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Are You A Future-Ready Leader?

This week’s article was originally published by Maureen Metcalf for Forbes Coaches Council on July 20, 2021.  Maureen is the founder and CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute.  It is a companion to Howard Tiersky’s on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance that aired on Tuesday, October 12th , 2021.

 

Across the globe, leaders are grappling with the future of work across a broad spectrum of considerations — ranging from mandating vaccines to what hybrid work looks like — to attract and engage employees to run operations.

I have seen lots of articles on the future of work. This article addresses the future of leadership. As work changes, leadership must also change. Helping leaders become future-ready has been an important topic for me for over a decade. I started a company focusing on helping leaders “innovate how they lead” to keep pace with their industries and stakeholders. Post-Covid-19, the leadership required to succeed has changed. Leaders must rethink their mindset (also known as their leadership algorithm) and their actions. Here are some of the changes that will be needed.

Organizational Impact In Place Of Personal Recognition

Many traditional leaders are guided by the desire for personal success and peripherally by organizational success. The future-ready leader’s vision of success provides humble guidance based on performance and the value of the organization’s positive impact. This leader seeks to maximize organizational success over personal recognition. This shift is significant as employees are increasingly making job choices based on the company’s alignment with making an impact. According to a January 2021 McKinsey article, “Future-ready companies recognize that purpose helps attract people to join an organization, remain there, and thrive. Investors understand why this is valuable and factor purpose into their decision making: the rise of environmental, social, and governance (ESG)–related funds is just one of the ways they acknowledge that purpose links to value creation in tangible ways.”

Collaboration In Place Of Command And Control

Traditional leaders relied heavily on a “command and control” style, where they had most of the answers. Now, the future leader leverages the team for answers as part of the decision-making process. An example is companies surveying their employees to ask them how they want to work post-Covid-19 rather than leaders dictating policy. Leaders who ask and respond by balancing business requirements and employee preferences find more success than companies that dictate policies. According to a report by Monster.com, in what’s being called the “Great Resignation,” 95% of workers are considering changing jobs. With this level of workforce pressure, the stakes are high to get the return-to-work policies right because employees are more mobile, and attracting talent is increasingly challenging.

Experimentation Over Simple Solutions

Leaders who pick a direction in a “black/white” manner often tend to stay the course dogmatically. Future leaders perceive and behave like scientists: continually experimenting, measuring and testing for improvement and exploring new models and approaches. These leaders understand they need to make quick decisions and move into action before they have sufficient information. However, this fast-action leaves them at risk if they cannot refine their direction based on what they learn from their initial steps. Therefore, they take the smallest decision and action possible so they can learn and refine their approach. Agility becomes foundational.

Growth Mindset In Place Of Fixed Mindset

Leaders who focus on being technically correct and in charge put themselves at a disadvantage compared to the future-friendly leader who continually learns and develops self and others. With the volume of change, leaders need to continue to learn about their industries, businesses, and leadership craft. They need a growth mindset and need to help their organizations become learning organizations.

Engagement Focus In Place Of Autocracy

Leaders who managed people by being autocratic and controlling must shift to focus on motivating and engaging people through strategic focus, mentoring and coaching, emotional and social intelligence and empowerment. With a tight labor market, companies struggle to attract and retain employees required to meet customer expectations. Employee engagement is higher when leaders use a range of engagement modes and tools to drive success.

There’s a strong connection between employee engagement and company profitability. In a Gallup study of nearly 200 organizations, companies with the highest levels of employee engagement were 22% more profitable and 21% more productive than those with low levels of engagement. In addition, 94% of the companies on Hay Group’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies believe that their efforts to engage employees create a competitive advantage.

Multi-Stakeholder Model In Place Of Profit Only

Traditional leaders who tend to the numbers and primarily use quantitative measures that drive those numbers need to expand how they define and manage performance and broaden their focus. The future-focused leader continually balances customer satisfaction, employee engagement, community impact, cultural cohesion, social responsibility, environmental impact and profit. This leader is balancing a broader range of stakeholders with nuanced expectations.

Movements like conscious capitalism expand the definition of capitalism and encourage leaders to be more aware of the impact their decisions have on the broader stakeholder community they serve. Similarly, the increasingly popular ESG movement requires that leaders consider the environmental, social and governance impacts of their decisions. Increasingly, large institutional investors are focusing on companies with healthy ESG performance records. From Citi’s 2020 ESG report, “The events of 2020 are a stark reminder that companies like ours have a role to play in helping tackle the world’s toughest problems — and this sense of responsibility drives our ESG agenda,” said Jane Fraser, Citi CEO. “We don’t see ESG as a separate effort. Instead, it is embedded in our daily efforts to support our clients, colleagues and communities, and our work as a bank. We take great pride in our work and are delighted to share it with all our stakeholders in this report.”

Final Thoughts

As leaders, we are the stewards of our organizations, employees and stakeholders’ expectations. Therefore, we need to build future-ready leadership mindsets and skills required to lead in a manner that promotes success short- and long-term for our broad range of stakeholders.

 

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

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

Photo by Memento Media on Unsplash

Setting the Virtual Table: How to Build a Culture of Belonging One Cyber-Meal at a Time

This week’s article is an article by Jeffrey Hull, CEO of Leadershift, Inc.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World that aired on Tuesday, September 21st, 2021.

 

After a year of forced remote work, Zoom overload, and a substantial loss of work-life balance for many of us, the news is stark: virtual work is here to stay. That is according to workplace expert, Dave Burkus, who I had the privilege of interviewing recently for the Institute of Coaching at Harvard. But the news is not all bad. As Dave points out, research shows that many benefits outweigh the drawbacks once we learn how to optimize our work lives in virtual spaces: we have more work-time flexibility, no commute, can spend less on work “costumes” and can potentially work anywhere there is a good internet connection. Virtual work can also increase a worker’s sense of autonomy, which according to research on self-efficacy by Richard Ryan, PhD at the Center for Self Determination Theory is one of three evidence-based factors, along with competence and relatedness, that underpin performance and motivation.

The trouble is that the third factor, relatedness, is particularly difficult to maintain, let alone enhance, in cyber-space. So how do we build a sense of connection, community, and belonging when we’re sitting alone watching tiny boxes on a two-dimensional screen? The answer may surprise you. As Dave points out in his excellent book, Working from Anywhere, the key to connecting in virtual spaces is being intentional about re-creating those experiences that foster cohesion and collegiality.  First among them? Food.

