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Leadership in Times of Instability

This week’s article is by Greg Moran, a C-level digital, strategy, and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Adapting Your Leadership Skills for Uncertainty that aired on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022.

Here is a short clip of the interview:

 

Here is the full interview:

 

 

 

It’s always fun to start a blog by stating the obvious. We live in uncertain times. While this is always true, the number of variables on the move and the amplitude of that change can vary a lot and when there is enough change going on, the situation can become unstable. Instability has an insidious way of leading to more instability unless action is taken to re-stabilize the situation, or at least your place in it.

So why state the obvious? The context for the associated podcast was specifically looking at the role of leadership in times of instability. What changes and what does not change? The answers can appear counter-intuitive, but are essential and become more so as the volatility increases.

To begin, I’m reminded of a Native American teaching story (hard to prove, but fits my narrative well) that I first heard from David Whyte. The premise of the story is to teach a young person what to do when they are lost in the forest. The story opens thus: “Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, and you must treat it as a powerful stranger…”. The story goes on to provide guidance as to how to recognize what is around you so that you can orient yourself and finishes with the following wonderful declarative: “The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.”

The essence of our conversation was how to lead in high-change environments. While there is more to the story, we focused in on a couple of key elements:

  • Despite the pressure on your schedule as a leader, tumultuous times require an increased level of empathy for your team. I believe that to lead effectively, you have to sincerely love and wish to serve those you lead. They need your comfort, coaching and care when times are rough.
  • When the going gets tough, the temptation is to abandon discipline and act fast/go with your gut. While that may need to happen in extreme situations (think crisis), it rarely serves well when you are facing adversity (not a crisis). Rely on thoughtful tools that help you make great decisions and be more disciplined than ever – measure twice and cut once.
  • Rely on the principles of strategy and leadership that you already ascribe to. Rules of strategy are way more like physics than most people like to admit. As Porter outlines in his seminal piece “What is Strategy?”, multiple strategies can work, but you can’t mix and match them or you get mush.
  • Pay attention to team dynamics – how you work together is more critical than ever in bumpy times. Maximize team function vs. taking a scarcity mentality and trying to prove others wrong.
  • Make small adjustments frequently. When the game is changing fast, you need to adjust how you are playing the game much more frequently than you would otherwise. Perhaps a weekly cadence makes more sense than a monthly one.

The underlying assumption of this conversation is that the fundamental tenets of leadership do not change, but the mindset and practices of leadership may need to change to better meet the moment. This adaptation of technique doesn’t have to, nor should it, replace the principles that you’ve built your leadership identity around. What you must do to be effective will necessary change with the zeitgeist. There are many examples of this that we walk through in our dialogue, so if this topic piques your interest, take a listen!

 

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

Greg Moran is a C-level digital, strategy and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience. He led corporate strategy for Ford and designed the plan that Alan Mullaly used to turn around the company. Greg held C-level IT positions in app dev, infrastructure and core banking applications at Ford, Nationwide Insurance and Bank One/JPMC, respectively. He began his career in consulting with Arthur Andersen Accenture, working across industries with 100 companies over the course of a decade. He is passionate about leadership and culture and teaches part-time on the topic at Ohio University.

Photo by Zach Lezniewicz on Unsplash

Bringing Your Full Self to Work

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 Dawn Foods to have an open and inclusive workplace culture.  It is a companion to Jason Lioy‘s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Cultivating Empathy Through Authenticity that aired on Tuesday, April 26th, 2022.

Here a short clip of the interview:

Here is the entire interview:

It’s staggering to think about just how much time an average adult devotes to work, especially in recent years. Between labor shortages, business model changes, and the ever-present nagging emails so easily accessed by our mobile devices or in our home offices, the reality is that the 40-hour workweek is a pipe dream for most. It’s no wonder, then, why our collective consciousness has been pulled towards the importance of DE&I in the workplace – if we’re to give so much of ourselves to our jobs, then we (rightfully) expect it to be done in a welcoming, warm, and safe environment where we don’t feel the need to hide who we are or the unique perspectives we bring to the table. Maureen Metcalf had an opportunity to explore that concept with Jason Lioy – Chief People Officer at Dawn Foods – as part of the ongoing Connex Executive Insights Series to learn how they’re approaching employee engagement through a DE&I lens.

Dawn Foods is a global leader in bakery manufacturing and ingredients distribution and partners with bakers, retailers, and wholesalers to deliver the ingredients, expertise and inspiration to help them grow their business – a complex process that has more than 4,000 team members servicing 100 countries around the globe. . Despite that, they’ve never lost focus of their core values or rich company culture, both of which are heavily influenced by their family-owned status. They aim to provide that warm, familial atmosphere, cultivating a psychologically safe environment where team members feel they belong, are valued, and most importantly, are respected. That work recently was highlighted in a push for individuals to bring their whole selves to work through Dawn’s internal “I AM” campaign.

