Thursday, July 30, 2020

More Automation is Coming! Bulletproof Your Career

Guest post from Edward D. Hess:

Everyone knows that jobs have been automated over the last 20 years. But the number of those automated jobs will be a small number compared to what is coming over the next 10 years. The continuing advancement and convergence of artificial intelligence, bio-technology, nanotechnology, virtual and augmented reality, quantum computing, and Big Data will automate millions of jobs in the United States. Not just manufacturing jobs but also service jobs, knowledge-worker jobs and professionals.

McKinsey predicts that by 2030, over 25 million jobs in the United States will be automated. Research from Oxford University predicted that within 15 years there is a high probability that 47% of U.S. jobs including professional jobs will be automated. How will you stay relevant in the workplace? What can you do to become bulletproof?

I believe we humans will need to excel at doing something valuable that the technology itself will not be able to do well. There are four uniquely human skills that currently meet that criteria:

1. Emotional Excellence: Being able to emotionally connect, relate, and collaborate with others in positive ways that can result in caring-trusting relationships that enable you to have high-quality making meaning conversations with others that create or deliver value will be a key human differentiator. Being able to manage one’s emotions; generate positive emotions; and be highly sensitive to the emotional state of others will be important human skills.

2. Thinking Excellence: Being adept at being able to think differently than the technology with the agility to move back and forth between those different ways of thinking: exploring the unknown and seeking novelty by being creative, imaginative, and innovative; engaging in higher-level critical thinking; making decisions in environments with lots of uncertainty and little data; and excelling at sense-making and emergent thinking.

3. Exploration Excellence: Excelling at having the courage to go into new areas – the unknown - and to explore and discover the new and the different by using low-risk iterative learning processes is the third key human skill. It requires overcoming the fear of making mistakes and in most cases effective collaboration with others and overcoming our reflexive habitual ways of thinking.

The science of adult learning shows that our brains and minds are generally wired to be efficient. We reflexively seek confirmation of what we expect to see, feel, or think; to protect our egos; and to strive for cohesiveness of our personal stories of how our world works. We are creatures of habit and operate much of the time on autopilot. All of that inhibits Exploration Excellence.

To stay relevant in the workplace we will need to “rewire” our brains in order to:

·        -  Seek out novelty not primarily confirmation, affirmation, and cohesiveness:
·         - Actively seek out disconfirming information that challenges our beliefs;
·        -  Ask questions that lead to exploration and discovery (e.g., Why? What if? Why not?);
·         - Defer judgments in order to further explore and discover;
·         - Embrace differences and to make meaning of differences;
·         - Embrace ambiguity by not rushing to the safety of making comfortable, speedy decisions; and
·        -  Excel at “not knowing” and Hyper-Learning: continuous learning, unlearning and relearning.

Those three skills are all enabled by the fourth skill:

4. Self Excellence: Excelling at managing how you think, how you listen, how you handle emotional stress and the challenge of needing to continuously adapt at the pace of change requires managing your ego, your mind and your emotions. The desired result is “Inner Peace”approaching others and the world with an internal quietness or stillness, which I define as being fully present in the moment with an open and non-judgmental mind and a lack of self-absorption with limited stress and fear. That helps you remove internal noise and distraction and helps you align your inner world—your mind, body, brain, and heart—so you can better engage with the outer world in the pursuit of excelling at the above three skills. That state of being enables Emotional Excellence, Thinking Excellence and Exploration Excellence.

We human beings will be in a continuous race in the workplace to stay ahead of the advancing technology.

Are you “Bulletproof?”