For centuries, human tribes have communed by breaking bread together. Either sitting around the fire or the dining table, the simple act of sharing a meal ensemble has been part of all human cultures. As Burkus describes, a perfect example can be found in Sweden, with the “cake and coffee” culture known as “Fika:” where employees share a drink and a bite to eat with co-workers (not alone at their desks like many Americans) on a daily basis.  It is a deeply important ritual that underpins their well-known collegial, yet high-performing, work culture.

Yet, as regenerative design expert Ben Preston points out, it is challenging to “feel” that same emotional arousal provided by the lived experience of taste, smell, tone, and touch through a two-dimensional screen. The human parasympathetic system needs a certain amount of stimulation to mediate the “fight or flight” response, to bring us into a state of calm rapport.  Eye contact, gestures, smiles, and yes, the arousal of our taste buds and sense of smell, are keen aspects of how humans build trust. So how do we do it virtually?

Well, if you have ever watched a cooking show on TV, or recently saw Stanley Tucci devouring homemade pasta on his gastronomic tour of Italy for CNN, you know that just watching someone eating delicious food can make your taste buds tingle. Breaking bread in cyberspace can work. But you have to pay attention to the details. So here is my five-step recipe for virtual dining that is sure to delight, and inspire, a high-performing team.

  1. Get serious: Food and drink are the lifeblood of vitality for all of us. When we dispense with mealtime gatherings due to remote work we are missing out on something important.  Leaders take note:  creating an opportunity for your team to come together over a shared meal – even if very much BYOB – is serious stuff.  You may not be able to take your team out for lunch or dinner, but you can bring them together, turn off the “to-do” list and share the intimacy of a meal. In fact, by having your team bring their favorite foods, or perhaps a special drink concoction into the mix, the experience can not only be fun but can become a cross-cultural learning experience.
  1. Get personal: Food and drink, are actually just the appetizer, for it is in the stories we share about the highs and lows of living life—taking care of friends and family, overcoming obstacles, watching our kids grow and achieve—where bonds are forged. The virtual meal is an opportunity for leaders to invite everyone into a shared experience. Norms, myths, symbols, and intangible “moments” are what coalesce into a culture of teaming (and psychological safety).

It is important, however, for the circle to be complete by encouraging — not demanding — everyone, even introverts, participates. The key for leaders in this regard is to be the role model: share with humility and vulnerability some triumph or failure, which gives others permission to let down their hair, be human, and imperfect. Cultures of safety and trust are not born of competition, one-upmanship, or “sucking up” to the boss.  It is imperative that the interaction be facilitated well — that employees feel relaxed, supported, welcomed in their diversity and uniqueness.

  1. Get physical: Another key element of meal gatherings that is often taken for granted in the “real world” in the sense of tactile connection afforded by varying our somatic movements, postures, seating arrangements, and so on. To include this physical and energetic component in cyberspace requires intention and attention – to detail.  A leader might suggest people “dress up” (remember office attire?) or wear a costume.

It might be appropriate to suggest participants invite significant others to join in, or bring a child or pet to the “dinner table”.  One way to bring sensory experience into the meal is to have everyone bring a symbolic object that is meaningful for them — to “show and tell” — and share the meaning with which an object or symbol is imbued.  Another possibility is a poetry reading or musical interlude. Often at pre-covid gatherings, we would invite a co-worker to play an instrument or sing. This same activity can be accomplished online: a musical interlude adds color and flair to a virtual meal. Finally, consider adding variation in the use of physical space:  have everyone join in on some dance moves, stretch, or breathe together.  The key: get up and move!

  1. Get game: Last, but not least, in contrast to all of the above; don’t take the whole thing too seriously.  What makes gatherings special, memorable, and relaxing in the “real world” is also true virtually: stuff happens. Make space for slip-ups, jokesters, break-downs. Take time for fun and games. Dining together, virtually, should be what I would call “serious fun.”

One of my clients plays virtual charades with her team, another had a cocktail invention contest (e.g. They sent around a list of ingredients, all non-alcoholic, and then proceeded to find creative ways to mix and match for the best flavor combos). Another leader held an impromptu karaoke event on Zoom, which brought out the best and worst – in everyone.  The key here is to be playful, light, inclusive (invite the introverts, gently, to participate), and serious, all in the name of bonding.

 

There is a reason why the most important scene, the finale, in one of the longest-running Broadway musicals, recently celebrating 25 years of success across the world, is set in a restaurant around a big dining table. The cast of RENT sings the famous anthem La Vie Boheme while, eating, drinking, and dancing on the table. This ritual celebration symbolizes the ultimate experience we all crave as humans: to belong.

So as the RENT cast might say, there is no time like today. If you are leading a remote team, get serious, and get playful. Bring everyone together on Zoom, Teams, or whatever platform you like, set aside work for a bit, and instead, set a virtual table, eat, drink and make merry. Your team will be glad you did.

 

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
Jeffrey Hull, Ph.D. BCC is CEO of Leadershift, Inc. a leadership development consultancy based in New York City and author of the best-selling book, FLEX: The Art and Science of Leadership in A Changing World, from Penguin-Random House in 2019. A highly sought-after speaker, consultant, and executive coach with over twenty-five years working with C-suite leaders worldwide, Dr. Hull is also a Clinical Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School and adjunct Professor of Leadership at New York University. He is the Director of Global Development at the Institute of Coaching, a Harvard Medical School Affiliate. Dr. Hull has been featured in Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, Investors Business Daily, and a wide range of media. He can be reached at www.jeffreyhull.com

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Stratified Systems Theory Applied To Dream Teams

This week’s article is an excerpt from The Science of Dream Teams: How Talent Optimization Can Drive Engagement, Productivity, and Happiness by Mike Zani, CEO of The Predictive Index, a talent optimization platform that uses over 60 years of proven science and software to help businesses design high-performing teams and cultures.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Science of Dream Teams that aired on Tuesday, September 14th, 2021.

What do you have to do next week? What will be on your plate four months from now? How about in two years? If you pose these questions to different people in your organization, you’re sure to get very different answers. Some will provide full to-do lists for different scenarios, while others will shrug, wondering why you’re asking questions that seem irrelevant to their jobs.

People across an enterprise hold wildly different ideas about the future. During the Cold War, a psychologist named Elliott Jaques carried out research on this subject and called it the Stratified Systems Theory. The idea, which was especially useful for the military, is that different jobs require different time horizons. Certain people are comfortable projecting far into the future, while others limit their view to a single week, or even a day. So the trick for a large bureaucracy, Jaques wrote, was to layer the talent according to people’s time horizons.*

If that sounds a tad theoretical, consider concrete examples. An engineer is heading up a team building a manufacturing plant. Working on the construction might be a welder who handles assignments thrown his way. He doesn’t have to plan too much for tomorrow or the next day. His time horizon can be counted in hours.

