Friday, February 28, 2020

From Inside-out to Outside-in: the Leadership Mindset in the Age of Climate Emergency

Guest post from Katrin Muff:
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations does not mince his words at the #COP25: leaders should not fear the green economy, they should see the great business opportunity it represents. And indeed, the climate debate has hit a nerve: the Oxford Dictionary has elected #ClimateEmergency as the word of the year 2019.
While there are a few climate doubters, most leaders I encountera don’t purposefully seek to harm the environment. To many, the business case of reducing their negative footprint is clear and progress is showing. Yet what is unclear to most is how to actually create new business opportunities out of these societal and environmental challenges. Such opportunities would result in what we call a positive handprint, rather than a negative footprint. But how?
Having worked with leaders and their organizations in the past decade, it has become obvious what differentiates those who succeed from those who don’t. It is all about embracing a new mindset, one that starts by looking at the external environmental and societal challenges and then looks for a match internally with existing organizational competencies. We call this outside-in thinking. It is fundamentally different from the traditional inside-out thinking, which looks at the world from the company perspective and assesses what occurs beyond the traditional business boundaries and markets with a risk perspective.
Connecting such external challenges with internal core competencies may not be obvious or evident. Otherwise, it would have long been done. This is were cutting-edge innovation comes into play. A smart combination of knowhow and process tools together with relevant, friendly external stakeholders can do the trick! Our experience with the business strategy approach of #SDGXCHANGE shows how organizations in any sectors can reinvent themselves. While the magic happens in one carefully designed co-creation day where internal and external stakeholder ideate together, it is the mindset of the leaders that determines the success of the session.
There are two ways of creating that mindset shift that work well with leadership teams. Both tools seek to trigger conversations among the teams to assess where they are currently in a context that has previously not been clarified.
     One way is to assess the cultural readiness of the organizations by considering the polarity of stability versus flexibility on one side and the polarity of inner versus outer focus. A short survey enables a conversation about where the organization currently is versus where the participating leadership team would like to see the organization. The disparity of views both on the current and the ideal future state are often eye-opening and allow an awareness shift of those present in the discussion, irrespective of the outcome.
     The other way is to assess where the organization is in terms of having embraced “sustainability”. An entertaining short video frames a Business Sustainability Typology developed by Thomas Dyllick and myself and a short survey collects the assessment of the leadership team. While it matters less where the leaders place their organization, the result frames a discussion among the team that allows for new questions and perspectives that may not have been addressed before. The ensuing discussion contributes measurably to the mindset shift of the team by providing a new frame of reference that generates new thinking and ideas.
The surveys and related discussions are conducted prior to the ideation day where the leadership team is joined by internal and external stakeholders, setting the stage for entirely new service solutions and revenue models that emerge now. As Albert Einstein famously said: solutions to problems cannot be created with the same mindset that created them. And this is exactly what happens when the SDGs, environmental and societal issues, are seen as opportunities rather than threats. These opportunities will likely not only make this world a better place, but as importantly pave the way for an organization to ensure its own economic sustainability in a fast-changing world.

Dr. Katrin Muff is a thought leader in the transformative space of sustainability and responsibility. She is Director at the Institute for Business Sustainability and holds a position as Professor of Practice at the LUISS Business School. She works with leaders, their teams and their boards in the area business transformation towards sustainability. She co-developed the Competency Assessment for Responsible Leadership ( Most recently, Katrin published Five Superpowers for Co-creators (, which features the nine building blocks of co-creation including a pragmatic solution for business organization with the applied strategy tool SDGXCHANGE (

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Helicopter Leadership

Guest post from Stephen Klemich:

It is often asked, what is the difference between Leadership and Management? For over 30 years we have always referred to Leadership as being able to rise above the situation, be objective, strategic and find time to contemplate the culture, people and one’s leadership impact. Management is on-the-ground, day-to-day task orientated, checking quality and delivery of the product and service, and looking after the people. Character-led leaders; heart-led leaders do both. It’s what we refer to as helicopter leadership. 

One of our clients in Australia has used a helicopter to get from site-to-site and I have been fortunate to fly with him many times all over Sydney – a stunning way to work! Helicopters are so maneuverable, being able to land almost anywhere, and rise above the exact position to hover over the site. When flying, we talk about the entire business, then each site, what it might need, how the people are managing it, and who we can encourage or recognize for great work. When we land at the site, as we shut down the engine while the headsets are still on, I remind the leader his role is not to look for all the things that could be better (even though there will always be something). His role is to be a culture builder, not a culture buster. He’s to look for the good, recognize excellence and ask questions. If there are a few things that need attention, wait until he is with the management team in private to ask his questions. This is how we came up with the idea of helicopter leadership. 

