The New Battleground for Business: The Customer Experience

This post is written by guest blogger, Nick Glimsdahl and is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations focusing on Conscious Capitalism with Mark Kovacevich focusing on Conscious Capitalism as a business accelerator.

The great entrepreneur, Vanilla Ice, once said, “Stop, collaborate, and listen”. In today’s business environment, that sage advice can elaborate to: stop and evaluate your current state, collaborate with experts, and listen to your customers.

Business leaders who champion customer-centric business models have stopped, collaborated and listened. And, in today’s digital age, being customer-centric requires a business model to effectively take advantage of current technologies to meet customer expectations.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Hence, a company’s business model should first and foremost orbit around the customer, specifically their customer experience (CX), addressing:

  • The customer needs and wants
  • The current state of the customer experience
  • How the customer’s journey can improve

What is Customer Experience and why does it matter?

The customer experience is the new battleground for brand loyalty and a true differentiating factor for companies. It can be defined as the customer’s perception of an organization – often gained through contact center interactions – and how seamless or frustrating that interaction is. Shep Hyken, a customer service expert, author, and speaker said it this way, “A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.”

Beyond perception, CX is about delivering an expected outcome, and while the customer experience looks different for each company, common themes are:

  • Response time
  • Overall customer satisfaction
  • Ability to obtain sought out information effortlessly

A customer experience-centric model considers more than just key customer-company touchpoints; instead, the model considers the entire Omni-channel journey from the customer’s perspective.

There are three ways to measure and improve your customer’s experience:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • NPS® measures customer experience and predicts business growth. (i.e. 0-10 scale on how likely customers would recommend a business to a friend).
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
    • CSAT measures how products and services meet or surpass customer expectations. A CSAT score is the sum of respondents answering between “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied”.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
    • CES, measures customer service satisfaction with one single questions. (i.e. The company made it easy to handle an issue).

Mature CX organizations monitor and understand the voice of the customer through these metrics.

Why should business leaders get behind the CX movement?

Forrester research found 71% of business and technology decision makers say that improving Customer Experience is a high priority in the next 12 months. But why? Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors, explained it well: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Brand loyalty is not what it was 20-30 years ago. A customer’s experience positively correlates to brand loyalty, and it is much more important because of the ease of switching service providers or ordering a product from Amazon. According to the Temkin Group, 86% of those who received excellent Customer Experience were likely to repurchase from that company, compared to only 13% of those who had a very poor Customer Experience.

The trend of the increasing purchasing ease will continue as will customer-first business models delivering effortless experiences. The remaining question is what businesses will stop and evaluate their current states, collaborate with experts, and listen to their customers?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author

Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.


Leaders Must Now Think Like Scientists

This post was originally posted on in September 2016. During the industrial revolution, leaders managed effectively using command and control and leveraging best practices to solve problems that were common across multiple industries.

Now, however, the most effective leaders work more like scientists. They scan best practices, but also create competitive advantage by creating new and innovative solutions in the face of chaos.

Take Bill, a recent client who runs a mortgage firm in the U.K. June’s vote to exit the EU has thrown the British economy into uncertainty. Rates are dropping and the forecast is uncertain. Bill doesn’t know which direction the market will go, how fast, and what actions will be most effective. He looked to thought leaders before the vote and learned that a true Brexit was unlikely. Well, it happened, and now he needs to move forward and make the best of the uncertainty. The change might even be good for him if he makes the right calls

Many leaders, like Bill, are facing unprecedented challenges. In the past, they could look to best practices and study what others in their industry were doing. Now, in many situations, leaders need to respond immediately, but there is little time to study and no prior model with the same level of complexity that provides a low-risk solution. As leaders, we weren’t trained for this. We were trained to set a vision, build a plan, and work the plan.

With the advent of such changes, companies are responding with strategies like “cross-functional” teams, “early delivery,” and “continuous improvement.” Terms such as “fail fast” — which tell us we need to experiment and learn faster than our competition — have become popular. Learning fast differentiates us from our competitors who are still looking for the best practices. In reality, we are the ones creating the next round of best practices.

But many of us are still stuck between the old ways and new ways of leadership. We haven’t fully embraced what it means to be a leader today and now. First and foremost, we need to rethink our role. We need to change our mindset and behavior from directing to experimenting while realizing that as leaders in complex times, we are creating new solutions rather than drawing from the past. In many situations, history will determine what was right, but if we expect to know it before we take action, we will be paralyzed.

So, what do we do?

One of the most difficult challenges for leaders isn’t changing behavior (that’s the easy part) — it’s changing how we think of ourselves. It is easy to say, “I will act like a scientist,” but when someone comes in with a challenge and the leader has no idea how to proceed, this is a moment of truth. The leader without an answer will likely feel embarrassed and frustrated. The scientist, on the other hand, might actually be excited about the challenge.

As we begin to change our mindset, we begin to approach our leadership as a scientist. Here’s how to get started:

1. Get the best people together for specific opportunities. The members will be dictated by the challenge. It is critical to have people with differing points of view. The people who disagree are often the most important to help identify blind spots and unanticipated challenges. The size of the group and the duration of discussions and evaluation will depend on the time required to respond. The participants should be from multiple geographies, functional departments and organizations.

2. Formulate a hypothesis. The group pulls together all of the perspectives and crafts a clear hypothesis of how to proceed to generate the best overall outcome given the resources, goals and constraints.

3. Formulate experiments. Using the hypothesis as the foundation, it is time to craft experiments that test the hypothesis. Experiments should be designed to prove or disprove the initial hypothesis and give enough information to support taking informed action going forward. The goal is to position the organization to take timely action, minimize risk, and maximize positive impact and learning and scale intelligently based on learning.