In 2021 for Global Diversity Awareness Month, Dawn wanted to celebrate the differences of its team and what makes the team who they are. The ‘I Am’ campaign was simple, it asked people to share something about themselves that might not have been known to the rest of the team. The campaign began with a handful of courageous pioneers, senior leaders, and C-suite executives posting self-made signs on Dawn’s internal social network, Workplace .,  All beginning with “I AM”, they shed light on those elements that strongly guided their behaviors, mindsets, and actions as they navigate the workplace: I AM “a single mother”, or “living with ADHD”, or “the first college grad in my family”.

The campaign connected team members around the world, opened up new conversations, and most of all, it was empowering. The campaign immediately received a wave of attention and engagement from team members, each broadcasting pieces of their own stories to their colleagues. The message from Dawn was loud and clear: you can be your authentic self at work and don’t have to code-switch, because it’s the uniquities underpinning who you are that drive the business. Doing so required immense trust, and by having leaders express their vulnerability first, Dawn was able to create the kind of powerful groundswell that helps define company culture.

A Better Employee Experience

The benefits of the campaign from a DE&I perspective were readily apparent, as it spoke directly to the chief barriers of inclusivity and belonging. However, it also assisted Dawn in their ongoing process of reimagining and strengthening their team member experience. The pandemic forced their corporate team members into home offices for the first time, and while communication and engagement were key foci for their frontline teams, those at-home team members were experiencing a unique and unprecedented kind of isolation. Dawn trusted team members to handle their tasks and do them well and made a point to increase the frequency and quality of personal check-ins and team-based connections. They had leaders stress the importance of personal wellbeing, living that ideology by reminding their reports that they’d be there to support and listen. Their work to develop and execute the “I AM” campaign was a valuable extension of that vulnerability, encouraging team members to be comfortable with one another and seek out all the benefits of psychologically safe, open dialogue with peers.

The same ethos of meeting team members where they have also been reflected in Dawn’s revamped talent practices. Difficulty in recruiting and the prevalence of remote – and now hybrid – work led to a widening of candidate pools into geographies that weren’t previously considered. Dawn also invested in robust virtual onboarding, brand videos, and collaboration tools. From day one, team members are supported, engaged with the business and its values, and connected with others while being accepted for who they really are.

Empowering Leadership

To maintain that environment, Dawn has also recalibrated their leadership skillsets. Soft skills have always been critical, but our “new normal” has put an outsized focus on empathy, and that’s doubly true for any organization trying to signal to employees that it’s okay to be themselves. Dawn is encouraging leaders to practice active listening and make a genuine attempt to understand the unique, individual contexts behind interactions with team members; requiring that they be authentic and honest themselves. In conjunction with resilience and courage, these skills form the core toolkit for meaningfully engaging their team members and actually executing on their promise of a welcoming atmosphere. That, in turn, feeds retention, giving teams the long-term stability needed to drive business performance and bring the full weight of their diverse perspectives to bear – the real goal of any DE&I program.

 

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

Brandon Hicke at Connex Partners brings nearly a decade of writing, consultative, and market analysis experience to the table. He plays a pivotal role in developing and enhancing the Connex Membership model through engaging content pieces and synthesized industry insights. In his free time, Brandon loves cooking, competitive gaming, pedantic philosophic discussions, and exploring his new hometown of St. Louis with his loved ones.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

To Combat Climate Despair, We Must Cultivate Resilient Collective Action

This week’s article features Leah Lizarondo, CEO and co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, a social enterprise with a technology, logistics and civic engagement model that aims to fight hunger and promote sustainability by preventing perfectly good food from entering the waste stream and directly distributing to organizations that benefit those who are food insecure.  Her 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 her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Reimagining Leadership to Solve Food Insecurity that aired on Tuesday, April 19th, 2022.

Here is a short clip of the interview:

Here is the full interview:

Amidst the continuous flood of alarming climate change news, we are increasingly seeing stories about phenomena like “climate depression” and “climate anxiety.” The scale of the problem can be paralyzing, especially for ordinary citizens without wealth or political might to muster against it. But collectively, those regular people have the potential to make a huge difference – how do we help them overcome the inertia of climate despair and contribute to big solutions? The answer is to place effective and rewarding tools in their hands.

Designing the Right Tool for the Problem

Our organization, 412 Food Rescue, and its national tech platform, Food Rescue Hero, bridge the last mile between businesses with good surplus food and the people who need that food the most. I was inspired to start this work when I learned an alarming statistic: in the U.S., up to 40% of the food we produce is wasted, while one in seven households are food-insecure.

