This guest blog is a companion to the Voice America interview: Democracy on the Run: How Strong and Capable Leaders Can Impact Listen Now. The interview was recorded as part of the International Leadership Association conference series. The blog is reproduced and shared with permission by mastersincommunication.org.
Leaders and citizens need accurate and unbiased information to act responsibly. As citizens, we must develop an understanding of events unfolding in our environment and determine how we will engage. Voting is obviously one major action that requires comprehensive and unbiased information.
By the same note, leaders, those responsible for setting their organizational course, revising direction and engaging with employees to drive toward results must have accurate, complete and unbiased information.
In an era where leaders have access to more information, it has become harder to know where to look to find accurate, complete and unbiased information. For this, we must turn to the field of journalism and we must take responsibility for being well informed. The people we lead, and all of our stakeholders rely on us to make well informed decisions.
The information we need comes from journalists!
Today’s journalism is a far cry from what it used to be. In the past, you received the majority of your news and information from your local newspaper published every morning.
If you didn’t get it there, you watched the evening news after dinner. Add in a few national newspapers, and that was it.
Today, relying on only one source to receive all of your news and information seems unheard of. Newspapers are still around today, but we have so much more to go along with them. We don’t have to wait an entire day for our news anymore – we wait mere seconds.
Now we see the news as it’s happening instead of getting recaps of it the next day. With the rise of the internet and the 24/7 news station, we have an abundance of news sources directly at our fingertips.
Journalism as a whole has changed in response. Instead of having time to fact check, journalists are urged to be the first to break the story. This rush to first often leads to misinformation being published, causing confusing and sometimes outrage.
What used to be a cardinal sin is now less of an issue because being the first to hit publish is such a priority.
Let’s take a look at what journalism is today, and some of the people changing it.
What Really Is Journalism?
Journalism is the act of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.
Journalism is the product of every newspaper you read, every news station you watch, and every news article you read online.
Journalism is meant to place the public good above all else and uses specific methods to gather and assess information. In other words, journalism is meant to benefit the people, and journalists should routinely check what they’re reporting on to be sure the information is verified and accurate.
Why Data Journalism Matters More Than Ever
Another side effect of the internet and the amount of data at our fingertips is the rise of data journalism. Data journalism is the use of data and number crunching to uncover, better explain, or provide context to a news story.
Data can be the tool used to tell a story, the source upon which a story is based, or both at the same time. It often involves the use of statistics, charts, and infographics.
Data journalism has become important because, in today’s world, anyone with a smartphone and social media account can be a journalist. Multiple sources add information over social media, blogs, and videos as the news story is happening. It’s an information overload, and opinion often clouds facts.
The goal of data journalism is to be the one who provides context to an event and aims to explain what it really means.
An excellent example of data journalism is a story ProPublica published about animal extinction across the globe. Using data from recent biology studies, they found that today’s extinction rates rival those during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Journalism In The Age of the Open Web
At the risk of beating a dead horse, the open web has changed everything. The way we consume data will never be the same.
Data used to come in a fixed, complete form. Books, newspapers, and documentaries. When you received it, it was finished and in its final form.
With digital news in the open web, your news source is almost a living, breathing thing. It is always changing, always evolving, and continuously being developed. That blog post you just read could be edited and revised several times over.
There is information everywhere that people consume anytime they want. They don’t need to go to the store to buy a book or a newspaper anymore. All they have to do is reach into their pocket and enter a quick Google search, and they’ll discover a wealth of knowledge on the subject.
Today’s journalists face a new set of challenges. They’re no longer the runaway experts in the fields they write in. Today, their readers may be smarter, and better informed than they are.
Now if you don’t listen to them, work with them, work for them, give them what they want and need, they’ll go somewhere else. And there are plenty of other places they can go.
What Journalism Is Missing Today
Even with the rise of the internet, 24/7 news stations, social media, and smartphones, something is missing from today’s journalism.
We’re more connected to the news that we’ve ever been. News companies have journalists working around the clock that can push us a story as it happens, no matter when it happens.
We’re more informed than we’ve ever been, and we have limitless choices of where we want to consume our news. So, what are we missing? The answer is simple.
