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Balancing Competing Perspectives: Some Challenges Require Solutions and Others Balance

This guest post is an excerpt from Dr. Barry Johnson’s book Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems Polarity Management. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview Leveraging Polarities in Complex and Turbulent Times.

I have some bad new and some good news.  The bad news is that there are a large number of unsolvable problems in your life, both at work and at home.  I’m not talking about difficulties you could solve if you had more money, time, or other resources.  I’m talking about difficulties that are inherently unsolvable-ones you cannot solve with resources.

The good news is that you can stop trying to solve them.  Instead, you can improve your skills in identifying unsolvable problems and managing them well.  That is what this book is all about.

Current trends are Polarities to Manage

Many of the current trends in business and industry are polarities to manage, not problems to solve.  These trends are often described as movement from one way of thinking or acting to another.  For example, it is currently popular to move

  • From neglecting the customer to focusing on the customer;
  • From individual to team;
  • From competition to collaboration;
  • From centralization to decentralization;
  • From a lack of quality consciousness to high quality consciousness;
  • From rigid structures to flexible arrangements;
  • From autocratic management to participatory management.

These trends are making a contribution to increased effectiveness and are important for organizational survival.  Seeing these movement as “problems to solve” radically undermines our ability to implement them.  We define the problem as what we are going from and the solutions as what we are going to.  For example, “We need to move from the problem of centralization to the solution, which is decentralization.”

Polarity Management

I suggest that each of these trends is better understood as a polarity to manage.  As such, Polarity Management principles can be very helpful.  Our problem-solving skills and the whole problem-solving paradigm, while extremely useful with solvable problems, can get in the way when we have a polarity to manage.

A different paradigm, Polarity Management skills are a helpful complement to your problem-solving skills.  You have been managing polarities all your life, some with more success than others.  This book will enhance your ability to manage polarities, for those situations that call for it by offering a model and a set of principles as an alternative to problem solving.

Polarities to manage are sets of opposites that can’t function well independently.  Because the two sides of a polarity are interdependent, you cannot choose one as a “solution” and neglect the other. The objective of the Polarity Management perspective is to get the best of both opposites while avoiding the limits of each.

For example, we constantly send managers off to “charm school” because they are too rigid (problem), and we want them to be more flexible (solution).  The reason why managers often resist such training is that there is something they value about what is being called “rigid”.  They value clarity.  Furthermore, there is something they are afraid of in this push toward “flexibility.”  They are afraid of “ambiguity”.  Those who resist know that flexibility alone is not a solution.  A leader needs to be clear and flexible.  This is a polarity to manage, not a problem to solve.  The issues become “How do you bring adequate clarity to a situation without being rigid?” and “How do you bring adequate flexibility to the same situation without being ambiguous?”

This becomes relevant only after letting go of the problem-solving paradigm where the problem is a rigid manager and the solution is to get the manager to become more flexible.  The Polarity Management perspective involves seeing a more complete picture of the situation and respecting the wisdom of those who are resisting our “solutions.”

Polarity Management Skills Will Make You a More Effective Leader

Polarity Management skills will make you a more effective leader and manager by:

  1. Increasing your ability to distinguish between problems you can solve and those you cannot; and
  2. Increasing your ability to manage those unsolvable problems that I call workplace dilemmas or polarities

You will be more effective for the following reasons:

  1. You will save time and energy by not trying to solve those difficulties that are unsolvable.
  2. You will have a better understanding of resistance to organizational changes you want to make.
  3. You will be more effective in negotiating with those opposing your changes.
  4. You will be more effective in negotiating with those who are proposing changes you do not want.
  5. You will be more effective as a third-party mediator. This is especially true in conflicts where two groups are stuck in a polarity – they are treating the polarity as if it is a problem to solve.
  6. You will be able to anticipate and minimize problems that occur when workplace dilemmas, or polarities, are not managed well.
  7. Your decision making will improve. This is especially true with decisions where you must choose both sides of a set of apparent opposites.

Enough of list making.  Please check out the interview with Barry giving more in-depth information about polarities and examples of how they can be used.

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

In 1975, Dr. Barry Johnson created the first Polarity Map® and set of principles. Since then he has been learning, with clients, how to leverage polarities. Polarity Partnerships’ Mission is to enhance our quality of life on the planet by supplementing “OR Thinking” with “AND Thinking.” Barry has shared polarities with tens of thousands of individuals, senior leaders, executive teams. In 1992, he wrote Polarity Management®: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems (HRD Press). His new book: AND, How to Leverage Polarity/Paradox/Dilemma is available for advanced reading as its being written. Go to www.polaritypartnerships.com for more information.

The Mind of a Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People and Your Organization

This guest post is an excerpt from The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview with Jacqueline Carter, The Mind of The Leader, Driving Extraordinary Results.

