How you sleep is how you live.

How you sleep is how you live.

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!

Spur Innovation.

Spur Innovation.

Your business needs it, you ask employees for it, you incent them to deliver it, but in the end, do you really get it? I’m talking about innovation. When the Conference Board queried CEOs in 2018, it found that one of their most important concerns was “creating new business models to adapt to disruptive technologies.”

Unfortunately, many companies, even those with innovative histories, struggle to keep up with the torrid pace of change in their industries. This past fall, for instance, Starbucks, an organization widely regarded as nimble and forward-looking, announced a restructuring, with CEO Kevin Johnson emphasizing the need to “increase the velocity of innovation.” Established businesses have trouble innovating for many reasons, including siloed structures, fuzzy strategies, inadequate talent, and not enough funding. “Softer” factors also come into play, for example, a team or corporate culture that fails to give employees the time and space they need to think creatively.

How do effective leaders overcome these hurdles? I’ve spent the past decade studying creative bosses, such as filmmaker George Lucas, hedge fund guru Julian Robertson, and fashion magnate Ralph Lauren, who not only innovate but also create work environments in which everyone else does too. When I advise leaders on how to bring some of the same behavior into their organizations, I emphasize that it’s OK to start small. And one of the first tools I recommend is a group exercise I call the “change notebook.”

Here’s how it works: At your next team meeting, pull out a pad of paper, turn to an empty page, and divide it into three columns. Each one corresponds to a question relevant for innovation:

  1. “What is the existing practice/the recipe for success/the way we’ve always done it at our organization?” Jot your thoughts down in the left-hand column, including the key beliefs or assumptions underlying the practice. Then look critically at each of them and ask yourself if any are on the verge of becoming anachronistic or obsolete.
  2. “What market shifts, external forces, or technologies might threaten the elements of our operational status quo?” List these in the middle column.
  3. “What can we do about these impending disruptions you’ve uncovered?” For each one, use the right-hand column to note some preemptive action you could take. Sometimes you’ll want to tweak an existing practice to render it “disruption-proof.” Other times you’ll need to toss it out and start from scratch.

When a team at one of my client companies, a midsize insurer specializing in the automobile market, ran through this exercise, employees identified a number of operational “sacred cows” — practices like designing policy parameters based on past experience, selling to customers through independent agents, subcontracting with insurance adjusters to work with customers after an incident, and putting premiums into secure investment options. Threats to the business noted by the team included self-driving cars, the growth of Uber-type services, the rise of larger insurance companies offering “one-stop shopping,” the digital customization of policies for customers, a volatile investing climate, and the company’s increased vulnerability to bad publicity on social media.

Brainstorming actions to take, executives came up with a range of options, including studying self-driving cars and their implications more closely, creating new products and services for gig-economy workers, seeking out ways to tighten relationships with existing customers, scouring their network of independent brokerages for digital innovations they might exploit, and reevaluating the company’s investment portfolio for its resilience in the face of volatility. Whether or not all of these ongoing initiatives succeed, the exercise spurred team members to break out of entrenched mindsets, leading to far more innovative results than if they had remained passive.

As you experiment with the change notebook, you’ll find that your team members become progressively more comfortable exploring new ideas, including those that conflict with the status quo, and taking action to deal with looming change before it catches them unawares. Don’t just do the exercise once and forget it; make it a regular part of your team’s workflow. Devote 15 minutes to it at a weekly team meeting, filling in a new page of the notebook each week. Remind yourselves of potential disruptions you’ve identified in the past, and then work on spotting new ones.

Over time your team will gain more facility in the exercise. Due to the structured nature of these conversations, change will come to seem less chaotic and scary, and team members will become accustomed to talking through disagreements and tough issues. If my experience consulting with teams is any indication, you’ll also get group members in the habit of pulling themselves away from daily concerns to focus on the big picture. You’ll help them internalize the notion that change, not stasis or stability, is a fundamental quality of business; eventually, this sensibility will color everything they do.

It’s easy for teams and organizations to fall into a pattern of reacting to change. But why can’t you be the aggressive, proactive ones? You can. Follow the example of the world’s greatest bosses, and take an important step toward instilling a culture of creativity, growth, openness, and innovation that your team or organization so desperately needs.

