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The Heart and Soul of Leadership

This week’s article features Jonathan Reams, Director at the Center for Transformative Leadership and the European Center for Leadership Practice.  His interview is a part of the International Leadership Association Series.  These interviews feature guests from the 2021 Annual Conference that was held in Geneva, Switzerland in October of 2021.  The article is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Getting Lost in the Language of Leadership that aired on Tuesday, April 5th, 2022.

Here is a short clip from Jonathan’s interview:

Here is a link to the entire interview:

Leadership is a phenomenon well studied, yet in short supply. There is a gap between knowing and doing.

While there are many good ideas about what leadership is, how to develop and practice it, the gap remains. To close this gap, I want to look beyond ideas, to the heart and soul of leadership.

To get there, I frame the topic in terms of two conceptualizations of leadership, then look at the heart and its role in these concepts. Finally, I offer a fundamental reframing to get to the soul of leadership.

In my Ph.D., I conceptualized leadership as opening space. Opening space brings images of creating something more, making room to maneuver, taking time to think things through. All of these can be leadership. They help us make progress on challenges and achieve goals.

Another conceptualization comes from a friend who defined leadership as self-deployed in circumstance. How we show up and act in each situation shapes the possibilities for making progress or reaching a goal. It is how we open space.

One powerful lens for understanding the self comes from research on adult development.  This research shows how more mature structures and expressions of self can enable more effective leadership.

This self-development shows in how we deploy ourselves, which is essentially an act of communication. What we say makes an impact. Yet we are also aware that the content of our words is only 7% of what we are communicating. A famous study showed that 38% of what we communicate is in how we communicate, in our tone of voice, pointing to the importance of attitude, emotion and the underlying energy we speak from.

The study went even further, saying that 55% of what we communicate is through our body language. We are giving off signals all the time, powerful clues to others on what we expect. These expectations shape the space we create. If what we are communicating at this fundamental embodied level is closing the space, then we are not leading, but widening the gap between knowing and doing.

Let’s take a step back to explore further.

Recent research in neuroscience shows us a new picture of how our brains work. It gives a more holistic conception, where we see that thinking and feeling are inseparable and further, hardwired into our body. Our nervous system is constantly anticipating, actively using our senses to probe for signals of danger (read change) to keep our body surviving.

Within this field, the more specialized study of neurocardiology focuses on the brain in our heart. This cluster of neurons has a powerful impact on the body and brain, or our psychophysiological system. The HeartMath Institute has been doing pioneering research in this field for decades. Central to this is their understanding of several distinct psychophysiological states related to different patterns of heart rate variability (HRV).

Their research shows that emotions such as frustration and anger create a state they characterize as incoherence. This state leads to a host of problematic symptoms, such as depletion of energy, lack of emotional regulation and lowered cognitive functioning. In contrast, emotions of love and appreciation create a state of coherence.

Coherence has far-reaching implications. It positively supports vagal nerve functioning, improves cognitive performance and enables heart-brain synchronization. The rising popularity of tracking HRV as a biofeedback measure is one way of cultivating coherence.

Yet this impressive list of the benefits of coherence is not, in my view, its most important aspect. Research has also shown that the heart generates electrical voltage 60 times stronger than the brain. The magnetic component of this is 5000 times stronger and can be measured several feet from the body. This electromagnetic field can help us understand how the 55% of communication coming from our body language is creating space. Our hearts are sensors for this field. We sense others’ fields and experience it as self-being deployed in circumstances.

This takes us upstream from our usual focus on language and behaviors. It gives us clues about closing the gap between knowing and doing, by shifting attention to the impact of our being.

Cultivating our quality of being has the highest leverage impact on our leadership.

I propose two simple ways to cultivate our quality of being.

The first is something we have easily in reach, a combination of behavioral and attitudinal interventions. Two things contribute the most to generating the psychophysiological state of coherence; holding an emotion of love or appreciation combined with deep breathing. So, remember to breathe – 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out, and hold a heart full of love and appreciation.

The second is to take a step back and reconceptualize being.

Being is commonly associated with the self. Yet our sense of a separate self is actually a mental construct of the psychophysiological system. This has inherent limitations and creates a blind spot in being. Reality is more than our minds conceive.

What we need is a space to regulate the self, our emotions, thoughts and actions; a balcony that is not part of the psychophysiological system.

For this, I propose a simple reconceptualization of being from self to soul. When we talk about heart and soul, we are implying an essence greater than mental constructs like self. In line with the phrase attributed to Teilhard de Chardin, we are spiritual beings having human experiences. We are soul, and have a mind, emotions and body.

What do I mean by soul? I describe it as a creative unit of pure awareness, where awareness is the experiential realization of the virtuality of self. What do I mean by the virtuality of self? We can still experience the self as real; we just don’t take that experience to be all there is. We keep it in context. We open a space to be more.

Closing the gap between what we know about leadership and what we do involves more than just ideas and words. It requires realizing the essence of our being as soul, to open space for how we deploy self in circumstances. We create coherence between soul and self-in-the-world, our conceptions, psychophysiological state and the space we create.

Leading with heart and soul, we close the gap between knowing and doing.

 

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 iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotifyAmazon MusicAudible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Jonathan practices the cultivation of leadership through awareness-based consulting, coaching and action research on leadership development program design and delivery in a variety of settings. He has a position at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), serves as Editor-in Chief of Integral Review, and is a co-founder of the Center for Transformative Leadership and of the European Center for Leadership Practice. He brings awareness-based leadership development practices to his work, focusing on how the inner workings of human nature can develop leadership capacities for today’s complex challenges.

You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanreams.com

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Overhauling the Traditional Work Model

This week we continue the Connex Executive Insights Series, produced in collaboration with Connex Partners, an invitation-only executive network that brings industry leaders together from the worlds of HR and Healthcare.

Connex Members are part of a cutting-edge community, finding actionable solutions to their most pressing business challenges via high-value peer exchanges and curated resources including tools, platforms, partners and c-suite networking opportunities.

Executive Insights Series features highly respected and engaging guests who share novel ideas and practices related to the latest leadership topics.

This week’s article features the work of Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, and Fara Palumbo, their Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer.  It is a companion to her interview on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast episode, titled How HR Drives New Beginnings which aired on Tuesday, March 29th, 2022. 

 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) mobilized quickly to transition our workforce to remote work, an open-ended solution with no fixed date on returning to “normal.” Now, we know that “normal” doesn’t necessarily refer to the way things were. We have a rare opportunity to define what normal is.