Edward D. Hess is Professor of Business Administration, Batten Fellow and Batten Executive-in -Residence at the Darden Graduate School of Business and the author of Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change, which will be published by Berrett-Koehler in August, 2020.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Leading Into the Acceleration of Change

Guest by Marcia Reynolds:
The response to the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated economic and social trends. We are now shopping and buying meals more online, saving rental dollars on office space, holding more virtual business and personal meetings, and improving or seeking an end to our personal relationships as we spend more time together. 
As we transition to being more mobile, we won’t be “returning” so much as “evolving” to confront a new reality.
This is the perfect opportunity to reflect with colleagues on how best to work and what is possible for us in the future. Yet you can’t force people to think creatively, especially now. You have to ease them into the conversation, and then inspire them to think beyond the negative cloud overshadowing their views.
The role of the leader in times of uncertainty is to coach people to think differently, not tell them what to do. 

Enter the conversation with a coaching approach
Whether threats are real or not, forcing a conversation about the future is not productive. When we experience acute stress, our brains shut down in self-survival. We prepare to fight, flight, or freeze, not explore possibilities. Creativity is paralyzed. We believe doomsday stories more than the future leaders are inventing. 
The two key triggers of psychological stress are the perception that there is no control over present circumstances, and there is no way to predict what comes next. All indicators suggest uncertainty will not let up. So, how do you lead others to shift their perspective around control and predictability so they embrace, even capitalize on change? Try taking a coaching approach to your conversation.
People need to feel seen, heard, and reminded that their existence matters no matter what they are experiencing. They need to know their raging emotions are legitimate reactions to their current challenges. Let them know you understand why they are feeling the way they do. Share that you feel unsettled, too, so they know you are a fellow human being. This acceptance may help them feel safe enough to consider the possibility of expanding their perspective. 
To start, don't just ask, "How are you?" Ask something like, "How are you really doing with all these challenges?" Relax as they talk. You don’t need to make them feel better if you are genuinely listening. 
Once you feel their brains calming down, you can ask if they are ready to look at actions they can take. They may or may not be ready.

Clarify what they believe about today and assume about tomorrow
The less we know for sure, the more we believe the worst will happen. It’s difficult to sort the most likely truths from imagination, but using compassionate curiosity will help clarify the stories people are living.
When I coach clients, I listen for the beliefs they are holding about the present moment and the assumptions they are making about the future. I share statements like, “Sounds like you believe (this) is happening.” Or “You said you assume (this) is how your life and work will be affected. Can we sort out what we know for sure and then look at what else is possible?” I fill in (this) with specific phrases they shared, using their words so we can examine their thinking together. Acknowledging limiting beliefs and unsupported assumptions will soften the edges of their stories. 

Offer ways to embrace control and adapt predictions
Once you clarify their beliefs and assumptions, you can shift the conversation to explore what is in their control to do today and how these steps will help shape the future.
Control – Ask what routines they have created to manage their days. If they are struggling to uphold commitments, strategize what boundaries they could create and how to plan for taking just a few steps at a time. Ask how you can support them in feeling they are in more control of their days.
Predictability – Even if you have a vision of what business might look like in a few months, be open to new ideas so you can co-create the future together. Ask questions to create possible scenarios to work toward, knowing that you will adapt as the future unfolds. Executive coach Scott Eblin suggests asking specific “what if” questions that look at how our lives today might influence how we do our best work going forward. Here are a few examples adapted from his work:
  • What if we social distancing needs to be practiced for a year, how would we do business? 
  • What if we changed 50% of the things we’ve always done to better use our current resources and time?
  • What if we were starting our business today? 
  • What do we need to do to emerge better and stronger than we were? 
Accept and build on their ideas instead of judging them. People need to feel safe with you to speak what is on their mind. Once they trust you won’t make them wrong, they will be more open to change their minds. 
Also, let go of how you want the conversation to go. Don’t let your impatience sabotage the conversation. If they reach a dead-end in deciding what to do next, then you can offer suggestions for them to consider without taking their power away.
When you use a coaching approach instead of telling them what to do, you expand their mind and strengthen their will to move forward.

Dr. Marcia Reynolds is a world-renowned expert on inspiring change through conversations. She has delivered programs and coached leaders in 41 countries and reached thousands online. She has four best-selling books, including The Discomfort Zone; Wander Woman; Outsmart Your Brain; her latest, Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry gives tools, tips, and case studies to help you easily apply coaching skills to change minds and behaviors. Read more at .

