Posts

Leading as Influencers in Mergers and Acquisitions

Happy Smurf VillageImplementing a project when in a role other than leader presents a series of challenges, and yet, it is critical for organizations to leverage the skills of a broad range of people (not all in formal leadership roles) to successfully implement complex change. This post, co-authored by a team of successful Corporate Development mergers and acquisitions (M&A) leaders, is the first in a series that looks at the mindset of a high-influence leader during M&A. The primary thought leader on the competency model is Mike Morrow-Fox.

The series will focus on the influencers – leaders or team members – that create the highest probability of success in complex transactions. This is important because often, the person in the highest leadership role will function best when paired with an individual who demonstrates the mindsets described in these articles. An example is the partnership between George Bush and Colon Powell:  Powell demonstrated the mindset described by the six characteristics below. While he was a very senior leader, he also influenced others more senior to him in how they behaved and the decisions they made.

It is the role of influence we are writing about, achieved, in part, by seven critical characteristics of the leader’s mindset. Mindset impacts how leaders behave in every situation. Very few leaders, however, consistently demonstrate these characteristics. Our research shows that 1-5% of US leaders can – so this list is more aspirational than it is a shopping list.

  1. Professionally humble – Cares about getting it right ahead of being right
  2. Dogmatically committed to right action – Is unstoppable and unflappable when on a mission
  3. A 360-degree thinker – Has a “balcony view” of the business; is able to step back and observe the overall organization and the interconnected impacts
  4. Intellectually versatile – Has developed interests, expertise, and curiosity beyond the job and organization
  5. Highly authentic and reflective – Is not constrained by personal appearance but is highly focused on personal behavior
  6. Able to inspire followership – Has a special ability to connect with people at all levels of the organization to create a shared vision
  7. Innately Collaborative – Welcomes collaboration in a quest for novel solutions that serve the highest outcome for all involved 

In this series, we will explore these competencies related to M&A and connect them to specific examples of how they drove success, and how an organization struggled when they were not present.

One real-world example involves a recently closed transaction that left participants of the acquired institution feeling angry. Their dissatisfaction stems from the failure of the seller’s leadership team to attend to agreements they had with employees when financial difficulties threatened to close the firm. The organization operated with a shared governance model, where decisions were made jointly by the leadership team and staff representatives. The leadership team did not address the financial issues head on, nor did they involve staff representatives when deciding to sell the organization. Their inability to tackle the problem turned an otherwise reasonable transaction into a distressed sale that precluded the leadership team from performing any reverse diligence or negotiating details that would have put their employees on solid footing in the new organization. Though the acquiring firm appeared to be similar, it operated very differently on a day-to-day basis in ways that were material to the seller’s employees.

The situation degraded shortly after the announcement – which came out of the blue to people who should have known what was happening. Not only was the governance model not honored, the leaders’ actions caused many employees to face job loss and others to lose hard-earned “rank” when transitioning to the new organization.

Their sense of betrayal caused significant disruption beyond what would have been expected for a transaction of this type. The seller’s leadership team, who saw the move as strategic genius rather than a distressed sale resulting from poor financial decisions and lack of management wherewithal, was referred to as the “happy Smurf village.” Staff disengaged almost completely at the expense of their customers, and the acquiring organization had to scramble to stabilize the situation and prevent the value from further eroding.

The leadership team’s primary failure was their ability to be 360-degree thinkers. The three specific mindsets and skills associated with this trait are:

  1. Innately understands the systems, constraints, perceptions, near-term, long-term, and secondary impacts of business strategy and decisions, and how to transform them to achieve amazing results
  2. Balances competing commitments of multiple constituents on a regular basis
  3. Thinks in terms of systems, dialogues, and transformations when focusing on constraints and perceptions – considers the organizational context when making recommendations

The happy Smurf village/leadership team did not take the overall system into account because its members did not have a complete understanding of it. They did not comprehend the near-term consequences of their decisions, so could not – and did not – consider the long-term and secondary impacts of their decision to sell. Additionally, they did not attend to significant business issues with the urgency required. They did not aggressively cut costs when initially facing financial challenges, nor did they seek out an acquirer while they still had bargaining strength.

Their lack of understanding has had a heavy impact on integration, and the probability of either organization garnering the value it expected is very low. If success is measured based on ROI, the failure of the leadership team to employ solid 360-degree leadership has not only had a financial impact on the value realized, it has also affected many families who count on these institutions for their livelihoods. Having a leader on the team who effectively demonstrated 360-degree thinking and could talk the leadership team through the necessary steps to either stop the financial hemorrhaging or strategically position the organization for sale could have changed the entire transaction for the better.