For Blue Cross NC, normal means giving our employees a chance to determine working arrangements that work best for them and their families. To that end, we’ve implemented new policies that are intended to achieve three important aims:

  • Overhaul the traditional working model to meet today’s needs
  • Continue to deliver excellent service to our customers
  • Draw and retain the most talented professionals

A New Model for Working 

For more than 80 years, most Blue Cross NC employees gathered daily at a central work location, working side-by-side with colleagues, then heading home to their family and personal responsibilities at the end of the workday. As we’ve seen over the past 18 months, that model was due for a refresh.

After our company’s shift to remote work in early 2020, Blue Cross NC leaders looked at how the change might be affecting productivity. We found very quickly that the shift to telework wasn’t having a negative effect on productivity at all. Our employees embraced working remotely with collaborative enthusiasm.

Together, we confirmed there is a vast difference between a workplace and a workforce. There is no magic that happens when employees gather on a campus or in a building, sitting in department groups, eating in a cafeteria. We found that many of the traditional trappings of office life are no longer relevant.

Blue Cross NC is implementing a hybrid model, with employees – those whose roles allow them to work from anywhere – given the power to choose where they will work. Rather than prescribe working arrangements for employees, we asked staff to decide where they want to work; over 73% have chosen to remain full-time remote, while the remainder wishes to either split their time between home and office or work full-time in the office when it’s safe to do so. It’s also not just about where we work, either. Giving employees more flexibility over when they work is an equally important component of our hybrid strategy, too. We believe our employees know what arrangement will allow them to be most productive.

Committed to Excellence

Working remotely isn’t a new concept for Blue Cross NC. For years, we’ve had employees working full-time from home, and our workforce has always had the flexibility to work at home on days when life requires that. Technology has allowed employees to access email, collaborate and share digital files remotely when necessary.

But when working remotely becomes routine, there is a potential impact on corporate culture and working relationships. Our Human Resources team devised some creative ways for all of us to stay connected virtually and maintain morale during what has been a stressful period for everyone.

Virtual meetings and lunches with leaders have allowed employees to talk directly with executives about what’s going on in their lives and ask questions about developments at the company. Our annual Spirit Week – a chance for employees to have some fun while sharing their pride in our collective work and celebrating our successes – was shifted to a virtual experience, complete with the company’s first-ever pep rally, themed dress-up days and an employee talent competition.

To pursue our mission with passion, our employees need to feel connected to each other and to the customers we serve. This means maintaining the culture that unites us in our work. Together, Blue Cross NC employees have shown themselves to be the model of resilience over the last 18 months.

Finding the Right People  

Pandemic or not, a company has goals to meet. Blue Cross NC is in the business of health; we can’t put the pursuit of our goals on hold for any reason.

The current economy is very much a job seekers’ market. Employees of all experience and skill levels have plenty of options. For Blue Cross NC, that means we need to keep the outstanding employees who are already part of our team and attract talented candidates who are looking for new opportunities.

For current employees, we’ve redesigned our career framework with the goal of creating a more streamlined, transparent structure to promote internal talent mobility while strengthening our company’s competitiveness in the job market. An important part of this redesign is to provide employees greater visibility into career opportunities within our company, offering more chances for internal mobility.

To truly reinforce a culture of professional development, we’ve launched a new process that asks employees to formally declare their interest in internal mobility. This expressed interest, when paired with the increased visibility of an employee’s skills and abilities, will open the door to greater collaboration between our Talent Management team and those employees seeking to take on new opportunities.

With flexible work options and opportunities to explore different roles within our company, we hope to not only retain our great team members but also to attract talented applicants for our positions – collaborative team members who want to invest their time in a career, not just a job.

The new business landscape is different. In my mind, it’s better. It’s a working world of flexibility, fairness, transparency, mobility, and professional growth. This is an exciting time and I’m proud to be part of a company that is giving employees the power to take greater control of their work lives.

 

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 iTunesTuneInStitcherSpotifyAmazon MusicAudible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

 About the Author

Fara Palumbo is Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services, and information to 3.8 million members. Throughout her career, she has focused on transforming the talent and culture of teams through a focus on innovation, diversity, and change leadership. During her tenure at Blue Cross NC, Fara has led the transformation of the company’s talent strategy, delivering a compelling and credible employment value proposition and leading cultural change in order to enable and sustain long-term business growth. Under her leadership, the company has achieved and maintained its certification as a Great Place to Work© and has earned numerous recognitions as an employer of choice, including the Working Mother Top 100, Best Companies in Healthcare & BioPharma, Forbes Best Mid-sized Companies for Diversity, and NAFE Top Company for Women Executives. Previously, Fara held Human Resources leadership positions at Citibank in both the retail and investment banks. During her tenure, she led teams engaged in a variety of transformational efforts impacting the workforce. Her last assignment, prior to leaving, was head of HR for the Global Securities Division.

 

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

Women are Problem Solvers! Investing in Them is the Key to Inclusive Growth.

This week’s article is provided by Pauline Koelbl, AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO as well as ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled ShEquity: A Refugee’s Path to Empowering Women & Their Businesses that aired on Tuesday, March 8th, 2022.

 

Closing the gender gap can add $12 trillion to global growth. In Africa, there is a $42 billion gender funding gap that could add roughly $316 billion to Africa’s combined GDP if bridged. But economics is only half the story.

Globally, women are not fully included in economic activities and female entrepreneurs continue to receive less funding than their male counterparts. COVID19 has exacerbated the existing inequity despite the fact that women have been at the frontlines of addressing different challenges linked to the pandemic.  According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth. Thus, closing the existing gender gap is not a charity but a smart thing to do!

Accessing funding is even harder for dark and brown-looking women. In Africa, there is a $42 billion gender funding gap that could add roughly $316 billion to Africa’s combined GDP if bridged.  This, despite the fact that Africa has the highest number of female entrepreneurs globally, and 40% of Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs) are led and owned by women. I established ShEquity to address the existing gender funding gap in Africa by providing smart investment to African female founders who are creating impactful, innovative and scalable solutions to many challenges faced by many Africans.

The challenges that African female founders face are widespread and in many ways endemic, but when we discover innovative solutions that many female entrepreneurs are creating, we unearth new ways of accelerating the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and catalyzing inclusive economic growth.

The most enduring hurdle for African female entrepreneurs is financing. The scale of the gender financing gap for Africa’s early-stage ventures is nothing short of breathtaking, as indicated by the World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab. It produces rigorous research on what works and what does not work for women’s economic empowerment, and its analysis shows that between 2013 and 2021, only three percent (3%) of start-up funding on the African continent went to all-female founding teams. This gap is not improving: the Big Deal Substack reports that only 0.95% of the funding raised by African startups in 2021 went to startups founded or led by a woman or female-only team, compared to 82% for male counterparts.

