Posts

At C-Level #15: Transformation Communications

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 at 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 Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”

 

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

Communicate

 

It is unlikely that you will ever over communicate in a transformation effort, unless what you are communicating does not resonate with your audience—and, in that case, it isn’t a matter of over communicating, it’s more likely that you are miscommunicating. Communication is effective when your audience feels you are sharing your passion and that you are authentic, see the path forward, and feel their contribution is vital to making a transformation.

 

Simply setting the example, saying it once, posting it on every wall, and thinking that it will sink in by osmosis just isn’t enough. You must live, breathe, and give testament what you believe every day!

 

So, before you start, you need to work with your team on the messages you are sending to your various stakeholder groups—your owners, board (if you have one), employees, customers, suppliers, and the various communities in which you live and work. Your messages need to be

  • consistent with your vision, mission, and values,
  • directional,
  • important to your audience,
  • delivered with an appropriate sense of urgency,
  • clear and concise,
  • translated into the languages the people in your organization speak and understand best, and
  • communicated consistently and often by your transformation leadership team.

 

At first, writing the messaging, as well as potential questions and answers, with the transformation team may be helpful. After a brief time, it should become second nature to everyone if it is constantly and consistently reinforced by the team’s leader(s).

 

When was the last time you stood in front of the organization and discussed your vision, mission, and/or values? When was the last time, someone brought a major challenge to you and you said, “Well, our vision is ____, and we say that we value ____, so we should ____.”?

Here is how we communicated throughout 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 communicated our vision, plans and progress:
    • at two to three regular or specially-convened controller conferences every year, where the controllers and their assistants traveled to our headquarters,
    • during trips we made to our various business units to keep up with our colleagues and talk about our vision and plans,
    • through conference calls and e-mail with the systems project team,
    • calls, e-mail, and visits I made to our business units, and
    • generally, not enough.

 

Yes, “not enough.” We communicated a lot on how we were getting the new system implemented and how our controllers were getting better training on the business and the new system. And, while we spent some time communicating our vision of the controllers becoming better business partners, we did not spend enough time communicating more precisely how they would do that with their new systems and training!

 

That’s not to say that we did not make significant progress. We made a lot of progress that had been needed for some time. But, did we communicate enough about our vision and the progress we had achieved towards it? In “At C-Level #16: Transformation Implementation and Measures of Success” I write more about this transformation.

Are there clear links between what everyone is doing in your organization today and, if you have them, your vision, mission, and values? What about your goals?

 

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. Leading a transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do,” with our mission to improve the lives of all our five stakeholder groups, left a lot of room for interpretation. There was a lot we did not know yet.

 

However, we did know that we had a basic command and control environment with a very high-revenue growth rate in low-to-no margin integration work. The combination was driving a high-pressure and negative working environment, inefficient and costly operations, unacceptable quality, poor on-time shipping performance, and low and inconsistent earnings. The good news was that we had revenue. We just had to figure out how to solve many of these other challenges before that revenue went away.

 

We started out doing what most companies do with their vision, mission, and values. We had posters made and hung them on the walls. We had wallet cards made and gave them to all employees. We had a couple of kick-off meetings. And that’s where we’ve seen a lot of companies stop.

 

But we continued. We had daily 15-minute order review meetings, daily and weekly Lean Manufacturing implementation meetings, weekly leadership team meetings, bi-weekly company update meetings, and company quarterly results meetings. In almost every meeting, we would ask people to take out their cards, read something from them, and/or talk about some examples where they were used or applicable, always pointing to the card and quoting from it. Our vision, mission and values were always front and center and a part of our daily lives.

 

More important and impactful than our meetings, was that we consistently communicated our vision, mission, and values through our actions. We simply walked the talk.

 

You know you have the right vision, mission, and values when you and your team are passionate about them, can talk about them, and live them out almost effortlessly every day.

 

Do you have posters of your organization’s vision, mission, and values hung up around your place of work? How often do you talk about those? When was the last time you discussed a particular challenge with your team and it was pointed out that the solution was already in your vision, mission, or values statement?

 

  • Global Internet Payments Company. In our transformation journey to turn around the culture, and, in turn, the operational and financial performance of this 10-year-old company now hampered with a start-up mentality that was very difficult to scale, group communications were vital. However, individual communications with the leadership team around the almost daily challenges that came up were even more important.

 

Structured functional and cross-functional Agile meetings with top leadership involvement and support keeping the mission and values fully integrated into how those meetings were conducted, started breaking down the silo walls that had been built.

 

However, there were still competing priorities at the functional leadership level that needed to be re-prioritized for what the company was trying to achieve. That meant a lot of impromptu discussions with individuals and small leadership team groups caught-up in the siloed culture that had developed in recent years. It meant a lot of repetition talking about what the company was all about, how we could move forward more successfully together, and how the practical day-to-day application of our mission and stated values would help us accomplish that. Eventually, the repetition metamorphosed into muscle memory and the leadership team members felt empowered to communicate in and between the functional teams without any facilitation.

 

How much of your time do you spend facilitating discussions and/or making decisions for functional team leaders with competing priorities? Does or could your organization’s vision, mission, and values reduce the need for your personal facilitation time and free up that time up for higher-level strategic interactions, discussions, planning, and execution (with internal and external partners)?

 

Key takeaways from these transformations

 

You cannot communicate enough. Pull people in early and keep them engaged.

 

Take the time to craft messaging around your organization’s driving vision, mission, and values that can be clearly understood at all levels inside and outside your organization. You don’t want to have to adjust your messaging around your high-level purpose and operating guidelines for different groups. You want them all to be disciples. Communications must be easily understood and easy to repeat, so they can be ingrained in the organization and people can easily rally around them over the longer term.

 

Having said that, getting the various stakeholder groups on board requires that they know what’s in it for them and what they have to do to help make it happen. Those communications must be more tailored to the audience within the context of the broader overall messaging.

 

Communicate and gain support at all levels of the organization, starting with your board, your boss, and your team, before going broader across the organization. They should all be part of developing the desired future state and crafting the messaging that helps them buy in.

 

In “At C-Level #16: Implementing Transformations and Measuring Success,” we’ll look at how the transformations of these same three organizations were implemented, how people were further motivated and their success measured along the way, and what the key takeaways are that you may need to think about in preparing for your own organization’s transformative journey.

 

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

Top Skills to Lead For the Future!

This post is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre, President and Chief Operating Officer of Metcalf & Associates on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on May 16, 2017: Seven Characteristics of Leadership 2020: A CEO Story. An abbreviated version of this post appeared in Columbus CEO on January 25, Preparing Aspiring Leaders for Key Roles. The following article is an article published in Forbes March 2017.

Technology, innovation, and geopolitical change are accelerating the need for U.S. companies to get (or stay) ahead of the competition. But for companies to fully evolve, attract the best people, and produce the best products and services, their leaders must evolve too. Leaders who don’t keep up will slowly be overtaken by those who continue to keep up with the changing tides.