4. Conduct the experiment. Once the experiment is crafted, it is time to execute. This usually looks like implementing a well-defined pilot with clearly articulated metrics designed to prove or disprove the initial hypothesis. This is also the opportunity to identify barriers to proper execution.

5. Evaluate, learn and refine. One of the keys to experimentation is to learn as much as possible from each experiment to build success. This is where you will harvest your learnings form the measures as well as barriers or challenges that arose.

I work with a client who formerly worked as a physicist for NASA and now runs an organization heavily impacted by technology change. The culture of his organization is one of experimentation because it is natural to him. When I walk into his office, I see remnants of physical experiments, like a part of a drone, and the tone of the entire organization is open and excited. The physical space is one of the worst I have seen, so it isn’t the architecture but rather the tone of the leader. The leader’s mindset permeates the culture and the organizational systems. People are rewarded for launching new programs and eliminating those that are less effective.

Moving toward this mindset of experimentation allows us to master transformation and build the capacity for ongoing “renovation” of our organization. If this ability to respond quickly becomes a core competency of the organization, because of the mindset of the leader and the resulting culture, organizations are positioned to thrive. For leaders who take on the mindset of the scientist, experimentation becomes fun, they drive interesting innovation, and they inspire others to do the same

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Inspiring Leadership and Organizational Evolution: We are Upshifting

I completed my 100th Innovative Leadership interview a couple of weeks ago aired on Voice America on May 30, 2017. In preparation, my host, Dale Meyerrose asked me to reflect on what I had learned and what I put into practice over the past two years—which was likely almost 1,000 hours of prep, interview and follow-up. The challenge was a bit more difficult than I imagined.

Here are a few thoughts about how I got started:

  • I ask listeners each week to experiment with their leadership. What most people don’t know is this show started as an experiment. Tacy Trump, the show’s executive producer called and asked if I wanted to do a show. It was a significant financial investment so I wanted to consider what was involved. Ultimately, I committed to a 3-month pilot. I treated it like a learning experiment with the hypothesis that it would help build on the work I had started with the book series. The show just passed the 100-show milestone, so it moved beyond an experiment. Yet, I continue to experiment with new content, different types of formats and different types of guests as well as build on the current robust group of guests. There were parts of the experiment that I refined because they didn’t work as well as I’d envisioned. If most of what we do can be refined and course corrected, then fear of failure is a much smaller inhibitor.
  • I selected shows that I found interesting with the hope they would be interesting to listeners. Initially, I wanted to find a theme, but it difficult to pin down what that should be. So at the beginning I just went for interesting, informative, and good to work with. It is only in retrospect that I see the theme and I can now parse it into three categories:
    • Strong content that helps people build knowledge such as understanding cyber security and analytics
    • Sharing content that helps listeners translate knowledge into ongoing practices and skills, that help leaders be more effective. Some of the most beneficial skills are mindfulness, resilience, and managing thinking—and improving interactions that help them deliver results.
    • Sharing a broad range of content that helps listeners build wisdom, by listening to shows that may not directly apply on the surface to a specific need, but that build intellectual versatility and wisdom.
  • I also want this show to be used in universities. It would be a shame to not use this robust set of interviews. The leaders who shared their time have offered insights and wisdom. It could be a valuable asset and teaching tool for students and research.
  • There were times I felt like Cinderella, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the ball and interview people whose work I had studied and who were winning lifetime achievement awards. I hope our listeners enjoyed hearing from these people as much as I enjoyed interviewing them.

What did you learn from your guests about leadership?

My biggest take away from these interviews is feeling hopeful. I talked to people from across the world working to solve some of the most complicated and intractable problems. They are making progress and they were willing to share their goals, insights, successes, and learnings with our listeners. Many are conducting action research, doing projects and reporting on the results. Practitioners and researchers are teaming up to provide research-based solutions and are researching new approaches to solve emerging challenges we now face.

One of the concepts that strikes me as I write this is that what sets these people apart is how they demonstrate wisdom in action and their willingness to share that wisdom. So, now the challenge is: How do each of us broaden our wisdom? I hope the shows are part of the many sources in your life that help you build your leadership wisdom.

In addition to having great guests, people are listening! We have listeners in 66 countries and the number of listeners increases monthly. I really wanted to make an impact with this show and if number of listens is an indication of success, we are going in the right direction. I would love to hear from our listeners how this show impacts you!

When I reviewed the interviews, six categories emerged.

