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5 Tips for Effective Leadership During a Crisis

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5 Tips for Effective Leadership During a Crisis

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This blog is provided by Lisa Michaels, as a companion to the interview with Melissa Lamson and her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Managing Effectively in a Complex Global Business Environment that aired on June 30, 2020.

 

When a crisis hits, some companies survive and thrive afterward, while some perish. Often, what distinguishes these two is good leadership.

As a leader, your role is critical during a crisis. Everyone will look to you to help them make sense of the situation and lead the way out.

Below are some critical steps you should take to reduce the impact of the crisis and emerge stronger.

#1 Communicate with Transparency and Immediacy

Once an incident happens, be quick to communicate and provide much-needed details. Be transparent, no matter how dire the situation is. Transparency allows you to reestablish trust, while immediacy ensures people hear the unbiased news from you, not from others.

This type of communication is important for both your employees and people outside your organization. You will need to repeatedly keep people informed about developments.

Communicating the bad news early to employees is important as people need to be aware of the gravity of the situation to act accordingly.

A good example of effective crisis communication is when one Virgin Group spacecraft crashed, leading to the death of one pilot and the injury of another. The founder and head of the company, Richard Branson, quickly went to the scene of the incident and posted ample updates.

The company showed true concern for the pilots’ families. They then continued to work towards successfully achieving its mission in honor of the pilot’s life. These steps prevented reputational damage to the company.

#2 Lead by Example

You will be the one who sets the tone during a crisis. Your employees will often respond in the same way as you do. If you respond calmly and responsibly, your employees will follow suit. If you live in denial, then others will not likely feel any sense of urgency.

A study conducted by the University of Georgia found that self-discipline, or lack thereof, is contagious. If you find that someone on your team is panicking, it is better to talk to them privately and ask them to stay away from others until they can contain themselves.

It is also essential to maintain a hopeful attitude and not show despair in front of your team. Your team morale is your responsibility, and your behavior has a significant impact on it.

#3 Provide Support to Employees

Crises are said to hit organizations, but in fact, they hit people. As a leader, you need to genuinely empathize with your employees and mitigate the damage.

One German company showed wisdom in its approach to cutting costs in the face of the global financial crisis in 2008 without hurting the wellbeing of its employees.

The company offered its employees to work half time or less based on the actual demand for their services, instead of being laid off. The employees took it well and trusted the management team more.

Once the economy recovered, the company rehired the employees on a full-time basis. The lesson is that you should think about the well-being of people, and people will take care of your company.

Moreover, good leaders show responsibility and concern even if the crisis is not their fault.

An example is Johnson and Johnson’s response to the death of seven people who consumed Tylenol. The company knew Tylenol was not the cause, but it chose to recall the capsules, communicate actively, and establish a hotline to answer queries from worried consumers.

While the recall cost the company a lot of money, it kept the company in good standing. As a leader, you should act responsibly and do what is good for the majority of people involved. It will reflect well on your organization.

#4 Think Ahead to Maintain Operations During the Crisis

A crisis subjects your company to a harsh test. When this happens, people wonder whether the company will still exist after the crisis is over. This is why it’s important to conduct a business continuity planning exercise in advance.

The scope of business continuity planning includes steps to improve business resiliency in case a potential threat is materialized to ensure that operations continue during a crisis.

This involves all major systems which should continue to run in case of a major disruption. In today’s environment, the most vital system in most organizations is the IT system. Therefore, response plans for disruptions to the IT system should be established, and you should be able to migrate your databases if needed.

A good business plan usually includes a disaster recovery plan, but the two should not be confused. A continuity plan ensures that operations continue (or endure), whereas a recovery plan is a plan to come back from a major disaster, such as recovering a large dataset after it is lost.

The high failure rates of business following disasters, such as a fire or major hacking, show that both plans are critical for the organization’s resilience. Proper execution of those plans ensures that companies survive and people maintain their jobs.

#5 Develop Other Leaders

Good leaders empower other people to become leaders themselves, rather than gather followers around them. Good leaders request honest feedback and hear criticism. They are humble and realize that they are imperfect and can benefit from people’s views and opinions.

Moreover, true leaders democratize their organizations. They make others feel valued and empower them to become leaders themselves.

Unfortunately, those qualities are rare, but you can stand out as a leader and build a flatter and more resilient organization.

Final Thoughts

Crises are there to test what you are made of as a leader. You need to rise to the occasion, come up with solutions quickly, and lead your team through implementing them while staying compassionate.

You will also need to pay attention to people’s morale. You can be honest with your employees about the situation, while still offering hope at the same time.

It is often this honesty and hope that will empower the team to endure, and possibly offer lessons to other teams in the future.

 

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

 

Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor, and a thriving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.

 

Photo source: Pexels

Fighting a Lot of Fires? —– You may be the Arsonist.

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Fighting a Lot of Fires? —– You may be the Arsonist.

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

This is a guest blog provided by Dr. Michael Colburn. The interview of Aleksandra Scepanovic as well as this blog challenge us to reflect on our leadership skills even in hard times and what we can learn to become a better leader. The interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future with Aleksandra Scepanovic aired on 10/22/19.

Ever have one of those days?  Crises abound and it feels like you are spending most of your time putting out fires?  Action is taken to solve the crisis at hand.  At best, the cost of the crisis is minimized.  However, your time is taken away from the high value activities that you want to work on.  A crisis is an unexpected event that has a cost assigned to it if it is not resolved.  There are crises that are truly unexpected, and we just have to deal with them.  But there are others where we need to ask the question: What are some things that I do that may create or magnify crises?  Here are five tips you may find helpful in preventing the fires from happening in the first place.

Tip 1:  Communicate openly and honestly even when it hurts.
It is not just the issue that makes something important.  It is often the lack of time to respond to the issue.  When a red or yellow flag goes up, it is time to communicate.  The earlier you communicate about a possible crisis, the more time you will have to create alternatives (eg., get help from a colleague, negotiate a time extension).  Your boss or client may not be thrilled, but they will be informed.  The problem is not compounded.  At worst the impact is minimized.  At best the problem may be prevented.  You communicated and accepted responsibility.

