CEOs are struggling to embed innovation as a grass-root movement in their companies.
As a people strategist in the quest of human-centered workplaces that boost innovation as a company differentiator, I found the value of highlighting the linchpin between a confluence of generations in the workplace and organizations’ success in a digital disrupted world.
The following article, by Joan Michelson (@joanmichelson) for Forbes, states that putting aside assumptions about age permits CEOs to embrace the richness of different perspectives of the workforce. Across generations, workers are looking for purpose, challenge and autonomy. Creating a workplace culture where people feel they are accepted, can do meaningful work and can thrive is a must.
In the next article, Diane Fanelli (@Diane_Fanelli) writes for HR Technologist that creating an environment of trust, where employees do not feel negatively stereotyped because of their age, can be the first step to building a conducive environment for a productive multigenerational workforce -a great competitive advantage for companies that embrace innovation.
These 2 articles highlight 3 next action item that every CEO may take in the next 3 days:
- Understand the demographics
- Listen and acknowledge
- Promote age-diversity
You already count with an innovation lab in your organization, it is only a matter of unleashing the power of collaboration and crowdsourcing, to tackle your most difficult problems that are precluding to deliver the customer experience you promised.
@gapinvoid @randyhlavac #NUMarketing
#innovation #multigenerations #collaboration #crowdsourcing #leadership #CEOs
To find your own personal leadership narrative, figure out and share what great leadership means to you.Great leaders build amazing communities. They do so in a variety of ways and over an extended period of time. One of the most effective tools to accomplish that is to shape and articulate powerful narratives of what’s possible. Effective leaders share stories about what great leadership looks and feels like when individuals come together as teams, and teams come together as communities, with a unifying sense of purpose and collective ambition. This insight has emerged from both survey data and dozens of C-suite-level interviews as part of a major global study, Future of Leadership in the Digital Economy, that MIT Sloan Management Review is conducting with Cognizant. In this new world of work, where being connected and resilient are of paramount importance, 82% of our global survey respondents and virtually all of those interviewed indicated that an individual in the digital world would need a certain level of digital savviness to be an effective leader. Yet, when asked what skill or behavior was the most important to leadership effectiveness, the answer was being able to articulate a clear sense of purpose, vision, and strategy. What at first seems old is new again: Clarity of communication in a hyper-speed world is a key difference maker in the eyes of current managers and leaders from around the world.To gain a better feeling of the texture that forms the fabric of this insight, consider this comment from Susan Sobbott, former president of American Express Global Commercial Services: “In the digital economy, physical presence can’t be mandatory to be an effective leader. You have to be able to lead people from many different cultures, in many different locations, and often with imperfect information because things are moving so fast,” she says. Her simple and elegant solution to this decades-old challenge reflects the power of a clear leadership narrative. “You have to be able to see a story emerging and to articulate that story in a way that has meaning and inspiration for a wide range of people. You have to convey your passion and beliefs through a powerful narrative.”
Why Finding Your Leadership Narrative Is Important
We analyzed our survey responses from more than 120 countries and conducted a sentiment analysis and heat-mapping exercise to identify the most important leadership behaviors in this new economy. The traits that emerged were authenticity, transparency, trust, inspiration, the ability to connect and invest in others, analytical capability, curiosity, and courage, among others. Few would argue that these behaviors and attributes are necessary, yet by themselves, standing independently, without the context needed to create meaning or catalyze change, they run the risk of being considered buzzwords. Stories help prevent that from happening, and that’s where the power of creating your leadership narrative comes into play. Developing a powerful narrative demands that you, the leader, take a stand on what you believe in, what you are about, and what impact you hope to create as you set out to form teams and build communities. The leader behaviors and attributes listed earlier become your means of communicating to others who you are, as well as your expectations for others concerning how you will lead together in your organization. It’s about finding and sharing your voice.In a recent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, late-night comedian Stephen Colbert talked about his search to “find his show.” For months his show struggled in the ratings, not because it lacked comedic appeal or impact, but because it had no thesis or arc that held it together. Once he and his writing team took a stand on what they believed in and followed through on those beliefs transparently, authentically, and courageously, Colbert believes they found their show, and since then he has commanded the No. 1 slot in the ratings. To find your personal leadership narrative, you need to figure out what great leadership means to you. David Schmittlein, dean of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, made a similar point while being interviewed for this study. “A great leader must be willing and able to display the courage it sometimes takes to stand by well-founded convictions — to take a stand on a decision that may be unpopular,” Schmittlein states. “It is about finding your narrative — what you believe in — and not being a willow in the wind. A well-thought-out leadership narrative helps create meaning and motivation for others.”
