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Leaders Need to Defeat Unconscious Bias

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This blog is provided by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias that aired on Tuesday, November 10th, 2020.

 

How can leaders defeat unconscious bias? First, you need to know what unconscious bias is.

Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, age, and so on. It differs from cognitive bias, which is a predictable pattern of mental errors that result in us misperceiving reality and, as a result, deviating away from the most likely way of reaching our goals.

In other words, from the perspective of what is best for us as individuals, falling for a cognitive bias always harms us by lowering our probability of getting what we want. Despite cognitive biases sometimes leading to discriminatory thinking and feeling patterns, these are two separate and distinct concepts.

Cognitive biases are common across humankind and relate to the particular wiring of our brains, while unconscious bias relates to perceptions between different groups and are specific for the society in which we live. For example, I bet you don’t care or even think about whether someone is a noble or a commoner, yet that distinction was fundamentally important a few centuries ago across Europe. To take another example – a geographic instead of one across time – most people in the US don’t have strong feelings about Sunni vs. Shiite Muslims, yet this distinction is incredibly meaningful in many parts of the world.

As a frequent speaker and trainer on diversity and inclusion to address potential unconscious discriminatory behavior, I regularly share in speeches that unconscious bias in recruitment is quite common. Take for example an entrepreneurial start-up with just over 80 employees that provides businesses with video and email marketing services. The company’s senior leadership approached me a few months ago to coach their managerial and HR staff on recruitment practices to address implicit bias.

In the middle of our initial Zoom coaching session and as participants were describing their existing hiring process to me, I stumbled upon a common – but nonetheless counterproductive – pattern when they hire staff. Despite processes in place to ensure that discriminatory behavior will be avoided, the company’s recruitment and hiring managers often relied on gut instincts when making decisions.

This results in a workplace that isn’t diverse and inclusive. It eventually promotes people with the same profiles to leadership positions – who will then make the same kinds of hiring decisions, thereby instituting and fortifying a self-reinforcing loop.

It happens because most employers tend to decide with their guts over their heads and end up hiring people who they like and perceive as part of their in-group, instead of basing decisions on applicants’ qualifications. While there are certain situations where relying on gut instinct makes sense, it’s a bad idea when hiring staff or promoting employees.

In this common scenario, unconscious bias manifests when recruiters and hiring managers pick candidates who are similar to them in race, gender, and socioeconomic background. This can extend to minor things such as speaking and gesture styles, and even clothing choices. Our gut automatically differentiates the people who can be part of our in-group due to their similarity to us, and this raises their status in our eyes. Hiring managers who heed this instinct give in to unconscious bias, as I explained to the coaching participants.

However, I was careful to clarify that this discrimination is not necessarily intentional. Such cultures are perpetuated by internal norms, policies, and training procedures, and any company wishing to address unconscious bias needs to address internal culture first and foremost, rather than attributing discriminatory behavior to certain employees. In other words, instead of saying it’s a few bad apples in a barrel of overall good ones, the key is recognizing that implicit bias is a systemic issue, and the structure and joints of the barrel needs to be fixed. This is what I told the start-up’s leadership team when I gave my feedback before we buckled down and made plans to address the issue.

Taking Decisive Steps to Address Unconscious Bias

The crucial thing to highlight is that there is no shame or blame in implicit bias, as it’s not stemming from any fault in the individual. This no-shame approach decreases the fight, freeze, or flight defensive response among reluctant audiences and coaching participants, helping them hear and accept the issue.

Still, in the case of the start-up company, I received feedback that implicit bias was still affecting some of the hiring managers even after two coaching sessions. It was clear from this behavior that these particular participants didn’t immediately internalize the evidence presented to them. It was much more comforting for them to feel that their gut instinct is right, and they are reluctant to follow the processes in place to avoid discriminatory behavior.

The issue of unconscious bias doesn’t match their intuitions. Thus, they rejected this concept, despite extensive and strong evidence for how it negatively impacts the hiring process and workplace diversity and inclusivity.

It took a series of subsequent follow-up conversations and interventions to move the needle. A single training is almost never sufficient, both in my experience and according to research.

This example of how to fight unconscious bias illustrates broader patterns you need to follow to address such problems in order to address unconscious bias to make the best people decisions. After all, our gut reactions lead us to make poor judgment choices, when we simply follow our intuitions.

1) Instead, you need to start by learning about the kind of problems that result from unconscious bias yourself, so that you know what you’re trying to address.

2) Then, you need to convey to people who you want to influence, such as your employees or any other group or even yourself, that there should be no shame or guilt in acknowledging our instincts.

3) Next, you need to convey the dangers associated with following their intuitions, to build up an emotional investment into changing behaviors.

4) Then, you need to convey the right mental habits that will help them make the best choices.

Remember, a one-time training is insufficient for doing so. It takes a long-term commitment and constant discipline and efforts to overcome unconscious bias.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Gleb Tsipursky:  An internationally-recognized thought leader known as the Disaster Avoidance Expert, Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is on a mission to protect leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases by developing the most effective decision-making strategies. A best-selling author, he is best known for Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019), The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships (New Harbinger, 2020), and Resilience: Adapt and Plan for the New Abnormal of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic (Changemakers Books, 2020). He published over 550 articles and gave more than 450 interviews to prominent venues such as Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, CBS News, Time, Business Insider, Government Executive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fast Company, and elsewhere. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts. It also stems from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral economist and cognitive neuroscientist. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, LinkedIn, and register for his free Wise Decision Maker Course.

 

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

 

 

10 Leadership Lessons That Will Help Your Business Thrive

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This blog is provided by Angeline Licerio, as a companion to the interview with Greg Moran, titled Evolving Leadership to Navigate Significant Disruption on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future that aired on August 18th, 2020.