Tip 2: Anticipate potential problems and take preventive actions.
When planning for any project, get in the habit of questions like: What could go wrong? What can I do to prevent it from happening? What corrections can I take when a red flag goes up?  Ask colleagues who have had similar projects the sane questions.  Accelerate your learning from yours and others’ experiences.  Build in preventive actions to reduce the risk of crises.  Plan contingent actions to respond quickly to the unexpected.

Tip 3: Make realistic commitments.
Some golfers’ optimism gets them in a lot of trouble.  If I can manage to hit the ball under the limb, curve around the tree and go over the water, I can reach the green.  Some people, like this optimistic golfer make “best case” estimates to the client to make the sale, to impress the boss or to relent to pressure.  The seeds of crises have been sown.  When commitments are not met, excuses are made, and credibility is damaged.  You need to be both realistic and courageous.

Tip 4: Establish regular communications with the boss and clients.
Take the initiative to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with the boss to review progress, agree on priorities and discuss resource needs.  Openness and candor do not often thrive in group settings.  These accountability meetings keep small problems from growing into crises.  Your initiative eases the need for the boss to check up on your projects.  Have similar meetings with your critical internal clients and teammates. One proactive meeting eliminates many reactive ones. 

Tip 5: Continually improve your processes.
Poor processes create crises. We know this at the organizational level, and it is also true at the individual level.  This may include personal planning, project management and communication methods with the boss, teammates and clients.  Look at your key value creating activities and take a step back and describe as if you were going to teach them to someone.  Identify ways to reduce wasted effort an increase the time you spend on the highest value activities.  Be your own lean consultant.

Next Steps
Review the five tips and choose one that resonates with you.  Identify one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to apply this tip to your professional or personal life.  Success breeds success.  Each step you take will enable you to take control of the seemingly uncontrollable.  Let me know how it works at dr.mjcolburn@gmail.com.

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

Dr. Michael Colburn has built his career on performance improvement at the organization, team and individual levels for a broad range of clients in the private and public sectors for more than 30 years.  He recently retired as an Associate Professor of Management at Ashland University where he taught Organization Development, Operations Management, Strategic Management and Self-Management & Accountability.   Michael has authored numerous papers in academic, professional and trade publications.  His first book, Own Your Job: Five Tools for Self-management and Accountability in the Workplace will help you think more entrepreneurial and teach you self-management skills and increase your performance and influence. Check out more of Michael’s blogs on his website.

Photo by Pixabay.

Challenging Times Can Build Leadership Skills

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This blog is provided by Aleksandra Scepanovic, Managing Director of Ideal Properties Group, as a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future. This interview Difficult Times Can Build Leadership Skills aired on 10/22/19.

Prior to getting my start in real estate, I began my career as a reporter, editor and media analyst in my home country of (then-)Yugoslavia, reporting on the front lines of the Bosnian War. At the time, I never would have predicted that I would end up co-founding a real estate firm in New York City, but each step along my journey has been equally important in leading me to where I am today.

In the early 2000’s, while still working in Bosnia, I was longing for a change in the post-war theater around me and I ultimately decided to move to New York. I arrived with a need to recharge and start afresh. Years of witnessing turmoil on the front lines was draining, and being in a new environment provided me with the inspiration to channel my life-long fascination with design. I enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Interior Design program. It was a revitalizing change, and the first step into my new journey.

My first few years in New York were exciting, and allowed me to fall in love with the city and its architectural beauty, and from there I began my career in the highly stimulating world of real estate. At the time, I was working at a boutique brokerage firm in Manhattan with my partner, Erik Serras. We found ourselves spending more time in our home borough of Brooklyn, a borough which we felt was widely and undeservedly so underserved by the city’s real estate brokerages. We recognized the potential, and decided to branch out on our own to form Ideal Properties Group.

Just a short time later, the U.S. economy began to take a turn. We had just began an exciting adventure as new business owners, and we knew we were not going to let anything stand in our way. As a leader, above all, it is important to stay optimistic. In my case, it helps that I actually am an irreparable optimist, and this certainly helped see us through this time.

We stuck to our intuitions, and followed our instincts to guide and form our best decisions, because now not only were our jobs on the line – we had a growing staff whose livelihood depended on us. In times of crisis, it is important to strive to not only individually as a leader but collectively, with your team, re-assess your objectives and your priorities, and determine a plan of action to get back on track.

Before we began this journey, I wish I truly knew how difficult it would be to be my own boss. I admit to being a strong-willed individual, but before starting my own business, I did not have the experience I have now when it comes to analyzing or critiquing my own ideas. I did not know how hard it would be to try to question your own thoughts, and to be willing to go back to the drawing board if something were to not go right. Over the years, there have been many times where we have gone back to the drawing board. This in and of itself is the nature of being a business owner and being a leader. Learning to adapt, and understanding that not every idea is going to be a homerun right away is an incredible and empowering realization, one I wish I had known in the beginning of this journey, but also one that – in retrospect I realize – comes with time.

One of the most immediate lessons was how many hats you’d need to quickly learn how to wear. As an entrepreneur, you learn to find comfort zones amid minefields, in the spots where you previously perhaps only had doubts. When starting our business, we were confident in our ability to navigate the ever-changing New York City real estate market, but there were plenty of course-corrections that we needed to chart along the way to sustain our business model. Prior to starting Ideal Properties Group, I wish I knew how large and positive a role failure would play in the building and the growth of my business.

Learning to delegate and trust others with parts of the business that you are not necessarily expert in – was another important step we needed to take as leaders. We take pride in our hiring process, and know that we associate our brand with the most passionate and empathetic candidates, and we find it imperative as a small business to effectively onboard our team members and immerse them in continual training. Trusting our associates to carry the flag of the brand by performing their jobs well and with the best interest of the company at heart… has allowed us to look at things from a bird’s eye view – and make adjustments as needed. Letting go of your ego and empowering your associates to help make the business thrive are essential in ensuring long-term success.

Although there is no secret formula to running a successful business, for us, each failure and setback has become a valuable lesson that helped us navigate a variety of business trends and market landscapes. As a leader, there will never be a time when you feel that you have it all figured out – and if there is, perhaps that is a sign that change is needed. Continuing to make, and then learn from your mistakes is easier said than done, but both are essential truths that – once recognized and adopted – set leaders apart from the pack.