If we drill down, there are complex issues at play here, including the fact that there are very few African female Fund Managers and gender-lens Funds as well as the differences in how men and women think about their enterprise financing. Female founders are less likely to pitch for equity investments but are more likely to apply for bank loans. Often, they are also unable to access loans due to the existing collateral biases. This points to the reality that the world of Venture Capital (VC) and Private Equity (PE) is male-dominated and geared towards male entrepreneurs and self-confidence issues.

Being a female-led gender-lens investor, ShEquity brings diversity to the world of investors. Additionally, the matter of self-confidence is addressed head-on at ShEquity. We very pointedly offer more than just financing – we combine cash investment with technical support, and access to high-value networks. We are unapologetic in stepping up and giving the women we work with this kind of practical and operational support – because where inequity exists, action is needed.

But it is not only for the benefit of the woman entrepreneur. Since we launched in 2020, we have already built a strong pipeline of de-risked deals, which allows investors to have access to the fertile African startup market. Investors want to know that the start-ups they entrust their money with are gearing up for success, which is why at ShEquity, we created an accelerator called SHEBA (ShEquity Business Accelerator). SHEBA serves as a Technical Assistance (TA) facility, providing pre-investment support, including a 16-week acceleration program focusing on de-risking qualifying businesses as well as post-investment value addition focusing on the development of growth strategies, networking, and soft skills including leadership.  Our ecosystem strategy allows our investors to have a multifarious return: fiscal, social, and environmental.

The social impact also has multiplier effects, touching upon the lives of so many people in so many ways. When leveraged together, two of the SDGs – gender equality and climate action – can impact nearly all the other SDGs, such as eliminating hunger and ensuring health and well-being. Together, gender and climate alone can unlock opportunities across societal goals. I have seen first-hand how, by leveraging the talents, skills and innovation of female entrepreneurs, we can bring needed actions to global challenges such as climate change and SDG priorities like equitable access to healthcare and food security.

 

At ShEquity, our investees address a vast array of environmental, social and economic issues. Examples include Ecodudu, a circular economy company feeding the future with insect-based protein, and a bus ride-sharing platform called Shuttlers, which sets out to reduce car use and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Widenergy is dedicated to the last-mile distribution of clean, reliable, and affordable energy solutions. It sets out to realize a world where every African woman and girl has access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy for better life chances, health, education and household income.

This all amounts to the creation of a gender-lens investment model – a brand new ecosystem that provides much-needed support to early-stage female-led and owned businesses. Crucially, it is an approach that reassures potential investors that they are investing in de-risked, scalable and impactful companies. Such companies have the capacity to generate a triple-bottom-line return while addressing different challenges, creating decent jobs and contributing to meeting the SDGs. In the end, ShEquity’s ultimate goal is to be ‘Doing Well While Doing Good’ – and we are proud to bring so many investors with us on such a crucial journey.

 

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

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

 

 

About the Author

Pauline Koelbl is AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO as well as ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner, Pauline is a leading innovation expert in developing & emerging economies, impact investor and seasoned impact-driven team leader with over 20 years experience in international affairs and venture philanthropy.

AfriProspect focuses on connecting African innovators with global markets, and ShEquity provides smart investment to impactful and scalable African female-led and owned businesses. Pauline also has 10+ years’ experience catalyzing innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa and her passion lies in innovation, entrepreneurship, youth, and women’s economic empowerment.

A double Fulbright -Scholar and Fellow-, Pauline is currently serving on a variety of Boards of companies/organizations connected to business, entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa. Pauline holds an Executive Education in Innovation for Economic Development from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government; a Master’s Degree (MA) in Poverty and Development, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in International Studies (Honors) from the University of Arizona (UoA), USA.

You can reach Pauline at p.koelbl@shequity.com

Use Purpose to Help Your People Perform Their Best

This week’s article is by Nell Derick Debevoise, Founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital, a certified B Corp that offers purposeful leadership development content and programming to accelerate the movement of business as a force for good.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Going First: Courage to Lead Purposefully and Inspire Action that aired on Tuesday, January 4th, 2022.

 

The way we work is broken. Workplace trends show that employees are resigning in greater volume than ever, jobs are being created at a slower rate than any of the prior 7 months, and employee wellbeing is flatlining at best. The seeds of employee distrust were planted well before Covid-19 and now they become a problem that no employer can ignore.

Employees used to spend years or entire careers at one company with blind loyalty to the corporate mission. Today employees are looking to belong to a greater purpose and aren’t afraid to jump from job to job until they find one that resonates.

Creating a People-First Workplace

Not only the way we work has changed, but also the work to be done. Technology and globalization mean that employees are doing the work that only people can do, like collaborating, innovating, and empathizing. Employees can only perform these higher-level tasks when they are operating with healthy minds, bodies and spirits.

Gone are the days where employees can be treated as cogs in a wheel, incentivized to produce as much output as possible. Trends in the business landscape met with the simultaneous crises of the 2020’s have shifted power from employers to employees. Employees demand a meaningful work experience. They want to know why they’re doing what they’re being asked to do.

How can companies bring back the magic that makes employees care about their work? Connect them to the purpose of what they’re doing. It is one of the greatest human joys to achieve something larger than ourselves, working in a team towards a common goal.

Living – and working – purposefully means connecting your choices and behavior to something important in the world that you want to achieve. Purpose provides a reason to get you out of bed every morning beyond your own wellbeing or wealth. Companies need to focus on providing purpose as much as other benefits.

Celebrate Purpose in Your Organization

It’s time to throw a party, but this is a different type of party. Free beer and kombucha and promises of Summer Fridays are table stakes. Now employers must empower people to be fulfilled, by guiding them to recognize why the work matters to them as individuals, and the impact it has on people and planet around them.

It’s time to throw a purpose party. According to Marc Spencer, CEO of Summer Search, “A life of purpose is a life of joy! When you understand how your life has meaning, it brings joy, clarity, awareness of aspirations.” A purpose party is the first step to getting below the surface with your employees. It doesn’t take months of planning or a catering budget. It only takes conversations that go deeper than the day-to-day activities of your business.

Like most 2020s parties, set up a zoom link and start a new type of conversation. Choose your favorite party chat opener, like “Can I ask you a weird question?” or “This might sound random, but bear with me.”

And then dive in. Try this, “My best days are when…” Or “I am excited to come to work on Mondays because…”. Ask employees to answer those same questions. Listen, and ask more. It might be awkward at first, but creating the space for these conversations is the first step.

While throwing a purpose party scratches the surface of conversation, it’s important to make this a recurring event. Continue these conversations and questions in other meetings as openers or part of a weekly check-in. It only takes a few catalysts engaging in these types of conversations to help grow the movement. Encourage your party guests to host their own purpose parties with other colleagues around the firm.