By Sidney Filkenstein

The Adaptability Quotient

The Adaptability Quotient

By Rebecca Muller | THRIVEBRAIN WAVES

An IQ can help measure your intelligence, and an EQ can help measure your emotional intelligence  but you likely haven’t heard of identifying your AQ  also known as your “adaptability quotient.” According to tech investor Natalie Fratto, adaptability plays a vital role in success, and as the future of work continues to evolve, acclimating to change can be stressful when you’re not prepared for it.

“Adaptability refers to how well a person reacts to the inevitability of change,” Fratto says in a recent Ted Talk. “We’re entering a future where IQ and EQ both matter far less than how fast you’re able to adapt.” Fratto explains that with the accelerating rate of technological change, we’re facing more change than ever before, and we can train our brains to better adapt to those changes. “Adaptability itself is a form of intelligence, and each of us has the capacity to become more adaptable,” she adds. “Think of it like a muscle… It’s got to be exercised.”

There’s no question that change can feel stressful, but Fratto says you can stave off that stress by working on how your mind processes new information. Here are a few ways to improve your adaptability quotient:

Ask yourself “what if” questions

One of the most helpful ways to cope with change is to think about what could happen before it actually happens, Fratto notes. That’s why she suggests constantly asking yourself what could possibly shift going forward in your job. “Asking ‘what if’ instead of asking about the past forces the brain to simulate,” Fratto explains. “Instead of testing how you attain information, it tests how to manipulate a situation, given a constraint, in order to achieve a specific goal.” Not only does this exercise help you prepare for future changes, but it helps your mind adapt faster to those changes if and when they happen. “Change is inevitable,” she adds. “Practicing simulations is a safe testing ground for improving adaptability.”

Become an active un-learner

When change comes your way, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the idea of taking in new information while “un-learning” old information, but Fratto believes this process is key when it comes to managing your stress levels. “Our adaptability is not fixed,” she notes. “Active un-learners seek to challenge what they presume to already know, and instead, override that data with new information.” Fratto recommends returning to a beginner’s mindset when you’re notified of a change, and reminding yourself that you’re entirely able to let go of old information, and absorb new information. “It takes dedication,” she adds. “But each of us has the capacity to improve our adaptability.”

Prioritize exploration over exploitation 

When you think about reaching a goal at work, you probably reflect on what has worked for you in the past, and try to mimic the same process that helped you achieve success beforehand. Fratto says this thought process is common, but it could be holding you back from adapting to potential changes. “Collectively, all of us tend to value exploitation,” she explains. “There’s a sort of natural tension between exploration and exploitation.” Fratto says we’re too focused on exploiting our current workflow, when we should be using exploration  “a state of constant seeking”  to see what’s around the corner. “Never fall too far in love with your wins,” she urges. “Our previous success can become the enemy of our adaptability potential.”

From Industrial to Digital: Redefining Leadership.

From Industrial to Digital: Redefining Leadership.

By Gary Crawford.

The digital era is characterised by its unpredictability and accelerating pace of business change. However, traditional management models, still common in our enterprises, prioritise economic efficiency over adaptability.

Pressure is mounting on the C-suite and management teams to transform their organisations for the digital era. An organisation’s survivability now depends upon responsiveness to customer and market needs. Without change, customers will vote with their feet and migrate to more competitive businesses eager to own the interaction.

This article looks at the origins of our conventional management practices, explains why these fail in the digital era, and outlines what great digital leaders do differently to meet the challenge of digital-age problems.

Conventional management practice: efficiency from predictability

Many of today’s management practices assume that an effective enterprise is built on efficiency. Managers are keepers and architects of efficiency who control planning, synchronisation and coordination of execution through top-down instruction. If you’re in doubt, the derogatory term HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) has been coined to describe decision making where the most powerful person calls the shots, despite alternative perspectives.

This approach to organising human systems originates in the industrial era. At the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, audiences were wowed when Frederick Winslow Taylor demonstrated a step change in the production of steel chips. Until that point, production lines typically processed nine feet of steel per minute. Taylor showed that his system could process fifty feet per minute.

He attributed his breakthrough to his theory of scientific management. Applying this model, Taylor would deconstruct the production process into its simplest elements. Then, through measurement, analysis and experimentation, he would continually optimise every task to identify what he called the “one best way”. Finally, he would command the workers to follow new, very specific instructions, allowing him to scale small efficiencies at the task level to significant improvements overall.