 

To receive the weekly blogs, use this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

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 to this blog 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 ILI LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Aleksandra is Managing Director of Ideal Properties Group, one of the largest privately-owned, independent real estate firms specializing in premier Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods. Ideal offers pre-development marketing and branding as well as residential, commercial, office and retail services. With offices located in Chelsea, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope and Williamsburg, and a staff of over 250 real estate brokers and salespeople, Ideal is continuing its rapid expansion across NYC. The firm was founded in 2007 by Aleksandra and her partner Erik Serras, who identified a need to build a technologically-innovative infrastructure for sales and rentals in key Brooklyn neighborhoods.

3 Customer Experience Equations – Math You’ll Actually Use

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3 Customer Experience Equations – Math You’ll Actually Use

This blog is provided by Dave Cherry, as a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future. This interview Boring Retail is Dead. Long Live the Customer Experience Industry aired on 10/15/19. Photo by Clem Onojeghuo.

Like many of us, I took Algebra in school. My daughters, now in high school and middle school, are now doing the same. And they’ve asked me the same question that I asked many years before: “When will I ever need to solve a linear equation or calculate the slope of a line in real life?” The answer, for many of us, (with apologies to Mrs. Curry – my 9th grade math teacher), is never.

But today I’ll share 3 simple equations that are critical to success in the customer experience industry:

CONTENT + CONTEXT = CONNECTION

IDEATION x EXECUTION = VALUE

INSIGHT + INTUITION = IMPROVED DECISIONS

First, let me define this new industry, which actually isn’t new at all. It is a singular composition of all B2C and B2B companies that have customers. The hard lines between different segments (e.g. retail, banking, insurance, energy, etc.) have become blurred as customers (that includes all of us) engage with providers across this spectrum. As we do so, we use both the excellent and poor experiences that we have with each provider to influence our future expectations from the next one. So, companies like Starbucks, Uber, Target, Marriott, Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, Walmart, Nationwide Insurance, Chase and more are all competing against one another in delivering customer experiences that are meaningful and memorable.

Amid constantly rising customer expectations, companies must develop a Customer Experience Strategy that is Enabled by Innovation and Informed by Analytics to stay competitive in today’s customer experience industry. Below I’ll discuss the critical equation for each element:

The Customer Experience Equation: Content + Context = Connection

A great customer experience starts with a relevant product or service that you offer. This is Content. Content comes in many forms, both tangible (e.g. a reliable, stylish watch) and intangible (e.g. insurance coverage that provides confidence and security). It also comes with a minimum level of quality as a baseline. Using the watch example, if it is not accurate, then the content of that product becomes irrelevant – it does not serve it’s intended purpose.

But content is not enough. It requires the addition of Context. You must provide the product or service to the customer in the right setting at the right time. The richest, most delicious cup of hand-crafted artisan hot chocolate isn’t that appealing on a 100-degree day in the summer. Even though the content in this example is exceptional, offering it in the wrong context diminishes the customer experience.

But when Content and Context combine in a relevant and meaningful way, you create a Connection with your customer that delivers on their experience expectation. When Uber delivers a comfortable and clean ride, combined with the convenience of a frictionless checkout when you are in a rush to get to the airport on time for your flight, the combination of Content + Context delivers a Connection between company and customer. It generates affinity, loyalty and ultimately profitability.

The Innovation Equation: Ideation x Execution = Value

Once you understand the goal state customer experience, there are bound to be gaps for two reasons. First, no company is perfect. So, whether due to legacy systems, suboptimal prior decisions or tactics, or some other reason, most have some gaps in capabilities. Second, even if you by chance have no gaps today, customer expectations are constantly rising and gaps will appear soon enough.

To close these gaps, we start with the relatively easy and fun task of Ideation. Brainstorming, thinking, riffing and imagining the future are fun activities. And more often than not, result in large numbers of possibilities (usually depicted by 100s of post-it notes covering conference room walls). Following ideation comes some sort of prioritization (e.g. dot voting) that results in a roadmap.

Now comes that hard part…Execution. Delivering on the promise of the future is a challenge because it requires changing the present while at the same time operating in the present. And when obstacles arise (which they will), many lack the resilience and confidence in their convictions to keep pressing forward. It is only through successful Execution on top of Ideation that significant Value (hence the multiplication) can be delivered.

Back in 1993, AT&T delivered some amazing Ideation. In their “You Will…” campaign, they asked these questions:

  • “Have you ever borrowed a book from 100 miles away from the library?”
  • “Have you ever crossed the country without stopping to ask for directions?”
  • “Have you ever sent someone a fax…from the beach?”
  • “Have you ever paid a toll without slowing down? “
  • “Have you ever tucked your baby in from a phone booth?”
  • “Have you ever opened doors with the sound of your voice?”
  • “Have you ever carried your medical history in your wallet?”
  • “Have you ever attended a meeting in your bare feet?”
  • “Have you ever watched the movie you wanted to the minute you wanted to?”

Each of these items have two things in common. First, we all utilize and enjoy all of them almost daily. Second, none of them were delivered by AT&T. They had great Ideation, but their Execution was flawed, incomplete or too slow. Hence the Value that we all derive from these experiences were ultimately delivered by others.

The Analytics Equation: Insight + Intuition = Improved Decisions

The primary purpose of analytics is to deliver Improved Decisions by increasing the decision makers confidence. This is achieved through identifying patterns in data to uncover anomalies or Insights that were previously unknown.

Insights must be both timely and relevant to the decision at hand. Yet even when this is achieved, we don’t yet get to optimal decision-making confidence. We must add Intuition, or as it is also known, experience or gut. There is value in experience. There is also value in gut, which brings elements of context, risk and strategy into the analytical equation. Given identical data, a more aggressive or conservative risk posture could lead you to different decisions – take the blackjack player who “feels lucky” and takes a hit on 16 when the dealer shows a 5 as an example. The player may have confidence in pulling a 5, though most analytical models would recommend staying. And regardless if the player wins the hand, they made a better decision by knowing the odds (data) and incorporating their feeling (gut) and risk posture (context).