The one thing journalists don’t have on their side anymore is time. They have to be first. They have to be fast. They don’t have time anymore to become deeply engrossed in their stories. They don’t have time to learn and ponder on their stories. They rely on quotes from other experts to shape their stories.
True investigative journalism is an art that is slowly fading. One of the main reasons is the money isn’t there for it anymore. Doing a real investigative piece takes a lot of time, which in turn takes a lot of money.
The ad revenue they’d earn for the story would likely be a small fraction of what it cost to produce it. Because of this, investigative journalism is being replaced by 5-10 blog posts a day that will never have as much substance as an actual investigative piece.
Battling Fake News
Something else that has come with the age of the internet is the rise of “fake news.” Anyone with a computer and internet access has the ability to make their own website and write news stories. However, not everyone is an educated journalist.
Your neighbor down the street that starts his own blog isn’t going to follow the same standards that the mainstream journalists follow. I mentioned earlier that journalism is meant to put the public good over everything else. That’s not always the case with the hundreds of blogs that pop up daily.
Most people that start those blogs are worried about pushing their own agenda and voicing their opinion. They only use facts that support their cause and ignore the rest.
Then they call everything that doesn’t support their opinion or push their cause fake news. When in reality, fake news is everything that isn’t based on fact and data.
Anyone can post their opinion, but not everyone can be a journalist. So when the news is so saturated by blogs and websites only worried about what fits in their narrative, how do we know who to trust? How do we separate fact from fiction?
We must keep an eye on the source. We need to be sure that the website or blog, or even Twitter account, that we’re getting our news from is only reporting facts without the bias of their opinion.
Here is a list of a few large journalism brands that report real facts, not alternative facts.
- The New York Times – Some consider the New York Times the most influential publication around. The NYT upholds ethical standards of reporting and includes the classic elements of journalism in America.
- The Wall Street Journal – The Wall Street Journal is the largest circulated newspaper in the US. The WSJ is still the top brand among daily business publications in the entire world. It has won several Pulitzer Prizes for editorials and columns that are backed up by thorough fact-based reporting and bold arguments.
- The Washington Post – The Washington Post is the paper that brought down Nixon during the Watergate Scandal, and it upholds it’s intellectual traditions today. Under the ownership of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the Post is perhaps the most forward-thinking publication of the day while winning Pulitzer Prizes, hiring the best and brightest reporters and producing big scoops.
The Need to Support Journalism
Even with all the fake news and alternative facts that run rampant today, journalism is still critical for ours, and any democracy in the world. We can’t let the bad apples tarnish our opinions of the journalists with integrity that report facts and information.
The most important function of journalism is to convey information. This is a critical part of the democratic decision-making system because it brings transparency and makes sure that the decisions being made reflect what the people really want.
When people claim that the media is the enemy, they are doing a disservice not only to the real journalists but to the people in their society. Without a free press, the line between fact and fiction will be blurred, opening up a Pandora’s box of problems.
While there are problems that need to be fixed, journalism at its core is desperately needed.
We Live In A New World
We’re no longer dependent on a single news source anymore. We have more information available to us than ever before. The freedom we have to access and share news is a fantastic thing, but it also comes with great responsibility.
Our access to data and news sources from around the globe is absolutely incredible. The amount of good we can create due to the open web can change the world.
But it can also cause hate and divide entire nations. Anyone can post their opinion and call it fact. They can disregard fact and call it fake news. The potential for hostility is just as high as the potential for good.
Journalism isn’t the issue. Journalism at its core is the process of spreading news and information. We have to protect journalism and instead go after the entities perverting it.
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.
This blog is an excerpt from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers as a companion to the Voice America show aired on November 20, 2018, Love at Work: The Essential Guide to a Life of Inspired Purpose. This show was a conversation with Olivia Parr-Rud with host Maureen Metcalf talking about their aspirations and visions as successful leaders.
If you plan annual goals, this blog will serve as a helpful foundation. It spells out the exercise to define your personal vision and gives an example of Demetrius as he completed the exercise.