 

Building your own brand and establishing yourself as a successful entrepreneur requires a lot of preparation, trial and error, sweat, and determination. It’s like an on-the-job-training where you put all your resources, time, and energy. Some seek mentors to avoid the pitfalls along the way. But even if you don’t have an expert guiding you as you make your way to the top, self-mentoring and heeding the leadership lessons of successful business owners will help your business thrive.

We rounded up 10 great leadership lessons for you:

  1. Knowing your ‘why’ offers a good start.

No matter what you are selling, you should make it your proof of mission. Your brand is your statement, while your ’why’ sets the company culture where everyone lives up to the values of the business. Apple, for instance, does not just sell gadgets, iPhones, and laptops. They are selling a vision, and people continue to buy their products because they believe in their advocacy.

  1. Setting the tone of leadership is critical.

Regardless of how good your brand is or how skillful your workers are, you are the force that will set the course of your business. Even if you have many hats to wear during the initial stage of your business, it is vital for you to be the leader first. You must make decisions and lay down the guidelines to keep everything in balance. Leadership coach and consultant Kristi Hedges of ‘The Hedges Company’ said that leaders should be happy and motivated in their roles to avoid hurting the whole organization.

  1. Hiring employees with superior skills is a must.

Alibaba CEO and co-founder Jack Ma advises new entrepreneurs to hire people who will be significant assets in the business. By hiring men and women with superior skills, your focus is to lead your high performing team with excellence. As the leader of the pack, you need to create a winning team. Your team is your sustainable advantage because they are the first ones who will help build, support, and sell your ideas and products. There is no room for mediocrity and excuses when you want to grow your business.

  1. Being ready to pivot counts.

Change is constant in business. Bill Gates once said, ‘do not allow yourself to be lulled into inaction.’ You should continually evolve with the changes to ensure growth opportunities and profitability for your business.

As a business owner and leader, you must act with urgency to rise to the challenge and have a positive mindset. The pandemic, in particular, has created uncertainty and a set of challenges that leaders need to address. You need to pivot to recover the loss and rebuild to keep up with the competitors. Even big businesses like Google, Amazon, and Apple have already embraced the ‘new normal’ philosophy.

  1. Learning from mistakes is key.

You always learn from your mistakes, but you extract wisdom when you learn from the mistakes of others. There are many TED talks, books, podcasts, and testimonies of successful people in the business that provide profound lessons. Learning from their stories will help you determine the ropes and avoid the same mistakes. Thought leader Tim Ferris gained his massive following because he applies and advocates great lessons from top performers. You can learn their secrets and modify them to fit your business principles.

  1. The team and customers’ feedback are essential.

Walmart founder Sam Walton shared that his best ideas came from stock boys and clerks. Listening to feedback is important to the success of the business. The insights help leaders when they are struggling or experiencing a setback. An effective leader talks less and listens more to people who genuinely care for the business. The byproducts of active listening will help you gauge the performance of the company. When listening becomes your daily habit, you will be seen as a true leader.

  1. Customers are not always right.

The philosophy that ‘the customer is always right’ is not always advantageous to your business. The right customers will buy your product or service because they need it. Those who demand you to tweak or modify it to cater to their needs can cost your business more than the revenue generated and it can alter the core features of your brand. Learn to say no and stick to what you do best.

  1. Being kind is good for business.

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA and an investor on ‘Shark Tank’, is known for being a nice guy who is always willing to go above and beyond to make his fans feel appreciated. He believes that ‘being nice’ is vital to the success of any business. Promote respect, trust, and humility among your team to motivate them to make great things happen. When you are genuinely kind, they will rally behind you and support you all the way to the top.

  1. The best way isn’t always easy.

There is no shortcut to business success. No one opens his store today and gains back his capital next month. It goes through a process and levels of success. All entrepreneurs know that the easiest and shortest path is often not the best way. A solid business plan with a sound framework that is aligned with your values is important. In business, your personal integrity and your reputation are essential to attracting investors, customers, and peers. It is also necessary to be willing to work hard and dedicate your resources to keep going, especially during rough times.

  1. Appreciate by giving back.

At the end of the business day, you are part of a bigger community. Your success is mainly due to the people who trust your product and use your service. Giving back is a great way to show appreciation and attract more customers.

In summary

Choosing to practice all these leadership lessons will help your business thrive positively and hit your sales quotas. But the real measure of success for entrepreneurs is not always the profits, but making a difference in employees’ lives and contributing to the good of the bigger community.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Angeline Licerio is a content writer for Elevate Corporate Training. Like the rest of her teammates at Elevate, Angeline believes that she can help create better bottom lines, happier and healthier staff and build communities where people engage with each other in high functioning relationships.

 

Mentoring in Reverse

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This blog is provided by Bob Fisch, founder and former rue21 CEO.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled OK, Boomer, OK, Millennial; Time for Collaboration Instead of Combat that aired on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020.

 

What’s the best way to find out what others around you might know that will help you and your business? First, ask them. Then, listen to them, no matter Millennials or Baby Boomers, or position in the company.

The smartest people often don’t speak a lot, it was pointed out to me by a global industry analyst, Steve Richter, I met at a Columbia University retail conference.

His wise observation is in the “Listening” chapter of my book, Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer (ForbesBooks 2019).

Mentoring in Reverse

In Fisch Tales, I advocate Mutual Mentoring to bring the generations together for the greater good. A variation of that, now catching fire in the corporate world, is Reverse Mentoring.

Just because I was in charge of 1200 stores and 20,000 employees at specialty apparel retailer rue21, I didn’t assume I had all the answers, or all the right answers. Knowing what you don’t know is a strength, not a weakness.

Ninety-percent of our people in the field were under 35, and 75% of the support center staff were 20-30 years old. I know first-hand that, given the right opportunity, Millennials can help accelerate success. Now, more than ever, they are the key to growth at both the top and bottom lines.

I didn’t assume that their age meant they had nothing to teach me. I enjoyed nothing more than walking around the office, or listening on a conference call, to find out what they thought, and learn something in the process. That was the only way our company could stay current and connect with our customer base, which was mostly the same age group.