So, when will we actually use these equations? Potentially daily, and often, multiple times each day. Consider the “Decision Modeling” approach described below, that can be leveraged for both large scale strategic decisions as well as daily important operational decisions.

Start by identifying an Action (or Decision) that may help improve the customer experience, creating a Connection. Then acquire the data/information to uncover the Insights that will improve your decision-making confidence. Combine those with your Intuition to make a decision and set the course of action. Finally execute well, and you’ll realize the Value desired by your organization and required by your Customer.

 So, in the end, there’s a fourth and final equation:

(Content + Context = Connection) +

(Ideation x Execution = Value) +

(Insight + Intuition = Improved Decisions)

——————————————————————–

= Customer Experience 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.

About the Author

Dave brings over 20 years of strategic consulting experience focused on strategy (digital, customer experience, innovation) and advanced analytics. He has worked with and for leading organizations such as LBrands, Polo Ralph Lauren, ascena Retail Group, Journeys, DSW, Disney, Alliance Data, Nationwide Insurance, AEP, Huntington Bank, Cardinal Health, OhioHealth, Deloitte Consulting and Price Waterhouse. He holds a BS in Economics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, serves on the International Institute of Analytics Expert Panel and also as an Advisory Board member for the Women in Analytics Conference and CbusRetail.

Contact Dave on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cherrydave/ , Twitter @davecherry or check out his website: www.cherryadvisory.com.

Check out this 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.

 

Women And Leadership – Reflections On A Leadership Journey

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Women And Leadership – Reflections On A Leadership Journey

This blog is a guest post by Parminder Vir and is the companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on Voice America called FOCUS on Women and Leadership. It is based on a panel discussion at the International Leadership Association 4th Annual Women and Leadership Conference in June 2019 focusing on Building Solution, Harmony and the Greater Good

 

Reflection On My Leadership Journey From A 40-Year Professional Career

In my keynote presentation, I shared my leadership journey and insights from a 40-year professional career dedicated to positively impacting and transforming lives through my work in philanthropy, entrepreneurship, film and television production, arts and culture, and investment funding. Throughout my multifaceted career, I have put my skills and expertise in the service of the work I care passionately about and the different voices and communities represented in my work.

The response from the audience gathered at the Women and Leadership conference was overwhelming to something I had taken for granted. People always remember how you made them feel and not what you said, and it was a privilege to be given the time to reflect and share my leadership journey learnt on the job with the gathering at the ILA conference.

  • The Early Years

Passion, vision, integrity, deliberate audacity, and enduring optimism are qualities that lie at the heart of my leadership style and achievements. My leadership character and qualities have been learnt through practice from my first job in 1979, at the age of 23—when I was sent to launch the Minority Arts Advisory Service regional office in the Midlands to support ethnic minority artists of Afro Caribbean and Asian descent.

The power of art as a force for political and social change ignited my passion and spurred me to spend the first decade of my professional career from 1979 to 1986, empowering Black and Asian creativity through funding, cultural programming, and policies to mainstream our creativity and our cultural contribution to Britain.

In 1982, as the Head the Race Equality Unit in the Arts and Recreation Department of the Greater London Council, I managed a grant aid programme, funding a wide range of ethnic minority artists and organisation, many of who are internationally renowned today. I established policy initiatives for the development of minority arts; created training schemes in arts administration for ethnic minorities; and ensured the representation of ethnic minorities on the bodies of the major arts organisations in the UK.

This period marked the start of my 40-year career of self-directed learning and defined my leadership style which is characterised by my willingness to take risks, initiative and self-discipline, embrace responsibility, persistence, learning from failure, intrinsic motivation to learn new skills, time management, and goal setting.

  • Storytelling – Film and Television

In 1986, I took all this learning as I pivoted into a career as film and television producer. The accepted wisdom in early 1980’s Britain was that it’s impossible for someone like me – a working class immigrant – to break into the film and television industry. The spark to make films was lit in 1982, when I organised a Festival of Black American Films in London. Watching these films and listening to the struggles of African American filmmakers to tell their stories fueled my imagination to do just that in the UK.

My desire to make films was born out of a passion for telling compelling untold stories from around the world. From 1986 to 2004, I generated a body of work that challenged the mainstream of film and broadcast media to open itself up to perspectives that emerge from the margins, where cultural innovation so often begins. As a storyteller, I believe there are many truths, just as there are many faiths and many voices. The role of film and media is to respond to these different voices. My work is to present the truth from places that are not recognized.

In addition to making films, I also led the campaign to reflect, represent, employ and develop ethnic talent on and behind the screen in British film and television. This led to the formation of the Cultural Diversity Network, an alliance of UK broadcasters and film industry committed to increasing the range and diversity of talent on and behind the screen.

As the founding Board Director of UK Film Council from 1999 to 2005, I contributed to the development and implementation of its international strategies which embraced the film industries of emerging markets through new co-production treaties with India, South Africa, Morocco, and China. I played a pivotal role in ensuring that equality and diversity commitments were fully integrated into every aspect of the organisation’s activities.

Working in the Arts and UK film and television industry for over three decades, I was never interested in positional equity or formal authority. What drove my passion was the need to use my position to bring about institutional and mindset change which in turn would fuel the influx of marginalized talent into the mainstream.

  • Philanthropy & The African Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

In April 2014, I made the move from film to philanthropy when I accepted the invitation from Tony O. Elumelu to join the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Africa’s leading philanthropic organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria. As the CEO, I brought my unique mix of skills, talent and imagination to design, develop, and launch one of the most ambitious entrepreneurship programmes on the continent – the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, a 10-year, $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor, and fund 10,000 entrepreneurs from across the continent.

Since 2015, the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme has empowered 4470 African entrepreneurs, across 54 countries to institutionalize luck and democratize opportunity. In 2019, the programme scaled to select 3050 African entrepreneurs!

To support them on their entrepreneurial journey, the Foundation has given them the tools, the networks, the mentors, and the funding to transform Africa. Today the Tony Elumelu Foundation is at the forefront of technology innovation and recognized as a thought leader on African Entrepreneurship around the world. Over the five years that I lived in Nigeria and travelled across 50 of the 54 African countries; I met Africa’s exceptional talent, pursuing incredible dreams, re-imagining history, entrepreneurial pursuits, and humanitarian work across the continent.

