Energy flows where attention goes.

Now that we have busted the belief that you need everyone on board in order to start a culture transformation process, we will add an additional layer to that belief — the belief or myth that you need to start such a process at the top, with the most senior leaders, the CEO or the Executive Committee.

But do you really need them to start?

Of course, it is an ideal scenario to have the top leadership of your organization leading the culture transformation efforts — the leaders who are role-modeling the behaviors of the desired culture and are fully engaged in the process. In our experience helping global companies with culture transformation, this only happen in about half of the cases.

Remember the story in the previous article about the large manufacturing organization and how we engaged with a single team at the time. Other teams took notice and engaged with the HR team to set the teams up with their own leadership development programs, and slowly the culture change in the organization began to grow more and more obvious. After four years of working with different teams, business units and leaders, the CEO started to take notice. The overall performance of the organization kept improving, and he realized the new organizational culture was the driver for this. The organization’s board, including the CEO, is now embarking on their own leadership development journey to take the culture transformation to another level. This program will cascade to other leaders in the organization who have not yet participated. The HR team never lost sight of their ultimate desire to change the culture, but they focused their energy on those willing to engage, eventually impacting the 56,000+ employees.

Instead of focusing on who is not on board (e.g., your CEO), how can you focus on who is? Just like the innovators and early adopters, can you find a leader or a team that has the energy, engagement, and appetite to start something new? The more you focus on who is on board instead of focusing on who is not, the more likely you will see those who are, and there are more than you had imaged. You just didn’t see them.

Just think about when you had set the intention of buying a new car, for example. All of a sudden, you are much more conscious about the cars around you — the colors, the ones you want, the ones you don’t like, the model, the make. You see those same cars every day on your commute, but when you actually put your focus on them, you are more aware or conscious of them.

 

This kind of thinking will allow you to become, what we like to call, a secret agent. Your bigger goal is to engage the organization in a culture transformation process. But not having the top leadership on board might make this seem like an impossible mission. Even if for now you start with one leader, a single team or a business unit, you never lose sight of this ultimate goal.

Here are some questions to reflect on:

  • Where do you focus your attention? Is your attention helping or preventing you from achieving your goals?
  • What is already happening in your organization that is not being highlighted?
  • What stories are critical and not being told?

Check out our earlier posts about culture transformation:

Culture change: Make it simpler. Make it happen.

All aboard? You don’t need to be full to leave the station.

Video transcription: You need to stand out from the crowd. Even if you look like anyone else, you shouldn’t be like anyone else so I call these like the secret agents. You look like you wear the same dress, you know, and it’s okay but then you are looking all the time at something which are the messages that people are receiving. You are all the time gathering data. Why is that? Because what you focus on expands. You need to choose where you want to point your flashlight. You cannot focus everywhere.

The role of love in leadership and business growth

Our world faces today unprecedented changes fueled by the combined forces of new paradigms. As Salim Ismail states in his book “Exponential Organizations,” amazing technology advancements are now joined by other disrupting elements such as social networks, big data, crowd sourcing and new generations, creating what he calls “the perfect storm.”

Disruption in every aspect of our life will happen at such speed and magnitude that knowing more and doing more will no longer be enough to stay afloat. Leaders, now more than ever, need to strengthen the “being” dimension: who we are and what we are here for.

Working with this new reality is not just a new learning process; it requires an inside-out transformation both from a business perspective and from a personal one.

The traditional view of business growth only driven by profit optimization must be transformed to become purpose driven, as sustainability of growth is only achieved when a deeper purpose to generate a benefit for society is the central driver of its existence. This driver can also be called love—one of the two forces that drive human behavior. The other one, the flip side, is fear. Love generates passion to create and contribute, while fear fuels self-interest, which is the dominant driver of business in our world today.

Love is rarely related to or even mentioned in a business environment today. Kenneth Boulding, one of the most renowned economists of the last century, states: “The main obstacle for economic growth today has been the incapacity of the (integral) system to boost love beyond the family ambit.”

We seem afraid to even talk about love in a business setting, yet famous economists like Boulding and Adam Smith, founding father of economics, advocate it as necessary for business growth. Smith said: “Self-interest will never be able to replace benevolence toward others as a necessary element to attain universal opulence.”

Why then have we avoided love in business?

From an economic or business perspective, love is difficult to be defined and measured. From a personal standpoint, it entails working on ourselves, facing and transcending our fears and deficiencies…not an easy job. However, everything starts there: within you, within me.

Perhaps the missing link to connect love and business in today’s world is loyalty—from customers and from employees.

It is common belief that loyalty is achieved by such things as the right price of products for customers or the best salary for employees, customer “service” or employee training. These elements are necessary conditions of loyalty but not sufficient.

Loyalty is not a function of the mind but of the heart.

Only when customers feel (and experience) that the service or product we provide is driven by a deep intention to generate a benefit for them, to enrich their life as people, loyalty can emerge. The same applies for salaries or training provided to employees. And loyalty from employees and customers is the base for sustainable business growth.

Such deep intention is also called caring or love.

But the duality of forces driving our behavior as human beings is constant: love/caring versus fear/self-interest. Managing this duality is the job—the path of transformation required from us in the new time.