Estee’s Esteemed CEO
Currently, the best example I’ve come across of Reverse Mentoring is what CEO Fabrizio Freda is doing at Estee Lauder. On his watch, the global beauty brand has been riding a phenomenal growth curve since he took the reins of its U.S. group a decade ago. The company’s market value today is more than $70 billion. When Mr. Freda joined the company, it was less than $7 billion. He also doubled sales volume during that period to $14 billion, double the sales when he came aboard. There’s no arguing with that kind of success.

Impressive as that is, the real story is how he did it. I suspect Mr. Freda, a Baby Boomer, would be the first to say he couldn’t have done it without the energy, enthusiasm, and brainpower of Millennials.

He explained his rationale to Harvard Business Review by saying that “the future could not be informed by the past.”

I love that attitude! I couldn’t agree more because that’s the way I always ran any company I headed. At rue21, I learned from experiences elsewhere that we’d be more successful by not following the industry’s conventional wisdom. There definitely will be those who doubt you, but I’ve found that they’ll be the ones stuck in the past as you discover new opportunities.

That’s also what Fabrizio Freda is doing with his Reverse Mentoring program at Este Lauder. It has proved to be so effective, it now numbers almost 500 reverse mentors working with 300 senior executives in more than 20 countries, according to WWD Beauty.

Teaching Up the Organization

Who knows better than Millennials how to manipulate social media for maximum impact in the marketplace? So, he has Millennials teaching senior executives at Estee Lauder all about how social media influencers work.

By deploying Millennials in the company on such a large scale today, Mr. Freda is future-proofing Estee Lauder’s business for its leadership tomorrow.

The bonus benefit is that the reverse mentoring Millennials feel more valued and respected. That stimulates them to up their game and their contributions. With this innovative dynamic that Fabrizio Freda has put in place, upper management stays abreast of cutting-edge thinking among the company’s younger ranks, and the Millennial employees groom themselves for bigger responsibilities as they ascend the corporate ladder. It’s a classic win-win for all concerned (another kind of Reverse Mentoring that any business leader already should be practicing is listening to their customers, who may be the best mentors of all).

We once were taught growing up to “respect your elders.” Nothing wrong with that. It’s sound advice, but it doesn’t stop there.

You see, Reverse Mentoring works only if the elders take it to heart, put their ego aside, and stay open to learning new things, by respecting their juniors.

 

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

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

 

About the Author

Bob Fisch is the author of Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer and is recognized as a pioneering merchant for his bold and successful innovations in value-priced, fast-fashion retailing, notably at rue21. As CEO, he took rue21 from bankruptcy to a fast-track winning streak that included a hot-stock IPO, building a national network of 1,200 stores, and a billion-dollar-plus valuation. Bob began his career at Abraham & Straus (A&S) New York and within a dozen or so years had risen to become president at Casual Corner, a division of U.S. Shoe.  The prestigious retail magazine Chain Store Age named Fisch one of “10 CEOs to Watch in 2010.” The criteria for making the very short list, wrote the magazine, was “the influence they wield in their respective categories—and because they are willing to shake things up a bit.”

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

A Brain Is a Terrible Thing To Waste: Understanding the Inner Workings of Your Brain

A Brain Is a Terrible Thing To Waste: Understanding the Inner Workings of Your Brain

August 12th, 2019 by Maureen Metcalf

Leadership Resilience Includes Managing ThinkingThis is a guest blog provided by Ann Steele.  It is a companion blog for the Jon Wortmann interview on September 11, 2018, titled “How Does the Brain Impact Leadership Resilience?”  The article was previously published on PsyDPrograms.org.

Through the work of billions of cells housed within our brains, humans are the most advanced form of life in the known universe. Highly intelligent animals like dolphins, elephants, whales may have bigger brains than people, but the evolution of the human mind is far greater.

Only now is science beginning to understand the complexities of the gray matter resting just above our shoulders. A mix of protein and fat that combine to create one of the most advanced individual systems known to humankind – organic or machine, earthbound or cosmic.

The Brain Makes Us Who We Are

While at first glance, the brain itself may appear to be a singular mass, it consists of a number of highly unique parts and separate regions that control practically every aspect of human existence.

Four of the most vital components include:

·        The brain stem which aides with breathing and sleep.

·        The basal ganglia that monitors the sending and receiving of messages between different areas of the brain.

·        The cerebellum that keeps us upright – balanced and well-coordinated.

·        The cerebral cortex which helps us to think and move, achieve greater reasoning and imaginative skills and is what provides human consciousness.

In addition, the four regions include:

·        The frontal lobe that links to our motor skills and how we think, reason, and acquire knowledge.

·        At the crown of the brain, the middle parietal lobe controls sensation – our sense of touch, taste, and manipulation of the physical world around us – as well as spatial awareness.

·        Occupying the base of the brain, the temporal lobe is central to our ability to hear and helps us distinguish language and sound. Within the temporal lobe is the hippocampus – critical to our ability to learn, emote, and create memories.

·        At the rear of the brain, you’ll find the occipital lobe, critical to our visual capabilities and processing of colors, words, or any other objects that we see.

Even with all of our current knowledge, it is a testament to the brain’s advanced and complicated design that researchers and scientists have yet to fully solve the puzzle of the human mind.

One area though where there has been much discovery, and where we continue to expand our expertise, is what stimulates the brain. Factors that are both helpful and harmful and what is required to maintain a healthy mind.

Why Brain Health is So Important

While the brain itself may still hold many secrets, there is little mystery to the need for us to keep our minds healthy and functioning at their highest possible level.

As we’ve shown, the brain is central to our survival – controlling our breathing and cognitive skills, our consciousness and perception, and our ability to think, feel, and remember.

However, all of the brain’s functions do not operate independently of one another – it’s the reason we can, in fact, walk and chew gum at the same time. If you neglect one aspect of your brain’s health, other areas suffer.

