Everyone is a leader, correct? We tend to think of leaders as the figure ahead of an organization, a group or a movement. Nelson Mandela was a leader, Rest in Peace. Richard Branson is a leader. Leonard Bernstein was a leader.
What about you? Aren’t you a leader? Yes, you are. At least you are the leader of your own life.
“A leader is a person who has a vision, a drive and a commitment to achieve that vision, and the skills to make it happen.” according to F. John Reh.
Check. I think this applies to you as well.
Regardless if you see yourself as a leader or if you have been given a title to reflect the responsibility taken on for others, being a leader has its challenges. You are supposed to have all of the answers and yet the more you look ahead, the murkier the waters get.
Everyone is leaning on you to make the right decisions, take actions, know the right course. Well, it isn’t so easy.
I have been a life long scholar of leadership: my Dad is a former CEO, my mother was one of the first German women to get an MBA (or the equivalent) right after the war, I have worked for leaders and have been working in several leadership roles myself, and now I am privileged to work with company leaders in the for-profit and not-for-profit world in a global economy.
There are some universal truths about leadership and one of them is the fact that it is not easy to be a leader.
Recently, I came across a blessing by the Irish author and poet John O’Donohue. I found it so profoundly beautiful that I want to share it with you. It captures the essence of what I want for you – the leader:
For A Leader
May you have the grace and wisdom
To act kindly, learning
To distinguish between what is
Personal and what is not.
May you be hospitable to criticism.
May you never put yourself at the center of things.
May you act not from arrogance but out of service.
May you work on yourself,
Building up and refining the ways of your mind.
May those who work for you know
You see and respect them.
May you learn to cultivate the art of presence
In order to engage with those who meet you.
When someone fails or disappoints you,
May the graciousness with which you engage
Be their stairway to renewal and refinement.
May you treasure the gifts of the mind
Through reading and creative thinking
So that you continue as a servant of the frontier
Where the new will draw its enrichment from the old,
And you never become a functionary.
May you know the wisdom of deep listening,
The healing of wholesome words,
The encouragement of the appreciative gaze,
The decorum of held dignity,
The springtime edge of the bleak question.
May you have a mind that loves frontiers
So that you can evoke the bright fields
That lie beyond the view of the regular eye.
May you have good friends
To mirror your blind spots.
May leadership be for you
A true adventure of growth.
From the book “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue.
“ Rip currents are a source of danger for people in ocean and lake surf, dragging swimmers away from the beach. Death by drowning comes following exhaustion while fighting the current,” according to a definition from Wikipedia.
To me the holidays sometimes seem like fighting the current:
It happens every year. Like clockwork. Even if we don’t pay attention, the holiday season is almost as certain as death and taxes, at least in the Western world. A blessing and a curse, all the same, it often seems.
According to a study by Greenberg, Quinlan Rosner in 2006, 49% of men and 51% of women strongly agree that they feel responsibility to make sure everyone in their family is happy.
Stress, stress and more stress…
And herein lies the problem. Rather than focusing on one’s own happiness, the focus shifts to others.
But in the spirit of ‘giving’, isn’t the focus on others what it’s all about?
Not so fast. As much as we want to be with family and friends and give to those who are less well off in one form or another, the shift to pleasing others causes enormous stress. Let’s be honest, for many it’s not a shift at all. They try to please others all the time. The effect is compounded during the holidays since there is more interaction with family than during the rest of the year. The desire to please others is flawed thinking in my mind, especially, if our vessel is depleted already, psychologically, physically and emotionally. What more is there to give? What good does it do, when we recognize and acknowledge others, while feeling miserable inside? So, here is my #1 strategy for not just surviving, but actually thriving during the holidays:
Put Yourself First!
Let me repeat.
Put Yourself First!
Ask yourself what you need to not only survive but thrive?
Need some alone time? Great. — Time to say NO to others.
Need some one-on-one time with a special someone? — Time to ask.
Need time outdoors smelling the roses? Building a snowman? — Time to give yourself permission.
Need to not be under the in-laws’ roof? — Time to get a hotel room.
Need work to not encroach on family time? — Time to set boundaries with the boss.
Need to let go of perfectionism? — Time to let go of being attached to the outcome.
Or how about this one:
Need to feel loved? — Time to love yourself first.
It starts with YOU! Start with yourself first and manage your resources (time and money) accordingly and you will float through the holidays with ease and meaning. Pretend you are a kayaker conserving energy by going with the current rather than against it.
One last tip:
Consider what you need to say NO to in order to say YES to yourself. It works!
Brain Fog. Body Fatigue. Soul Perspective.
Jet lag sucks — or does it really?
I never give myself credit for being an expert at handling jet lag, but I am. For five decades (yes, admittedly), I have been dealing with the after effects of long distance travel. And unlike a pilot who never really adjusts to the time zone, I have taken on the challenge of jet lag hundreds of times (suffering at a high level, I suppose).
