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Combat Ageism With Leadership and Marketing

This blog is a companion to the interview with Karen Sands on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on October 24, 2017 Navigating the Graying Demographic: Rock Your Age and Manage Inter-generationally. It was written by Karen Sands.

Once in an Engage Boomers article on Mediapost.com, Expressing Herself: What Marketers Can Learn When Madonna Tackles Ageism, Mark Bradbury discusses how cultural attitudes about age commonly shift as people enter their 50s. Sharing negative ageist comments (e.g. “old hag”) made about, of all people, the vibrant, successful 56-year-old performer, Madonna, he inquires as to whether ageism is the last acceptable prejudice. He suggests that our satisfaction in life correlates to our feelings about aging, which should serve as a clarion call to marketers to provide realistic, positive images of dignified aging which ensure that Boomers can more easily embrace all aspects of growing older.

For decades, I have spoken at length about, and coached clients regarding, the need for marketing products and services to serve the fast-expanding over-40 demographic. I even devote a chapter to the subject of over-40 business wisdom in my #1 Amazon Best Seller, The Ageless Way. Here are just a few *sneak peek* excerpts below.

Everyone from solopreneurs to large corporations needs to recognize that this market is essential to staying in business in the future, or even in the present. Especially important is that Ageless Women themselves are in a unique position to serve this market just as they are in this market to be served. In other words, Gray is the New Green!

 As pioneering David Wolfe observed, “I believe companies are largely ignoring the largest and richest customer group in history for three reasons. First, stereotypical beliefs about older customers paint them as resistant to change, so why bother. Second, there is widespread uneasiness about how to market to older customers, so let’s spare ourselves the pain of failure. Third, people under 40, who are not in the same mental space as members of the new adult marketplace majority, dominate marketing processes. They relate most comfortably to customers of their own ages or younger.”

 Yet, the economy, business, and the workplace are all undergoing glacial change from the status quo, despite a combination of massive upheavals and a constant media focus on the aging Boomer population. Throughout history, chaos and major shifts have always been accompanied by renewed attempts to hold on for dear life to the (false) security of How Things Have Always Been Done. There is an ongoing conflict between the stories of our past and the stories of our future, and the battlefield between them is inevitably our present story…

 My message continues to be “Here’s how to stay in sync with the generation that keeps you in business.” I present to professional and corporate marketers, strategists and entrepreneurs (experienced and newbies) across many sectors. I attempt to wake up those who have the most to gain or lose in market share and reach if they close their eyes to the forty-plus market potential. While sharing my perspective on the truth about their future if they stay youth-focused, I cajole them by quoting popular lyrics like Fleetwood Mac’s “Yesterday’s Gone…Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” I warn them that they best get on board fast because their ability to monetize going forward will be based on their willingness to serve this enormous force field of new Boomer demand in the workplace, the United States marketplace, and around the globe.

 No matter your industry or field, those who recognize the new rules of the game will reap the benefits and gobble up market share. For starters the new rules are customer-centric, not product-centered, as has been the case for eons. At least until Millennials turn forty, youth no longer rules! But “Prime Time Women” do!

 Let’s get back to the here and now stats that should blow your socks off! Based on a briefing paper prepared by Oxford Economics for AARP it is estimated that “…a 106 million-plus market is expected to grow by over 30% in the next 20 years.” If you snooze, you lose. Any entrepreneur or service professional that ignores the enormous power of the Big Gray already on our threshold might as well kiss their business goodbye. To anyone not paying attention I must ask, are sure you want to leave money on the table by ignoring this forty-plus market?

 If you are not already serving or planning to serve the forty-plus market, you are not only missing out financially—you are missing out on the chance to align what matters with an audience that is consciously choosing companies that are making a difference as well as a profit.

 The aftermath of the Great Recession can seem like the worst possible time to focus your business on your values, but the opposite is true. Boomers are an indication of how your clients are changing. Living your values and focusing on what matters in your business is not only what you need, it’s what the world needs—and it’s what the world is willing to pay for.