We will continue to explore the six characteristics of leadership mindset in the next blog post.

We are conducting research to quantify specific characteristics of successful M&A leaders using the DEV:Q assessment. If you are interested in participating, check back as we will provide the link in the next few weeks.

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.

If you are interested in receiving the blog in your email box, please sign up in the box on the right labeled get email updates from us. It only takes 30 seconds and you will be sure to receive all future posts.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com simon chirgwin

Eight Behaviors That Differentiate An Innovative Global Leader?

Global LeadershipThe following blog post is an excerpt from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders by Maureen Metcalf, Steve Terrell and Ben Mitchell – Coming April 2014.

Globalization has so rapidly developed over the past 25 years to the point that a significant number of organizations operate today as if the entire world were a single market or entity, comprising many different, interconnected sub-markets, and crossing borders, cultures, time zones, and language differences. This high degree of interconnectedness, brought about through the impact and use of technology, melds with the chaos and continuous change of today’s business environment to create a highly dynamic, complex, borderless, multicultural context within which businesses must learn to operate or suffer the undesirable consequences of being left behind. Organizations must find constructive ways to adapt in order to survive, and the most adaptable organizations will be best positioned to explore all possibilities and to respond with innovative solutions to the complex challenges they face.

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

What are specific behaviors that differentiate an innovative leader from a traditional leader? A successful innovative global leader is one who can continually:

  1. Clarify and effectively articulate vision, and link that vision to attainable strategic initiatives
  2. Develop himself and influence the development of other leaders
  3. Build effective teams by helping colleagues engage their own leadership strengths
  4. Cultivate alliances and partnerships
  5. Anticipate and aggressively respond to both challenges and opportunities
  6. Develop robust and resilient solutions
  7. Develop and test hypotheses like a scientist
  8. Measure, learn, and refine on an ongoing basis

To further illustrate some of the qualities of global innovative leadership, we offer this comparison between traditional leadership and innovative leadership:

Comparison Traditional and Innovative 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.

photo credit: www.flickr.com tellytom

Innovative Leadership Institute to be Featured on Net Worth TV

Metcal & Associates Photo shoot for Net WorthMetcalf & Associates will be featured in an upcoming segment on “Optimizing Productivity and Profitability through Effective Training and Education” as part of the show’s Today in Business series. Filming completed on June 26. We expect it to air in August.

The five-minute Net Worth television segment aims to educate viewers on the valuable role that management consulting and coaching firms like Metcalf & Associates play in supporting businesses. The segment highlights Metcalf & Associates’ innovative strategies and approaches, and features its client, the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.

Net Worth is a television series that takes viewers around the globe following interesting business, healthcare, and financial stories. Hosted by Terry Bradshaw, the program shares first-hand insights from business owners, entrepreneurs and experts in a variety of industries. Net Worth airs nationally and regionally on many popular television networks.

Are you an Innovative Nonprofit Leader?

Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit ExecutivesThis is a guest post by Dani Robbins, co-author of the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives.  The innovative leadership model (developed by Maureen Metcalf) can be used to transform your leadership and, by extension, the nonprofit you lead. Building innovative leadership involves influencing others by engaging your intentions and actions, and aligning them with the organization’s culture and systems.

What does it take to be an innovative nonprofit leader? Is it enough to:

  • name and uphold values that are apparent throughout all aspects of your organization?
  • have a vision and craft plans to meet that vision?
  • create programs that meet the needs of your community?
  • move the needle on the issues your organization was created to address?
  • create and continue human resource processes that ensure that people are not only good at their jobs, but also committed to the team and are helping to move the organization forward?
  • match those systems to the agency’s values?
  • build a great board that governs effectively?
  • build a team that is excited about the work they do—and is appropriate, effective, and efficient in the way they do it?
  • raise money in a way that honors the donor’s intent and meets the need of the agency?
  • manage that money in a transparent, appropriate, and effective manner?
  • inspire, motivate and enable those around you to be successful?

Are these activities enough? They are not. While success in these areas is a great start, it is also critical to continue to improve your leadership skills just as you improve your organization in this dynamic world.

A few examples of leadership skills to continue building include strengthening your resilience, improving your ability to build coalitions, and enhancing your ability to maintain focus during challenging times. The challenge for most of us is that we’re not great at executing all of the above. Most of us are great at some of the above, try to understand how to implement a few of the above, and haven’t previously considered the remainder of the above. How do we improve our organizations, and also who we are as leaders?

