We often say that being a leader is the most important job you can have. This isn’t just to flatter you. You are asked to give much of yourself and to the people around you. In return, you are rewarded with unlimited potential, influence and the ability to create positive change in organizations and in people’s lives.
But the requirements of being a good leader are changing. What has worked for past leaders and what even has worked for today’s leaders, will soon be outdated – if it is not already. It will require something new.
So what will be asked of the next round of up and coming successful leaders? What changes will you need to make to stay in your position and to also move ahead?
The Future of Leadership Is Not The Past
Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with major brands, taking care of the heritage of great leaders. Among them was cultural icon Walt Disney. “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing,” Walt Disney would say in his memoirs. ”That it was all started by a mouse.”
Another leader of mine also started out with a big dream and a mouse. Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs truly influenced me and helped form my own journey as a leader. I have to admit that my time at Apple was unforgettable in many ways.
But today, our work is focused on trying to peek into the future of leadership. We meet all kinds of fantastic leaders with a variety of backgrounds and ideas. With as much respect and admiration I have for their accomplishments, I often find myself wondering if leaders like Steve Jobs and Walt Disney would have succeeded today as they did in their times. Of course, this is just an experiment of thought. But they would be entering a dynamically changing market with new technology and a different breed of people – and a whole set of new demands of what constitutes good leadership. What worked 70, 40 and even 10 years ago, is no assurance that it will work today.
A Paradigm Shift Is Coming – why is this important for the Future of Leadership?
We see a paradigm shift coming to the future of leadership. There are so many things changing that there is no doubt the corporate world will radically change in the future. While we cannot predict exactly what the future holds, we can focus on at least these three important parameters:
We know at least these two statements to be true: Change will never be this slow again. Change is here to stay. Our choices? Resist change or embrace change. Which one will help you succeed?
Today, knowledge is a commodity. If you have access to the Internet, all there is to know is only a few seconds away. The real power becomes how you use this knowledge. One way is to learn how to utilize the combined knowledge of your team. Did you know that a team of skilled people that functions well together are able to solve almost any challenge? Together, they will by far outperform a bunch of clever people who do not know how to collaborate. Know how to create and foster a collective genius with your team.
Most people want to do a good job. They want to contribute. They like the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves. Still, research from Gallup shows that only 13% are engaged at work. Why? Well, one way to reverse these numbers is by being clear on where you are going as a company. What is the purpose of what you are doing?. What is your contribution to society – beyond earning money?
Make sure that what you do are appealing to both the brain and heart of your employees.
The New Way of Working and the Future of Leadership
Future leaders need to create engagement. When only 13% on average say they are engaged at work – there is a HUGE potential for you to tap into. Make sure that you create a super-engaged team by knowing where you are heading. Create “A Living Strategy,” a plan of action that seeks “buy-in” from your team and draws them into your mission. The key to attracting engagement is involvement. People who are involved feel ownership and find purpose in what they are doing.
Shift of Perception
The new way of working includes a shift of perception. As leaders, we must stop thinking that “I must fix this.” Instead, start thinking: “We can fix this together.” We like to call this dynamic Involving Leadership or the “Human Side Of Strategy.” It is probably the most important thing you, as a future leader, can focus on.
If you at some time have played in a band, you know by experience that one reason why the band sounds good (or not) is due to their level of collaboration; how well do the musicians play together. How are they using the power of teams?
It doesn’t matter if some of the group’s members were born rock stars if the band is not able to use this talent for the best of the team. What musicians in a band spend quite some time on, is practicing playing together. That’s the only way they can tap into their potential as a team. This makes sense – right?
So – why are so many leaders failing to use ‘the power of teams’?
Today most leaders agree that the biggest asset in every organization is the people. But there is a vast difference between how this asset is put to use. This is the reason why some leaders have a solid team who can take on ANY new challenge with a positive attitude, and seem to always find the right solution. In contrast, other leaders are in charge of teams where conflicts, misunderstanding, and disagreements are a natural part of everyday life at work.
We always like to look at the team like a “collective genius.” This description conjures up an image of a really big brain consisting of the combined knowledge, experience and creativity of all the smart people on your team. At any time, you can tap into the “collective genius” – and the results will far exceed any individual contribution.
But this is not something that happens randomly, the more structured you work with your team, the more power you can gain from it.
Let us share with you a few success factors to fuel the power of teams:
1) Learn some tools and processes that makes collaboration effective and easy.
To use the power of many, you need to know how to collaborate. In tomorrow’s business world, it will be hard for future leaders to survive if they do not know how to tap into the combined brainpower of their team. You can start by understanding the difference between the process and the content.
The process is what brings you from A to Z. The content is what you put into it, and create and change along the way.
A structured process will help you to avoid total chaos. It gives you a framework so that you and all involved will know when you are open for input, when you can rationalize ideas and when you should make decisions. A structured process does NOT mean that everyone is involved all the time. You as the leader involve the people you need at the right time. But you should never go through the entire process alone.
2) Embrace heterogeneity
It is common to think that people who are alike collaborate better. However, we see that a byproduct of a team composed of like-minded individuals is a team with less power. A heterogenic team, on the other hand, consists of people with different backgrounds and experiences. This serves as a goldmine!
You should strive for a multigenerational, international, multi-ethnic team with a mix of both genders – as often as you can.