It is important to note that many people will complete this exercise and still not have a clearly articulated vision—this is because defining personal vision requires a great deal of introspection for most people. While some people grow up knowing what they want to do for a living, others find that identifying a vision is a process of gradual exploration and will take more time and energy than completing a single workbook exercise. You will likely refine your vision as you progress through blog posts based on the information you learn about yourself. Because the visioning process is iterative in nature—a process of self-discovery—these exercises in this book will serve as the foundation for a longer process that may take considerably more time to complete. It will likely change as you gain experience and as your introspective process matures.
Define Personal Vision
Follow the steps defined below:
- Step 1: Create a picture of your future. Imagine yourself at the end of your life. You are looking back and imagining what you have done and the results you have created.
- What is the thing of which you are most proud?
- If you had a family, what would they say about you?
- What did you accomplish professionally?
- What would your friends say about you?
For the rest of this exercise, let that future person speak to you and help you set a path that will enable you to look back with pride and say things like, “I feel fulfilled and at peace. I lived my life well.”
- Step 2: Write a story. Now that you have that image of what you will accomplish, write a brief story about your successful life. Include details about the questions above. Make it a story of what you went through to accomplish each of the results for the questions you answered. What you are trying to create is a roadmap for your journey that gives you more insight into what you would want if you had the option to design your perfect life.
- Who helped you along the way?
- What did you enjoy about your daily life?
- Who was closest to you?
- What feelings did you have as you accomplished each milestone along the way?
- How did you mentor others and contribute to the success of others?
- What did you do to maintain your health?
- What role did spirituality or religion play in your journey?
- What job did you have?
- What role did material success play in your life?
- What type of person were you (kind, caring, driven, gracious)
- Step 3: Describe your personal vision. Given the story you have written and the qualities you demonstrated as a person, write a two to five sentence life-purpose statement—a statement that talks about your highest priorities in life and your aspirations. This statement should capture the essence of how you want to live your life and project yourself.
An example – My vision is to develop myself to my greatest capacity and help others develop and thrive in all aspects of their lives. I will live consciously and courageously, relate to others with love and compassion, and leave this world better for my contribution.
- Step 4: Expand and clarify your vision. If you are like most people, the choices you wrote are a mixture of selfless and self-centered elements. People sometimes ask, “Is it all right to want to be covered in jewels, or to own a luxury car?” Part of the purpose of this exercise is to suspend your judgment about what is “worth” desiring, and to ask instead which aspect of these visions is closest to your deepest desire. To find out, ask yourself the following questions about each element before going on to the next one: If I could have it now, would I take it?
Some elements of your vision don’t make it past this question. Others pass the test conditionally: “Yes, I want it, but only if…” Others pass, but are later clarified and distilled in the process. As you complete this exercise, refine your vision to reflect any changes you want to make.
Example: Demetrius’ Vision Development Process
When I look into the future I want to be proud of the person I have become and the life that I have lived. In particular, I want to ensure that my wife and I have raised a beautiful family in which our children think independently and are able to articulate their own personal visions. I would like for my children to be able to say I have been there for them every step of the way, and allowing them to experience life while guiding them away from danger when possible. For me, family and family interactions are highly valued, so the closest people to me are my wife and our children. However, I don’t discount the close friends I have known since high school and those I’ve met along the journey since college.
Professionally, I want to create an organization whose culture represents my personality: relaxed and laid back, yet focused and driven. I want to create a work environment in which people are excited about their work and where they can accomplish their professional goals. Finally, my organization must take into account our community and to find ways to give back every chance we get.
My vision is to develop myself to my greatest capacity and create a healthy and loving environment in which my family will thrive. I strive to be a friend who can be counted on in every way. I will create a business that delivers value to our clients and community and has a culture where people can thrive and grow personally.
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.
This post is written by guest blogger, Nick Glimsdahl and is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations focusing on Conscious Capitalism with Mark Kovacevich focusing on Conscious Capitalism as a business accelerator.
The great entrepreneur, Vanilla Ice, once said, “Stop, collaborate, and listen”. In today’s business environment, that sage advice can elaborate to: stop and evaluate your current state, collaborate with experts, and listen to your customers.
Business leaders who champion customer-centric business models have stopped, collaborated and listened. And, in today’s digital age, being customer-centric requires a business model to effectively take advantage of current technologies to meet customer expectations.
Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Hence, a company’s business model should first and foremost orbit around the customer, specifically their customer experience (CX), addressing:
- The customer needs and wants
- The current state of the customer experience
- How the customer’s journey can improve
What is Customer Experience and why does it matter?
The customer experience is the new battleground for brand loyalty and a true differentiating factor for companies. It can be defined as the customer’s perception of an organization – often gained through contact center interactions – and how seamless or frustrating that interaction is. Shep Hyken, a customer service expert, author, and speaker said it this way, “A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.”
Beyond perception, CX is about delivering an expected outcome, and while the customer experience looks different for each company, common themes are:
- Response time
- Overall customer satisfaction
- Ability to obtain sought out information effortlessly
A customer experience-centric model considers more than just key customer-company touchpoints; instead, the model considers the entire Omni-channel journey from the customer’s perspective.
There are three ways to measure and improve your customer’s experience:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- NPS® measures customer experience and predicts business growth. (i.e. 0-10 scale on how likely customers would recommend a business to a friend).
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
- CSAT measures how products and services meet or surpass customer expectations. A CSAT score is the sum of respondents answering between “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied”.
- Customer Effort Score (CES)
- CES, measures customer service satisfaction with one single questions. (i.e. The company made it easy to handle an issue).
Mature CX organizations monitor and understand the voice of the customer through these metrics.
Why should business leaders get behind the CX movement?
Forrester research found 71% of business and technology decision makers say that improving Customer Experience is a high priority in the next 12 months. But why? Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors, explained it well: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”
Brand loyalty is not what it was 20-30 years ago. A customer’s experience positively correlates to brand loyalty, and it is much more important because of the ease of switching service providers or ordering a product from Amazon. According to the Temkin Group, 86% of those who received excellent Customer Experience were likely to repurchase from that company, compared to only 13% of those who had a very poor Customer Experience.
The trend of the increasing purchasing ease will continue as will customer-first business models delivering effortless experiences. The remaining question is what businesses will stop and evaluate their current states, collaborate with experts, and listen to their customers?
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
Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.
You don’t need to be a Star Wars devotee to recognize the franchise’s most iconic characters and moments. They’re so well-known that they became memes long before the internet was a thing. Talk about staying power!
While intergalactic adventures might not be for everyone, the themes and messages that creator and director George Lucas instilled in every leap to hyperdrive are. They’re particularly important for leaders of all stripes to take to heart, even if they’re more Team Trekkie than gaga over one Leia Organa.
Ready to soak up some knowledge straight from the stars? Read on for our favorite leadership lessons from Star Wars.
Know When to Ask for Help
One of the hallmarks of a great leader isn’t that they have all the answers; it’s that they know what they don’t know and they’re not afraid to ask for help. Case in point: Leia, princess of Alderaan and general in the Resistance.
Our introduction to Leia as a character is through her holographic SOS call to Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. While she seems like a damsel in distress, that illusion is quickly destroyed. Instead, Leia is revealed to be a fierce leader who can and does join the fight. Still, she knows she won’t win without assistance—and neither will you. Go ahead, raise your hand and make the ask, already!
Put Your Plans into Action – Remember, Real Leadership is More Experimentation than Certainty
The most effective Leaders know that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Sound familiar? It’s Murphy’s Law, and 99 percent of the time, it’s right on the money. Just because you’re worried about your next great idea taking a nosedive, though, it doesn’t mean you should stay in perpetual planning mode. At some point, you need to leap. You need to do.
When leaders take the on the “mindset of a scientist” they don’t expect to be right. They will be directionally correct and take action that is scaled appropriately for an experiment or proof of concept before they take big action that could increase the organizational risk profile.
Leadership is about the right balance between thinking, preparing and. This iconic Yoda moment says it all: Do or do not. There is no try.
A leader doesn’t pussyfoot around an issue. Leaders minimize risk—that’s where the preparation comes in. When they’re reasonably sure they have a handle on a situation (good at developing experiments), they go for it, knowing that the results won’t be perfect. There will be course corrections. There will be mistakes. There will be starts and stops and learning along the way. But if you don’t start—if you don’t push that big red button—you’re never going to move forward. And, as a leader, that’s your job.
