Building a More Peaceful and Prosperous World Through Citizen Diplomacy

This blog is a companion to the interview with Christopher Washington and Jennifer Clinton on Voice America “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on February 28, 2017, focusing on building a peaceful and prosperous world through citizen diplomacy.

During an era in which we hear the ongoing call of “Putting America First” and “Making America Great Again,” why would we care about an international focus on citizen diplomacy?

My good friend and mentor Dr. Christopher Washington and I were having lunch recently, and we discussed the topic of his work with Global Ties U.S. He knows I care about global leadership and believe that we have a peaceful existence in our local communities when we promote and assure peace across the globe. Yet, as Western societies move toward more populist forms of government leadership, many people focus on what is happening in the US and forget to consider its impact globally. I find myself troubled by much of the current discourse and I, too, am seeking answers. So, I want to share my thinking about why we should all care about global citizen diplomacy.


Across the globe, democratic societies are seeing a shift from global cooperation toward more nationalism, yet much of our economic structure is based on global flow of goods and services. I worked for a computer manufacturer in the 1980s and we tried to prove that our products were “made in America.” Even back then, we needed to define specifically and carefully what that meant. Did we assemble foreign-made parts in the US? Did we produce more than 50 percent of the components in the US? Over the past 30 years, companies have moved toward sourcing components from the lowest cost producers across the globe, leaving most countries without the capability to produce full products.

Add outsourcing to this equation, and we see that millions of people have been lifted out of poverty because of globalization.

Now, with a range of concerns for physical and economic security, many countries are shifting from values associated with globalization toward principles of nationalism—failing, in the process, to recognize that the country in which we live relies on strong relationships with other countries. We rely on healthy relations with other countries to:

  1. Buy and sell our goods and services;
  2. buy our bonds to finance our debt;
  3. Trade in raw materials, such as petroleum, and manufactured products, and our mobile devices;
  4. protect currency stabilization to manage inflation/deflation and ensure uninterrupted currency flow;
  5. Collaborate to solve problems that do not respect borders.

We need to find a path forward to build on what we have created. This path goes well beyond the movement of money and materials—even making them seem relatively inconsequential—it requires diplomacy. It requires people who have worked to understand one another and the complexities of the global system to connect with the primary purpose of creating a more just and prosperous world for ALL.


When business, nonprofit, government, and academic leaders from around the world connect with their counterparts in the US through international exchange programs, the relationships they forge become a powerful tool for addressing some of our greatest global challenges. These relationships are forged person to person. They endure well beyond politics and international boundaries.

For over 50 years, Global Ties U.S. has been making these kinds of connections possible. As a nonprofit partner of the US Department of State, it sustains a network that coordinates international exchange programs and brings current and future leaders from around the world to communities throughout the United States. Global Ties provides its members—from large, national organizations to smaller, community-based ones across 45 states and 16 countries—with connections, leadership development, and professional resources, so that they are the strongest, most effective organizations they can be.

The leaders who participate in international exchanges—and the communities that host them—benefit from greater knowledge, further understanding, and deeper relationships. These shared experiences result in stronger local communities and a more peaceful, prosperous world.

Each of us, as individuals, has the opportunity to practice citizen diplomacy every day. Diplomatic acts can be as simple as a smile to a woman wearing a hijab, or a nod of acceptance to a Sikh in a turban. And, it actually extends beyond those who may appear “different.” Myriad opportunities exist to help shape US foreign relations; we need only to look around and connect.

Peace is often created because people cross borders both real and imagined, and form long-lasting relationships. The International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) is one of the US Department of State’s premier exchange programs. Participants in the International Visiting Leaders Program are nominated by Ambassadors in their countries, and are the best and brightest from across the globe. I had the great privilege of interviewing several of them, including Rebeca Gyumi, whose work helped raise the marriage age for girls in Tanzania from 14 to 18 years old. To those of us living in the US and other advanced countries whose citizen are expected to attend and complete high school, this may not seem life changing, but for Tanzanians, this decision will directly impact education, poverty, and other social challenges in their country, while indirectly impacting countries not even on the same continent.

According to Christopher Washington, PhD, Board Member of Global Ties US, “The best way to create a peaceful and prosperous world is to give hope and protect freedom. When one thinks of our most significant global issues such as social inequalities and the need for more peaceful and inclusive societies, it seems that the wellspring of quality education and citizen exchanges across the globe will extinguish the fires of human conflict and terrorism”

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

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

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, 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.

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook Series and the co-author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”


FightingAuthorityThis blog is a companion to an interview with Barbara Kellerman on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on January 31, 2017 discussing the end of leadership as we know it and how the current landscape impacts the requirements of leaders going forward. This interview is one of the interviews conducted at the International Leadership Association Annual Conference.

This post was drawn from posted on November 28, 2016 with permission. “One of the most iconic scenes in American film history is in Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 black comedy, “Network.” Peter Finch stars as Howard Beale, a network news anchor who’s about to be canned because of declining ratings. Beale starts to unravel while he’s on the air. He becomes visibly unhinged, screaming at his viewing audience, urging them to do what he’s doing – to shout at the top of their lungs, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

The line came to mind while reading today’s New York Times, which testified yet again not only to how furious people are, but to how hell bent they are on fighting people in positions of authority.