Under my five-year leadership, the Foundation cemented its role as the principal advocate for African entrepreneurship, empowering thousands on their path to economic and social transformation. In retrospect, I feel Africa was my destiny and everything I had learnt and achieved before in arts and culture, film and television production, film finance and business consulting was leading me to this.

In Conclusion

I believe leadership begins with one’s self, at home. My most precious assets are my two amazing daughters. I have wanted nothing but the best for them; education, opportunities, experiences, challenges, to give them wings so they can fly. As a leader, I want to be judged by the quality and values of my children.

Over my 40-year professional career, I have endeavored to do the same in my working life. My business and personal values are transparent to the organisations and the people I work with, devoid of separation or duplicity.

Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank, role or a title; it is a responsibility. Leadership is about building trust with shared common values and beliefs. Great leaders work for the greater good. They are transformational. They shape and change cultures of the organisations they work with. They take risks, break rules, constantly tread new roads and meet new challenges. They embrace conflict as an asset because they recognize there is no movement without friction. They build trust with teams and give credit to those who made it happen. They sell the vision because they live the vision.

To the aspiring women leaders, I say always stay focused on the “why” and not the “what” of your chosen field. When you lose sight of the why, your passion for what you are doing will be diminished and it is impossible to inspire or to lead. Always remember the why, because it is the light that will be your energy and your guide to achieving the impossible. Leadership is a journey of life, just make sure you are making this journey with integrity.

About ILA

For twenty years ILA’s mission has been to advance leadership knowledge and practice for a better world. Through this platform, they organize events and conferences assembling talent across sectors, cultures, disciplines and generations.

For the 4th Women and Leadership conference, over 200 participants including teachers, scholars, researchers, students, consultants and coaches, gathered from over 14 countries and seven US states. A community of like-minded women and some men, young and old, spent three days discussing, debating, and reflecting on ways in which women’s leadership potential can be developed, energized and liberated for the ‘greater good’. It was a platform for sharing depth of knowledge, perspectives, ideas and good practices, building professional and academic connections with common values and a unifying belief that women in leadership positions matter.

About the Author

Parminder Vir OBE has dedicated herself to positively impact and transform lives through her work in philanthropy, entrepreneurship, film and television production, arts and culture, and investment funding. She served as the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Africa’s leading philanthropic organization based in Lagos, Nigeria from April 2014 to April 2019. She designed and launched one of the most ambitious entrepreneurship programmes on the continent – the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, a 10-year, $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor, and fund 10,000 entrepreneurs from across the continent. Under her five-year leadership, the Foundation has cemented its role as the principal advocate for African entrepreneurship, empowering thousands on their path to economic and social transformation.

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 to this blog 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 ILI LinkedIn.

 

Is Your Organization Building Innovation Into Its DNA?

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Is Your Organization Building Innovation Into Its DNA?

The following blog is a republish of an article appearing in Forbes written by Maureen Metcalf. It is a companion to an interview conducted with Tony Saldanha, author of Why Digital Transformations Fail, Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on Tuesday, August 20th titled Why Digital Transformations Fail.

Change is accelerating on all fronts across all industries. Each organization will be faced with different types of change and at different rates. The commonality is that everyone is facing opportunities and strains because of the current business ecosystem. Companies are regularly facing a broad range of risks, such as cybersecurity attacks, where the question has changed from “Will we be hacked?” to “When will we be hacked?” On the positive side, robotic processes automation, machine learning/artificial intelligence and a wide range of applications are making the tight labor market more productive.

With rapid change as the backdrop for the foreseeable future, it has now become imperative for leaders to build innovation into their personal leadership “operating system” as well as into the DNA of their organizations. Innovation is imperative for long-term survival and success.

While many people associate innovation with special people who come up with creative ideas, it is more accurately nurtured by building a company that embraces innovation as part of its core DNA. The real question is what does that look like, and how do you make it happen?

  1. Leaders’ beliefs set the tone for the organization, whether these beliefs are conscious or just habitual. They need to ensure they value innovation. To act with integrity, our thoughts and deeds need to be aligned. As a leader, this starts with evaluating what you prioritize. Do you value both delivering on current commitments and concurrently innovating to take advantage of new opportunities and approaches? Do you have a growth mindset? Do you value curiosity and appropriately paced change over stability?

Many leaders don’t take the time to look within and evaluate their values. When we are busy, we often run on autopilot. Now, it is time to schedule time to reexamine your views and see if the thoughts and beliefs that made you successful will support your future success.

  1. Leaders’ actions set an example for all employees to follow. As a leader, are you creating a culture and systems that support successful innovation as a way of doing business, or is it a one-off activity during times of challenge? Leaders who create an ecosystem where innovation is part of the organization’s DNA model behaviors such as participating in innovation projects with their time and budgets. They talk about the importance of innovation as a core competency of the organization, just like they talk about delivering products and services on time and making a profit. Leaders must be engaged in innovation! Lip service and delegating innovation to special people or an innovation department is no longer sufficient. Having worked in quality improvement programs for several years, I have learned that everyone can have innovative ideas. The value is only realized when the leaders and the organization align around supporting innovation as a key to business success.

 

  1. The culture must promote and support innovation as everyone’s responsibility. If we think of culture as our agreements within the organization, we can make deliberate agreements that explicitly indicate that innovation is key to our strategic success. It is a key part of everyone’s jobs. Additionally, the organization needs to define the specific qualities of an innovative culture that match your industry. For some companies, this can include ideas such as:
  • We continually test new ideas and learn quickly from these experiments.
  • Everyone is expected to contribute to innovation.
  • We share ideas transparently and openly and collaborate to enhance innovative approaches.
  1. Goals, systems and processes should all promote innovation as a key strategic objective and value. As mentioned, to truly build an innovative organization, it needs to be part of everyone’s jobs. People need to have time to invest. This can be a charge code for organizations that track chargeable hours; it can be a set time of the week, like Friday mornings; or it can be a periodic hackathon. The main point is it needs to be integrated into part of the job responsibilities. It needs to be measured and rewarded. Lack of attention to innovation must also be acknowledged. We understand that some people are more creative than others. That said, innovation also includes a very disciplined process of thinking and evaluation. I worked as part of an innovation team to design new stud welders. As a management consultant, my contribution was evaluating the business impact of the changes. I also got to use the welding tools, but my main role was not designing new circuits; it was contributing my expertise to the projects.