During the summer of 2015, Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s CEO, announced that the global professional services company would reimagine its performance management system. The company found that after decades of serving its purpose, the system had become massively demotivating. Accenture’s global workforce had changed. Their people— and your people— are not motivated by being a number on a performance rating scale. Rather, today’s workforce is increasingly looking for meaning, human connectedness, true happiness, and a desire to contribute positively to the world. Nanterme and his leadership team realized Accenture needed a better way to lead for these foundational human desires and better engage their 425,000-plus employees— to speak to their intrinsic motivation.

Accenture is no outlier. A global movement is taking place in the C- suites of thousands of progressive organizations like Marriott, Starbucks, and LinkedIn. The question the leaders of these organizations ask themselves is, “How can we create more human leadership and people- centered cultures where employees and leaders are more fulfilled and more fully engaged?”

As human beings, we are all driven by basic needs for meaning, happiness, human connectedness, and a desire to contribute positively to society. That’s true whether we’re at home, out in the world, or at work. But it’s one thing to realize this and another to act on it. Speaking to our people’s intrinsic motivation calls for leadership and organizations that cater to these desires. It is something that forward- thinking organizations and leaders are increasingly realizing and addressing. As Javier Pladevall, CEO of Audi Volkswagen, Spain, reflected in our conversation: “Leadership today is about unlearning management and relearning being human.” (1)

THE MIND OF THE LEADER

The Mind of the Leader provides a way to do this. It outlines how leaders can lead themselves, their people, and their organizations to unlock intrinsic motivation, create real people- centered cultures, and ultimately deliver extraordinary results.

How important is the message of this book? Consider this: In a 2016 McKinsey & Company study of more than fifty- two thousand managers, 86 percent rated themselves as inspiring and good role models (2). But this stands in stark contrast to how employees perceive their leaders. A 2016 Gallup engagement survey found that 82 percent of employees see their leaders as fundamentally uninspiring. In fact, the same survey found that only 13 percent of the global workforce is engaged, while 24 percent are actively disengaged (3).

This seeming lack of good leadership is not because of a lack of effort. According to a recent report, organizations around the globe invest approximately $46 billion annually on leadership development programs. (4)

That’s a lot of money for seemingly little return. What is going wrong? In part, the system is broken: According to research by Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, when many leaders start to feel powerful, their more benevolent qualities start to decline.

Corporate leaders are three times more likely than lower- level employees to interrupt coworkers, multitask during meetings, raise their voices, and say insulting things. He also found that leaders are more likely than other people to engage in rude, selfish, and unethical behavior. (5)

None of this is going to speak to the intrinsic motivation that we all share. While the $46 billion spent on leadership training might improve leaders’ effectiveness— at least in a strictly business sense of focusing on the bottom line— something more is needed: Leadership that truly engages employees, leadership that is truly human and speaks to the basic human needs any employee has.

And it starts in the mind of the leader. Leadership pioneer Peter Drucker said, “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first,” (6). If this is true, the majority of leadership education and training programs have it backward. Most leadership education starts with skills like strategy, people management, and finance. But from Drucker’s point of view, this approach starts at the end and misses the beginning: it’s like building a house by starting with the roof.

Like Drucker, we argue that leadership starts with yourself. More specifically, it starts in your mind. By understanding how your mind works, you can lead yourself effectively. By understanding and leading yourself effectively, you can understand others and be able to lead them more effectively.

And by understanding and leading others more effectively, you can understand and lead your organization more effectively— and by “more effectively,” we mean in a way that’s going to tap into your own and your people’s intrinsic motivations and sense of purpose. If you’re able to do that— and we have witnessed that with practice and persistence, anyone can— you’ll have a more engaged and productive workforce. And perhaps more importantly, you’ll be part of creating more happiness, stronger human connectedness, and better social cohesion within and beyond your organization.

For over a decade, we and our colleagues at Potential Project have trained tens of thousands of leaders in hundreds of companies like Microsoft, LEGO, Danone, and Accenture, utilizing the practice of mindfulness. The outcomes have been thoroughly researched and proven to deliver remarkable results. But with the emerging movement of employees looking for more meaning, happiness, and connectedness, we have asked ourselves what else leaders need for leading themselves, their people, and their organizations for extraordinary results.

As part of this research, we and our research team have surveyed and assessed more than thirty thousand leaders from thousands of companies in more than a hundred countries. We have conducted in- depth interviews with hundreds of C- suite executives. And we have reviewed thousands of studies on leadership in the fields of neuroscience, leadership, organizational development, and psychology.

Based on this research, we have conclusively found that three mental qualities stand out as being foundational for leaders today: mindfulness (M), selflessness (S), and compassion (C). Together, we call these foundational skills MSC leadership.

So how do you as a leader achieve MSC leadership, to better engage your people at their intrinsic level and unleash better performance? By applying mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion first to yourself, then to your people, and then to your organization The Mind of the Leader takes you step by step through this process.

Since MSC leadership begins inwardly, with your own mind, and then projects outward to your people and your organization, the book is structured to take you on that journey. By understanding yourself— your mind— you can lead yourself effectively. By leading yourself, you’ll be able to lead others effectively. And by leading others, you can better lead your organization. This is the overarching structure of the book.