Getting Started: Finding Your Leadership Narrative
I spend a good deal of my time coaching senior executives to shape and tell their leadership stories in leader-led development initiatives around the world. When crafted well, and integrated with important conceptual content, engaging senior leaders to share their perspectives can be a powerful learning experience. Years ago, I was coaching a vice-chairman of a large global financial services company to share his story on what it meant to be a great leader in a changing world. He looked at me, almost with a sense of embarrassment, and said, “I’ve been in leadership roles for 35 years, and this is the first time I have ever been asked to share what I actually believe to be the essential ingredients of great leadership.” My response: “Well then, let’s get started!”Follow these simple steps to find your leadership narrative:
- No matter how busy you are, how many deadlines you are facing, or how many people are vying for your time, give yourself permission to reflect on what being a great leader means to you. Don’t think about it for five minutes and consider the job done. Take a day or chunks of several days away from the office to seriously reflect on this. After you do that, write those thoughts down as a draft narrative. It might start out as a series of bullet points, and that’s completely fine to get you started. But make sure it begins to take shape as a story.
- Share your draft narrative with one person, or several people, you trust. By trust, I mean that you trust that they will be honest with you concerning how authentic your narrative feels. Does the narrative describe you? Have they seen you behave this way over time? Have they witnessed you trying to cultivate those behaviors in others? You are trying to discover whether you are an authentic role model for your own narrative.
- When your narrative is refined enough, try it out. Tell your story transparently and with authenticity. Your leadership narrative should not be seen as a war story, simply recounting something you did. Work on it so that others can learn from it. At the right time and with the right people, seek feedback on the impact your narrative is having and ask how your story can have greater impact.
How we work is changing, but why we work and what we hope to achieve through our work remain largely the same. We want to be part of something larger, something special, something that helps make this world we live in a better place. Your leadership narrative can motivate others in important ways. Finding your narrative — one that expresses authentically, transparently, and courageously what you believe in as a leader, what you are about, and indeed what you are willing to fight for — will let you begin to unite individuals into teams, and teams into amazing communities.
About the Author
LDouglas A. Ready is a senior lecturer in organizational effectiveness at the MIT Sloan School of Management, founder and CEO of the International Consortium for Executive Development Research, and MIT SMR guest editor. He tweets @doug_ready.
By Steven Cohen
As more people meditate regularly, we are seeing the benefits more clearly. Can meditation make you more effective at work? Absolutely.
Core leadership traits such as self-awareness, focus, creativity, listening, relationship development, influence, grit and having a growth mindset can be developed through meditation, thus improving professional performance. These fundamental leadership traits can be grouped into four foundational pillars: Awareness, Connection, Perspective, and Potential. Each pillar can be built and reinforced through regular meditation practice.
At its most basic level, the practice of meditation that includes a focus on your breath, takes your mind out of its regular thinking pattern, thus giving you the opportunity to observe what fills the void, both internally and externally. You learn during meditation to observe thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in the present moment and without judgment. What you find is that instead of the same day-to-day chatter in your mind, you begin to observe different, more important, thoughts and feelings.
A student in one of my meditation classes noted that he had been working on an engineering project for a month and was struggling with several obstacles that prevented success. One day during meditation, a different way of overcoming a key obstacle just floated through his mind. Within 48 hours, the engineering project was complete.
When you’re living your life in a state of greater awareness, you are able to see situations more clearly as they arise (and not just during your meditation practice). You may notice changes or trends in the marketplace that significantly impact your business, customer dissatisfaction before customers stop ordering, the morale of a valued employee before he or she departs without warning, or how fear or self-doubt influences your behavior.