It doesn’t take long for positive things to catch fire. As Lorie Yañez, Head of DEI at MassMutual, commented, “We’re at a tipping point. With 50% of leaders at advanced levels of cultural competence, those of us championing an inclusive approach don’t feel alone anymore.” By making purpose a topic of conversation in your immediate circle, you can reach that tipping point.

Start these conversations and watch the benefits accrue. Purpose is the most powerful, and most authentic, motivator out there. Sandi Kronic, CEO at Happy Dirt, says “When I’m in my purpose, it doesn’t even feel like I’m doing anything for anyone else!”

Bring Purpose to your Workplace Today

A purpose party doesn’t need to be a big event. Bringing intentional conversation to your workplace can start with one-on-one conversations or team meetings. Make time to discuss why you do what you do to help everyone remember what brought them each to this work. Engaging employees on their purpose will help them contribute to outcomes that are only achievable when everyone comes together. And that is motivating!

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Nell Derick Debevoise is a thought partner to purpose-driven leaders, as well as speaker, author, and Founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital. Debevoise’s guidance helps CEOs and CHROs expand their impact, grow their businesses, and build powerful legacies. She has lived and worked on 4 continents, and collaborated across sectors with Japanese executives, Palestinian community leaders, French high school students, and Mozambique education ministry officials among others. Debevoise also studied leadership, innovation, and intercultural dialog at Harvard, Cambridge, Universita di Roma, and Columbia and London Business Schools. In 2011, she moved to New York and founded Inspiring Capital, a certified B Corp that offers purposeful leadership development content and programming to accelerate the movement of business as a force for good. Debevoise is a Senior Contributor for Forbes, and her first book, Going First: Find the Courage to Lead Purposefully and Inspire Action (available early 2022) is an International Best Seller.

Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash

Business Leaders: Don’t Be Afraid of Gen Z

This week’s article was originally published by AnneMarie Hayek (Evans) for Forbes Business Council on November 9, 2021.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Power and Promise of Generation Z Part 2 that aired on Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

 

The past few years have been some of the most turbulent in living memory. My consulting work with dozens of companies has shown me that, beyond economic and political uncertainty, many business leaders are also afraid of Gen Z. What’s behind this fear?

It turns out there are several factors. When business leaders look at Zs, they see a generation that isn’t afraid to publicly take powerful people to task, or boycott organizations for misappropriating words and cultures. They fear the change Zs around the world demand. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, they worry they’ll become Gen Z targets too.

Many of the business leaders I talk to are uncertain about how to interact with this volatile generation. This may be true for you, too. But to thrive in the world Zs are creating, you cannot be afraid of them. You must learn to engage with them on their terms, or you will be left behind.

The Myth Of “Cancel Culture”

It’s easy to read stories about Zs calling out powerful people and assume Zs are hellbent on creating “cancel culture.” However, that misses the point of what Zs are trying to do. Zs are focused on accountability, not canceling. Their goal is to get us to critically examine our culture and systems to find ways to improve them and make them more inclusive.

Through their devices and platforms like TikTok, Zs have had a front-row seat to the biggest issues facing our world since childhood. They witness the raw, gritty, diverse lived experiences of other Zs all over the world firsthand, every single day.

Because of this, they aren’t afraid to engage in difficult conversations among diverse perspectives. In my experience, Zs don’t self-select into echo chambers the way older generations tend to do online. They seek to engage broadly and are not shy about holding everyone (including each other) accountable.

Many organizations find this uncomfortable. If they want to succeed, though, companies must get used to it, because, unlike prior generations, Zs want to engage on a deep level. Zs view calling a company or an individual out as an invitation for a real, crucial discussion. They won’t settle for the trite, superficial sound bites prior generations often accepted. They know it can be uncomfortable, but they believe engaging in critical discourse is the only way to make things better for everyone.

The Upside To Engaging Zs

Gen Zs often feel dismissed because of their youth. But trivializing them is a mistake. Collectively, Gen Z is huge: They’ve surpassed Millennials in numbers. They’ve amplified their immense size with digital unity and an incredible ability to mobilize. And, despite having a median age of 17, Zs’ spending power is $143 billion.

Zs aren’t afraid to use their power to hold companies accountable. In 2019, for example, they called out Victoria’s Secret for failing to represent body and gender diversity. When then-CEO Leslie Wexner refused to make changes, the backlash affected Victoria’s Secret sales.

When companies get it right, though, the benefits are tremendous. Take Aerie, American Eagle’s underwear line: They are body-positive, featuring user-generated content of real customers with a range of bodies wearing their underwear. They are demonstrating the kind of inclusivity Zs value, and Zs have rewarded Aerie with 26 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth.

How To Engage With Zs

Understanding the importance of engaging with Zs is one thing. Knowing how to do that is something else entirely. Luckily, though, the process isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

First, give Zs meaningful representation in your company. Remember, they want a real seat at the table. Take the social platform company Triller, for example. It hired the successful 18-year-old social media creator Josh Richards as their Chief Strategy Officer. The team knew there was nobody better than a Z to help them compete with their main rival, TikTok. Their savvy move helped bring them exponential growth.

Second, engage your Z audience as co-creators. They’ve been creating on TikTok, YouTube, Minecraft and more since they were young, so they value unfettered creativity. It may feel strange at first, but giving up some control and letting them co-create your content will demonstrate how much you respect and value them and their input.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask Zs questions. Want to know how to use TikTok in a way that resonates with Zs? Ask them. Wondering how you can demonstrate your commitment to inclusivity without coming across as fake? Zs will tell you.

Working with an advisory board composed of Zs is an especially smart move, because it allows you to get their input on every decision you make. Engaging with Zs like this is a great way to avoid “tokenism” (the symbolic appearance of inclusion) and other similar missteps.

Embrace What Zs Have To Offer

There’s no question that Zs have a far different outlook than prior generations. However, once you realize Zs aren’t “cancel culture” zealots whose only goal in life is to tear our systems down, you can start engaging with them on a meaningful level.

Give them a seat at the table. Start involving them as co-creators with your brand and your products. And start asking them questions. Be willing to go below the surface and engage in deep, meaningful discourse with them. I promise you: Zs are not your enemy. There is no reason to fear them, and every reason to engage with and embrace them.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

AnneMarie Hayek is a cultural consultant, generational expert, and social agitator who deeply understands society’s evolutions. She founded and leads two companies, Global Mosaic and ZSpeak, with a passion for navigating the cultural movements shaping our world. AnneMarie and her team of experts have advised the world’s largest companies, organizations, governments, and presidential candidates for more than twenty-five years. She has a graduate degree from the University of Chicago and previously served as SVP and VP of Global Strategy at BBDO and Leo Burnett.