Please check out the interview with Jacqueline giving more in-depth information about the Mind of the Leader and MSC leadership.

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

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

About Jacqueline Carter book co-author and radio show guest

Jacqueline Carter is an International Partner and North American Director for Potential Project. She has over twenty years of experience working with organizations around the globe to enhance effectiveness and improve performance. Jacqueline is a regular contributor to business publications including Harvard Business Review, and is a sought-after speaker for her thought leadership, knowledge, and engaging facilitation skills. She holds a master’s degree in organizational behavior and undergraduate degrees in labor management relations and mathematics. Before joining Potential Project Jacqueline held a number of senior leadership roles. She also worked for Deloitte in the US, Canada and Australia in their Change Leadership practice.

References:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, quotations in this book are from our interviews conducted between September 2016 and June 2017.
  2. M. Bazigos and E. Caruso, “Why Frontline Workers Are Disengaged,” McKinsey Quarterly , March 2016, http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why- frontline- workers- are- disengaged.
  3. B. Rigoni and B. Nelson, “Do Employees Really Know What’s Expected of Them?” Business Journal , September 27, 2016, http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/195803/employees – really- know- expected.aspx?g_source=EMPLOYEE_ENGAGEMENT&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles.
  4. B. Carroll, R. Singaraju, and E. Park, Corporate Learning Factbook 2015: Benchmarks, Trends, and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market , Bersin by Deloitte, August 8, 2015, https://www.bersin.com/Login.aspx?p=http://bersinone.bersin.com/resources/research/?docid=19202&h=1.
  5. J. C. Magee et al., “Leadership and the Psychology of Power,” in The Psychology of Leadership: New Perspectives and Research , ed. D. M. Messick and R. M. Kramer (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005).
  6. P. Drucker, “Managing Oneself,” in The Drucker Lectures: Essential

At C-Level #18: Three Successful Transformations – Evolving Leadership Perspectives

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

This is the wrap-up of a 9-blog series on real-life organizational transformations, At C-Level #10-18.

In At C-Level #10-17, I wrote about three successful transformations I’ve had the opportunity to lead in my career so far, using a seven-step transformation model closely aligned with the Innovative Leadership Institute’s Innovative Leadership Transformation Model below.

 

 

 

 

Prior to this series, in At C-Level #9, I wrote about leadership for an increasingly complex world. I believe the exponentially increasing rate of change and complexity in technologies, our organizations, and the world in general – today and for the foreseeable future – will increasingly require the application of the Level 5 and Strategist leadership competencies discussed in that blog for long term organizational and personal leadership success.

 

As a reminder, the competencies of Level 5 or Strategist leaders include:

  1. Being professionally humble and focused on organizational, not personal, success
  2. Having an unwavering commitment to right action
  3. Being a 360-degree thinker who takes a balcony view of the organization
  4. Being intellectually versatile with deep interests outside of the organization
  5. Being highly authentic and reflective
  6. Inspiring followership
  7. Being innately collaborative

 

Now, let’s look at how these competencies were applied in the three transformations discussed in this series, resulting in the organizational successes previously discussed, as well as personal career success. Being focused on organizational success does not mean you have no interest in personal success!

 

  • Large Manufacturing Company. Here the focus was on the transformation of basic accounting and financial reporting controllers into financial business partners for the leadership teams in business units across a $2B corporation.

In this large manufacturing company, focusing on the organization’s mission, recognizing my own shortcomings in company history and experience, pulling in people who could make up for my shortcomings and collaborating with them to figure out the best ways to achieve our vision, resulted in

  • our ability to gain approval and successfully implement our transformation initiatives for the benefit of the company, and
  • an accelerated education process and a couple of significant personal promotions for me in just a few short years.

Some believe that to get ahead in a large organization you must be very competitive and aggressive at the expense of others. The challenge I had with a previous organization. However, I believe that paradigm is, by necessity, dying a slow death. I also believe that if you focus on getting done what is in the best interest of the company and its stakeholders, and are aggressive in your own self-development and ability to lead and get positive results benefiting your organization, the opportunities will present themselves, even if they sometimes end up with you being in a new organization.

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. In a $75M publicly-held electronics manufacturing services company, I led cultural, operational, and financial transformations, and an international expansion, as that company’s CEO.

In this, my first, CEO role, I came to realize the importance of understanding the needs of all of our stakeholders (a 360-degree or “balcony” view of our business). They were all taking significant risks in supporting the company. Investors and bankers were putting in their hard-earned money; customers were risking the quality and delivery of their products by putting our products went into theirs; our employees were betting their livelihood and family’s health on our success; suppliers were spending their capacity and resources to fulfill our needs; and the communities in which we operated were depending on our economic success and good citizenship. In any major decision, and even in some minor ones, the team and I had to keep these dependencies in mind and do our best to maximize the success of all five stakeholder groups the best we could. We all carried a small card spelling it all out, and we referred to that card all the time.