This view is supported by research. And in EY’s blog ‘The New Rules of Leadership‘ we can even read that ‘research even shows that heterogeneous teams solved complex tasks better than homogeneous teams’.
And if a mixed team is not an option, make sure to use methods that ensures a variety of viewpoints. We promise that this will give you better solutions and a broader perspective – as long as you know how to collaborate in an effective way (hint: methods, tools, and processes).
When we grow up, we tend to start rationalizing how much and how often we need to practice something in order to master it.
How often haven’t we tried something new and fallen into this trap: Tried it once – didn’t work. Tried it twice – didn’t work. Conclusion: It will never work. Imagine doing this with our children. We want them to learn how to walk, talk or write – but we only gave them two or three attempts?
After their toddler years, kids continue learning – playing an instrument, for example, or getting good at sports. You see they quickly become experienced at how practicing actually works with their conscious mind. Yet, when we get older, we expect things to happen all at once – if not we give up. Well, you probably get the concept of practicing. If you do something over and over again – you will become better at it. This is also true when it comes to collaboration and creating a collective genius. You will become a better leader, and you will start to enjoy the real power of your team.
So – where to start using the power of teams?
Think about ONE challenge you have at work that would really benefit from being solved by a cross-functional team. Either because the solution will be better OR because involving people in the solution will make them more committed and engaged in the solution.
Try solve the challenge together! Then take on a new challenge. Think like a band. Never stop practicing on your collaboration skills. Play it!
Like this? You can read more about collaboration in the blog “Why You’ll LOVE being an Involving Leader”
Albert Einstein once said that the most important question we can ask each other is this one: ”Is the universe a friendly place?”
The reason why this is the most important question to ask, is because the answer to this questions indicates whether we are building bridges to connect with each other or walls to defend ourselves.
Think about this for a moment…
How much more important isn’t it to build bridges instead of walls if we want this world to evolve? And this is exactly what we did together this Tuesday morning when we met for the very first public BrainTalk.
We have now launched what will become a series of BrainTalks with the intention of facilitating a place where leaders and changemakers can meet, both online and live. Here we can share thoughts and gain insights, and hopefully get more inspired, motivated and enabled. Our purpose is to create a better corporate world for leaders and their many employees, and this starts by engaging the hearts and brains of great minded people in a collective way. The theme this time was
”Purpose – the WHY of what we’re doing”:
In a short and (hopefully) sweet BrainTalk we shared our view on why this is important for the time we live in, and why it will become even more important in the times we are heading into.
(Read more about purpose and the importance of WHY in our blog in Huffington Post: Purpose – Beyond Earning Money).
The collective genius!
The strongest asset we have is the ability to collaborate. By being both active participants and active listeners at the same time we can upgrade our knowledge about a topic in no time.
The groups spent time working on a BrainGame challenge, together reflecting over the question:
”How can an emotional connected purpose help leading change?”
Through an intense and engaging process, the teams compiled a list of several suggestions, ultimately breaking it down to the two deemed most important by each team, which were shared with all of us. These are the findings:
A mutual understanding for a common goal makes change easier.
When everyone knows where they are heading it is easier to focus on the long term benefits rather than the short term challenges. In addition, research supports the fact that people or organizations with a clear goal are more successful.
It creates a feeling of belonging and we-ness.
Most people get energy and find meaning by being part of something bigger than themselves. Defining a common goal creates a sense of belonging, because it differs between those who are ‘in on the project’ and those who are not.
It establishes a common focus for the executive team, so they will know it if they are drifting in the wrong direction.
When a purpose is defined, it is extremely important to anchor this through actions and plans reflected in the strategic platform of the organization. This will make it easier to know what to do and what not to do in times ahead.
The journey of creating an emotional connected purpose is very valuable for those involved.
This is both due to the fact that people usually like to be involved in matters of importance, but also because the purpose itself gets anchored with the participants throughout the process. Even though an involving process might take some more time in the development phase, this is by far an investment worthwhile when considering the speed of implementation at a later stage in the process.
An emotional connected purpose creates intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is connected to positive emotions. Research by Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile shows that “people are more productive, creative, committed and collegial when they have positive emotions and thoughts about the work and when they are motivated by intrinsic interest in the work itself.”
It also makes it easier and more fun to reach the goals that are established.
When the purpose serves as a base for strategic decisions there will also be emotions connected with reaching these goals. This is also related to the progress principle – that progress in itself is motivating for those involved.
Trust vs fear for change.
An emotional connected purpose makes it easier to trust the end goal, the people on your team and even the process itself.
More acceptance for change (even for the changes that are harder to accept).
We might not be aware of it, but we – humans that is – have a natural tendency to resist change. This is due to biological factors like homeostasis (you can read more about this in our blog “How To Lead Change”). One way to lessen this resistance is to be clear on why we do what we do – our purpose.
When emotions are involved, we feel more important, too.
Emotions are a strong part of our being. By working towards a common goal, fulfilling a purpose that we can identify with, it is easier to see how our contribution is valuable.
A sense of community is emotional.
Having a purpose that people can identify with creates a feeling of community, like being part of a team with strong bonds who can support each other and fight together against possible threats from the outer world.
Honesty – be who you are.
Knowing your purpose is important in order to be authentic and not operate on false premises. Authenticity and openness are, and will continue to be, important parts of the corporate life in the years ahead.
Transparency – helps you get rid of ‘the trolls’.