Photo by Benjamin Ranger on Unsplash

3 Industries Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Over the Next Decade

This week’s article is provided by Eric Redmond, a twenty-year veteran technologist and author. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies that aired on Tuesday, June 29th. The following article has been adapted from the Deep Tech book.

 

Artificial intelligence as a field has existed in one form or another for centuries, but only in the past decade or so has it reached the critical point of going mainstream. No longer confined to science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) is at work behind Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s search engine, and many other technologies we use every day.

These applications of AI, while exciting, are only the beginning. Over the next decade, we can expect AI to transform many industries, including these three: agriculture, manufacturing, and the military.

Now that the Pandora’s box of AI has been opened, there are very few fields that artificial intelligence won’t affect in the near future. We’ll never stop finding new ways to add intelligence to dumb processes or inanimate objects.

With this transformation comes the chance to invest in and adopt these new technologies, but to seize the opportunity, you’ll have to first understand what to expect from the shifting landscape of industries.

Industry #1: Agriculture

The first industry worth exploring in relation to the rise of artificial intelligence is agriculture. Historically the largest industry, agriculture has long been in the crosshairs of innovative technologies. From plowshares to cotton gins to factory farming and GMOs, each innovation seems to increase yield and decrease the number of people required to work in this grueling sector. The influence of AI is expected to be no different.

One way AI will reduce required labor is through monitoring of soil and crop conditions and targeted deployment of solutions. For example, John Deere announced the acquisition of a company that leverages machine-learning vision systems to automatically spray weed killer directly onto plants, reducing herbicide use by 90 percent.

Several other companies, such as ecoRobotix, are creating chemical-free, mechanical weed-pulling robots. Many of these robots are also capable of targeted insecticide deployment, helping stave off many of the unintended consequences of overspraying, such as bee colony collapse. And speaking of bees, there’s now a pollinating robot called BrambleBee. Furthermore, nearly 90 percent of crop losses are due to weather-related events, and the task of weather prediction is tailor-made for big data and machine learning.

Monitoring all the details of million-hectare farmlands is daunting work for humans yet perfect for machines, which is why you can expect to see a massive intersection between AI and agriculture in the coming decade.

Industry #2: Manufacturing

Next, let’s take a high-level look at how AI will impact manufacturing. Even in the early 1950s, automation was taking over manufacturing tasks in Henry Ford’s automobile factories. Our collective and persistent fear of automation goes back even further—just look at the Luddites of 1811, who famously destroyed high-tech cotton mills.

It’s true that automation, along with outsourcing, has contributed to a decrease in manufacturing jobs in first world nations. Still, over 8 percent of Americans earn a living in the manufacturing industry, which is over 11 percent of US GDP. Much of the technology needed to automate the remaining jobs currently exists: robotic arms, logistics machinery, quality control systems, and the like. So how will AI change things?

The introduction of AI into manufacturing takes automation to the next level by turning expensive specialty robots into general purpose cobots, or collaborative robots. Rather than huge, clunky welding robots, blind to the world and programmed for a narrow range of tasks, cobots can be taught many different tasks, retooling themselves automatically.

Cobots are also aware of their surroundings, capable of working side by side with humans on complex tasks. This allows cobots to slowly ease their way into a workspace and take over more work, limited only by an exponentially growing intelligence. Cobots may not be able to do all tasks, but they can do enough to bend that 8 percent of jobs down a few points while reducing waste, cost, and overhead.

Industry #3: Military

Lastly, artificial intelligence will undoubtedly transform the military. For the military, AI poses a siren song that’s too attractive to ignore: perfect knowledge of world events from governments to battlefields, paired with robots that bend the casualties on your side toward zero.

AI can better support troops by improving training systems and creating novel curricula for war games. It can provide smart weapons and better intelligence, along with the more pedestrian benefits of industry, like optimizing logistic challenges in the world’s most challenging situations, or helping troops with maintenance tasks.

Autonomous weapons are increasingly augmented with AI, such as smart-camera-controlled tactical missiles. Even if control ultimately remains in human hands, the myriad of complexities that would take humans years to learn can be partially automated, allowing operation from fewer specialist hands, like flying attack drones. Moreover, the ability to correctly detect targets can drastically reduce collateral damage and innocent deaths.

These are only a few straightforward examples and may not even scratch the surface of the many uses for AI in the military. At the very least, increasing automation may allow countries to shrink their military budgets in favor of more civilian expenditures.

The Time to Invest in AI is Now

I’ve only scratched the surface of how AI will transform agriculture, manufacturing, and the military, and as you can see, the potential uses for the technology are myriad. Artificial intelligence is already making an impact on our daily lives and most profitable industries, and its influence will continue to grow.

Even if you don’t work directly in tech, now is the time to get involved in the AI revolution. Historically, the people and companies that profit the most from emerging technologies are the ones who adapt and invest in them early. Moreover, these early adopters drive further adoption of the technologies, forcing everyone else to catch up.

You can get involved by learning more about how artificial intelligence will transform your industry, whether you work in agriculture, manufacturing, the military, or practically any other industry—AI is coming to disrupt them all. Prepare to be the first among your competitors to implement new AI solutions in your business, and like Amazon, Apple, and Google, you’ll position yourself to win.

 

For more advice on emerging technologies, you can find Deep Tech on Amazon.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Eric Redmond is the Forrest Gump of technology: a twenty-year veteran technologist who always happens to show up wherever deep tech history is being made, from the first iPhone apps to big data to Bitcoin. He has advised state and national governments, Fortune 100 companies, and groups as varied as the World Economic Forum and MIT Media Lab. He has also authored half a dozen technology books (including two tech books for babies) and spoken on every continent except Antarctica. Today, he’s a husband, a dad, and the leader of a global tech innovation team.

 

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

 

 

 

How Leadership Has the Power to Unite and Inspire

This week’s article was originally published by Maureen Metcalf for Forbes Coaches Council on February 12, 2021.  It is a companion to the interview with Janet Fouts on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Recognizing & Managing Triggers in Challenging Situations that aired on Tuesday, October 26th, 2021.

 

As leaders, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help our employees and organizations transcend personal differences and better align with our organization’s purpose. Leadership research out of Christopher Newport University suggests that political differences are a more significant sticking point, as only 28% say they are comfortable with a leader who holds opposing views, and only 34% would follow such a leader.

This data suggests that during a time of political division, organizations will struggle to accomplish their missions. Leaders need to help employees align with the organization’s purpose and values and transcend their differences.

I will use my organization as an example because we have colleagues with significantly different political views. We are working to find common ground that allows us to work together respectfully while honoring our differences as a path to providing greater value for our clients.