Thursday, July 16, 2020

How to Journal

Guest post from Michaela Renee Johnson:

I have always loved writing, especially as a way to process the depth of my emotions through difficult times. I still have my first journal, which I got in the third grade. It was included in a gift bag at a birthday party I attended. The notebook was tiny, maybe only three inches wide by four inches long, with multicolored paper and hearts on the cover. But I quickly understood that it could make a big impact on my life. It was a safe place to share my struggles with making friends at my new school and dealing with the woes of being an 8-year-old. My first journal became a friend in whom I could confide.

My journals, over the years, haven’t been just a place to share frustrations and worry, but also a place where I could share dreams, especially the ones I didn’t think others would understand. During challenging times, reading a great quote and writing in my journal became one of the most important ways to safely explore the change I needed, without the influence of others. My journals have always been a place where I could speak my truth freely, just having written it down allowed space for me to let it go and process things in a new way.

I started to realize that by journaling my goals and dreams, I could even change the direction of my life. Journaling became a tool to launch ideas and manifest my hopes. I eventually started an online journal, which became my memoir, Teetering on Disaster.

Needless to say, I was overjoyed at the opportunity to write Empowered, A Motivational Journal for Women when the publisher reached out to me I didn't hesitate to say YES!

So many people say they want to journal, but have many reasons why it hasn't made its way into their life.

"I don't have the time."

"I don't know how."

"I'm kind of afraid to sit and write."

"I don't write well."

"I don't know what to say."

"I'm not sure where to start."

1. Find a journal with prompts to start, Empowered is a great example of that, but you can find some others here. If you are new to journaling it can be helpful to have guidance. Also the prompts can be exciting, for example, in Empowered, many of the prompts are creative and outside of the box. Law of Attraction Daily Journal, Gratitude Journal

2. If you want to start with a plain lined paper journal, that's okay too. I recommend beginning by filling the pages with quotes that you absolutely love across the top. This puts "you" in your journal, and my experience is that when I finally go to fill a certain page, the quote that I'd already written was just the message I needed. Kind of like a blast from the past (or future).

Then, start by writing the weather...what was the weather like today? How do your emotions feel similar, or different? You'd be surprised how words can start to flow from there.

3. Get a great pen! There is nothing worse than a pen that cramps your hand instantly, or writes terribly, or leaks through the pages. I absolutely love LePen and Micron -Sakura of America.

4. Don't hold yourself to a schedule. It can be lovely to do a daily gratitude journal in the morning, with an evening reflection. And while I highly recommend connecting with your journal daily, it's more important that your journal be available for you when you need it, and less important that you judge yourself for whether or not you use it.

5. Don't worry about the grammar, or the spelling, or even the way it looks. It can be helpful and fun to do a few journal entries with the lights down, simply for the experience of letting go of "how" it looks. We are taught all through school that we need to stay in the lines, and have proper grammar, those rules don't apply in journaling. Think of it as an extension of your mind. Your mind allows thoughts to roll without censorship, allow your pen to do the same.

6. It can be helpful to start by writing a story. If you were to run into an old friend at a coffee shop 5 years from now what would the ideal story of your life be, what would it look like? Share that with your journal.

7. Ask yourself, if nothing changed today, would I be happy - share why or why not.

8. Lastly, go easy. Sometimes painful realizations come up when we have a safe space to process and discover our inner thoughts.

Sometimes the process to achieve our dreams may not feel comfortable. But I believe our greatest growth comes during times when we are uncomfortable—especially because humans are biologically programmed to notice when something doesn’t feel right and fix perceived problems. As you go through this journal, be aware that your mind is detecting these shifts, and will help you gather insight into what needs to change. Sometimes we can find ourselves being more aware of people and situations or processing things days after an activity. Give yourself grace to process, and practice good self-care, like getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and taking care of yourself. And remember you are exactly where you are supposed to be in this moment.