There might be people in an organization or on a team who have their own agenda or do not believe in the WHY of what you are doing. This creates disengagement and sometimes even result in having people on your team sabotaging what you try to accomplish. Even if it might be a tough call, it is better to let people like that go, both for the sake of the remaining people on the team and for themselves. This way they can use their energy another place that fits their purpose better. You can read about how to deal with disengagement in teams in the blog post “What is the cost of your leadership”.
That’s it! And – WOW! – this is what’s cool about tapping into the collective genius of a team. After just a short time of working together in a systematic way, we can present impressive result while we at the same time get more enlightened.
So, let’s jump back to Albert Einstein for a moment. He introduced an important question. In the corporate world there’s yet another question that is imperative to ask: Do we have an emotional connected purpose?
Even though a strong purpose might not be the answer to all the challenges and changes we see in the corporate world today, it is for sure an important part of building a strong organization fit for the future. Any organization with a clear purpose will benefit from the power of many.
Missed our latest BrainTalk? Don’t worry, – there will be more to come!
If you want more info about our BrainTalks and get invited to the next one, please register here.
Want Growth? This is how to lead change
The aim of life is, quite simply put, growth. Growth rewards us both personally and professionally, expands our horizons and pushes us forward to new and better goals. But growth does not come cheap. It requires change.
Change, however, can be a deal killer for many of us, something we are programmed to avoid – or at the very least, fear. A lot of it has to do with how we perceive change – and how we approach change.
Future leaders know that if they are to grow, they must embrace change. They know how to create change in themselves. But most importantly, they know how to lead change in their teams to propel growth for all.
What is growth?
Growth comes in many forms. For humans, we talk about how we can grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. In corporate life, we talk about market size, brand impact, and product capabilities – among many other growth measurements.
We (humans, that is) usually think of growth in linear terms. We base our perspective of future growth on what has happened in the past. This way of thinking is common because it lets our rational mind work. But unfortunately it is also very limiting. It does not take into account the possibilities of hyper-growth, which sometimes happens because of factors that are outside of our control. This perspective also sees growth as merely a linear size of what we already know.
Can you imagine how a tree would look like if it only grew in linear terms? It would look like one giant seed.
Looking at change as something to avoid
Are you familiar with the term homeostasis? The Greek word means, standing still, or literally “staying the same.”
Homeostasis is the system in our body that regulates internal conditions, so they will remain stable in response to all external changes. Changes in temperature caused by a cold wind, for example, trigger the body to increase your internal temperature in response.
Homeostasis is, of course, necessary for many reasons. But at the same time, it is the reason why we have a built-in resistance towards change. It’s good to acknowledge homeostasis. It makes it easier for us to understand our initial response to change.
“Change Will Never Be This Slow Again”
It is both necessary and important to stay fit and be prepared for change in the world we live in. But Graeme Wood said “Change will never be this slow again.” Chew on that thought for a minute. Why is that important? Can you see the correlation between how the changes you have made in the past do not have much to do with changes you will be asked to make in the future?
So – how can we lead change? Well – try this:
Replace Fear With Curiosity
Acknowledge that homeostasis exists. Start with a simple exercise on yourself. After all, it is you as a leader who must take action. Begin working with your own resistance towards change. Be curious about it. Start making internal observations. Be conscious about when and why you feel discomfort towards change. Share your knowledge about homeostasis and the resistance towards change with people around you. Make it a fun challenge to identify why you feel change is hard – and what to do with it.
Look At Opportunities Instead Of Limitations
Another exercise is to start imagining how things can evolve way beyond what your brain accepts as rational. Try, slowly at first, training your brain to expand your ambitions. Some say that future leaders need to know how to “look around corners.” This is one way of doing that.
Be Clear In Your Communication – And Others Will Follow
When it comes to leading change, the most powerful tool at your disposal is your ability to communicate clearly your goals and ambitions with your team. Be clear on where you are going and why you are going there. Let everyone in – your executive team, your employees, and members of the board. Repeat your ambitions, over and over again. To succeed, you need to move the thoughts you have about the future out of your own mind and into the collective mind of the organization.
When you communicate your ambitions, change will no longer be perceived as unknown and scary. This is part of creating “A Living Strategy” where people feel engaged and a part of the mission because they understand their role and how it relates to the overall goal.
The idea that what we do at work should fill not only our bank accounts, but also our hearts, is gaining momentum. We are seeing this demand more and more often with our clients as an increasing number of smart and eager employees look for meaning in their careers.
It is a big ask – especially if you are a leader. Not only do you need to give your employees tasks to perform, you also need to help them find meaning in their work in order for them to be motivated and engaged.
When people get disengaged at work they, in some cases, end up loathing what they do, creating a bad work environment and even sabotaging their own work. It is hard to be a good leader if things are like that.
Future leaders want to know that what they are doing at work can have a lasting impact on their customers, community and society at large. This is the new reality and the very landscape that keeps A-list employees motivated and engaged.
Let us share with you 6 tips to meet this meaningful challenge that will also make your life as a modern leader easier:
1) Accept the fact that no one is born a leader. Many leaders we talk to think they know ALL they need to know about leadership, at the stage they are at right now. This attitude will cause them a lot of trouble later on, as they fall behind compared to the leaders who focus on updating their leadership skills. Warren Bennis, a pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership studies, even said: “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”
Start by doing this: Leadership is not static knowledge. When everything around us changes, it is smart to look at leadership as a set of skills in constant need of upgrade.