I imagine some people read this and think it sounds soft — that we need to tell people what to do and they will follow. I respect that the leader-follower relationship looks different for different leaders.

Here are some of the key leadership traits that can be tapped to inspire and unite those with different worldviews.

Be professionally humble: Care more about the organization’s success than your personal image.

As a professionally humble leader, I am committed to my organization’s purpose above all else. I have been revisiting my purpose as the CEO and asking myself if I am still committed to it. Next, am I living it? I work with an exceptional team, and they can tell when I am disingenuous with myself and with them. Next, I need to be clear about my values and the organization’s values and make sure we live them. I recently updated our purpose and values on our website. This exercise of publicly posting them creates accountability. I also asked my team to review and help revise them to know what they are and how they fit for us.

Unwavering commitment to right action: Be unstoppable and unflappable when on a mission.

Right action is an interesting phrase. Right, according to who? I believe our purpose and values help us determine what is right, but this is not enough. We need to engage with one another and have honest conversations — some are not easy.

We are also starting to talk about right today versus right to create the future we want to see. We are asking about the longer-term implications of our current actions. By looking through this lens, we can see where our focus is changing. We can be more disciplined in our choices and actions and eliminate some activities that require time and energy.

Be a 360-degree thinker: Take a systems view and see the interconnectedness of people and systems.

Like most organizations, we are facing changes in the work we deliver and how we work together. As we look at these changes, we evaluate the overall systems and how the changes will move us toward meeting our purpose and values or how they will move us away.

Be intellectually versatile: Commit to lifelong learning.

With the increased level of discord brought on by political polarization and the global pandemic, we are trying to understand our colleague’s perspectives. We also need to understand changing global trends. In some cases, we have worked together for decades and have not explored our colleague’s values. It is easy to focus on the work and not understand a valued colleague’s suffering because we don’t want to discuss taboo topics such as politics.

I suggest that we might want to seek to understand — to use the Steven Covey phrase. I am not suggesting we delve into political debates but instead ask the colleagues we value and respect probing questions with deep regard for their challenges, hopes and fears.

Be authentic and reflective: Focus on personal growth and emotional courage.

Reflection is one of the essential skills to allow people to grow and develop. This time in our history certainly requires the courage and skill to accept and support our colleagues who see the world differently. How many of us feel comfortable working with people who don’t share our worldview? Yet, if we are secure in our values and mission, we can generally find the strength to embrace people — even if we disagree with their beliefs.

Inspire followership: Connect with a broad range of people around a shared vision.

If people don’t follow us, we aren’t effective as leaders. If followers don’t want to follow leaders with different political beliefs, we need to find ways to inspire them. We must open ourselves up to challenging conversations to understand others and their diverse views. These conversations will require all of our emotional intelligence to build relationships that allow us to work together to meet our mission.

Be innately collaborative: Seek input from diverse points of view to create novel solutions.

This behavior is where we test our ability. If we have done each of the previous actions well, we can bring people together who see the world differently and feel safe to share different perspectives. We need to synthesize those differences to create new and better outcomes.

As leaders navigating the dynamics associated with an emotionally charged election and political unrest, we need to bring our teams together to meet our purpose and create stronger leader-follower relationships and teams.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO, the Innovative Leadership Institute, is dedicated to elevating the quality of leaders globally.

 

Photo by rob walsh on Unsplash

Improve Employee Capabilities and Retention for No Cost

This week’s article is by Mark Herschberg, an author and instructor at MIT.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Essential Skills for Success No One Taught You that aired on Tuesday, October 19th, 2021.

 

There’s the old line:

Question: What if we train people and then they leave?

Answer: What if you don’t train them and they stay?

As we head into the new normal of a covid-norm world (post-covid doesn’t seem to be the right term because covid seems like it will be there to stay) what does it mean for our organization and the development of its members? Companies are already seeing higher than average turnover due to the great recession and expect to see it for another few quarters. Knowing a certain, higher than average percentage of your training dollars will walk out the door seems like a bad investment. Besides, HR and leadership are already stretched thin from re-opening offices, navigating the new normal, and dealing with a labor shortage; who has time to start a new program! But what if you could train for an insignificant amount of dollars and increase your retention at the same time?

Training traditionally is implemented with the “sage on the stage” model. Your employees are sent to listen to an expert. It means bringing the expert in or sending your team to some offsite training. Either way, it’s big dollars in direct costs, plus potentially additional travel time and costs. Today we can get that training virtually, but we know people tend to be less engaged watching a video for an hour.

Fortunately, there are existing models we can turn to. For decades, top business schools have used the case method. This is a form of active learning in which the class doesn’t simply listen but actively participates. It can involve case studies, discussion problem solving, reflection, or other techniques in which the members of the class don’t just listen but actively participate. It’s the technique we also use at MIT’s famed career success accelerator program.

A low-cost, easy to implement method is to implement learning pods at your organization. In business school students are broken into cohorts, groups of people with a mix of backgrounds. During a case study, each person contributes their thoughts based on their own knowledge and prior experience. The students learn in a stone soup manner, everyone contributes some insight to the discussion to create something much more valuable than anyone could have created on her own.

The cost of doing this is little to none. One method is to use a book. That’s basically the cost of a lunch per person, certainly not going to break your budget. You can also use free content, such as online articles, videos, blogs, or podcasts. What matters is that there is common content everyone reviews ahead of time. They can engage with content in 15-30 minutes and then have a discussion 45-60 minutes long. That’s a time cost of 60-90 minutes per cycle.

The groups can then meet, say twice a month to discuss the content. Much like with a business school cohort, it’s the class discussion itself that adds to real value. The content was just the nucleus around which the content is created.

There are several ways to structure this. The simplest is to create small groups, typically around 6-8 people, send them the content, and let them self-direct the conversations. So, with zero cost, and a couple of hours of planning overhead, you can create this training program at your organization.

If you want to go further, you can structure the groups in a number of ways based on seniority, department, or other factors. You can also be more proactive in guiding the discussion. For example, you can create discussion topics or questions for the groups to consider. You can ask groups to share their thoughts in an email thread, or on a company wiki so groups can share knowledge with each other. You can also do more advanced types of learning including bringing in speakers and workshops or running actual case studies. Organizations such as The Innovative Leadership Institute (ILI) have free resources that you can employ, such as the ILI’s six-year podcast library.  You can also organize people into larger groups, but that takes more active organization since you need to actively moderate discussions of more than a dozen people or so.  The Innovative Leadership Institute builds cohort groups based on the Position Success Indicator assessment to ensure learning partners are matched for optimal learning.