 Businesses that want to tap into this trend must shift their focus from value to values, from the bottom-line to the Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, Profits…

A finding in a Nielsen study projects that by 2017 Baby Boomers will control seventy percent of the country’s disposable income. Whether or not you like Madonna’s style… or that of the millions of other active, engaged, energetic, successful performers over 50 (for starters: Michael Jordan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Betty White, Denzel Washington, Hilary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah, Nascar Driver Morgan Shepherd, or Yoga Teacher Tao Porchon-Lynch, 96…), there is no doubt that the new emerging story will be written by those marketers and product makers who recognize that it is worthwhile to get beyond the rampant malevolent ageism and misogyny in corporate marketing and product development decision-making.

What ways do you think the over-40 demographic can be best served by businesses? Have you seen examples of marketers already reaching out to this age group and doing it well? Have you seen examples of how savvy leaders and organizations leverage this workforce?

About the Author:

Karen Sands, MCC, BCC is a Visionary Game Changer and Leading GeroFuturist™ on the Longevity Economy, the Business of Aging, and Ageless Aging. An advocate for The New Story of Our Age, she is a “visionary with wrinkles” who empowers people to rock their AGE. High-impact Certified Master & Mentor Coach for visionary world shakers, conscious entrepreneurs, sacred activists and change makers 40+ who are ready to shape the world and their role in it. A Trusted Advisor and expert authority on careers post 40, midlife reinvention, Boomers and women 40+ in the new business of aging for go-getters who want to stay in sync with the people who keep them in business. #1 Amazon Best Selling Author, Firecracker Speaker and All-Around Trailblazing Game Changer.

Avoid Feeding a Smear Campaign

 This blog is a companion to the interview with Barbara Marx Hubbard and Dr. Marc Gafni on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on March 21, 2017 focusing on navigating a smear campaign if you or your organization are targeted. It also recommends tactics to help individuals and leaders avoid unwittingly becoming involved in such a campaign.

Renowned futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard once said, “One of the most dangerous problems we face in the world is extremism on behalf of belief.  In many cases, extremists convince themselves that another faith or political system or individual is ‘evil’, and that they are justified in destroying them by any means necessary. We see this tendency, with tragic consequences, in the political sphere. We are now seeing it the so-called spiritual world.  People who claim to be apostles of higher consciousness see no problem with trying to destroy others without due process, open dialogue, non-violent communication or the possibility of resolving differences with compassion, forgiveness and healing.  Even more problematically they often hide their hidden agendas under the veneer of victim advocacy. The spiritual world is not exempt from malice. Malice, as Milan Kundera reminds us, ‘must never admit of itself so it must always plead other motives’.

This kind of behavior is terrorism. Violence of this sort is very hard to respond to creatively without becoming a terrorist yourself.  Yet we have to say NO!  to terrorism of any kind, including our own.

With this in mind I am called forth by my sense of justice to stand against the recent extremist process of cyber-attacks, initiated by a leader in the evolutionary spiritual community against Dr. Marc Gafni and the Center for Integral Wisdom and all other acts of extremism that demonize people and organizations because they are different or because they have opposing goals. Our democracy is strengthened by opposing perspectives—shutting them down is antithetical to our core values.”

We are at a new crossroads where extremism is evident across society. We see it in “fake news” that is, in many cases, intended to advance one position at the expense of another. Unfortunately, the news consumer is left to decipher what is true, what is untrue, and what is sheer deception. I believe that credible media sources work very hard to fact check their stories, yet, the very people they call to verify facts may misrepresent them.

For democracy to work, the citizenry must be well and accurately informed, and I am perplexed about inflammatory things that I read and try to discern what is true. I consume more news through a variety sources than ever before in my life, and I still believe I am getting partial truths designed to promote action and reaction. But whose action? Whose agenda? And for what purpose?