2) Being a good LEADER is also about being a good LEARNER. Leadership skills are developed over time. They are based on your experiences working with people in good and effective ways, supported by methods and tools that you have learned how to use.
Start by doing this: Work on your own attitude for learning. Make sure you stay in a constant mode of learning. Look around. Where can you pick up knowledge from others? You might not have time to go back to school (and it might not even be right for you), but you will always have time to learn something new. Listen, read, and take a course now and then. Be conscious about learning new techniques, methods and tools. But the most important thing of all is to start practicing what you learn. Let it become a natural part of your own leadership. Not only will you become a better leader yourself, but you will also show people around you what good leadership is all about.
3) Know the purpose of why you are doing what you are doing. Being a leader is about creating results through working with others. Just as others look for purpose in what they do, so should you.
Start by doing this: Start with the WHY. Why do you want to be a leader? When you define this clearly, then you will start to be a leader by heart. And that will make you a stronger person because you will always know the “why” in what you do.
4) Embrace change. According to journalist Graeme Wood “change will never be this slow again.” He is probably right. Everything is evolving at an accelerated speed. The last thing you should do is fight it. You will lose.
Start by doing this: Be curious about change. Learn why change is so hard for most people, and how you can help people embrace change instead of fearing it. Also, too many leaders demand change from people on their teams, but forget that they need to change themselves. Make it your mission to go outside your own comfort zone in order to evolve. Do not fear the unknown.
5) You are not alone. There is a proven concept that WE is smarter than ME. In today’s complex and fast-moving world, the best chance anyone has of success is by collaborating. If you manage to create a collective intelligent genius out of your team, you will have a far better chance of winning than if you lead a team with geniuses working individually. But most importantly, don’t fall in to the habit of thinking that YOU – the leader – need to solve the challenges ahead, alone.
Start by doing this: Practice involving leadership. Learn some effective methods and processes for involvement. These methods and their results can eliminate chaos and its negative effects. Remember – your role is to create that collective genius. And the way to do this is through involvement.
6) Let your team in on your ambitions. Let it be known that what you do is not only your goal, but also the team’s goal.
Start by doing this: Spend time together with your team working on your ambitions and actions that will lead in that direction. In that way, everyone involved can work towards fulfilling these goals with both their brain and their heart. And THIS will give life at work meaning for everyone – filling up not only their bank accounts, but also their hearts.
Why is being a modern leader so important?
Remember – Being a good leader is one of the most important jobs there is. The reason is that you have an impact on the people around you, yourself and your family, and ultimately the environment you live in. Being a good leader is about making a difference.
Creative Genius vs Performing Machine? Hey – that’s me!
Yes! We know. For many it’s a constant struggle: How can we find time to be creative, when there’s so much to do on our ‘to do’-list…
Let your creative genius rule!
Read our take on how important it is to let your creative genius rule in our most recent blog post in Huffington Post.
But, wait – there is more. This is also the story about how our brainchild, Brainwells, was born.
Read on – it’s all here. By the way – isn’t it funny to see how we change, only in a few years? Well, nothing to hide – and this is a true ‘Brainwells-in-the-making-selfie’, taken while having lunch in Malcesine Italy.
The Human Side of Strategy
Strategy starts with you. It must become a natural part of your everyday life and thus a part of the company’s DNA. Only then, can you start dreaming of the success that you deserve.
As you know – strategy is a plan. A plan of how to reach your goals. It can be printed on paper. Or presented neatly on PowerPoint. But no matter how good your strategy and enchanting your presentations, to succeed you must first hit a chord with your employees. And make sure that they take ownership of your strategic framework.
We call this The Human Side of Strategy
Not only is the Human Side of Strategy the only way to go in a world that is constantly changing, but it is also the absolutely strongest asset that you have to reach your goals. The quality, engagement and collaborative skills of the people on your team are also the strongest differentiators when it comes to your competitors and the market.
And what is this Human Side of Strategy all about?
It is about the power of many. When we are aligned in our efforts, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. The magic, collaborative strength enables us to do the most amazing things, if we know how to use the collective intelligence we behold. When we connect our rational and emotional minds and multiply them by many – things will happen. This is pure physics. So make sure to use this power of many in a good way.
If we experience purpose in what we are devoting our time to, we are finding meaning. As Aaron Hurst, the author of The Purpose Economy, says: “People gain purpose when they grow personally, when they establish meaningful relationships, and when they are in service to something greater than themselves.” And Simon Sinek says this in his well known TED-talk “It all starts with WHY.” “Do something that matters – for your clients, for the environment or for your employees. A strong feeling of purpose also fulfills the need of being part of something bigger than ourselves, which most people feel is important.”
In the times that we are heading into, intuition and logic need to operate side-by-side. We like to identify the corporations that can handle this as Emotionally Intelligent Organizations. Did you know that the electrical impulse of the heart is 40 – 60 times stronger than those of the brain? (http://heartmastery.com/about-us/heart-facts ). We’re not saying that engaging the heart will do it all, but if you fail and only communicate to the rational mind you are missing out on something important. At best you will experience a big ‘yawn!’ And at worst you will lose your best people.