In my teens, I went from Germany to the United States totally oblivious to the rhythm of traveling across time zones. Commuting for college between Munich and Los Angeles in my early 20s taught me to respect the distance, but youth allowed me to roll with the punches (at least in my memory).
In my late 20s and early 30s, traveling to sometimes three countries a week while based in London was exciting and exhilarating. Jet lag, who cares? London to San Francisco for a weekend? Sure, no problem.
Then came travel and jet lag with young children. There is enough material in that to fill another article or two. Suffice it to say, I can still see the remnants of freshly watered plant soil smeared all over the house while Mommy and Daddy were in exhausted deep sleep shortly after the long-haul flight from SFO.
Kids also seemed to introduce the idea of catching colds on airplanes. Don’t get me wrong, you can catch a bug from anyone on a plane, but children seem to exponentially increase the risk and it doesn’t have to be your own kids that spread the germs.
In my 40s and now 50s I have learned a thing or two about jet lag, but some of the effects I still can’t change, such as being wide awake at 2 a.m. as I am writing this article. People awake at this hour without jet lag typically aren’t productive. They tend to be destructive with their minds going into overdrive. Jet lag offers me intense productivity at really odd times of day, usually when nothing and no one else can distract me.
But I digress.
I have had the privilege of traveling around the world, once east, once west, in addition to hundreds of trips across the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and close to the North Pole. So, yes, I have learned a thing or two about how to ease the pain. Here are my golden rules for preventing, managing and surviving jet lag:
1) Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Plan for your arrival when you book your flight, regardless of whether you book yourself or you delegate this task. Know when you will have your natural low in the local time. For example, I know that I will be very sleepy early in the morning when going to Europe, but that will occur in the afternoon when I return to California. I avoid meetings or extensive driving during the REM sleep phase for safety reasons. As an executive you don’t want to argue your case before the Board of Directors during the REM sleep phase. Neither do you want a surgeon to operate on you when he just returned from a conference halfway around the world.
2) Fit as a Fiddle
Especially busy executives tend to fall short on this. If your body is not in good health and you are not in shape, your immune system is not at its best. The fitter you are the quicker you bounce back after landing. Exercise before, during, and after flight makes time travel a lot more pleasant. We typically know how to exercise before and after, but what about during? Here are a few tips: Take the stairs rather than the elevator or the escalator. Walk around the airport rather than sit in the lounge. Stand instead of sit. Walk the aisle of the airplane when possible. Do stretching exercises, even while sitting in your seat. Ask a personal trainer at your gym for suggestions. Some people do yoga; it’s rumored that Sting does that on all flights. You can almost do a full workout while on a plane, except for cardio exercises. Use the hours upon arrival that you feel good to exercise and help your body adjust.
3) Cool as a Cucumber
Lots has been published about our diets and how we need to focus more on eating vegetables and protein and less processed foods. Unfortunately, that is not easy in airports and airplanes even though it has gotten better in some. My # 1 rule: Eat lightly. No Duck a l’Orange before stepping on an airplane. On the contrary, eat a salad before so you won’t feel bloated in increasingly tight seats. It will help you transition with your digestion as well. Think twice about the salted snacks and the mashed potatoes or the dessert that will make you crave more salt or sugar. I often take sliced bell peppers on board.
When you arrive, make sure you have access to light snacks for when you wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Eating lots of vegetables and salads also helps with traveler’s constipation, a not-so-pleasant side effect of traveling across time zones. Also, depending on the local cuisine, watch what you are eating. More or less fiber than in your usual diet can have a big impact. The same goes for unusually spicy or bland food. I personally have to watch my bread and cold cut intake when going to Bavaria. Leberkaes’ und brez’n are my all-time favorites and because I can’t get them in California I tend to overindulge — at a price! The same might be the case for pasta in Italy, pommes frites in France, or shepherd’s pie in the United Kingdom.
4) Liquid Lunch – Think Not
Avoid alcohol, especially at 30,000 feet! The alcohol affects your body much more at high elevations. Being confined to your seat for long stretches of time and being bored is no excuse. I used to love a split on my British Airways flights from London to Frankfurt. But drinking alcohol on transatlantic flights can prove to be quite challenging. Getting up after a long flight and then dragging yourself through customs is no easy task. American Airlines used to greet flights from Scandinavia with an extra allotment of wheel chairs to handle all the drunk passengers. Are you sure you want to be one of them? Also, alcohol tends to mess with your sleep rhythm, so best stay clear.
Caffeine is tricky too. I just spoke with an executive who flew to Barcelona and kept himself going with lots of coffee. He had a terrible time with jet lag. A cup of coffee or tea to get you over the hump is fine, but all in moderation. Otherwise, you’ll be so wired at 3 a.m. you’ll wonder why you didn’t resist for hours.