  1. Building our resilience and well-being. I start with this section as the foundation because every leader I work with is looking to build his or her capacity to manage the increasing level of complexity and demands in both their personal and professional lives. Leaders across all sectors benefit from a focus on mindfulness, managing thinking, and managing overall health to build the resilience required to navigate the uncertainty and rate of change that is currently present for almost everyone in the world.
  2. Risk Management. The risks we face as organizational leaders have increased and multiplied. We now must respond to challenges that were not as common as recently as 10 years ago. These topics include how to navigate a smear campaign, cyber security, and building a better understanding of the geopolitical environment.
  3. Building knowledge, skill, and perspective. Several of the guests offer information designed to expose listeners to new skills and to rethink what they do, how they do it, and how to refine what they are doing. This category speaks to turning knowledge into skills and includes emotional intelligence, building influence, and telling stories. One of our listener favorites is Mike Morrow-Fox talking about the traits of bad bosses and antidotes for dealing with them.
  4. Becoming a global leader. Sixteen interviews focus on different facets of leading in a global and interconnected environment. These range from learning to manage a multi-cultural workforce to understanding how prejudice impacts leadership effectiveness. George Papandreou, former prime minister of Greece talks about his experience leading Greece, and explores how these experiences relate to leadership in our communities and creating a more fair and just world. These interviews were part of the International Leadership Association Conference and the Global Ties conference. While not everyone works in a global organization, most of us are managing a more diverse workforce, have a broader group of clients, and have suppliers and partners from around the globe. A key theme for this group was building bridges to connect with people across a broad spectrum of factors, culture, and ingrained expectations.
  5. Realizing our leadership potential, managing your journey. There are several interviews that focus on identifying individual purpose and principles. The foundation for leaders knowing who they are and leading themselves, including Mike Sayre talking about how he used this self-knowledge to identify which CEO role to take and Paul Pyrz talking about identifying and living in possibility, geared toward young leaders. These interviews serve as the foundation for building the inner capacity and mindset to lead. When we think of the shift toward “Level 5” or strategist leadership, this transition involves an inner shift as the foundation for behavioral change. The conversations with Susan Cannon and Mike Morrow-Fox about Strategist leadership competencies and Leadership 2050 epitomize the goal for leaders to work toward. (It was our first show!)
  6. Creating the capacity to continually evolve organizations. Several interviews focus on how highly effective leaders build their organization’s capacity to evolve continually. They are not just leading a one-time-change initiative, they are building the ability to implement multiple concurrent changes over a period of years. They are transforming their organizations into self-transforming (or evolving) systems. Mike Sayre and Dale Meyerrose talk about navigating the bumps in creating this transformational mindset. Guru Vasudeva talks about implementing Agile and Lean processes and cultures. Joe Gallo talks about shaping companies to navigate industry wide changes. Jim Ritchie Dunham talks about creating vibrant organizations and agreements that serve as the foundation of effective operations in changing times. He also talks about building a team’s capacity to operate at its highest potential rather than the lowest common denominator.

I set out to experiment with hosting a radio show as a mechanism to help leaders develop. Our listeners ultimately determine the success of the shows by their choice to listen. It is insufficient to say that this show has been a learning tool for me. It has given me an amazing opportunity to meet and interview a broad range of organizational, government, nonprofit, and academic leaders. I am more encouraged now than ever before that, as leaders, we can continue to update our leadership “operating system” just like we update our computer software to enable us to meet the challenges we face and create a better world for the generations that follow.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

What is a Culture of Innovation and Continuous Learning?

Nimble CultureThis blog is a companion to the interview with Guru Vasudeva on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on April 18, 2017 Nationwide’s Journey to Create a Culture of Innovation and Continuous learning.

Carla’s company had just decided that being agile would create a strategic advantage for them as a company shifting from manufacturing technology to a company that wanted to compete in the data and analytics space. One of the key challenges they needed to address was to shift from a culture of manufacturing for the telecom industry toward a high-tech culture of agility. The first task was to define the cultural principles and agreements about behavior. This blog offers some of the key principles they used to inform their transformation.

To successfully implement an agile or innovative business model, the organizational culture and behavioral agreements need to support agility. This culture model is a product of a combination of Agile software development principles combined with other innovative culture models. Each company will refine culture to align with their specific organization. Culture can make the difference between successful implementation and failure, especially when the organization is making a major change. This is particularly true when organizations move from a more traditional culture to one associated with agility and innovation. This culture model looks at five key elements that we consider foundational to create an environment and agreements that support agility and innovation in a rapidly changing environment.

  1. Customer first. Organizations that are willing to listen to customer recommendations and have a process to evaluate those recommendations have the highest probability of retaining customers and staying ahead of the competition. We create an environment in which we encourage our customers to offer recommendations and we evaluate them systematically to see how we can use them to become more effective.
  2. Collaborative. Organizations that work cross-functionally can create prototypes much more quickly than environments that work sequentially. This means every group and person must consistently have an opportunity to contribute their expertise. It also means we create an environment in which people feel safe to express their perspective.
  3. Rigorous experimentation. We value the creative process. We encourage people to develop hypotheses about how to make changes and test their ideas. We continually learn from controlled and well-crafted experiments. We reward innovation and learning.
  4. Nimble decision making. We recognize that we don’t have perfect information and a decision today can be refined as we learn from our experiments later. In an environment of continual evolution, we will never have full information and often we won’t even have sufficient information to make a long-term decision, but we often have enough information to decide about our next step. We need to know our long-term direction, and reward making decisions and keeping an open mind to revising course when we gain additional information.
  5. Resilient. We value adaptability, flexibility, and curiosity as they are the fuel for our process. Ongoing change requires we build a foundation of well-being that supports ongoing creativity and change. Resilient people respond to situations with an attitude of curiosity and the ability to act with flexibility and adaptability.

We recommend these elements as general guiding principles and corresponding agreements about how we work together as colleagues. When organizations have explicit agreements such as these, they can drive behavior and ensure that organizational processes are aligned. This alignment is as important as having principles and agreements. An example of alignment is retrospective meetings (also called lessons learned meetings) where employees are expected to explore what worked and what did not. These meetings only work if employees are rewarded for sharing what they’ve learned and not punished for making mistakes.

If you are trying to create a culture of agility and innovation, these are some of the elements we recommend you explore.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.


At C-Level #8: Executive Level Strategy Setting and Execution

C Level 8This blog is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre and Dr. Dale Meyerrose on VoiceAmerica Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on February 7, 2017, focusing on the complex reality of leading organizational change.