Lastly, if after reading this, you're inspired to begin journaling, consider Empowered, a Motivational Journal for Women.

Michaela Renee Johnson is an award-winning author, licensed psychotherapist and host of the top iTunes podcast, Be You Find Happy, which encourages people to speak their truth with grace and live a courageous life of authenticity. Her initiative, Be You Find Happy, holds workshops and conversations on finding happiness in spite of life's setbacks and has landed her speaking opportunities across the nation. She is an avid adventurer, having traveled to more than 20 countries, and self-proclaimed "Boho Mom" who loves all things metaphysical as well as poetic quotes. She is a Sagittarius and an ocean-lover who lives in Northern California with her husband and young son, and a homestead full of animals. In her spare time, she's often hiking, doing yoga, gardening, golfing or reading.
Connect with her at or on Instagram @MichaelaReneeJ.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Nurture Your Leadership Intuition

Guest post by Martha Alderson:

Leaders often rely on surveys, empirical data, conscious reasoning, concrete evidence, facts, logic, and scientific research before making decisions or changing the current course of action. We turn to experts for insight as we attempt to understand and solve a complex problem. We lean into tried-and-true strategies hoping to replicate past successes. However, life today moves at warp speed. What worked previously, doesn’t apply in today’s world. We’re asked to innovate and create new solutions instantaneously.

Rather than turn to others for answers, you have within you something more powerful and honest and reliable and immediate than any outside expert or long-standing model of operation. What you possess serves you better and makes you a unique and trusted leader. That something is your inner voice, otherwise known as your intuition and innate wisdom.

Trusting Your Inner Voice

When you’re asked to react on the fly, fix what’s not working, and come up with creative solutions, you don’t have the luxury of time to research. Instead, listen to and rely on your inner self for immediate hits of insight, knowing, and understanding. You make a snap judgment of the situation, the person, or the problem. This, then, becomes a starting place to form solid decisions as you invite in ideas and possibilities to plot a plan and determine a course of action.

If, however, you doubt your instinct and what you’re intuiting, or disrespect the inner guidance you’re being offered, believing your inner feelings are an illusion and can’t be proven, are immaterial, a weakness or insignificant, you’re negating your greatest strength. Your inner voice offers you the true nature of reality beyond the physical. Your sixth sense nurtures your confidence and grows your faith in yourself to inspire others.

Rely on Your Intuition

Your intuition is the non-physical and deepest part of you. It asks that you demand no proof and no evidence of its truth, but to simply trust when you pick up on subtle cues from those you’re leading, when you sense you’re headed in the wrong direction, when you feel an inner clarity. Your inner voice is that which you know to be true even when, especially when, everyone and everything else say differently. When you rely on your inner messages, you rarely make a wrong move. A hunch, a feeling, your gut reaction often lead you to answers you never could have come up with through your intellect alone.


We often have difficulty hearing our innate wisdom beneath the clamor of our learned responses and conventional wisdom. It takes courage to have faith in your intuition and to stick to your decisions when what you’re proposing goes against all available evidence to the contrary. To stand in your truth is daring and audacious, and often threatens your ego with fears of being wrong or laughed at when you know you know but have no idea why or how you came to be so certain, and are unable to explain beyond the simple statement—I just know.

As you learn to trust and are guided by your intuition, you lead by example, which in turn encourages those you lead to begin trusting their inner voice, too.

MARTHA ALDERSON, MA is the author of the best-selling The Plot Whisperer. She writes novels for readers, plot books for writers, and most recently Boundless Creativity: A Spiritual Workbook for Overcoming Self-Doubt, Emotional Traps, and Other Creative Blocks for anyone looking to enrich their lives with more creativity and inspiration. Her other books are Writing Blockbuster Plots and Writing Deep Scenes, The Plot Whisperer Workbook, The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts, as well as several ebooks. Look for her latest novel Parallel Lives: A Love Story coming out summer 2020. She lives and writes in Santa Cruz. Learn more about Alderson on her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Youtube.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Create Eagles – Not Ducks When it Comes to Policies

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:

Most stupid policies don’t start out that way. They are intended to “protect & serve” but can evolve into something not good.