Three examples:

• South Koreans, fed up with their president, Park Geun-hye, have taken to the streets in the hundreds of thousands to protest her refusal to respond to charges of corruption and influence peddling. South Korea’s worst political crisis in decades shows no signs of abating. Ms. Park remains defiant. The people remain defiant as well – demanding that she either resign or be impeached.

• The mayors of several of America’s largest cities have vowed to fight any order to deport illegal immigrants, even if instructed by the federal government to do so. Los Angeles’s Eric Garcetti, Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel, and New York’s Bill de Blasio, among others, have all pledged to fight the feds on this, even if it means losing millions of dollars in federal assistance.

• After decades of staying silent, at least six former English soccer players have come forward with accusations of sexual abuse by coaches affiliated with England’s Football Association. More than twenty other players have similarly stepped up, though anonymously. After a couple of weeks of doing nothing the Football Association concluded it had no choice but to announce it would investigate the claims. It appointed a lawyer experienced in such matters to pursue the case.

Who knew Howard Beale was forty years ahead of his time?!”

Thoughts from Maureen Metcalf: We as leaders are facing tough questions about how we navigate the range of challenges we are seeing daily. In the past we had more time to address changes that impacted our organizations. In recent times, we expect leaders to respond immediately. Barbara gives great suggestions in her interview about understanding our context and the needs of our followers as we respond.

In the past week, President Trump issued several executive orders. Leaders need to respond in a timely manner to issues such as those associated with immigration. I teach in a university and I was grateful to get an email from our President this morning that helped me understand the positon the university takes on how we respond to our colleagues and students. I was happy to see that her message matched my values.

In this polarized time, when we as leaders set organizational trajectory or respond to changes that come at us unexpectedly, our responses are bound to be unpopular with a number of constituents. Our responses need to be timely AND require an understanding of the organization, our constituents, the impact we have on them, the expectation of our funders, the expectation of our board and other key stakeholders like the community.

This is no small challenge and when done wrong, it can have long term implications. All of us in leadership roles there people look to us to set the tone need to be aware of the impact we are making on our teams, our clients and our communities. How do we help apply appropriate attention and deescalate the tension where it has become unhealthy?

About Barbara Kellerman

Barbara Kellerman is the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is the Founding Executive Director of the School’s Center for Public Leadership. She was ranked by as among “Top 50 Business Thinkers” (2009) and by Leadership Excellence in top 15 of “thought leaders in management and leadership” (2008-09 and 2010-2011). In 2015 and 2016 she was ranked by Global Gurus as # 13 on the list of “World’s Top 30 Management Professionals.” In 2016 she was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Leadership Association. Kellerman has appeared often on media outlets such as CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, NPR, Reuters and BBC, and has contributed articles and reviews to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Harvard Business Review. Kellerman was cofounder of the International Leadership Association (ILA), and is author and editor of many books.

At C-Level #6: Unprofitable domestic sales, unsuccessful international sales, dwindling opportunities and turning lemons into lemonade

C Suite 6 Mike HardyAt C-Level #6 is the sixth 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. Mike was also featured in the October 4, 2016 Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations interview with Maureen Metcalf on VoiceAmerica focusing on the importance of leader trustworthiness in driving organizational change.

At the time I took on my first CEO role, I hadn’t previously had responsibility for sales. Looking back with the experience I have now, I think we were facing some fairly daunting sales challenges, even for very experienced CEOs:

  • Our board and shareholders had demanded growth in sales – and we had increased sales over 400 percent – but had little increased profitability to show for it. We were winning large volume programs with little to no gross profit margin. It was largely domestic commodity service work, that we had to build a large and fairly expensive group of people and infrastructure to support.
  • Our bid opportunities for additional work for our core service business were dwindling because we were doing work for global electronics manufacturers who began requiring operations in both Europe and Asia, while we only had a presence in the U.S.
  • We had started an international sales initiative in Europe and Asia that we had hoped would help, but it was expensive, needed much more time to develop, and we weren’t sure that the margins would be any better (likely not with the Asian cost of labor being so much lower at the time).
  • We had a group of smart salespeople. However, they had come in under a sales leader who left the company simultaneous to my becoming CEO. They had come in under a different set of rules, and now we were changing them. And that does not happen overnight. They were unhappy, our transition was taking too long for them and many left the company before we stabilized.

Remember these tenets from Jim Collin’s Good to Great book written about in At C-Level #1 of this series?

  • The right people in the right seats on the bus make all the difference;
  • Find the truth and act on it by facing the brutal facts of reality while maintaining an unwavering faith that you will succeed; and
  • Greatness comes from sustained commitment to disciplined people, disciplined thinking, and disciplined action that creates breakthrough momentum.

Remember the Strategist Competency model from At C-Level #4? It said that Strategists are unstoppable and unflappable when on a mission.

My point here is that these were the qualities we needed during this challenging time. We were facing urgent issues on several fronts: we needed to identify the “right” people and get them in the right seats on the bus; address the brutal facts about our business strategy that was generating lower profit margins; address the lack of business process in qualifying “good” business for us; and I needed to have the courage to make some tough calls and stick to them when I met resistance. I’ve been told that my reactions were instinctively that of Level 5 and Strategist leaders, but not because I knew what those were and thought that I should emulate them. Rather, it seemed to me to be what we needed at the time, so I just moved in that direction, with the benefit of additional strong leadership and support from the rest of the team.