Take technology, for example, and the evolution of flip phones to smartphones. While this evolution has been widely noticeable, many leaders don’t think of themselves as the “flip phones” of leadership.

Kate worked for a financial services company. The company occupied a competitive market space in a complex environment that was changing quickly. She began consulting as their CFO to address profitability and controls, and after a couple of months, she was asked to join the company as president.

Kate’s leadership skills and extensive business experience enabled the company to address some internal challenges as well as position it to be a much more valuable player in the industry. Specifically, she revised financial processes to ensure accurate payments, addressed organizational structure and moved people into roles where they would have a greater impact. Within three years of Kate joining the firm, the company was sold at a substantial increase in valuation.

In today’s quickly changing and complex environment, Kate exhibited the competencies leaders need both now and well into the future to succeed. In our book, Leadership 2050, Mike Morrow-Fox, Susan Cannon and I discuss the following qualities leaders should possess as the rates of technological and geopolitical change in our world increase exponentially more.

1. Be professionally humble. In the above example, Kate not only identified the company’s purpose and guiding principles but actually used them daily when communicating with people so they understood what she expected them to produce and how she expected them to behave. When everyone was aligned, they made the right decisions and took credit for the organization’s success.

2. Have an unwavering commitment to the right action. Everything Kate did was driven by the company mission and Kate’s personal values. On one occasion, she told a major customer they could no longer talk to her people because he continually berated them. As a leader, it’s important for your followers to understand the goal of difficult actions and their purpose.

3. Be a 360-degree thinker. It is imperative for leaders to understand their industry and trends driving future success. The changes Kate led the company through involved updating processes to position the organization as a bigger competitor in the industry. She needed to understand the company, the industry, and best practices from other industries. She invested in growing business units while defunding the commodity businesses.

4. Be intellectually versatile. Leaders who can draw from a broad range of knowledge are better equipped to anticipate and lead change. Kate was highly committed to the company she was transforming, yet she made time to continue to learn. She values her professional network and is highly involved with her family and the arts. These outside interests allow her to recharge and remain resilient, which is crucial when work becomes very demanding.

5. Be highly authentic and reflective. Leaders who continually seek feedback and model growth promote change-friendly cultures. Kate is authentic in that she not only lived her personal mission and values, but also sought feedback. Though she works long hours and delivers results, she also takes the time to think about how her actions will ripple through her business and how her partners, clients and competitors will respond and be impacted. It is this focus that sets leaders apart over time.

6. Be able to inspire followership. During this and other turnarounds, Kate’s attrition rate was minimal — even during layoffs. She was as transparent as possible in explaining the company’s challenges and the opportunities they were pursuing. She dealt with challenging issues head on in ways that aligned with her values. Her humility and commitment to the right action were also highly inspirational; her team knew she was working for the best interest of the organization and all its stakeholders — not her personal gain.

7. Be innately collaborative. Kate continually sought input from across the business, her board and her customers. Her goal was to create a highly successful organization, and she knew that she could only do it if she created an environment where everyone worked together. By hearing different points of views based on different roles, there is a better focus on solving problems and creating market-leading solutions.

It is imperative that leaders continue to develop their mindset as well as their skills and behaviors to stay ahead of the accelerating pace of change. Kate models the mindset and behaviors required to transform a company working in a highly complex, ever-changing and competitive space. These mindsets and behaviors are the foundation for leaders. By going through a structured leadership development process, leaders can build the skills necessary to create continual innovation in their organizations.

So don’t become the outdated “flip phone” of leadership. Invest in your development to help you evolve at the rate you and your company need to thrive.

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.

 

Preparing Aspiring C-Level Leaders for Key Roles

This post is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre, President and Chief Operating Officer of Metcalf & Associates on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on May 16, 2017: Seven Characteristics of Leadership 2020: A CEO Story. An abbreviated version of this post appeared in Columbus CEO on January 25, Preparing Aspiring Leaders for Key Roles. 

Transformation is in demand. Building leaders and organizations of the future is now a requirement! A key responsibility of all leaders is to train successors. It promotes business continuity and key employee engagement, and helps manage business risk. While many organizations understand the importance, many have not found suitable programs to address this important activity, especially at higher levels in the organization.

The Columbus CIO Forum recently initiated the creation of a program to train CIO successors across the Central Ohio Region. Business and community sponsors joined to ensure the training and development had sufficient direction and resources to succeed, and that it addresses the CIO succession opportunities and challenges facing the community as a whole. This initiative is not a one off, it is part of how Columbus identifies challenges and creates cross sector solutions. According to a Harvard Business School case study focusing on the Columbus Partnership in May of 2015, “Cooperation and collaboration is the Columbus way,”

This community approach to succession planning for a particular profession is a novel approach to building a cadre of well-prepared business and technology successors for the community and deepen the leadership talent pool available across all sectors. This development is imperative for our organizations to thrive and for our leaders to continue to be successful. It also illustrates progressive thinking towards economic development and sustainability in our region and is attractive to organizations evaluating relocation of headquarters and/or business units to Central Ohio.

This program is designed as a year long program with six leadership development classes, four round tables with key business leaders and two social events to support network building. The in-person program sessions held at the Ohio University campus in Dublin include a forward-leaning leadership development curriculum augmented with a robust online offering of assessments, text and video study materials, and interviews with global and local thought leaders and faculty to illustrate the effectiveness of these concepts in action. The academic level of rigor equates to an MBA leadership class.

The model for creating this succession planning program:

  1. Define what success looks like – define a high-level model of the knowledge, skills, abilities and mindsets required to succeed in top level leadership roles now and well into the future. The Strategist leadership model developed by Metcalf & Associates was selected for the program. The CIO community also identified key development areas that they see as a priority for the program to focus on.
  2. Create a leadership program that builds leadership skills based on proven frameworks – offer class room training and self-study modules to build knowledge, skills and abilities, and provide opportunities to practice and integrate those into ongoing work. The program is drawn from an MBA leadership development program and leverages the Innovative Leadership program and book series by Maureen Metcalf that has earned international recognition. Metcalf takes an active role in the International Leadership Association, allowing her to bring world-leading frameworks to local programs.
  3. Balance skill building with tools and activities to build self-awareness and integrate skills into practice – in addition to developing skills required for leadership, creative tools, exercises and reflection activities help each leader build the self-awareness and leadership presence required in senior level roles. Practice exercises are provided in both the in-person and online portions of the program, and immediately applicable in the work environment. The program also makes extensive use of polling software to give the session facilitators feedback about session effectiveness and areas for additional focus.
  4. Learn from thought leaders and experts – provide a library of resources that support aspiring executives in building skills and learning from the perspective of a broad range of leadership experts and thought leaders across multiple fields, ranging from senior executives and government officials to leading academics. The online modules offer participants the opportunity to customize their learning experience to help them develop in areas they find most valuable. The Metcalf interview library covers key topics ranging from implementing analytics programs to major organizational transformations to building resilience in global organizations.
  5. Learn from successful executives – create opportunities for the participants to engage with senior leaders, leadership experts and thought leaders through round tables and discussions after the round tables to help participants translate what others do into what they will do when they return to work. The panel discussions allow leaders to engage with local thought leaders from the local community in robust discussion.
  6. Build a strong network of support within the field – create opportunities for participants to engage with one another during the learning process as thought partners and accountability partners. Additionally, offer networking opportunities for this peer group of aspiring CIOs within the CIO community. A key element of this program is building the senior IT community in central Ohio. The networking component gives leaders an opportunity to build those networks in a manner that is curated to accelerate relationship development and community building.

