Leadership

A group of office workers at a conference table with laptops

Getting Leaders On Board With Change

October 23 @ 5:53 pm CDT

How to approach leaders that are stuck in tradition and often struggle with changing or trying something new. I’ve been a futurist for 20 years, and at just about every conference I’ve presented, someone has come up to me afterwards and said something similar to this: “I agree with what you say about the need to change, engage younger generations, and plan for the future — but I can’t apply it. I’m not the leader. And the people I work for have no desire to change. The people I work for are stuck in the past.” This is a space where many people exist, working in an organization underneath a leader or board of directors who either can’t or won’t be open to the concept of change. As a result, these team members feel powerless to innovate. They have ideas, but they believe they have no voice. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the 20th century, leadership was the equivalent of power, fueled by a top down, ‘do-it-because-I-said-so’ approach. It was a role that had to be earned over time, restricted to people with significant experience and a specific job title. In its era, this approach to leadership was effective. Here and now, this approach is highly ineffective. Here and now, organizations need leaders who are willing to disrupt the status quo and be open to new ideas and solutions. Here and now, the best leaders are visionary and add value to an organization—not slow it down or kill initiative. Regrettably, too many people think about and define leadership as though we’re still working in the 20th century. They think leadership remains limited to positions and titles and say things like “my leader won’t change”. If you haven’t heard it before, I will say it now: A leader who refuses to change isn’t permission to be complacent. It’s an outdated, irrelevant notion that people in ivory towers, sitting at mahogany board tables should grant…

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How to Deal with an Organization in Denial

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October 23 @ 5:53 pm CDT

A year ago, President Trump was under fire by experts and pundits for being in denial about the seriousness of the pandemic. In the early weeks, the President referred to the virus as a hoax, refused to issue a federal stay at home order, and hesitated to fully utilize the Defense Production Act. Unfortunately, leadership denial isn’t exclusive to presidents or pandemics. Henry Ford’s denial ended up costing the company a whopping $250 million. Model T sales were declining, yet Ford dismissed the figures because he suspected rivals of manipulating them. One of his top executives warned him of the dire situation and Ford fired him. When he finally decided to make a new car, Ford shut down production for months and the company lost its lead in the market. Denial is a prominent problem among leaders, and it can lead to serious consequences. I was thinking about the power of denial recently while facilitating a meeting with a company’s leadership team. Even after presenting data to indicate irreversible decline unless the company changed course, the team struggled to see the problem. Their conversation immediately turned to a quick fix, which was the equivalent of throwing a rock into a raging ocean. Solution aversion is a powerful barrier to organizational change. Research indicates the majority of leaders rely on the ‘ostrich’ response to change, denying or ignoring the need to change until something forces a response. A popular meme, which features a cartoon dog surrounded by flames, captures this sentiment perfectly. The caption says: This is fine. There’s brain science and social science involved in our responses to change, but the bottom line is this: When the path to a solution seems too overwhelming or difficult, we prefer to avoid it. From backburnering a diet to avoiding a tough conversation, the struggle is one we can all relate to in our personal lives. Likewise, in the workplace leaders will downplay the importance of investing in a…

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gen z, generation z,

How Cancel Culture Will Change Your Organization

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October 23 @ 5:53 pm CDT

Given the opportunity to time travel, would you choose to visit the past or the future? I was participating in a virtual happy hour when this question popped up. Some experienced professionals jumped in, sharing moments in history they wanted to visit. The conversation was bubbly; people were happily caught up in their imaginations of what it would be like to experience a bygone era. Then a student from Georgetown University spoke up, and just like that, the mood shifted. “I want to visit the future”, she said. “I want to visit the future to see how much damage has been done by the actions of our society today.” Gen Z (1996-2009) are the teens and early 20-somethings who have become largely renowned for holding up the mirror to society, forcing us all to take a closer look. Under  their watch, the concept of cancel culture has been trending for most of the past year, which has become a polarizing topic of debate. Regardless of age or experience, feeling ignored drives  people to disengage, quit, protest, and cancel. The process of ‘canceling’ usually goes like this: A public figure or organization does or says something offensive. A public backlash, often fueled by political views and social media, ensues. Then there’s call to take away their cultural cachet, whether through boycotts or disciplinary action. Cancel culture has been referred to as a mob mentality, encouraging lawlessness, censorship, and the erasing of history. It’s also been referred to as a long overdue way of holding people accountable for propagating racist and sexist ideas, toxic behaviors, and making unethical, immoral decisions without any regard for others. Although it started as more of a political debate, cancel culture has now moved into the arena of generational debate. In 2019, the OK boomer meme and videos were an attempt by Gen Z to ‘cancel’ the generations that came before them. OK boomer was meant to be cutting and dismissive; a snarky…