Organizations need to innovate. Some large organizations have budgets and staffing to dedicate to this. Others need to find ways to build innovation into their DNA and still meet ongoing business requirements. Being part of the DNA means addressing leader values and behaviors, culture and systems and processes and ensuring they are all aligned around the company’s key strategic differentiators and values, including innovation.

Without taking a systematic approach, innovation will be sporadic and the probability of remaining healthy long-term declines. These elements are interconnected. What can you do to make a small change in each area that will move you toward building an innovative DNA into your organization?

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 this 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 ILI LinkedIn.

About the author

Ms. Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute (formerly Metcalf & Associates) is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.

 

 

 

 

How Leaders Can Prepare Themselves For A Digital Transformation

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How Leaders Can Prepare Themselves For A Digital Transformation

The following blog is a republish of an article appearing in Forbes written by Maureen Metcalf. It is the companion to an interview conducted with Mark Kvamme, co-founder and Partner at Drive Capital on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future on Tuesday, August 6th titled Business Disruptions: Are You Disrupting or Being Disrupted?

Many leaders have likely been hearing about the “rate of change” in a variety of ways. The World Economic Forum, for instance, published its 2018 report on global risks and trends to analyze where the world could be heading. This past year, the Harvard Business Review also published a piece about the importance of digital transformation. Both suggest that the rate of change is accelerating, and we need to be aware of the changes so we can take action. I’ve seen many companies adopt new technologies to automate tasks. For many, this is no longer a change of the future; it is happening now.

To be prepared for a transformation, I believe leaders must update their mindsets and behaviors. Below are my suggestions for getting started:

  1. Focus on what’s best for your organization.

As change accelerates, focus on getting the best outcome for your organization above being right. When facing challenges you have not previously mastered (and, in some cases, have never faced), evaluate, gather data and input from others, and plot a course of action you can experiment with. You likely won’t have the perfect plan, but this way, you can have a rough direction of where to move, which can, in turn, help you correct your course when necessary.

  1. Be prepared to make tough decisions.

Sometimes, leaders have to make tough calls to ensure the organization thrives. Implementing innovative tools can help keep your company competitive, but they will also impact your workforce. This is why it is critical that leaders balance the organization’s values with mission and profit.

Ask yourself the following questions if you’re feeling stuck when facing tough decisions:

  • Is my decision aligned with my values?
  • Am I willing and able to take the action required by this decision?
  • Does this decision align with our cultural values?
  • What system and process changes will be required to implement this decision?

I often see that leaders put forward proposals that meet one or more of these criteria, but when they look holistically at the implications of that proposal, they see flaws in the plan. An example was a restaurant I worked with that proposed limiting the amount of food employees consumed during a break. When examined further, this policy change made eating too much became grounds for termination. Managers were unwilling to terminate employees for eating too much during a shift because it conflicted with their values as a company.

  1. Think critically.

Complex thinking is also an important skill. As a leader, it’s critical that you understand any extended systems in your organization and how your decisions will ripple through the entire system. But I’ve observed that sometimes, this information is limited, which requires you to make quick decisions while thinking critically.

When this happens, determine the smallest decision you can make, given the information you have. What are the first, second and third level impacts this decision will have? By shifting the decision process to small decisions during times of uncertainty, a leader can break the inertia caused by uncertainty and gather important information from the small action. This approach reduces the risk of making incorrect large decisions.

  1. Stay curious.

From my perspective, leaders are now impacted by tangential forces; they need to be intellectually curious to ensure they are sufficiently informed to make strong decisions. Leaders must be open to the fact that they don’t always know everything. Ask yourself:

  1. What do I need to do to stay informed as a leader?
  2. What do I need to do to get more comfortable within myself being a continual learner?

Once you ask yourself these questions, remember to be open as you’re learning. Seek input from others and consume different forms of media to keep learning.

  1. Develop yourself and others.

As business ecosystems change, new tools and technologies emerge, and the competitive landscape can morph as well. This is why developing yourself and others is key. What are you doing to build your own skills and abilities, based on your current and emerging landscape? How are you developing your team? Building on the recommendation to stay curious, leaders should stay informed in order to continue their development, such as through reading publications outside your foundational content toward tangentially or loosely connected publications.

  1. Inspire others.

During times of uncertainty and change, I’ve found having the ability to inspire others is extremely valuable. In my experience, people often look to leaders they trust during times of change to ensure their safety and security. It is important for you to be keenly aware and sensitive to this need. Assess how well you relate to your team, and try to understand their goals and stressors. To build this strong rapport, communicate openly and honestly with your team and follow through on your commitments. I believe being trustworthy is now more important than ever.

  1. Learn from other perspectives.

When facing new situations and opportunities, it is critical to gather input from a diverse group of people. Encourage others to share candid input, which you can then utilize to craft solutions that accomplish the collective objectives of your organization and align with the company’s mission and values. Four important questions to ask yourself include:

  1. Have I included all critical perspectives to work through this issue?
  2. Have I created an environment where people feel encouraged to give open and honest input?
  3. Do people feel valued for their differing points of view?
  4. Do they see how their involvement created a more robust solution?

Leaders must ask for input, act on it, give feedback and recognize contributors in order for their team members and employees to feel confident in voicing their opinions.

While there is no magic solution to the challenges leaders face, I believe we are also at a point in time where leaders can make a huge impact on the world. From my perspective, your impact is possible when you are willing to develop yourself and learn how to navigate the personal discomfort of changing yourself and your organization to better navigate new opportunities.

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 this 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 ILI LinkedIn.

About the author

Ms. Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute (formerly Metcalf & Associates) is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.

Photo by Pixabay

Influence Is All About PEOPLE

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Influence Is All About PEOPLE

This blog is provided by Brian Ahearn, the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC, as a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future. This interview Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade aired on 9/3/19.

When it comes to influence I believe it’s all about PEOPLE. I write that because we don’t try to persuade things. Dale Carnegie had it right when he wrote, “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you’re in business.” The more you know how to ethically influence people the better your chances are for success at the office and happiness at home.