At C-Level #8 is the eighth blog of an eight-part series following a first time CEO’s educational journey in a very challenging business environment, and exploring global concepts in leadership theory and practice.  

At the end of each blog are reflection questions for readers to consider as they navigate their own leadership journey.

This guest post by Mike Sayre — experienced software, e-commerce and manufacturing services CEO, COO, CFO and Board Director—is based on his first-hand experiences as a fledging CEO. Its intent is to provide additional insight or ideas to those in, close to, aspiring to, or trying to understand the top leadership role in any organization.

Prior to my first time role as CEO, I had input into company strategy from other functional leadership roles, but it was now my responsibility to lead strategy development with our team and our board, and then lead its execution as well. I found this easily to be one of the most complex and difficult responsibilities of being a CEO, because it includes figuring it out, getting buy-in, leading its execution, keeping buy-in, and continually evaluating whether it’s going to work or not – and, if not, jumping back to the figuring it out stage.

When I accepted my first CEO job, we had just grown revenue about 4x over a three to four year period while I was the CFO. However, profitability growth had been eluding us. Deep analysis (figuring it out) proved that we had won some large programs on pricing that we could just not make profitable. The idea was that if we could just get in the door and prove ourselves we could get higher value and more profitable work. Ever hear that before? We could not execute fast enough on getting that higher margin business when the economy started sliding downward.

Our short term strategy was either to make unprofitable business profitable or shed it (by raising prices). We would also need to make sure our cost structure was optimized with the right size and composition of workforce for the business we were able to keep, ensuring key talent stayed to help us grow the company again for our longer term strategy. Our longer term strategy was to leverage our extensive engineering and manufacturing capabilities to move into building more complex and higher margin products that were undeniably more valuable to our customers than the lower margin commodity work we were currently doing for them. This long term strategy made it much less desirable for them to switch to another supplier. Overall, we were looking at less revenue for some period of time, but more profitability.

Early in execution it all seemed to be working: less revenue, higher margins and some success in moving into a new market for us. It was difficult work saying “no” to big customers, having to right-size the business by laying off good people and keeping everyone else on board with the longer term strategy in mind, and moving into a new market – the latter of which can take quite some time. Following the Golden Rule and constantly communicating to all of our stakeholders was paramount to keeping everyone on board.

So, here is a substantial lesson I learned through all this that I would like to share with you. I am sure you’ve heard it before, but I assure you it is so true, and I hope you will take it to heart:

When you change strategies, introduce new products, try to make any kind of significant change, you have a very small window of opportunity to make it work, and you almost never know how small that window really is – so time is absolutely of the essence. You do not have the time you think you have!

So, as it was, with the economy accelerating in its deep dive, we were running out of time. The orders for the commodity-type manufacturing services we provided were quickly dwindling and we were laying off people almost every quarter to “right-size” the company for that declining part of the business. Our customers kept lowering their quarterly forecasts. They could not tell us, and we could not see, when their forecast reductions would subside and their higher demand would return. We were no longer profitable.

After a couple of rounds of layoffs and continued uncertainty, I decided we needed to abandon our move to more highly engineered, valued and margin products, get the company to a sustainable profit level in its other core business, and wait it out for likely two to three years.

So we engineered a layoff that would do just that, and I included myself in it. I knew this plan would quickly put the company back in a profitable position. I also knew the founder and COO could maintain that level of profitability until the economy came back. The founder had run the business for about 10 years before I joined the company. With that level of profitability, the company could either invest for more growth in better economic times, or sell because of its strategic niche business and profitable operations. And that is what happened. Over the next two years, the company maintained its profitability as planned and was sold to a global player in the industry that needed the company’s capabilities, some of its key accounts, and its well run operations and profitable business.

Hindsight being 20/20, and to my earlier point about not knowing how small that window of opportunity will be, I wish we could’ve moved faster on the long term strategic plan. We had the talent and capabilities in place, and we were making good progress. We just ran out of time and that responsibility was mine.

I’ll end this At C-Level series with the first tenet of Jim Collin’s Good to Great that I listed in the first installment, At C-Level #1:

  • Success is not about the leader as a person, but about the success of the company.

The company was very successful during my time there, especially given all of the challenges we had to deal with. And based on the company’s success, built upon many other successes contributed by many other people purposefully led by our leadership team, even with my own initiated exit from the company, I count my first CEO role as a success.

You may be saying, “My situation is different and there is no way I would ever leave my CEO job, or any other C-Level job for that matter!” So what if it was not your choice?

Reflection questions:

  • Do you have a succession plan in place? If unfortunate circumstances caused you to leave your leadership position, how would the leadership legacy you leave behind continue to serve all of your stakeholders – your shareholders/owners, employees, customers, suppliers and/or communities in which you live?
  • Do you currently have key strategic initiatives going? Do you have metrics in place to know when they are successful? How much time do you think you have to complete your implementation of these initiatives? Could an economic downturn, loss of a customer or anything else significantly derail your initiatives? I’ll ask again: How much time do you think you really have to complete your initiatives? Is there anything you could speed up, do simultaneously, or put more resources on to move those initiatives ahead more quickly?

If your company is facing significant strategic, leadership, succession planning, financial and/or operational challenges, please contact Metcalf & Associates or me to assist in developing and executing your way forward through those challenges and beyond with our executive advisory and leadership development services.

Thanks for following us! Please look for more upcoming blogs and blog series at the “C” level from Mike.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Author

Mike Sayre, executive advisor and organizational transformation practice lead, has been a successful CEO, COO, CFO and board director for multiple organizations in technology (cybersecurity, ecommerce payments processing and engineered computer products) and manufacturing (electronics and steel products). He shares his expertise with client boards and C-Level leaders, and advises, designs, plans, and oversees the implementation of successful strategies for turnarounds, growth, profitability and sustainability.