Water is your best friend. Airplane rides tend to dehydrate us (and alcohol tends to add to that problem). I know you can’t take water through security. But do yourself a favor and buy a bottle of water before you get on a plane. Even better bring an empty bottle and refill it in the airport and on the plane. That way you can have water when you need it, not when the flight attendants provide it. After arrival continue with keeping water with you at all times and drink frequently. Waking up in a bed at midnight, disoriented, thirsty and groggy is bad enough, but having to go on a hunt in unfamiliar territory is hard. Plenty of water also helps flush out toxins in your body. I know plenty of people who don’t want to drink a lot of water for fear of having to get up and use the facilities, but don’t buy into that story. I suspect you won’t have to get up more often than otherwise, because you are just countering dehydration at 30,000 feet.
5) The Best Defense Is a Good Offense
Even, if you are not a fan of taking vitamins regularly, do take them when traveling across time zones. I personally take Airborne (no, they didn’t sponsor this article, although I wish) before, during and after every long haul flight to boost my immune system. It helps me fight off all the germs that are in airports and airplanes just waiting to attack me.
6) The Emperor’s New Clothes
Think carefully what to wear on a flight. Start with the shoes. You want well broken-in, comfortable shoes that won’t leave you with blisters on the long way to the gate, that you can easily slip on and off during security checks and that will fit again after a long flight with swollen feet (exponentially brutal while pregnant, I might add). I personally always travel with slippers that I put on right after take off. You might wonder what slippers have to do with jet lag. My philosophy is the more I can relax and enjoy the flight, the easier time I will have with jet lag.
Moving on to clothes. You want to dress comfortably and in layers. You never know if you will be sweating or freezing on the airplane and usually you don’t have any control over the temperature whatsoever. Just recently I found myself stuck in a window seat freezing for almost eight hours. Luckily, I didn’t get sick this time, but I would like to think only because I was prepared. Always carry a scarf — men, you too.
Clothes also matter for jet lag. You want to be comfortable for the first few days in a new location. Super tight clothes or scratchy new outfits might not feel so good, when all your body wants is to curl up.
7) Ahead of Time
Change your clock as soon as you get on the airplane and structure your food intake and sleep cycle according to the new location. Try not to calculate what time it is in your body. Otherwise your mind will use it as an excuse and make you feel even worse.
8) Sleep Tight
When it’s dark out, sleep. That’s it. When it’s dark outside, close your eyes, use eye shades and ear plugs as necessary and meditate. It will lead you to much needed sleep. Even if not, it will leave you more rested. Upon arrival, try not to give into the temptation of taking a nap. An espresso can help you over the hump. Ideally, you want to sleep at night and be active during the day.
What if you can’t fall asleep or wake up early totally wired? Rather than fighting it, use this time to your advantage. It might be your most productive time for the first few days (hence, I am writing this article now). Avoid the temptation to be physically active or to use screens during the dark hours to keep you from being bored. A TV or computer will give you the illusion that you are supposed to be awake when you are not. Instead, read, meditate, or write on a note pad. Dump your thoughts and then turn the light off again. Even if you get up, keep the lights dimmed and engage in mellow activities.
9) Worth Its Salt
Because your body needs to adjust to a totally new rhythm, you will be productive and creative at different times than you normally would. Use it to your advantage. For example, I am writing this article at 2 a.m. and I know that I will be unproductive and mellow at 2 p.m. today. Work with this shift. Because your body is out of sync and at odd times it can offer you a completely new perspective on life where you came from, and life where you are going. I call this the gift of jet lag. As much as I dread the strange feelings of fatigue, I marvel at my output when I am in lockstep with people on the other side of the earth. Please share your thoughts below. What did you take away from this article? What actions will you take as a result of reading it?
An incredibly easy way to increase your executives’ performance and grow your organization
Improving employee performance is simple. It doesn’t require a rocket scientist, a slave driver or a bolt of lightning. You don’t have to micromanage, get picky about your executives’ productivity metrics or incentivize them with tons of money.
The truth behind increasing employee performance is obvious, easy to understand and will result in a net gain for your business.
In fact, it is so simple it can be explained in just two sentences:
1) Provide a clear vision and set realistic expectations.
2) Equip your executives with all the tools to succeed.
I know … you are probably a little disappointed. You wanted some magic, something different and clever, the missing ingredient that has held you back and will produce breakthrough results. Instead I am proposing something your human resources department has told you for years, and if not, they should have been.
But hear me out: I have coached hundreds of executives in thousands of coaching hours and the results are obvious. It’s not just me saying this. Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill passed on this wisdom decades ago. It is wisdom that has been proven over time and will probably also work for you (if you just put it into practice).
In short, if you want peak performance and the highest probability of success, then these two sentences contain the essential wisdom you need to know. Let’s get into more detail on them.
PROVIDE A CLEAR VISION AND SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
The first sentence includes a couple of concepts that aren’t optional unless you want to provoke chaos. If these concepts are not realized, decisions are either not made at all or are poorly made — both recipes for disaster.
- Provide a clear vision
- Set realistic expectations
There are endless ways to arrive at a vision. You can take it from the organization’s founders or have your own aha moment in the shower. You can brainstorm it with your executive team or dream up something outrageously exciting on your own.