But the engineer takes a longer view. He has to consider the supplies he’ll need next month and the month after. By that point, winter storms might be blowing through. How will that affect supply chains and construction? He’s dealing with a number of variables over a time frame of several months. Next year, he knows, he’ll have a different project. But he doesn’t have to plan for it.

His boss does. She’s a regional manager who has financial responsibilities, a profit and loss report due every quarter. She’s already prospecting for next year’s projects, some of them in Europe. She’s busy calculating how many workers she’ll need, considering currency hedges, and gauging the risk of banking on contract laborers, which hinges on the job market next spring. She has to think ahead, at least a year or two.

She reports to a chief executive, who might be plotting an Asian strategy, including a massive acquisition in Japan. This person has to weigh variables far into the future, perhaps a decade, even longer.

When Elliott Jaques was drawing up his Stratified Systems Theory for the military, the expanding time frames, Strata 1 through 5 (see Figure 4.1), fit neatly into a rigid hierarchy. Privates didn’t need to think about the future, only to follow orders hour by hour. Each ascending rank required a longer vision, until you got to five-star generals, who had to consider the geopolitical implications in 5 years, or 10, of nuclear weapons development or the containment strategy of the Soviet Union.

While few of us run companies as hierarchically rigid as the military, it’s still valuable to measure the time horizons that employees are comfortable with, and to use them in the deployment of talent.

There are tremendous advantages in a workforce marked by higher strata proficiency. We strive for it in our company. One big plus is that a person who envisions what’s ahead is more likely to figure out what to do—thinking through the steps that lead in the right direction. These people need less management, and are frequently self-starters. They’re more likely to generate ideas because they’re imagining the future and scenario planning. People who think far ahead also have potential to climb into management and executive roles.

Getting a grip on strata is fundamental for designing reporting relationships in an enterprise. Think of what happens, for example, if a chief executive has an administrative assistant who functions on a Strata 1 level. To manage this person, the CEO must drop down to Strata 2, allocating perhaps 15 minutes every morning to go over what the assistant is going to do and how to handle certain calls and emails and calendar items. This is not time well spent. And for this reason, many CEOs hire executive assistants who function at high strata levels. These elite assistants can see the entire operation, and anticipate what’s ahead and what needs to be done. Often, they shed the assistant moniker and become executives in their own right.

If you’re in a small startup, you don’t need to think much about reporting relationships. But as a company grows to 200 people, it develops new levels, with executive vice presidents and division leaders. It’s while managing talent in such an enterprise, with five or six levels, that the strata take on importance. Ideally, each level will have to drop only one strata to manage its reports. Big gaps waste time and lead to frustration.

How do you test for strata? Tom Foster, a management consultant and author, proposes a question, such as: “When you finish what you’re working on now, how do you get more work?” Some people say they wait for their next assignment. Others ask their manager. Others might start to enumerate everything they know that needs to get done. The answer often reveals a person’s time horizon.

I often test for strata during the hiring process. After all, if we want high-strata employees, the job interview is a great place to screen for it. I might ask candidates to tell me a story about the most complicated project they ever undertook in their youth or early in their career. I’m not looking for altruism or team play or any other virtues. I’m focused on comfort with complexity and long-span thinking.

Some people, eager to flash their entrepreneurial credentials, tell me about a business they started. But when you poke further, there’s little there. For example, someone designs a website in college. It’s pretty good. And a local business pays him $500 to make another one. Pretty soon, he has a small business of his own, which pays a chunk of his expenses through college. That’s great, but it doesn’t show a strategic vision.

One of the best strata stories I heard was from a former high school actor named Rich Weiss. He and his friend worked on sets for a high school play. That didn’t sound so complicated to me at first. But then he described the constraints. There wasn’t much money or space. They had to figure out how to make a set that fit into the gym, one the school used for all kinds of activities. So the set had to be compact, moveable, and affordable. They had to plan in September to build it over the winter holidays, without interfering with basketball and gymnastics, and then stage it in March. Rich was clearly a strategic thinker. He now uses those skills to run important processes at our company. He doesn’t have to wait around for someone to tell him what needs to be done.

Excerpt from The Science of Dream Teams: How Talent Optimization Can Drive Engagement, Productivity, and Happiness by Mike Zani, pp. 60-65 (McGraw Hill, July 2021).

 

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
Mike Zani is the author of The Science of Dream Teams: How Talent Optimization Can Drive Engagement, Productivity, and Happiness and CEO of The Predictive Index, a talent optimization platform that uses over 60 years of proven science and software to help businesses design high-performing teams and cultures. Zani is also the co-founder and partner at Phoenix Strategy Investments, a private investment fund. An avid sailor, he was the coach of the 1996 US Olympic Team. He holds a BS from Brown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

 

Photo by Leon on Unsplash

The 5 Main Reasons Why People Get Stuck and Stop Growing

This week’s article was adapted from The Self Help Book by Jared Graybeal.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Self Help Book: Practical Ways to Never Stop Growing that aired on Tuesday, August 10th.

 

Do you ever feel stuck in your own routine? If the feelings of momentum and growth seem elusive in your current life phase, you may be interested in learning how to get “unstuck.”

However, I firmly believe that there’s a seriously important step before moving into the action phase. We need to look at why you’re feeling stuck in the first place.

Without first acknowledging some of the things that hold us back, we may never have the humility and maturity to approach growth with the right mindset.

To help you identify the source of your stagnation, I’ve compiled a list of the five main reasons why most people get stuck and stop growing. See if any of these resonate with you.

Reason #1: We stop making an effort to learn.

Unless they’re forced to learn things at work in order to keep their job, most people don’t commit to a life of continued education. This could be because of burnout from the education system, or it could simply be because committing to a life of never-ending learning is hard.

There are a lot of easier and more immediately rewarding things to do with our time after we get off work, like watching TV, scrolling on social media, or hanging out with friends.

Reason #2: We stop setting goals.

According to the latest research, less than 3 percent of Americans have written goals, and less than 1 percent review and rewrite their goals on a daily basis.

Why? I believe lack of self-confidence, fear of failure, laziness, and impatience keep us from looking forward to the things we want to achieve.

Unfortunately, the minute we stop setting goals, we become aimless.

Reason #3: When we set goals, we suck at it.

Studies show that less than 25 percent of us actually stick to New Year’s resolutions after thirty days, and only 8 percent accomplish them. Clearly, there’s something wrong with how we are setting goals.

Why? Because most of us just don’t know how. Brian Tracy, self-development author and goal-setting expert, says, “One of the greatest tragedies of our educational system is that you can receive fifteen to eighteen years of education in our schools and never once receive a single hour of instruction on how to set goals.”