Mike brings 25+ years of organizational and business leadership and hands-on implementation experience to his clients.  His teams have achieved significant increases in growth, profitability and valuation, as well as shareholder, customer, supplier and employee engagement and satisfaction.

“Board Basics” Rule

Board basicsThis post reflects a collaboration between Dr. Dale Meyerrose, major general, U.S. Air Force (retired), president of the MeyerRose Group and Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Metcalf & Associates, and is written in conjunction with a VoiceAmericainterview that aired on August 16, “Emerging Roles of the Board and Cybersecurity.”

Many aspire to join boards, and other leaders aspire to manage their boards in order to promote organizational success. Much has been written about responsibilities of boards of directors, but few distinguish those task lists from the essential roles of a board and its directors. By understanding those few, basic requirements of a board, the savvy leader can maximize effectiveness in driving organizational success.

Dan walked into the board meeting to discuss the company’s performance and strategy going forward. He was confident that this would be a smooth meeting because he meets regularly with board members and has a clear understanding of their values and past guidance. As a veteran CEO, he understands the importance of working closely with his board and that progress means that the entire senior leadership team is working from the same “sheet of music.” Key to his success as a senior corporate official is to comprehend everyone’s role and anticipate the board’s needs as they work together to ensure the organization’s success. So, what does Dan know regarding “board basics” and roles that allow him to have this confidence?

  1. He understands the importance of a collective corporate conscience. Board members must ensure that the entire organization acts in a socially responsible and ethical manner. While it is true that public corporations have the primary goal to deliver stockholder value and create sustained value, they must also act in a legal and responsible manner in the process. We submit that corporations that over-emphasize profit (some people would argue there is no such thing) can put the organization at risk by “cutting ethical corners.” A single, historical example says it all: While the complete case study of Enron is beyond our purposes at hand, their clear fixation of profit over ethics and unnaturally fast growth over sustained growth provided business schools with the stereotypical example of an organization lacking a corporate conscience or ethics.
  2. Shareholder advocacy is self-evident to most business people. However, Dan knows that stakeholder considerations go beyond just the shareholders. Leaders and boards are always making trade-offs to ensure all key stakeholder interests converge in the right way for the right reasons, at the right time for the good of the organization. The board is responsible for creating the strategy and oversight to instill trust of all stakeholders in the corporate culture. Shareholders can vote with their feet if they feel that their interests aren’t taken care of, as can rank-and-file employees and management. Further, partners and suppliers have options of price and contractual protections that potentially make the cost of doing business with the company problematic. While profit remains the main measure, it is not the only performance assessment of overall health and trends of the enterprise itself and its eco-system of stakeholders. We believe that John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods, embodies these principles. He is clear in his passion about his company making a strong and sustained profit—and that he sees part of that equation being fulfilled through the creation and nurturing of a healthy eco-system of employees, suppliers, partners, customers, and the environment. The results of his company in his market sector validate this approach by successfully meeting ALL stakeholder expectations.
  3. To ensure sustainability, Dan recognizes that the board serves as a “strategic compass” for the organization to safeguard corporate well-being and long-term growth. This means organizational focus is on the long-run and is constantly attuned to changes in the company, the industry, consumer tastes, technology, and society in general. The key is differentiating that which matters from that which is merely interesting or important, and anticipating future roles and values for the corporation. Again, there are many epic failures of a board being less aware, or completely unaware, of the conduct and performance of their company. We find that there are relatively few organizations with both the board and senior management capable of weathering changes over time. In 1950, the average company stayed on the S&P 500 for half a century. By 2012 the average company stayed on the S&P 500 for thirteen years. The dynamic forces facing corporations in the 21st century are changing the nature of business—and the speed with which change occurs compounds the complexity.

If you are part of senior management, like Dan, do you have confidence in dealing with your corporate board? If you’re one of “Dan’s” board members, do have the reciprocal trust in him? Understanding “board basics” is critical in today’s challenging business environment. If you are senior management, it is important to understand the roles that your board fills and to leverage them to ensure the success of the enterprise. If you are a board member, are you fulfilling these roles? Or, has the “to do list” and urgency of the present obscured your focus on these basics that rule? Or, as many in the workforce might say: “Basics rock!”


Dr. Dale Meyerrose, major general, U.S. Air Force (retired) is president of theMeyerRose Group—a cybersecurity, executive training/coaching, and eHealth technology consulting company. He is an adjunct instructor at Carnegie Mellon University, Institute for Software Research running their Cybersecurity Leadership Certificate program. General Meyerrose, a Southwest Asia veteran, was the first Senate-confirmed, President-appointed Chief Information Officer for the Intelligence Community after over three decades of military service.

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Metcalf & Associates, Inc., is a renowned executive advisor, consultant, author, speaker, and coach.  Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

CEO Perspectives: Changes in Primary Care

Changes in Primary Care1This blog was written as a collaboration between Maureen Metcalf and Jim Svagerko. It is a companion to the VoiceAmerica interview featuring Bill Wulf, MD and Jim Svagerko MA, PCC, talking about the leading work Central Ohio Primary Care with 300 physicians is doing and preparing for health care reform and new innovations in medical care over the next five years, and how it became a leader in their field and what they are doing to shape how the field of medicine and how it is practiced.