In addition, the company culture had not kept up with the company’s early commercial success and was challenging, at best, when it came to supporting all of our stakeholders and growing the company. So we also codified our values on the back of that small card, referred to them all the time, and, more importantly, were unwavering in upholding those values, even in the most difficult situations.

Similar to the large manufacturing company story, focusing on the company’s success and collaborating with the rest of the experts on the team, as well as the combination of 360-degree thinking and our unwavering commitment to take the right actions based on our vision and values, totally transformed this organization, resulting in an eventual sale to a global industry leader who realized the value in the organization we had created.

From a personal standpoint, I was first the company’s CFO, doing whatever I thought best for the company, before being asked to become its CEO.

  • Global Internet Payments Company. As a consultant, I was brought in to fix a particular control issue that had resulted in some erroneous money transfers. To save the financial team the time to try to figure “the new guy” out, I handed them a list of my values and how I work, and, more importantly, I reflected on and authentically lived that list every day.

 

While working through the transfer issue, plus several other issues that came up during the engagement, that values list was given by the finance team to others in the company. I also started attending the weekly leadership meetings working on other challenges around the company, and just trying to make the company better. My intellectual versatility is in my interest in learning about different businesses, business models and people’s perspectives in varying industries – it’s curiosity. Learning gives me energy, and the capability of developing new ways of thinking about old and new challenges in different situations.

 

As several months passed, I was asked to join the company as its President & COO and help the team build more value in the company for its owner. By then, my 360-degree view of the business revealed a highly evolving organization and operating environment, in constant change, suffering from instability, inconsistency, operational silos, and distrust – resulting from a distinct lack of consistent and clear communications. Common challenges in growing businesses.

 

In my view, the people in the organization needed shared goals and incentives to give them more reasons to communicate and collaborate. So, I implemented a profit sharing plan for all employees, as well as a plan for the leadership team to personally benefit from that value creation, so everyone would gain from our collective successes.

 

I was a little off in thinking that money would be a strong motivator for this group. But I was still going in the right direction. More than the potential for additional pay and bonuses, these plans created a whole new level of transparency about the company’s financials. Trust continued to build, our Agile implementation resulted in more cross-functional collaboration, we made major improvements in our performance, we coalesced as a team, we had great success in turning the business around, and we had fun!

 

The company’s value increased 3X in less than two years. In the process, I advanced from consultant to President & COO, thoroughly enjoyed my time with the company, and benefitted from an eventual majority interest sale of the company with rest of the leadership team.

 

From a Strategist leadership perspective in these transformations, it is important to understand that while I started and/or led these transformations, the bulk of the real work was done by the teams I worked with. More than anything, in all three transformations, people just needed

  • high level direction (agreed to purpose, mission, and/or vision),
  • agreed to operating parameters around how we work together as a team, that also gave them autonomy to make more decisions on their own, and work their own magic,
  • constant communication and reinforcement around the purpose, mission, vision and values (“talking and walking the talk”),
  • early assistance and support in “walking the talk,” until they were comfortable doing it on their own,
  • positive reinforcement on the bad days and celebrations on the good days,
  • understanding, honesty, and fairness when difficult compensation and personnel decisions had to be made,
  • that when things weren’t going well, to be part of the plan to turn it around, with the specific knowledge of what they personally could do to help, and the empowerment to do that,
  • goals and timetables they helped set, and
  • regularly scheduled and adhered-to progress meetings (no longer than absolutely needed) to discuss status and give everyone the opportunity to connect with their needs from the other team members to keep things moving.

 

I hope you have enjoyed the transformation part of this series.  Just writing about these transformations has brought back many great memories. But, more importantly, taking the time to reflect back and write about them has been another great learning experience for me as well.

 

Thanks for following us!  Please look for new At C-Level blogs over the next several weeks!

Self-Awareness using the Enneagram Assessment

This blog is a companion to the Voice America Interview on May 18, 2018 with Belinda Gore, Board Member for International Enneagram Association, Using Enneagram Assessment to Build Leadership Effectiveness. This blog was co-written by Belinda Gore and Maureen Metcalf. Belinda is a thought leader and major contributor to the award winning Innovative Leadership book series.

As we talk about the importance of self-awareness for leaders, one framework and tool we use is the Enneagram (Please review our prior post for additional information about Enneagram types) . In this post we will discuss one important element of the overall Enneagram assessment system, the centers of intelligence.