There’s a story by Wayne Dyer about eagles and ducks. In organizations, ducks are those employees who are bogged down in the stupid policies, i.e. rules that no longer serve. They are helpless to change things that don’t work. Ducks quack, “That’s not my job,” and “I’m sorry, that’s our policy,” and “My computer won’t let me remove that charge from your account,” etc.

Eagles soar above the crowd, doing great things for customers and the company. They don’t get mired in policies that don’t work; they maneuver around stupid policies to serve the customer and the company fairly.

Years ago I discovered something about organizations and policy creation.

The client was a municipal government – city, not county or state. I was teaching a leadership program and participants were very pleased with the models, tools, and techniques the program presented.

At one point during the afternoon, one woman – let’s call her Joyce – shared her frustrations with a woman in her office (who was not attending my program). Joyce explained that this peer of hers had a unique role which placed her in a “gatekeeper” position.

This peer – let’s call her Roberta – touched key projects at key times, moving paperwork to decision-makers for approval, scheduling meetings of decision-makers with project staff, etc. Roberta tended to move more quickly on activities that her “work friends” would benefit from, and she allowed other activities to sit, untouched -  sometimes for days.

Roberta’s inconsistencies caused much consternation to Joyce and others in the room. I was about to inquire about how the group has tried to address these issues when Joyce stated, “And Roberta is ‘Employee of the Month’ this month!”

I’m certain that my shock was quite apparent; I felt like my jaw dropped to the floor. I sputtered a moment then asked Joyce, “Why would you select Roberta as ‘Employee of the Month’?” Joyce looked at me and calmly said, “It was her turn.”

The class and I spoke awhile about stupid policies; this “EOTM” policy certainly qualified. Employee of the Month programs typically do not celebrate great contributions or performance; they celebrate moderate contribution and (mostly) tenure. Why would an organization want just ONE Employee of the Month? Wouldn’t you want dozens of terrific employees, all recognized for doing great things every day for customers and for the company?

This particular practice is not unique to municipalities. We’ve all experienced this “good intentions gone wrong” policy issue in all kinds of organizations, all across the globe.

Impact of Stupid Policies

Every team member knows which policies are stupid; they talk about them with their peers all the time! Customers know – and some are quick to point out how dumb those policies are. Stupid policies:
     demoralize staff
     Alienate customers
     Cost your company hard dollar profits

How can you reduce the negative impact and undesirable consequences of stupid policies?
1. Spend an hour or two each week, seeking input from team members about policies that inhibit great performance.
2. As you discover stupid policies, eliminate them – or, at least, refine them so they have NO negative impact on great performance.

One company created a “stupid policies” group whose sole purpose was to identify and eliminate policies that inhibit good decisions, full presence, and full commitment. They celebrated their first year’s successes – cutting a policy manual down from 3″ to 30 pages – with a huge dinner party!

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

5 Steps to Build a Disruption Proof Business Model

Guest post from Robbie Kellman Baxter:

In the past few years, we have seen what we thought of as “disruption proof” businesses get disrupted by new and unexpected competitors.  Banks, by Paypal, Venmo, and ApplePay.  Taxis by Uber & Lyft. Hotels by AirBnB.

More recently in the wake of the novel coronavirus, we have seen a second wave of disruption coming from outside forces, rather than competition. Many organizations have been blindsided by the implications of social distancing.  Some of these businesses are proving resilient though, pivoting to new ways of packaging value, going digital, doing delivery, and rethinking the way they can serve their organizations.

Almost by definition, we can’t be fully disruption-proof, but we sure can mitigate risk.