Almost a third of this waste occurs at grocery stores, restaurants, and other consumer-facing businesses. Every year, this sector finds itself with 23 million tons of surplus food that it can’t sell. Most of it ends up in landfills, where it releases methane, a greenhouse gas more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

Much of the food that is discarded at the retail level is still good to eat, but only a small percentage is ever donated. Retail food donation presents a number of logistical challenges: pick-up locations are dispersed; amounts and types of food are variable and unpredictable; and most surplus food is fresh and perishable and therefore needs to be consumed quickly.

The traditional spoke-and-hub model of retail food donation, based on trucks making regular pick-ups and delivering to a central food bank, misses too much food. We need a more flexible model to reach all available surplus and bring it to the nonprofits, community access points and homes where it can do the most good.

When we were creating Food Rescue Hero, we recognized that there was already an existing model for transport from a broad array of pick-up locations to a broad array of drop-off locations: ridesharing and food delivery apps like Uber and DoorDash. While those platforms are based on the work of paid drivers, we made Food Rescue Hero for volunteers. We believed that most people were looking to technology not only for ways to earn money, smooth over inconveniences, and get instant gratification, but also for ways to do good.

Our Food Rescue Heroes have vindicated that belief abundantly. We have recruited the world’s largest network of on-demand volunteer drivers, 27,000+ strong and growing, and they deliver on 99% of all available rescues from our hundreds of donor businesses. They are not only reliable but also, often, prolific. Many have performed hundreds of rescues. One particular septuagenarian in Pittsburgh has completed over 1,500 rescues.

Thanks to all of the volunteers across the 15 cities with active Food Rescue Hero networks, we have reached over 80 million pounds of good food saved to feed people instead of landfills. That’s equivalent to almost 67 million meals, carried to their destinations in our volunteers’ cars or trucks, in their minivans next to children excited to help, on their bikes, or even on their shoulders as they make deliveries on foot. And all sorts of people have stepped up to do this work: artists, activists, teachers, musicians, small business owners, parents, teenagers, retirees, and many more.

What is it that keeps these volunteers so engaged?

Centering the Human in the Design

Research indicates that one of the main barriers to volunteering is that people feel they don’t have enough time, or that volunteer schedules are too inflexible. The same ridesharing-style model that resolves the logistical barriers of food donation can also resolve these personal barriers.

Like a driver for Uber, a user of the Food Rescue Hero app gets notifications on their phone when a nearby rescue is available. They can also go on the app and search for local rescues any time they want. In this way, the app regularly presents users with opportunities to engage, on their terms. Once they accept a rescue, the app guides them through the process of pick-up and drop-off, for an easy, seamless experience. Most rescues take under an hour, and users can pick one up whenever they have time. There is no obligation to commit to a regular rescue – though many end up doing so.

A problem like food waste can feel both daunting and distant. If you are not a grocery store employee tasked with dumping pounds and pounds of nutritious food into the dumpster every night because it will not be sold before its “best by” date, you may not be able to wrap your mind around the problem.

But if you show up to the grocery store and load boxes of that good food into your car instead, the problem becomes tangible. And if you then deliver that food to a community center or a public housing complex where people are excited to see you and find out what you’ve brought to help them through the week, you vividly experience just how much power that simple act has. A carload of food that could be rotting in a landfill is instead ensuring that a community will not go hungry.

Our app delivers donated food, but it also, crucially, delivers that pay-off to volunteers: the incomparable, indescribable feeling of fulfillment at your core after you know you have made a difference. It’s a million times better than seeing a “like” on your social media post. It’s life-changing. It keeps people coming back.

 

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

Leah Lizarondo is the founder of Food Rescue Hero®, a technology, logistics and civic engagement model that fights food waste and hunger in 16 cities. Her work has been featured in NPR, Fast Company, and The Washington Post, among others. Leah is originally from the Philippines and currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Who is More Charismatic–Putin or Zelensky? Does It Matter?

This week’s article, written by Maureen Metcalf, analyzes research data provided by John Antonakis, Professor of Organizational Behavior and editor-in-chief of The Leadership Quarterly.  This article is a companion to the interview John did with Maureen and is part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  This series features speakers from the Annual ILA Conference that occurred in October of 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.  The interview titled The Importance of Studying Leadership Scientifically on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast aired on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022.

 

Here is a short clip from the interview:

Here is a link to the entire interview:

 

Leadership researchers have debated the impact of charisma on leadership effectiveness. What leaders say and how they say it can have a strong motivational effect and help coordinate followers’ actions. It impacts their belief about what others will do, thereby helping align people when taking on a costly and challenging set of activities such as we see as we watch the Ukrainians defend their country. Leadership is the social glue that helps pull a group together and hold it together as people strain to accomplish a challenging goal. Leaders also serve as role models. They signal what actions are appropriate. Additionally, leaders’ symbolic actions can serve as rallying cries for others – direct followers and stakeholders.