The way to do this is through consciousness:

  • Being aware of the intention behind each and every one of our actions or decisions, day by day, minute by minute.
  • Being aware that self-interest disguises very easily as care or love.
  • Becoming our own observers but also being aware of our conditioned tendency to judge both others and ourselves.
  • Observing yourself compassionately—with no judgment—but persistently and taking consistent action.

Understand your fears and be determined to awaken your essence: love.

“As mind merges in the heart, true understanding awakens. You are the invisible inside the visible, the unmoving inside all movements. Like space moving in space, glowing inside a thin skin called a human being.” —Mooji

Los Valores del Popular

Escrito por José Suárez Arias-Cachero

“Nuestra misión es ser un banco excelente, íntegro y responsable en la prestación de servicios financieros y en la creación de valor para el accionista.

Nuestra historia es una historia de valores, un siglo haciendo de la banca prudente nuestro oficio, lo que ves es lo que somos, lo que siempre hemos sido: un banco integro, serio y riguroso”.

Esta declaración, trasmutada en sarcasmo por la vía de los hechos, figura todavía hoy en la web del Banco Popular.

Más allá de que en vez de crear valor para el accionista, lo volatilizaron literalmente de la noche a la mañana, proclamar como valores la Integridad y el Rigor, así con mayúsculas, no les impidió mirar para otro lado cuando descubrieron que José María Arias Mosquera presidente del Banco Pastor hasta ser adquirido por Popular en 2011 ocultó un presunto delito de blanqueo de capitales por importe de más de 1.200 millones de euros.

Disponer de un código ético interno (también disponible en la web) o contar conáreas de Cumplimiento Normativo, Auditoría y Servicios Jurídicos que informaron a los Presidentes y al Consejo de Administración no frenaron la bien remunerada carrera de José María Arias que ejerció como Vicepresidente del Popular hasta la misma noche de la catástrofe.

La Directora de Auditoría Interna del Banco Pastor, que presuntamente levantó la alfombra del caso, fue promovida a Directora del mismo departamento del Popular, quién sabe si como premio por seguir como una esfinge después de advertir del latrocinio y ver cómo sus superiores hacían caso omiso reiteradamente.

Disponer de reguladores españoles y europeos, servicios de inspección, fiscalías especializadas y que incluso un ex fiscal general del Estado estuviera al tanto del delito no protegió a los accionistas de los hampones de cuello blanco y apariencia opusina.

Para quienes defendemos el libre mercado esto es terrible. El daño que han hecho los Arias Mosquera, Ron y Saracho va mucho más allá de los miles de millones de pérdidas para accionistas del Popular, es un misil en la línea de flotación de la economía de mercado que configura nuestro modo de vida y nuestra sociedad. Este tipo de acciones alimenta la desconfianza institucional y promueve las interpretaciones populistas y simplificadoras de los extremistas de derecha e izquierda que ponen en peligro nuestro sistema.

Vemos como en este caso, ni el entramado normativo e institucional ni tampoco la supuesta gobernanza basada en unos valores que no se practican sirvieron para prevenir el delito y el perjuicio a los afectados.

“Necesitamos generar culturas corporativas donde se balanceen con peso similar los objetivos de resultado y los objetivos de proceso. Hacerlo así nos permite ser conscientes de nuestras acciones de una manera diferente”.

No propongo que ganar no sea importante, sino que no sea lo único que importa, también importa la manera en que ganamos porque es la forma en que expresamos nuestros auténticos valores. Es lo que los anglosajones denominan, “walk the talk”.

Muchos se preguntan si actuar con integridad para lograr el éxito, aumenta o disminuye nuestra capacidad para lograr el éxito en términos convencionales. La respuesta nos la da el ejemplo del Popular, en el corto plazo puede ser que no, en el largo plazo no hay otra manera de hacerlo. Aunque algunos espabilados se vayan de rositas.

Este artículo fue publicado originalmente el día 4 de julio de 2017 en el periódico El Independiente.

All aboard? The culture train doesn’t need to be full to leave the station.

As we referred to in our first article, culture is everywhere, just like the air we breathe. The problem is that we forgot.

The second layer to this is that we often hear that people need to “start” working on the culture. However, the culture has always been there and is continuously influenced by everyone — the way people behave, lead and manage; what leaders do (not what they say); how an organization compensates their employees; internal communications; who gets promoted; its values on the website versus what it has really done every day; the external marketing; and every single thing that lets people know “what’s valued around here.” This is all part of the culture. Culture is like a live organism; it is always evolving, moving and shifting. Whether you choose it or not, it’s there.

The question then becomes, are you going to let the culture drive you, or do you want to drive the culture and have it be more aligned with your business needs and emerging challenges?

To engage on a culture transformation journey, you will need to identify and assess the current culture. It is very important to understand where you are.

  • Did a new CEO, with a new vision and direction, join?
  • Is your CEO leaving and would like to leave a legacy?
  • Is the market steering you in a new direction?
  • Is the company growing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up?