Trust Your Instincts and Verify
Our instincts have evolved over 200,000 years to become highly accurate sensors for risky situations. That gut instinct we talk about is valuable because it tells you instantly when something is a no-go and when you should proceed with caution. Whether you live in the Star Wars universe or your feet are firmly planted on planet Earth, this sort of heads-up system is essential to making good choices for the future.
Of the original trio of Star Wars characters, Luke is the most emotional. He’s the most in touch with his feelings and his instincts, which makes sense, given his natural talent for channeling the Force. And, goodness knows, he needs it! From the moment Luke Skywalker encounters R2D2 and C3PO, his life is a wild ride packed with death traps, rescue missions, and daredevil stunts. He relies on his instincts the way any leader or future leader should: to let him know when he should proceed and to decide if he needs more preparation. The best leaders balance the ability to trust their instincts with a highly developed ability to analyze situations and get input from others. Luke looked to Yoda and others as he honed this ability. By balancing inner wisdom (the force) with strong reliance on data and trusted others who will see your blind spots, you will be well prepared to act and learn.
Give Prompt Feedback
Saving up all your dos and don’ts for an end-of-year review isn’t an effective management strategy. To get the most out of your team, you should offer in-the-moment feedback when it’s most useful—and when they can apply your corrections and make changes on the fly. Sitting on your complaints and stewing over pet peeves isn’t good for anyone, and it won’t result in a top-notch project.
Feedback can and should take the form of learning from your action/experiments in the form of “after action analysis” for the team and project. It should also include personal learning – what was each individual’s role in the success and contribution to the short falls? Having the courage as a leader and as a participant to build on strengths and correct mistakes and short falls is necessary. This also assumes you as the leader have created a culture where mistakes are the fuel of learning not torture. Think of the many hours Jedi’s trained with Yoda. With each success and each failure, they took the feedback as an opportunity to build skills. If Yoda was not brutally honest, the Jedi would die in battle. Withholding honest feedback reflects weakness in the leader. Yes, it is hard and required to create a world class organization.
To be clear: Do not Force-choke or otherwise torture, assault, or threaten your employees. Whether you have thousands of followers awaiting your command or not, it’s better to lead by respect rather than fear like Darth Vader. Still, we appreciate that he … ahem … nips problems in the bud instead of lets them fester.
Always Look for Silver Linings – Positivity is Contagious
Cynicism and snark might be popular, but they won’t do you any good when you’re leading a group of people. Hope inspires. Optimism motivates. Purpose inspires. Results inspire. Opportunities for growth inspire.
You don’t have to go around like a modern-day Pollyanna but do try to keep one eye on the good in every situation, even while you take stock of the bad. As we build a culture of action and experimentation, each action will have successes and failures. It is the leader and the organization that can honestly learn and grow that will win. This is only possible by finding the success along with the course correction. Everyone’s favorite bad boy does it, so can you!
It always seems a little incongruous that someone so rough-around-the-edges and practical as Han is also so positive when the Rebels, and, later, the Resistance, are fighting a seemingly unwinnable war against the Dark Side. The hope he has is what keeps him pushing forward, and that’s something we could all do with a little more of.
At the end of every Star Wars movie, the prevailing lesson is that a win doesn’t come straight from the top. While leadership is essential, it’s a team exercise—and that’s a lesson George Lucas and his cast of characters never let us forget.
As you apply these Star Wars leadership lessons to real-world situations, we have one more tidbit to share: May the Force be with you.
This is a guest blog by Greg Moran as a companion to the Voice America show aired on September 4, 2018, Leadership Happy Hour: Aspirations- Fuel for Results. This show was a conversation with Greg Moran and Terri Bettinger with host Maureen Metcalf.
During that episode, we explored ways that aspiration affects outcomes – particularly as it relates to people in their careers. What people believe is possible in their lives has a huge impact on what they end up getting accomplished. Our dreams/vision statements/goals (pick your word) initiate the creative tension in us that drives us forward until we achieve. In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
As a follow on to this discussion, I wanted to illustrate using my own life as an example. In May of 2016, I left a highly compensated job at a Fortune 100 company. Over the ensuing months, I did some consulting, began working with a fledgling startup and did the normal headhunter thing. I ended up picking 2 companies to interview with and received C level offers from both, the lower of which was a 30% raise from what I’d been making in my last job. I ended up turning down both job offers and taking a 90% pay cut from what I could’ve been making to join the fledgling startup. This seems like an odd move for a 51-year-old at the peak of his earning curve. So why did I do it?