Maureen and Belinda have used the Enneagram as a foundation for self-awareness. As an example, here is Maureen’s experience: “I test as a “type three” – sometimes known as The Achiever – using the Enneagram assessment language. This means that part of my identity is drawn from what accomplish in the world.  Using the centers of intelligence framework, I fall within the heart center, which means that I tend to subdue my heart’s desire in favor of focusing on getting results. This tendency has shown up throughout my career – I focused on logic and results. This focus allowed me to thrive in large consulting firms, but  it also left me with a blind spot that related to human feelings and emotions. I didn’t use my heart as much of a guide. While I am not exactly Spock, I wished I was. As I moved into the field of leadership development and leading transformation efforts, I needed to add a stronger connection to my own feelings as well as the feelings of others into my mental algorithm. This was not an easy process. I liked being focused and results oriented and I believed that feelings would slow me down. They may, in fact, slow me down in the short term AND they remove a blind spot that could – and I am sure did – trip me up. “

In the Enneagram system the centers of intelligence are broken into triads, each containing three of the nine types, each with a characteristic pattern of imbalance.

It is likely that you have already recognized that we each have ALL nine types in us to some degree in that we have all had experiences of manifesting something of each of these patterns of behavior.

In all cases, the process of change and healing as identified by this method is the process of moving to a higher level of functioning and being able to sustain it.  Even at higher levels, the same process of rewiring the tendencies for neurological firing exists.

The processes for change can vary and, in most cases, we start with basic self-awareness based on the assessment. When you take the Enneagram assessment and review your results, do they resonate with you? Can you relate to the information you have received about your center of intelligence? If so, it is important to start to notice when you show the imbalance associated with your type and build a conscious practice to modify your behavior. In the case of Maureen referenced above, she needed to have a conscious practice to stop and notice her feelings and the feelings of others and identify how this information could help her meet her goals. The important message here is to have a deliberate practice to notice when the imbalance is at play and correct it as quickly as possible by bringing your thinking back into balance.

If you are a professional coach, you have learned to meet your clients where they are, using language that is useful and meaningful to them. You honor who they are, how they came to be the people they are today and assist them in unhooking from what may once have helped them to survive and is now only a detriment.

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

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

About the Authors

Belinda Gore, PhD focuses on designing, developing and delivering leadership, assessments, workshops, and coaching. She is a key thought leader in the development of the Innovative Leadership framework.

She is a psychologist, executive coach, and experienced seminar leader who is skilled in supporting her clients in high-level learning. With 30 years’ experience in leadership development and interpersonal skills training, she is known for helping teams discover strength in their diversity to achieve their mutual goals and works with individual leaders to access their natural talents to maximize effectiveness and personal satisfaction. Her clients have included senior leadership in global companies, senior and middle management in both corporate and nonprofit organizations, and entrepreneurs. She will be leading our new service line focused on helping leaders and their organizations build resilience along with offering leadership team development, board development, coaching, and Enneagram assessment.

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.

Introspection Is Foundational for Effective Global Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To become a more innovative leader, 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.

10 Disruptive Leadership Trends for 2018

This post is the companion to a Voice America interview with Tracy Wilen, researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, and careers on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” Digital Disruption: The future of Work, Skills and Leadership airing on April 17, 2018.

The world is in disruption! You are at the forefront of change. Increasingly, everything we do is impacted by technology from how we communicate with others, connect at work, learn at school, and live our lives. As technology continues to seep into our lives we become accustomed to it and dependent on it, putting pressure on workplace leaders, education systems, and even ourselves to rethink how we approach this divergent world of work, leadership, lifelong learning, skill development, and careers. The

continuing accelerated pace of technology and competitive forces is causing workplace environments to become more technical, diverse, and in need of leaders who understand how to deal with disruption.

This new landscape requires contemporary styles of leadership and new techniques for managing organizations. Today, there are unique pressures on company leaders, workers, and educators to change the ways they prepare and plan for modern-day jobs and careers. This interview and Tracey’s book, Digital Disruption: The Future of Work, Skills, Leadership, Education and Careers in a Digital World, offer educators, executives, and students a fresh approach for how to navigate the future to ensure success. They cover the key forces impacting the future of work, industries, leadership styles, skills, and education with a focus on how to remain relevant in an ever-increasingly complex digital world.

Here are the 10 disruptive predictions for 2018.

  1. Disrupted Society. Society is hyper‐connected, dependent and, in some cases, addicted to continuously being “connected.” And the expectation is that this will be increasingly the case. If you sleep with your phone, panic if it is missing, text numerous times a day, have numerous apps you use daily, frequently post selfies on social media, and buy most items on‐line, and are an Amazon prime member, it is a seamless part of your life. This is you.

 

  1. Disrupted Work. There are many shifts in the work place. One is extreme longevity, meaning many people will work 60 years to afford to retire. This also means a multi‐generational workforce. How we work together will need to change, in addition to how many years we work.

 

  1. Disrupted industry. We often hear about Uber, Air BNB and Amazon. Traditional industries are being disrupted at an accelerated rate. It is imperative that leaders pay attention to not only their industry but also those tangentially connected to monitor trends—and anticipate the impacts they will have on you.

 

  1. Disruptive Leadership. If work and industry are disrupted, do we need disruptive leaders? To compete, leadership needs to change because a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world requires new kinds of leaders.

 

  1. Women as disruptive leaders. Women are Corporate America’s killer app. Women are skilled, educated, have modern-day leadership skills, collaborate, trust, see the big picture, promote employee engagement, and have in-demand skills.