Reason #4: We are one-track minded about growth.

Most people think growth is linear, assuming you can only grow in one way at one time. Then they get stuck on it.

For example, if you’re trying to get a promotion, you dial into the lifestyle it takes to get that promotion and forsake everything else. Or if you’re trying to lose weight, you do a mediocre job at work, maybe hang with your friends when it’s convenient, but give your fitness goals 100 percent of your attention.

The problem with this is that we stay there, and even once we’ve reached our goal, we don’t think to diversify until we’ve sunk into the depressive state of being stuck again.

Reason #5: Growth can be painful.

When I was in high school, I was 4’11” until my junior year. I prayed daily to grow, but nothing happened…until eleventh grade. I grew seven inches that year (and about three inches more since then, thankfully), and I can remember how painful that was. Seven inches in one year is an unusual growth spurt, and it caused a lot of pain to my joints, especially my hips.

But as I was going through that pain, I was also very thankful, because I had gotten the growth I had been praying for. Personal growth can be much like that. Both the work required and the change that comes with the results can be painful at times, and some people aren’t cut out for that level of discomfort. Once you accept that pain is a part of growth, you will also be able to enjoy the fruits of it later on and live a life of constant, positive change.

What’s keeping you stuck?

It may not be just one reason. You may identify with several of these reasons, and that’s OK. It’s not that you’re more stuck or hopelessly stuck.

It’s that you’re human and honest and ready to move forward. Now that we’ve covered the bad news and the not-so-fun statistics, here’s the good news: you can change.

Getting unstuck isn’t that hard—I promise. It’s just a few small, simple steps done consistently over time. You can live a life of greatness, fulfill your potential, and be happy doing it. Most importantly, you can start right now.

Not next Monday, next month, or next January.

RIGHT NOW.

For more advice on personal growth, you can find The Self Help Book 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

Jared Graybeal’s mission is to encourage, educate, and empower others to live happier, healthier lives. I am a NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, behavioral change specialist, CrossFit Level 2 trainer, and corrective exercise specialist with an education in marketing and psychology from the University of North Florida. I own and operate two companies. One is Superfit Foods, a healthy, subscription-based, fully customizable meal prep company. The other is E3, a business consulting and marketing agency. I’ve done a few cool things, like exhibiting Superfit Foods at Forbes Under 30 and giving a TEDx Talk on nutrition and mental health, and every day I get to work hard at doing what I love.

 

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

Leading in Emerging Industries

This week’s article was written by James Brenza.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Leading in Emerging Industries that aired on Tuesday, August 3rd.

 

I recently shifted my business and technology leadership skills to a new industry. It is an opportunity to help a burgeoning industry improve operational efficiency, improve patient outcomes and help operational leaders be more effective. My career focus has been technology, data, and analytics. My career took a tangential shift when I started Greenest Grow, a company that focuses on creating sensors and software to support efficient cannabis growth. After watching my brother and father suffer extreme pain during the end stages of cancer, I decided to shift my strong professional focus to an area that would help others have a better experience than my family had.

Leaders are frequently called on to step into new industry domains. Sometimes, we invite ourselves into those domains. While the reasons for the shift can be numerous (e.g., burgeoning market opportunities, industry transitions, or personal growth), there’s one constant you’ll encounter: change. While it may be obvious that you’re going to instill change in the new industry domain, you’ll also need to accept some changes yourself. For many people, that second change can be the harder one to anticipate and accept.

My shift required a great deal of soul searching and business research to ensure I was focusing on an area that would have a positive impact on the industry, be financially viable, make the impact I wanted to make for cancer patients and their families. It was also critical that I not provide a gateway drug that might exasperate our global drug addiction issues. This shift has been a bit easier by focusing on 3 key elements:

  1. Adapting and applying the lessons I’ve learned in other industries. When you step away from the details, there are nearly always parallels you can identify and solutions you can leverage.
  2. Applying domain knowledge in common areas (e.g., technology, marketing, and finance).
  3. Adjusting your interpersonal approach to adapt your knowledge to the new domain while garnering acceptance.

That last element, adjusting your interpersonal approach, may be difficult to navigate. “Leading” is getting in front and charging forward, right? While that may work for some, I’ve found it’s generally more effective to gain acceptance and facilitate change through others. While we may need to be “in the forefront”, we can also remain humble and gain perspective. One very effective method is leading with questions to facilitate mutual understanding. If you’re attempting to explain how a prior experience can help solve a challenge, you’ll likely find a very short story will help. That will help others see the parallel to their challenge, consider it differently, and adapt/adopt a new approach.

Throughout a cross-industry transition, it’s critical to remain true to yourself and your values. Consider this: if you can’t lead yourself, how can you lead others? If you can’t succinctly state your values, you may encounter unnecessary turbulence when you encounter new problems. By clarifying your values, it will be much easier to navigate the gray areas and avoid a potential abyss. More importantly, it will help you focus your value proposition and avoid conflicts with your “true north”. By being true to yourself and your values, your new team and industry peers will immediately perceive your sincerity.

The Innovative Leadership Mindset model from the Innovative Leadership Institute provides a robust perspective to help you lead more effectively. Here’s a summary of the mindsets and examples of how I applied them.

Leader 2050 Mindset Application
Be professionally humble You, your peers and your team know you have a lot of expertise. However, you’re stepping into a new domain. It’s important to remember that others have spent decades in that domain and possess a lot of industry wisdom.

 

I am a 50+ year old man who has never used drugs. I was trying to enter the cannabis industry, which is closed by necessity because of the legal challenges. I needed to observe, learn, build relationships before even stepping into a grow house. I went from being the industry expert to the new guy in this industry with extensive experience that would help solve significant challenges and improve operational efficiency. I found it helpful to spend 3-4x more time listening than speaking. I also try to introduce new approaches with a question that invites discussion rather than blunt statement or order.

Have an unwavering commitment to the right action I was an Eagle Scout growing up. I didn’t use illegal drugs. When my brother and father died from cancer, I began to explore the available options to help other cancer patients and their families. I looked at questions of ethics such as is cannabis a gateway drug. Each of us will find our own path. For me, my research made me confident that I could pursue this path and help many people by improving the growing efficiency, which will help produce consistent medicinal cannabis at a lower cost.
Be a 360-degree thinker This was certainly a new domain for me. The size of the puzzle I was facing increased dramatically. Prior to jumping into action, I had to invest time and effort into understanding the entire landscape, identify parallels I could leverage as well as blind spots I needed to question. I relied on Stephen Covey’s sage advice: “seek first to understand, then to be understood”.