We start where we are, with what we have, and figure out a plan to get us where we want to be. The Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives is a great place to start your journey, and not just because I co-wrote it, but because it’s what I needed—but couldn’t find— when I became an executive.

The workbook provides leaders with field-tested processes and worksheets to innovate how they lead to keep pace in a dynamic environment, and includes a diverse discussion of the scope of responsibilities for which a CEO is responsible to successfully lead a community-based nonprofit. Let us lead you on a comprehensive development process, including worksheets, tools, and reflection questions, and a case study detailing one CEO’s experience.

In the article 3 Things that Separate Leaders from Managers by Vivian Giang (originally posted on Open Forum), the number one thing was: The leader innovates whereas the manager administers.” How do you learn to innovate not only what your organization does, but who you are and how you lead? Start here!

Are you considering improving your ability to be an innovative and effective leader? If so, take this free online Innovative Leadership assessment to determine where you fall on the innovative leadership scale. If you are looking for tools to help develop your ability to be an innovative leader, check out the 2012 International Book Award winning Innovative Leadership Fieldbook. Metcalf & Associates, Inc., offers assessments, coaching, and workshops to help you and your leadership team become more innovative and effective leaders and improve your organizational success.

Leadership Boosts the Bottom Line

The Seventh Annual Hay Group Study finds leadership boosts the bottom line. Best companies outperform the S&P 500 almost 2x over 10 years.  The study was quite comprehensive and the key findings worth reading.  We will focus on a small subset in this post.

According to the study, “The Best Companies for Leadership distinguish themselves by their ability to develop well-rounded, multifaceted talent within their organizations,” said Susan Snyder, senior principal in Hay Group’s Leadership and Talent practice and co-leader of the Best Companies for Leadership Study. “As innovation increasingly becomes a key differentiator for companies worldwide, best-in-class organizations are doing more to train and develop their people, celebrate diversity, reward collaboration and establish an environment that fosters innovation, creating a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

In fact, the Best Companies for Leadership consistently outperform their peers. Over a 10 year period, the Top 20 companies produced a 5.39 percent shareholder return, compared to a 2.92 percent shareholder return generated by the S&P 500.

You have heard this before and here is another study that confirms what you either knew or imagined to be true.  So, what do you do about it?  You may not work for one of the global top 20 best companies and yet you want to improve how you lead.  What can you do?

  1. Buy the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook (I know blatant self-promotion) or upcoming workbooks (the series will create the pathway to develop innovative leadership from individual contributor  through executive). These books provide a comprehensive approach and worksheets that are self-paced and cost effective.
  2. Form a “book  club” for leadership development – create a group of colleagues and peers who have a shared desire to improve. It can be people within your company or outside.
  3. Develop practices or routines that support your ability to refine how you lead and sustain the changes long term.
  4. Teach others what you are learning-  by teaching it you will learn more.
  5. Create a culture that supports the changes you are making – not just for yourself but for as much of the organization as you can influence.
  6. Evaluate the performance management systems within your purview and ensure they support the leadership changes you are making in yourself and encouraging others to make.
  7. Take a class that helps you build on your strength or fill a gap.
  8. Work with a coach.

There are lots of barriers that get in our way and yet, most of us have the ability to take some small action every day to move forward and become a much stronger leader. What can you do today? tomorrow? next week?  What can you do to remove the barriers to taking small steps?

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.

To receive future blog posts in your mailbox, enter your name in the subscribe box on the right column.

Is Your Leadership Creating or Destroying Value?

width= According to a report published by Deloitte on March 29, 2012 revealing just how market perceptions of leaders move share prices. See excerpt from report below:

“In surveys and interviews in the United Kingdom, United States, China, India, Japan and Brazil, stock market analysts told Deloitte they’d award significant premiums for effective leadership and levy sizeable discounts for its opposite.

Deloitte discovered an average premium of 15.7% and an average discount of 19.8% – making the potential gap between the value of a company with good leadership and that of a company with weaker leadership an astonishing 35.5%.

It is clear that company valuations go up or down partly according to the perceived quality of leaders. The paper, The Leadership Premium, finds that analysts look beyond financial ratios to the broader picture of public and press opinion and corporate governance, to core leadership capabilities and to personal qualities such as honesty and integrity.