During meditation, you listen. Effective leaders are able to listen at least as much as they talk and are able to communicate with others more effectively. Too often, the baggage we bring to an interaction from our past experiences gets in the way of communicating clearly and openly. Emotional mindfulness and lovingkindness meditation can help you understand how past experiences cloud your lens, impacting your response to new situations. We learn during meditation to pause and then thoughtfully respond instead of just reacting to situations.
Effective interactions with others build connections. In business, connection is everything. It is how customers and employees are satisfied, how sales are made and how brands are built. Once the lens is clear, it is easier to be present to others and listen with greater attention. We can see more easily what motivates people and notice that people have different communication styles. Being aware of those differences can assist you in more successfully motivating others and being a more effective team member and leader.
Meditation can also assist you in determining with whom to be in a relationship. There are always certain people you “click” with, and being more aware of these relationships can be of great value both personally and professionally. Try setting an intention during meditation by asking between each breath, “With whom should I connect?” and just observe what arises. You may find that a key customer, a mentor or friend who has drifted away comes into your consciousness. You may have an urge to call your mother or father. Follow this realization and see how your inner wisdom guides you.
Stress has become such a roadblock for many of us, impacting our actions, reactions, health, and well-being. A meditation practice provides a break from the events that trigger our stress and teaches us to step back and witness with greater perspective so we experience fewer stress triggers. Meditation provides a moment of calm within the chaos so that whatever is most important (your wisdom within) can rise to the surface. By stepping back and pausing, you may become more aware of your thoughts and actions within the context of a greater purpose.
A daily meditation practice, while very valuable, may not be enough to make it through the day. You may want to add to your meditation toolbox micro-practices that you practice during meditation but can use any time you need it. It can be as simple as taking three deep breaths when you notice you are out of balance or a mantra meditation. Mantra meditation is focusing on a word, phrase or saying that returns you to the state of balance and equanimity through its vibration in your body. Your mantra should be meaningful to you and bring you back into perspective by just repeating it a few times in your mind during any situation.
Every day, we are deluged by information, social media and demands for our time and attention. Effectiveness in business is based in large part on how we process and utilize information and choose to spend our valuable time. Daily meditation, along with micro-practices throughout the day, allows the most important information to rise into your consciousness, helping you to rebalance your perspective, improve your decision-making and increase your positive influence within your organizations, at home, and in your community.
Meditation puts you in touch with your true authentic self. This “self” acts as a witness during meditation. With practice, your authentic self can recognize opportunities available to you that are often your most promising opportunities for growth but were previously lost within the noise created by your mind. Daily meditation practice reinforces hard-to-describe, intangible “grit” qualities that seem to characterize true leaders: passion, effort, perseverance, and resiliency. Sitting regularly in meditation is hard to do. You must want to do it. You must actually do it. You must keep doing it when you don’t want to. You must return to doing it when you have stopped. You must demonstrate grit. As you utilize your grit trait to pursue your vision, you will encounter areas in yourself and your organization that requires change.
One of my favorite intention meditations was inspired by Robert K. Cooper’s book The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential For Leadership and Life. Each Sunday night, I would ask myself: “What is my greatest opportunity this week? What is stopping me?” Inevitably, making sure you keep these answers in your awareness during the week and prioritizing them when the other moment-to-moment demands arise, can be a key to success.
Willingness to change and proceed with a growth mindset allows you to add more value to others; the organizations in which you are active become more effective. The world becomes a better place. That is your potential.
Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson address the science behind meditation’s impact in their book, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body. “Beyond the pleasant states meditation can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting traits that can result. An altered trait—a new characteristic that arises from a meditation practice — endures apart from the meditation itself. Altered traits shape how we behave in our daily lives, not just during or immediately after we meditate.”
Learning to lead from within is the process of integrating your meditation practice with your life. Where your mind goes during mediation, your actions can follow. You can learn to be more aware, recognize opportunities to build relationships, see things from a larger context and envision new opportunities, all by developing your leadership traits through meditation. Just as you can’t control your thoughts or the sensations in your body during meditation, you can’t control all of the situations you will face as you live your life. However, you can refine your response to situations and open yourself up to personal and professional growth. Ultimately, your life is your practice.