Taylor’s results were both significant and undeniable. Despite ethical concerns for the once artisan workforce, his breakthrough was compared to innovations such as the electric light. He captured the imaginations of leaders and ignited a pan-industry efficiency movement that grew to become the backbone of modern management. You don’t have to look far to see the signs of Taylorist thinking in today’s enterprises. For example, in 2003 when Carrdeclared that IT was a commodity, he opened the doors to a flood of offshoring. This cost driven, divide and distribute management style remains central to many organisations today.

However, scientific management is predicated upon predictability. Efficiency gains are only possible if the specific purpose of your system is known and the system is heavily optimised to that end. The greater the specialisation, the greater the efficiencies. This comes at the cost of adaptability and resilience to change. For example, the screwdriver on a Swiss Army Knife is less efficient than its specialised counterpart; however, under less predictable conditions, the multitool is more responsive to change.

Unpredictable and accelerating: the digital era

Despite the data explosion of recent years, the business world has become significantly less predictable. If you’re an incumbent in a well-established industry, the world is not only accelerating — it’s pulling the rug from underneath your feet. Jeff Immelt, former chairman and CEO of GE, said it perfectly: “If you go to bed tonight as an industrial company, you’re going to wake up tomorrow a software and analytics company.”

A catalyst for this accelerating rate of change is technology advancement. As Marc Andreessen stated back in 2011, “software is eating the world.” With this comes a new breed of digital native organisation that thrives in conditions of volatility. Highly responsive, customer-centric and experimental, they reimagine consumer experiences and are quick to take new products, services and business models to market. In turn, they further increase the connectedness, speed and interdependence of society, fertilising the ground for others to disrupt in their wake.

Such companies are upending decades-old industries by introducing an indescribably thin digital layer that sits on top of the traditional supply chains, effectively owning the highly profitable customer interaction. Consumer behaviours are evolving as a result. The number of touch-points are increasing, and expectations are at an unprecedented level. The line between physical and virtual worlds is blurring, with growing demand for consistent and often seamless experiences across both.

An organisation’s ability to survive now depends upon its responsiveness to customer and market needs — a capability bred out by a century of scientific management. In the words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

Redefining leadership for the digital era

You cannot apply industrial-age practices to digital-age problems, so how does a leader transform the traditional enterprise with a myopic focus on economic efficiency into a highly responsive, digital-first business? They must put digital culture, practices, processes and technologies at the heart of their organisations. And this requires a very different leadership and management paradigm.

To elevate responsiveness, leaders must mobilise organisations around cross-functional, value focused teams. This is a structural alternative to the functional silos with expensive hand-offs, cost accounting, loss of consumer context and long time to market. Cross-functional teams can more easily collaborate to share learnings, are more customer-centric and demonstrate greater creativity.

Digital leaders create an environment where teams challenge themselves to reduce time-to-value by releasing early and often. The delivery of value and impact is prioritised over adherence to plan and schedule. Business outcome is prioritised over project output. Great leaders are quick to address any barriers to these goals.
 
Today’s knowledge worker expects freedom of choice in accomplishing their goals, and will not tolerate being micromanaged. Teams and individuals must feel empowered to act, yet be comfortable reaching out for help when needed.
 
Confident leaders also recognise that their employees have more recent and relevant specialist knowledge than that which they harbour themselves. When a Fortune 100 CIO commented “we don’t have these Netflix superstar engineers to do the things you’re talking about”, Netflix’s Adrian Cockcroftquipped we hired them from you and got out of their way.”
 
Leaders must nurture a generative, performance-oriented culture, with an “eyes on, hands off” approach. Leaders define what business problems to solve, not how to solve them, applying the doctrine of Auftragstaktik.

Rita Gunther McGrath, author of The End of Competitive Advantage, highlights that the key for management in the digital era is the ability to experiment and to rapidly learn from those experiments. Digital leaders must create learning organisations where teams are free to explore new business models, products, services and features. These benefits are amplified by broad perspectives, which come from teams that are diverse and inclusive, with mutual trust, loyalty and commitment between them. This will drive new and unanticipated areas of growth, help meet strategic objectives and beat the disruptors at their own game.

Summary

Leaders and managers must change from an industrial position of being architects of efficiency to a digital perspective of being catalysts of digital culture, practices, processes and technologies. They will do so by creating learning organisations with generative, performance oriented cultures that reunite the planning and execution processes.