Whichever way it happens, you must create a gap between where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. Otherwise, what’s the point? Why would anyone work hard to get exactly nowhere? If a goal can be checked off like an item on a to-do list, it is just not lofty enough. A vision, on the other hand, is so inspiring and exciting that it naturally pulls your team forward. It provides meaning and ideally a noble cause.
A clear vision provides something to take risks for because the benefits far outweigh the costs. It needs to be clear and specific enough to rally the troops. When John F. Kennedy professed in 1962 to put a man on the moon within a decade, an entire nation rallied behind the vision. For a vision to work it must come alive. Writing it down on your annual report or the entrance wall in your headquarters isn’t good enough. You need to be the steward of the vision and breathe life into it every day.
A vision alone won’t do, though.
In addition, it is your responsibility as leaders to communicate individual, team and organization-wide expectations. How else will people know what to do? How else can you measure if a job is well done? How else can you possibly ask your executives to hold themselves and each other accountable?
Here are the top expectations I have of myself and of anyone I am working with:
1. Act with integrity – always
2. Be committed to the cause; if you can’t, please make room for those who can
3. Show up and be prepared to take action; nothing less will do
4. Collaborate for the best ideas to come to fruition because it is fun
5. Accept ambiguity since the only thing that is certain is that change happens
EQUIP YOUR EXECUTIVES WITH ALL THE TOOLS TO SUCCEED
In the middle ages, a man was given a horse to do his work. In the industrial revolution, he was given a machine to be productive. Today he needs a person, another human being by his side to sort through the clutter and messiness of rapid change.
It is wisdom my late mother knew when she said ‘behind every successful man is a woman.’ It is not the gender that matters, but the fact that one human being needs another to succeed.
No athlete in his right mind would ever attempt to make it to the Olympic Games without a coach (or two). Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, publicly stated that the advice that stuck out for him was to get a coach.
“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” ~John Wooden (basketball player and coach)
Remember when Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy referred to Cristina as her ‘person?’ Cristina was her go-to person when things got tough, when moral and ethical dilemmas came up, when relationship issues stifled progress, when the stress became unbearable. Cristina was her friend, her confidant, her ally. A coach does essentially the same and some. Coaches aren’t attached to the specifics of the outcome, just to the overall success of the executive.
Can you imagine what your business would look like if every executive was given the opportunity to partner with a coach? Every single one? It would be like equipping each employee with a rocket booster to perform better in his/her job, to live happier lives and be more creative/innovative in the process.
Why should you take on this expense? Because it is probably cheaper than what you are currently doing.
Think about it: All executives get directions from the boss, the board, the powers that be. But who actually helps them to succeed? Who acknowledges all the hard work and the long hours? Who cheers them on when the going gets tough? Who can challenge them without demotivating them at the same time?
According to a Towers Watson Study, attracting employees is challenging as well.
- 52 percent of United States companies have a problem attracting “critical-skill employees” while 31 percent have problems retaining them
- For “top-performing” employees, the numbers aren’t much better: 45 percent of U.S. companies have problems attracting them and a quarter have problems with retention
- Even “high-potential” employees are hard to come by: 40 percent of U.S. companies struggle to attract them and 25 percent have problems with retention
If you add up the cost of attrition, retention and motivation, it might just make sense to support your valuable employees with someone who will focus on their success.
“Looking again at the employers’ list of qualities, it seems that there’s a tendency to forget that employees have lives — or needs or wants — outside of the office.” ~ Phil Stott, Vault.com
Increasing your executives’ productivity and leading them to peak performance is simple. Show them where to go and be specific about the part you want them to take in the journey. Then value their contribution by giving them all the support to succeed.
The only thing between you and a growing business is your willingness to take action.
Please share your thoughts below. What did you take away from this article? What actions will you take as a result of reading it?
Learn How Four Simple Truths Will Automatically Put You into the ‘Great Leader’ Category
You have made it to the C-Suite!
Or to head of the business unit or country manager or what have you.
Just because you have made it to the top, though, doesn’t make you a great leader. All it means is that you have made it to the top of the political food chain. Each company has a different company culture and with it an inherent political process as to how to make it to the top. Congratulations, you have figured out the system.
You have worked hard to be at the top, but now all the responsibility lies on you. Everyone is looking to you for bottom line results. And it starts to get really lonely, really fast.
Let’s establish a few basics about leadership:
WHAT IS LEADERSHIP?
Leadership is being a resource to the group. Nothing more and nothing less.
You might be surprised to read this. You are there for your team, not the other way around. If you can make your team succeed, you succeed. You don’t have to have all the answers, all of the connections, all of the resources. In all honesty that’s kind of a relief, isn’t it? So, what do you need to do?
WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AND HOW DO YOU GET EVALUATED?
It is your responsibility to build and maintain a high-performing team around a common purpose. And you get evaluated by the performance of the team. That’s it. Plain and simple.
WHAT MAKES YOU A GREAT RESOURCE TO YOUR TEAM?