The path from a successful functional role to organizational leadership is well trodden and well known. In recent years though, navigating this path has begun to require an increasingly sophisticated set of skills, as the environment in which leaders lead has become significantly more complex and fluid. With the coming era of AI – when interaction between humans and machines will be critical, the skillsets leaders require will become more sophisticated still.
The generation of leaders whose skills and outlook were honed in the pre-digital, pre-globalization age, were operating in a relatively stable environment. Computer power and the internet had made life easier, but technology had not yet brought the market and societal disruptions heralded by the tech pioneers of the early 2000s and heightened during the past decade.
Our recent research, culminating in our report Learning to Lead in the 21st Century, focuses on the capabilities and skills, and the forward-looking mindset, that today’s leaders need to succeed in a world characterized by rapid technological advance, globalization, changes in societal attitudes, and market disruption, not to mention economic and political volatility. It also considers the most effective means of developing those skills – which we will touch upon here.
What Today’s Leaders Wish They’d Known
528 executives, of diverse ages and experience were asked what cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural skills they wished they had gained ten years previously, that would have most increased their effectiveness as leaders now.
In order of prevalence, these were the top five capabilities perceived as important:
|Relational Skills||Leading Others||Emotional Intelligence||Technical Skills||Confidence|
Participants also described critical incidents and events that had taught them valuable lessons. These were the top five mentioned:
|Experience||Failure||Personal Development||Technology||Major Life Events|
Participants also divulged that they didn’t know enough about, or didn’t possess enough of, the following:
|Technical Knowledge||Training & Education||Understanding of the Organization||Leadership Skills||Communication & Negotiation|
These were the top five ways participants believed they might be able to develop their skills for the future:
|Learning by Doing||Learning through People||Formal Learning||Extra-Curricular Learning||A Growth Mindset|
These were the five things participants thought most likely to derail career progression:
|Lack of Knowledge & Expertise||Low Emotional Intelligence||Lack of Confidence||Not Adapting to New Technology||Poor Communication Skills|
The Leadership Skills Needed Today
The participants point to a number of capabilities, essential for those now learning to lead, which they wish they had acquired ten years ago. Above all else they highlight the need for strong relational skills and the ability to communicate effectively in order to lead others. Acquisition of knowledge and expertise as well the development of greater emotional intelligence and confidence were key factors.
The ability to understand and adapt to new technology was a priority stressed by many. The importance of learning from failure and the value of feedback were also highlighted, both being seen as confidence-boosting (and confidence being something a great many participants wish they had had more of, earlier in their careers).
To operate effectively in a volatile, fast changing environment, two other key capabilities were suggested by the research. First, the need to have a ‘growth mindset’ – one that enjoys a challenge, seeks new opportunities and constantly seeks to learn. And secondly, the importance of ‘learning agility’ – which can be defined as curiosity and the ability to adapt well to change and new ideas. Both these capabilities, which rely heavily on learning from experience and from the evolving environment, are capabilities which embrace and welcome innovation and change, and are thus clearly essential for leadership success in the 21st Century.
Acquiring Skills and Learning to Lead
In our research we found that the development being offered needs to be tailored, both in terms of seniority and gender. Younger leaders and less senior leaders emphasised a need or preference for formal development, whereas older or more senior leaders emphasised on-the-job learning.
The 70:20:10 principle – the idea that development comes 70% from on-the-job experiences; 20% from feedback from colleagues and the boss; and 10% from formal training – may need rethinking. In today’s fast paced environment, where keeping up-to-speed with the latest knowledge, technologies, and expertise are key, formal development may have a greater role to play. For the younger participants, formal development came out as the top theme, with first line and middle managers reporting education and training as the most valuable factor supporting their career success.
L&D professionals should consider offering more formal development opportunities directed towards junior and middle level roles within organizations. Whereas to develop older and more senior leaders, emphasis should be placed on identifying experiential, on-the-job learning opportunities and coaching.
Gender differences were also present here, in terms of the skills participants considered important to future success. Perhaps counter-intuitively, female participants were more concerned about a lack of emotional intelligence while male leaders were most concerned about a lack of knowledge and expertise.