The Human Side of Strategy is all about engagement
To sum it all up – it is all about the level of engagement. Bain and Company precisely summarized this in a recent article: “Engaged employees go the extra mile to deliver. Their enthusiasm rubs off on other employees and on customers. They provide better experiences for customers, approach the job with energy – which enhances productivity – and come up with creative product, process and service improvements. They remain with their employer for longer tenures, which reduces turnover and its related costs. In turn, they create passionate customers who buy more, stay longer and tell their friends – generating sustainable growth.”
In many aspects of the world we have started to accept that it is all connected; people, the environment, experience, learning, spirituality, physics, products and services. It’s all there. And it is about time that how we look at strategy, embraces this way of thinking.
Leaders and organizations that succeed with The Human Side of Strategy seem to be powered by some kind of ‘inner force.’ It is an energy and mindset that can be seen in their processes, how they handle each other and their clients, and a culture that can be best described as “this is how we do things around here.”
You can do it, too. You just need to decide that The Human Side of Strategy is important for you.
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Hint: CSR is a great way to build engagement in your team. It is also a way to DO GOOD for your environment. Which is important. So – go ahead – start changing the world.
Like this guy does – Lewis Pugh, Patron Of The Seas.
When everything you do feels urgent, it’s important to know what to do.
It does not matter if you are working on an idea, a product or a service, or if you run a big or a small company, either way you really need to have a clear understanding on what’s important, and what’s urgent.
The IMPORTANT things are those that make you, your idea, and your team stronger and bring you forward in the long run. The URGENT matters are the day-to-day tasks that absolutely need to be done, but often are driven by tight deadlines. Also, they often demand so much attention that they clutter your ability to look at the structure and scalability aspects.
(If you want another perspective on what’s important vs. urgent, we highly recommend Marie Forleos take on this. She’s one of our favorite entrepreneurs’ and cover the topic in this episode of Marie TV).
What’s Important is More Urgent Than What’s Urgent
At Brainwells we work with many leaders who can show amazing results – these are really, really clever people who have done their best to be where they’re at right now. They have worked really hard. They have done a lot of things right: Some have ideas that can blow anyone’s mind. Others have experienced growth that would turn most business people green with envy. Some have gathered teams of skilled people on a level you did not know was possible.
But still – when they approach us – they all have the same questions:
How can we refine the idea even more, how can we grow faster, how can we make sure that the team has the energy to keep on working, how can we be more ambitious, how can we create a culture where people thrive and know how they can contribute, how can we secure better/bigger/more success? And – how can I do this and also have time to see my family – or travel – or live a life …
Because now these questions are both urgent and important.
The thing is that in their pursuit for launching the ‘BIG IDEA’ they have spent so much time working on urgent matters, that they have neglected the need for continuously improving the important things, like:
- Communicating the purpose of what they are trying to achieve so every one in the organization knows what direction they are heading.
- Building a strong and positive culture that foster engagement and enthusiasm.
- Making sure that the leaders and managers in their organization is fit for the future and knows how to lead in a way that suits the company, not the individual leader.
- Creating a scalable organization by implementing a system and attitude that can handle further growth.
Yup. Things like that. Not always so urgent, but extremely important.
This is actually just as important as developing the idea or product you deliver.
It’s all about having a conscious approach to ‘how we do things around here’, and how we can do it in a way that will secure future success.
The good thing is that taking time to work on what’s IMPORTANT might give you a massive ROI. The reason is that it will make you extremely fit for handling rapid growth. In one of the companies I co-founded, we focused so much on building a scalable structure and establishing a living strategy that growing from a handful of people to 150 persons in three countries in a few years time was almost without any pain of growing.
And mind you – at the same time we delivered awesome results. So I know it is possible.
You get it? Sure you do, but how do you find time to do what’s important, when everything seems so urgent?
Yes – we know it is hard to find the time to work on the important stuff. But this is really crucial. If you only focus on what’s urgent, it will be difficult (and sometimes even impossible) to be sustainable and successful in the long run. It might work well at first, but somewhere down the line you will meet challenges that are so big that you come to a halt. Don’t let that happen to you.
So – if you can’t find time. You must TAKE the time. And you better do it now. Right away. Because it will probably not become easier.
And don’t forget – the best person to filter what’s important and what’s urgent is YOU. Be aware of what you spend your time on. What can you outsource to other people on your team, and what can be postponed?
And then – a few words about the to-do-list.
I use to-do lists. All the time. They might be mentally or on paper, ‘cause the feeling of “check, check, check” is a really good one. But there is a problem; when I am busy the lists tend to be way too long. So a few years ago I started doing the following when I make my daily, weekly, or monthly to-do lists (personally I prefer lists on paper, but this method can also be used for digital lists):
- Before I start writing I draw a horizontal line across the paper.
- Above the line I put everything I need to do that is really important. And – not surprisingly – under the line I put the things that are urgent. I call the important things ‘above the line’-matters to remind me that they really are important.
- I try to do at least two important things for each urgent matter. When I am on top of my important things, I focus on the urgent things.
Note. When you take a look at the list, you will see that the things that are urgent usually are easier to solve. This might actually be one of the reasons why it is easier to concentrate on the urgent things. Also, since the urgent matters often comes with a dead-line, they seem more important even if they are not. My experience is that the urgent things get done no matter what. But you do not start working on the important stuff after a long day’s work on urgent matters.
I promise you, if you manage to focus more on the important stuff and balance this better – you’re in for a surprise. A positive one. You will start to move forward in a pace you’ve never seen before.
So now – hope you find reading this has been important for you. Keep going!