During times of significant change, leaders and organizations that continue to thrive will be those that perpetually innovate and evolve both the organization and the leaders responsible for running the organization. This level of innovation and evolution requires leaders to continually train successors as part of the ongoing effort to ensure organizations are prepared for the ongoing challenges they face. This program offers a model within Central Ohio that recognizes the need for a strong leadership advancement program across the IT profession and provides a robust solution.

The CIO Forum identified the need for this group and initiated the program by identifying business partners and sponsors to successfully deliver it. Metcalf & Associates and Expedient are key partners in creating and delivering this program. Check the link to learn more about the IT Leaders program.

About the Author: Maureen Metcalf is founder, CEO, and board chair of Metcalf & Associates; and is an executive advisor, consultant, speaker and author.

 

At C-Level #12: Building Transformation Teams

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 at 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 Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations interview on VoiceAmerica entitled “7 Characteristics of Leadership 2020 In Practice: A CEO Story.”

 

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

 

Build Your Team

 

In At C-Level #9, we discussed how leadership is now entering what we call the Integral era. In this era, technological, economic, and geopolitical change outpace the abilities of most Modern and Post-Modern leaders who think in terms of tasks, processes, and systems.

 

Leading transformations in the Integral era requires strong functional leaders on your team who can supplement and/or complement the strengths, abilities, and knowledge of the team leader, and who are very collaborative, adding mental and physical horsepower to your transformation engine.

 

Building your team to make the transformation successful and sustainable requires assessing your needs for the transformation, as well as assessing the people working with you today and their abilities and potential to fill those needs in their current or alternative roles (reference Collins’ “getting the right people in the right seats on the bus” in his book Good to Great). It may also include adding, subtracting, or replacing team members to get the right mix.

 

What are your personal strengths and weaknesses? Are you surrounded by people on your team who can fill those gaps today and bring their competencies and knowledge to the team in an additive way? Any gaps still?

This is how the teams were built in the three transformations I outlined in At C-Level #10:

 

  • Large Manufacturing Company. Leading a transformation to upgrade basic financial reporting controllers into true financial business partners by implementing a new and fully integrated financial system needed more horsepower than I had alone. I was a just a new corporate financial analyst in this $2B heavy manufacturer with operations world-wide. There was too much I did not know that could keep the transformation from even getting off the ground. However, my research and our vision led me to develop strong relationships with the controller of the largest BU, one of the most senior controllers in the company and one of the most progressive information technology leaders in the company. All were passionate about our charge and we teamed up to co-lead the transformation. After selecting the software platform, we needed to make some role changes to benefit the transformation (“get the right people on the bus in the right seats”). The controller of the largest BU became the project leader, I was promoted to the controller position to lead one of the first BU implementations, and the senior controller joined the implementation team full time. With those changes, we were all more energized than ever and ready to drive the transformation forward (which we did)!

 

Thinking about your vision for your organization and the transformation to get it there, do you have all the right people in the right seats on the bus? Okay, clear your mind of all biases. First, what seats on the bus are required to drive it forward? Now think about the people. Who belongs in which seats? Are you the best driver of this bus?

 

  • Mid-Size Electronics Manufacturing Services Company. As a new CEO in this $75M publicly-held electronics manufacturing company, leading a transformation “to be the best in the world at what we do” required evaluating our core businesses, our growth in them, and questioning the value of our offering going forward. My promotion had been packaged with the exit of the president and head of sales and I had too hastily promoted an internal candidate to vice president of sales who was already familiar with the current direction and leading an international sales initiative. The international initiative was to develop technology integration customers around the world, presumably because we had exhausted what we could do domestically in this highly-commoditized business. So, I went on one of our standard worldwide sales excursions that visited three to five countries with only two to three prospects per country and quickly decided that initiative needed to be terminated. After a longer and more thoughtful search, we hired a new vice president of sales who was very experienced in highly engineered electronic products companies, could leverage our high level of engineering expertise, and get us into a much higher value and margin business. I also brought in a high-powered industry operations person from a much larger company to help lead that part of the transformation. I just had not realized the overhead that came with an executive from a much larger company to a company our size. The next vice president of operations was very talented and hired from a larger company too, but was also ready for a step up in responsibilities.

 

Already extremely fortunate with our administrative and technology department heads, we were off to the races a little over a year after I took on the role. A big lesson for me – I had made my earliest choices to lead both sales and operations before I had a clear vision in my mind. The results could’ve been catastrophic, and I took full responsibility for those hires not working out.

 

How clear and committed are you toward your organization’s vision? Is your passion for your organization and your vision so strong that you could make the really difficult decisions regarding who the right people are for the required seats on your bus?

 

  • Global Internet Payments Company. Our vision here was transforming this 10-year-old fast-growing, but under-performing, “start-up” into a next-level high-performing and growing company. Our mission was providing the highest value to our clients (the sellers using our payment services), growing the company’s financial value for an eventual exit for its founder, and everyone working in harmony and enjoying their jobs working towards those two goals. I inherited a team of very talented individuals who had grown up with the company from its start-up roots and were now encountering growing pains they didn’t have the background and experience to effectively work with. The company had grown into functional siloes that were just not collaborating anymore. Its performance was suffering, as were its employees (a close correlation).

 

In the software development world, an Agile development environment requires the various functions of the company to work very closely together, and a software-as-a-service provider can be a great candidate for Agile. We did not have a high level of Agile expertise in-house, so we added a vice president of information technology experienced in leading Agile implementations. We had a vice president of operations who had been a terrific developer early in the company’s history and who had become an industry expert in all things payments. She was not particularly happy leading operations, which needed an overhaul the likes of which was not in her previous experience. She became a sorely needed vice president of compliance and I, as COO, took direct responsibility for the various operations areas. Additionally, in this business, accounting was a vital part of operations. I promoted underutilized and knowledgeable internal talent to backfill openings created earlier in this process.

 

In fast growing companies, the mostly highly talented individuals do not necessarily want to become vice presidents of much larger organizations, nor are they prepared to do so. Do you have anyone in your organization who may have those kinds of challenges in their current role and would be happier in a role more closely aligned with their qualifications and experience?