To illustrate charisma using, we look at the Russian invasion of Ukraine and evaluate the impact the charisma of these world leaders is likely to have on the war.

Before analyzing Presidents Zelensky and Putin, we want to ground the conversation in some data,  according to a paper published in December 2021 in Management Science, “Just Words? Just Speeches?” On the Economic Value of Charismatic Leadership by John Antonakis, Giovanna d’Adda, Roberto A. Weber, Christian Zehnder, “In the field experiment, we find that workers who are given a charismatic speech increase their output by about 17% relative to workers who listen to a standard speech. This effect is statistically significant and comparable in size to the positive effect of high-powered financial incentives. We then investigate the effect of charisma in a series of laboratory experiments in which subjects are exposed to motivational speeches before playing a repeated public goods game. Our results reveal that a higher number of charismatic elements in the speech can increase public good contributions by up to 19%. However, we also find that the effectiveness of charisma varies and appears to depend on the social context in which the speech is delivered.”

With this research as the foundation for our blog, we explore Professor John Antonakis’ evaluation of Presidents Zelensky and Putin. John evaluated both leaders’ charism by considering the words they used in recent speeches and their behavior and visual images during the speeches. President Zelensky scored as a significantly more charismatic leader when looking at the language he selected.

To evaluate charisma in further detail, John looked at the nine charismatic leadership tactics he uses to compare the two leaders. The chart below reflects the collective difference between the two leaders.

In Antonakis’ analysis, Zelensky scored higher in these seven categories: While Putin scored higher in these two categories:
  1. Collective sentiment
  2. Contrast
  3. Confidence in goals
  4. Lists/repetitiveness
  5. Metaphor
  6. Moral conviction
  7. Rhetorical question
  1. Ambitious goal
  2. Stories

This analysis tells us that President Zelensky will have more success motivating his troops and gaining support from International Leaders than will President Putin. To add to the analysis, Zelensky is also better at engaging in symbolic acts that close the status gap between himself, his soldiers, and citizens. He dresses and acts like a regular soldier and eats with his troops. He isn’t using props and technology. We often see Putin distanced from his soldiers and people.

Zelensky is a better role model and a symbol of emulation – giving an edge to the Ukrainians when looking through the lens of leadership and charisma. Leadership works not only in motivating followers. It also helps motivate stakeholders to take action that will help bring a collective together, such as the European Union, to reach a collective goal of winning the war against Russia. Both of these leaders are role models that set the tone for others.

Because Zelensky is such a charismatic leader, his skills will help steel the hearts of the Ukrainians. They have a cause to fight for, their country and homes, and a collective identity to defend. While the Ukrainians have more to lose in this war, the leadership of President Zelensky provides additional motivation and collective identity, and President Putin provides the Russian troops and other countries he is trying to unite around his cause.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and 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 on LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

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

 

 

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

The Future, Through the Lens of Entrepreneurs

This week’s article is provided by Faris Alami, Founder and CEO of ISM.  It is a companion to the interview he and Dr. Christopher Washington did on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future.  Their interview titled Post-Pandemic Approaches to Developing Future Fit Employees, aired on Tuesday, March 1st, 2022.

Here’s a short clip of Faris Almi and Christopher Washington’s interview:

 

Here’s the full interview:

For the past few years we have faced the challenges of COVID-19, from the initial shutdowns to the reopening, to the next shutdown and reopening — each part of the “new reality.”

Many have found it devastating. They grieve for the loss of nearly a million lives in the U.S. alone, as well the loss of businesses and communities According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “the pandemic resulted in the permanent closure of roughly 200,000 U.S. establishments above historical levels during the first year of the viral outbreak, according to a study released by economists at the Fed.” (Simon, 2021)

At the same time, the pandemic also provided opportunities for entrepreneurs to start or grow their businesses.

“The new numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday… found that a whopping 5.4 million new business applications were filed in 2021, surpassing the record set in 2020 of 4.4 million.”-Andrea Hsu, NPR.org

As with any other challenge, there will always be some who gain while others lose. As we continue to deal with the implications of COVID-19, there are opportunities to create new platforms and paths to explore to pursue the dream of starting a business.

The “New Reality” of the Corporate World

The reality of the pandemic has shifted the workforce in a variety of ways. The initial and most tangible shift is the transition and creation of remote jobs. According to the NCCI, only 6% of employed Americans worked from home before the pandemic. Initially, about 35% of the workforce worked remotely in the first four weeks of the pandemic. As of May 2021, about 24% of employed Americans still work remotely, with no plans to return to the office. 

Instead of being in person, working right there in the office, many people continue to work remotely — managing and tending to their business tasks, their personal lives, their kids, and sometimes their elders, all at once, and all in the same place.