But we’re not just talking about a run of the mill headache brought on by stress.

There are numerous neurological disorders that prove debilitating to both the brain and an individual’s overall well-being.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), approximately 50 million Americans – that’s one out of every five – suffer from some form of brain-related disorder. The list of conditions is exhaustive and includes:

·        Brain tumors

·        Cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke-related conditions or vascular dementia

·        Convulsive disorders like epilepsy

·        Degenerative diseases of adult life which include Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

·        Developmental disorders including cerebral palsy

·        Infectious disease complications like AIDS-related dementia

·        Metabolic syndromes including Gaucher’s disease

·        Neurogenetic diseases such as Huntington’s disease or muscular dystrophy

·        Trauma injuries that occur in the spinal cord or with a head injury (concussions)

These represent many of the major disorders. Far more common however are the conditions that fall under the broad (and sometimes misleading) category of mental illness.

For many years mental illness carried with it a stigma, resulting in people being mistreated or receiving none at all.

While the numbers for the latter still remain low, modern medicine has better shaped our understanding of more common psychological conditions, improving diagnosis and treatment.

This segment of neurological disorders include:

·        Anxiety

·        Attention-deficit and/or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

·        Autism Spectrum Disorder

·        Depression

Given the brain’s importance and complexity, how then do you give yourself the best chance for lasting brain health? You might be surprised by the most effective methods.

Maintaining Your Brain’s Health

While not every brain-related condition is treatable or avoidable due to factors such as age, heredity, genetics, or other non-lifestyle factors, there are plenty of ways to keep your mind sharp.

To assist with improving your brain’s health and function, as well as producing the happy side effect of giving you a far more positive outlook on life, consider the following methods to boosting your brainpower:

Exercise

You already know what exercise means for your body. Proven time and again, regular exercise has lasting, positive effects on our well-being. The impact, though, is both physical and mental.

Exercise, through its stimulation of chemicals in the brain, promotes the growth and health of blood cells. Regular physical activity also helps to clear your mind, enabling you to think more clearly, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve memory and cognitive functions.

Sleep

A good night’s rest is as critical to an individual’s health as breathing.

Lack of sleep impedes the brain’s ability to perform daily tasks vital to keeping it healthy – clearing out toxins, maintaining healthy neurological connections among the brain’s many pathways, and recharging your body so it can maintain its focus, create new memories and be alert and ready to take on the next day when you wake up.

Quality sleep also builds up your immune system, which helps to keep diseases and illnesses at bay. You will also avoid the common condition of brain fog by following a strict sleep routine – commit to at least seven hours of sleep and steering clear of blue-light emitting devices at least two to three hours before bedtime.

Eat the Right Foods

As with everything else health-related, there are specific foods that will support the development and performance of your brain.

Green vegetables, certain types of berries and nuts, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are cornerstones of a brain-boosting diet. Just remember to work these into a diet that aides to promote greater health for you overall – physically and mentally.

The Power of Positive Thinking

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “the power of positive thinking” many times before. So much so, that’s it’s probably etched itself into your permanent memory.

That’s very much a good thing.

Studies show that a positive mindset is more than just a cliché – it can have a beneficial and lasting impact on your brains overall health and function.

While that research focused on children, a positive outlook works for adults too.

Maintaining an optimistic mindset promotes better physical skills, social interaction, and creativity, all of which broaden your mind’s horizons and help you build skills and more comprehensive life-servicing resources.

Meditation

More than a way to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life, meditation proves transformative in building up an individual’s positive emotions. Research also suggests that it has a lasting effect on your health – improving your mind and your sense of purpose and reducing the chances for illness.

Engage Your Brain in Activities You Enjoy

Do you like to read novels or biographies? Diary or write about experiences you’ve enjoyed? Or do you dream about just getting out, having fun, and spending time with individuals you care about?

Pick one, or all three, because making time to enjoy the people and endeavors that make you happy can stimulate your brain towards better health. There are even health benefits to finding work or a career that you genuinely enjoy versus something that you slog through day after day.

Smile

Yep, turn that frown upside down. Seriously.

Though it may be hard to believe, science actually shows that a simple smile, even if it’s initially a forced effort (or a side effect of a cosmetic procedure), can reduce stress, improve your mood, strengthen your immune system, and help add a few years to your life.

According to Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Torrance Memorial in Los Angeles, CA:  “What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity. When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”

Which basically means the brain doesn’t care why you’re smiling – as evidenced by the botox research – it processes the benefits of the smile regardless of its purpose.

Practice Good Health to Get the Most from Your Mind

One of the most astonishing aspects of the brain is that in all of its complexity, preserving its health requires a basic, common-sense approach.

When it comes to getting the most from your mind, keep it simple – and positive. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and plenty of constructive, optimistic thoughts and activities will nourish your brain and ensure it functions at its highest possible level – and provide you one less worry to think about.

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

About the Author

Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.

Democracy and Leadership Require Accurate Information: What You Need To Know To Keep Up In Today’s World

This guest blog is a companion to the Voice America interview: Democracy on the Run: How Strong and Capable Leaders Can Impact Listen Now. The interview was recorded as part of the International Leadership Association conference series. The blog is reproduced and shared with permission by mastersincommunication.org.

 

Leaders and citizens need accurate and unbiased information to act responsibly. As citizens, we must develop an understanding of events unfolding in our environment and determine how we will engage. Voting is obviously one major action that requires comprehensive and unbiased information.

 

By the same note, leaders, those responsible for setting their organizational course, revising direction and engaging with employees to drive toward results must have accurate, complete and unbiased information.

 

In an era where leaders have access to more information, it has become harder to know where to look to find accurate, complete and unbiased information. For this, we must turn to the field of journalism and we must take responsibility for being well informed. The people we lead, and all of our stakeholders rely on us to make well informed decisions.