 

I partnered with a broad range of people to help me solve significant business issues such as addressing the ability to retain a bank account as a business that supports the cannabis industry. I learned about running a manufacturing business and the contract manufacturing process, about all of the elements in the manufacturing value chain and the cannabis value chain. I sought a board with a range of experience and strategic partners to help in areas where they were experts.

Be intellectually versatile I was stepping into a new domain. It was disconcerting to not have all the answers immediately. I had to open my mind to new knowledge, new experiences, new information, new perspectives – before I could apply any existing mental constructs. I also realized I would never develop the skills that others have spent decades honing. I adapted my approach to ensure that I was building a team that could fill my voids while I applied my skills to help them reach a new level. Collectively, the intellectual capacity of the team increased dramatically.
Be highly authentic and reflective As I processed new information and perspectives, I needed to “double click” on my firmly held beliefs and values.  I knew that if I varied from my “true north”, I wouldn’t be able to work or lead effectively. I had to think deeply to understand my values, what they meant and how they are accomplished. I value both helping people mitigate pain AND I value laws and a focus on avoiding making illegal recreational drugs more accessible if they function as a gateway drug.  I also had to incorporate more research to validate accepted concepts. I grappled with my initial view of “drugs”, my values and the research and ultimately refined how I viewed cannabis. Lastly, it was important to ensure I was applying concise logic and not simply rationalizing to support a business model. This process was an important one. I use the word grappling because I needed to think deeply about what I support, what ventures I want to invest my energy and financial resources into. For many entrepreneurs, this is an important step to consider.
Be able to inspire followership Many individuals look to the “leaders” for the instant answer. However, many leaders know there isn’t always an easy or instant answer. I’ve found that it’s a very fine balance to be both collaborative (seeking input) as well as a visionary that can offer the team a new outcome. I’ve found it helpful to introduce a vision followed by a series of questions that invite conversation to help validate, refine and gain adoption. This “softer” approach helps me empower the team to expand the thinking, influence the adoption of new methods, and encourage collective ownership for sustainable change. We built a shared vision through a process that gave them a voice in the outcome. They also built trust in me and the leadership team through this process.
Be innately collaborative The delicate balance I mentioned above shows up in the tension between inspiring people to follow me and inviting them to collaborate. I’ve realized my first thought should always be to find a way to bring others into the thought process and solution development. Lasting change is only instilled if others are buying into the changes. I’ve observed many organizations rebounding to old behaviors due to the solution being incomplete or a lack of shared ownership. I’ve increased my focus on bringing the team together rather than trying to provide all the answers.

 

Leading through changes and transitions can be both frustrating and rewarding. As you see from the brief account of my experiences, this change in direction has been highly rewarding and also one of the more challenging endeavors I have taken on. At the end of the day, I will accomplish a goal that I am very proud of, improving the lives of people with cancer and the lives of their families. To do this, I needed to remain curious, facilitative and true to myself.

As you think about yourself as an entrepreneurial leader, what is your story? If you look at the seven mindsets, how would you describe your journey? Does this process reveal any gaps you would like to attend 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.

 

 

About the Author

James Brenza is an entrepreneur, information technology and analytics leader with 30 years of diversified experience. He is a hands-on leader who carefully balances strategic planning, business communications, and technical delivery. He has extensive experience with motivating mixed-shore teams to deliver high-quality, flexible results. James’ academic foundation includes 3 degrees: Information Technology, Finance, and an MBA. He complemented his technical skills with a Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Qualification, and PMP certifications. He applies that foundation to solving problems in agriculture, banking, insurance, retail, distribution, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and public service. He led analytic programs that have paid for themselves upon implementation and delivered first year ROI’s in excess of 10,000%.

 

 

We Must Get Workers Ready for the Post-pandemic Economy

This week’s article is provided by William Bonvillian and Sanjay Sarma, authors of a new book from MIT Press, Workforce Education – A New Roadmap. It is a companion to their interview Workforce Education: A New Roadmap on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled that aired on Tuesday, July 13th

 

The pandemic has forced the American workforce into a massive resorting.  Significant numbers of workers were forced to leave sectors like hospitality, retail and travel, and those jobs will not be waiting for them when the pandemic fades. They will have to learn new skills for jobs in the post-pandemic economy. Workforce education must be part of our economic recovery.

The dimensions of the jobs lost during the pandemic are staggering. Restaurants lost 5.5 million jobs in April 2020, then re-openings that summer let the industry regain some jobs, only to lose jobs again with the fall spike in infections. They are picking up now with re-openings but many restaurants will stay closed. Similarly, in April, retail lost 2.3 million store jobs, rebounded by a million jobs by June 2020, but in-person retail will not go back to prior job levels. In travel and tourism, 35% of the jobs were lost after February 2020 and unemployment was at 15% in December, with recovery taking more time than hoped.  Manufacturing is still over a half million jobs short of where it was pre-pandemic.  These aren’t the only hard-hit sectors but they are big ones. Retail has been hit by massive store closings and mall shutdowns, and with the shift to online commerce, in-store jobs won’t be recovered. Bankruptcies in restaurants and tourism are pervasive—many of these firms won’t come back either.

A McKinsey study suggests that perhaps 17 million U.S. workers—28% more than pre-pandemic research had forecast—may need to change occupations by 2030. This means not just changing jobs but changing occupations, which takes longer, is more disruptive, and requires more reskilling. This shift means that the share of employment in low-wage occupations may decline by 2030, while higher-wage occupations in healthcare and STEM professions expand.

Many workers in these hard-hit sectors are going to be stranded.  This will make American economic inequality problems even worse than they were before the pandemic. Workers from these sectors will need quality jobs. Healthcare is embracing suites of new technologies that will require skilled technologists at good pay. Manufacturing and utilities have aging workforces and will require millions of new workers in coming years, but for increasingly skilled jobs.  How can our worker pool reskill?

Unlike many European nations, the U.S. never built a real workforce education system. Americans know what our high school and college systems look like, but if you ask what our workforce education system looks like you will get a blank stare. Although there are parts of a system here and there, we need a robust system now.