The answers will be unique for each organization and its leaders. What is critical is to understand what’s driving the change. Why are you embarking on this journey? Why do people need to be part of this? Having a case for change is a very important first step. The second one is to understand who is ready to understand it.

Once you have identified these points, the next step is to identify your key sponsors and champions who can connect with the need. We hear it over and over again — the belief or myth — that you need to have everyone on board to start the initiative. However, it is exactly that — a belief or myth — and it gets in the way of making change happen.

In his book “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell talks about The Law of the Few. In order to create sustainable change, you need to look for the connectors, mavens and salesmen — or as Everett Rogers developed his theory on “Diffusion of Innovations,” illustrated in the bell curve below.

Curve

Both authors describe that you do not need to have everyone on board. You need to look for the innovators and early adopters in your organization. Who can you work with to start the change?

As an example of how this works, I remember when we started working with a large manufacturing organization through the HR department. The team was really eager to start working on their culture. The main concern was that not everyone in the organization was ready to engage or even talk about culture change. Together, we identified a group of middle managers who were eager to change and develop new skills and who, at the same time, had a relevant influence in the business. We co-created a specific leadership development program for them. This group became the innovators and helped us connect with the early adopters. Through their leadership journey, they learned new mindsets, skills and behaviors. And as they implemented those new skills in their way of leading their departments and teams, it influenced the culture. Others in the organization noticed how the innovators and early adopters became more effective in their jobs, were more agile in their decision-making, and their overall performance improved, and they wanted the same.

The main learning is that it is never about having it perfect and everyone on board on day one but having the right people on the train to depart.

Here are a few questions to reflect on:

  • Where can I start this journey?
  • What are some easy and simple steps I can take?
  • Who are the innovators and early adopters in my organization? Are they getting the attention they need?
  • Who is currently on my culture train and how can I leverage them?
  • Who do I want to pick up at the next station to get on the train?

Our next article in this series: Energy flows where attention goes.

 

Video transcription: We started this project with a leadership team from a search engine organization. He was client of ours for many, many years, and he moved his role, and he told me, Fran, I think now we are ready to do something here, because I think I need some support to change the way we are dealing with some of the issues we are facing based on the market.”

Okay. So, we have a first meeting, and then he said, “Okay, after the first session with the leadership team, I want to do something with 80 people on my team in Munich.” So, in Munich, so Silke and four other members of our team went there, and they ran a one day session … a one day and a half session … with 80 people, and then two days later, I called him and said, “Okay, so, how did it go?” He said, “Yeah, you know, I have 30 people out of the 70 who responded to my email, and they said that it was great, and it was fantastic, and, but then I don’t know what the other 40 …”

I said, “What the hell are you talking about? You’re in technology. So, how many people do you need to buy your stuff the first day, in order for you to feel that you are improving?” He says, “No, 2%. You have 40%. So, you need to go for the early adopters. Forget about having everyone in.” Because we always focus on the people who are not in, instead of focusing on the people who want to make the change happen. So, who said that everyone should be in? A change process takes the same process that any sales process.

 

Culture Change : Make it simpler. Make it happen.

Dandelion clock in morning sun

Let’s start by talking about culture and what it means.

Every day, we breathe in order to survive. The air goes in and out of our lungs. We know the air is there, but we never think about it. The air allows us to do everything we do; and at the same time, we don’t even notice it. That’s the same with culture. Culture enables an organization to function. But as the air we breathe, it becomes invisible, and we forget how it affects everything we do.

We define culture as the messages, mostly nonverbal, that people in an organization receive about what is valued. Then people adapt in order to “fit in” (i.e., belong).

How is culture created? As an example, I’d like to refer you to the book “An Italian Education” by Tim Parks. It describes the life of a British expat family in Italy. The parents are starting to notice their children becoming more and more “Italian.” Initially, they are puzzled as to where they are picking it up. So then they tried to understand it: classmates at school, the neighbors, the media, and religion, among other things. In order to fit in, the children started to unconsciously embed some of the behaviors of the influencers that surround them, based on what works for them. Can you think about how all this is at play in any organization?

Think back for a moment to the first day you arrived at the company for which you now work. What did you notice? The way people talk, relate to each other, make decisions? What about the general communications? And the office look and feel? And what the boss does to be successful? And who gets promoted?

Understanding how culture is created and how it influences employees can become a lever as you work on culture change in your organization.

In recent years, culture has become a hot topic. You hear people talk about it often. Most organizations are involved in some kind of culture initiative. This is because we are getting more and more conscious about how important it is to get new strategies to work, to adapt to the new fast changing world, to be aware of the behaviors we are driving, by the context and environment we have created so far and for the strategies that worked in the past to be successful. There is much more consciousness about how the conditions, the environment, the incentives, the values and messages people receive are creating meaning for people to do what they do. The sense of alignment with a common purpose and way of working can become a competitive advantage. If the world is changing and our organizational strategies are changing, then our culture needs to shift to serve this new world of possibilities. We need to recreate the conditions for people to flourish and flow, making sense to a new world.

At the same time, the more and more we talk with people in organizations, in HR, Senior Leaders or CEOs, they all feel it’s hard to make all this change happen at the speed they expect. Many times it looks more like a burden than a great opportunity. How can we make culture change simpler? How can we make it happen?