 

Key takeaways from these transformations

 

Hiring for top leadership team roles is better delayed until the vision is clear, you know what you need, and you get the right people in the right seats on the bus. The costs for the organization and for the individuals with short tenure may not be worth the short-term benefits, if there are any. Is your vision clear?

 

Some people promoted into top roles should probably be put in as interim leaders until everyone is satisfied that the best people are fulfilling the roles and that they really want to be in those roles. If it still doesn’t work out, thank them for contributing to the company in a time of great need, and try to place them in roles for which they are better suited so you don’t lose their valuable talents and company knowledge to someone else. Do your best to not let those shifts be negative experiences in any way, shape, or form.

 

When you need talent and experience that you don’t have – but know that in the long-term it will pay off – add someone to the team when you know they have a passion for the vision as well. Don’t hire them before the vision and need are clear, unless you need their help in that, too. Hiring a consultant to help work your team through a visioning process may be a better route. Is your vision clear (an intentional repetitive question to underscore its importance!)?

 

In “At C-Level #13: Pre-Transformation Analyses,” we’ll look at how the situations and strengths were analyzed for these same three organizations and what the key takeaways are that you may need to think about in preparing for your transformative journey.

 

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

Leading in Turbulent Times: What are International Leaders Saying?

As I write this article, I’m excited to reflect on the 2017 ILA global conference theme, Leadership in Turbulent Times, and share wisdom gleaned from 12 Voice America interviews I conducted in Brussels at the conference last October. This is the second year I have interviewed keynote presenters, top speakers, political leaders, board members, and organizers in the role of media partner. The interviews resulting from this collaboration began airing  January 9, 2018: Leaders Building on A Moral Purpose to Create A Just World with Jorrit Volkers, Dean Deloitte University EMEA and George Papandreou, Former Prime Minister of Greece. See full list of interviews with links at the end of this post.

With a necessary focus right now on terrorist attacks and geopolitical instability across continents, and with the increase of populism as well as the impact of the rapid pace of technological advances, the logical theme of the conference was “Leadership in Turbulent Times.” It sounds ominous, right? The word turbulence typically creates anxiety and fear because it is never associated with something promising or hopeful. It is defined as conflict, confusion, and unsteady movement. I’d like, however, to offer a new way to think about turbulence. Change is never a result of stagnation, and only by churning ideas and challenging old schemata can we evolve. Turbulence, therefore, offers new opportunities across a broad range of sectors. While the challenges are more complex, and the world feels less safe, we have greater opportunities to make positive change than at any other time in recent history.

Turbulence is an ongoing condition to be managed, not a problem to be solved. Here is a summary of my key take-aways from presentations, conversations, and twelve hours of interviews I conducted for VoiceAmerica.

  1. Leadership is an interplay between our individual purpose and values, our behaviors, organizational culture, and systems and processes. It requires continual adjustment to maintain alignment between all four elements, an adjustment that is akin to a finely choreographed dance. It is ongoing and requires continuous attention and expertise. All aspects of the dance start with leadership having a self-awareness of purpose and values. This self-awareness provides the inner compass from which the leader leads the organization.
  2. Purpose and self-awareness are the foundation of effective leadership. Self-awareness is not an activity to accomplish once. It is a practice to be done regularly and routinely. When asked, most people want to make the world better than they found it. Leaders who can translate this sense of purpose into their unique commitment to action in the world are more effective as leaders because they have a North Star to guide their actions. When they share this purpose with those they lead, they build trust and inspire commitment.
  3. Reflection takes time—and it is a requirement. Reflection and meditation provide a physiological advantage by impacting the neural network in your brain. One of the precepts of self-awareness is the “moment of awareness” when we take a deep breath, pause, and ask ourselves what outcome we want in a moment. This brief pause allows us to be fully present and clear before we take our next step. The ability to pause and reflect, for a moment or longer, allows leaders to stay centered and grounded in times of high pressure.
  4. Leaders have many roles, including chief culture officer. Culture leaders are akin to musical conductors. Through their actions and attitude, they set the tone of the organization and the underlying agreements supporting that tone. In doing so, leaders create the culture in organizations that supports the purpose and values they claim to hold. Organizations living their purpose do not show it in a poster on the wall but through the underlying rhythm and music of a strong dance performance. The conductor becomes the music that inspires, sets the tempo and tone, and informs action. If the rhythm changes, so do the movements of the dancers. A strong culture offers a competitive advantage and makes successful organizations hard or impossible to emulate. One recommendation I heard repeatedly is that leaders need to create a culture of openness and safety. Awareness of the culture provides leaders with multiple perspectives so that they can adjust quickly to changes in the environment.
  5. Leaders need to inspire followership and know when to follow. Leaders are those formally recognized for their leadership role, some of them have the title of leader and others do not. We rarely talk about leaders as followers. Most leaders report to someone including boards of directors. Leaders need to learn to both lead and follow. They also need to teach those who follow them how they would like to be followed. Back to the metaphor of the dance, each dancer is different, the interplay between different leaders and followers is unique even with the same music. Another topic generally not discussed, but highlighted at this conference, is the idea of ethical dissent — when we chose not to follow and how we courageously hold our leaders accountable.
  6. People want to perform effectively. Organizational systems need to support peoples’ positive intentions and skills. Spend less time creating systems to weed out shirkers and poor performers and more time creating a culture that enables people with purpose to do the work that fulfills them and that concurrently serves the organization’s mission and success.
  7. Teams have become far more important in the current environment. Effective teams are based on the members’ ability to communicate effectively, often across the globe. A key factor in effective team interactions is building relationships with individuals. This is best done in person and, then, can be sustained remotely. There is no substitute for strong relationships when navigating complex work.
  8. Effective communication and learning organizations have become more important with the complexity of the challenges and geographic dispersion of teams. Communication requires both strong listening skills and the ability to speak simply and concisely, including attending to conflict and complexity when necessary. It also means unflinching accountability. Leaders must be accountable for their role when problems arise, and look forward with vision of the future rather than looking back and fault finding. It is important to learn from challenges and mistakes and remain agile in the face of ongoing change. Vision forward and data analysis backward creates learning organizations.
  9. Organizations must align their purpose with that of the stakeholders within as well as with clients, and the local and global community. Making a profit is the fuel for company survival, but it is not the fuel to thrive. Companies must find the intersection between company success and social action in order to make a positive profit while, at the same time, making a positive social impact. John Heiser, the President & Chief Operating Officer of Magnetrol International, gave a beautiful example of hiring autistic adults to perform tasks for which they are best qualified. This approach allows the company to attract and retain people whose skills match their jobs as well as provide meaningful work for people in the community who often don’t find opportunities. He gave several examples of how companies could align their interests with those of the community.
  10. Global peace and security depend on recognizing our innate nature to be peaceful. When we follow our true nature, we are peaceful beings. Conference presenters and attendees I interacted with talked about the intersection of creating individual conditions in which people can express their inner goodness and, at the same time, create cultures and systems that promote peaceful work and lives.