Subscription businesses seem to be among the most resilient of businesses. This resiliences is due to their recurring revenue, but also because of their focus on continuous tinkering to layer in value for the people they serve. Because they are more focused on customer engagement than just on the initial purchase, they are forced to develop agility and flexibility are core cultural strengths.  

If you want to move to a more nimble, recurring revenue model, or even if you just want to enjoy deeper relationships with the people you serve, here are five things you can do.

Step 1:  Set up for Success

The most resilient businesses have a forever promise they make to their customers—it’s like a mission, but completely focused on the customer’s goals and challenges.  If you use a forever promise as your north star, it will guide you through these uncharted waters more effectively than focusing on “quarterly capitalism” and just trying to hit this month’s forecast.

But you need the right culture for this approach, the right metrics (hint, the main KPI isn’t topline revenue) and the right resources.  You need a cushion of cash to allow you to focus on the long term.  You need people on your team with both strategic and operational skills—two very different kinds of people.  And you need leadership that has a longer time horizon so you can invest in relationships.

Step 2: Focus on your Best Customer

If you’re a going concern, you probably have some customers that are better than others.  These “best customers” likely have a greater lifetime value than the “not best customers”.  But there may be other attributes—they use your products regularly and well.  They are not disproportionally more expensive to serve.  And they may be superusers, people who invest their own time, money and reputation for the good of your organization.

For example, they might refer in new customers, or speak at your events, or provide feedback on product direction.  You need to know who these best customers are, and be able to recognize them if you see one in the flesh (or on Zoom…) by asking a couple of questions.  Once you know who they are, you can optimize not just your products, but your whole business—how you market, how you onboard, and how you support these people.

If you know who you’re serving and focus on them, you’ll be way more likely to keep them in a crisis.

Step 3: Make sure your product market (PMF) fit starts at the moment of transaction (and doesn’t end there)

Most organizations understand the concept of PMF.  You want a product that your specific, clearly defined audience wants to buy. You don’t want to have a product that’s got a little bit for each of several markets, but doesn’t “nail it” for any one audience.  And you don’t want to build products just because “you can”. 

But if you’re going for long-term engagement and loyalty, whether you use subscription pricing or not, you need to think about PMF beyond the headline benefit that drives customer acquisition.  You need the engagement features which will deepen the relationship over time, and make your products and services into habits.

And it is your responsibility to continue to tinker with your offering to continue to deliver on your forever promise on your forever promise in the best way possible.  Don’t wait til customers complain or cancel, you need to get in front with continuous improvement.

Step 4: Track Churn Like a Hawk

Churn is when customers leave.  You want to understand why people leave, and why they fail to join too.  If they’re telling you that your product is too expensive, or that they don’t seem to have time to use your products, that’s a nice way of saying that they don’t value them enough to invest time or money.  So try to understand why.  Make a list of these churn drivers, as well as the “failure to launch” drivers of people who are familiar with your offering but not interested, even though they fit your “best customer” profile.  And then focus on fixing them.

Step 5: Use your microscope and your telescope.

Sometimes organizations with the most loyal “disruption-proof” members find themselves with some unique risks, due to this deep engagement.  These organizations tend to use their microscope, carefully evaluating the engagement and happiness of current happy members, at the expanse of using their telescope.  Make sure you spend as much time looking out on the horizon, checking for competitors, changing environments, and new technologies—risks sure, but also opportunities to evolve.  Also look in the other direction, at your prospects, to be sure that prospects continue to find your value proposition, and how you deliver on it, compelling.  The advantage of “members” is that they don’t look for new options—they’ve committed to you, but don't confuse inertia of existing members with being disruption proof when it comes to attracting tomorrow’s members.

When it comes to disruption-proofing your business, the best thing you can do is focus on taking good care of your best customers first.  It’s the relationships that matter in terms of driving loyalty today, and helping you anticipate what they will need tomorrow.