In this series of articles, we will look at five beliefs (stories we tell ourselves as if they were absolutely true) that may even become myths. When it comes to culture change, the myths make it harder and may even impact the way we approach culture change and the tools we use for it. Are you ready to do some myth busting?

Not so fast. Going over the speed limit while trying to change the culture will cause chaos.

Before we dive into the myths, there are some things to consider.

Nobody is a culture expert on day one. Most of us have taken a biology class in school and can name a decent amount of body parts, organs, etc. However, this doesn’t make us capable of performing surgery. Surgery requires a different skill level. The same applies to culture. We have some knowledge, but we are not anywhere near expert level. In our experience, this is something that is being overestimated. An organization will assign someone, often from HR, as the person in charge of culture change. Having the title does not make them an expert, but you can be an expert in the future, by knowing a bit more every day. Can you imagine how much more you can know in one year if you consider everything to be opportunity to learn more about culture?

You can start by acknowledging that you don’t need to know it all on day one. This is hard because in big organizations, people are expected to know. Actually, this is the first step for the change you would like to drive. The danger is when you pretend you know but you don’t. So we suggest, that you just stop pretending!

Start seeking the expertise. Think about what information you need to learn in order to be capable of delivering on this great assignment.

Don’t decide to focus on everything all at once. You can’t eat ice cream in one big bite (brain freeze anyone?), nor can you with culture. It might be overwhelming when you are in the middle of it, like standing in a crowd of people. Imagine what it would be like if you look out of the airplane window, when you are 30,000 feet off the ground, and you see the different landscapes of cities and suburbs. Start by looking at the bigger picture before you zoom in. Where do you want to focus your attention? I like to use the metaphor of the flashlight. If culture is a big, dark room, you can flip the switch and light up the entire room, but that becomes quickly overwhelming. If you take your flashlight, you can focus on a specific item or task without being distracted. But for that, you first need to see the big room; and then the opportunities will come. Because, what you focus on expands.

A new process doesn’t change a culture. Processes help and are an integral part of culture change. But to create real and sustainable change, there is another layer.

Picture2.png

We all know what happened to the Titanic. It hit an iceberg. They did not see it coming, partly due to the weather. But they also failed to recognize that there is much more to an iceberg than what is visible above the water line. We use this analogy when we talk about culture change. What you see on the surface is the product or outcome (i.e., business results). This is what we call “have.”

Right below the water line, you will find the processes, systems and symbols that are needed to create change. For example, for a company facing rapid growth, agility is a key competence, but agility does not thrive in a bureaucratic environment. What internal process is causing this, and what can be changed in the process to make things less cumbersome? This is what we call the “do” level. This is where the adaptive change happens.

Now we are diving deeper into the ocean, where the foundation of the iceberg is. Just like your operating system on your computer, you can change the programs or software; but in order to create real change, the hardware needs to change. The ways in which people think and act are the hardware; and unless you change the hardware, you will not be able to create a new way of “doing” to achieve different results in the future.

What mindsets are needed from these individuals to allow for change to happen? Going back to the company that is facing rapid growth and where agility is key not to lose customers against the competitors, let’s say the one thing that creates that is the agility to make decisions. In a command and control environment, where every decision needs to go to the boss and be checked internally, this would be very hard to do. You need to create a mindset of trust and empowerment, believing that fast decisions pay back much more than some of the mistakes that could happen, and believing that you will learn from it. Coming from this mindset, you can create the conditions for this and the conversations needed to make this happen. This is the “be” level. This is where we talk about transformational change.

I have three simple questions for you today:

  • What are the main sources of culture creation in your organization, and what are some of the main culture levers you see to start creating the change you need?
  • As you engage in culture change, where have you started and why?
  • What changes does the organization need to make at the “do” level, then what changes need to be made at the “be” level to make culture change happen?

The next article in this series All Aboard? The culture train doesn’t need to be full to leave the station.

Innovation (change) is easier when…your business is more conscious than William Hung

by Raphael Louis Vitton and Oseas Ramirez Assad

Picture1Remember William Hung (aka Hung Hing Cheong), the now world-famous American Idol singer of Ricky Martin’s hit song “She Bangs”? We love William. Over a decade and a half ago (early 2004), he entertained us all with his charisma (he says) and with his unconscious example of the Dunning-Kruger effect (others say).

 

The Dunning-Kruger effect is “a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is” — Wikipedia. Psychologists Dunning and Kruger say that “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self.” They write that for a given skill, unconsciously incompetent people will:

  • fail to recognize their own lack of skill
  • fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy
  • recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill only AFTER they are exposed to training for that skill

UNCONSCIOUSLY INCOMPETENT TO CONSCIOUSLY COMPETENT

William Hung’s (and many other Idol’s) example of unconscious incompetence on live TV in front of millions of people satisfies at least one of the primary premises of the show. It lets the audience feel superior and relieved (for the moment) that at least we’re not THAT clueless about our own talents and abilities — as far as we know anyway. However, the Dunning-Kruger effect (aka the American Idol effect), like most cognitive biases, is a condition that we ALL can suffer from in our professions as well. Thankfully, we can all overcome it too, with a deliberate approach to training, rewiring default/reactive habits, surrounding ourselves with reliable feedback loops, increased mental complexity, increased levels of emotional intelligence and expanded curiosity muscles. (Note: The best way to develop curiosity muscles is by first working on the humility muscles.)