I left the conversations feeling hopeful that compassionate, wise, and highly-successful academics, executives, politicians, and military leaders are sharing their best thinking with one another at the conference and beyond. They forge and renew relationships, and identify new opportunities to collaborate to make positive change. This forum is one in which leadership as an art and science evolves through people and their interactions.

9 Jan. 2018Leaders Building on Moral Purpose to Create a Just World

Interviewee: Jorrit Volkers, Dean, Deloitte University EMEA & George Papandreou, Former Prime Minister of Greece

16 Jan. 2018Maximizing Profit and Social Impact Concurrently – A Case Study

Interviewee: John Heiser, ILA Board Member; President & Chief Operating Officer, Magnetrol International, Incorporated

23 Jan. 2018 How Do We Work and Live with Purpose and Compassion?

Interviewee: Éliane Ubalijoro, ILA Board Member; Professor of Practice, Institute for the Study of International Development, McGill University, Canada; Member, Presidential Advisory Council for Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Rwanda

30 Jan. 2018Dialogical Leadership: Understanding How It Impacts Success

Interviewee: Rens van Loon, ILA Board Member; Professor & Consultant specialized in leadership and organizational change and transformation.

6 Feb. 2018 Creating Mindful Organizations

Interviewee: Subhanu Saxena, Regional Director Life Science Partnerships, Europe at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation & Michelle Harrison, Global CEO, Kantar Public, the WPP Group public policy consulting and research business.

13 Feb. 2018 How Would We Lead If We Believed Humans Were a Peaceful Species?

Interviewee: Mike Hardy, ILA Board Member; Founding and Executive Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, UK.

20 Feb. 2018 Inner Peace Nurtures Global Impact

Interviewee: Kathryn Goldman Schuyler, Organizational Consultant, Leadership Coach, Public Speaker and Author; Editor of Creative Social Change: Leadership for a Healthy World

27 Feb. 2018 The Dance Between Leadership and Followership

Interviewee: Margaret Heffernan, Author of five books, Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Program & Ira Chaleff, Founder and President of Executive Coaching and Consulting Associates

6 Mar. 2018 Values and Storytelling to Deliver Results

Interviewee: Sebastian Salicru, Director of PTS Consultants, an Associate of Melbourne Business School – Executive Education, and Fellow of the Institute of Coaching (McLean/Harvard Medical School) & Michelle Harrison, Global CEO, Kantar Public, the WPP Group public policy consulting and research business.

13 Mar. 2018 Leveraging Polarities in Complex and Turbulent Times

Interviewee: Barry Johnson, Creator of the first Polarity Map® and set of principles; author

27 Mar. 2018 The Nexis of Leadership and Practice – Royal Dutch Shell and ILA

Interviewee: Jeroen van der Veer, Former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell plc & Cynthia Cherry, President and CEO of the International Leadership Association

I hope this article inspires you to listen to select interviews or, even better, the entire interview series! Interviews from 2016 are being used in academic and professional leadership development programs around the world. I encourage you to share this information freely. This complimentary set of interviews are content rich, exposing listeners to the subtleties required to build leadership acumen, and give insight into those who have made a commitment to work and to live at the intersection between exceptional research and practice in 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 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.

BS in Business: Why Biological Blindspots Matter in Business

This blog is a companion to an interview with Rebecca Heiss on Voice America airing on November 28, 2017, What You Don’t See Can Hurt You focusing on implicit bias! This blog was written by Rebecca Heiss.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “what do biological blind spots and bias have to do with business?” In other words, “why should I care if I’m subconsciously a bit biased like everyone else?”

The short answer is that without awareness of your blind spots, you could be undermining your performance as well as the performance of your colleagues. When people first think about implicit bias, most default to a discussion around skin color, but your biological blind spots go far beyond black and white (and all of the other skin variations we leave out of the discussion).

Your brain has a pre-programmed bias for race, gender, age, class, thinking style… you name it!  Whatever the bias, your brain has categorized it and made associations that “fit,” based upon an archaic formula that still primes you to crave fats and sugars despite the insane abundance in the modern environment.

Our stone-aged brain and the biases it subconsciously creates which drive our behaviors is, to put it mildly, out of touch.

The result is that your team suffers from these micro-level inter-company level competitions ultimately hurting your ability to compete where you want to – on the bigger market. The worst part is, your team (and you personally) won’t even recognize that you are doing it.

Aside from team efficacy, productivity and collaborative efforts, one of the biggest risks to business is homogeneity. While the ability to create a homogeneous product may be beneficial, a lack of diversity on the  team doing the creating can be hugely detrimental to the health and sustainability of a business.

I like to make an analogy to the stability of an environment based on biodiversity. If you as a company are established like Ireland in 1845 and only have a single crop, you’ve made yourself extraordinarily vulnerable to any blind spot, or disease, wiping you off the face of the map. To avoid mass starvation in your company, plant some other crops. New perspectives.

Obviously, diversity can produce an influx of new ideas and approaches to problems, but more interesting to me is that the mere presence of a diverse work team creates an air of discomfort. Our brains were programmed to be happy with our ingroups – people who looked, acted, behaved and were essentially carbon copies of us. When you put people together who don’t fit that mold, our brains get….well….nervous.

Uncomfortable.

Low level discomfort like this actually promotes better problem solving as tensions are discussed openly. A recent study demonstrates that homogeneous groups, are more confident in their decisions, even though they are more often wrong in their conclusions, while a diverse group’s members will feel less confident despite being more accurate in their conclusions.

Confirmation bias and squelching of new ideas in homogeneous groups produces a false “feel-good we are all in this together” perspective that can render disastrous outcomes.

FEELING GOOD IN BUSINESS IS OVERRATED.

Just like working out the muscles in our body, having those uncomfortable discussions that hurt our brains a bit is the only way we grow and the only we can can start to uncover our own BS.

About the Author

Dr. Rebecca Heiss is an expert in human behavior and physiology and the founder/ CEO of a measurable stress reduction company, Instinctive Cognition. Working in the speaking and consulting industry Rebecca has developed a passion for helping others overcome blind spots to become their best biological selves. After earning a PhD with research designated as “transformative” by the National Science Foundation, Rebecca went on to hold multiple appointments in academia, applying her research to solve practical problems in overcoming what she refers to as “biological ghosts”—subconscious behaviors that haunt modern life. Described as a creative thought leader, she was honored to deliver a TEDx on a portion of her work and has built her career on helping others break through their evolutionary ethical “blind spots.” Having conquered the business of biology, Dr. Heiss has turned her focus to revolutionizing the biology of business.

10 Executive Leadership Insights from a CEO: Dwight Smith

This blog is a collaboration between guest Dwight Smith, experienced CEO and board member of several high-profile organizations, and Maureen Metcalf, CEO Metcalf & Associates, and is a companion to the Voice America Interview with Dwight discussing his executive experience, insights, and the “My Special Word” program.