Here are four simple truths that your team expects from you. The people on your team will only follow you if you exemplify all four of these. Only then will they get moving and make the impossible possible. Only then will they enthusiastically show up for work, innovate, execute and grow the business. Any misstep in these categories and you will pay a price. So, let’s take a look:
Your team members want to know they can trust you, that you won’t betray them or stab them in the back, that you won’t steal their ideas, their health, their livelihood or their dignity. Simply put, the people on your team expect your highest level of integrity. And they deserve nothing less because they spend their precious time for you, your cause, your destiny.
2) Good Judgment
Good judgment is the ability to make the best decision possible on the basis of an objective assessment of facts while resisting influences of peer pressure and emotion.
Ironically, good judgment can’t be recognized directly but can only be inferred by the lack of bad judgment. What one person sees as good judgment, another will see as bad.
“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” ~ Will Rogers
Not making a decision is rarely the best answer. Only when you don’t have sufficient information to make a decision is it wise to consciously decide to wait until you do. Beware, though, that sometimes decisions then get made for you.
As a leader you are in the business of decision making. Listen to your team’s advice and then make your own decision. Your team expects that.
Your team will demand experience from you. Do you know what you are talking about? Have you gone to battle before? Have you succeeded in similar situations? If you are not authentic in how you show up, your team members will be able to tell and they will test you. Walking the talk is essential.
And last but not least:
Do you have a vision that you can communicate and rally people around? Does the vision make sense? Is it a believable story and does it fit into the context of the business? Is it worth your employees’ effort? If the vision is big and compelling enough, it will pull a team, an organization, even whole nations to success.
Doing the right thing at the right time is easier said than done, but it’s the ultimate goal.
You don’t have to be a CEO to be a leader. Everyone can be a leader. And as a matter of fact we need a lot more leaders, but not just any leaders. We need great leaders.
Below are some of my all time favorite leadership quotes to help remind you of what it takes to be a GREAT leader.
A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together. —Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. —John Maxwell
No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it. —Andrew Carnegie
I must follow the people. Am I not their leader? —Benjamin Disraeli
Earn your leadership every day. –Michael Jordan
What Will Make You the Employer of Choice?
Some of the largest expenses of any business organization are salaries and employment costs. Every reorganization, downsizing or rightsizing initiative looks at employee costs first.
But wait. There is an elephant in the room.
A significant cost that is less talked about is the expense of attracting, hiring and retaining the best talent.
In a recent conversation with the Senior Vice President of Human Resources for a global public relations firm in San Francisco, she estimated the cost of replacing a vice president-level executive to be about $500,000. Loss of productivity and costs for recruiting, hiring, training, as well as keeping an employee engaged add up and are significant.
Hence, it seems logical to invest in talent that is a good fit to begin with. But how do you find the best talent that fits your organization? How do you retain that talent? And why should you care?
For the long-term viability of your organization you can’t afford not to, but here are three simple reasons why you should care to be the employer of choice:
1) Birth rates are falling and talent requirements have changed
The lowest birth rate ever reported for the United States was in 2011 — 12.7 per 1,000 people, according to the Center for Disease Control’s online report in its March issue of Pediatrics. European birth rates are even lower, with the lowest birth rate in Germany at 8.2 births per 1,000 people. So the talent pool is shrinking.
In addition, if we have learned anything since the great recession started in 2008, the talent required for fast-changing technologically advanced companies is shifting significantly. No longer is it sufficient to have graduated from a good university with a sought-after degree. Employers are looking for entrepreneurial-minded, flexible employees who can solve problems that have not even been identified yet. And not everyone is on board with this new mindset.
With a shrinking pool of candidates, organizations need to recruit employees in a different way. Coming out of the recession one might think there is plenty of talent out there. However, the game has changed. Organizations need different talent than what seems to be available. It might seem counterintuitive considering new technology advancements, but retaining or hiring older employees might be the way to go. Equally, women, and especially mothers, bring a unique skill set to problem solving. Last time I checked, children don’t come with manuals. Mothers make it up as they go. Just what you need in this new work environment.
2) Society is knowledge based
In The Age of Discontinuity (1969), Peter Drucker wrote about a transition from an economy based on material goods to one based on knowledge. I believe we have arrived there. In a knowledge-based society, the employers and employees engage differently, more collaboratively and with more transparency — out of necessity. We need to challenge the assumptions under which employers and employees engage. What will make an employee maximize her potential in a knowledge-based society? And what qualities does she need to bring to succeed? Enthusiasm and the willingness to learn are equally important to existing skill sets.
3) The nature of the work force is shifting
The environment and sustainability are becoming increasingly important issues for society at large. Resources like water and oil are limited. Natural disasters call for resilience. Terrorism is random and arbitrary. During this time of rapid change, the desire to make the most of every day is prevalent in people’s minds. It behooves employees and companies to share and compromise their finite resources. Well, the same could be said for our government.
If you agree with why you should be an employer of choice, it’s time to think about the next step: How do you become the employer of choice?
According to Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplace report, of the country’s roughly $100 million full-time employees, an alarming 70 million (70%) are either not engaged at work or actively disengaged. So, when people do change jobs, they are cautious about where to sign on the dotted line.