The workforce has shifted. These times create new challenges, and also generate new problems to be solved — thus producing opportunities for innovative solutions to accommodate this new sect of employment.

Lifestyle and Purpose as a Priority

The second shift is in the mindset of workers and the realization of their top priorities truly are. The time with family and friends has allowed a reflection on the importance of finding purposeful work. They no longer look for a job just to have a job, they are looking for a job with a purpose — to have a better life, to have a better world, support the underserved, the underrepresented, go to the moon — whatever it is, their purpose is driving their job search.

After the pandemic shifted many Americans’ lifestyles, the flexibility and remote work made many not want to return to the office and maintain that level of flexibility they got to experience as a result of the pandemic.

They ask themselves: Will this job allow me to fulfill my purpose?

Purpose or Wage Ratio Increase?

Many aspects of business have been affected by the pandemic, including the cost and availability of labor. The entrepreneurial spirit of Americans was ignited during this period of reflection. With many Americans looking for purposeful work, they are also looking for purposeful pay.  According to the Pew Research center, “the wage ratio increased to 16% by the third quarter of 2020 and had ascended to 19% by the second quarter of 2021.” (Kochhar, Bennett 2021).

This created a new challenge for entrepreneurs — particularly small businesses or startups. Many don’t have the funds to create those jobs. Sometimes there is not enough revenue to justify the payment for that work.

This is why you see the shift today — some entrepreneurs are able to navigate this new reality by hiring and training new talent. They are facing the fact that they can no longer afford talented individuals with experience. Those folks, most of the time, have been able to launch their own businesses or find jobs that will pay them what they are worth.

The End of a 40 Hour Work Week?

That represents a new challenge for entrepreneurs accustomed to having people 40-50 hours a week. And there must be a mind shift, not just a physical shift. They need to find new ways to allocate and articulate their work in a 20- or 30-hour work schedule rather than a 40-hour schedule.

This may mean that looking for a team of people working part time as opposed to 1 full time employee may be the best way to find success. Some of the benefits of hiring a team are the opportunity for innovation with more minds collaborating, less opportunity for employees to feel overworked or burned out, increasing retention, and increased productivity within the time they do work instead of just fulfilling the 40 hours to ‘complete’ their schedule.

It took a few years for us to successfully shift from an in-person workplace to a virtual staff. It will probably take time to reverse that shift. We could be looking at 2023 or 2024 before whatever this “new normal” becomes apparent. Sometimes you are open, sometimes you are closed, sometimes someone’s not able to show up.

I encourage entrepreneurs who are starting or growing businesses — specifically small and medium businesses or startups —to rethink the way they view the workforce. It seems that we still can hire for attitude and train for skills!

Ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is this really a full-time position, or can these tasks be completed on a part-time basis?
  2. Can this job be divided amongst a team instead of just an individual?

Why does your business exist? What purpose are you fulfilling for the community or for the customers you serve? The answer might help you attract the talent to want to work with you toward your purpose.

With this article, my goal is not to tell you what or what not to do, but only to inspire conversation for us to think about these ideas.

Keep thinking about the future of work through the lens of entrepreneurs, as they face new challenges every day.

 

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

As Founder and CEO of ISM, Faris Alami works with international leaders and entrepreneurs on strategies and implementations, to create an empowering environment for startups and existing businesses to prosper and grow. In the course of his career, Faris has been a special advisor and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem expert with the World Bank, a Business Advisor with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, and a Mentor to MBA Students and Entrepreneurs globally.

 

Photo by Mikey Harris on Unsplash

Rebranding “Resignation” as “Reengagement”

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 Renown Health, the largest not for profit health system in Northern Nevada, and  Michelle Sanchez-Bickley, their Chief HR Officer.  It is a companion to her interview on the Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future podcast episode, Developing Your Culture, Communications & Pipeline in a Crisis, that aired on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.

 

Here is a short clip from the interview:

Here is a link to the full interview:

 

The Importance of Engagement

Employers have quickly realized the outsize importance of engagement and experience in a world so now dominated by burnout, isolation, and stress. This goes double for any employer that’s public facing – such as healthcare – as the weight of working extra shifts amidst labor shortages, shifting employee expectations, and challenges at home is compounded by dealing with a populace that is itself short on patience. The variables behind the engagement question are many, but at their core, they all tie back to organizational culture, how that’s expressed through HR programing, and whether or not employees feel connected to and supported by their employer. Culture has always been a guiding force for organizations and a chief concern of HR leaders looking to cement their strategic place at the executive table, but it’s now a core business imperative for any organization looking to attract and retain the prototypical post-pandemic professional.