Screenshot 2017-05-25 14.59.50

We are often unconsciously unaware of our own incompetence, in fact, that David Dunning goes on to say in the “You Are Not So Smart” podcast that “of all the irony of the things we don’t know, the one thing we definitely don’t know is where the borderline is between our knowledge and our ignorance.” That, he says, applies to everything including our decision-making in everyday life, not to mention the highly valued business decision-making arena of our professional life. It applies to our role as leaders of our family, our community and our company.

This psychological insight illuminates one reason why so many executives have heard themselves (including myself) say that innovation is hard. Maybe we say that because we don’t want to take responsibility or blame. Maybe it’s because we like to self-congratulate and brag about ourselves for doing the hard things that others won’t. Maybe we’ve bought into the party line. Either way though, innovation (change) is not hard or easy. It just is what it is. “Hard” or “easy” is not an attribute of innovation or change but merely a relative comparison of two things: 1) the challenge and 2) our ability/inability to respond to the challenge effectively.

Whether the challenge is to sing a hit song on the American Idol stage, squat 300 pounds or respond to changing market conditions in my industry, there are two ways to approach it: I can say, “singing at a world-class level is hard,” ignoring my own competence/ability/skill level, or I can say, “singing at an elite level is hard for me. My vocal skills/muscles aren’t skilled/strong enough to sing at that level yet.” But we don’t say that. We say it’s too hard to do. “HARD” is only relative to our ability to respond to the challenge of singing the song (on key), lifting the weight or accomplishing the innovation goal. If our muscles aren’t ready for the innovation challenge, then the challenge/change is harder for us. But that same challenge is NOT hard for many other leaders. Change (innovation) is not hard for teams and leaders who operate from higher levels of consciousness — less subject to pitfalls of outdated thinking patterns. Conscious leaders make better innovation leaders. Their cognitive muscles, mental models, mindsets, relationship/teaming productivity and fear/stress management skills are developed/trained and ready to respond effectively to VUCA (i.e., volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity). But you can’t work on it if you don’t even notice it.

NOTICING THE GAP IS A GOOD THING

We likely don’t even realize that we are blaming innovation/change for our own lack of ability to respond effectively to changes in our business environment and market conditions. Years of neglecting the change-readiness individual and collective leadership development work are a root cause that explains the leadership complexity gap. That’s why we are unconscious and unaware — we don’t know we are. If we don’t notice it, we can’t work on it. Conversely, if we do notice it, then we can choose whether or not to work on it. Either way, it’s better than falling victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect.


We can’t just try harder.
That doesn’t work. Trying harder is not the same as deliberately training our innovation/change muscles to be able to respond better.

Experienced innovation leaders and conscious business Jedi (like Oseas Ramirez Assad, co-founder of Startup // Cisco) inside of David’s (startups) and Goliath’s (large corporations) will agree that innovation/change is easier when you:

Screenshot 2017-05-25 14.49.46

REactivating your company’s startup DNA will require you to face entrenched cultural norms, fear of change, career risk and other obstacles that will require you to be working from well beyond your current level. You will need to be working from your “next level” of thinking — more open and more grounded as a conscious leader. This grounding is the platform to recognize old/new paradigms (yours and others), to be less blissfully ignorant, to engage in difficult conversations/healthy debates, to untangle explicit agenda versus hidden/unconscious competing commitments, their feelings versus emotional triggers, etc. Getting to our next level of Jedi thinking and behaving takes practice.

  • Even the biggest companies were startups once
  • Design a grass roots effort and apply startup innovation best practices that are right for your company (e.g., lean startup, BMC, design thinking, service design)

Screenshot 2017-05-25 14.50.13

Focus on training mindsets, biases and core values (to help amplify the new growth strategy and fulfill the company purpose). This is an essential part of an innovation-centric lifestyle. Innovation can only be driven by a conscious leader who embodies the right mindsets, is aware of his/her own biases, and actively works to defuse them. Otherwise, people will immediately spot the incongruousness and slew of organizational contradictions. This will speak louder than the mindset itself.

  • Build a strong cultural foundation of expanded capabilities that help increase conscious awareness, broaden cognitive diversity, and deepen mental complexity and emotional intelligence
  • Apply startup constraints and bend/ignore rules as long as it’s clearly aligned with shared goals and core values

Screenshot 2017-05-25 14.50.45

Target corporate antibodies (e.g., the fear of failure). You will have to earn the right to influence the corporate system. Even if you have the hierarchical authority, you will need moral and social authority (e.g., trust, respect, confidence) for the community of people to want to follow you. You could try and force them to follow you via command and control techniques, but compliance does not generate the same energy or integrity as inviting voluntary commitment.

The moral/social authority that is earned by being a more conscious leader will always be surprisingly more powerful and sustainable.