Robbie Kellman Baxter
is a bestselling author, speaker and consultant with more than 20 years of experience providing strategic business advice to major organizations including Netflix, the Wall Street Journal and Electronic Arts. In the past ten years, her company Peninsula Strategies has advised over 100 organizations on subscription and growth strategy. Her first book, The Membership Economy was an international best seller. Her new book, The Forever Transaction, was released in April 2020. It has been described as a true game-changertaking readers through every step of the subscription business process—from initial start-up or testing of a new model to scaling the operation for long-term growth and sustainability to revamping your culture so everyone works together to optimize customer lifetime value. For more information about Robbie go to

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

5 Principles for Ethical Leadership in Times of Crisis

Guest post by Jason Richmond:

Leaders are, by definition, role models, and employees naturally follow their lead. This is particularly true in times of crisis. Five key principles leaders must keep in mind and demonstrate if they are to successfully lead their organizations through disaster are transparency, consistency, accountability, empathy, and resilience.

1. Transparency
Transparency is the best prevention against panic and rumors. Leaders must first be honest with themselves. They need to recognize a crisis is in the making and quickly persuade others that attention and action are needed. Such transparency is essential to build trust and to rally support for what are likely to be difficult decisions and actions. Transparency also means keeping people informed and updated regularly with facts, actions taken, risks, and progress. Answering questions is also critical; be honest when you do not know the answer and be sure to try to find out as soon as possible and follow up.

Consistency in words and tone are critical to maintain trust and confidence. This does not mean withholding new information, but rather, letting people know you have updates or new data. Consistency in tone is also critical. People don’t just listen to your words; in fact, your tone and body language carry the bulk of your message. Staying calm, even-tempered, and focused will help your teams do the same. Leaders also need to make sure their next in line direct reports are consistent. Providing them talking points and keeping them up-to-date will help create consistent messaging.

3. Accountability
Accountability means answerability. Leaders own results, good and bad. Give credit when things go well and don’t point fingers when they do not. When mistakes are made, approach them as an opportunity to learn and improve. Also, admit when you were wrong. Some leaders fear admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness, but nothing could be further from the truth. When leaders admit mistakes, other employees will have the courage to do the same. The earlier we can catch errors and redirect, the more effective we will be at changing course. Leaders do have to hold others accountable, but this does not mean blaming them or berating them. It means setting clear expectations, following up, and taking action when appropriate.

4. Empathy
Transparency appeals primarily to people’s minds. Information is a powerful antidote to panic. Crises typically create chaos, confusion, stress, and fear. Empathy appeals to people’s  hearts. Acknowledge what people are feeling and let them know you care.  Don’t be afraid to admit you have similar feelings, just don’t dwell on them. First, this is NOT about you- it’s about them. And you also need to present strength along with that vulnerability.

5. Resiliency
Leaders need to demonstrate strength and courage, especially in tough times. Resilient leaders recover quickly. They are honest about failure and see it as a temporary setback. They keep the team focused on how to move forward. They focus the team on the opportunities the crisis presents rather than the challenges or losses. Resilience also helps leaders maintain self-control.

Few situations test a leader more than a crisis, regardless of the cause. Keeping in mind the role you play and the powerful influence you have on every person in your organization will help you steer people through tough times.

Jason Richmond is President/CEO and Chief Culture Officer for Ideal Outcomes, Inc., a
company that has developed remote learning programs for companies of all sizes. An authoritative culture change consultant and in-demand keynote speaker he is author of Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth, a proven five-step plan that helps define, diagnose, plan, measure and sustain an enterprising culture that breeds employee achievement and peak success.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Everyday Moments Define Leaders

Guest post from Gregory P. Shea, Ph.D.:

It took a while, but we got it: we were all in crisis.  Many of us still are, especially the most medically and economically vulnerable both here and abroad.  All of us will face moments of challenge and even crisis over the coming months.  So many moments will seem small and yet they will prove definitional.  They will define who we are as leaders, particularly for those whom any of us would lead today or tomorrow.  They will constitute our leadership moments.  I offer the following story in the spirit of us staying focused on our personal leadership opportunities, be they born of position, status, rank, reputation, health or wealth and in the service of our acting as we and those we might lead would hope.