Back to the smear campaign targeting Marc…it was well orchestrated by skilled and credible people. Folks were asked to sign petitions, and many did without checking facts. If a petition is inflammatory and the antithesis of what they believe, good people will sign. I imagine most of us have signed petitions against environmental destruction, or killing of baby seals, or mutilation of girls, or sex trafficking. How could you not take a stand against these things? However, when you signed, did you explore who would benefit and how this information would be used? Did you seek to find out the source and who sponsored it? When I regularly signed petitions in the past I didn’t. I was busy and I wanted to preserve our environment and keep young women safe. I trusted the sources and I signed.

So, what can we do to avoid feeding a smear campaign:

  1. Check the facts. I was on the board of the Center when this started and I talked to Marc. I talked to other board members I trust. I know this isn’t always possible. What is possible, however, is to ask the question: How likely is this to be true? Marc is surrounded by smart and competent people. Some left after the smear campaign. I assume, in part, because of the impact the pressure had on their professional reputations. Many other people I deeply respect stayed. This is important evidence to me.
  2. Identify who benefits. During the recent election and after, we heard the new term “alternate facts.” Truth and fact are very different entities; one is subjective, the other is objective. When we see a preponderance of misleading stories, identify who stands to benefit from the situation.
  3. Examine the tactics. If you see tactics such as family members being threatened and threats to destroy the livelihood of those associated with the person being targeted, it is likely a smear campaign. These smears discredit not only the target, but associates and friends. When you see this behavior, you are likely observing a smear attack and not open discourse in an effort to understand. .
  4. Distance yourself if you have questions. It is hard to know what happens in the lives of others and why these things happen. I like the phrase “trust but verify,” and believe that most people are good and are doing the best they can and. If, however, I am unsure, I step away. There are enough causes to work toward that are positive. I don’t want to invest my energy in areas that besmirch individuals—even when the message is framed as “protecting” others.

As people who value the democratic system and as organizational leaders, it is important to be aware that we are all at risk of being victimized by—or unwitting participants in—campaigns that taint your reputation, or that of your organization. We have a responsibility to be conscious of the impact our actions can have and take deliberate action to avoid smear campaigns that impact others. By building an informed citizenry and being informed citizens, we remove the fuel that feeds these fires.

My invitation to everyone reading this blog is to follow the steps above, whether it is slandering an individual, an organization, or a political party. It is easy to let our emotions lead us and get caught up in the frenzied current climate of reaction. The flip side is when you have checked the facts and have a relatively clear picture—get involved and work to make the changes that will keep us a free and open society!

As a post script on the Center for Integral Wisdom, Marc, Barbara, and the folks at the Center for Integral Wisdom. They have been able not only to survive, but in some very real senses, thrive, despite the smear campaign. In part, that is because of the internal integrity of the people involved. It is also not unrelated to the astounding fact that Marc, as a key leader in the system did not allow the campaign to make him bitter, but keeps his heart open but instead kept going deeper into the work of the center. If you happen to be targeted by a smear campaign, surrounding yourself with supportive colleagues and maintaining focus on your missionalong with strong crisis management and legal counselis critical to both individual and organizational ability to take this terrible situation and create a positive outcome.

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 Forbes.com.

Please note: I will only approve comments on this post that are constructive in nature. I will not perpetuate negativity and smearing behavior. While we promote different perspectives – they must be framed in a manner that promotes solutions to challenges we face and not framed as personal attacks damaging the people involved in the process.

Authentic Leadership: Reflecting on Vision and Values

Innovative Leadership - ReflectionThis post ends the January four part blog series focusing on “begin with the end in mind” by defining vision, values, putting vision and values in action and now reflecting on the earlier exercises. These exercises offer a strong set of tools to cultivate a regular practice of aligning who we are with what we do.

The following exercise was pulled from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders.

To help you develop your action plan, it is time to further clarify your direction using the reflection questions below. “What do I think/believe?” reflects your intentions. “What do I do?” questions reflect your actions. “What do we believe?” reflects the culture of your organization (i.e., work, school, community), and “How do we do this?” questions reflect systems and processes for your organization. This exercise is an opportunity to practice innovative leadership by considering your vision for yourself and how it will play out in the context of your life.  You will define your intentions, actions, culture, and systems in a systematic manner.