According to the Community Action Network, “A healthy community reflects a sense of mental and physical wellbeing and is the foundation for achieving all other goals. Good health is often taken for granted but is essential for a productive society. For example, every community needs a healthy workforce upon which to build its economy and healthier students are more equipped to learn and be successful academically.”

While the business of healthcare is run by physicians and administrators, health impacts every one of us. It is our responsibility to own our individual health because it effects our ability to enjoy life. Many of the challenges we face are a direct result multiple factors within the economy, and some health issues are a consequence of socio-economic disparity. Insurance plays a role when sometimes it is difficult to get access to the highest quality healthcare with the limitations on coverage. Additionally, factors in families and schools can play a role when adverse childhood events leave a lifelong impact on overall health. Injurious childhood events often contribute to mental health and drug and alcohol issues later in life. Often, the cycle continues. Many of these factors are interrelated and solving them requires cross-sector focus on community health. Communities like Franklin County in Columbus, Ohio, have strong collaborative processes to address these complex issues.

While each of us plays a role in our own care, the linchpin of health care delivery has been determined to be the primary care physician. Dr. Wulf is the CEO of Central Ohio Primary Care (COPC), a group of 300 doctors at 50 offices in four counties. His clinical interests are preventive care, population management, and maintaining a continuum of care for COPC patients. As the CEO of an organization that is nationally known for its exceptional care and innovative business model, he continues to look at what COPC will do next to meet patient needs in the context of a dynamic health care environment. Here are a few of the changes COPC is talking about:

  1. Move from pay for service to pay for outcomes: COPC is beginning to be paid for creating value for patients as they move from strictly fee-for-service payments. This shift completely changes how medicine is delivered and how doctors and all professionals associated with care delivery focus their efforts. COPC has taken a comprehensive approach to change that considers the overall system and how practices operate, the culture that encourages procedures as the foundation to manage risk, and physician scheduling and daily activities.
  2. Move to a culture of vibrancy and collaboration: Significant change is enabled by a culture of mutual respect and collaboration where all team members are encouraged to voice opinions.
  3. Leadership development: COPC has invested in physician leadership development through a variety of methods. Metcalf & Associate’s Maureen Metcalf and Jim Svagerko were engaged to support COPC, and assist them in their development. They guided the leadership team through their own personal development as well as a deep dive into the workings of COPC. Maureen and Jim will continue their work with COPC this summer and fall. In addition, COPC sends their physician leaders for education through a local professional association and their leadership team is using the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Physician Leaders, supported by Metcalf & Associates, as a team activity along with peer coaching to support growth and development, as well as promote a culture of growth and mutual support during its transition.

One of the key trends we see in health care is a shift in focus from the “all-knowing” physician to patient owning health outcomes. We are seeing a dramatic increase in “wearables”, everything to medical devices like an insulin pump to the standard Fitbit® and calorie counting apps. Many of us are using these devices to manage our own behaviors. Primary care physicians and other healthcare professional are also using these apps and the data they provide to manage the chronically ill.

It is crucial that leaders in health care arm themselves with resources to assist them as they move through these undefined areas. It will be necessary for leaders to first gain an understanding of their leadership style and abilities before they can hope to lead others. One way is through careful discernment with an executive coach/advisor to explore and present opportunities for the leader to move into a space that will allow them to create a climate and atmosphere that will serve future health care needs.

SO….what can you do about becoming more effective? To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Metcalf & Associates, Inc., is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

Vibrancy: Case Study for Global Company Transformation

Vibrant Organizations - Ecosynomics FrameworkOrganizational Vibrancy is important topics. It is the topic of our interview this week (1/12/16) on the Voice America Business series. This body of work is making a great impact in pockets of organizations around the world and yet relatively unknown in others. I have personally found this model to have a great impact on several of my clients. It has helped them identify where they excel and what gets in the way of their teams bringing about the innovative solutions they say they want and need to have a thriving organization. The interview is with Jim Ritchie-Dunham, Annabel Membrillo, and  Ana Claudia Goncalves.

Discussion includes the following topics:
1. What is vibrancy?
2. How do agreements fit into this equation?
3. As the CEO of an international organization – what question were you looking to answer when you starting considering assessments?
4. Why the vibrancy assessment?
5. What value did you get?
6. What were the leadership qualities required to successfully implement the changes recommended to create a highly vibrant organization?

To accompany the interview, the participants provide an in depth case study for the project they discuss.

In this case study, English version or Spanish version, Annabel and Ana Claudia describe the experience of taking a group in a global financial services company on the journey to the experience of a higher level of harmonic vibrancy, through the development of new, more collaborative practices.  These practices led to demonstrable improvements in performance and outcomes.  As Annabel shares, “I am very grateful to have had a living lab that, despite the scarcity agreements and rules in its organizational structure, implemented initiatives that I had not seen in all my years of working with organizations. This was possible because the company incorporated the transformation process into the day-to-day activities of the corporate world.”

To learn more about vibrancy, check out the website or the initial vibrancy post on our website. If you are interested, please take the vibrancy assessment. The assessment is available in 11 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Afrikaans, Dutch, French, German, and Russian.

Organizations of the Future – The Challenge

Innovative Leadership Integral ModelThis post is an excerpt of a paper to be published in the Integral Leadership Review in September, written by Maureen Metcalf and Carla Morelli. This post is a companion to the Voice America discussion with Daryl Peterman, CEO of Abrasive Technology and Mike Morrow-Fox with Metcalf & Associates.

“Today any company that isn’t rethinking its direction at least every few years—as well as constantly adjusting to changing contexts—and then quickly making significant operational changes is putting itself at risk. But, as any number of business leaders can attest, the tension between needing to stay ahead of increasingly fierce competition and needing to deliver this year’s results can be overwhelming.”