  • Address the organizational contradictions, competing initiatives, undiscussables and cultural/social norms (policies) designed to preserve/protect the status quo
  • Don’t just train alone; train together (cross-functionally) in a way that builds relationships and engagement across the enterprise (breaking down silos)

Screenshot 2017-05-25 14.47.52

CONSCIOUS LEADERS MAKE BETTER INNOVATION LEADERS

They consistently deliver better results to the organization — it is as straightforward as that — for the sake of better business outcomes. The current leadership complexity gap clearly suggests that innovation leadership and transformation is a learned capability — a muscle group that has to be developed/trained for the gap to be closed.

The only way for our businesses to be more conscious is for our leaders to be more awake/self-aware. We need more men and women working from higher levels of consciousness — especially those who are responsible for implementing innovation strategies and those pursuing a new master plan of any kind.

The goal is to help leaders of organizations see more, plus collaborate better, plus feel stronger, becoming more agile in the face of uncertainty and fear. “Getting in the reps” of deliberate practice is what helps leaders more quickly and more effectively get to the complex problem-solving.

We need to pursue mastery of the fundamentals of conscious business. This practical approach helps leaders respond more resourcefully under stress, and it upgrades their operating systems with the intent of shifting to a culture with higher standards of performance, relationships and purpose.

Then again, we could be wrong. What if William Hung can sing really well…and we are the ones who are all tone deaf?

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Moving Through Cross-Functional Mindset Differences on Work Teams—Starting the Conversation

I think that most of the important work that is done in organizations these days is done by teams. Even if people are not all sitting together in a room working simultaneously, their work is shared with others, revised, edited, informed, poked, prodded, enhanced, refined or otherwise manipulated into a product that features input from a number of people. And almost always, those other people think somewhat differently than we do. Maybe that’s because of where they’re from, or where they’ve worked, or how they’ve been trained, or the experience they’ve had in this organization or prior organizations, their age/generation, etc. In other words, their mindsets are different based on their background and experience.

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In my work, I have often seen the impact of these mindset differences. And, importantly, another area of meaningful mindset difference is based on our functions. To be very clear, I am generalizing in making this observation. Not all finance people are sticklers for detail, and not all marketing people operate in the world of possibilities and potential. But many of them do—much to the dismay of people with other functional backgrounds. I think most of us would agree that organizations are much better off with the diversity of functional mindsets providing input into decision-making, idea generation, execution and other critical aspects of organizational success. But these differences can cause problems.

Have you ever been frustrated because someone across the table from you, or in one of your important meetings, rejects an idea on the basis of their legal regulatory experience? Or have you ever been flustered by someone on the team who insists that something can be done without providing any specifics about how? These are examples of cross-functional mindset challenges.

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So what might we do about it? How can we work better together, have more shared success, as well as retain our sanity?

First, slow down, breathe and recognize that differences are part of our shared human experience, whether that’s convenient for us or not. Remember that those people across the table are almost always good human beings who are participating in a way that they believe is useful and effective, from the point of view of their function and their experience.

Second, take action to understand their priorities—the interests that underlie their positions. When you hear a “no” that feels like a door slamming, ask for a few reasons why that answer was given. Ask what would have to be true in order for you to hear a “yes” instead. There are other useful questions you could ask, of course. The important thing is to listen carefully to the responses. Doing so will not only provide a basis for understanding the other person’s thinking but also will very importantly provide you with key information about how to frame your response to them, such as a new proposal or suggestion.

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Of course, this is easy to read here in a short blog and harder to do when the clock is ticking, the pressure is on, and we want to be finished with this conversation yesterday. Hang in there; make an effort. Perhaps others in the room will recognize how you are trying to move past differences and promote greater understanding and better results. They can join in as well. Share your intention with them and let your team know what you were trying to do and why. Chances are they will get on board.

Liderazgo Creativo en Tiempos VUCA

“Hay solo un golpe que está en perfecta armonía con el campo. Es “su” auténtico golpe. Y ese golpe lo está buscando. Hay un golpe perfecto allá afuera, buscando a cada uno de nosotros. Todo lo que tenemos que hacer es quitarnos del medio y dejar que nos encuentre”. 

-Coach Bagger Vance (Will Smith) hablando a Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) en un tramo de la película “La Leyenda de Bagger Vance”-Bagger Vance

En dicha escena, el coach Vance le habla a Junuh metafóricamente de la naturaleza contraintuitiva de la creatividad y del foco.

Sugiere que en lugar de abrirnos camino “pensando en la mejor solución frente a un desafío”, mantengamos la intención y busquemos un lugar de quietud y de presencia dejando que la idea perfecta en ese momento y lugar, la que “está en armonía con el todo”, nos encuentre.

Este consejo, en un mundo VUCA (volátil, incierto, complejo y ambiguo), parece carecer de toda lógica.

Richi webEn mis talleres comparto con los participantes una metáfora donde una rueda gira a una velocidad creciente. La superficie de la rueda refleja el mundo VUCA con todas sus características. Cuanto más rápido gire la rueda, más relevante es que su centro esté quieto, que no vibre (por esta razón es importante balancear las ruedas de los coches). Es una metáfora que integra la aparente contradicción entre “ir rápido e ir lento”. Aparentemente contradictorias, se vuelven una condición que requiere de la otra. Como dice Einstein, sólo puede integrarse una polaridad mirando desde otro punto de vista con mayor perspectiva.