When it comes to PEOPLE I encourage you to think about the about the Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical. Let’s take a quick look at each component of PEOPLE.

Powerful

Who says influence is powerful? Here are what a few well known people from history had to say about persuasion:

“Persuasion is often more effective than force.” Aesop, Greek Fabulist

“If I can persuade, I can move the universe.” Frederick Douglass, American social reformer, abolitionist, writer, and statesman

“The only real power available to the leader is the power of persuasion.” Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States

In addition to those intelligent people, we have more than 70 years of research from social psychology, behavioral economics and more recently neuroscience, to tangibly prove how powerful persuasion can be.

Everyday

Unless you’re Tom Hanks in Castaway you interact with people every single day. Quite often in your communication with others you make requests hoping to hear “Yes!” Nobody goes it alone, especially the highly successful. Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO said, “Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished through other people.”

Here’s something I love about persuasion; it applies at work and home, a 24x7x365 skill. At work you try to persuade your boss, direct reports, coworkers, vendors and customers. At home influence helps with your parents, significant other, children, neighbors and anyone else you come in contact with.

Opportunities

In virtually every communication you have there will be opportunities for you to do seemingly little things just a bit different to potentially reap big rewards. For example, wouldn’t you be interested to find out what the Cancer Society did to increase their volunteer rate 700% in one area of town or how Easter Seals doubled the number of donors? Both were accomplished by doing a few, nearly costless things differently to employ a little psychology.

The problem is, all too often people miss the opportunities that are right in front of them. However, once you begin to learn the language of persuasion you’ll be amazed at how often you spot the opportunities to engage psychology to leverage better results.

Persuade

What exactly is persuasion? The definitions I hear most often are “to change someone’s mind” or “to convince someone of something.” Those might be good starts but they’re not enough. In the end you want to see people change their behavior.

With a focus on behavior change I think Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, put it best when he said, “Persuasion is the art of getting people to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”

Lasting

Sometimes your interaction with another person is “one and done” but quite often it’s an ongoing relationship. In those relationships you don’t want to go back to the drawing board time after time. No, you want to have communications that change people’s thinking and behavior for the long haul.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood the power of persuasion to create a lasting effect when he said, “I would rather persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him, he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.” Done right, persuasion can have a lasting impact on others.

Ethical

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, manipulation is, “to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner.” That’s not so bad but another definition for manipulation is, “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”

Manipulation makes most of us bristle because it connotes taking advantage of someone. I’m confident in writing this next statement – no one likes to be manipulated. I’m reasonably certain the vast majority of people don’t want to be known as manipulators either.

When it comes to the difference between ethical influence and manipulation I like the following quote from The Art of WOO (Richard Shell & Mario Moussa), “An earnest and sincere lover buys flowers and candy for the object of his affections. So does the cad who succeeds to take advantage of another’s heart. But when the cad succeeds, we don’t blame the flowers and candy. We rightly question his character.”

Conclusion

Your ability to ethically influence others will be a big determinant when it comes to your professional success and personal happiness. Knowing that, and knowing how much you use this one skill each day, doesn’t it make sense to get better at 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.

About the Author

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most other online sites.

His LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out for Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalities this fall.

 

Check out this 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 ILI LinkedIn.

LET THE SPARKS FLY: Innovation Needs a Culture that Fosters Fireworks

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LET THE SPARKS FLY: Innovation Needs a Culture that Fosters Fireworks

This blog is provided by Charles D. Morgan, CEO, First Orion Corporation, as a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future. This interview The Biography of a Finally Successful Startup aired on 8/27/19.

One of the paradoxes of modern business is that success tends to stifle the innovation that made a company successful in the first place. If you think about it, that’s not all that hard to understand: Innovation breeds success, success breeds expansion, expansion breeds bureaucracy, bureaucracy breeds logjams and a kind of complacent short-sightedness, borne of the sheer weight of that success and the processes that support it. So companies that have become big and successful by creating a successful product tend to focus on continuing to make that product better or on improving the service around that product, rather than on doing the hard work of branching out – of creating something new and different. But this is a recipe for disaster. Today’s business world moves too fast, and if you don’t keep innovating, one of these days you’re not going to be around anymore.

Let me tell you a story: For 35 years, I ran a company called Acxiom Corporation. In the early ‘70s we started, with just 25 employees, as a “service bureau,” which meant we rented out space on our computers to other companies. But as computers became more prevalent, and therefore less expensive, we could see that we were rushing headlong toward a dead end. So we pivoted to direct marketing, and eventually to data mining and database marketing. One by one, we landed the big banks – Citi, Chase, Amex, JPMorgan, you name them, we had them. Between 1982 and 1991, our annual revenue increased from $7 million to some $90 million, the vast majority of it from the banks, who increasingly depended on us to give them accurate information on potential credit card customers. We went public in 1983, adding stockholders to the people we had to please. Growing like a weed, we were adding layers of managers and VPs and directors faster than we could print their business cards. By the middle of the 1980s, I could walk down our main hall and see people I didn’t even know.

To my mind, one of the greatest requirements of a successful CEO is to be able to keep one eye on the far horizon. In the midst of the maelstrom I was looking ahead, and the problem I foresaw was that we couldn’t continue processing greater and greater amounts of data in the same old way without becoming less and less accurate. If we kept doing what we were doing, eventually we would be of no use to the banks, and that would be that. “But,” I said to one of my partners, “what if we could give everybody in the U.S. – and every single address – a number?” Such a thing had never been done. But I knew that if we could come up with a series of constant numbers, we could eliminate much of the time, computer power, and uncertainty then inherent in data processing.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t even a choice –it was either disrupt every single process that we had worked for two decades to establish, or face the fact that we were on our way to becoming a dinosaur. But oh, the screams, the wails, the hand wringing! I had to finally threaten to quit the company before my people came around and faced the inevitable. And yes, it was hard. It took a couple of years to create the data mining system we called AbiliTec, and several more years to implement it throughout our business – about five years in all. But once done, it kept us relevant. When I left Acxiom in 2008, we were the global leader in data mining and its accompanying technology, with 7,000 employees worldwide and $1.5 billion in revenue.