The great leaders we have watched build great cultures and organizations have been aware that the language of business is money: no money, no business. They understand that strategy, structure, systems, and results are extremely important, but they are also aware that their role is beyond the task, beyond the money. They are deeply aware of what underpins the sustainable results. They understand it’s culture.

These leaders know their leadership shadow is communicating a certain energy and has the ability to change the atmosphere of the workplace. They focus on ensuring their intentions come across with a positive impression to others, making their impact a positive one on the world around them. They know if they can create a safe place of we’re all in it together, then people want to belong, then they can believe and thus behave in a way that adds value to the culture. These leaders ask themselves, “why and so what”—why are we doing this and so what if we stay the same or change?

They practice helicopter leadership, where they continually rise above the day-to-day and hover, looking over the business and seeing where they can land and assist. In their “helicopter time,” they can carry big loads of problems that need to be addressed, but they also know if the load is too large and too heavy there will be a crash. They lighten the load through effective delegation with an effective management team who are all prepared to model effective behaviors such as authentic, achieving and reliable task-driven behavior and encouraging and developing people-driven behaviors.

These leaders understand the “beyonds.” In business we are often tempted to trade purpose for profit, but courageous leaders go beyond to create heart engagement . . . purpose beyond profit, meaning beyond money, commitment beyond convenience, destiny beyond the daily, to unlock in their peoples’ passion beyond pay, service beyond self, identity beyond individualism.

The heroes of great culture are great leaders, and we have been privileged to work with many that we honor. They have made our job easy!

Stephen Klemich is a longtime leadership consultant, speaker, and CEO and founder of Heartstyles and the author of Above the Line. Stephen has worked with teams across the globe, from small companies to multinational corporations such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Unilever, AMEX, and PwC. Stephen is an avid mountain climber and guide who has summitted the Matterhorn, Mount Blanc, Mt Rosa, Eiger, Monch and Jungrfau, in addition to other peaks in the Himalayas and New Zealand. In 2019 he climbed 6 peaks in the Italian Alps. He has always viewed mountaineering as an important part of his own character development journey, and he has incorporated lessons he has learned in the mountains into many of the Heartstyles programs.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Does Your Team Have a #1 Priority?

Guest post from Mike McHargue:

Does your team have one clearly stated priority? The one thing that is the focus above everything else? And, is everyone on your team crystal clear about what that priority is?

Notice I didn’t ask about your priorit-ies.

Greg McKeown most famously wrote about priority in his book Essentialism.

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities.” Someone must have thought “one is good, more would be better!”

They were wrong.

When teams have more than one top priority there often isn’t unity and clarity about what actually is important. Each member of the team is left to decide on his own what the priority is. Often, their priority is determined by their part of the business. The finance person’s priority is budgets and profit/loss statements. The HR team is focused on HR issues. Chief technologist, technology. And so on. But a leadership team’s members need to own responsibility for the whole business, not just their individual pieces of it.  And nothing brings a team together more than one shared, most important goal.

Patrick Lencioni refers to this top priority as a “Thematic Goal” in his books Silos, Politics and Turf Wars and The Advantage, and in practice, often refers to it as a “rallying cry” for a team or organization. He frames the discussion to leaders and teams as follows: “If we were to achieve just one thing in this next period of time, what would that be?”

When leaders don’t clearly define the top priority, often, by default, the market, the crisis, the loudest voice, the squeakiest wheel or the most urgent request defines the priority. The good leader is one who makes sure that never happens, that the No. 1 priority is the No. 1 priority.

A good friend of mine, , Scott Ault, who is the EVP of Workplace Solutions at Mutual of Omaha, understands the power of priority. A few years ago, his team was facing an issue with customer service in his division. His leadership team identified customer service as the senior leadership team’s—and therefore the division’s—top priority. While some members of his leadership team didn’t have direct responsibility for customer service, everyone realized that if that one part of the business wasn’t doing well, it would have a big effect on the whole business. When the entire leadership team committed to customer service as its top priority, they communicated it across the division, divided up tasks, and initiated a thorough project plan to address the issue. The results were dramatic.

Realizing the power of this approach to a singular priority, Scott’s team has since repeated its focus on a top priority across the division multiple times, one time focusing on a new peroduct/service line, later managing the significant growth of their business by hiring the right team players as another. Each time, the focus brought great focus to the organization and great results.

When teams clearly identify the priority, work together to achieve it, and see dramatic results as an outcome, it becomes addictive. One priority solved as a team leads to another priority identified and pursued with focus and vigor.