Simon Holland, head of Deloitte’s global change and transformation practice, comments: “To succeed over the long term, an organization needs a clear and inspiring vision of where it wants to be and the resources, ability and drive to get there. It also needs a culture that supports new ideas and that fosters a strong sense of belonging and purpose. These conditions aren’t developed accidentally: effective leaders design them in, and analysts recognize that.”

We believe one of the five key elements of Innovative Leadership is what we call situational analysis and alignment. This involves having a clear personal and organizational vision. Once you know where you are going, it’s important to evaluate the systems, processes, people and culture to determine where there are gaps and areas of misalignment.

We used this process when the CIO of a global manufacturing business accepted the position. He conducted a thorough visioning and current state assessment process where he evaluated both the organization and the leaders. The vision and assessment results allowed him to identify the short and long-term barriers to what he could accomplish and create an action plan to overcome those barriers. This process was invaluable to his success.

If analysts are looking at the broader picture of core leadership capabilities and personal qualities, what are you doing to build your own capabilities? Do you have a clear and inspiring vision? Does your culture align with your vision? Have you built systems that will allow you to achieve your vision? Are your leadership behaviors aligned with the vision, systems and culture?

Are you considering improving your ability to be an innovative leader? If so, take this free on-line Innovative Leadership assessment to determine where you fall on the innovative leadership scale. If you are looking for tools to help develop you ability to be an innovative leader, check out the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook. Metcalf & Associates offers assessments, coaching and workshops to help you and your leadership team become more innovative.

To receive future blog posts in your mailbox, enter your name in the subscribe box on the right column.

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.

Leadership Lessons from the Susan G. Komen Foundation

This is a guest post by Dani Robbins, a Metcalf & Associates, Inc. Associate.

As we all know by now, the Susan G. Komen Foundation Board of Directors adopted and then quickly revised (in response to fierce opposition) a policy that disallowed financial support to organizations that are under investigation, even politically motivated investigations, after a Florida Republican began an investigation into Planned Parenthood to assess if any Federal funding was being used to support abortions.

It all took less than a week, but during that week, some powerful leadership lessons emerged.

Let’s start in Philadelphia from whence the article entitled Komen foundation needs cure for backlash over Planned Parenthood cutoff hails. The article says ”The Susan G. Komen foundation, a behemoth in breast cancer philanthropy and creator of the immensely successful Race for the Cure brand, is battling a public-relations debacle. Within hours of Tuesday’s news that Komen would stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood for breast health services, donations began pouring in to the family planning organization while pink-ribbon crusaders vowed to cut Komen off.”

Talk about picking a hill to die on! Regardless of if you are pro choice or pro-life, love Planned Parenthood, love Komen, hate one, or hate the other, the Komen Board found themselves with a PR tsunami. NPR.org called it “one of the worst weeks in terms of public relations of any organization in recent memory.” And Komen is the PR queens of pink.

National Foundation Boards, like many Boards, tend to be filled with very smart, talented, passionate and connected people. I can only surmise that they greatly underestimated the ramifications of their decisions. Or that Board members who did not agree, also did not speak up! Stupid things happen, sometimes because they are allowed to happen.

The Washington Post reported ”Komen has been deluged with negative emails and Facebook postings, accusing it of knuckling under to pressure from anti-abortion groups, since The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the charity was halting grants that Planned Parenthood affiliates used for breast exams and related services. The grants totaled $680,000 last year.” The article goes onto say “Besides $400,000 in smaller donations from 6,000 people, Planned Parenthood is receiving $250,000 from a family foundation in Dallas and a $250,000 pledge announced Thursday by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to match future donations.”

Leadership at any level is hard. Leaders make decisions. Some decisions will be unpopular. Some will be unwelcomed. Some will be unsafe for the leader but right for the organization. “Is this the hill you want to die on?” is a great question to ask before you charge forward.

It may well be the hill you want to die on. We all have values and when we’re lucky and intentional, we work at a place where the values of the company match our values. The question comes up less in this environment but it still comes up, especially if leadership, at the Board or senior level, changes.

What if you work with someone who continues to make sexually charged comments or gestures? You’ve said something to him. (Sorry; it’s usually a him.) You’ve said something to your boss. Where do you take it from there? What is the price?

What if the culture has changed around you? What if a board member/s or manager encourages you to do something you believe is unwise, or unethical or illegal? What if other Board members disagree but remain silent? What if you’re in charge and despite your best efforts to the contrary, you cannot align your values and the organizational values. In those circumstances, it may very well be the hill you want to die on.

What if your women focused work place decides to de-fund another women focused organization? Maybe you charge the hill. Maybe go away quietly. Where do the lines go between burning bridges and refusing to be a part of something that is abhorrent to you?