Here’s how we made lemonade out of the lemons we were handed with these challenges.

  • We did detailed cost analyses of large customer programs we believed might not be profitable as priced. We faced the brutal facts, took action and became a smaller revenue and higher gross margin company, with more discipline around our pricing and analysis of the business we committed to before we committed to it. That allowed us to weather a major economic downturn.
  • We stopped trying to sell internationally because there was plenty of global business that we could win right here in the U.S., if we had operations in Europe and Asia. However, we raised some capital and used relationships that were developed through our sales efforts in both areas to identify and work with partners. Those partners helped us acquire a small operation in Europe and start up an operation with a partner in Asia. Those two additional operations opened up new bidding opportunities for us and we grew annual sales 25 percent in the core part of our business in less than two years.
  • The salespeople who left had been selling business we were consciously now walking away from. They voluntarily helped us cut our sales cost, allowing us to rebuild a sales organization that could sell the new business that we wanted to target.
  • And, we were hit with a huge downturn in the economy that easily could’ve taken us under had we not made all of those changes in our business as early as we did. Unfortunately, we did need to make more cuts in our staffing levels to do that, but utilizing the Golden Rule (referred to in At C-Level #5) in doing so kept a lot of great people in the company that survived – a company that was eventually sold to a global giant in the industry.

Frankly, so far in my career, I have only seen a couple of leaders who exhibited many of these traits I am writing about. Maybe only one or two in CEO roles. So if you see these traits or even inklings of them in your own personal leadership style, I encourage you not to abandon them – instead nurture them! It’s easier to lead people in a style that fits you.

In their book Leadership 2050, Susan Cannon, Michael Morrow-Fox, and Maureen Metcalf, make a compelling case that these are actually the leadership models it will take for us to be successful in the future – relentlessly competitive, collaborative and caring, with a focus on the success of the company, not the leader. Business and leadership is evolving and we need more of these types of leaders to encourage and lead the innovation required for us to increase and maintain our strong competitive status in the world.

Reflection questions:

  • What are the two to three major strategic sales and/or marketing challenges in your business today? What are some of the brutal facts?
  • How is that information shared with your leadership team? Is it?
  • Does your team know the company mission and vision, what the company’s stakeholders want, and do you have a process for coming to terms with those brutal facts with the best collaborative solutions the team can come up with (understanding that you still have and reserve the right to override)?

If you identify with the leadership models I’ve been writing about in these blogs and need either

  • Leadership assessments and development for you and/or your team based on these models, or
  • Executive advisory services on how to implement strategic, financial, operational and/or cultural transformations in order to turnaround and/or grow your company, please contact Metcalf & Associates or me for further information on our services.

In At C-Level #7, Mike writes about operational improvement through consolidations, expansions, agile software development and lean manufacturing.

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 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.

We Choose How We Lead – What Do You Choose?

bennisparachuteThis guest post by Paul Pyrz, President of LeaderShape. This is an excerpt from the forward Paul wrote for the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers where Paul talks about the importance of developing emerging leaders. Paul is featured in the November 8 Interview focusing on how leaders live in possibility with Maureen Metcalf on VoiceAmerica

“Leadership is a choice.” – Warren Bennis 

This quote by Warren Bennis, widely known as a leadership author and leader in higher education, is my favorite. Hands down. It is simple, eloquent, easy to remember. And right. Clearly, this is my opinion, but as someone who has read and heard numerous quotes on leadership throughout my life, I keep coming back to this.

We have many choices to make in our lives. We can choose our career, our partner, our attitude, our dinner option, but perhaps there is no more important choice to make in our lives than how we are going to make a difference with the limited time we have on this planet. Far too many of us choose to live lives of insignificance and mediocrity because we don’t see ourselves as leaders, or as even having the capability to make a difference in our communities much less our own lives. So we bounce from day to day without purpose or passion.

I have used this quote from Bennis quite often in my work leading a not-for-profit organization in an attempt to de-mystify the concept of leading. In attempts to define it, we have made leading far too complicated. I have been keeping a list of all the books on leadership that have thrown another adjective in front of “leadership” to sell their version of it. Ultimate leadership. Super leadership. Principled leadership. My favorites being liquid leadership, food leadership (seriously), and boot strap leadership. Go ahead, look for them on Amazon, or in the bookstore. They are there.

A good question to ask is, “Why are there so many books out there on leadership?” Other than because it is a popular topic and people want to make money by window dressing their own version of leadership, I can think of only one other connected reason: People want to understand leadership.

They want to see how it’s defined and how to “do” it. So, they buy the books. We need leaders. We need them now more than ever. We long to be led. Really led. I don’t care as much about the number of followers that a leader has as much as I want to see people using their lives to pursue something that they are passionate about and choosing to make the world a better place in a small (or large) way.

I am passionate about helping young people connect with the idea that they can lead. Not because they have a title next to their names, but because they have a passion, skill, or talent that the world needs, and they just haven’t realized it yet. That is where the concept of emerging leaders comes into play. We need to do more to help leaders emerge, help young people, in particular, figure out that they can lead and know that we need them to lead. They don’t have to be in front of the room, but they need to participate in the room. They don’t need the title, but they need to act like they have it. They don’t need followers, but they need to do something that is worth following. They need the patience to plant seeds, try new ideas, and fail miserably.

