal with a co-worker’s problem, or he was stuck with a faulty printer. He always has excuses for not doing work or not listening to your instructions. In a global survey of 10,000 adults, 42 per cent confessed to lying about how busy they were at work. Although you might be quick to label this worker lazy, there could be another reason for his annoying behavior. Perhaps they are disastisfied with work? The best thing to do is have an open conversation with him to try to understand where he’s coming from and how you can utilize his best qualities, while minimizing his future games.

The Toddler

The minute this employee doesn’t like something, she’ll lose her cool, make sarcastic comments, or get into fights with co-workers. She also doesn’t deal with constructive criticism, which makes dealing with her a nightmare. If she’s a talented worker you don’t want to lose, remind her that her great work will take her far, but she needs to tone down her defensiveness as managers need to be likeable in order to succeed. Having a real heart-to-heart with this employee will not only show her that you’re willing to support your team members, but it also highlights that you’re after her best interests, which will help her see the error of her ways.

Difficult employees are everywhere, and they might even be part of your team. The key is to know how to tackle them effectively so that you can make use of their skills and decrease workplace drama which negatively impacts everyone’s productivity.

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.

How to be Innovative – Ask Inciting Questions

This guest blog was written as a companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Tamara Kleinberg, founder of LaunchStreet on August 1, Translate Success Today To Success Tomorrow Using Innovation. In the interview and the blog, Tamara explores the art and science of innovation – how to create a culture and mindset of innovation.

How to be innovative is found in the questions not the answers. But we have to pick our questions wisely. If we ask the same questions in the same way and even of the same people, it’s no surprise that we get the same answers. And those answers are the usually the incremental ones. Or, maybe it’s slightly better but not enough to make an impact.

If you want more breakthrough thinking, you’ve got to change from usual questions to inciting questions.

What’s the difference? Well, usual questions are the questions you always ask. Yes, they sound smart, even right. But, most likely you’ve been asking the same questions for a while. Or, maybe it’s the same questions everyone in your category is asking. Or, maybe it’s the question that leads you down the same path to the obvious answer. Usual questions become almost a matter of habit at every brainstorm. Here’s the challenge. Yes, those are questions you want answered. But, given their customary nature, you’re not going to get to those innovative ideas you need. You know this because you see it over and over again. Unlike, inciting questions. To incite is to stir, to encourage to stimulate, to prompt.

Inciting questions take you down new paths to those provocative answers you were looking for.

I found that there are two ways to tackle inciting questions. One is to ask questions that shake up your assumptions. Questions like:

  • What would happen if we didn’t solve that challenge?
  • What would it look if we did the opposite of what we usually do?

Or, before we go into solution mode, let’s work backward.

  • What’s the problem that caused the problem?

It’s funny, that last one gets people all stirred up because we want to quickly move into solution mode and assume the first problem we identify is the one we should be solving. I think our clients will tell you that when we start digging in, we find that the first challenge we are solving is not always the right one if we want to get to lasting change and results.

So the second way to ask inciting questions is to challenge the big assumptions in your category.

It’s really challenging the assumptions about how things should be done in your world. Here are a few of my favorite examples from organizations you know and some I think you’ll be excited to get to know. Why do cars have to be either fuel efficient or sexy? Tesla – sustainable and sexy cars. Why do razors need to be on store shelves at the grocery store? Dollar Shave Club – subscription razor service. Who says you have to go to the grocery store for your food? Instacart – grocery delivery. Why do libraries have to be a warehouse of books? Anythink Libraries – the lowest funded library district in Colorado and the outdated come check a book model and turned them into a beacon of discovering their communities and is elevating the entire library world with their innovations.

What are the big hairy assumptions in your world? What would happen if you flip those assumptions on their head and turn them into inciting questions? By the way, if you want to know if your questions are just interesting vs. inciting look for the response from other people. If they look shocked or like you just committed heresy then you are asking the questions that are going to get you to those provocative answers. So, go ask some inciting questions that make people go… what?!!

To become a more innovative leader, please consider the Metcalf + Associates 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.