Aspiration, of course!
How can taking a pay cut and giving up all my resources as a C level exec be aspirational? Seriously, I went from having 2,000 people on my team (my team was large enough that I had a group that did nothing but report the operational data from my shop) to being one of the people that regularly take the trash out at a startup.
For me, it is all about learning and growing. As I evaluated my future back in the summer of 2016, I realized that going back into a corporate role was not going to teach me anything – in fact the reason I got the offers is because I knew the answers to all the questions the CEO’s threw at me. I found I was experiencing a strong allergic reaction to re-entering the corporate world with little hope of growth.
What excited me about the startup, now known as Wiretap, was the chance to not only work on a worthy product with a small group of people I trusted and shared values with, but also the chance to learn and grow. I was energized by the challenge of re-inventing myself as a professional who knew how to start a company and build a value chain from scratch. I was energized by the challenge of completely re-booting my professional network from a bunch of corporate staffers and the people that sold stuff to them to the people who fund and grow companies. I honestly knew nothing meaningful about that world.
The key to this was finding both courage and humility. The courage was about believing – aspiring to successfully launch a company. The humility is about accepting the reality that any prior success or power/resources tied to my past positions and success were almost completely irrelevant in this new context. On top of that, I had to re-create all my mental models about risk, leadership, capital deployment, etc.
So, how’s it going? IT.HAS.BEEN.AWESOME! …not because I’ve achieved some big pay day (that is not my goal – I would consider this pivot a staggering success if I broke even on my corporate career), but rather because I found once again the joy and power of aspiration when you don’t know the answers or even the destination. The power of not knowing the answers but believing you can find them. Feeling compelled to work hard to find the answers – not because they seem impossible (though sometimes they do), but because you believe in your soul that they are possible. Embracing the pressure of knowing that if you don’t solve the problems you face, then a lot of people you are on this journey with won’t get to experience the high of doing something that very few people truly get to do. We are giving life to a new organization – a community that has a unique culture and a set of differentiated capabilities that has never existed in the world before!
I’ll pause there with this story, because there are many chapters to write and I must get back to work! If you are still unclear of the message, go back and re-read the Goethe quote 3 times. Cheers to a 2019 filled with aspiration in your life!
About the Author
Greg Moran is a C-level digital, strategy and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience. He is the COO of Wiretap in Columbus and sits on the board of Koios Medical in NYC. He led corporate strategy for Ford and designed the plan that Alan Mullaly used to turn around the company. Greg held C-level IT positions in app dev, infrastructure and core banking applications at Ford, Nationwide Insurance and Bank One/JPMC, respectively. He began his career in consulting with Arthur Andersen/Accenture, working across industries with ~100 companies over the course of a decade. He is passionate about leadership and culture and teaches part time on the topic at Ohio University.
With 2018 coming to a close, many of us are looking to 2019 and beyond. This article was originally published on Forbes.com in August 2018 summarizing the trends that emerged from the last 100 interviews conducted on Voice America Radio, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations interview series. It is the companion to an interview between Christopher Washington, PhD and Maureen Metcalf Top Leadership Trends in 2018 and beyond.
I host a weekly radio show that helps leaders update how they lead. The interviews are with key business leaders, global leaders, thought leaders, authors and academics. Each year, I publish the main themes we discuss on the show as well as in my consulting work with senior executives around the world.
I have now completed more than 150 interviews, and volatility was a recurring theme. This article is a synthesis of what we can take away as key factors for leaders and executives to focus on for the next four years.
1. Leaders must pay attention to trends and predictions.
As the rate of change accelerates, if you take a “wait and see” stance, you will be caught unprepared. The intersection of volatility, changes in technology and global interconnection means there are threats and opportunities on all fronts and a large pool of organizations poised to leverage both. Speed continues to matter.