 

The information we need comes from journalists!

 

Today’s journalism is a far cry from what it used to be. In the past, you received the majority of your news and information from your local newspaper published every morning.

If you didn’t get it there, you watched the evening news after dinner. Add in a few national newspapers, and that was it.

Today, relying on only one source to receive all of your news and information seems unheard of. Newspapers are still around today, but we have so much more to go along with them. We don’t have to wait an entire day for our news anymore – we wait mere seconds.

Now we see the news as it’s happening instead of getting recaps of it the next day. With the rise of the internet and the 24/7 news station, we have an abundance of news sources directly at our fingertips.

Journalism as a whole has changed in response. Instead of having time to fact check, journalists are urged to be the first to break the story. This rush to first often leads to misinformation being published, causing confusing and sometimes outrage.

What used to be a cardinal sin is now less of an issue because being the first to hit publish is such a priority.

Let’s take a look at what journalism is today, and some of the people changing it.

What Really Is Journalism?

 

Journalism is the act of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.

Journalism is the product of every newspaper you read, every news station you watch, and every news article you read online.

Journalism is meant to place the public good above all else and uses specific methods to gather and assess information. In other words, journalism is meant to benefit the people, and journalists should routinely check what they’re reporting on to be sure the information is verified and accurate.

 

Why Data Journalism Matters More Than Ever

 

Another side effect of the internet and the amount of data at our fingertips is the rise of data journalism. Data journalism is the use of data and number crunching to uncover, better explain, or provide context to a news story.

 

Data can be the tool used to tell a story, the source upon which a story is based, or both at the same time. It often involves the use of statistics, charts, and infographics.

 

Data journalism has become important because, in today’s world, anyone with a smartphone and social media account can be a journalist. Multiple sources add information over social media, blogs, and videos as the news story is happening. It’s an information overload, and opinion often clouds facts.

 

The goal of data journalism is to be the one who provides context to an event and aims to explain what it really means.

 

An excellent example of data journalism is a story ProPublica published about animal extinction across the globe. Using data from recent biology studies, they found that today’s extinction rates rival those during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

 

Journalism In The Age of the Open Web

 

At the risk of beating a dead horse, the open web has changed everything. The way we consume data will never be the same.

Data used to come in a fixed, complete form. Books, newspapers, and documentaries. When you received it, it was finished and in its final form.

With digital news in the open web, your news source is almost a living, breathing thing. It is always changing, always evolving, and continuously being developed. That blog post you just read could be edited and revised several times over.

There is information everywhere that people consume anytime they want. They don’t need to go to the store to buy a book or a newspaper anymore. All they have to do is reach into their pocket and enter a quick Google search, and they’ll discover a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

Today’s journalists face a new set of challenges. They’re no longer the runaway experts in the fields they write in. Today, their readers may be smarter, and better informed than they are.

Now if you don’t listen to them, work with them, work for them, give them what they want and need, they’ll go somewhere else. And there are plenty of other places they can go.

 

What Journalism Is Missing Today

 

Even with the rise of the internet, 24/7 news stations, social media, and smartphones, something is missing from today’s journalism.

We’re more connected to the news that we’ve ever been. News companies have journalists working around the clock that can push us a story as it happens, no matter when it happens.

We’re more informed than we’ve ever been, and we have limitless choices of where we want to consume our news. So, what are we missing? The answer is simple.

Time.

The one thing journalists don’t have on their side anymore is time. They have to be first. They have to be fast. They don’t have time anymore to become deeply engrossed in their stories. They don’t have time to learn and ponder on their stories. They rely on quotes from other experts to shape their stories.

True investigative journalism is an art that is slowly fading. One of the main reasons is the money isn’t there for it anymore. Doing a real investigative piece takes a lot of time, which in turn takes a lot of money.

The ad revenue they’d earn for the story would likely be a small fraction of what it cost to produce it. Because of this, investigative journalism is being replaced by 5-10 blog posts a day that will never have as much substance as an actual investigative piece.

 

Battling Fake News

 

Something else that has come with the age of the internet is the rise of “fake news.” Anyone with a computer and internet access has the ability to make their own website and write news stories. However, not everyone is an educated journalist.

 

Your neighbor down the street that starts his own blog isn’t going to follow the same standards that the mainstream journalists follow. I mentioned earlier that journalism is meant to put the public good over everything else. That’s not always the case with the hundreds of blogs that pop up daily.

 

Most people that start those blogs are worried about pushing their own agenda and voicing their opinion. They only use facts that support their cause and ignore the rest.

 

Then they call everything that doesn’t support their opinion or push their cause fake news. When in reality, fake news is everything that isn’t based on fact and data.

 

Anyone can post their opinion, but not everyone can be a journalist. So when the news is so saturated by blogs and websites only worried about what fits in their narrative, how do we know who to trust? How do we separate fact from fiction?

 

We must keep an eye on the source. We need to be sure that the website or blog, or even Twitter account, that we’re getting our news from is only reporting facts without the bias of their opinion.

 

Here is a list of a few large journalism brands that report real facts, not alternative facts.

 

  • The New York Times – Some consider the New York Times the most influential publication around. The NYT upholds ethical standards of reporting and includes the classic elements of journalism in America.

 

  • The Wall Street Journal – The Wall Street Journal is the largest circulated newspaper in the US. The WSJ is still the top brand among daily business publications in the entire world. It has won several Pulitzer Prizes for editorials and columns that are backed up by thorough fact-based reporting and bold arguments.

 

  • The Washington Post – The Washington Post is the paper that brought down Nixon during the Watergate Scandal, and it upholds it’s intellectual traditions today. Under the ownership of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the Post is perhaps the most forward-thinking publication of the day while winning Pulitzer Prizes, hiring the best and brightest reporters and producing big scoops.

The Need to Support Journalism

Even with all the fake news and alternative facts that run rampant today, journalism is still critical for ours, and any democracy in the world. We can’t let the bad apples tarnish our opinions of the journalists with integrity that report facts and information.