 

  1. Disruptive Diversity. Diversity is strategic for disruption. Innovation and diversity go hand-in- hand invest in 2018. Delivering products and services to a diverse customer base means having a diverse design team and workforce.

 

  1. Disrupted Careers. With all the changes to work and industry, jobs will most certainly change. It is important to keep current with technology, make lateral moves and continually build skills.

 

  1. Disruptive skills. Everyone will need additional and new skills, for some people, Social Intelligence will need to increase, in a digital world. Do you see how you are perceived as a leader or team mate? Can you read the room and get a feel for what people think of you? Others will need to increase their ability to make sense of the increasing volume of data and turn the insights into action.

 

  1. Disrupted Education. Education must supply the world with capable people who can work, think and be relevant in the digital world they will work in. Integrated work and learning strategies is a path many colleges are taking with employer Internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and summer jobs.

 

  1. Disrupted selves. Are you taking time for a “career selfie”? Have you mapped out your career trajectory? Do you collect data and review your progress on a regular basis? If not, you are likely to be missing opportunities to make the series of small changes that will keep you current and relevant.

Disruption is on top of everyone’s mind. As technology rapidly accelerates, so does fear of the future. People are worrying about the impact of future technologies on our lives, how we lead firms in the digital era, our personal careers, and future jobs. Some people are tackling this head on and some are somewhat resistant or frozen in their track because the newness and pace of change. What are you doing in each of these areas to ensure you manage the disruption rather than being disrupted?

About the author

Dr. Tracey Wilen is a researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, leadership, education, and careers. A former visiting scholar at Stanford University, she has held leadership positions at Apple, HP, and Cisco Systems. She was an adjunct professor at several Bay Area colleges, teaching classes in business, technology, and women’s workforce topics. Dr. Wilen has authored or co-authored twelve books including Employed for Life (2014), Women Lead (2013) and Society 3.0 (2012). She has appeared on CNN, Fox, and CBS News and is a regular guest on radio and TV shows across the US as an expert contributor. Dr. Wilen was honored by the San Francisco Business Times as the Most Influential Woman in Bay Area Business.

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.

Aging Consciously

This post is the companion to a Voice America interview with Karen Sands, Leading GeroFuturistSM, Amazon #1 Best-Seller Author, Fire Cracker Speaker, All-Around Game Changer and Thought Leader on the Longevity Economy aired on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” Navigating the Graying Demographic: Rock Your Age and Manage Intergenerationally. We will continue this conversation with both Karen Sands and Virginia Macali in future conversations.

 

I often talk about the changes in technology and how they will change our work lives. For readers who are around fifty years of age, if you make it to sixty-seven, you are likely to live into your mid-80s. This is particularly interesting because I am in my 50s and wonder for myself what my next twenty years will look like if I live another thirty years. In talking about personal choices, I also examine the trends regarding baby boomer retirement and levels of unemployment.

According to the Pew Research Center, “As the year 2011 began on Jan. 1, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation celebrated their 65th birthday. In fact, on that day, today, and for every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65. The aging of this huge cohort of Americans (26% of the total U.S. population are Baby Boomers) will dramatically change the composition of the country. Currently, just 13% of Americans are ages 65 and older. By 2030, when all members of the Baby Boom generation have reached that age, fully 18% of the nation will be at least that age, according to Pew Research Center population projections.”

Add to that, the unemployment rate for 2018 is expected to be 3.9 percent according to The Balance.

Artificial intelligence and technology will change the composition of jobs—in many cases requiring more tech savvy roles to manage the automation of prior manual jobs. In other cases, AI will eliminate jobs that focus on routine tasks.

With all the unknowns, the one certainty is the need to continually update skills. I spoke with the President of Junior Achievement of Central Ohio, Mike Davis, about this trend. According to Mike, his focus after reaching age fifty has been to continually update his skills to stay relevant and move his organization ahead and leveraging the changes in our ecosystem to make the greatest impact.

Given the data, I wanted to share what I am thinking about this information for myself and my clients. When contemplating what I would like my life to look like, I break the questions into four categories:

  1. What do I value and how do I find meaning in my life? Specifically, how do I continue to find meaning in my life and work? Personally, I find a great deal of fulfillment in my professional work both within my company, teaching in universities, and in board work. I hope to continue to participate in each of these roles over the next 20 years.
  2. What do I do with my time? If I value the work and my sense of purpose based on the work, I need to maintain my level of knowledge and continue to grow, especially since my personal brand is associated with innovating how we lead. To be true to what I say I do, I will need to continue to invest significant time in learning. I will also need to explore working alternatives, particularly when traveling, that match my energy level. This will mean leveraging technology to manage whenever possible.
  3. What do organizational cultures support? It seems that many organizations are open to older workers as long as they are able to keep up with younger workers. I plan to promote environments that build productive interactions across age groups. This could be co-mentoring or other structures that allow multiple age groups to support one another’s growth and development.
  4. What do organizational systems support? Organizations need to promote ongoing education to ensure their workers can continue to perform their roles at ever increasing levels over time. As workers plan to retire later, it is incumbent on both the employees and the organizations to update skills, so the work is performed to necessary standards. An opportunity for companies who can be creative is to promote flexible working arrangements for older workers who no longer want to work a standard 40+ hour schedule. This could include working remotely, job sharing, or working on a task-related basis like “gig” workers.