At this juncture in time, we need great leaders and great leadership! Most of us, at one time or another, have been in the presence of a great leader and can recognize the characteristics of a great leader when we see them—and recognize when they are absent. Leadership development has become increasingly important. As the pace of change accelerates there is a call for a different sort of leadership than leadership of the past. The good news is that this transformational leadership can be found in all sectors. During difficult times, truly exceptional leaders rise to the occasion and take the reins.

According to the PwC CEO Survey for 2017, globalization has brought many benefits but also downsides. With greater convergence has come greater divergence in beliefs, values, and systems. CEOs are concerned about uncertain economic growth, over-regulation, and skills shortages. The focus in 2017 on CEO talent that can address these uncertainties reflects the continuation of a trend over the last several years.

As part of our discussion, Dwight described his top 10 list of beliefs and behaviors that great leadership requires. Although this blog began with referencing the current challenges we face today, these fundamental principles are timeless.

  1. Know your values and live by them—without exception. Values drive decisions and action, and ultimately your legacy. Servant leadership is unselfish, and aims at success for others and win-win situations in which everyone is uplifted. This is where leaders are about the greater good. When we think of the many leaders whose reputations went from positive to negative very quickly, it is often based on a values issue. These leaders sidestepped their values and used their positions of power to intimidate, harass, misappropriate an organizations research, and so on. It is hard to recover from a tarnished reputation because of a values violation.
  2. Find a mentor whose values match yours. We never succeed alone. Success is always a result of learning from those who were role models and who supported us. Some are formal mentors and others modeled who we want to become or avoid becoming. Find people who uplift you, care about you, and have passion for life. Think of the people who don’t see the glass as half full but completely full—it’s just that part of the contents include air.
  3. Find ways to respect and embrace differences. Being with people who are different—in beliefs, in ways of doing things, who have a different perspective—provides us with learning opportunities. Be personal learners. Acknowledge and accept and embrace differences and learn from others who see the world differently. Seek to understand why others see the world differently, but most importantly, respect the differences whether you understand them or not. Multiple perspectives generally create more “durable” solutions.
  4. Act with grace and kindness. Find the goodness in others especially when they are most frustrating to you. This is not to say we lack discernment; we must be both discerning and kind. We must show respect to get respect. When we agree to value differences, we will be stretched into areas that are uncomfortable and, in some cases, frustrating. It is important to be gracious with ourselves as well as others.
  5. Make time to reflect. Set aside time, optimally every day, to dial back electronic connections and replace these with personal reflection, human connection, and inspirational activities such as meditation and prayer. We need time to recharge and refresh our physical bodies and our spirits. We need to reconnect with our values every day—even if it is simply quiet time during a commute.
  6. Be forward thinking and strategic. We are facing dramatic change in our world. It is critical to stay abreast of trends that will impact you directly and tangentially. When you see trends, face them head on, try to understand the impact and identify the opportunities these changes may create for you and your organization. Change always creates opportunity for someone, will you find ways to leverage it?
  7. Find passion and follow it wisely. Whether as a vocation or as a hobby, passion recharges us and gives us purpose. We may find that passion in our full-time jobs or in other areas of life. Dwight is heavily involved in an organization called “My Special Word.” In addition to his demanding work, Dwight invests his time and energy in this program because he is passionate about children and the impact his program creates.
  8. Be personally responsible and accountable. Everyone faces adversity in life. It is unavoidable. How you respond defines who you become. You are responsible for your reactions to events and their impact on yourself and others. We chose how we respond. We have the choice to take responsibility or become victims. How can you develop the capacity to own your situations and make the best of them? Think how many small decisions in life impact your day. Are you responding based on your values and your best self?
  9. Align words and actions. Whether you are aware or not, people are always watching what you do and if your words align with your actions. If your words and deeds conflict, you lose credibility and the trust of others. This can be tricky sometimes because others may not see the nuances you see or understand why you changed course. Communication is a deciding factor. Because others don’t know or see what we see, it is our job to help them understand when they perceive a misalignment. If trust is gone, people are less likely to be engaged and perform at their best for the organization.
  10. Take the time to thank people. Success and the success of an organization are built on team efforts that are the engine driving success or failure, satisfy customers, and deliver value. Make sure that all the members of your team feel appreciated.

Leadership is an honor. We serve an organization’s mission, its employees, its clients, its financial stakeholders, and our communities. We balance many requirements while keeping pace with trends and adjusting our offerings. When done properly, it is as beautiful as a well-rehearsed symphony. How would you score your performance on this top 10 list?

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:

Dwight Smith is an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Skilled in Budgeting, Business Planning, Analytical Skills, Sales, and Entrepreneurship. Strong business development professional with a MBA focused in Finance from The Ohio State University. Dwight serves on several Boards including the Federal Reserve Board of Cleveland and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Dwight created the “My Special Word” program and organization. My Special Word is a not-for-profit program with the aspiration of inspiring our youth to think about the wonderful people they are and that they hope to become using positive words. Their vision is to encourage, inspire and excite our youth to become the amazing people that they are meant to become and to strive daily to reach their greatest potential and aspirations.

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.

Authenticity and Reflection are Keys to Leadership Success

This blog is a collaboration between guest blogger, BirchReports and Maureen Metcalf, CEO Metcalf & Associates. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview Building Leadership Self-Awareness using Leadership Type with Belinda Gore.

Abraham Lincoln is known for the emancipation of slaves and preserving the Union during the Civil Was. However, did you know that before he entered politics and was elected president, he experienced two business venture failures and lost eight different elections? If not for his persistence, humility, and ability to learn from his mistakes, he would not have managed to continue after multiple defeats, and the America we know today may be entirely different.

What does this story tell us? It’s that self-awareness and self-confidence demand that you learn from everything you do and are the drivers pushing you forward in pursuit of your dreams. Self-awareness and self-confidence allow you to build on successes as well as turn failures into future successes. Humility is a result of being aware of your own foibles. When you can look honestly at your strengths as well as your weaknesses, you’re able to focus on the organization’s greater good rather than personal gain. It is vital in business where change is rapid and ongoing, and where what worked in the past often doesn’t work in the same way it once did. Your future success requires authenticity and your ability to learn from every interaction, and it largely depends on your capacity to build relationships with a broad range of people—whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur. Authenticity and relationships evolve from a sense of self—from self-awareness, self-confidence—and a healthy dose of humility. While self-confidence and humility can seem in opposition, they need to be balanced with finesse because they show up as two sides of the image you project.

We recommend using assessments to help leaders build self-awareness. Metcalf + Associates offers an Innovative Leadership assessment and a Resilience assessment. In addition, the Sofia Wellness Clinic offers a wide range of self-scoring tools to promote self-awareness and wellbeing.

In the Leader 2050 blog, we talked about competency model for leaders of the future, the details about specific behaviors associated with humility, authenticity, and self-awareness, and the importance of collaboration.

To initiate contact with like-minded individuals, you need to put yourself forward, out there—and this requires self-confidence.