What is your team’s priority?

Mike McHargue is a champion for organizational health. As a Principal Consultant with Patrick Lencioni’s Table Group, he and his consulting cohort are part of the global movement to bring organizational health into companies. Over the last several years, his clients have included Micron Technologies, Carnival Corporation, Intel, Rio Tinto, World Vision, Applied Materials, Mutual of Omaha, Griffin Communications, St. Luke’s Health System, and Apex Leaders, to name only a few. Mike is a published author and released his first book, Rookie Mistakes: Advice From Top Executives on 5 Critical Leadership Errors, in October of 2018. This book features 25 real-life accounts of errors made and lessons learned from leaders of top U.S. companies. Mike lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, Anna, and their three children, Elena, Jack, and Gabriella. For more information regarding his work and The Table Group, contact Mike at or visit his website at

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Good Leaders Have Visions Their Team Can Actually SEE

Guest post from Lee Hartley Carter:

Vision in leadership is essential.  We all know it.  And yet, while we often can answer the question generally with business plan answers, we can’t often paint a picture of what that vision looks like in practice.  Often vision is couched in goals such as growing revenue 20% in 2020 or to be #1 in one’s category by 2025.  While goals are undoubtedly important, that’s not what I’m talking about here.  What I am talking about is a vision that is so crystal clear you can literally visualize it—and so can everyone else around you.  That’s what vision is all about.  It’s no coincidence that vision and visualize have the same linguistic origin—because that’s what vision is meant to do.

Creating a vision that aligns your team takes a lot of thought.  It takes reflection.  It takes getting specific.  Because if you can't be specific, you can become scattered, your team won't know where you’re going, and you won't know success when you see it.  Without specifics, you are likely to fail as a leader.  

When I was just out of college, my friend Glenn and I were having drinks when he asked me my dream for the future.  I mumbled through an answer along the lines of – a good job, married, kids, etc.  You know the drill.  No specifics.  Vague and somewhat meaningless.  He looked at me with a cocked eyebrow and took another gulp of his drink.  Then he said to me, "Lee, that's not a dream.  A dream is specific.  A dream is visual.  When I say what's your dream, I want you to be able to paint a picture of exactly what it is that you want."  I sighed, looked down at my drink and thought, “Man, that is scary.  What if I’m specific and then I don't pull it off?  What if I say this out loud and sound like an idiot?”  I rolled my eyes and tried to change the subject. 

Glenn put down his drink and looked me square in the eye and said, "Let me tell you about my dream.  15 years from now I will be on a boat fishing with my friends, pulling up to my dock, listening to Bob Seger. The wind will be in my hair.  I will have caught three big fish.  And my wife and daughter will be standing on the dock waiting for me.  It will be an epic Saturday.  And I will know, just know, that I made it."  He said this with full confidence, and no sense of irony.  Guess who now has a boat he pulls to the slip, listening to Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights”?  Glenn does. 

I have thought of that evening so many times over the years, and it guides me when I am teaching clients how to create compelling visions.  Your vision should be so clear that it reads just like that.  You should be able to feel it when you talk about it.  Everyone on your team should be able to visualize achieving the vision.  And, maybe, just maybe, it should have its own soundtrack!

Creating a visual vision has three key benefits:

1:  Focus
A visual vision will help you to prioritize.  You only have so much time in a day or mental energy and only so many resources.  If you aren't crystal clear on what you are trying to accomplish, you will waste time on activities that aren’t moving you forward.  You can ask yourself, is this choice moving me closer to my vision?  If not, it might be counter-productive. 

2: Getting Others on Board
The second benefit of having a visual vision is it motivates other people to help make it happen. 

3: Motivation
From time to time we all face burnout, discouragement, and frustration.  Your vision will give you at least 5 WHYs that will keep you going when things go wrong.

We all know vision is essential to leadership.  But it’s not just having a vision that’s enough.  You need to be so specific that you have an exact picture of what that vision looks like.  And once you’ve created that vision you need to share it and repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  So much so that everyone on your team sees exactly what you see. 

Lee Hartley Carter is the author of Persuasion: Convincing Others When Facts Don’t Seem to Matter, and president of maslansky + partners, a language strategy firm based on the single idea that "It's not what you say, it's what they hear,” the author of the new book, Persuasion, a sought-after public speaker and a frequent contributor on Fox News.  With 20+ years of experience in marketing and strategic communications, Carter manages a diverse range of language strategy work for Fortune 100 and 500 companies, trade associations, and nonprofits in the United States and globally, helping  them to better tell their stories.