So far, we’ve created a no-cost development program. But it offers so much more. There are multiple, great secondary benefits from such a training program.

First, you increase employee engagement. Whether they’re on the brink of leaving or are currently happy in their roles, employees will feel more engaged with the company. It’s no longer just work for pay, but a company that cares about them and wants to train them up. This will only help with engagement and retention.

Second, it’s a chance for employees to build those important internal networks. If you create groups mixed across departments people will get to know co-workers, they might not otherwise come across. This helps to break down silos and increase cross-departmental communication.

Third, it creates a common language. If everyone has read Good to Great you can say “hedgehog”, and everyone knows what you’re referring to. Models, stories, analogies, and terminology now become part of the common language of the company, helping to improve how people communicate with each other.

This is not to say you shouldn’t do other types of training, but as HR resources are stretched actively recruiting, this is a low-cost, low-effort program to engage and improve your employees. You can create this on your own or use free online resources like The Career Toolkit Development Guide available at https://www.thecareertoolkitbook.com/resources.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

From tracking criminals and terrorists on the dark web to creating marketplaces and new authentication systems, Mark Herschberg has spent his career launching and developing new ventures at startups and Fortune 500s and in academia. He helped to start the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, dubbed MIT’s “career success accelerator,” where he teaches annually. At MIT, he received a B.S. in physics, a B.S. in electrical engineering & computer science, and a M.Eng. in electrical engineering & computer science, focusing on cryptography. At Harvard Business School, Mark helped create a platform used to teach finance at prominent business schools. He also works with many nonprofits, including Techie Youth and Plant A Million Corals. He was one of the top-ranked ballroom dancers in the country and now lives in New York City, where he is known for his social gatherings, including his annual Halloween party, as well as his diverse cufflink collection.

Photo by Matthew Osborn on Unsplash

Are You Ready to Accelerate to Optimized Performance?

This week’s article is provided by Dr. JJ Walcutt, scientist, innovator and author, and Jason Armendariz.  It is a companion to JJ’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Building a Culture of Brain Health, Growth, and Effectiveness that aired on Tuesday, August 31st.

Here is a short clip from Maureen and JJ’s interview:

 

SEEKING PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT

Recent years have passed without the typical fanfare of annual celebrations of reflecting upon the sunsetting year and looking forward to the new year with goals, resolutions, and a vision of what a person wants to achieve in the new year.  Each new year enters with a renewed focus on challenges and building a road map to accomplish them.  For instance, if the goal is a new body weight, learning a new sport, or even setting the goal of running a marathon, one might expend resources on a training plan, gym membership, or a trainer to strengthen their bodies in preparation for their goal.  As common as these are, unfortunately, a lot of these lose steam, gym memberships go unutilized, and visions go unrealized.  And no one bats an eye.  It is a societal acceptable failure.

According to  US News report, Americans have spent more than $60B on trying to achieve this goal of losing weight.  Tom Van Riper points out in this 2012 article that the cost to train Olympic athletes can cost a range of $13K-$25K per year, monies that do not see a tangible financial return on investment.  Corporations, less focused on Olympic athletes, are focusing on the health and wellness of their employees paying for gym memberships or installing smaller health clubs in their offices.

Have you found yourself or your company seeking, similarly, how to gain the next competitive advantage? Like many, searching for an edge when it comes to reaching their physical goals hiring experts or coaches, has your business sought a workshop to hone and sharpen skills?  Have you found a gap in your knowledge or desired to gain momentum in an area that may not be your strength?  If so, you’re not alone.  However, there is an angle that most do not know about nor consider when it comes to self-improvement or improving individual performance. Training the entirety of the person – mind, body, and brain.

The skills that tomorrow’s workforce needs to thrive in uncertain, changing, and chaotic situations will not be met by the installation of a health club, but by a deliberate focus on training the most important organ in the body – the brain.

Meet the Accelerate program which combines the latest and emerging trends in cognitive psychological research, developed by Dr. JJ Walcutt.  Dr. Walcutt combines her experience from academia, industry, and the US Government to concentrate training for businesses, teams, and individuals to gain the most out of personalized training and accomplish a higher level of performance.

TRAINING

The foundation of this elite-level training centers around the findings of cognitive psychology.  Educating participants on the cognitive processes and how the brain system works to process information and understanding choices can drive toward optimal performance.  Working to understand resilience can enhance your ability to recover from stressful moment’s compartmentalize, and function with clarity. This can help productivity as well as work towards innovative solutions by enhancing your ability to clearly analyze the problems at hand. The current workforce faces challenges and deadlines which often force personnel to juggle multiple tasks.  Accelerate discusses agility and leads participants to improve their ability to switch efficiently and effectively between tasks.  These focal areas of training are unprecedented in today’s corporate training but will be key for those corporations, teams, and individuals who want to be ahead of the curve of tomorrow’s challenges.  In his book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink points out the importance of developing skills and the mind for skills in which the future will require a human in the loop.

Preparing an individual to be this human in the loop leverages the training that Dr. Walcutt has developed for the accelerate program.  Like the algorithms that suggest the next song on your chosen music platform, personalized learning will help corporations, teams, and individuals achieve greater success through optimized training.

INFORMATION MATTERS

Accelerate spends time honing the understanding of information processing as individuals and across teams.  As a foremost expert in cognitive load theory and unmatched experience in team dynamics from her time doing DoD research, Dr. Walcutt transfers the understanding of working memory to participants.  This allows program participants to learn how to harness the information, increase their ability to hold it, and be able to enhance the speed and accuracy of applying that information.  Having pertinent information at hand may then translate to the ability to process information more rapidly and allow teams to exponentially collaborate on issues.

Part of any corporate success is the ability to get ahead of competitors.  The same may be true of individuals looking for that promotion, edge, or gain that will put them in the driver’s seat for their career.  Getting ahead means being able to make sense of information, connect the dots, and ultimately make decisions that will be impactful for the future.  Dr. Walcutt’s design of Accelerate will allow participants to learn how to best anticipate, assess, and then act to make key decisions efficiently to achieve desired outcomes.

WHY ACCELERATE?

Most organizations, whether corporate, military, private, or even academia have goals that translate across domains.  Accelerate is the one program that delivers elite-level training that deliberately addresses these.  80% of leaders feel they are “time poor” and wanting more hours in the day to accomplish duties and tasks.  Accelerate will demonstrate methods that will allow a reduction in time to do tasks, improving efficiency.  Once time is mastered, the next logical step is to then master the ability to work through multiple tasks and learn specifically how to switch more effectively between skills and settings.  Finally, quality is the concern across all domains.  Through Accelerate, increase your quality of output, learning to accomplish more tasks at a higher level.  Increase the number of good decisions of your corporations, teams, and individuals.