A number of lessons can be drawn from our research: the importance of relational skills to performance throughout a leadership career; the need for a growth mindset and learning agility; and the ever-present need to up-date knowledge, and adapt to new technology; the importance of experiential learning; and the need for formal development – perhaps more than is generally given.
Learning these lessons successfully relies of course on individual application – with the support of L&D professionals tailoring learning. Paramount even to that though, is organizational culture. An organization able to address these issues is one that encourages the development of agile learning and growth mindsets by developing a culture that fosters trust, respect and psychological safety, supports risk taking and entrepreneurial behavior, and emphasizes continuous learning.
From Simon Sinek’s “The infinite game”.
If there are at least two players, a game exists. And there are two kinds of games: finite games and infinite games.
Finite games are played by known players. They have fixed rules. And there is an agreed-upon objective that, when reached, ends the game. Football, for example, is a finite game.
Infinite games, in contrast, are played by known and unknown players. There are no exact or agreed-upon rules. Though there may be conventions or laws that govern how the players conduct themselves, within those broad boundaries, the players can operate however they want. And if they choose to break with convention, they can. The manner in which each player chooses to play is entirely up to them. And they can change how they play the game at any time, for any reason.
Infinite games have infinite time horizons. And because there is no finish line, no practical end to the game, there is no such thing as “winning” an infinite game. In an infinite game, the primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game.
If we listen to the language of so many of our leaders today, it’s as if they don’t know the game in which they are playing.
My understanding of these two types of games comes from the master himself, Professor James P. Carse, who penned a little treatise called Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility in 1986. The more I looked at our world through Carse’s lens of finite and infinite games, the more I started to see infinite games all around us, games with no finish lines and no winners. There is no such thing as coming in first in marriage or friendship, for example. We can beat out other candidates for a job or promotion, but no one is ever crowned the winner of careers. Though nations may compete on a global scale with other nations for land, influence, or economic advantage, there is no such thing as winning global politics. No matter how successful we are in life, when we die, none of us will be declared the winner of life. And there is certainly no such thing as winning business. All of these things are journeys, not events.
However, if we listen to the language of so many of our leaders today, it’s as if they don’t know the game in which they are playing. They talk constantly about “winning.” They obsess about “beating their competition.” They announce to the world that they are “the best.” They state that their vision is to “be number one.” Except that in games without finish lines, all of these things are impossible.
When we lead with a finite mindset in an infinite game, it leads to all kinds of problems, the most common of which includes the decline of trust, cooperation, and innovation. Leading with an infinite mindset in an infinite game, in contrast, really does move us in a better direction.
The game of business fits the very definition of an infinite game. We may not know all the other players, and new ones can join the game at any time. All the players determine their own strategies and tactics, and there is no set of fixed rules to which everyone has agreed, other than the law (and even that can vary from country to country). Unlike a finite game, there is no predetermined beginning, middle, or end to business. Although many of us agree to certain time frames for evaluating our own performance relative to that of other players — the financial year, for example — those time frames represent markers within the course of the game; none marks the end of the game itself. The game of business has no finish line.
In a finite game, the game ends when its time is up and the players live on to play another day (unless it was a duel, of course). In an infinite game, it’s the opposite. It is the game that lives on, and it is the players whose time runs out. Because there is no such thing as winning or losing in an infinite game, the players simply drop out of the game when they run out of the will and resources to keep playing. In business, we call this bankruptcy or sometimes merger or acquisition. Which means that to succeed in the infinite game of business, we have to stop thinking about who wins or who’s the best and start thinking about how to build organizations that are strong enough and healthy enough to stay in the game for many generations to come. The benefits of which, ironically, often make companies stronger in the near-term as well.
Victorinox, the Swiss company that made the Swiss Army knife famous, saw its business dramatically affected by the events of September 11, 2001. In an instant, the ubiquitous corporate promotional item and standard gift for retirements, birthdays, and graduations was banned from our hand luggage. Whereas most companies would take a defensive posture — fixating on the blow to their traditional model and how much it was going to cost them — Victorinox took the offense. They embraced the surprise as an opportunity rather than a threat — a characteristic move of an infinite-minded player. Rather than employing extreme cost cutting and laying off their workforce, the leaders of Victorinox came up with innovative ways to save jobs (they made no layoffs at all), increased investment in new product development, and inspired their people to imagine how they could leverage the brand into new markets.