Leadership—good or bad, it lives in moments
It was a Sunday in January.  I was to give a talk on Monday morning in San Juan.  Tough Duty.

I left my family got to the Philly airport well in advance of the 8:30 am flight, the second direct flight of the day to San Juan.  (I had decided that I didn’t need a 7:30 flight on a Sunday morning!) I settled in at the gate area and surveyed my surroundings. My fellow travelers already filled the area to overflowing.  Three staffed service podiums hummed with activity as families of mouse eared travelers in tropical leisure wear moved about in anticipation of a flight to connect them to a Disney cruise departing San Juan.  Good vibrations bounced about and filled the space. Three generations talked and played. 

No Gucci bags or Rolex watches.  This was, I suspected, for many there a three generational trip of a lifetime, probably long in the planning and great in anticipation.  As a parent traveling alone and as a multiple time visitor with my family to Disney World, I took it all in with quiet delight.  I enjoyed the view and the memories.

The first announced flight delay got my attention but did not precipitate worry.  Our plane was coming from Europe, a direct flight, and any delay in a direct overseas flight leads to a bit of head scratching for a seasoned traveler, but my companions seemed completely unfazed.  Perhaps they were right, however inexperienced— ample time remained for them to reach their ship before it departed San Juan that evening.

The second delay moved me to act.  I called American Express and began backup planning.  No, there were no more direct flights from Philly to San Juan today.  How about to Miami?  Lots of options leading to late arrival in Miami.  I secured a ticket complete with free 24 hour cancellation and returned to my seat in the waiting area.  I’d work out a flight to San Juan once I touched down in Miami.  I’d work out the problem of sleep later.

Doom arrived on a bun.  The airline announced free lunch coupons for all travelers.  Happy Day!  Figuratively, I shook my head at the happiness swirling about me.  

Families rushed forward to gather their coupons for free burgers and fries.  Ignorance was bliss, at least for this moment.

Then came additional activity at the service podiums.  A young man in a blazer and tie showed up and began speaking with all the service agents.  I supposed him to be a supervisor.  Another man arrived; he wore a suit and tie.  I supposed him to be a manager.  They all huddled.

As a student of leadership, I took special notice.  I surmised that something bad was about to happen, more particularly that the next delay would jeopardize making San Juan in time for the Disney cruise departure…and that announcement of that delay was imminent.  Just so the leaders had showed up to explain and to support.  Good for them.

Then the supervisor and the manager left.  They left!

I moved to the far side of the service podiums.  I wanted a good view of the coming debacle.
An announcement of the anticipated disastrous delay came.  The room exploded.  Mouse eared adults stormed the service podiums.  The scene unfolded as would an assault on the walls of a medieval castle with the assailants reaching over the parapets as they generated a near deafening noise level.  All with nary a supervisor or manager in sight.  They had fled the scene.  No walking the line of distressed assault.  No timely words of praise to their people.  No intervention to pull aside the most upset of customers and so relieve some of the steaming pressure on the front line.

The designated leaders had left.  They had chosen to leave their people on their own.  They had used their power, their discretion, to remove themselves from harm’s way.  In so doing, they had failed their leadership obligation to their people.
As Aristotle said long ago, “Rule shows the man.”  Updated: ‘Power shows the person.’  It wasn’t a pretty picture.  Illustrative yes, pretty, no.  I could all but see the shadow of the moment casting forward, reaching well into the future of leaders and followers alike.

Gregory P. Shea, PhD, president of Shea and Associates, Inc., consults, researches,
writes, and teaches in the areas of organizational and individual change and leadership. He is adjunct professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and of its Aresty Institute of Executive Education, senior fellow at Wharton School’s Center for Leadership and Change, adjunct senior fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at Wharton, and senior consultant at the Center for Applied Research. He is the co-author (with Cassie Solomon) of Leading Successful Change: 8 Keys to Making Change Work.