Many Americans spend countless hours exercising the body.  Accelerate wants to know – do you exercise your mind?

 

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

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

 

About the Authors

Dr. J.J. Walcutt is a scientist, innovator, and learning engineer that specializes in strategic development and reform across education, military, and government. Her current work focuses on optimizing human cognition and performance across a wide spectrum of learning programs that promote optimization. Dr. Walcutt has served in the U.S. Government as a Director of Innovation for distributed learning optimization and as a Human Innovation Fellow. In her role at the Pentagon, she also served as a U.S. Delegate to NATO, Partnership for Peace, and as a national and international keynote speaker. Dr. Walcutt has over 20 years of experience in research and development for training, education, and human optimization.

Jason Armendariz is a cognitive scientist with a lifelong learner attitude and a true passion for training, education, and leadership.  Jason started his path in learning as a high school educator prior to joining the military.  During his time in the military, he rose to serve as a trainer in tactics, communications, and leadership.  He has experience in research and development efforts to improve cognitive skills, learning, team dynamics and human performance. Jason has studied cognitive science, human systems interaction, and adult education and strives to build the capability of others to succeed by integrating research into programs and plans to improve learning.

Photo by Fakurian Design on Unsplash

 

 

 

Leverage Change: If You Want to Transform Your Organization, Start by Changing Your Own Paradigms

This week’s article is provided by Jake Jacobs. President of Jake Jacobs Consulting and author of Leverage Change, 8 Ways to Achieve Faster, Easier, Better Results.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Leverage Change: Achieve Faster, Easier, Better Results that aired on Tuesday, August 24th.

 

Transforming organizations takes years, is hard work, and often leads to disappointing results.  This is common wisdom.  It’s been proven time and again.  It goes with the territory.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most approaches to organization transformation are littered with flawed paradigms.  Paradigms that inherently lead to these efforts falling short of the mark.  Want different results?  See the world in new ways.

Uncommon wisdom makes it possible to achieve faster, easier, better results with any transformation effort, in any organization, made by anyone.  The approach we’re describing is chockfull of new paradigms, fresh perspectives on problems that have plagued organizations for years.

Welcome to the world of Leverage Change.

Leverage Change

Leverage Change1 is a flexible approach to applying eight ways for individuals, teams and organizations to transform faster, easier, and better than you believe possible.  You can use it to turbocharge a change method you’re already using or as the foundation for one you’re developing.  It applies equally well to simple efforts involving a few people to complex ones engaging tens of thousands.  Benefit from it as you launch a transformation effort and reap rewards if your work is already underway.  Be the “go to” person when it comes to change, advancing your career and organization alike.

Adopt the paradigm of leverage and accomplish more with fewer hassles, headaches and problems.  Archimedes, a third century B.C. Greek mathematician described the power of leverage when he said, “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and single-handed I shall move the world.”  You can move your worlds in the arena of transformation by changing your paradigms about how it happens.  Leverage Change is your guide map along this journey.

Leverage Change is comprised of eight levers, or smart, strategic actions, that yield profound results.  Each addresses a common problem that prevents transformation efforts from succeeding (see Table 1.)  While there are eight powerful ways available in creating effective transformations, we are going to focus on one that addresses a frequent frustration of leaders:  change taking too long.

Organizations pay a steep price for slow transformation efforts, even when they can eventually claim victory from their work.  While you are toiling away, competition is winning new markets, commercializing leading-edge technologies, making valuable process improvements, and creating cultures that lead to advantages in the recruitment and retention of top talent.

 

Living in a Leverage Change World

How can you reduce the time it takes to transform an organization from years to months?  Embrace a new paradigm, the lever noted above of Thinking and Acting as if the Future Were Now!  Instead of seeing the future as something “out there” that will occur at a later point in time, choose to live it today.  Here.  Now.  When you and your entire organization make this shift, transformation occurs rapidly, even in some cases instantaneously.

Your old paradigm told you that transforming culture takes years.  Plenty of experts will tell you the same.  Don’t buy it.  Your new culture will take years to create because you believe it will.  If you want a more participative culture, think and act as if this close collaboration already exists.  This paradigm shift immediately changes the game.  In this new reality, who should be in the room for your next meeting?  What criteria should you be using to make decisions today?  How much power should different stakeholders hold right now?  Stop talking about the future.  Start living it.

Then encourage others to join you in this journey.  Create an organization that subscribes to this new paradigm.  Benefits of effective change work accrue to the bold.  Colleagues previously reticent to jump aboard the transformation train see and hear change occurring all around them.  Their belief that this time it’s for real increases significantly.  As they begin thinking and acting as if the future were now, their colleagues’ faith in the future being real creates a virtuous cycle of ongoing transformation.  At the same time, you’ll be collecting financial, quality, customer satisfaction and other “winnings” sooner…and being able to reinvest them, further stoking the engine of your transformation efforts.

A Transformation Challenge

You have a new strategy where sales people partner in new ways with each other in the field.  It’s smart, strategic and sure to give you a leg up on the competition.  If you implement it before they make their next competitive move.  But how do you get that job done well?  And done now?

5 Steps to Transforming Your Organization

How does the lever Think and Act as if the Future Were Now! accelerate implementation of your new strategy?  I outline how to do this, providing answers to the above implementation effort as examples.  Pick your own transformation work – for yourself, your team or your organization – and respond to each of the steps for your own benefit.

Step 1:  Describe the essential elements of the preferred future you aspire to create.

A rapid response implementation where we gain substantial market share through the new partnership roles for sales people across the company.

Step 2:  If you were already living in this preferred future, how would you be thinking and what actions would you be taking right now?

  • Commissions are shared with the whole team
  • All team members are performing all sales functions
  • Customers are pleased with the comprehensive service they receive
  • Marketing and sales personnel are working seamlessly together

Step 3:  Recruit and request the help you need from a support and accountability partner to live into this new future now.

Our sales team has a “wants and offers” negotiation session with the marketing department.

Step 4:  Invite others to join you in Thinking and Acting as if the Future Were Now!

The entire sales organization is cross-trained on critical tasks; finance takes the lead in new commission structure.

Step 5:  Assess the impact.  What can you see, hear and feel that is different from applying this lever?

We gauge success by tracking market share and customer satisfaction scores against historical trends.

Paradigms help us make sense of our organizations.  They can also get in the way.  Change your paradigms.  Transform your organization.

 

1Jacobs, Robert Jake, Leverage Change, 2021, Berrett-Koehler, Oakland

 

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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

 

Jake Jacobs is President of Jake Jacobs Consulting, a global consulting firm focused on helping clients achieve faster, easier, better results than they ever imagined possible.