–John P. Kotter, “Accelerate!”, Harvard Business Review, November 2012

Accelerating change continues to impact every facet of business. To thrive long term, business leaders must make implementing change a core competency in order to capitalize on our changing world instead of merely trying to adapt to it.

In attempts to stay abreast of rapid changes, continuous advancements in system efficiencies have been enabled by unprecedented rates of technology development. The ensuing race to keep pace with competitors and technology has proven deeply problematic: innovating functional efficiencies has become the singular focus of most corporate strategy at the expense of vision and cultural cohesion. Significant dissonance between purpose and day-to-day functioning has arisen as companies have focused their energies on functional training rather than developing sophisticated thinking, complex interaction capabilities, or comprehensive decision-making skills. Organizational strategy has essentially been reduced to improving functional processes, and technical competency has inappropriately become equivalent to strategic vision.

This shallow version of strategy has not only driven market volatility, it has worked to marginalize new organizational strategies, particularly those emerging to address the flattening global economy. Companies are applying more technology innovation to resolve issues that were actually created by a myopic focus on innovating technology.

The nature of these changes is becoming progressively more complex. Every moment of experience is influenced by the interaction between intention, action, culture and systems. All four of these basic dimensions are fundamental to every experience we have, and mutually shape them in all circumstances. Leaders must consider the four-dimensional view of reality and balance the situations they face in the most comprehensive way possible.

Balancing the whole is critical to effectively transforming your organization. A multi-faceted approach provides a more complete, accurate view of events and situations than the traditional one, which favors analysis based primarily on a systems or process view, and excludes culture and leadership impact. Leaders often take the more traditional approach to changing organizations, overemphasizing systems change with little or no consideration of the culture or how their personal mindset and actions shape the change’s content and success. Our model, the Innovative Leadership Transformation model, provides a framework that enables leaders to create continuous alignment across the four dimensions.

Companies clearly need innovation to successfully navigate both current and emerging economic landscapes – and most are not getting it. It’s relatively rare for transformation programs to deliver the results projected in an original business case.

“It’s relatively rare for transformation programs to succeed; many surveys, including our own, put the success rate at less than 40 percent. Our recent research, however, underscores the fact that certain tactics promote successful outcomes. The most important tactics are setting clear and high aspirations and targets, exercising strong leadership from the top, creating an unambiguous structure for the transformation, and maintaining energy and involvement throughout the organization. Companies that used all of these tactics succeeded more than 80 percent of the time.”

–McKinsey Quarterly, April 2009

Simply put, companies attempting to traverse the economic landscape with incomplete tactics will not succeed.

In addition to tactics, however, we must also look at the impact leadership has on the organization’s ability to successfully implement change. An inappropriately heavy focus on system performance and analytics often proves costly. Enhancing organizational capacity must go beyond increasing system functionality. More comprehensive approaches to leadership and organizational transformation must be seriously considered.

“Change-management processes supplement the system we know. They can slide easily into a project-management organization. They can be made stronger or faster by adding more resources, more sophisticated versions of the same old methods, or smarter people to drive the process—but again—only up to a point. After that point, using this approach to launch strategic initiatives that ask an organization to absorb more change faster can create confusion, resistance, fatigue, and higher costs.”

–John P. Kotter, “Accelerate!”, Harvard Business Review, November 2012

If, in addition to developing better functional processes, one also begins to clarify strategic vision, grow leadership capacity, and build a cohesive company culture, greater and more sustainable success will be achieved.

Of course, not every challenge requires a leader to change how he thinks about the business or himself as a leader to “solve” it, but many complex challenges do. One of the biggest challenges for today’s leader is developing the ability to identify which problems require complex solutions and which are merely technical in nature that can be solved using more traditional approaches. Developing complex solutions requires experimentation and often generates new discoveries. They can take a long time to implement and are not successfully implemented by edict. To succeed in developing complex solutions, leaders must fully understand the organization’s problems and challenges, their own leadership capabilities, and the barriers and resistance they will likely face.

Complex challenges illuminate deeply held beliefs and force not only a change in how work is done, but also in the leaders, themselves, and in an organization’s values. What results is more than a process change or innovation translation: a complex solution also changes personal values, beliefs, behaviors and interactions. The most effective solutions to complex challenges are those that change the leader and the organization’s relationship to processes, values, behaviors and interactions. In other words, the change process works on the leader at the same time the leader works on the change.

Leaders must be willing to face what they will need to change about themselves as well as change about their organizations to successfully solve adaptive challenges.”

– Ronald A. Heifetz and Donald A. Laurie, “The Work of Leadership” Harvard Business Review Breakthrough Leadership, December 2001

As the term suggests, “adaptive challenges” require leaders and employees to learn new ways of thinking about the work as much as new ways of doing the work. Adaptive challenges are often the most elusive, as they require that leaders change not only the organization, but take on the difficult process of looking at themselves as leaders and determining how they need to change in order to solve the challenge they face. “Adaptive change” and “transformation” will be used throughout this article to mean complex changes that require a solution involving change to the leader, the culture and the organizational systems.[1]


To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

[1] Heifetz and Laurie built on these initial findings in their June 2009 book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World.

Creating Vibrant Organizations to Drive Performance

Vibrant Organizations - Ecosynomics FrameworkToday’s topic is Ecosynomics and the science of abundance, a quantitative framework developed by Jim Ritchie-Dunham and team based on extensive data collected across 93 countries identifying the factors that make an organization vibrant. This post highlights a key element of the Ecosynomics framework and how it drives organizational abundance by improving an organization’s ability to innovate out of key problems and create strategic advantage. You can learn more on the radio show, where he appears with Christoph Hinske, a fellow at the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and James Drinkwater, a senior policy advisor at the World Green Building Council.