The following table contains an exhaustive list of questions to appeal to a broad range of international leaders. You will likely find that a few of these questions best fit your own personal situation. Focus on the questions that seem the most relevant. We recommend you answer one to three questions from each category.

 Questions to Guide the Leader and Organization

·    What do I think/believe?

·    How do I see myself in the future? What trends do I see around me that impact this view? Have I considered how these trends impact the way I want to contribute?

·    How does my view of myself impact me? Am I inspired by my vision? Terrified?

·    How do I see myself within the larger environment? This can range from my family, the organization, to the international environment.

·    How do I gather input from key stakeholders to incorporate into my vision (family, business, self)?

·    After doing the exercises, what is my vision?

·    After doing the exercises, what are my values? What do I stand for? What do I stand against?

·    What are the connections between my business vision and my personal mission, passion, and economic goals?

What do I do?

·      How do I research trends that will impact my industry so I can understand my future placement and how to navigate potential transitions in my industry?

·      How do I synthesize competing goals and commitments to create a vision that works for me in the context of the communities I serve (family, friends, work, and international community)?

·      How do I develop my vision taking the greater economic conditions into account?

·      What do I tell others about my vision?  Do I have an “elevator speech”?  Is it something I think is inspirational?

·      When others observe me living my vision and values, what observable behaviors would they see?

What do we believe?

·    How does my personal vision fit within the larger context of my family, my community, my industry or my job?

·    How do I create a shared belief that my vision will help the organization succeed within the larger community and also help the community succeed?

·    What do we believe we stand for as an international organization? How should we behave to accomplish what we stand for (guiding principles/values)? Do my values align with the organizational values?

·    How do I reconcile differences between my values and those of my organization? How will these differences impact my ability to develop toward my vision and goals?

How do we do this?

·      How do I monitor the organization’s impact on my vision? How do I honor my vision when helping define/refine the organizational vision?

·      What is our process for defining/refining changes to our shared vision for the organization and other systems I function within? What is our process for clarifying and documenting our values? How do I ensure that my values are aligned with our guiding principles?

·      Who gives me feedback on their perspective of my progress? How often? What form would I like this feedback to take?

·      What measures help me determine progress toward my vision and values? How do I track and report progress toward these goals? Is my behavior supporting the organizational goals? Are the organizational goals supporting my goals?

Following are some answers provided by a leader we will call Steve. He tests as a “Level 5 Leader” as discussed in Good to Great. His answers will reflect that level of thinking and perspective taking.

Introduction to Steve

In his late 50’s Steve was promoted to a global management role for Sales Manager, Aluminum Extrusion Coatings for a large global corporation. He was recently promoted to this job so he is doing the workbook to help him identify the leadership changes he needs to make to succeed in his new role.

Vision

My vision is to grow myself personally and professionally by utilizing the scientific education and business experiences and to support the success of others.  I am a committed husband, father, and grandfather and live my values in all areas of my life.

Values

  • Achievement
  • Expertise
  • Work under pressure

Now Steve will answer at reflection questions from each category. He shares these answers with you because reflection is one of the more important skills that all leaders must develop. One important element of this workbook is that you as a developing leader get to read the thought process of a successful global leader. It is rare that many leaders share their inner thoughts and feelings and valuable to see how others approach these questions.

Reflection Questions: What do I think/believe?

How do I see myself in the future?

I see myself as a person who can significantly contribute to this organization thru my extensive technical experience in formulating as well as application dynamics.  While taking on a global role brings significant challenges it is very exciting.  This includes a level of management that is new to me but feel my years of global travel in other roles will serve me well.  Very few people have the opportunity to travel the world and experience many cultures as I have.  Although the time away from home can be difficult the rewards are many.  Even difficulties in logistics, language and simple things like meals can become an adventure and learning experience.

The trends I see around me that impacts this is the globalization of the business community.  We can no longer live as an island in today’s business world and I choose to embrace this new paradigm by taking a leadership role. By doing this I feel I can positively impact my company as well as the industry as a whole.