Este espacio está más allá del neo córtex, incluye “el corazón y las tripas”. Quiero invitarlos a considerar que el acceso a ese espacio de sabiduría se logra desde el silencio y la presencia.

La pregunta que recibo a menudo es cómo entrar en ese espacio, ¿cuál es el portal de ingreso? Mi respuesta simple (y profunda) es… a través de la respiración. Tomar unas respiraciones de consciencia es algo que todos podemos hacer. Es el despertador de consciencia más a mano que tenemos. Y es uno que a menudo ignoramos. El sistema respiratorio es un sistema que es automático (respiramos mientras estamos en un sueño profundo) y a la vez podemos “contener voluntariamente” la respiración durante un tiempo. Es decir, que es automático y volitivo. Tomar una respiración de consciencia frente a una reacción emocional. Inspirar, retener unos segundos, exhalar. Repetir, dos o tres veces. Es el acto más simple del mundo. Y nos coloca en un lugar de consciencia diferente al que teníamos antes de respirar. Y la paradoja es que cuando estamos en un lugar diferente tenemos elecciones que desde un lugar de ceguera no tenemos. Todas las opciones aparecen con la perspectiva, con poder ver “hacer objeto” algo a lo que antes estábamos “sujetos”. Es la diferencia entre “tener una historia” a que “la historia te tenga a ti”. Desde un lugar de mayor perspectiva o consciencia las elecciones se multiplican.

En un mundo VUCA, invertir tiempo de práctica para entrar en ese lugar de mayor auto-consciencia es clave para poder responder con efectividad, en armonía con tus valores a los desafíos que el entorno te plantea.

Como dice Shauna Shapiro, miembro de nuestro Advisory Board, “aquello que practicas, crece”. La neurociencia es contundente al respecto. Está profusamente demostrado que el cerebro físicamente se modifica con prácticas como la respiración consciente. Los invito a abrazarlas y a experimentar los efectos en su habilidad para ejecutar, en sus relaciones y en ustedes mismos.

Simple de decir, no tan obvio de hacer. Pero debe hacerse si queremos cambiar el nivel de consciencia y efectividad, en particular el nuestro, el de los equipos en los que operamos, el de las organizaciones de las que formamos parte y el de la sociedad en la que vivimos.

 

Inglorious Bystanders

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Why Chief Innovation Officers (NOT JUST Chief HR/Diversity Officers) should be treating the “BIAS VIRUS” in your company…

SUMMARY: The very same (explicit and implicit) counterproductive cognitive biases that fuel decades of micro and macro aggressions toward women/minorities in the workplace are also fully embedded in the anchors of corporate cognitive bias and mental models that are undermining your innovation strategy, collaboration, knowledge sharing, engagement, complex problem-solving, any/all change initiatives (e.g., fixed vs. growth mindsets, knower vs. learner mindsets, victim vs. creator mindsets). Unconscious bias (UB) is a virus that’s killing your strategy and disadvantaging your best people at the same time.

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SAME BRAINS. SAME BIASES.

For example, a long-held belief/bias that men are better leaders than women is as counterproductive today as a long-held belief/bias that a business strategy focused on hardware and software is better than shifting to that new “cloud” thing. The old success formula is great until it isn’t. Then holding onto it is just stupid. But your brain doesn’t care, and it’s in charge — not you. The same mental models and corporate social norms that lock those ancient systemwide biases (e.g., men over women, powerful men and women over all others) in place also keep your individual and institutional biases (e.g., reactivity over creativity, reliability over eventuality, evaluative over generative, patriarchy over mutual learning) commanding and controlling your future right into the past. Chances are your innovation strategy is so corrupted by these biases that you’re unknowingly designing your company into the 1970s. Until your executive team recognizes and addresses UB and the realities of associated gender/race inequality paradigms in your organization like the mission-critical, customer-facing, fully integrated, strategic business priority that it is (rather than treat it like a board/CEO pet project, “pseudo priority”), your company won’t make much progress toward the future. If your company is stuck in the past, chances are you are one of the powerful executives contributing to the spread of the bias virus and bystander culture.

MALPRACTICE AT WORST. INGLORIOUS “BYSTANDERING” AT BEST.

IF unconscious bias were a medical condition (and leaders/teams were the patients), THEN…most chief human resource officers, chief diversity officers, chief learning officers, learning and development directors, gender diversity and inclusion directors, the Ph.Ds. who fill those departments, and all of the CEOs and boards that sponsor/approve most of today’s UB prescriptions/UB treatment plans would be jailed/sued for malpractice…or at least fired for their silence and Paterno-like inglorious bystandering.