How often have you worked in a situation where you withheld recommendations because it was easier to keep them to yourself than risk implementing something difficult? Does your organization unconsciously support the status quo rather than continually update what it does and how it performs work? The unconscious “agreements” we make with one another and with the company often drive behaviors that sub-optimize performance.

Here is an example of why Ecosynomics matters. When working for a technology company, Bill proposed several IT cost saving ideas. He was part of HR at this company, but had a strong technical background, which made the recommendations solid. Though they would have cut the licensing cost of HR software by $1 million per year, his suggestions were not implemented because the organization lacked a mechanism to make the suggested changes – it was less risky for all involved to continue with a higher-cost vendor than take on the personal risk of making a change that could be difficult to implement.

Enter Ecosynomics: a highly validated framework, set of assessment tools and transformation process that helps organizations address this type of endemic challenge.

The Institute for Strategic Clarity developed Ecosynomics based on observations of thousands of “positive economic deviants” (AKA, the “rock stars” of their categories) in 93 countries and 12 languages. The framework names the phenomena and supports all forms of social systems in making the shift from being stuck in the scarcity-driven structures proposed by contemporary economics to abundance-based structures offered by scientific insights. This well-tested framework quantifies the cost of scarcity and benefits of abundance, providing both a starting point and guiding frame for organizations to shift in ways that seemed impossible before now.

Ecosynomics looks at what people around the globe are doing to move from perceived realities of scarcity – characterized by ingratitude, “stuckness,” anxiety, apathy, mistrust, antisocial competitiveness, active disengagement and a high level of organizational failure – to perceived realities of abundance characterized by enthusiasm, flow, creative capacities, effectiveness, efficiency, trust, social solidarity and wellbeing. The research shows this is a basic, universal experience every human being knows: worldwide, tens of thousands of groups and teams in business, government, civil society, networks and communities are in the process of experimenting with and reinventing their fundamental agreements. They are discovering that they can generate higher levels of economic growth and business health, and lead the way to more productivity and job creation.

A key foundation of Ecosynomics is that (often unconscious) agreements among members of a group are the differentiator between organizations that consistently transcend the constraints of daily organizational lives and those that don’t. By creating conscious agreements that enable participants to identify creative solutions, they can more intentionally determine how to implement innovation and execute for results. Organizations that can’t do this will be outpaced by those that can.

The problem with most organizational agreements is that we don’t see them. They just are. Most often, we are unaware that what is happening around us is based on an agreement that one could potentially change. It seems that life is just that way. In our day-to-day interactions – at work and at home – we engage in a set of agreements and relationships whether we realize it or not. Sometimes they work, resulting in vibrant experiences and great outcomes, and sometimes they do not, leaving us feeling depleted, fatigued and disappointed about lousy outcomes. These agreements are a key foundation of organizational culture; as the agreements change, they drive culture change.

Ecosynomics makes it possible to see the often hidden, underlying agreements that most affect the human experience, enabling people to choose which fundamental assumptions they accept, the structures and processes that result from those assumptions, and the behaviors they want to experience in their daily interactions with others. It provides a unified framework for describing what tens of thousands of groups identified by ISC are learning.

Jim and his team discovered that these groups start from a different initial assumption than economic scarcity. They start with abundance. Ecosynomics, the social science of abundance, explains what they are learning and how it changes all the rules of the game.

Vibrant groups also achieve higher levels of social integration and governmental/administrative efficiency and effectiveness. They are demonstrating new ways of relating that are more sustainable and lead to higher performance and innovation than the currently accepted norm. What people in those groups are doing cannot be achieved by applying present-day economic agreements of scarcity (defined as state of lack, or not having enough, restricted in quantity).

The emerging science of Ecosynomics provides a model to begin to name the field that observers and practitioners are discovering associated with creating vibrant organizations. Vibrancy (the move away from scarcity) is required to drive the foundational changes needed to navigate the challenges we face as a society today. Unless we take an abundance mindset (a view that we can solve the problems we face using innovative thinking), we are destined to leave our children a world that is worse than the one we inherited.

The Ecosynomics framework is a model of health that describes what people are learning about how to move from lower to higher vibrancy and economic prosperity. Vibrancy is what social systems experience when they are identified with and acting out of their greatest potential. It implies the concordance of diverse perspectives in a shared, meaningful whole, resulting in the emergence of a new, larger possibility.

To act out of our greatest potential, we found five key relationships that must be in alignment. When I am with a group/organization:

  • Self: I feel good about who I am and what I am learning (I can share my aspirations and contribute my greatest potential, and trust that others support my success – including allowing me to make mistakes and learn).
  • Other: I believe others in the group support my success, and I support them (we don’t actively undermine one another).
  • Group: I support and contribute to the organization’s mission and culture. The organization’s leadership acts ethically and works for the good of its people and clients.
  • Source of Creativity/Spirit: We create an environment where creative ideas are solicited from everyone. We actively seek ways to continually improve our organization.
  • Process of Innovation/Nature: We pilot creative solutions and continually improve what we do and how we do it to meet the needs of all stakeholders.

If any of these relationships are out of balance, we will perform in a sub-optimal manner.

To learn about your organization’s vibrancy, take the free Ecosynomics vibrancy assessment. To learn more about the Institute for Strategic Clarity and the frameworks, follow this link or subscribe to Jim’s blog.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.