So, the next question might be, how do you build your confidence? As with other skills, it does not develop overnight. Instead, you need to build it over time. Below are some things to remember in building self-confidence.

Confidence starts from within and with self-awareness. Confidence is anchored in how you see yourself. In many instances, lack of confidence is rooted in self-doubt. Inc magazine says that having a negative mindset may lead to self-sabotage because you are effectively telling yourself that you cannot accomplish a goal even before you start working toward it. To put it simply, you’re setting yourself up for failure. By developing a practice such as mindfulness, you will be able to increase your self-awareness and increase your capacity to replace self-sabotage with confident self-perception. The video, “Building Resilience: Six Steps to Managing Negative Thinking” is a tool to help you identify and effectively navigate self-destructive thinking when it occurs.

Another option to build self-awareness is a self-evaluation in which you explore the areas in which you lack confidence—and the reasons for your lack of self-assurance. Once you recognize the reasons, determine which ones you can address through mindfulness and managing your thinking. One of the recommendations in the video includes shifting from negative thinking to gratitude. By focusing on what is working and what you’re grateful for—a solid intellect, a well-prepared presentation, the love you feel from friends, family, and colleagues who support you—you will have a more positive outlook. Every time you start to have negative thoughts, use the process in this video to minimize the impact of negative thinking and to increase your self-confidence. This shift requires constant self-awareness and management of your thought process. It is astounding how a small change in mindset and thinking can contribute significantly to your ability to learn from every interaction rather than getting discouraged and losing confidence.

What is often perceived as confidence has to do with how other people perceive you. Networking Times published an anecdote about a woman who gained self-confidence by acting like a confident person. Eventually, she managed to be the same person inside as she appeared on the outside. Being able to act with confidence and manage inner conversations that undermine your image starts with self-awareness and self-management. The concept is not a new one. For years we’re heard about the value of role-playing. It is a process that can take a significant amount of inner work, particularly during those times when self-doubt ebbs and flows.

How can someone’s perception make another more confident? A great portion of what people consider confidence has to do with how you project yourself to others around you. Your appearance, body language, and tone of voice already give others an idea of how you are feeling and what you are thinking, even without listening to the words you are saying. If all three do not inspire trust, then it’s less likely that the person you are conversing with will not hear what you have to say—because you may be giving the message that you are not confident with an idea, service, or product that you are trying to get others to buy in to. In a nutshell, we project to each other. If I present myself as confident and capable, and you perceive me as such, it is mirrored back to me and gives me greater confidence.

As a leader, exhibiting low confidence may also decrease your employees’ self-assurance in their performance of tasks as well. In contrast, if you demonstrate appropriate self-confidence—holding your head high, sitting or standing straight, and speaking assertively instead of haltingly—you are more likely to catch the attention of other people, and you are also more likely to be heard. Self-confidence is an interesting topic when combined with professional humility. In the blog focusing on the Leadership 2050 competencies, we talk about the first competency being professional humility. Like many facets of leadership, it is imperative for leaders to find the best balance between appropriate humility and self-confidence. As we prove ourselves over the course of our careers, it is easier to be humble and self-confident because we already have a strong reputation—and because we have a better understanding of the mistakes we’ve made and can measure our growth over time. Entrepreneur provides some tips that you can follow to help you present yourself with confidence to other people.

Confidence requires preparation. Think about public speakers you hold in high regard. Chances are, you admire them for their confidence and for being knowledgeable about the topics they discuss. The thing is, these speakers did a lot of preparation, including intensive studying, to become well-informed about the subject they approach. It is hard to manage how we are going to feel (self-confident) in a stressful situation, and preparation is a great countermeasure to reduce the number of things that could potentially go wrong. It is tough to be confident when you are running late, get lost, spill coffee on yourself, or realize you don’t know as much about your topic or the audience as you should. Allowing appropriate time to prepare pays great dividends in bolstering confidence. Investing time in preparation will allow you to become more knowledgeable about the topics and people with whom you are talking.
Get Feedback. Lincoln was a man of integrity who used a journal for self-reflection and sought the opinions of others. If there are areas where you believe you may need to build skills to feel confident and perform well, seek feedback from your mentors or colleagues. Often, we build our skills before we feel confident. It takes skill to see ourselves the way others see us, so getting ongoing feedback allows us to calibrate our sense of self with how others see us. Accurate self-awareness is one of the most important skills in leadership because if we are unaware of how others see us, we miss important cues. Self-awareness, self-confidence, and humility are intertwined. As leaders, we need to continually practice and evolve these skills.

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.

Leveraging Multigenerational Leadership – Navigating the Graying Demographic in the Workplace and Marketplace

This blog is a companion to the interview with Karen Sands on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on October 24, 2017 Navigating the Graying Demographic: Rock Your Age and Manage Inter-generationally. It was co-written by Karen Sands and Maureen Metcalf. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview with Karen Sands.

According to Steve Vernon in MoneyWatch June 2016, “The bottom line is that we’re living much longer than prior generations, but we can’t afford to keep adding years at the end of our lives when we’re fully retired and no longer working. Therefore, it only makes sense to work longer, but we’ll want to take steps to make these additional working years enjoyable and productive.”

Whether you are excited about the prospect of working until you are into your 80’s or 90’s or terrified, as leaders we all need to think about how the longevity economy will impact our workforce and our customers. As people live longer and work longer, their work habits and buying habits will change.

The intersection of people living and working longer, combined with the rapid acceleration of changes in how organizations conduct work, will lead us to a new Triple Bottom Line—people, planet, profits. s. But, only if organizations can overcome the immense challenges coming our way in the Longevity Economy- – representing an increase of the sum of economic activity of services and goods serving the 50+ demographic from $7.1 Trillion today to over $13.5 Trillion by 2032. Businesses that choose to leverage the largest pool of multigenerational skilled and knowledge workers to engage and capture the new ageless consumers as clients will beat the competition hands down. This big shift will foster creative processes to leverage the business acumen and skills of seasoned workers, along with the adaptability and tech finesse of younger workers will create a strategic advantage.

This more diverse workplace comes with great opportunities and significant challenges. Organizations will need to find ways to overcome the “generational gap” associated with the perception that older employees are “taking jobs” from younger employees and are not keeping current with technology, therefore less productive. Or from the mature employees point of view, the Millennials are “lazy” and don’t have work ethics of yesteryear. Here are some recommendations Karen suggests:

First, we need to communicate with each other about it. This seems obvious, but how often do the generations really talk about this situation with each other? It tends to get talked about through politicians and the media, rather than in collaborative, hands-on, deliberately multigenerational conversations.

These conversations are crucial not only to get our fears and perceptions out in the open, but also to clear up the misconceptions that can lead us all to make decisions based on incorrect information or assumptions.