The Challenges

Michelle Sanchez-Bickley joined Maureen Metcalf to discuss these challenges, and in the process, shed light on a refreshingly authentic and unpretentious approach to defining and strengthening culture despite the looming Great Resignation. Michelle will soon be celebrating her 20th year as CHRO of Renown Health – a not-for-profit integrated healthcare network and ACO serving 17 counties in northern Nevada and northeastern California – and in that time, she’s seen more than her fair share of labor challenges, shifting employee expectations, and media trends. Rather than frantically pivot to conform to those outside pressures, however, her strategic recommendation to the rest of her C-suite has consistently been to ignore the hype and maintain course.

Renown for Their Commitment

Renown is, no pun intended, renowned for their commitment to the wellbeing of both their employees and the communities they serve. They are locally owned and governed despite how large their footprint is, with all earnings immediately reinvested into the programs, peoples, and equipment needed to safeguard and advance the health of the lives they touch. They’ve cultivated an employee-centric culture to match that’s reflected throughout their HR operations by staying true to that core ethos, so rather than try to reinvent the wheel for fear that the latest labor craze might be unmanageable, they intend to stay true to who they are, live their values loudly and proudly, and continue to be a compassionate force in employees’ lives. It’s an HR twist on the Field of Dreams approach: focus your effort on building a purposeful, warm place to work rather than split your focus on a buzzword, and employees will not only come, but begin to put down roots.

Altering the “Great Resignation” to the “Great Reengagement”

With a quick branding shift, the negative and toxically self-fulfilling “Great Resignation” becomes the “Great Reengagement”. Leaders are briefed on how the rise of virtual teams and home offices change the tactics of employee engagement, but not the fundamentals. They’re taught how to use the scheduling and Do-Not-Disturb features of their ever-growing tech stack to keep work within scheduled hours, both decreasing burnout and helping keep their own urges to reply to an email at 11pm in check. And they’re instructed on how to make the time in their hectic schedules to develop, refine, and guide the skills of their reports as a means of maximizing not only performance, but retention and loyalty. At every turn, they’re reminded and encouraged to lead with the same empathy and grace that got them named a “Best Hospital” by U.S. News & World Report for ’21-‘22.

Prop Up Employees

On the other side of the employment equation, Renown is further strengthening the programs and resources designed to prop up employees. A partnership with telemedicine providers is helping expand much-needed behavioral health resources to overburdened staff members and their families, incentivized with a $0 copay. New programs – such as those designed to target sources of financial stress by helping rebuild credit, refinance, or improve financial literacy, or those that use coaches to personalize wellness to target the specific lifestyles, needs, and life goals of employees – are being introduced to close gaps in their total rewards and offset the shortcomings of more traditional tools like the EAP. And uniquely, Michelle is looking into ways to emulate the highly democratic energy of their local governance within their employment model through gig-style shift selection. Employees needing to balance work with their many other obligations vying for attention would gain unprecedented flexibility in positions that have been always dominated by rigorous scheduling, and in return, the system would gain an adaptable labor pool that could travel or flex onto openings without the high costs of overtime or temp workers.

A Campaign of Kindness and Listening

Underpinning their Great Reengagement has been a campaign of kindness and listening: a reminder to organization and team leaders that they don’t always need to come equipped with answers and recommendations. Rather, that in times of crisis, what employees often need most is someone willing to listen and empathize with their struggles. By filling that role of attentive listener, living their values of “caring”, “integrity”, and “collaboration”, and holding steadfast in the face of uncertainty, Renown’s leadership apparatus is navigating around the media-driven flashpoint and executing on their mission to make a genuine difference in the health and wellbeing of those within and around their four walls.

 

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

Brandon Hicke at Connex Partners brings nearly a decade of writing, consultative, and market analysis experience to the table. He plays a pivotal role in developing and enhancing the Connex Membership model through engaging content pieces and synthesized industry insights. In his free time, Brandon loves cooking, competitive gaming, pedantic philosophic discussions, and exploring his new hometown of St. Louis with his loved ones.

Photo by Clayton Cardinalli on Unsplash

 

Reimagining Leadership: Out of the Ashes…

This week’s article is written by Peter Cunningham, Head of Leadership at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.  It is a companion to his and Ambassador Thomas Greminger’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Facing a Global Leadership Crisis—Insights from GCSP that aired on Tuesday, February 15th, 2022.

 

Here’s a short clip from the interview:

 

Here’s the full interview:

 

It is widely held that it was Seneca who said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. While for many of us, luck is not a term we might particularly associate with the past two years, there is an ongoing, globally shared, developmental opportunity underway. We are all exposed to higher levels of complexity, ambiguity, and the uncertainties they generate. Senior leaders (especially in the private sector and the military) often go through many years of preparation to deal with the experience of no one telling you what to do and being expected to make sense of complex situations and judging what direction to take and what choices to make.