Employers, high schools and universities will all have new roles. But we already have a cornerstone of the new system: community colleges.  These colleges, in turn, will need new building blocks:

  • Form Short programs – people who have been in the workforce won’t be able to take time off for two- and four-year degrees; they have families to support and obligations to meet. They need short programs of 10 to 20 weeks with focused programs for technical skills.
  • Embrace credentialing – we need certificates for these programs for specific groups of related skills, based on demonstrated competencies. Since college degrees and credits remain the most recognized credentials, these should be stacked toward degrees. Certificate programs can provide workforce education opportunities for students with limited time availability, as well as meet specific skill requirements for particular employers.
  • Support competency-based education – today’s education is based on an agricultural calendar and pre-determined seat times (time to complete) for credentials. Instead, organize workforce education around demonstrated skills are broken down into particular competencies. If students show skill competency they get the certificate, regardless of how long they have spent in the program. This can cut time in school, student costs and reward practical experience.
  • Bring on online education – online education can’t replace effective instructors or hands-on work with actual equipment, but it can be quite good in conveying and assessing the foundational information behind the skills. Bring blended learning into the system—let online do what it does best, and let instructors do what they do best. Online modules will be critical if workforce education is going to scale up to meet the post-pandemic need.
  • Break down the work/learn barrier – schools have been too disconnected from the workplace; they too need to be deeply linked. Link-programs—apprenticeships, internships, coops—are needed to get students into the workplace earning money while they build skills. This lets them see very directly the link between the competencies they must learn in school programs and job opportunities.
  • Improve completion rates – at too many community colleges only a third of students complete their programs. Workforce education would significantly improve if we make that completion 70%. One of the biggest problems is that many students never get to college courses because they get frustrated with required remedial prep courses. Instead, integrate the remedial course work into students’ study program for career skills so they can clearly see how the remedial work is relevant to their career opportunities.
  • Embed industry-recognized credentials into educational programs – Academic credentials are not enough. Many employers want the assurance of skill knowledge that an industry-approved and accepted credential provides. It creates an additional and parallel pathway to help students toward employment. It also ensures that academic programs are relevant to actual industry needs.

Is creating a workforce education system that follows these new models a mission impossible? We have many studies that tell us what we need to do. States, with backing from federal education funds, need to step up their game and get on board with implementation; fortunately, some states and their community colleges have begun to embrace these steps. After World War II, 16 million veterans returned from overseas while we were shutting down our defense economy.  Congress passed the GI Bill and sent them to school to build their skills. It was perhaps the most successful social legislation our government passed and laid the foundation for a postwar boom.  Recently, researchers and companies created new vaccines in eight months that will save countless lives around the world.  We can create a workforce education system that reskills 17 million. This should be a critical goal.

 

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

Sanjay Sarma is a professor and vice president of MIT Open Learning, leading online education development.  William Bonvillian is an MIT lecturer leading research projects on workforce education. They are authors of a new book from MIT Press, Workforce Education – A New Roadmap, that sets out the new policies needed for a true workforce system.

 

Spotting Opportunities for Creativity and Innovation

This week’s article is provided by Jeff DeGraff, author of The Creative Mindset: Mastering the Six Skills that Power Innovation. This is an edited excerpt from his book and a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Creative Mindset: Mastering Skills that Empower Innovation that aired on Tuesday, June 1st.

 

Regrettably, swaggering catchphrases like “go big or go home” are commonly associated with creative thinking. Accordingly, most of these braggarts end up doing the latter. The next big thing most likely will be small. Instead of trying to develop the next breakthrough technology, you might find an unfilled niche that a current technology could fill if it were used differently. Maybe a solution could be creative simply by applying it in a new way.

For example, super glue was developed for industrial, and household uses, but is now commonly used to close wounds. Alternatively, an old problem may be solved with a new approach. Consider how the repair of highway embankments was greatly expedited by adding cement to industrial canvas. Drape the cement-infused fabric like a carpet and just add water. Voilà, instant infrastructure. The solution doesn’t have to be revolutionary for the effect to be. Better, cheaper, and faster might also work.

When you’re searching for an opportunity for creative thinking, here are three things to look for:

  • Find Unmet Needs and Fill Them 
    • Examine where clients and consumers are dissatisfied with a solution. For example, the poor patient satisfaction score of a medical practice might suggest an opportunity to connect physicians with a ridesharing service. Think of it as a return to house calls. Perhaps you notice that there are no decent restaurants in a number of rural areas near your house. There aren’t enough people in any one location to make a restaurant viable. You might repurpose an old delivery van as a gourmet food truck like the ones that line the streets of New York and Los Angeles. Each week you could bring a different cuisine. The key insight here is to uncover a shortcoming or void and to fill it.
  • Find Inefficiencies and Fix Them 
    • Observing when and where services are untimely is a great way to locate a high-potential opportunity. Parking in any big city is a prime example. Municipalities generate an enormous amount of their revenue by writing parking tickets. Even though the technology exists to digitally connect the driver with the parking space, few cities adopt the solution because it is expensive and cuts into their profits. But, in reality, one does not need substantial financial support from the cities to produce such a product. By examining the traffic pattern data available to the public, based on probabilities, a software developer can develop an app that would serve the same purpose at a fraction of the cost and directly market it to drivers. The challenge isn’t to improve the technology. Instead, it’s to make parking more efficient. This type of challenge can be met without a massive amount of money. It just takes looking at it with a creative mindset.
  • Find Complexity and Get Rid of It 
    • Identify systems that are unnecessarily complicated or that rely too heavily on bureaucratic procedures, and make them simpler. Suppose you are a college freshman at a large institution. You are directed to a website to select your first courses. There is a counselor you can see, but only for a few minutes, and you will have to wait almost until the deadline to register for courses. The complexity of the situation is anxiety-producing and counterproductive to get you set up for success at the start of your education.

Suppose that an enterprising librarian created a call-in service, something akin to what software companies do. The service representatives would have segmented different groups of students based on several variables such as interest, aptitude, and so on. They would have collaborated with the counselors beforehand and created several effective pathways for those student segments. They might be fluent in the registration system of a few universities. Students can use the call-in service to get help and advice on how to select courses based on their interests and walk through the process with the service representatives. The challenge of complexity might be better solved by working against technology trends.

This example is about not creating a new, more advanced technology but reverting to the old-fashion way of talking on the phone to someone who can answer all your questions and walk you through the technology to register for your classes. Sometimes, advanced technology doesn’t help as much as a simpler human solution.

Clarifying Your Challenge Pay Attention. 

Look up, down, and all around yourself. Look for the things that other people don’t see. Chances are that if you see an obvious occasion to innovate, other people see it, too. So look for subtle patterns, small holes, tiny inconsistencies, minor inefficiencies. The opportunity to innovate may be inside something you see every day, but you’ll never see it if you don’t look closely enough.

You want to enter any innovation challenge with your eyes wide open. Before you embark on any new project, especially one that will consume your time, effort, and other resources, you need to be sure that you are solving the right problem and that you really want to do it. Otherwise, you will start many projects but never finish them.