After doing the exercises, what are my values?  What do I stand for?  What do I stand against?

My top personal values are achievement, expertise, and work under pressure and they are very important to me. I also remain true to the same solid business principles expected in the USA despite tendencies for unethical dealings in some parts of the world.

This is a must to maintain a professional business relationship and keep all dealings legal and ethical.

What I stand for remains constant with good business practices by treating all suppliers, customers, employees and even competitors fairly and as I would like to be treated.  I will always remain loyal to the American standard but must respect all cultures where I travel and do business.

What I stand against is the unethical business practices and most importantly human rights violations.   Understanding different cultures have different beliefs and traditions but these still must meet the basic human rights all people deserve.

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.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com Joe DeSousa

 

Authentic Leadership: Putting Vision & Values into Action

Authentic Leaders: Values in Action During the past two weeks we provided posts that spelled out exercises to Begin with the “End in Mind” by confirming/refine your vision then to confirm your values. Leaders who are already have a clear sense of their vision and values know that the real impact of this information is how it drives aligned action, builds trust among colleagues and teams, and accelerates outcomes because it reduces the amount of time team members spend trying to figure out who you are as the leader and what you will do.

An example of putting values into action is a client who, based on significant reflection, learned he valued giving back to the community in a way that he was not doing at the time. He was the CEO of a technology firm. His passion was offering computer training for returning veterans in the US even though he was born and raised in India; he maintained the job of CEO and added a community support function into his business. His passion for service to the community and professional skills afforded him the ability to follow his passion and still run a successful business. In the process of following his passion, he is building the workforce in his community and building his reputation as a civic leader and successful entrepreneur. He has now helped many returning veterans gain solid jobs and his company has been acknowledged for this significant contribution.

Exercise: Putting Vision into Action

 Step 1: Identify your foundation. Answer the three questions below by compiling a list of responses to each.

  • What are you passionate about? This will come from the prior exercise and should now be relatively concise.
  • What meets your economic needs?
  • What can you be great at?

*Note: your answers to these questions should reflect your values from the Personal Values Checklist.

Step 2: Review and identify overlap. Review your answers and identify the overlaps.

Step 3: Harvest the ideas. Based on the overlaps, do you see anything that might be incorporated in what you do or how you work? This could mean adding an additional service line to an existing business or allocating a portion of your work time to a project that is aligned with your values.

Step 4: Live your values. Finally, identify opportunities to share your values and live what you committed to. If you say you value community service, find ways to do something community related. If you value spiritual growth, take action to develop. Our ability as leaders to live our values has a huge impact on our organizations. People tend to respect and trust leaders who share their values and live them. 

A colleague, Mike, talked about sharing his personal vision and values with employees when he took over a company as a turn around leader. Quickly he had an opportunity to “live those values”. A customer who had a reputation for abusing his staff showed up at his office. He quickly met the customer and clearly indicated that behavior was not allowed and he was willing to give up the client business to live his values. This leader has a strong financial background. He knew that the financial impact of taking a stand could be significant and yet the longer term impact of allowing actions that violated his values would be even higher in the form of morale and employee engagement. He took the tough stand and won the trust of his entire organization as rumor of his quiet and respectful response to the customers yelling spread throughout the organization.

Putting our vision and values in action is a test of courage and integrity. The cost of not putting them in action is lost of trust.

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.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com BLg3

Values: Foundation for Ethical Action

Leadership ValuesLast week’s post focused on creating a clear vision as foundation for aligned action. This week we focus on the companion to vision: values. Values are deeply held views of what we find worthwhile. They come from many sources:  parents, religion, schools, peers, people we admire, and culture. Many go back to childhood; others are taken on as adults. Values help us define how we live our lives and accomplish our purpose.

The following exercise is drawn from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders.

Step 1: Define what you value most. From the list of values (both work and personal), select the ten that are most important to you—as guides for how to behave, or as components of a valued way of life. Feel free to add any values of your own to this list.

Personal Values Checklist

Innovative Leadership Values

Step 2: Elimination. Now that you have identified ten values, imagine that you are only permitted to have five. Which five would you give up? Cross them off. Now cross off another two to bring your list down to three. Finally take the list down to one. What is your top value?