 

The most important function of journalism is to convey information. This is a critical part of the democratic decision-making system because it brings transparency and makes sure that the decisions being made reflect what the people really want.

 

When people claim that the media is the enemy, they are doing a disservice not only to the real journalists but to the people in their society. Without a free press, the line between fact and fiction will be blurred, opening up a Pandora’s box of problems.

 

While there are problems that need to be fixed, journalism at its core is desperately needed.

We Live In A New World

 

We’re no longer dependent on a single news source anymore. We have more information available to us than ever before. The freedom we have to access and share news is a fantastic thing, but it also comes with great responsibility.

Our access to data and news sources from around the globe is absolutely incredible. The amount of good we can create due to the open web can change the world.

But it can also cause hate and divide entire nations. Anyone can post their opinion and call it fact. They can disregard fact and call it fake news. The potential for hostility is just as high as the potential for good.

Journalism isn’t the issue. Journalism at its core is the process of spreading news and information. We have to protect journalism and instead go after the entities perverting it.

 

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

What is Your Leadership Vision 2019

This blog is an excerpt from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers as a companion to the Voice America show  aired on November 20, 2018, Love at Work: The Essential Guide to a Life of Inspired Purpose. This show was a conversation with Olivia Parr-Rud with host Maureen Metcalf talking about their aspirations and visions as successful leaders.

If you plan annual goals, this blog will serve as a helpful foundation. It spells out the exercise to define your personal vision and gives an example of  Demetrius as he completed the exercise.

It is important to note that many people will complete this exercise and still not have a clearly articulated vision—this is because defining personal vision requires a great deal of introspection for most people. While some people grow up knowing what they want to do for a living, others find that identifying a vision is a process of gradual exploration and will take more time and energy than completing a single workbook exercise. You will likely refine your vision as you progress through blog posts based on the information you learn about yourself. Because the visioning process is iterative in nature—a process of self-discovery—these exercises in this book will serve as the foundation for a longer process that may take considerably more time to complete. It will likely change as you gain experience and as your introspective process matures.

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 of which you are most proud?
    • If you had a family, what would they 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 would 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 aspirations. This statement should capture the essence of how you want to live your life and project yourself.

An example – My vision is to develop myself to my greatest capacity and help others develop and thrive in all aspects of their lives. I will live consciously and courageously, relate to others with love and compassion, and leave this world better for my contribution.

  • 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, but are later clarified and distilled in the process. As you complete this exercise, refine your vision to reflect any changes you want to make.

Example: Demetrius’ Vision Development Process 

When I look into the future I want to be proud of the person I have become and the life that I have lived. In particular, I want to ensure that my wife and I have raised a beautiful family in which our children think independently and are able to articulate their own personal visions. I would like for my children to be able to say I have been there for them every step of the way, and allowing them to experience life while guiding them away from danger when possible. For me, family and family interactions are highly valued, so the closest people to me are my wife and our children. However, I don’t discount the close friends I have known since high school and those I’ve met along the journey since college.

Professionally, I want to create an organization whose culture represents my personality: relaxed and laid back, yet focused and driven. I want to create a work environment in which people are excited about their work and where they can accomplish their professional goals.  Finally, my organization must take into account our community and to find ways to give back every chance we get.

My Vision

My vision is to develop myself to my greatest capacity and create a healthy and loving environment in which my family will thrive. I strive to be a friend who can be counted on in every way. I will create a business that delivers value to our clients and community and has a culture where people can thrive and grow personally.

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

Team Effectiveness, Brexit and Theresa May

This blog is a guest post by Simon Mac Rory as a companion to the November, 27 Voice America interview where he talks about his latest book, Wake-up and Smell the Coffee: An Imperative for Teams.

While writing my recent book “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative of teams” all around me was the Brexit discussion. I could not pick up a news feed and not see something on the negotiations in terms of the UK position, the EU position and the Irish question. I must admit, despite a keen interest in the outcome, both as business person and an EU/Irish national living in the UK, I remain in a confused state as to what is happening. I cannot make head nor tail of the UK position!

Observing the UK Brexit team and the confused narrative that emerges, I got to wondering how effective are they as a team? Do they have the capability for success? Brexit is such a critical issue for the UK overall and can even be viewed as the greatest existential threat to the UK since World War II, if the negotiations are not a success.

To be effective there are a number of critical issues that teams need to address. If they can improve on these through their own efforts, they can drive their overall effectiveness substantially. I define team effectiveness as – “The ability of a work team to be successful and produce the intended results. For the team, success is achieving the results, but effectiveness is about capability for success.”

I have attempted to map the Brexit team to the factors and criteria for an effective team. These are my views and generated as a distant observer (as I can only be). What do others think – does Theresa May and her Brexit team have the capabilities for success? The model I use is displayed below and is comprised of six factors. Each factor in turn contains two criteria that impact team effectiveness. In the table that follows I have given a brief definition of each criteria and my opinion of the Brexit team in relation to same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

About the Author

Simon Mac Rory is a specialist in team development. He works with senior staff leaders to help them discover that edge to becoming a truly high performing team. Over his 30-year career he has worked globally with a blue-chip client base in both the private and public sectors.

He founded The ODD Company in 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to the international markets. Simon
operates the business from London with a Dublin-based development and support office.

Simon received a doctoral degree for his work on the application of generic frameworks in organizational development and is a Visiting Research Fellow at Nottingham Business School.

Follow Simon on Twitter @SimomMacRory

The Difference Between Entitlement and Awareness

This post is written by guest Eric Termuende as a companion to his interview, Changing the Way We Think About Work on the Voice America Radio Show, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on July 3, 2018.

We’ve all heard the stereotypes around the Millennial generation. They’re narcissistic, job-hop, aren’t loyal, and most of all, entitled. They think they deserve more than they work for, and have unrealistic expectations. Right? Isn’t that what we’re lead to believe when we talk about a generation that populates such a large portion of the workplace? It seems like it, but doesn’t necessarily have to.