You might also find this blog post interesting: Why going slow is important to move fast
Lack of time? Oh – we know ALL about that. After working with a few organizations that really needed to find some extra time, we found it. And we have made it all available for you. It’s here.
What’s your potential for running smarter meetings? (psst… It’s not even difficult.)
In the blog post “Smarter Meetings: The WHY, HOW and WHAT” in Huffington Post we give you a few more hints on what would help you save time when it comes to meetings. Meetings that are smarter, more effective, and more engaging!
So – WHY are we so obsessed with running smarter meetings?
Because it will give you more time. Time you can spend on anything.
Even the things WE think you should consider; Becoming a more involving leader, engaging your team, know how to lead smarter. And things like that. You get it. But, start with the meetings, it will not only shave hours of your time but also release time and capacity for people on your team. So you can have a smarter and more effective team. Wouldn’t that be something?
Get this, yes? About why smarter meetings are good for you?
If so take a look at this page, too: Better Meetings? Do These Few Adjustments And Get More Time!
When working with leaders, we are constantly faced with their need for more time. Time to handle change, time to work on things that matter. There is a place to find this time, and that is by working on how to run better meetings.
There’s an expression you probably know. It goes like this: I can’t see the forest for the trees.
It’s a good expression; because it reminds us how important it is not to forget the bigger picture when we look at something. The “something” might be an obstacle right in front of us that without doubt is part of the big picture, but we do not look at it that way.
One of our favorite clients (because he totally understand the concept of constantly evolving his leadership) originally approached us because he was worried that one of his important R&D teams had way too much on their plate. They were still enthusiastic and delivered results most organizations could just hope for. But they were constantly working extremely long hours. And they had done so for years. The team members were worn out, a few even on sick leave. Our client wanted to take action before it was too late. “Smart thinking,” we applauded.
We agreed on running an Assessment Workshop with the R&D team. This is a super effective way to get everyone involved on giving input to form a realistic and quite accurate image of the “current state.” Where is the unused potential? And where exactly does the shoe hurt most?
This team scored high on positive culture, team spirit, and self-motivation. We learned that they operate quite smoothly when it comes to innovation methods and processes, and have a high level of overall strength that most other teams would envy. But it soon became obvious that the point for improvement was related to something as easy – and difficult – as time management.
A major scarcity in most businesses is the lack of time. No wonder, things are changing at a pace we’ve never seen before while demand for efficiency is at an all-time high. If spent right, more time is an asset. It increases the ability to explore and be creative, which is good for the business.
Time management. Yes, we know it can be difficult. But there is one obvious place to start changing things, that way too many leaders forget.
Actually, surprisingly many leaders today do not realize the power they have to change this one little thing in their organization: The way they run meetings.
Starting to run better meetings in your organization is surprisingly easy.
And this was also where we started with the busy R&D team. Looking back, they were surprised they had not done this long ago. They estimated that the time spent in meetings was reduced by about 25 – 30 % after implementing a few changes. Valuable hours they could spend on more important matters.
Running better meetings is all about the two following steps:
- Define a common standard for how the various meetings are held in your organization – and make this part of your team’s culture.
- Implement tools and methods that everyone understands and knows how to use in all phases of the meeting; when planning a meeting, when running a meeting, and after the meeting.
One example of this is to appoint an “owner” of the meeting who are responsible for the meeting in general, and also in charge of pointing out who are responsible for the various tasks on the agenda. In Apple, Kristine’s former employer, accountability at meetings is secured by having a Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) whose name appear next to the agenda items they are responsible for. (Fortune.com: How Apple works: Inside the world’s biggest startup).
And the two steps explained above were exactly what the R&D team did: They took the time they needed and together we worked intensely on how they could start running better meetings in a smarter way than before. And voila! The few hours invested had a great return on investment when this was implemented. Suddenly the entire team could start breathing again.
The success formula? Accepting that there is a way of running better meetings, and taking the effort to learn how.
So – what about you?
How effective are your meetings? Are you willing to change some of the things you do (or do not do) today to start running better meetings? Whatever level you’re on – you can ALWAYS be in charge of changing the meetings you arrange. You just need to decide that it is on YOUR agenda to run better meetings.
In a generation where speed is given incredible emphasis or importance, in fact, the end goal of every process, it is of no wonder why we feel pressured for time, and so, rush things out – at all times. But: If we are too hasty and are always in a hurry, it is more likely that we get stuck. We commit errors and thus lose the chance to actually grasp the long-term opportunity that awaits us. Amidst distressing circumstances, we somehow forget the fact that it is actually faster if we learn to slow down.
This is apparent in the corporate world as well. For a company to be successful, the management and staff has to constantly innovate, update their overall system in order to become more productive and efficient as a business organization. But, in the process, everyone becomes too conscious about time that there appears a rush to optimize performance and execute strategies, which actually causes them to fail in recognizing the more important aspects where they should focus their efforts into.
A while ago, we met with an executive client, who asked help concerning team efficiency. According to her, their daily tasks seem chaotic and they have been failing to perform based on their strategic plans. She thought they had created the best strategy but she realized that, execution is harder than she thought. They felt stuck. And so, she was hopeful that we could help them by providing an idea with regard to the next best move to take.
Why doing an Assessment Workshop will move you from Stuck to Unstuck
We suggested that we could facilitate a team assessment workshop for half a day where everyone in the team could participate so that they could get a holistic view of the present scenario.