In some sense, over the last two years, everyone has had a taste of what that feels like, when it comes to making decisions that affect our families, our colleagues, and our communities. Without having had the benefit of those years of preparation, for many it can be unsettling and confusing. Like any potentially transformational experience, there is discomfort to navigate if we are to grow and learn from it.

The year 2020 could be characterised as a huge wave of disruption – we had to ride it as best we could, experiment with entirely different ways of living and working, and be tolerant; 2021 became about the hard work of learning how to live and work well within this ongoing disruption. As we enter a 3rd year of disruption there is a cumulative change dynamic, and we need to lift our sights beyond crisis response (that has itself become normalised) while maintaining the capability to quickly flip back if needed.  Leaders are faced with the task of having to cast their minds into the future to try and predict what might happen in the months ahead and how best to respond and prepare themselves, their teams, and organisations.

From having paid close attention over the last decade to many organisations and leaders in the International Peace & Security sector – characterised as having high exposure to ambiguity, tensions, humanitarian challenges and complex multi-actor issues – the following 4 practices may set leaders and therefore organisational cultures apart in the year ahead.

 

  1. Engage in Collective Sensemaking

Attempting to predict the future is for the most part a fool’s game. However, there is real value in dipping into the toolkit of the Strategic Foresight community and engaging in identifying plausible scenarios you might experience 9 or 12 months from now and how you might prepare for these or even work toward the realisation of a preferred scenario. An important element is to make this a diverse and collective activity. If only a small, homogenous group does this then the scenarios they will come up with will be limited and of less value. The more diverse perspectives that you can involve, the richer, more nuanced, and more informative those scenarios will be. Revisiting and amending these scenarios every few months will instill a practice of continuous sensemaking over time, meaning people will be more attuned to early signals of change and feel safe enough to bring them to everyone’s attention.

 

  1. Provide medium-term clarity and focus

It will be important in 2022 to define some medium- and longer-term changes that you believe should remain beyond this pandemic. As Yogi Bear once remarked: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

 

A head of strategy for an international foundation recently explained how they pushed for the organisation to set out a 10-year strategy, effectively doubling their normal time horizon. It involved less detailed metric-driven specificity and more purposefulness to counter the external disruptions they were experiencing. Doing this was challenging for the leadership team yet it helped them communicate a clear direction that stretched beyond the immediate crisis response experience and helped provide a sense of reassurance and focus to counter the anxiety many people felt.

 

  1. Create space for curiousity

Alongside many advantages, one of the risks associated with working remotely, for fortunate enough to be able to adapt to this, is the tendency to become overly task-oriented when you do meet online but also when you are working alone from home. It is important to invest in creating the space for less structured guided interactions and thought. You can revolve these around a particular topic or issue or leave it entirely open with just a simple guiding question.

It can be valuable to carve out some space for more curiousity led thinking and interaction without always having a detailed agenda, task, or a pre-determined outcome. These tend to limit people’s openness to thinking about possibilities and reduce their ability to engage with high levels of ambiguity.

Not only is this motivating for many people, but it will also generate insights and ideas on how to choose what longer-term changes are needed. It also sends a message that you trust people to come up with meaningful ideas and solutions. There is another longer-term benefit; curiousity lies at the heart of a learning mindset and it is such a mindset that tends to better tolerate complexity and ambiguity.

 

  1. Capacity to collide and converge

When we ask people to reflect on a team or collaborative experience that they were proud to be part of, it often involved tensions or conflicts that were overcome. In fact, having overcome such tensions and turning them into positive relations and outcomes is often what people are most proud of. At a time when returning to more face-to-face interaction is likely and public polarisation is high around issues like vaccines and work preferences, pay extra attention to early warnings of issues that can lead to conflict and develop the capacity at all levels to not just navigate this but encourage openness and constructive discussion that surfaces ‘elephants in the room’ can improve collaboration.

If it is indeed true that there will be an increase in talented people seeking to contribute to organisations and initiatives that align with what matters to them most. All four of these practices have in common that they contribute to increased trust, inclusion, psychological safety and are foundations of a resilient, more caring and courageous culture of work.

 

 

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

Peter Cunningham is Head of Leadership at GCSP and Co-Founder of the Geneva Leadership Alliance, a network of associates and partner organisations working together to advance the understanding and practice of leadership for the benefit of peace and security worldwide.

Peter has over 20 years of experience in leadership development, adult education, and executive coaching across private, public, and non-profit sectors. He is constantly seeking new, diverse, and innovative ways to bridge the study of leadership with the practice of leading, especially at international level and across cultural, geo-graphical, political and organisational divides. Leveraging his diverse experience and background, he creates safe spaces for learning and encourages brave spaces for application, enabling people to learn leadership mindsets and practices in transformative ways and adapt them to their own work and life.