2. Leaders and their organizations are becoming agiler.
A McKinsey survey of more than 2,500 organizations of different sizes, specialties and regions reported that “37 percent of respondents said their organizations are carrying out company-wide agile transformations, and another 4 percent said their companies have fully implemented such transformations. The shift is driven by proof that small, multidisciplinary teams of agile organizations can respond swiftly and promptly to rapidly changing market opportunities and customer demands.”
As leaders, it’s important to adopt a nimble mindset and culture. Being nimble means paying attention to trends and identifying small “experiments” you can run to keep up with or even ahead of the changes happening around you. Once you are clear about what will work for you and how it will work, pilot that change. Truly agile companies are always experimenting.
3. Organizations and their people must accelerate their pace of learning.
With an increase in agility, people and organizations will need to accelerate learning. In 1978, Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Chris Argyris wrote Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective. This work continues to evolve and increase in importance, as learning provides a competitive advantage.
Take, for example, how organizations are automating more work. Employees who continue to learn and update their skills will be able to find new roles, while others who are not continually learning will be left unemployed or underemployed as their roles diminish.
4. Age range in the workforce will continue to expand.
As life expectancy continues to increase, many people will want to and need to work longer. Organizations will need to find ways to attract and engage older workers. They will also need to address the dynamics created when multiple generations of employees are working together on the same team.
With the decrease of age-based seniority, leadership will be taken by the best person for the role and will likely shift frequently in an agile environment. Organizations need to be creative in promoting engagement and teamwork across multiple generations.
5. Leaders need to identify and build talent at an increasing rate.
As technology evolves and organizations change more quickly, employees need to learn faster, and organizations need to identify workers to fill changing talent needs. Some of these needs will fall in the technology space, but not all.
We referenced older employees remaining in the workforce and returning. We also need to find ways to engage talent who have been previously overlooked. This could mean people leaving incarceration, people with disabilities who would, in fact, be great fits for certain roles, or adults who work from home because they are caregivers to their children or parents, to name a few.
6. Employee engagement will continue to be important in volatile times.
The importance of human interaction will continue to increase even as more of the workforce is working remotely – many rarely, if ever, meeting their colleagues. Leaders and organizations need to focus on soft skills such as emotional intelligence that have a strong impact on engagement and the effort employees put into communicating.
7. Communities must come together to solve quality-of-life and economic issues.
With the level of change, segments of the economy can easily be excluded from the workforce. The gap between economic haves (those with education, access and resources) and have-nots can increase, and the cost can be significant for the individuals, families and businesses impacted by a worker shortage.
Successful regions create organizations to tackle these challenges. This means organizations that traditionally compete for resources and clients also need to work together to solve challenges that impact them.
8. Effective leaders are conscious of their impact across a broad range of factors and stakeholders.
As we talk about conscious capitalism, the main idea is that “conscious” organizations tend to the health of a broad range of stakeholders. It becomes increasingly important to pay attention to the needs of competing stakeholders and balance these demands. Conscious capitalism is one mechanism that helps leaders explore the broader range of stakeholders and understand their drivers.
Business is getting more complicated and requires leaders to continually update their skills as well as their mindset and focus. This article summarizes some of my key learnings.
As a leader, are you seeing similar trends? What’s missing? What are you doing to prepare yourself and your organization to succeed during the next four years?
Maureen Metcalf, CEO of Metcalf & Associates is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.
This post is from a Forbes article written by Maureen Metcalf in collaboration with Brad Circone. It is the companion to a Voice America interview with Brad, From Banding to Branding: How the Wisdom of Rock n Roll taught The Artful Discipline of Leadership on the Voice America Radio Show, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on December 5, 2017.
Given the pace of change across industries, and specifically, the pace of change leaders are required to personally keep, do you refresh your brand as your ecosystem changes? And do you, as a leader, live that brand?
A brand can be one of the biggest differentiators for an organization, whether positive or negative. It impacts what feelings are evoked when people interact with a product. Some of the most successful brands, like Google and Apple, invest a great deal in defining and living out their brand.
Brand equity often drives revenue, customer retention and price. Everyone in the company should live the brand. As leaders, we are key brand stewards — it is critical for us to have a clear picture of what the brand is, how it behaves and to humbly respect it enough to follow it. Your brand runs your company too.