Second, we need to explore alternative solutions together based on the probable future, not the past. Yes, social security was an effective solution to many problems that stemmed from the Great Depression, and it continues to be a necessary element in our economy, but pursuing ways to once again push millions of post-65/70 people out of the workforce is not going to work. Being 65/70 today is not even close to what it was in prior eras.

Third, we should look at generational partnerships, such as job sharing/mentorship arrangements that enable two people to be employed instead of one, enable training costs and salary to combine, stretching a company’s dollar and quickening the pace at which younger employees can gain the skills, knowledge, and some of the experience they need to be more valuable to that company and in the marketplace. These could work with a shifting percentage of time, starting with the mentor working 3/4 of the job, then gradually decreasing to 1/2, then 1/4, with an ultimate shift into mentoring another employee or into a consultant arrangement.

Fourth, we need to encourage people over 60 (in fact over 40) to remain employed by starting their own businesses as entrepreneurs or by creating new profit centers within their current companies and organizations. These could range from simple solopreneurs to larger operations that will both remove the competition for the same job between two generations, while it generates additional employment.

People, organizations, and governments need to focus on encouraging experienced professionals and executives, especially women, to start businesses with a strong focus on the Triple Bottom Line In this way, we can solve or at least ameliorate multiple societal problems simultaneously through the specific social missions of these companies as well as their effect on the job market, offering a way for all generations to make a living and a difference, and to secure their future and that of the world for generations to come. This means many leaders will need to expand their perspective about how jobs get accomplished and by whom.

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. You can download the first three chapters of the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers for free.

About the Authors:

Karen Sands, MCC, BCC is a Visionary Game Changer and Leading GeroFuturist™ on the Longevity Economy, the Business of Aging, and Ageless Aging. An advocate for The New Story of Our Age, she is a “visionary with wrinkles” who empowers people to rock their AGE. High-impact Certified Master & Mentor Coach for visionary world shakers, conscious entrepreneurs, sacred activists and change makers 40+ who are ready to shape the world and their role in it. A Trusted Advisor and expert authority on careers post 40, midlife reinvention, Boomers and women 40+ in the new business of aging for go-getters who want to stay in sync with the people who keep them in business. #1 Amazon Best Selling Author, Firecracker Speaker and All-Around Trailblazing Game Changer.

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

Proven Path to Leadership Maturity and Effectiveness

This post is a companion to the Voice America interview featuring Mike Morrow-Fox talking about leadership maturity and vertical development to build the leadership qualities required to lead large complex organizations and those that aspire to make the greatest impact.

The following article was first published by Forbes Coaches Council in August 2016.

Future trends indicate complexity, accelerated change, and near-constant uncertainty in the coming years. These conditions will require significantly different leadership skills.

With these new demands for evolving leadership, is there a predictable path to develop leadership? If so, what does that path look like?

Leaders develop both “horizontally,” increasing their ability at their current level of operation, and “vertically,” increasing their level of complexity, emotional maturity, and opening to new awareness. Many researchers are now saying that “vertical development” is required to navigate the complexities leaders and their organizations face.

To answer what the vertical evolutionary path looks like, I reference the research of Dr. Cook-Greuter, who developed a Leadership Maturity Framework (LMF) and measurement of adult development as part of her doctoral dissertation at Harvard University. Dr. Cook-Greuter is now the Co-Founder with Beena Sharma of The Center for Leadership Maturity, a firm that facilitates vertical development in individuals, teams and organizations. The LMF is the basis of my work with vertical leadership development because it provides a model that is both grounded in research and practical to use in coaching and leadership development.

Vertical development does not mean that more developed people are “better” people, but rather, in many cases, are likely to be more effective in key leadership roles within large complex organizations. The following is a brief summary of the LMF describing the predictable developmental trajectory people navigate as they grow:

The Group-Centric Level

This level is about conforming and belonging. People at this level follow rules, norms and observe hierarchy. They conform to social expectations, work to group standards, seek membership and approval, and appreciate outward signs of status as a sign of approval. They attend to the welfare of their own group; those who are not like them are the “other,” and therefore outside their circle of concern. They avoid conflict, think in simple terms, and often speak in generalities. Feedback is taken as disapproval since their driving value is to gain approval and be included.

Example: This is the employee who looks to what the group is doing to determine his actions. He looks to meet the “expectations” set by the organization, fit into the culture, and do what everyone does. Belonging is his key to success; standing out or having a different opinion feels risky

The Skill-Centric Level

This focuses on comparing self to others and perfecting skills. Individuals at this level focus on being competent in their own area of interest and improving techniques and efficiency. They aspire to quality standards and are often heavily invested in their way as the only way of doing things. Decisions are made based on incontrovertible “facts.” Given their focus on problem-solving and detail, they can get caught in the weeds and not see the big picture necessary to effectively prioritize among competing demands. All consuming attention on being right can lead them to be critical of and competitive with others. They hear feedback about their work as criticism of them as a whole person.

Example: This is the employee who points out when others make mistakes and tries to correct them so they can meet the standards. Her development efforts focus on building expertise. She usually has a “better” opinion unless she is in the presence of a subject-matter expert.

The Self-Determining Level

This focuses on analyzing and achieving to effectively deliver results. Leaders at this level look toward longer-term goals and initiate rather than follow expectations. They value objectivity and scientific knowledge, seeking rational, proactive ways around problems. They often seek consensus — “agree to disagree” — and value mutuality and equality in relationships. They accept feedback to promote learning and success.

Example: This employee continually drives to meet organizational goals. He works both efficiently and effectively and is continually competing with himself and others to drive the best results. He has a five-year plan, is open to new learning, and is beginning to be more reflective.

The Self-Questioning Level

This level focuses on self in relationship and contextualizing his/her experience. Leaders at this level are concerned with the difference between reality and appearance and have an increased understanding of complexity and unintended effects of actions. They begin to question their own assumptions and views and realize the subjectivity of beliefs; and talk of interpretations rather than facts. They can play different roles in different contexts and begin to seek out and value feedback.

Example: This employee is continually inquiring, challenging assumptions, and aware of the limitations of conventional thinking. She focuses on creating an environment where everyone feels valued. She is committed to appreciating value in different perspectives.

The Self-Actualizing Level

This level is about integrating and transforming self and systems, and recognizing higher principles, complexity and interrelationships. People at this level are aware of the social construction of reality — not just rules and customs. They are problem finding, not just doing creative problem solving. They are aware of paradox and contradiction in self and systems and learn to have a deep appreciation of others. They demonstrate a sensitivity to systemic change and create “positive-sum” games.

Example: This person is continually evaluating the organization’s strategy against long-term industry trends as well as global economic conditions while embodying her values and using herself as an instrument of transformation. She is self-aware and firmly anchored in principles while having the ability to adapt based on context.

As we look to the changes leaders are facing in the near and long term, it is helpful to have a robust model for development that allows them to focus their development energy effectively. This framework, along with it, measurement instrument — the maturity assessment for professionals (MAP) — is the most robust I have seen, and I find it highly effective in supporting leaders.

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.