 

Photo by Fabienne FILIPPONE on Unsplash

Resolving Conflict or Conducting Conflict – The 21st Century Leadership Choice

This is another interview that 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. This week’s article is written by Lord John Alderdice, a sitting member of the House of Lords. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Finding Peace When in Conflict that aired on Tuesday, February 8th, 2022.

 

Listen to a 2-minute clip of the interview here:

Listen to the entire interview here:

 

The unfolding of leadership over history brings us to a point in the arc of time where we as leaders have a fundamental choice about the role of leadership. First, leaders need to identify where their loyalty lies. Are they loyal to the past, in which case they will continue to recreate the conflicts of history well into the future? The second choice is loyalty to the future they want to create for their children. In the second option, leaders decide how to resolve conflicts of the past to create a future for their children that is more peaceful and equitable.

Let’s take a look at how leadership evolved.

Leadership has never been an entirely straightforward business, but arguably it is even more complex these days than in previous times. Until the advent of a degree of democracy, initially in the Christian Church through the Reformation and then more widely in society following from the Revolutions in America and France, leaders were recognized, appointed, or took power by physical force. The mass of people generally accepted that some people would be leaders, but most would be followers without much say in the matter. Even with the emergence of democracy, leadership was restricted and those who occupied the positions were accepted as meriting regard, if not affection. This seems to have changed as the nineteenth century wore on and then quite dramatically a century ago with the Great War. During the First World War there was widespread, serious, regular criticism of the military and political leadership on all sides. Many of the leaders were still in place through accident of birth rather than by popular demand or obvious skill and ability. The massive losses of life, the legacy of terrible injuries, and the sense that even the victors were diminished by the outcome, ensured that the traditional social and political leadership was damaged. The result was the collapse of the whole imperial order across Europe, with repercussions all around the world. This was followed by an unprecedented extension of democracy and, as the 20th century passed, an increasing and eventually almost universal rejection of the principle that foreign powers, or domestic leaders should legitimately take or hold power in a country by physical force.

After the Second World War, the process of decolonization gathered pace, and elections increasingly became the principal mechanism by which changes of government and power could take place without a violent revolution. The social structure also changed, with an increasingly widely expressed view that every individual should have the right to follow their own beliefs, ambitions, and way of life without restriction other than the avoidance of harm to others and should have the opportunity to express their view on the leadership of their community and country in democratic elections. There was also an increasing belief that anyone could achieve almost anything if they set their mind to it.   Such was the dramatically optimistic vista these changes appeared to open up that after the people pulled down the Berlin Wall with their own hands in 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously declared the triumph of western liberal democracy and the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution – ‘the end of history’ as he described it.

However, as is always the case, even the best-informed foresight cannot discern with certainty what is beyond the horizon of time. The decades since Fukuyama’s assertion have seen enormous changes resulting from the continuing loss of deference and even respect for traditional forms of leadership, the exponential development of information and communication technology, and a new social order characterized more by constantly evolving networks than by hierarchies and bureaucracies.

Where are we now?

However, the new millennium has also witnessed something even more unexpected. While there is continuing progress in areas like healthcare and technology, instead of more freedom, stability, and prosperity in society, we see a regression. As a result, we have more anxious, inward-looking communities of people, fearful that incomers will not enrich life but instead change their culture in ways that will be unwelcome.

Democratic structures have been replaced with domination by populists, authoritarians, and fundamentalists.   War itself is no longer something that happens on a battlefield somewhere else but is an unwelcome visitor in the cyberworld that I access through the computer in my own home. If that were not enough, our environment can not be depended upon to stay stable and is changing in ways that may threaten the continued welfare or even existence of some of our communities and even small countries.

We seem to be leaving behind an evolving democratic world where there was confidence that the community would make wise or at least relatively rational decisions about leadership. Instead, people are seeking out leaders who express powerful feelings of anger, resentment, and fear.

Now we face a choice.

Either we accept that there is no agreement on ‘the good’, as the liberal philosopher, Isaiah Berlin said, and therefore we must construct a pluralist approach to governance where we live in tolerance of the views of those who differ profoundly from us, or we polarize, fracture, and fight about those differences. To achieve the former, we will need leaders who believe that it is their task to resolve conflict and build a culture of pluralism. The alternative will be leaders who see it as their role to conduct conflict and condemn us to a degree of destruction of our people and our environment, and that has the potential to bring humanity itself to an end.

 

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

John, Lord Alderdice, FRCPsych, is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and was the Chairman of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords during the Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government. He also speaks for the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland in the House of Lords, and as Leader of Alliance he played a significant role in the negotiation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. When the Northern Ireland Assembly was elected, he became its first Speaker. In 2004 he retired as Speaker on being appointed by the British and Irish Governments to be one of the four members of the international Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), put in place to close down the operations of the paramilitary organizations and monitor security normalization.

 

Photo by Filip Andrejevic 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