Emerging leaders need our support, our encouragement, and our willingness to set them loose and figure it out on their own. We cannot weigh them down with the ideas of the past and how past generations saw leadership. They need to make their own meaning of the concept and wrestle in the mud with hard conversations that produce hard solutions. They need us to get out of their way and give them room to grow with their own understanding and vision. They need a guide, not a prescription.

Jim Collins said that the enemy of great is being good, and that is precisely why we have so few things and institutions that are truly great. We need to push, we need to engage, and we need to help others realize that they, too, have the capability to lead. And then we can only hope that they choose to lead.

Enjoy the journey.

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

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

What Is Self-Care and Why Is It Such a Challenge?

What Is Self-Care and Why Is It Such a Challenge?This blog is a companion to an interview with Dr. Deborah Zucker on Voice America Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations on September 27 focusing on the importance of building and sustaining vitality for leaders. It was written by Deborah who is the founder of Vital Medicine.

“Self-Care” is a big buzzword today in the health community. There are many books and professionals offering quick and easy tips for better “self-care”. But, I’m going to suggest something here that may seem kind of radical.

Self-care isn’t about the list of things you are supposed to do to be healthy, or about keeping up with the new health fads or latest scientific theories. Self-care isn’t about battling yourself into submission to satisfy the agendas of your inner critic.

Self-care is about a fundamental orientation toward the self that is rooted in kindness and compassion.

It is about nourishing all of who you are. And at its foundation, it is about your capacity to truly love and honor yourself and your life.

As wonderful as all this sounds, true self-care is far from easy. The spiritual teacher Adyashanti in his book, Falling into Grace, tells his students,

“The person you’ll have the hardest time opening to and truly loving without reserve is yourself. Once you can do that, you can love the whole universe unconditionally.”

So don’t be surprised if self-care doesn’t come naturally, or if you have unexpected and irrational resistance to doing it. We all have baggage, wounds, traumas, and beliefs that keep us from being able to turn toward ourselves with the level of kindness, compassion, and loving care that we may easily be able to extend toward others.

I’ve found that learning how to face and embrace those resistant parts of ourselves is foundational to having an empowered relationship with our own self-care. Issues like shame, self-judgment, and self-sabotage are rarely talked about in most conversations about health. And yet they are critical. We can’t ignore them if we wish to discover and live in our innate vitality and thriving health.

If we are unable to turn toward ourselves with loving care, how can we expect to be able to sustain life-giving habit changes?

It’s also hard to follow through with something that we’re not fully invested in. For example, I was recently talking with a new client who had the intention to integrate more movement into her life. She excitedly told me that she thought she had a great strategy. Since she had to be up early to take her daughter to school, she would just go straight to work and use the gym there before starting her work day. When I asked her what kinds of movement she loved to do, she listed going for long bike rides, hiking, walking with friends, and going to yoga or Pilates classes. When I pointed out that the gym wasn’t on her list, she admitted that she actually hates going to the gym. We laughed about how her strategy probably wouldn’t last so long! We were then able to come up with a better way to follow through on her intention for more movement by doing things she actually loves to do.

Inquiry Questions:

I invite you now, as you begin or re-establish your self-care journey, to explore what all of this means for you. Grab your journal, find a cozy place to sit, and take some time to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How might you embrace an orientation to your self-care that is truly rooted in deep care—full of self-kindness, self-compassion, and self-love?
  • What are some of the areas of resistance, self-judgment, and self-sabotage that have been enmeshed with your “self-care” journey that you can focus on uncovering, discovering, and embracing more fully?
  • What is one thing that you can do differently, starting today to bring more ease to your self-care journey?

By shifting how we approach our self-care we can slowly and gently learn how to honor and love ourselves into our most vibrant, alive potential. It’s an orientation of mindful self-responsibility in your health journey—one that is not harsh, mean, or judgmental, but instead is rooted in love and kindness, as well as gentle, nurturing care.

About the Author

Dr. Deborah Zucker is a naturopathic physician, transformational health coach, and author of The Vitality Map: A Guide to Deep Health, Joyful Self-Care, and Resilient Well Being. Her holistic approach to healthcare focuses on helping mindful, compassionate people to love, nourish, and heal themselves on every level so that they can unleash their gifts and service to the world. As the founder of Vital Medicine, she offers many virtual and retreat-based programs. She holds a doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University where she has also served as adjunct faculty, and is a graduate and past mentor of the Generating Transformative Change program in Integral Leadership at Pacific Integral.

Minding Your Business: The Value of Mindfulness

mindfulnessStress, regardless of how we try to avoid it, is a given. It is part of everyday living, but how we choose to acknowledge and approach it makes all the difference. Stress can be either productive or destructive depending on how much of it you have and how you process it. Think of a time when you performed better, prepared more, and worked harder because you were able to harness it and use it to your advantage. Now think of a time when you performed worse because of stress, perhaps spiraling out of control? What made these situations different for you?

This post is based on the work of Maryanna Klatt, PhD, professor of Clinical Family Medicine at The Ohio State University. An expert in integrative medicine, she has spent more than a decade studying perceived stress, sleep, cortisol, and salivary alpha amylase levels in saliva—an indicator of the fight-or-flight response we experience in stressful situations. Her research is helping people of all ages and professions reduce their stress and improve their overall wellness. “We all have the same stresses—lack of control is a big one people struggle with, lack of time, continuous partial attention is a huge problem,” says Klatt. This post is a companion to the Voice America radio interview focusing on mindfulness and leadership.