Today I’m the CEO of a tech company called First Orion, whose product is spam and scam protection for the major telecoms. We started with three employees in 2008 and now we’re up to nearly 200. We’re in the process of building our own headquarters building in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A lot has changed in business since those pivotal days back at Acxiom. Today, innovation is the name of game – of everybody’s game – and I’ve made sure to create a corporate structure that fosters innovation: no more than three layers of reporting; nimble team-based product and process units; open encouragement for people to try things, to play around with the fireworks of creativity – even if what they come up with doesn’t immediately lead to anything.

You never know where the spark for your next billion-dollar idea will come from, so you better make it easy for the sparks to fly.

 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.

 Charles D. Morgan is the visionary former Chairman and CEO of Acxiom Corporation, and is now Chairman and CEO of his latest tech venture, First Orion.  His new book is Now What?  The Biography of a (Finally) Successful Startup.  Morgan lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.  For more information, please visit https://firstorion.com.

Check out this 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 ILI LinkedIn.

 

 

Managing Organizational Headwinds in Digital Transformation

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Managing Organizational Headwinds in Digital Transformation

This blog is provided by Tony Saldanha, extracted and exclusively adapted from his book “Why Digital Transformations Fail,” as a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future with Maureen Metcalf. This interview aired on 8/20/19.

Organizational change management is treated as an afterthought for digital transformation as opposed to being proactively planned for. That’s troubling because based on my research, more digital transformations fail due to organizational change related reasons than technology. Most reliable process systems, such as say aircraft flights, plan for headwinds. Digital transformation can learn from them. Unfortunately, organizational headwinds are often dismissed in simplistic terms like change resistance or the frozen middle. That’s a mistake when planning for success in digital transformation.

The Science of Immune System Management

A corporate immune system is not necessarily a bad thing. Like its counterpart in the human body, it plays a vital role. In our bodies, the immune system protects us from disease and keeps us healthy. It is true that immune system disorders can be problematic (i.e., an immune system deficiency leaves the body susceptible to constant infections, while an overactive immune system will fight healthy tissues). However, on balance, a healthy immune system is desirable.

If that’s true, then why do so many change leaders blame the corporate immune system when things go south? Shouldn’t disciplined change leaders understand the strength of the immune system within their own organizations and prepare for appropriate handling?

At Procter & Gamble, when leading the industry disruption ecosystem, which included the biggest five IT companies and startups from the top ten venture capitalist firms, we took a different approach. For each of the twenty-five experiments (projects) that the ecosystem, called Next Generation Services (NGS) executed during my three years, there was always a proactive immune system conversation and plan. It made a huge difference versus historical trends on disruptive change acceptance.

There were three key truths that drove our approach:

–        The immune system is not necessarily a bad thing. Anticipate and prepare for immune system responses.

–        Immune system responses can originate at all levels in the organization, but the toughest ones occur at middle management.

–        The bigger the change, the harder the immune system response (i.e., digital transformation will be tough).

Having covered the first item, let’s zero in on the issue of middle management reaction. In most organizations, it is easy to get senior executive leadership excited about change. Similarly, the younger generation gets quickly on board. It is the middle management layer that’s on the critical path and has the potential to slow down or even block change. The term “frozen middle” has been associated with this phenomenon. This concept was published in a Harvard Business Review article in 2005 by Jonathan Bynes.[i] Bynes’s point was that the most important thing a CEO could do to boost company performance was to build the capabilities of middle management.

For corporate immune system disorders at the middle management level, the term “frozen middle” is accurate, but it comes with the risk of being pejorative for seeming to blame middle management for recalcitrance and inertia. In reality, the responsibility to bring middle management along on the journey resides with the change leaders and their sponsors. Consider this—the so-called frozen middle protects the enterprise from unnecessary distractions and change, just like the human immune system protects the body from harmful change. Middle managers are rewarded mostly for running stable operations. Is it fair to criticize them as a whole for doing what their reward system dictates? We must separate immune system disorders from normal immune system responses.

At NGS, we paid special attention to identifying, by name, the middle management leader for each affected project. We identified the middle management leaders affected by each project, involved them in the initial “fun” of designing the disruption, and jointly designed the risky roll-out of disruptive projects that could destabilize ongoing operations.

In the worst case, where despite the enrolling of the leadership the change resistance continued to be high, the project was quickly killed. That idea of selectively killing a few projects worked well because of the portfolio effect of having several other projects available in the pipeline.

Though the concept of a frozen middle is applicable broadly, overcoming it has never been as critical as it is with digital disruption. The amount of change necessitated by a systemic and sustainable digital transformation is massive. This isn’t just a technology or product or process change but also an organizational culture change. The middle management will need to lead the rest of the organization in learning new capabilities (i.e., digital) as well as new ways of working in the digital era, including encouraging agility, taking risk, and re-creating entire new business models and internal processes. Retraining middle management on digital possibilities is not sufficient. Entirely new reward systems and organizational processes will be called for.

Planning for headwinds during digital transformation isn’t just prudent, it’s a necessity given the high stakes of digital disruption. Emphasizing on “transformation”, more than on “digital” is a strategic imperative for success. For this, understanding and acting on the three truths of immune system management is critical i.e. it isn’t willful bad behavior but a rewards issue, it can happen at all levels in the organization but is toughest in the middle layers, and digital transformation by nature needs solving the toughest immune system challenges.

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

Tony Saldanha is a globally recognized expert in Global Business Services (GBS) and Information Technology. He ran Procter & Gamble’s famed multi-billion dollar GBS and IT operations in every region across the world during a 27 year career there. Tony has over three decades of international business expertise in the US, Europe, and Asia. He was named on Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT Professionals list in 2013. Tony’s experiences include GBS design and operations, CIO positions, acquisitions and divestitures, outsourcing, disruptive innovation, and creation of new business models. Tony is currently President of Transformant, a consulting organization that advises top companies around the world in digital transformation and global business services. He is also a founder of two blockchain and AI companies, and an adviser to venture capital companies.

.[i] Jonathan L. S. Byrnes, “Middle Management Excellence,” jlbyrnes.com, December 5, 2005, http://jlbyrnes.com/uploads/Main/Middle Management Excellence HBSWK 12-05.pdf [accessed December 19, 2018].

 

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