Mollie Williams, the Komen official who resigned to protest the organization’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood, managed to do both, and to do it brilliantly. She is quoted in The Atlantic as saying “Thank you for contacting me. As a public health professional, I must honor the confidentiality of my former employer, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and for this reason, I ‘m not responding to questions about Komen’s decision to no longer fund Planned Parenthood. The divide between these two very important organizations saddens me. I am hopeful their passionate and courageous leaders, Nancy Brinker and Cecile Richards, can swiftly resolve this conflict in a manner that benefits the women they both serve.”

Now, you might note that other than offering respect, she didn’t say much, but then, again, she didn’t have to. Because she left, and that says it all.

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.

To receive future blog posts in your mailbox, enter your name in the subscribe box on the right column.

Photo credit:  flickr: Gavin St. Ours

5 Benefits of Investing Time in Innovative Leadership

I had lunch with a dear friend and executive yesterday talking about her sense of dread about getting out of bed in the morning and going to work.  She is a very upbeat person so this is a new experience for her.  She believed about 80% of her executive peers had similar dread on a daily basis and really wondered how they could make it through their day.

People are actually hoping the 2012 disaster predictions are true so they can escape the jobs that they dreamt about and worked their entire lives to achieve.  How can that be?

We go to college, take the right stretch assignments, relocate for jobs, and work crazy hours so we can reach this goal – being an executive.  All those sacrifices, time with friends and family, missed events, putting off relationships and family.  Then the question – I gave up so much to get here?  Now what?  Is this really it?

How does this tie to innovative leadership?  Most of the leaders I know are working longer hours than they ever imagined at this point in life.  We all expected to pay our dues and we expected that the long hours and crazy schedules would be rewarded with promotion and an opportunity to live a more balanced life. Many are at the top of their game with regard to skills and abilities and still working crazy hours and feeling burned out.  As they look down the road, what are they working for?

Innovative leadership helps leaders change how they see their role as leaders and develop additional awareness and skills to shift their experience. What do you get from focusing on Innovative Leadership?

  1. It can help you become more self-aware – providing a foundation for different choices and more productive interactions
  2. It can increase your ability to find innovative approaches to solve problems
  3. It can help you change your habitual thinking –  moving away from unproductive thoughts
  4. It can help you become more systematic in your problem solving and decision making – more comprehensive solutions mean more efficiency
  5. It can guide your leadership behaviors to a more generative (less controlling) style – increasing engagement and productivity among your team

So, with those potential benefits – can you afford the time to explore what it is?  Please see our blog post on Innovation Excellence site explaining more about Innovative Leadership – titled Is Your Leadership Innovative.  You can also take the free on-line Innovative Leadership assessment to test your own development.

Based on feedback from busy executives, we are in the process of condensing the highly acclaimed Innovative Leadership Fieldbook into a much shorter workbook format.  While it does not have the depth of information, it is shorter thus requiring less time.  We provide practical tools and templates that help you in your leadership development along with an example of what completed worksheets look like.  You can use this as a stand-alone process or work with a coach. If you as a leader find the content and process helpful, you can use it with your staff to help them develop.

If you are looking for tools to help develop you ability to be an innovative leader, check out the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook.  Metcalf & Associates offers assessments, coaching and workshops to help you and your leadership team become more innovative.

To receive future blog posts in your mailbox, enter your name in the subscribe box on the right column.

Photo credit:  flickr h.koppdelaney

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.

Walk Out Walk On – Meg Wheatley and Deborah Frieze

I attended a discussion this morning led by Meg Wheatley and Deborah Frieze about their latest book about leaders who walked out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities. These Walk Outs Who Walk On use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need.  They were quite compelling and for those studying Innovative leadership their work appears to point to the same or similar qualities as we do (using different language).  They give beautiful examples of how these qualities put to work around the globe produce amazing examples.

Their model may seem radical to many.  Part of the discussion revolved around how do we move to this model when what we have is generally working?  The answer may be that we make the move when we have nothing to lose – focusing on times of crisis.

They told a story of a project in Brazil that involved renovation of a building and creating a park.  The images of the starting place were worse than anything most of us have ever seen and yet they embarked on this journey in a very unorthodox way – doing the work 15 minutes per day.  The “rules of game” dictated that everything was done differently than we typically approach a project.  One thing that struck me was that it created a space for interested people in the community to get involved and take ownership of the project.  The idea that this was a “game” seemed to permeate the entire project.  I refer to these as experiments but really like the idea that it is played like a game – that there is space for curiosity and experimentation and that failure leads to more experimentation.