In good times, Victorinox built up reserves of cash, knowing that, at some point, there would be more difficult times. As CEO Carl Elsener says, “When you look at the history of world economics, it was always like this. Always! And in the future, it will always be like this. It will never go only up. It will never go only down. It will go up and down and up and down… We do not think in quarters. We think in generations.” This kind of infinite thinking put Victorinox in a position where it was both philosophically and financially ready to face what for another company might have been a fatal crisis. And the result was astonishing. Victorinox is now a different and even stronger company than it was before September 11. Knives used to account for 95% of the company’s total sales. (Swiss Army knives alone accounted for 80%.) Today, Swiss Army knives account for only 35% of total revenue, but sales of travel gear, watches, and fragrances have helped Victorinox nearly double its revenues compared to the days before September 11. Victorinox is not a stable company—it is a resilient one.
In the infinite game, the true value of an organization cannot be measured by the success it has achieved based on a set of arbitrary metrics over arbitrary time frames. The true value of an organization is measured by the desire others have to contribute to that organization’s ability to keep succeeding, not just during the time they are there, but well beyond their own tenure. While a finite-minded leader works to get something from their employees, customers, and shareholders in order to meet arbitrary metrics, the infinite-minded leader works to ensure that their employees, customers, and shareholders remain inspired to continue contributing with their effort, their wallets, and their investments.
Players with an infinite mindset want to leave their organizations in better shape than they found them. They play to keep playing. In business, that means building an organization that can survive its leaders.
Sarina, a high-level executive, recently left me an urgent voicemail message, “I am utterly exhausted and yet I wake up at 3 a.m. every night. My head starts spinning through my ‘to do’ list or the things I didn’t do well or the things I wish I had said. I try to go back to sleep but it’s a useless effort. I finally give up and get up, but it means another day of feeling tired. And I know I’m not doing my best work. Can mindful leadership training help?”
Sarina was suffering from what I call the 3 a.m. Wake-up Call from her brain. And she was asking if there was a way that mindful leadership training could “block the call.” Does this sound familiar to you? It certainly was something I struggled with for many years. No matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t make myself go back to sleep when my mind started racing. Little by little, my resiliency was lessening until it felt that I was using every bit of my energy just to make it through the day. I was always feeling tired. When I did manage a good night’s sleep, it was striking how much it changed my experience of the next day. I was not only more alert, I was more patient, clear and creative.
Learning to sleep well moved to the top of my list. I did not want to take sleeping pills. I needed a healthy, long-term solution. Thankfully, by this time I was deeply involved with the development of mindful leadership training, so I began to experiment with a simple practice each night. Little by little, I began to sleep more restfully and for longer periods of time. There are still times when that 3 a.m. call rings but I now know how to answer it in a healthy way.
If you are ready to sleep better, try these simple steps:
3 Mindful Steps to Better Sleep
1. Remove all smart phones, tablets and computers from your bedroom. They don’t belong there. Seeing an email or social media post just before bed, or knowing that distractions are only inches from your head, can fuel the busyness of your mind.
2. When you settle into bed, bring your attention to the feeling of your breath. Feel your breath stretching the muscles in your chest or belly, feel the release. This is not an invitation to think about your breath or control it. Just feel the sensations.
3. When your mind starts to get busy, bring your attention back to the sensations. Let the thought that pulled you away go for now and redirect your attention back to the gentle movements and sensations of your breath. It is important that you be patient with yourself. Redirecting your attention is simply part of the practice and it does not matter how often you need to redirect your attention. Just be intentional about letting the thinking go (for now). It is as if you are saying ‘not now’ to your thoughts and worries. Now is a time to sleep.
Be consistent with this practice, using it each night that your sleep is interrupted. It may take some time to train your mind in this way but the benefits for your health and happiness are worth it. Happy dreams!