Step 3: Integration. Take a look at the top three values on your list.

  • How would your life be different if those values were prominent and practiced?
  • What does each value mean, exactly? What do you expect from yourself, even in bad times?
  • Does the personal vision you’ve outlined reflect those values? If not, should your personal vision be expanded? Again, if not, are you prepared and willing to reconsider those values?
  • Are you willing to create a life in which these values are paramount, and help an organization put those values into action?

Which one item on the list do you care most about?

In the next blog post, we will explore putting vision and values in action. I encourage you to enjoy exploring the process of clarifying your values.

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.

Begin with the End in Mind: Revisit Your Leadership Vision

vision cc RachelVoorees.jpgWelcome to 2016! To begin your year, I recommend revisiting (or creating) your vision.

As part of my December routine (birthday and New Year’s both in the same month), I revisit and update my personal vision over the New Year’s break. My vision and values serve as an important foundation for who I am and how I live my life. As the CEO of my company and also as a leadership faculty member, it is important for me to live what I teach. This is one of the core practices. I also revisit it regularly to ensure I am living what I say.

For those of you who resist this process, it is true that you will not spend an hour over the weekend and suddenly determine your life purpose. It is true, however, that capturing your general direction is a great start and you can refine it over time.

A colleague and friend, Mike Sayre, CEO of NexDefense, talks about how he used his personal vision to select his current role. He has been a strong proponent of the importance of knowing and living your personal vision and sharing it with others so they know what to expect of you. You can listen to Mike talk about his vision as well as his company in a Voice America Interview.  He is a great example of a leader who follows his vision as the foundation for his choices.

The following exercise is drawn from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders.

Define Personal Vision

Follow the steps defined below:

  • Step 1: Create a picture of your future. Imagine yourself at the end of your life. You are looking back and imagining what you have done and the results you have created.
    • What is the thing you are proudest of?
    • Did you have a family?
    • What would your family say about you?
    • What did you accomplish professionally?
    • What would your friends say about you?

For the rest of this exercise, let that future person speak to you and help you set a path that will enable you to look back with pride and say things like, “I feel fulfilled and at peace. I lived my life well.”

  • Step 2: Write a story. Now that you have that image of what you will accomplish, write a brief story about your successful life. Include details about the questions above. Make it a story of what you went through to accomplish each of the results for the questions you answered. What you are trying to create is a roadmap for your journey that gives you more insight into what you want if you had the option to design your perfect life.
    • Who helped you along the way?
    • What did you enjoy about your daily life?
    • Who was closest to you?
    • What feelings did you have as you accomplished each milestone along the way?
    • How did you mentor others and contribute to the success of others?
    • What did you do to maintain your health?
    • What role did spirituality or religion play in your journey?
    • What job did you have?
    • What role did material success play in your life?
    • What type of person were you (kind, caring, driven, gracious)?
  • Step 3: Describe your personal vision. Given the story you have written and the qualities you demonstrated as a person, write a two to five sentence life purpose statement—a statement that talks about your highest priorities in life and your inspirations. This statement should capture the essence of how you want to live your life and project yourself.

An example – I develop myself to my greatest capacity and help others develop and thrive in all aspects of their lives. I am wise, conscious, compassionate and courageous, and contribute to making the world a better place.

  • Step 4:  Expand and clarify your vision. If you are like most people, the choices you wrote are a mixture of selfless and self-centered elements. People sometimes ask, “Is it all right to want to be covered in jewels, or to own a luxury car?” Part of the purpose of this exercise is to suspend your judgment about what is “worth” desiring, and to ask instead which aspect of these visions is closest to your deepest desire. To find out, ask yourself the following questions about each element before going on to the next one: If I could have it now, would I take it?

Some elements of your vision don’t make it past this question. Others pass the test conditionally: “Yes, I want it, but only if…”  Others pass, however are clarified in the process.

As you complete this exercise, refine your vision to reflect any changes you want to make.