From an employer’s point of view, hiring in a knowledge-based society looks different. One of my CEO clients is in the process of filling a vice president position for research and development. Even after getting everyone’s buy-in, completing negotiations, and obtaining a signed contract, he is still nervous about whether the candidate will come on board.
So what to do? Here are some ideas:
1) Communicate and demonstrate your company culture
Design your organization to excite people’s minds. Every employee wants to come to work and do her best. Unfortunately, too many employees come to work and are hindered by the company culture to be their best. It is time to be open to what the employee’s ideas are. Listen to your employees and learn from them. And when you think you have listened, listen again. Give people autonomy to solve problems and allow them to be self-responsible.
How do you demonstrate a commitment to your culture?
In meetings at online retailer Amazon, for example, an additional chair to resemble the customer having a seat at the table is placed around the table. The company is very customer focused and this drives the culture.
Take a look at your company culture and identify the attractiveness to prospective employees. If you get negative feedback from prospective and current employees, realign based on your culture and values. And no, you as the boss don’t have all the answers. Engaging employees and customers is essential. It is time to engage all of the human resources available.
2) Create a work identity around a cause rather than the company
Ford Motor Company is moving from a traditional automobile manufacturer to a 21st century technology company focused on responsible mobility. Starbucks is moving from a coffee company to being one focused on community. What is your organization’s cause? What are you called to do?
Focus your organization on solving a problem rather than on what product it can produce. Become organic and constantly evolving and innovating. Become a collaborative solutions developer.
Financial incentives are still important but increasingly employees want to feel that what they do matters. The factory models of paying based on tire output, sales bonuses, or base pay plus stock options are outdated and not sufficient in a knowledge-based economy. Provide incentives based on purpose not performance.
3) Create social good and successfully align all stakeholders
[Deleted a sentence here that felt redundant.] Maybe install a Stakeholder Board rather than a traditional Board of Directors. By having all stakeholders at the table you have a better chance of operating in everyone’s best interest.
Hire diversity of thought because your employees need to deal with unique problems that call for unique solutions. Why would you hire everyone to be just like you? The more diverse your workforce, the better chance you have of coming up with unique solutions. Your employees need to be flexible and adapt easily to change. Hire employees that can work autonomously. They need to own the cause.
Focusing your recruiting and engagement process on shared values is key. Social media offers a great avenue for transparency. Increased transparency requires authenticity. The public relations backlash of inauthenticity is costly.
In order to be at their best, let employees make decisions. For example, people like different work environments; some like it fast-paced and intense, some need structure, some are great team players and others work better alone. The more people are involved in designing their work environment, identifying the people they work with, crafting the way to engage, and most importantly, helping determine what they want to make a difference in, the more motivated they will be.
Welcome to the new normal: This is how you earn leadership every day.
Before attending the Sustainable Brand 13 Conference in San Diego recently, I proudly told my teenage son I might be able to test drive the new electric BMWi there. I was looking forward to learning more about the car and how BMW engages in sustainable practices. I was even more excited because I am a native of Munich and BMW represents a bit of my home, culture and heritage.
How deeply offended and disappointed I was!
As an Executive Coach who has logged thousands of hours coaching senior executives, often with a cross-cultural context, I witnessed a major company falling into the trap of offending a prospective customer in a global setting with potentially far reaching influence. Read on for lessons that can be learned and shared from this experience:
1) Be Conscious of Who Is Around You and What You Say — Always
You never know who is sitting next to you. Looking for a seat in the ballroom, we chose to scoot next to two gentlemen, well dressed and engaged in conversation. They had to get up to let us squeeze by and I overheard them speak in German. I immediately addressed them in German, but my comment was more or less ignored. That was fine, except apparently neither of them had picked up that I am a German native and could understand everything they said. One of them proceeded to make a derogatory statement about Americans and continued that he couldn’t wait to go back to Munich, where everything was correct. I was outraged. I wondered what gave him the right to negatively speak about his hosts and assume to know what is right. Shortly thereafter one of the men was called on stage. Imagine our surprise when we saw he was to give a keynote address to 1,000 sustainability experts as a main sponsor of the conference and the head of marketing for BMWi. Don’t ever assume that people can’t hear you or understand you.
2) Know When to Pitch — and When Not to Pitch
Even when you are sponsoring a conference and have invested significant funds to have the platform to speak from, don’t assume that it is appropriate to do so. People started to tune out when the product advertisement was shown, which was right at the beginning of the presentation. Pick up the audience where they are, namely curious about how you go about sustainability practices and don’t pitch them. Listeners are more sophisticated than you might think, so give them some credit. A keynote address is not the right place for a pitch.