Since they were behind of their work, it was not surprising to us that she responded negatively, saying, “I’m serious here, we must speed up as fast as we can now. We can’t afford to lose half a day just because of an assessment workshop. That will drag us down even more.”
As such, we reminded her about this adage: “You have to go slow in order to go fast.” We know of many leaders in the past who have made remarkable accomplishments, stressing the necessity of slowing down. Take, Augustus, the person who established the Roman Empire, he made famous one Latin phrase that says, “Festina lente”, which means, “make haste slowly”. This became one of his leadership principles. He made sure that he’s performing with a balance, between urgency and diligence.
We actually fail to recognize what needs recognition when we begin to do things as fast as we can. It is necessary to slow down properly in order to correct mistakes as they arise. Otherwise, we find ourselves wasting time, fixing things that have gone even worst.
Despite the fact that it appears counterintuitive to slow down in order to check or correct something as you hurry, this will lead you to choose the correct move.
It could be the example as reflected in Augustus leadership performance or the assurances that we gave on the benefits of the assessment workshop that actually convinced the client about the next thing to do. It’s hard to say. But, later on, she expressed her heartfelt thanks as she was very satisfied with the result. The half-day workshop did not only give the team a chance to come up with a collective assessment about the present scenario, but also to identify the areas where they can maximize their potential as well as where to create modifications so as to refocus their attention on their strategic initiatives.
In addition, the assessment workshop became an instrument for the team to actually become motivated to get back on track, which she said, had a bigger impact than what she imagined.
Yes, the Roman Empire may not be yours to establish, but whatever is your plan of action, how fast you perform would possibly also benefit at a greater extent by slowing down for a while so as to gain a good grasp or standpoint on where your team is, at the present time.
What important goals an effective Assessment should cover to get unstuck:
Establishment – To establish a holistic view of the current scenario.
When each of your members is working individually not collaboratively, for a considerable period, it is more likely that the team will fail to see the situation as a whole. If you are able to come up with a holistic assessment of your team’s strengths or potentials, the few hours you spent for it will lead you to correct execution towards a long-term objective.
Re-establishment – To re-establish ambitions.
We are all aware that, great things start with ambitions. In other words, nothing remarkable will transpire in the absence of any ambition. However, the solution is not only having bold ambitions. You, as a leader, must make sure that the whole team shares with the ambitions. And, they should also know the area of focus in order to perform towards the desired direction or end-goal.
Recognition – To recognize progress or development.
Being able to recognize and acknowledge progress can be very powerful to motivate your team. Remember, progress is the sweetest thing. Spending a moment to acknowledge where you’re at right now is one of the easiest and most practical investments to draw greater motivation to move forward. Remember, keep moving forward.
If this assessment is properly executed, the entire team will have a renewed energy to work in collaboration with one another aside from being inspired and of course, starting to have “fun”.
But then again, it all begins with acknowledging that, sometimes, it is necessary to move slow in order to move fast.
We do not know about you, but we LOVE being part of the knowledge economy. Especially these days when SHARING is a big part of the game.
Sharing knowledge in this way is a fairly new concept, but still it is easy to get stuck in the old way of thinking about this. We are so used to holding back on ideas and insights and to share them only with a few. Most people do not understand how anyone can share valuable advice for free. Sometimes we even start thinking that there has to be a hidden agenda, that this is too good to be true. And of course, sometimes, it is. But things are changing. Today knowledge is a commodity. From almost every corner of the world you can deep dive into top-notch research, experience, and advice. As long as you know how to do it.
Today it is not “what you know” that differs the winners from the more mediocre ones, but it is “what you do.” As in – “what you do with the knowledge you behold.”
Some common feedback we get from people who’ve been reading the very blog you are reading right now is: But, you are giving it all away? Why do you do that, you could charge money for this?
They do not understand at all how we can justify sharing our insights, reflections and even tools for free – and still run a business where we charge money for what we do.
But, you know what, there are actually three really good reasons for giving it away:
First, We are convinced that the better the leadership qualifications we see in the world, the better the world will become. And the more people we meet who agree with us on this and work with this in mind, the better it is!
Second, we really enjoy being on the receiving end ourselves. To be given the gift that someone’s been digging up and sharing as great content is a bliss, and makes the day much more fun. We so appreciate all the valuable input we get from others, that it is pure joy to be able to give something back. Working like this is like a Perpetua Mobile – a machine creating its own energy. The more we give, the more we get. And we just love it!
Third, we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. If we want to see it that way. For years we’ve been in the game as leaders and executives ourselves. When we finally were exposed to process thinking, including various tools and methods on how to achieve what you want, we were amazed by the instant effect. We’ve made it our mission to collect and share the best ones with leaders who want to make a difference. Leaders like you. And one way to do this is through this blog. Which we do for free. Another way is through processes we run for groups we work with, or online programs for individual leaders. Which we get paid for. That is our way of dealing with the abundance of energy and capacity we are a part of.
But – back to where we started. SHARING. What we hope is that you, as a leader, also look at the world with this in mind. And do whatever you can do. Remember, the better shape of your own leadership, the more influence you will have on the ones stepping up after you. Many more potential leaders will look to you and use what you do as the framework for their own leadership fundamentals.
So, please help us make the world a better place by 1) be the best leader you can be and 2) help others become the same.