Klatt uses mindfulness as the foundation for her research. “Mindfulness is characterized by nonjudgmental, sustained moment-to-moment awareness of physical sensations, perceptions, affective states, thoughts and imagery.”

Using the analogy of a hurricane, Klatt explains that mindfulness training can help you navigate to the eye of the storm—the calmest part—and figure out a way to deal with the chaotic circumstances swirling around you in a positive manner. To do this, she developed Mindfulness in Motion, an eight-week program that combines weekly group meetings on awareness and relaxation techniques with a 20-minute individual practice done daily. The daily practice is available using audio downloads. The weekly group meetings can be facilitated by Mindfulness in Motion trained facilitators.

To better understand how mindfulness works physiologically, and to underscore that it is much more than just a trend, we want to share a brief summary of what happens in the body when one engages in a mindfulness practice. According to an article published in the July 2015 Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE):
“Mindfulness has been found useful as an intervention that increases attention and has been associated with changes in brain structure and function. For example, the changes in gray matter brain density impacts cognition, while changes in the amygdala impact emotional reactivity. This may explain some of the positive benefits associated with stress reduction worksite interventions that teach non-reactivity for personnel who work in a chronic high stress work environment.”

In a study with intensive care unit nurses at Ohio State, Klatt found the program contributed to a 40 percent drop in the fight-or-flight indicator. Nearly 100 faculty and staff participated in a recent pilot program; participants reported significant declines in perceived stress and improvement in resilience and sleep quality. “I don’t think people have to leave work to learn some strategies to reduce their stress,” Klatt says. “Translational research is the sweetness that comes with scientific research for me.” In other words, being able to translate research in the laboratory into meaningful health outcomes in one of Klatt’s goals and pleasures.

That translation extends beyond the university setting to inner city school children and city refuse workers in Columbus, Ohio. Klatt has trained OSU Extension staff who, in turn, have led the program in communities across Ohio, and the University of Minnesota sublicensed the program and offers it as a fully covered benefit to employees through their health plan. She has also worked extensively with organizational leaders in the business community.

So, why do leaders care about mindfulness?

During a VoiceAmerica interview, Klatt pointed out that one of the primary causes of stress is dealing with people. This stressor is common in most work environments, whether it be a clinical setting or board room, and whether people are medical professionals or those engaged in business.

One of the factors we discussed in the interview is the fallacy of multi-tasking. In reality, humans aren’t wired to perform multiple tasks simultaneously, rather we engage in continuous partial attention and task switching. One of the important takeaways from this conversation is that by being mindful of how we invest our time—giving full attention to the tasks at hand—we are able to reduce our stress level, perform our tasks more effectively and efficiently, and improve our interactions with others.

As leaders, this has a direct correlation to improved productivity and focus. Like a domino effect, a better ability to focus improves interactions with others that can improve employee engagement, customer retention, and loyalty. It can also reduce stress and absenteeism.

The question to leaders is: If you could improve your performance and the quality of your work life with an investment of 20 minutes per day, wouldn’t you do it? The cost to benefit ratio is invaluable. You’ll likely never find a 20-minute investment to yield such great and lasting results that permeate every aspect of your personal and professional life. I highly recommend Klatt’s Mindfulness in Motion 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 iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, 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.

If Your Change Effort Failed to Deliver the Results You Wanted – Your Change Model May be Overly Simplistic

Impact Resilience

This guest post is provided by collaborator Jim Ritchie-Dunham  as a companion for the Voice America interview with Christoph Hinske focusing on How Big Change Happens in his keynote presentation to the World Green Building Council. Jim is president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, a trustee of THORLO, and an adjunct faculty member at the EGADE Business School and at Harvard. In this post Jim talks about his  “theory of impact resilience.” While a theory of change focuses on how a change in an intervention will lead to a change in specific means, which will drive change in a specific social impact–in a linear model–a theory of impact resilience looks at the system of causes, effects, feedback, and stakeholders that lead some interventions to generate a much more resilient system that delivers much greater, sustained impact. This information is for leaders who have struggled to successfully implement complex change using linear models and want to better understand alternative approaches that will increase the probability to success for much needed and highly visible change projects.

More and more people are looking to large-scale social change processes to leverage their impact around very complex issues. From poverty, health, education, epidemics, and inequity to water, air, green building, and renewable energy. Scaling collective impact is everywhere. I have been looking at, and engaging with many of these efforts, for two decades now. In trying to figure out how to support large-scale change, many groups are trying to become evermore strategic. As a big proponent of strategic clarity, I encourage the strategic dialog, and I encourage pathways that will support a group in getting to greater clarity about what they can do together and what will work.

In their strategic development processes, many groups now focus on developing a “theory of change.” I agree that it is far easier to learn and refine a strategy when you have a theory of what you are going to do. And, I see some inherent difficulties in the way many groups currently frame their theory of change. Hopefully a brief picture will clarify what I see as the intention and a better answer.

To start with, I see that most social-change efforts grow up around an effort that initially worked. There was an intervention and there was an impact. While not quite sure how it worked, the impact is there. We created a kitchen, and more people were fed tonight. In this experience, there is typically an implicit theory of “it just works.” We do this, and we see the impact. Usually the distance in time and space between the intervention and the impact is very low or immediate. We can see it directly. I see this as the lower-left quadrant in the 2×2 matrix below, low clarity of causality with a linear direction of causality.