After defining and clarifying your vision, it is time to consider your personal values. The combination of these two exercises will help you create the foundation of what you want to accomplish and the core principles that guide your actions as you work toward your vision.

In the next blog post, we will explore defining personal values. I encourage you to enjoy exploring the process of creating a personal vision.

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.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com RachaelVoorhees

What Do Authentic Leaders Do?

Authentic LeadershipThis blog is number six and the final in a series focused on building authentic leadership. In this post we will explore how understanding to be an authentic leader working within a culture and systems you likely don’t have complete control over.

No one is authentic by imitating others. You must know yourself and develop your own authentic style. As authentic leaders, it seems we should be able to do what comes naturally; yet, authenticity is not as effective as responding to what your team needs from you. So, we return to an earlier question: Can I be authentic if I am tailoring my behavior to what others want or need from me? We submit you have a broad range of authentic behaviors, and it is possible to be both true to yourself while meeting your constituents’ needs.

While imitation doesn’t work – this statement is incomplete – you may still want to know what behaviors you could use as a starting point. For this I would like to return to a prior post such as Leadership 2050?

So, what are the steps to demonstrate authentic leadership behaviors?

  1. Know what you stand for and understand your values, as well as your leadership type and developmental perspective. By understanding your true values as well as your innate strengths and weaknesses you begin to set the baseline for what you hold true. For requests that do not impact your core values or your strengths, you have flexibility in how you respond. You may build skills or look to a teammate to augment you in specific areas.
  2. Understand the individual members of your teams’ values and type. We have talked about type and developmental perspective in prior posts as two good tools to better understand your team. If you are working closely with someone, it will be helpful to understand their values. You can often gain a basic understanding by listening, observing things and knowing what someone does outside of work. Do they volunteer in the community outside your agency? Do they spend weekends with family? Do they take vacations that involve adventure? What do they read?
  3. Practice tailoring conversations and behaviors to others in a way that will be authentic to your values and at the same time be effective given the culture and organizational goals. You may even want to practice a few scenarios in preparation for tough negotiations or difficult discussions. By knowing your values and your innate type, you have a foundation that guides you on where to adjust and where to stay true to yourself.

Authentic leaders are true to themselves, they honor their personal values and commitments, and they also adapt to situations so they can provide the leadership needed by their staff. Their staffs are likely to have a broad range of expectations of the leader—and having a one-size-fits-all “authentic” approach to all situations is suboptimal. The best leaders are able to honor their own style and still meet others where they are (which can sound paradoxical at times).

As with all changes in the way we process, perceive, and behave, there is no magic wand. You already know the value of persistence and commitment—it’s what has brought you this far already. Using the five elements of innovative leadership can support you in becoming an authentic and dynamic leader, and will support your ongoing leadership success.

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: www.flickr.com Davld Clow

Balancing Authenticity with Organizational Expectations

Situational Analysis BalancingThis blog is number five in a series focused on building authentic leadership. In this post we will explore how understanding the culture and systems along with your own self awareness supports your ability to lead authentically and how it can inhibit your success if it is not attended to.

Situational analysis is the process by which you use self-awareness and organizational understanding to determine how to behave authentically and effectively. You analyze with the intent of creating alignment between self and the organization—which can often be quite a balancing act. In some cases you may not have a clear sense of yourself, and in other situations the your preference are not aligned with the organization’s culture or expectations.

I recently conducted a workshop with a client who used the situational analysis framework to address a very complex issue in a large family owned business. The organization, like many, is trying to balance cutting an employee benefit in an effort to retain service levels while minimizing the impact on employee morale, engagement, and organizational culture. This is a company has a very strong commitment to service, which includes caring for its employees. In a highly respected organization with a goal of maintaining low overhead, these benefits impact overall organizational performance and—if not managed carefully—can have a negative financial impact on the organization.

During the workshop, the entire leadership team answered a set of eight questions in four categories to encourage an open discussion to help them align their personal beliefs, personal behaviors, organizational culture, and organizational systems in addressing these issues and make a sound decision.