Together there is nothing we can’t do.
What do you do if you run a team where the team members do not like each other? Or even worse, they can’t stand each other and refuse to collaborate. But you still need their skills…
Last year we were hired by a CEO to assist his executive team with the goal of improving their collaboration. At the first meeting the CEO told us that the members of the team were very skilled, but they were not effective at all when it came to the way they worked together. The reason was that several of them refused to collaborate. And by now the situation had escalated to total misery. It was difficult to meet in the same room at the same time. Even going out for dinner to celebrate their wins was totally out of the question. No wonder the CEO was a little stressed about the situation.
It would be easy to conclude that the CEO had done a bad job when choosing his team members because of their somewhat obvious lack of social skills. But that is too simple an explanation. It did not start out like this. The situation developed over time. What the CEO was most guilty of was not acting earlier.
But when we got our chance to address the issue, we knew exactly where to start.
We’ll share the tips we gave the CEO because most of us need this reminder to lead a good team. No matter if we run a smooth or mal-functioning team. Just remember these three factors, and you will come a long way.
You’re in charge:
No matter what it feels like, or what the other members of the team think, it is always YOU who define what you expect of your team. Of course, feel free to involve them in the process and get input on what they’d like. But it is you who hold the final say. That’s your job. Remind them about this, and let them know that you are up for some changes because you are not satisfied with status quo.
Team above Self:
In order to have a strong and powerful team, each member needs to accept the fact that the value of the team is more important than the individual member. Easy to say, we know, and most people agree to this, but it is sometimes difficult in practice. As the CEO, it is your responsibility to remind your team of this whenever needed. But not only that, if you learn methods and processes and how to facilitate you will ensure you utilize the collaborative power they behold. If this is outside your comfort zone or out of your reach due to time/place restrictions, you should consider appointing someone else to facilitate for you. But remember, you’re still in charge.
Likability versus trust:
We’re often met with the argument: “The reason why our team is not optimal is because some of the members do not like each other.” It is not mandatory to like your teammates. And we shouldn’t be afraid if people have different preferences and can’t cope socially. However, you need to make sure everyone trusts and respects each other. It is your responsibility as a leader to build trust in your team, and the easiest way of doing this is through collaboration and solving challenges at hand. Together.
“You can dislike a person, but still trust her. However it is hard to like someone you do not trust.”
That’s it. If you do this we promise that your team will be in better shape and find common ground. But there’s one thing left for the magic three factors to work:
Now you just need to practice, practice, practice
A strong team does not materialize over night. Every team, no matter how team-oriented each member is, needs to practice on working together. The more matters you solve together, the better you get. Avoid executive meetings where the only thing you do is just do updating and reporting. Bring in a challenge or two, and work on how to solve it together. Not only does this build a stronger team, but it also brings you forward, and often it ends up being quite … (you’ll never guess) FUN!
Final note: You should know that even if though this was an extreme case, we do see executive teams like this all the time. It is not because they do not like each other, but because they do not use the full potential of their collective powers. They meet on a regular basis, and spend their time reporting things to each other, and at best get some new action points assigned.
The executive team is not just a group of people. It is a highly skilled, trained, and experienced collection of individuals that TOGETHER create a powerful force for the company. Make sure you utilize this power for the greater good.
Lately, we’ve seen a growing trend from modern and ambitious leaders who make a conscious effort to involve their staff by various means.
One of the more popular methods involves talking individually to as many coworkers as possible. To do this in an effective manner, some have adapted techniques traditionally known from a more romantic context – speed dating.
Nothing wrong with this. In fact, we highly applaud new methods and techniques that make leadership more involving, effective and rewarding. Taking a new and different approach is exactly what we focus on ourselves when working with leaders and their teams.
We are especially fond of collaborative methods and processes that can be repeated, are scalable in nature, and get popular (and used) throughout the entire organization.
Because – let us be clear on this – you do not need to be in a top executive position to initiate actions similar to speed dating to get a new perspective on things. Indeed, if speed dating and other out-of-the-box methods intrigue you, let us share the following tips to make them even better:
First, don’t just rush through the speed dating method to get to as many people as possible, gather information, and then use the intelligence to make your decisions. Yes, it is an effective method. But if gathering information in order to make a decision is your primary concern, there are other and even more effective ways to help you.
Instead, use the conversations gained from speed dating to get to know people. Ask them what THEY care about; what exactly brings passion to their life at work, things like that. And share with them what YOU are passionate about, and what your ambitions are.
Dare to show them that you too are vulnerable.
By doing this, you get a chance to build trust. And trust, my friend, will be a real asset for you further down the road. Building trust in your team opens up for a tremendous possibility to create an emotionally strong organization. But you need to know what you are doing. And you must do it with authenticity.
So – for the information gathering part, we suggest that you spend time with people on your team as a group instead as individuals. Show that you are willing and capable to involve all of them, not only in words, but also in action.
Invite people to share their thoughts and input as a group. Let them work together on relevant, creative tasks. This will give you a grasp on the level of their collaborative strengths and get to know how your team works together. If facilitated correctly, the group will produce better input for you to bring into the decision making process.
Even in organizations where the work is mostly done on an individual level, we see impressive results when people are allowed to be engaged and focused around common challenges or opportunities. It strengthens the culture and enhances the collective intelligence of the team. If you, as a leader, are able to foster a collective genius you hold the key for the success of your entire team in your hands.