Do not forget to learn from others. Technical descriptions can take you only so far. Meaningful conversations are what will shed the most light on your goals and situation. Listen to stories. Ask open-ended questions. If someone takes one point of view or tone, gently explore the opposite one and see how the person reacts. Pay attention to that person’s body language and energy. Follow-up questions are the key to learning what you really need to know. Good creators are, first and foremost, good listeners.

 

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

Jeff DeGraff is both an advisor to Fortune 500 companies and a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. His simultaneously creative and pragmatic approach to making innovation happen has led clients and colleagues to dub him the “Dean of Innovation.” He has written several books, including Leading Innovation, Innovation You, and The Innovation Code. His most recent book The Creative Mindset brings 6 creativity skills to everyone.

 

How to Step Up as a Leader in a Post-Pandemic World

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This blog is a guest post from Rita Jordan, it coordinates with Mary Jo Burchard’s interview titled Building Trust in Uncertainty: A Personal & Professional Journey that aired on Tuesday, April 6th, 2021.

 

The pandemic has brought a lot of challenges that businesses need to overcome — from disruptions in supply chain operations to remote working policies. A report from the World Economic Forum even highlights some major business apprehensions, including:

• Remote work’s impact on productivity
• Employee morale
• An increasing reliance on technology

And even once the pandemic ends, these concerns will remain. To overcome these challenges and even thrive despite them, leaders need to step up. But what kind of leadership will the post-pandemic world need?

You need to empathize

The pandemic has been a great threat to your employees’ wellbeing, whether that’s their physical or mental health. True enough, recent studies show that at least 34% of professionals in the country admit to feeling more burned out than usual. The uncertainties brought by the pandemic will continue to persist even when the worse is over. After all, who’s to say another year like 2020 won’t arrive?

That said, a post-pandemic leader knows how to make decisions while showing empathy. For example, if your team members are not feeling well, convince them to take a sick day. Offer assistance when they ask for it. If you can check in on them at least once a week, that would help, too.

You need to trust your team

Contrary to initial worries, remote working policies have been very beneficial for employee productivity. In fact, 67% of employees testify to getting more work done at home. As such, remote work will persist even after the pandemic.

But for a permanent remote setup to work, you need to be a leader that trusts their team. For instance, if you’re an operations manager, resist the urge to micromanage your employees to compensate for the distance. As one of the top careers in business administration, operations managers are the backbone of the company’s day-to-day operations. While overseeing teams is part of the responsibility, you should be more concerned about developing strategies to increase your department’s efficiency. The case is similar for sales managers, whose primary job is planning campaigns and not implementing them. Micromanaging in these instances will only cause unneeded stress.

Trust your team members to finish their tasks at their own pace, and be ready to guide them when needed. This not only empowers your individual team members, but it also lets you focus on what’s truly important.

You need to be tech-savvy

The pandemic may have accelerated its adoption, but digital transformation has been an increasingly crucial factor in the success of businesses.

For example, more customers are active online, which makes digital marketing an increasingly necessary part of your strategy. Office tools like CRM and AI can automate some of your processes, streamlining your operations. There’s even the advent of cloud technology, which lets you host data online. This can help you collaborate with your team much easier, which is especially useful in a time of remote work. Leaders need to know which technologies can help their teams or department function better.

If you want the business to thrive post-pandemic, you need to be a leader who’s willing to adapt. Learn how new technologies work and show your team extra attention. Circumstances may continue to be uncertain, but leaders know to cut through the noise and guide their teams to push past the fear.

 

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

Rita Jordan is a freelance writer and aspiring business owner, currently taking a Masters in marketing to fulfill said dream. She likes to read books and help her sister with art commissions when she has the time.

When Trust Is Frail: Trust-Building For Leaders

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This blog is provided by Mary Jo Burchard, as part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Building Trust in Uncertainty: A Personal & Professional Journey that aired on Tuesday, April 6th, 2021.

 

Trust is the decision to make something cherished vulnerable to the care of another. When you and your people trust each other – more specifically, when you trust your care for each other – everything you do together is just easier. There’s natural momentum in creativity, curiosity, innovation, and engagement, because suspicion creates drag in any authentic interaction. Building an environment where trust can flourish needs to be a key focus, as leaders and as human beings. Conscious, intentional transfer of vulnerability into each other’s care is the most crucial component of building a trust environment. This exchange creates a very special magic.

Trust is multi-dimensional, always evolving, and necessarily flows both ways. The trust experience can be observed and built-in six dimensions, as observed in the ASC-DOC Trust Model:

Authenticity – “I believe you mean what you say, and you have no hidden agenda.”

Safety – “Your speech and actions make me feel safe and protected, not threatened, defensive, or insecure.”

Consistency – “Your behaviors and responses are predictable; I know what I can expect from you.”

Dependability – “You keep your promises and honor confidentiality.”

Ownership – “You carry the weight of what happens to what I entrust to you.”

Competence – “You have the skills and experience necessary to do what’s expected.”

Upon your initial interaction, you and the other person begin to determine how much you are willing to trust each other in every dimension. The trust experience evolves, growing, or straining with each interaction. Therefore, assessing and building trust needs to be constant and intentional. Here are a few tips to keep trust progressing:

Your (in)ability to trust each other is not necessarily about character or maturity. Everyone enters the trust adventure with a history. Past disappointments, betrayals, personal failures, or lack of experience may make the trust journey more difficult. Especially as a leader, you may bear the brunt of previous leaders’ shortcomings. Resist the urge to interpret negative assumptions about your character or abilities as an attack. Become aware of your contribution to these trust challenges. Listen to each other’s stories, to learn how to mitigate fears and insecurities along the way, and discover how/why this time can be different. The most important gift you can give each other in this process is to assume that you intend good toward each other, and do not intend to cause one another harm.

Power and need do not guarantee trust. If someone needs you (whether as a parent, an employer, or leader), they will do what they must (vis: comply) to get you to meet their need. You cannot assume that their vulnerability/need and your power to address it will automatically translate into a trust relationship. If trust is not built, the best you can hope for is a consistent transactional arrangement. Building trust requires more than meeting needs; it requires letting people in. Your mutual decision to let each other in begins the trust adventure. How can you forge a relationship that brings out the highest and best in everyone, when a shared frame of reference is non-existent beyond surface transactional engagement?