The Millennial demographic, as big as it is, is brought up in a technological world that didn’t exist for the generation the preceded it. This generation has better access to internet, cell phones, social media, and information that simply wasn’t nearly as accessible as it was 15-20 years ago. Job postings aren’t posted on a cork board and the resumé is only a small portion of what educating a potential employer looks like.

This means that the expectations are bigger because this next generation knows what can, and is being done.

Let’s take fairly recent news that came out of Sweden, for example. In Sweden, there is talk about moving to a 6 hour work day. Now, as someone in Canada who may not like their job, there are two options. The first is to apply for a job in Sweden with the hopes that the application will be accepted and I can work only six hours a day. The second is that I could ask my employer or government why it is that Sweden is the only country that is doing this, and why we can’t look at a similar practice here in our hometown.

Another example would be around office aesthetics. One office may have a beautiful open concept style and another may be stuck in the ‘70’s with cubicles that limit communication and interaction between employees. Because of the hyper-connected world we live in, information about these great places to work is spreading faster than it ever has before. As a result, people are asking ‘why not me too?’.

No, things haven’t changed around what people need to do to progress another step in the organization, or to work in a more efficient manner by changing the structure and aesthetics of the office, but the way we talk about it might. People need to know that the grass will always be greener, the story is always bigger than the one that is being told, and that there are always exceptions. It is too easy for a story to be posted and go viral, only to be the flavor of the hour and forgotten about shortly after, while still having impact on the people in the office and what they are aware could be taking place.

The world of work is ever changing and the ways we work and the environments we work in are changing just as quickly. Telling stories of the newest office space are nice, but rarely do they paint a full picture of what the office culture is, or what it is like to work there. The next generation is right to ask about the opportunity to advance the workplace they are in, but shouldn’t have expectations to do so. There needs to be open communication within the office from the top-down and from the bottom-up to ensure that the environment created is one the provides the tools necessary and the environment that allows people to naturally do the best work they possible can. This awareness and hyper connectivity, paired with curiosity and desire to change, adapt, and grow, shouldn’t be confused with entitlement, which is a completely different topic.

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

About the author

Eric Termuende is on a mission to change the way we talk about work and get fulfillment from it. A bestselling author, speaker, and entrepreneur, Eric is co-founder of NoW Innovations, and Lead Content Strategist for True Calling Canada., Eric has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Thrive Global, the Huffington Post and many others. In 2015, Eric was recognized as a Top 100 Emerging Innovators under 35 globally by American Express. Eric sat as Community Integration Chair for Global Shapers Calgary, a community that functions under the World Economic Forum. He is a former Canadian G20 YEA Delegate, representing Canada in Sydney in 2014. Eric is currently signed by the National Speakers Bureau and travels the world talking about the future of work and multiple generations in the workplace. In 2016, Eric spoke at TEDxBCIT in Vancouver giving his presentation entitled ‘Bigger than Work.’ Eric has worked and spoken with clients across the world. His new book, Rethink Work is now available on Amazon.

How to Keep Up with Workplace Changes in 2018 and beyond

This guest blog is a guest post provided by Abby Quillen and Zerocater, focusing on creating the workplace that meets our current and emerging needs. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview with Doug McCollough, Jet fuel of Talent Development Feeds Success on Voice America, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.

The economy, technological innovations, and cultural shifts are changing work in 2018. For instance, the oldest members of Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2005, are graduating from college and stepping into the workplace for the first time this year. As the most diverse and digitally savvy generation in American history, their wants and needs will undoubtedly incite change.

Read on to understand key ways the current work climate is shifting, and learn what your business needs to do to keep up.

Qualified Workers are in Demand

The unemployment rate is below 5% and expected to remain there for a while. Around one quarter (22%) of small businesses say a shortage of qualified workers is their top business concern in 2018.

Because of the tight labor market, employers are becoming more innovative in recruiting and retaining employees, especially millennial employees. That’s because that group now makes up the majority of the American workforce. Millennials value work-life balance, career mobility, flexible working conditions, and social responsibility. Gen Z, on the other hand, want independence, face-to-face communication, and for employers to cater to them. Some companies hire Directors of Employee Experience to improve the working experience of their employees.

How to keep up: You may need to adjust your hiring standards and devote more resources to recruiting, training, and retaining workers. Also consider raising wages: In surveys, company leaders say they plan to raise wages by an average of 3 to 4.27% in 2018.

Perks don’t hurt either. Nearly half of millennials in one survey said they could be lured to a new job by a company that offered better perks, including free food.

Automation Is Disrupting Some Industries

The research firm Forrester predicts 9% of U.S. jobs—particularly administrative, call-center, and sales jobs—will be replaced by automation this year. They predict those losses will be partially offset by a 2% increase in automation-related jobs. Other think tanks and research firms have made wildly different guesses based on the available studies. Gartner Inc., another research company, predicts artificial intelligence (AI) will create more jobs overall than it destroys.

The bottom line? Some people may lose their jobs because of automation—even this year. Many more workers will need to adjust to AI tools, such as chatbots, which enable personalized conversations between software and users. But the good news is, AI tools may make some jobs easier and free up employees from administrative or repetitive tasks and allow for more creative work.

How to keep up: Reassure employees that automation is unlikely to lead to a jobless future. McKinsey Global Institute, a private-sector think tank, predicts there will be enough work for humans to ensure full employment in 2030. In the past, new technologies such as the personal computer led to a net increase in jobs. However, jobs will shift. If automation is reshaping your industry, keep your employees well-informed about retraining opportunities.

With more machines in the workplace, social relationships matter as much as ever. Cultivate a company culture that promotes in-person interaction and collaboration.