Presentation1

Using these questions as the foundation, the leadership team explored the pros and cons of their cost-cutting decision. In addition to addressing this specific complex issue, they also adopted this approach to addressing other issues.

So, what does this have to do with authentic leadership? Leaders must be self-aware and genuine. The first two sets of questions in the table help you discuss your personal values in an organizational setting and explore how those values impact tough decisions. You they talk about how your values align with the behavior required to adopt the change. This approach is very valuable when balancing personal values and organizational requirements. Leaders often find their values in conflict with organizational expectations and they are compelled to choose between two undesirable options: violating their values, or making decisions that are opposed to the organization’s goals.

While there is no easy solution to the complex problems organizations are facing, we believe this approach to exploring challenges candidly and discussing personal beliefs and values, individual actions, organizational culture, and organizational systems creates shared support for decisions and provides a powerful platform for open dialogue about complex issues. Because it takes into account values along with fiscal accountability, it builds trust among leaders that the process is ethical. It also allows you an open forum to discuss differing points of view and, at the same time, develop a better understanding of others.

As authentic leaders in a complex environment, we are continually making difficult decisions. This approach to decision making can help think through the challenges and ask the questions that allow us to remain authentic and ethical, and still make the tough decisions required for the organization to survive and thrive. As the broader organization begins to understand and trust this process, they will also build the skills to be authentic in their leadership and build a culture of authenticity.

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: www.flickr.com pink sherbet photography

Analyze Strengths and Weaknesses – Eric’s Story

I’m Eric Philippou, and I’m writing this blog as part of my college internship at Metcalf & Associates. I recently completed a series of assessments and now I will analyze the information. Gather what you’ve learned about yourself into the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis tool. This is a great tool that you can use at any time, for many different situations. You can use it n the context of your career plans and some athletes I know use it for their sports also.

Eric SWOT

Real World Application

It helps to take several different assessments to give me different views of myself.  I recommend taking all of the assessments, especially those that are free. After screen capturing or printing the results, read them very carefully to see how you could apply the results to your daily life. Remember to put 80% of your focus on strengths, and 20% on weaknesses. Perhaps take some time Monday through Thursday to focus on a different strength each day, and on Friday focus on a weakness. For example, Monday I’ll play to my groups strengths based on the vibrancy assessment, Tuesday I’ll focus on how to use my “Peacemaker” abilities from the Enneagram, and so on. On Friday I’ll focus on mitigating the weaknesses and threats from my SWOT assessment. Do that, and you may see yourself becoming more comfortable as a leader.

In the next post, I will answer the reflection questions about what I learned during the assessments and SWOT analysis.

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 Eric’s ongoing blog series or our other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Reflecting on Personal Vision – Eric’s Story

Eric Philippou FencingI’m Eric Philippou, and I’m writing this blog as part of my college internship at Metcalf & Associates. During the past three posts I completed exercises to help me define my vision and values.

Reflection Questions

After each of the six steps in the innovative leadership development process, I’ll provide you with some helpful reflection questions. Basically, if you can answer all of these questions in detail, you’ll develop a firm understanding of your vision and your plan of action can be implemented almost immediately. The “What do I think/believe?” section refers to your intentions, and the “What do I do?” section refers to your actual behavior. The “What do we believe?” section refers to your group’s intentions, and the “How do we do this?” section refers to your groups actions and processes. Think of any organized group you belong to (student club, sports team, fantasy football league) and use that to answer the last two sections I mentioned. If you’re not in an organized group, join one and save those reflection questions for after you’ve joined. Remember – even as a new member of a group, and not a leader, you can still display leadership by influencing change. In my answers, the organization I refer to is my varsity fencing team.

Reflections on Eric's Vision

This marks the end of the first step in becoming an innovative leader as a college student. The next post will go into step two – analyzing your strengths and situation. I’ll provide you with some personal assessments to take, this way you get a firm understanding of your personality type, special skills, how you can work best in a group setting, and much more.

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 Eric’s ongoing blog series or our other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: OSU Athletics, Ohio State University