  1. Be the first to model trust and vulnerability. Trust is risky, but if you have the upper hand, you can afford to risk first. When a trust connection is frail, commit in advance to be the first to trust wherever you can, based on the other person’s perceived capacity to handle it. Modeling trust and vulnerability makes room for the other person to do the same.
  2. Focus on the person. How comfortable and confident are they with you? Don’t skip to a solution or directive without pausing to really see and hear the other person. Pay attention to how they are engaging with you. Are they guarded? Distant? Confident? Emotional? Gauge your current rapport with them at this moment; don’t take it for granted.
  3. Ask for input and really listen. Don’t assume that a visible lack of trust is an accusation or assessment about you. The person in front of you has a story, and that story is the lens through which they interpret your interaction. Honor that story. What are they sensing, feeling, perceiving? How do these insights inform their behavior and responses? People respond to things impacting what’s important to them. What can you tell is important to them? How is it being impacted/at risk right now? What is happening at this moment that might explain why they are angry, scared, confused, or suspicious?
  4. Discover and validate current needs. What is making them feel vulnerable right now? Ask probing questions: “It sounds like you need [X]… how can I help?” “You seem [x]… how can I help?” Essential needs include physical and environmental dimensions, but they also transcend the obvious immediate needs. More than food, more than water or air, people need connection, to be seen and valued. Don’t forget to validate the human need to belong.
  5. Affirm trust already present. You know what they need, but what do they already trust you will deliver? How can you protect, reinforce, and continue to earn that trust?
  6. Intentionally build trust. How can you address their current needs and concerns? Get good at listening for clues about current needs. Confirm you understand what you hear and observe. Get creative at addressing these needs and keep adapting as the needs evolve.

Remember, if trust necessarily flows both ways, the other person is never the only one vulnerable. To model trust, you need to let them in. You cannot be authentic without examining your own willingness and ability to trust. Belonging, care, and trust must thrive together in you if you want to create an environment where trust is the norm.

 

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

Dr. MaryJo Burchard (Ph.D., Organizational Leadership) is convinced that our greatest depth and meaning often emerge from seasons of disappointment, surprises, and loss. Her own leadership approach has been shaped by the healing journey of their son, Victor, who was adopted from a Ukrainian orphanage. MaryJo’s research and consulting work focus on helping leaders and organizations stay humane and cultivate trust, especially in times of serious disruption and profound change.

How to Improve Written Communication in Your Team and Increase Productivity

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This blog is a guest post from Jessica Fender, it coordinates with Ryan Gottfredson’s interview titled Success Mindsets: Your Keys to Unlocking Greater Success in Your Life that aired on December 15th, 2020.

 

As a leader, you have a lot of responsibilities. From keeping your team efficient to nurturing a positive work atmosphere, you need to handle it all. You must constantly work on improving your relationship with your team as well as their relationship with each other. While there are many ways to do it, effective and clear written communication is among the top ones.

To increase your team’s productivity, and keep everyone on the same page, you have to find a way to improve written communication in your team.  We’ve created this ultimate guide for improving written communication in the workplace that will help you boost team productivity and efficiency.

1.     Advocate Open Communication

Your team looks up to you and follows the rules that you set. They’re counting on you to make way for positive changes and help them reach their maximum potential.

This is why a change for improved communication needs to start with you.

You have to show your team that you want them to:

  • send you emails
  • communicate their problems
  • ask for advice, opinion, or feedback

To make sure they’re aware that they can write to you whenever they feel the need, all you have to do is let them know.

Tell them in person, or end your emails with notes such as:

  • Please, let me know if there are any questions/you have uncertainties/you need to further discuss this, etc.

Advocate open communication, and you’ll be making way for positive changes.

2.    Choose the Right Channels

For your team to be communicating properly, you need to help them find the right channels to do it. You can test out different versions and team collaboration tools and decide which channel suits the needs of your team best.

Here’s what we suggest you try:

  • LinkedIn
  • Trello
  • Slack
  • Teamwork
  • Microsoft Teams

Once you set up a proper channel, you’ll be happy to learn that your team members will be more willing to communicate, collaborate, and improve their relationship.

3.    Schedule Assessments

To make sure you’re nurturing written communication properly, you have to make sure you’re communicating regularly. This goes for all types of workplaces, especially remote ones.

And since so many of us are working remotely due to the COVID 19 pandemic, it’s essential that we schedule regular assessments.

Here’s what we have in mind:

  • once a week or month, you write an assessment of the previous period
  • review the goals, workflow, and results
  • ask for the whole team to join you
  • let them speak their mind, give suggestions, or share their thoughts

This way, you’ll show them how important it is for you to hear what they have to say. By scheduling written communication, you’re making it more important and meaningful for the entire team.

4.    Write Professionally

You and everyone on the team need to write like a professional. That means that everything has to be proofread and polished before you hit send, publish, or pin.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • grammar mistakes
  • spelling mistakes and typos

To make sure your writing is polished to perfection, and you’ve managed to proofread everything to the smallest detail, you can get some help online. For instance, check out TrustMyPaper review if you feel you need help improving your writing. They’ll provide writing help of any kind.

5.    Provide Valid Feedback

As a team leader, it’s your job to keep people engaged, motivated, and happy to be a part of your team. But, this doesn’t mean you should praise whatever they do or pretend to not see their mistakes.

On the contrary, it means you have to provide valid feedback.

Here’s what we have in mind:

  • critically analyze the work of all team members
  • give them both positive and negative feedback
  • make your feedback valuable, informative, and educational

If a team member sees you went through the trouble of writing a report on their results, they’ll see they matter to you and the rest of the team.

Your feedback will show them how to grow and improve, and that’s the biggest gift you can give them.

6.    Keep it Simple

You and all your team members need to keep the communication simple if you want it to make any positive effect. You all have a lot of work to do, and nobody has the time to read endless pages of reports or emails.

This is why you have to write following these simple rules:

  • keep it short
  • be concise
  • go straight to the point
  • write short but valuable sentences
  • remove everything that doesn’t bring value

This means that there’s no room for jokes, fluff words, repetition, or anything that isn’t directly connected to the topic of your written conversation.

If everyone follows these rules, nobody would skip reading the emails or ignore the messages you’re sending.

7.    Write Down The Expectations

While you may be communicating great in your live meetings, it’s always a great idea to write the most important points down. This goes especially for assigning tasks and roles to individual team members.

Here’s what to write down:

  • each person’s tasks
  • expectations on the project
  • deadlines
  • project stages

Put everything in writing and make sure all team members have access to this report. This way, you will be assured that everyone knows what they’re expected to do, how, and when.

Final Thoughts

Written communication is equally as important as oral communication. To increase your team’s productivity, you have to ensure you’re a role model, and that you initiate positive written communication habits.

Use the tips we’ve shared above to improve the productivity of your team and help them establish strong and healthy work communication.

 

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, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Jessica Fender is an educational blogger and content specialist at GetGoodGrade, a resource for writing websites reviews. She enjoys sharing her knowledge with students of all ages and making learning easier for them.