Workers Will Challenge Traditional Structures

Remote work (excluding self-employed occupations) has grown by 115% since 2005, according to the analytics firm Global Workplace Analytics. In the U.S., more than 43% of the workforce works remotely some of the time, according to a Gallup report.

Millennials and Generation Z will continue to pressure companies to expand flexible scheduling and telecommuting options. More than three quarters (77%) of millennials in one survey said flexible working hours would make them more productive on the job. Some companies, such as Buffer, have transitioned from a physical office to 100% remote work to save costs.

How to keep up: The commute and nine-to-five day aren’t dead yet, and a few companies (including Yahoo and IBM) ended their telecommuting programs for various reasons. But it’s worth considering whether expanding flexible scheduling perks may help your company attract and retain top talent. If you already offer flexible work, consider stepping up team-building efforts by offering catered family-style meals or a shared collaboration area to give employees more time for team work when they’re in the office.

 

Conclusion

The American workplace is changing quickly. By embracing economic, technological, generational, and cultural shifts, your business will thrive in 2018 and beyond.

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

About the author:

Abby Quillen writes about sustainability, green living, health, business, and other topics. Her work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, YES! Magazine, and dozens of other publications. She lives in Eugene, Oregon with her family. Visit her at abbyquillen.com.

Balancing Competing Perspectives: Some Challenges Require Solutions and Others Balance

This guest post is an excerpt from Dr. Barry Johnson’s book Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems Polarity Management. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview Leveraging Polarities in Complex and Turbulent Times.

I have some bad new and some good news.  The bad news is that there are a large number of unsolvable problems in your life, both at work and at home.  I’m not talking about difficulties you could solve if you had more money, time, or other resources.  I’m talking about difficulties that are inherently unsolvable-ones you cannot solve with resources.

The good news is that you can stop trying to solve them.  Instead, you can improve your skills in identifying unsolvable problems and managing them well.  That is what this book is all about.

Current trends are Polarities to Manage

Many of the current trends in business and industry are polarities to manage, not problems to solve.  These trends are often described as movement from one way of thinking or acting to another.  For example, it is currently popular to move

  • From neglecting the customer to focusing on the customer;
  • From individual to team;
  • From competition to collaboration;
  • From centralization to decentralization;
  • From a lack of quality consciousness to high quality consciousness;
  • From rigid structures to flexible arrangements;
  • From autocratic management to participatory management.

These trends are making a contribution to increased effectiveness and are important for organizational survival.  Seeing these movement as “problems to solve” radically undermines our ability to implement them.  We define the problem as what we are going from and the solutions as what we are going to.  For example, “We need to move from the problem of centralization to the solution, which is decentralization.”

Polarity Management

I suggest that each of these trends is better understood as a polarity to manage.  As such, Polarity Management principles can be very helpful.  Our problem-solving skills and the whole problem-solving paradigm, while extremely useful with solvable problems, can get in the way when we have a polarity to manage.

A different paradigm, Polarity Management skills are a helpful complement to your problem-solving skills.  You have been managing polarities all your life, some with more success than others.  This book will enhance your ability to manage polarities, for those situations that call for it by offering a model and a set of principles as an alternative to problem solving.

Polarities to manage are sets of opposites that can’t function well independently.  Because the two sides of a polarity are interdependent, you cannot choose one as a “solution” and neglect the other. The objective of the Polarity Management perspective is to get the best of both opposites while avoiding the limits of each.

For example, we constantly send managers off to “charm school” because they are too rigid (problem), and we want them to be more flexible (solution).  The reason why managers often resist such training is that there is something they value about what is being called “rigid”.  They value clarity.  Furthermore, there is something they are afraid of in this push toward “flexibility.”  They are afraid of “ambiguity”.  Those who resist know that flexibility alone is not a solution.  A leader needs to be clear and flexible.  This is a polarity to manage, not a problem to solve.  The issues become “How do you bring adequate clarity to a situation without being rigid?” and “How do you bring adequate flexibility to the same situation without being ambiguous?”

This becomes relevant only after letting go of the problem-solving paradigm where the problem is a rigid manager and the solution is to get the manager to become more flexible.  The Polarity Management perspective involves seeing a more complete picture of the situation and respecting the wisdom of those who are resisting our “solutions.”

Polarity Management Skills Will Make You a More Effective Leader

Polarity Management skills will make you a more effective leader and manager by:

  1. Increasing your ability to distinguish between problems you can solve and those you cannot; and
  2. Increasing your ability to manage those unsolvable problems that I call workplace dilemmas or polarities

You will be more effective for the following reasons:

  1. You will save time and energy by not trying to solve those difficulties that are unsolvable.
  2. You will have a better understanding of resistance to organizational changes you want to make.
  3. You will be more effective in negotiating with those opposing your changes.
  4. You will be more effective in negotiating with those who are proposing changes you do not want.
  5. You will be more effective as a third-party mediator. This is especially true in conflicts where two groups are stuck in a polarity – they are treating the polarity as if it is a problem to solve.
  6. You will be able to anticipate and minimize problems that occur when workplace dilemmas, or polarities, are not managed well.
  7. Your decision making will improve. This is especially true with decisions where you must choose both sides of a set of apparent opposites.

Enough of list making.  Please check out the interview with Barry giving more in-depth information about polarities and examples of how they can be used.

As a reader of this blog and listener to the interviews, please consider enrolling in one of the innovative leadership online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the author

In 1975, Dr. Barry Johnson created the first Polarity Map® and set of principles. Since then he has been learning, with clients, how to leverage polarities. Polarity Partnerships’ Mission is to enhance our quality of life on the planet by supplementing “OR Thinking” with “AND Thinking.” Barry has shared polarities with tens of thousands of individuals, senior leaders, executive teams. In 1992, he wrote Polarity Management®: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems (HRD Press). His new book: AND, How to Leverage Polarity/Paradox/Dilemma is available for advanced reading as its being written. Go to www.polaritypartnerships.com for more information.