What stands out for me as I consider my own future, is that I must maintain my current level of impact in the world, which is where I find great meaning and value in my life. I need to continue to invest in my own skill development. I also need to stay healthy. While we haven’t discussed this element, it is imperative for me to attend to my health and manage my stress so I am able to continue working at a high level of performance.

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

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

About the Author

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

At C-Level #17: Embedding Transformations

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Embed Transformation

 

Merriam-Webster defines embed, “to make something an integral part of,” and integral as “essential to completeness.”

 

Based on these definitions – and my experience – for a transformation to become embedded in the organization, its purpose and initiatives must be essential to achieving the organization’s mission and vision, and how it operates every day.

 

Embedding transformations requires a well-defined purpose and initiatives that clearly

  • support the organization’s mission and vision,
  • have the total commitment and support of the organization’s leadership,
  • improve the lives of those responsible for making and sustaining the changes (Why else would they support it?), and
  • include implementing enough structure or process to make the initiatives easily sustainable long-term, with feedback loops and action cycles built in to keep them relevant to the business of the organization as it changes over time.

 

Also, important to embedding transformations is maintaining consistency in leadership and purpose. I would not recommend investment in transformational change if the window of consistency in leadership and/or purpose is not expected to be long enough for your organization to see the positive return on its transformation investments.

 

Are major changes in your organization coming that could disrupt consistency in the leadership and purpose of your organization?

 

Let’s see how we did in the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:

 

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

 

By all measures, both initiatives independently met the requirements for success and were successful in this company, embedding many great changes in its financial organization for several years.

 

The system was essential and integral to the controllers’ function and gave them more tools and time for the reporting, analysis and business partnering for which we had hoped.

 

And, over about five years, the controller-in-training program had 40-plus participants, with over 25 percent of them landing internal controllerships – several being chosen for financial leadership in new facilities each representing investments of $100M to $200M.

 

These two transformation initiatives completed, changes were embedded in the organization, and the returns on those investments were realized.

 

At the overall transformation level, we lacked deep definition of our purpose and vision and how that supported the overall vision of the organization. We had not taken the time to dive into the details of what the controllers being business partners would really look like with some measurement of on-going success and sustainability, and we did not have any initiatives specifically for that. That lack of definition and clarity around the vision resulted in the same effect as having our purpose change.

 

So, while I’d say we made great progress toward the vision and embedded change through our initiatives, we fell just short in achieving our vision and embedding the overall transformation in the organization. Over time, changes in leadership and purpose came and more transformation in different directions followed.

 

If you are planning a transformation within your organization, is its purpose and vision well defined, including how it directly supports the purpose and vision of the overall organization?

Can you complete the transformation and realize its return on investment before significant changes in purpose or leadership start a new transformation?

 

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

 

The company very successfully implemented Lean Manufacturing, driving major change and improvement throughout the business, and becoming a new a way of life, the very definition of “embedded.”

 

A repair operation was acquired and expanded in Europe and a new operation set up in Asia with a trusted joint venture partner, resulting in robust growth in the high-end electronics repair business.

 

The new strategy to better leverage our capabilities and increase our margins was in the process of being implemented.

 

Then a major economic downturn hit that resulted in our losing the funding to complete the third leg of our transformation. We were forced to downsize the company in the middle of implementing our higher-value strategy. We had not implemented that part of our strategy quickly enough. Our purpose changed from transformation – to survival.

 

However, our completion of the lean operational improvements, international expansion, and downsizing carried the day for the company, quickly returning it to profitability and ultimately resulting in a successful sale to a much larger global company that was able to put it back on a growth path again.

 

I left the company during this time, so leadership changed as did the purpose. Remember, when leadership changes, there is a new transformation that takes place, whether it is stated explicitly or not – and it did for this organization as well.

 

Have you ever tried to implement major changes in your organization, only to have a new leader come in and change the direction and/or goals of your organization requiring a dismantling or major change in the work you were in the middle of or had just completed?

 

For much more on how this transformation unfolded for the company and me, please see At C-Level #1-8, about being a first-time CEO.

 

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

 

By all measures, the initiatives were successful, as were we, in achieving our mission and vision of increasing the value of the company for the ownership.

 

Then, majority ownership of the company was sold at a markedly increased valuation over pre-transformation and new leaders were brought in to take the company to the next level. As in the mid-sized electronics manufacturing company transformation story, the ensuing purpose and leadership changes began yet another totally new transformation.