1. Identify your organization’s mission, vision and guiding principles.
As leaders, we use these as the basis for all decisions. Here’s the guiding principle of a public radio station in Columbus, Ohio, of which I’m a board member: “This station will be the home of creativity and innovation in all forms of audio content — journalism, music, fiction, culture, and art — regardless of platform. We’ll accomplish this by helping every colleague explore and achieve his or her full potential, all in the service of bolstering our community and improving humanity.”
This purpose is grounded in action by leaders who use a set of behavioral guidelines and agreements that support making this possible. One key area of focus is seeing the best in everyone on the team and promoting experimentation.
2. Position the brand.
Determine how to position the company and the subsequent brand offering to evoke the feelings you want people to experience when they interact with you.
In the case of the public radio station above, its leaders selected the brand based on both internal capabilities and the gap they saw in the market. The station regularly hears from listeners who say they support the news hour and that the local content keeps them informed and connected. They also hear from local musicians who say the airtime they got launched their successful careers when others would not give them a chance. They are experimenting with several elements of funding and content to remain valuable.
When talking about the feelings they want their listeners to experience, leaders’ goals include: a feeling of connectedness at home and in the community, feeling intellectually challenged and informed and a feeling that they, too, can experiment to accomplish greater results in their lives. They want to inspire the community to grow and evolve.
3. Personalize the brand’s attributes.
If your brand was a person, who would that person be and what would they do? Leaders must take the perspective of their brand avatar when making key decisions.
As the founder of a coaching firm, our avatar is now evolving to reflect the leadership team, and more importantly, the brand our clients want that will inform our actions and preserve our promises. As change accelerates, leaders are feeling increasingly overwhelmed.
Having an external thought partner and advisor who works confidentially and addresses their biggest challenges gives a sense of support and confidence. We call this avatar “The Brand of Yoda.” Yoda prepared Luke to fight the Dark Side. He was eminently wise, able to teach complex skills and thinking, and he was supportive and tough. Luke not only had different skills, he was significantly more effective because he saw himself and the world differently.
4. Amplify leadership behaviors and internalize the brand message.
To ensure leaders consistently live the brand, it is critical that they understand and amplify the behaviors they expect from not only themselves but everyone in the organization. Once brand attributes are clear, it is important to identify how one lives the brand.
Our company is committed to transforming leaders, therefore, each member lives the brand as Yoda, supporting client transformation. This behavior requires foundational agreements about how our team members and our strategic partners operate to ensure we reinforce the agreed-upon brand platform.
5. Activate external messaging.
Once leaders know how to live the behaviors called forth by the brand, it is important to clarify external messaging and activate it. This is where knowing becomes doing.
How do you convey your differentiation, the value you add, and create the feeling you want to evoke? It is important that all brand image elements and content are immutably aligned, from written to visual to behavioral. This messaging is informed by each prior step.
We, for example, are currently updating our own materials to convey our balance between leading, thinking and research, and the personal connections we create with our clients to help them make the changes they seek. This must be activated through our brand at every touch, relentlessly.
As a leader, if you are trying to amplify the value of your company by leveraging the brand, it is critical that you live it and lead others to do the same. Irrespective of an employee’s role within the company, they represent the brand. When one associates them with their role within the company, they are representing the brand and therefore help control and determine its ability to be loved or be left quietly alone.
Are your leadership behaviors increasing brand equity and building on the feeling you want your customers to have when they interact with your organization?
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.”
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:
- Increasing your ability to distinguish between problems you can solve and those you cannot; and
- Increasing your ability to manage those unsolvable problems that I call workplace dilemmas or polarities
You will be more effective for the following reasons:
- You will save time and energy by not trying to solve those difficulties that are unsolvable.
- You will have a better understanding of resistance to organizational changes you want to make.
- You will be more effective in negotiating with those opposing your changes.
- You will be more effective in negotiating with those who are proposing changes you do not want.
- 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.
- You will be able to anticipate and minimize problems that occur when workplace dilemmas, or polarities, are not managed well.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Unless otherwise noted, quotations in this book are from our interviews conducted between September 2016 and June 2017.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- P. Drucker, “Managing Oneself,” in The Drucker Lectures: Essential