If you are intersted in learning more, I highly recommend exploring their site.  This is particularly interesting as the Occupy Wall Street movement is showing some signs of walking out.  The next question is what are they walking on to?

What are you walking out of in your life?  What are you walking on to?

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.

Tony Wells – Business Success Linked to Giving Back

Tony Wells created a family foundation in 2001; providing technology and social entrepreneurship grants to nonprofit organizations after selling a successful business he ran with his wife. He designed and funded the concept of GroundWork Group, a shared services model, enabling nonprofits to advance their mission through strategic use of IT. He has also developed and funded the Social Innovation Initiative at Ohio State University (OSU) to design and commercialize socially benefiting technologies. This was the first philanthropic organization to execute a technology license agreement with OSU

Tony was a featured speaker of the TechColumbus 2011 Leadership Series sponsored by Vorys.
Tony  opened his presentation talking about the one trait many of history’s great leaders had in common; a commitment to giving back from an early age. Such examples were: Rockerfeller, Branson, and Oprah to name a short list. While we may look at them as some of the richest people in history, they have also been committed to giving back to those who are less fortunate. I would add to this list Bill Gates and Warren Buffett as two people highly visible on the current world stage.

The core point I took away from Tony’s presentation is the idea that the new generation of leaders is committed to doing well by doing good – they want to make a positive impact in the world while also succeeding financially. While many of us spent our early careers establishing ourselves so we could give back later, this generation wants to do both from day one.

The Tony Wells Family Foundation exists to create the next generation of Social Entrepreneurs and Social Innovations. Their goal is to move social innovations forward, providing experiential learning for the students and create new sources of revenue for our local nonprofits. They are committed to building a vibrant community of social change agents by investing into activities that expands the leadership capacity of nonprofits, students and faculty.

Their unique approach goes beyond the classroom theory and participating in traditional business plan competitions – they actually help build and take socially benefiting products to market.

During the very days that we are seeing protests in hundreds of cities around the world people, with large representation from these young leaders, Tony offers an interesting antidote. His family foundation is funding several initiatives that involve students doing projects to create commercially viable solutions to real problems non-profits are facing. The students spend in many cases months finding innovative product based solutions. They develop business cases to prove the commercial viability. At some point they will involve commercial businesses in the design and manufacturing of the final product. The non-profits then deliver the products as part of their business model.

Many of these products have secondary uses. An example is students created a device to help children with Down’s syndrome manage tasks within time limits. This can also be used for stroke victims and people with other physical challenges. The secondary uses can either fund additional non-profits or be turned into for profit enterprises.

Tony gave lots of statistics and case studies but his message consistently came back to the underlying theme, we can solve many of the problems we are facing by marrying the innovative spirit of entrepreneurs, innovation, a desire to do good in the world, innovative leadership, a family foundation, and a foundation founder who is highly involved and shepherds the process.

The students participating in these programs leave the university with their names on patents and more importantly, they have very important life skills and an awareness of the challenges others face in the world and the ability to DO something about it.

This presentation is an interesting juxtaposition to a lunch presentation at the Columbus Metropolitan Clubwhere Charles W. Gehring, the CEO of LifeCare Alliance, the people who bring us Meals on Wheels, talked about how they created a catering business to help fund the non-profit. At the same lunch, Michelle Heritage, Executive Director of the Community Shelter Boardtalked about her goal of ENDING homelessness in Columbus.

Earlier this morning I attended an Advisory Board Exchangemeeting hosted by Business First where business leaders learn about serving on Boards of Directors. Don DePerro was clear in his conversation that the primary motivation in serving on boards is helping other businesses succeed.

I mention the three meetings I attended today to highlight that even during days that seem so dark to many who are hungry, homeless or worried about their ability to take care of their basic needs, we may also have the solutions to many of these challenges right here in our community. Tony Wells is the role model with his foundation and he is creating opportunities for OSU students to get involved early. LifeCare Alliance is able to deliver meals to hundreds of local residents because they are supported by volunteers – some individuals and some businesses and by a catering business they launched.

Tony talked about his involvement in non-profits early in his career. Before he could afford to donate money, he donated time. Do you have a skill and time to volunteer? Skill can be your core profession, a hobby, or a basic skill like driving meals to people who cannot get out of the house. If you are not already, what can you do to use your talents and creativity to help solve the challenges our community faces?

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.