 

Key takeaways from these transformations

 

In all three of the above organizations, much was embedded and achieved in these organizations, including how these organizations were prepared for and adapted to major change. However, the overall visions of these transformations, for the most part, were never completely realized, due to changes in leadership and/or purpose over time, and for a variety of reasons.

 

In fact, the rate of change in our world today is, and for the foreseeable future will be, exponentially increasing! So, it is even more likely that the time frames for large transformations will get shorter and shorter as we move forward. This makes the organization’s purpose, the leader, and that leader’s purpose in life ever more important in driving focused organizational change and transformation every day.

 

That increasing rate of change also makes the ability of your organization to adapt ongoing with continuous processes to evaluate and respond to near-constant changes in its environment an absolute necessity to transform, adapt, survive and thrive in the future!

 

Today, 5S/Lean/Six Sigma and other continuous improvement processes are used to continuously improve products, services and processes, while Agile methodologies are used to run software development that continuously evaluates changing needs to develop and maintain more relevant software products.

 

These are all transformative changes that become embedded in the organization. Just remember that they are all means to an end – that of carrying out your mission every day and achieving your vision.

 

In addition, our individual and collective knowledge sets are continuously updated and expanded every day through online content, customized automated news feeds, the use of search tools, webinars, social media, et. al.

 

But what are people doing, and what specifically are you doing, to continuously update their/your leadership skills today, when the environment in which we are trying to lead is constantly changing, and the people we are attempting to lead are as well? See “At C-Level #9: Evolving Leadership for an Evolving World.”

 

In “At C-Level #18: Three Successful Transformations – Common Threads,” we’ll look at the three transformations we’ve discussed in At C-Level #10-17 and the key takeaways that you may need to think about in your own organization’s transformative journey.

 

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

What is the Cost of Lost Integrity?

This blog is a is a guest post and companion to the interview with Ken Wylie, Founder of Mountains for Growth on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on January 2, 2018 Buried in an Avalanche, Finding Deeper Meaning in Failure.  

Last week I was instructing one of my rock climbing courses to a group of students on Quadra Island just east of Campbell River BC. The rain kept us undercover for the better part of a couple of days. When the students were done with learning technical systems we changed gears and challenged them with the classic “Spiders web” problem.  The task is to pass your entire group through the web without anyone touching and alerting the “spider” of your presence. The web in this case was a matrix of cords tied together to simulate a human sized web. With all of the safety rules in place, like. . .”no diving through the web,” my co instructor, Graeme White presented a final challenge to the students when he said, “Your job is to self police yourselves and monitor your own performance around touching the web.” The students enthusiastically accepted the task.

It was a difficult web and the students began to feel like the task was impossible to get everyone to the other side. At one point, with two thirds of the crew through the web, one of them touched and had to be sent back to the starting side to be passed through again. The challenge was that only one person saw the web being touched. Every other member of the group of 8 thought it was a clean pass. I could see the individual, who had called the team out, begin to squirm but he held fast to his truth. Then one of the participants said, “He is lying” in a desperate effort to have the group succeed. “But why would he lie about something like that? I queried.

I remember being a young climber and lying about a greater success on a climb than I had actually achieved. Wanting so badly to be a person who was perceived as being a success I fabricated a story. I carried that lie for years at great personal cost. What is it about getting through by any means possible that is so alluring? Why is our integrity so easily scrapped for false achievement?

Recently I was at the Volkswagon repair shop and I said to the mechanic something about the recent challenges the company was going through as “cheating”. He said, “I don’t see it that way.” I asked, “How do you see it?” He replied, “We send students to university where the culture is to do what is necessary to get the best grade possible. Then we put them to work where they need to solve problems and they do what is necessary to solve the challenge at hand. We have taught the members of our society to win and it is not seen as cheating.”  I nodded thinking that it is a cultural construct rather than ill will. But it is still dishonest if it is not something we can be transparent about.

The problem is that when we cash in our integrity for false achievement we exchange something profound. Self love. It is impossible to love ourselves if we are not honest because we are not in line with our best self. We all look in the mirror every morning and if we have been impeccably honest, we like who we see reflected back at us.

The dictionary’s first definition of integrity is about being honest and having strong moral principles. The second definition is the state of being whole and undivided. I think one leads to the other. If we are honest, we become whole. Being whole is the best success in such a fragmented 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.

About the Author:

Ken Wylie has been on faculty at the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and Thompson Rivers University in Canada in adventure-based academic programs. Ken founded Mountains for Growth in 2013 to help individuals and groups gain personal insight and wisdom through their mountain adventures. Ken has developed the concept of “Adventure Literacy”® based on the idea that adventure is always presenting information to us, our job is to listen and harvest lessons.

Ken holds a bachelor of physical education (Outdoor Pursuits), is a member of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations, and the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and is the author of “Buried” 2014, which is about his path navigating through tragedy.

 

Complexity-Aware Thinking is Ready for Prime Time

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

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

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

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

What’s really going on in this TV series?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Authors

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

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

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

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

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