This success often leads to the desire to scale the work, to get much greater impact.  To scale up the intervention often requires investment of greater capital.  Investors of this greater capital usually want to see a greater understanding of how the intervention will lead to the means that will drive the impact.  Greater investment wants to lower the risk of not understanding.  They want to see a theory of “change,” a “comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context.”  As far as I can tell, from what I see in foundation, nonprofit, and network reports and in my own conversations, most of these theories of change provide linear descriptions of how an intervention will lead to some specific means of change in a specific context that will lead to the desired social impact.  A to B to C.  I see this as the lower-right quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, high clarity of causality with a linear direction of causality.  While this greater clarity of causality makes it much easier for the intervention leaders and the funders to test whether the intervention leads to the expected means and impacts, this linear approach to complex social issues leaves out a critical reality–feedback.

If the decisions you make today affect the decisions you can make tomorrow, then there is feedback.  A to C to A.  If the decisions you make influence others who then influence you, there is feedback.  All complex social issues contain impacts of any intervention on other stakeholders and on resources that influence the ability to continue to intervene in the future.  They all have feedback.

As the complexity of an intervention increases, like trying to feed a whole city through a large network of kitchens, most efforts seem to try to continue what they were doing before with just a lot more resources.  They use the same logic, on a bigger scale.  Lots of intervention, mixed with lots of magic, leads to lots of impact; so goes the “theory of I think.”  I think that if we just …  I see this as the upper-left quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, low clarity of causality with a feedback direction of causality.  While the situation might be much more complex, with many more stakeholders and resources involved, I think if we just do a lot more, we will get much more impact.  It rarely works, often because of the unseen feedback effects, which is why social impact investors have moved more and more towards wanting to see something that demonstrates a greater clarity of causality.  Right now the best-in-class practice seems to be the “theory of change” I mentioned earlier.

To complete the high-level overview a theory of change provides of preconditions, pathways, and interventions to achieve the desired impact, many groups develop a complementary logic model and evaluation plan.  The logic model lays out a linear model of how the planned work with resource inputs and activities leads to the suggested outputs, outcomes, and eventual impact.  A very clean and relatively simple way to explain how to implement the theory of change.  The evaluation plan then provides measures to test the hypotheses for the different elements: the resource inputs; the activities; the outputs; the outcomes; and the impacts.  The strategy process then pulls together the theory of change, the logic model, and the evaluation plan, in a crisp, linear mapping.

Now, if (1) the social issues we face require much greater investment, influencing a greater number of stakeholders, in contexts of much greater feedback, and (2) a linear strategy based on a theory of change, logic model, and evaluation plan falls short of dealing with the feedback complexity, what do I suggest?  A “theory of impact resilience.” While a theory of change focuses on how a change in an intervention will lead to a change in specific means, which will drive change in a specific social impact–in a linear model–a theory of impact resilience looks at the system of causes, effects, feedback, and stakeholders that lead some interventions to generate a much more resilient system that delivers much greater, sustained impact.  I see this as the upper-right quadrant in the 2×2 matrix above, high clarity of causality with a feedback direction of causality.

Over the past twenty years, with many colleagues around the globe, we have developed systems-based strategic approaches to engaging multiple stakeholders around complex social issues.  There is now a whole industry of such approaches.  It turns out that it is not hard to bring together many people who are passionate about any specific social issue, find out how they each contribute different elements of the solution, and how they can work together to change the behavior of the whole system.  In the past decade alone, people have applied this kind of approach successfully on six continents to hundreds of important, complex social issues.  It only takes the will to do it, a little know-how and a few elapsed months of work.  Not decades.

So, while I applaud the desire of social impact investors to dramatically increase the clarity of causality between an intervention and a social impact, it is time that we move beyond “keep it simple,” linear models of causality to incorporate multi-stakeholder, feedback models of causality.  A theory of impact resilience, based on systems-based strategic approaches suggests how.  It provides a systemic theory, it lays out the systemic logic of how the interventions lead to shifts in the system of stakeholder responses and subsequent systemic impacts, and it provides an impact resilience scorecard of the systemic measures that indicate how the interventions are leading to systemic shifts, to greater resilience, and to scaling of the impacts.

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.

Is Your Resilience Impacting Your Ability to Lead Authentically?

Resilient LeadershipThis blog is number four in a series focused on building authentic leadership. In this post we will explore how resilience supports your ability to lead authentically and how it can inhibit your success if it is not attended to. We define resilience as the ability to remain flexible and focused in the face of ongoing change. To be an authentic leader, we need to attend to four key elements: our physical wellbeing, our thinking, our emotional intelligence and sense of purpose, and our connection to people who support us. We must be honest with ourselves and others about what allows us to be resilient. The other day I met with a client who, for the first time in her life, is struggling with health challenges. Michelle works for a large national nonprofit where leaders pride themselves on their stamina, persistence, and always achieving results beyond what others could deliver—which may be part of the root of the problem. At forty-one years old, she had been blessed with great health until back problems forced her to take a leave of absence from work. She was given surgical and non-surgical treatment options to address her back condition. The non-surgical choices involved managing her stress and lifestyle as well as a daily routine of exercise and stretching. While the non-surgical option may sound easier than the surgical option, her underlying dilemma is facing the fact that she cannot live up to her own expectations of herself. She is young and suffering stress-related physical problems that, if she does not get under control, will likely result in chronic pain for years to come. Now she must rethink who she can authentically be and face the reality of her physical limitations. Although most of us will face this at some point in our lives and careers, most of us never really think about it until a dramatic event forces us to reassess the choices we make and how we’re living. When we read about authentic leadership it seems so simple: be true to yourself. For Michelle, a primary condition of her authenticity is facing her physical limitations and being authentic with others about what she can and is willing to do to balance her work schedule with her personal health needs. In coming to terms with her humanness, she needs to figure out what it even means to be true to herself. Does she retain her stressful job in a field she loves, implementing a mission which she believes is her life’s work? What other avenue does she have to pursue her passion and make an impact on the world? How you can put resilience to work for you to become more authentic? Here are six questions to consider as indicators of your resilience as a leader:

  1. Am I taking the actions I need to take to remain physically healthy over the longer term?
  2. Do I manage my thinking throughout the day, every day (minimize negative self-talk; be gentle and kind in how I think about myself; express gratitude regularly; have reasonable expectations of myself and others, etc.)?
  3. Do I demonstrate strong emotional self-awareness and self-management?
  4. Do I have a sense of life purpose that inspires me daily and helps keep the less important annoyances in perspective?
  5. Do I have a spiritual practice that supports my well-being?
  6. Do I have a support system that supports and encourages me during good times and bad?

If you’ve answered no to any of the six questions on the list consider: what changes you can you make in the short term to authentically and honestly commit to and move toward greater resilience? As a resilient leader, you are more able to respond to the ongoing challenges of your role with clear thinking and presence. This, in turn, allows you to continue to be authentic with yourself and others around you. It also allows you to promote resilience in your workgroup so you can ensure others are also able to perform at their highest capacity. Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet—thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing—consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust. — Lance Secretan

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.

Five Steps to Building Authentic Leadership

CEOs biking to workLeadership guru, Warren Bennis, says: “letting the self emerge is the essential task of leaders. Indeed, leadership is, first and foremost, all about you. People often have a misguided notion that leadership is about everyone else. But if a leader hasn’t journeyed inside first to get clear on his or her values, strengths, passion and vision, their lack of authentic grounding will cause them to behave in inconsistent ways, eroding trust and undermining their leadership effectiveness.”

Bill is a highly-skilled leader. Self-aware, he makes a concerted effort to create an environment in which each of his team members can be their most effective at work. He has assembled a diverse staff with unique skills and a lot of idiosyncrasies, and he has worked hard to help this staff of stars come together as a cohesive team.
One morning he arrives to find an obviously upset employee, Michelle, sitting in his office. Michelle, who is clearly concerned about the condescending behavior of another colleague, suggests that the work environment Bill created is hostile and not supportive enough for her to do her best work. She feels belittled by her colleague and is seeking Bill’s support to ensure the office in which they work is conducive to delivering top quality service to their clients. As she leaves, Bill thinks about his leadership style. He asks himself if his style has created an environment that promotes a positive work environment for all employees. Is he allowing some people to treat others in a negative or unsupportive way? Is there anything he could do differently to promote a more productive and supportive environment? How can he create an environment that allows unique people to be themselves and, at the same time, work as a cohesive team? Bill’s instincts say he has created a positive environment but now he hears from a valued employee that he may not be doing as well as he thought. Fundamentally, the question becomes: Is Bill’s authentic leadership style supportive of organizational success? Does he need to refine his style or develop as a leader to be both authentic and create a positive environment?

These questions beg a new one: How can leaders be authentic and encourage others to do the same while concurrently meeting the needs of the overall team and organization?
Let’s start with a definition of authenticity from a recent Forbes article by Henry Doss: “Learning about yourself is perhaps the single most important outcome of a powerful educational experience. Self-awareness can lead to an ever-increasing authenticity, which in turn leads to powerful leadership abilities. Authenticity is not about ’accept me for what I am‘; authentic leaders are self-aware, willing to adapt and change and ’be who they are in service to others.’ Education should be a powerful process of increasing self-awareness, of coming to know yourself and of learning the intrinsic value of who you are as a human being. . . and then understanding the need for constant change, personal growth and learning for the rest of your life.” 

Innovative Leadership Model

Innovative Leadership Model

Let’s explore how the five elements of innovative leadership can help leaders become more authentic. By using the five key elements of the innovative leadership pyramid as described below, you become a more authentic and effective leader:

  1. Build your self-awareness by understanding your Leader Type.  Take an assessment to understand yourself; then, learn about your colleagues’ types. By knowing who you are and who they are, you can create an environment in which people are able to comfortably be themselves and create a common language where they understand one another. The balance of self-awareness and understanding others allows colleagues to be authentically who they and also aligned with the culture of the overall group.
  2. Understand your own Developmental Perspective (complexity of thinking, emotional intelligence, and behavior) and the perspectives of others allows you to take the perspective of many different people. By understanding the primary perspective of your colleagues and meeting them where they are, you are showing the highest degree of respect and appreciation. The golden rule of authentic leadership could be “treat people as they need to be treated to perform at their best.” Since we are all unique, and have different expectations, treating others as you want to be treated may create some significant problems for leaders.
  3. Enhancing Resilience includes developing a strong sense of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, and knowing your strengths and preferences. It also includes understanding others’ strengths and preferences, and demonstrating the flexibility to respond to another’s level appropriately. Developing emotional intelligence skills increases your leadership success.
  4. Applying Situational Analysis is the combination of understanding yourself and the organization. By using situational analysis, you are able to understand the balance between your values and the needs of the organization and act in a manner that attends to your authenticity while balancing the organization’s expectations and norms. This means you can read the situation quickly and respond accordingly. This does not mean you change your innate preference or act in a way that is not genuine, but rather in many cases learn to expand your repertoire of skills and behaviors. It is a bit like learning to swing forehand and backhand in tennis. You’ll continue to have preferences, but, by expanding your abilities, you can be both authentic and agile.
  5. Aligning Leadership Behaviors means behaving in a manner that is authentic to you, and appropriate to the organization and situations in which you find yourself. To do this well it means you need access to a broad range of behaviors and have the skills referenced in situational analysis to diagnose the organization’s requirements and your authentic style, and have the skills to balance both.

How can leaders be authentic and encourage others to do the same while concurrently meeting the needs of the overall team and organization? The innovative leadership model offers some support in identifying who you are so you understand what authentic is for you. From there, you will have a strong foundation to determine how to navigate the questions of authenticity and being a good organizational steward. This navigation is the art of leadership.

I will be a presenting Building Authentic Leadership by Innovating how You Lead at the WELD Leadership conference on June 4, 2015 at Otterbein University in Columbus Ohio. Click for more information.

To read more about Authentic Leadership, read the full paper published in Integral Leadership Review.

If you wonder about the image, it is from CEO bike to work day in Columbus, Ohio. This represents for me leaders who model their authentic values through their actions.

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

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

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

Four Recommendations to Keep your Plan Current and Adaptable

Innovative leadership overcome stressThis post is by James Brenza co-author of the Innovative Leaders Guide to Implementing Analytics Programs.

It’s 7:00 am in the hotel parking lot and I’m facing a 20 minute commute to the office. That leaves 10 extra minutes before my 7:30 presentation. Complicating factor number 1: the windshield is covered by a thick coat of frost. Complicating factor number 2: the car rental agency decided I didn’t need a window scraper. I didn’t have many options as I stared at my ungloved hand, a credit card, a frost encrusted windshield and listened to my watch continue to tick. I knew the commute very well and needed to improvise to arrive as expected. Have you ever been in a similar predicament? Despite your original plan, the next step includes an unexpected twist.

Isn’t it “funny” how we all encounter distractions from our plan? Whether you’re completing a product launch, a customer segmentation strategy or a new price optimization method, it seems there is always a wrinkle in your plan. In many circumstances, you may face challenges with your stakeholders, team members, incomplete data, inadequate models or insufficient time to properly train the models. In most of these situations, the mark of a strong leader isn’t their ability to personally resolve the underlying problem. Innovative leaders are known for their ability to adapt to the situation, pressures, team dynamic and think creatively to help the team resolve the issue. The following section explores various distractions from plan and recommended actions to mitigate the impact.

  • Communicate quickly and honestly. Key indicators and keys to success of innovative leadership are integrity and adaptability. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the adage that bad news doesn’t age well. When facing adversity such as distractions from our plan, an unexpected or delayed outcome, deceiving the stakeholders is never an option. However, we have the ability to creatively and adaptably apply our resources to attain all or a portion of the visionary goal.
  • Address leadership gaps quickly. If the distraction from your plan included a gap in your team’s skills or leadership capability, you can seek substitutes, additional resources, coaching or training. In especially challenging situations, including specialized consultants in a coaching mode can meet the short-term objective and bolster long-term capability. You can also leverage your network and personal skills to fill small gaps.
  • Address data availability and integrity. If your analytic initiative is struggling with data acquisition or qualification of available data, you may need to revise your objective until the data is available, validated and qualified for use. If you drive forward with inadequate data, you risk developing inaccurate models. Since the predictive ability of the available data may have some value, another alternative is to segment the population and attempt a small pilot with highly structured A/B testing.
  • Validate our analytics model. If your analytic models are evolving slower than planned, you can support your data scientists with a fresh perspective to validate the underlying descriptive statistics, foundational predictors or potentially confounded attributes. It’s especially important to ensure the models aren’t being over fit due to inadequate data or hasty elimination of valid predictors.

With all of these technical mitigations, your role as a leader is even more vital. You’ll need to ensure your communications are completely transparent, and your stakeholders are aware of the issues and mitigations. It may be necessary to remind them that the only thing worse than not implementing a predictive model is an inaccurate model that may reduce value through sub-optimization. In difficult and tense situations, your team’s resilience may crumble. Scheduling special activities or a little time away may help refresh them. It’s also vital to take care of yourself. With the extra stress and high expectations, your competing commitments may erode your performance. It’s critical to maintain your life balance and control any conflicts raised by your “inner voice”.

For the curious few seeking closure, I survived my frosty morning commute by using the defrosters to help with the windshield, minimized scraping on the side windows, skipped scraping the back window and missed seeing my favorite barista on the trip to the office. By adapting my expectations, reducing my typical commute plan and accepting a few risks, I was able to meet all of my commitments.

What adjustments are you prepared to make so you can meet your expectations?

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

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

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

Photo credit: By: Techniker Krankenkasse