3) Be Transparent
We were told about glitzy sustainability practices with regard to using natural wood rather than plastic in cars, environmentally friendly ways to use olive oil to treat the leather, or using electricity instead of diesel or fuel to energize a car. The fact that the carbon fiber chassis are produced in Washington State (in cooperation with Boeing) — where the CO2 emissions are astronomical and where the chassis then have to be transported all over the world, resulting in large transportation costs — was brushed under the carpet. According to an article posted on Smart Planet by Mark Harper in 2011, carbon fiber in automobiles increases their carbon footprint from a total life cycle perspective and may have recycling challenges as well. It certainly seemed like a case of greenwashing. Again, know your audience and be transparent.
4) Be Culturally Sensitive
When interviewed after the keynote, the head of marketing for BMWi, a German native whose English was very good, made a statement that made me cringe in my seat: “We don’t see ourselves ruling countries.” The audience laughed uncomfortably. There is a historical and cultural context to remember. Germany has in fact ruled other countries with catastrophic consequences, twice. The collective memory around the world and in particular in the U.S. is extremely sensitive to even the slightest reference to something similar happening again. It behooves any German leader to be beyond humble and sensitive to the history and cultural nuances. Confidence is good; arrogance is not.
5) Be Careful How You Treat the Competition
When sitting in front of the exposition tent for lunch, I overheard a conversation that made me smile. Directly across from our table were the cars BMW had brought to test drive (disappointingly not the BMWi, but a previous concept car). Within close proximity a Nissan Leaf was parked, which one could argue is a direct competitor of BMWi. As we were eating, the Nissan Leaf was towed. The conversation around my lunch table was centered around how the BMW executives had the car towed. I don’t know if that is true, but the perception of BMW simply removing the competition from the playing field caused a strong negative reaction and seemed to cement the unfavorable image created in the morning session. Might BMW have benefitted from engaging in a dialogue about electric automobiles instead of a dialogue about removing the competition?
Not only will I not purchase a BMW any time soon, I suspect my CEO clients and followers will hear about my choice as well.
What do you do when you know there is a traffic jam in route to your destination?
You take a detour, won’t you? You deviate from the most direct course.
You circumvent the heavy traffic to save time, avoid stress and get to your destination with peace of mind.
Let me ask you:
What do you do when something turns out different from what you expected, such as the resignation of your leader, or unexpected drying up of funds, or the sudden outburst of an unhappy customer?
Now, you have two choices:
a) You pretend nothing happened (or you didn’t notice) and continue on the same course as before, resulting you to be stuck in traffic, or
b) You circumvent the situation and take a detour
The good thing is there are only 2 choices, either you do nothing or you do something. Only in rare cases is doing nothing a good way out of a mess. If you decide to do something though, you have to make many more decisions. You have to evaluate which route to take, you have to consult maps and other resources. You have to discern what matters most to you, i.e. getting there fast or in once piece. This detour, this new reality often derails people. All of a sudden there are temptations to take short cuts, such as driving across people’s lawns. In the business world detours could bring ethical dilemmas.
When things turn out differently, the best made plans and intentions go out the window.
We know that things will turn out differently than expected all the time. I can cite dozens of examples every day, where things turned out differently than expected. So, what do the best of us do, when they become aware of a traffic jam, when there is change?
Here are my top 7 tips to adapting to change:
1) Know That You Will Have to Take Detours. Period.
The possibility for change is infinite, every nanosecond of every day can have an exponential impact on others. YOU can have an exponential impact on others. Change is constant, it’s a fact of life. Yet so many walk through life taking the status quo for granted. Because change frightens people and it upsets the story that we are telling ourselves every day. Whatever story you are telling yourself right now, know that it’s real only for a fleeting moment and this works to your advantage and your disadvantage. It means good things can turn bad instantly and, bad things can turn good also in an instant. Accepting this possibility rather than fighting it gets you ready and primed for whatever life will throw at you.
2) When the Unexpected Happens, Stop and Listen
Only when you find yourself in an emergency will the fight or flight response serve you well. The problem is that most of us don’t find ourselves in emergencies all the time. We are made to belief we are in an emergency more often than we really are though to get us to react. All the urgent phone calls and email asking you to do something are usually not urgent at all. They might be urgent to the person requesting something from you, but not for you. So, stop and assess the situation. Listen to your gut. Ask yourself, will this get me closer to my goal, or will it take me further away from my goal.
3) Be REALLY Clear on Where You Want to Go
You might think you knew where you were going. However, traffic jams and change give you a chance to reevaluate, if you still want to go where you said you wanted to go. The best way to get clarity is by talking the situation through with someone. By talking out loud and you listening to your own voice clarity is inevitable.
4) Consult All Resources, And Then Some
Here is another truth: You don’t have all the answers. As much as you might think you do and the fact that you are at the top of your game makes you belief it even more, but you just don’t know it all. Nobody does, so you are in really good company. Let’s stop pretending and faking it. Let’s just face up to it. You need our help, your family and friends, your colleagues, your community, your organization. Whatever circles you are navigating in, there are resources for you to consult. May be someone in your carpool, knows of a different short cut you weren’t aware of. Maybe your colleague in the office is aware that the all important meeting was canceled anyhow. Think outside of the box and trust that others are well-informed, might have the missing piece and want to help.