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Why They Quit: How To Retain Young Talent

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October 23 @ 5:53 pm CDT

As vaccines are being distributed, there is hope the worst of the pandemic is nearing an end. But if research is any indication, another kind of crisis may just be heating up. As SHRM defines it, a “turnover tsunami” is brewing, with more than half of employees surveyed planning to look for a new job this year. Employers were experiencing high rates of turnover prior to the pandemic. In fact, voluntary turnover had been steadily rising since 2010, and was cited as a chief global concern by both the UN and World Economic Forum. When the pandemic hit, quit rates reached their lowest level in nine years – and now they’re bouncing back. Just this week, I’ve heard from three executives lamenting the loss of young talent. The fact remains that professionals under the age of 39 account for more than half of all voluntary separations. Why? Increased employee turnover is the outcome of a shift in workforce needs and values, and it’s a shift that is here to stay. This is a topic I’ve researched a great detail and the answer is quite complex. In brief, here are two reasons why young professionals are three times more likely than other generations to quit: Inclusion We’re observing an ever-widening gap between twentieth century managed organizations and twenty-first century raised workers. Young professionals don’t understand the management processes and hierarchies common throughout the past century. These generations have only known a world powered by innovation, collaboration, globalization, instant gratification, knowledge, acceptance, and access. They struggle to comprehend why decisions can’t be made on the fly, why they can’t have a seat at the decision-making table, and why it’s always been done ‘that way.’ Stability Millennials came of age during the Great Recession-the worst economic decline our country had experienced in 70 years. Gen Z has come of age during the most disruptive         decade in history. These experiences have shaped the career trajectories of young professionals in more…

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Path to Membership

Struggling with change? Start leading

October 23 @ 5:53 pm CDT

I’ve heard this phrase often in my work with organizational leaders, and I heard it again just last week. One year into a global pandaemic is the change-making process still a challenge? Absolutely! Make no mistake about it, significant, sustainable change is difficult. Not sure where to start making change? Start by leading. When times are good and stable, most organizations rely on a management mindset: processes are fine-tuned to predictably maintain and do what our organizations do. This is the business environment where planning, budgets, metrics, strategies, and roadmaps thrive. A management mindset is crucial to stability and success, and the predictability brings comfort. However, when crisis or disruption occur, everything that was stable and predictable goes out the window along with the best-laid plans. Suddenly, teams and leaders feel overwhelmed and anxious, desperately trying to plan for a return to ‘normal’. While trying to manage their way forward, many organizations lose their way. The management mindset simply doesn’t work in times of disruption. In times like this, organizations need to use a leadership mindset. Management forecasts, budgets, plans, and controls. Leadership innovates, inspires, challenges, and empowers. Organizations utilizing a leadership approach are focused on the fact that in times of disruption people seek guidance, support, purpose, and community. As a result, these organizations are finding ways to actively communicate, innovate, and be responsive to the changing needs of their audience. These organizations deploy surveys and appreciation campaigns and invite in new people to generate new solutions to old problems. Organizations with a leadership mindset are challenging the status quo, re-examining their missions, and asking whether they are serving people to the best of their abilities. If your organization is doing more of the same virtually, it’s managing change. If your organization is anxiously awaiting a return to normal, it’s managing change. Managing change is a missed opportunity. The decision to lead change is a commitment to engage more people, create more relevance, and produce meaningful, lasting change. Change starts by having the courage to lead.

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