5) Consider the Return
Now, this is an interesting one. I am talking about both the return now (abandoning the mission), or the return after completing the mission. How will you be received by your team, your tribe, your community when you come back? Will they acknowledge you for the trouble you have gone through to get there and back? Will there be gratitude for your efforts? If not, time to consider what you are doing…
5) Be Open to New Opportunities on the New Route
Let’s say the traffic jam caused you to choose a different form of transportation. Let’s say you find yourself now sitting in a commuter train, a bit uneasy about what will happen next, but confident enough that you will make it to your destination in time. Open your eyes to what you see along the way. Just by looking out the window, you might see another prospect, or you might run into your neighbor who holds the key to your new life science discovery without you knowing it yet. Anything is possible, always.
6) Enjoy the Ride
Yes, you are on a different course. Things have changed and things are turning out differently than you thought, but hey, why not smell the roses as long as you are at it. This moment will never come back, so make the most of it, by recognizing it.
7) Arrive in Less Time and Stress Free
Yeah, you made it. Congratulations! You have arrived faster and are feeling accomplished. No, it wasn’t the most direct route, but that’s okay. You got there and you gained valuable insights along the way. You learned a new route, a new way of doing things, got to know new people, and found new opportunities. What could possibly be better than that?
How can you use these tips?
Plug in your ‘traffic jam’ into this list of tips, the team leader that quit, the oil spill attributed to your company, the drug addiction of your teen at home or the cancer diagnosis. What is your pattern of dealing with change? Do you react too fast? Do you not consult others in your network? Have you lost your way a bit? Are you missing the nuggets along the way?
Time to take a deep breath – and assess.
I bet you won’t look at a traffic jam in quite the same way again.
To create financial wealth you need to make more than you spend and invest the difference. This seems like such a simple concept, but it is not that easy to attain. I have been thinking a lot about our stressed out society. March seems to have been the month of computer challenges or put out backs, both signs of stress. Everyone is super busy working hard on not making the house of cards collapse. How ironic that Netflix introduced a series called “House of Cards” this month, but I digress. What if we were to apply the said concept of making more than spending and investing the difference to the way we spend our time?
I believe our time is finite and none of us really knows how much time we have in our able bodies. So, we really can’t make more time, except by living healthy and preventing illness and physical decline as much as possible. In a sense we’d be adding time to our time bank by eating well, exercising and maintaining our bodies at peak performance.
In addition, we need to spend time on what matters most and what ensures our survival. We do this by engaging in meaningful work. Notice: I am saying meaningful work, rather than a job – there is a difference. Meaningful work can be helping your children with their homework, helping your spouse solve a problem or volunteering for a good cause. With the time left over, we can invest in ourselves by learning new skills, enjoying the company of friends, replenishing our soul in nature etc.
My intention is to add to my piggy bank of time by actively living healthy, subtracting time engaged in what’s needed for my sustainability and enjoying life to the fullest with the rest.
How does this concept sit with you?
On which end of the equation do you need to make adjustments? What if the difference between time you have available and the time you spend is 0? Then it’s time to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had an epiphany: “Life Coaches are unnecessary,” stated Dr. Yong Zhao in his address to the Santa Cruz education community at Cabrillo College, California. When he said it, everyone laughed, and so did I. Dr. Zhao was making a distinction between what we need to survive, such as food, water, and shelter, and what we really don’t need, such as iphones and coaches, along with divorce attorneys, accountants and a slew of other professionals.
He made a compelling case for the value of the US educational system, that despite having produced mediocre student math scores in comparison to the Asian scores for years, the US still outperforms all other countries in producing entrepreneurs. He attributed this strength to higher creativity and especially higher confidence in students. He went on to say that we are in danger of losing that entrepreneurial spirit when we strive to compete with Chinese “sausage making machines,” producing employees for manufacturing jobs that are on the decline.
What is needed in today’s work environment more than ever are entrepreneurial qualities to solve the problems we are facing in our families, communities, organizations and society. All of us need to be entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs for non-profit causes, policy entrepreneurs for government agencies, intrapreneurs within organizations or business entrepreneurs running our own companies.
How do we educate our kids to be entrepreneurial? By starting with the strengths of the child rather than by imposing a certain curriculum onto our children. Sure all kids need to have a foundational knowledge to function in society and we can debate what that foundation is. But students need personal education, fostering their natural talents and gifts. And we need teachers who are willing to not be the expert at any subject other than uncovering those gifts through inquiry. And here we close the loop: We need all teachers to be coaching their students. Do they turn into life coaches in the process?
Everyone understands that a great football coach is needed to get to the Superbowl. Teachers need coaching skills to uncover the strengths of the child. The good teachers already have these skills. We need educational environments that allow teachers to explore with their students. Maybe we won’t need lifecoaches or executive coaches in the future, although I doubt it. However, I am convinced all of us need the skills coaches embody, such as inquiry, focus on the student, and value- based goal setting to teach, invent, discover and sell our way to a happy, healthy and useful life.
What can you contribute toward this journey to entrepreneurship of our future generations?