Unconscious bias IS the No. 1 business challenge from which all other business challenges arise. UB is silently killing your winning business strategy from the inside out. UB is stifling your business results and eating both your culture and your strategy for breakfast. UB doesn’t care. UB is sucking the energy, passion, engagement, trust and commitment out of even your most talented populations while turning away the global talent and customers alike that you are trying desperately to attract. UB doesn’t care. UB doesn’t recognize what your company values, its purpose or business goals are. UB doesn’t care what kind of leader you think you are. UB doesn’t care what kind of leader (you think) your children think you are. UB is ruining your leadership impact. UB is making you (and your team of leaders) look outdated and oblivious. UB is killing you and the people you’re supposed to be leading. How tragic that you (should) know this already. How tragic and yet still so very little will be done about it during your tenure.

To change this trajectory, the funding and focus of disparate UB training programs, corporate universities, leadership development and innovation/transformation leadership programs all need to be elevated, consolidated and then integrated into new corporate lifestyle habits that have the power to overcome all the maladaptive biases we carry with us.

Even though our executives and boards are supposed to be made up of our highest value decision-makers, complex problem solvers and action takers (that’s the primary output of professionals in the 21st century), they aren’t adapting quickly enough today. In the context of readying the corporation for the future, these most valuable executives are supposed to be leading current and future teams of leaders through a transformative shift in their thinking patterns (investing in elevating the mental complexity and emotional intelligence of the organization) to take action against the counterproductive thinking patterns of the industrial age and the outdated behaviors that undermine the company’s current and future business strategy, ROI and competitive market positioning. They may think they are doing just that, but they are likely themselves even more trapped by the visible and invisible biases than the rest of us. Even the well-intended (enlightened) hierarchies holding the most powerful senior roles are unconsciously more imprisoned (zombified) and entrenched in perpetuating these unconscious biases largely because: a) once they reach a position of power, they are less empathetic/less aware of the disadvantaged plight of those with less power; b) they are personally benefiting from the biases and power structures remaining in place. The more intelligent, accomplished and successful you are, the less likely you are to believe that your thinking + behavior could possibly be suffering from these unconscious blind spots. That makes you a more dangerous decision-maker (a “walker”).

Even when corporate boards and CEOs finally declare that mitigating gender/race/age bias is a priority, most of their employees don’t believe it — and they’re right not to. That’s because when this “pet project” of the board gets handed off to someone in HR or L&D to design and implement, it is still treated like an optional, bolted-on sidecar to the business strategy. It is underfunded. It is underestimated. The leadership mandate to make it reasonable, practical and scalable (efficient and cheap) creates a superficial treatment and doesn’t provide much cure. It’s odd that executives aren’t more sensitive to what’s effective vs. what’s reasonable and convenient. The “bias virus” (as I like to call it) doesn’t care what else is on your calendar…you’re going down, and there’s no flu shot or pill you can take to wish it away.

Today, many of the people responsible for treating corporate cognitive biases treat them as if they were only a minor, social, HR issue — a case of the sniffles or a sore throat that’ll go away with words of encouragement, patience, sensitivity and a box of tissues. They treat cognitive bias like a minor illness instead of treating it like the most Pervasive, Advanced, Chronic, Malignant, Acute, Neurodegenerative (PACMAN) and treatable leadership condition that drives individual and team behaviors while negatively affecting business activities impacted by those behaviors such as innovation, strategy, execution, customer centricity, retention, recruiting, collaboration, agility, engagement, risk-taking, knowledge sharing and culture change.bouillon

Treating deeply ingrained mental models, mindsets and biases (the “bias virus”) with the equivalent of little more than edutainment, awareness programs and two-hour webinars is like treating the Ebola virus with a bouillon cube shortcut because the equally ineffective chicken soup remedy takes too long for busy executives. That’s negligent and blameworthy to address individual, organizational and systemic corporate biases and the need to shift mindsets with programs that minimize or skip the deep, personal adult development work necessary for senior leaders to shift. It’s the only proactive development work that has the power to influence the system in a meaningful way. These bystanders, on the other hand, recommending anything less or suggesting that somewhere in the organization they are indeed working on a “much more strategic/comprehensive effort” (REALLY? LET’S SEE IT!) are complicit with their cowardly silence and sensitivity to corporate norms rather than being more sensitive to what actually works. Instead of effectively supporting the expansion of leadership capabilities, helping them ready the company for the network age that’s already passing them by, most learning and development executives (and their programs) are trapped in the same culture shackles of learned helplessness that they are supposed to be helping liberate.

2016 HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW: “The problem is, organizations are trying to reduce bias with the same kinds of programs they’ve been using since the 1960s. And the usual tools—diversity training, hiring tests, performance ratings, grievance systems—tend to make things worse, not better.” That’s what malpractice sounds like to me.

THE MALPRACTICE IS DOCUMENTED. LEADERSHIP ACCOUNTABILITY, METRICS AND STANDARDS ARE PRETTY LOW (EVEN WHEN CLAIMING TO BE HIGH).

Even the more progressive silicon valley tech companies and venture capital companies mostly treat the UB problem by ignoring it altogether or treat it like it is a political/social/HR issue with regard to sensitivity training or some corporate social responsibility program…loosely connected to business. Again, it’s a business leadership issue; it’s a strategy execution issue. Most programs are largely limited by budget, power or sponsorship, evidenced by how the programs are implemented and how little progress has been made and exposed in this “Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” article.

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There are endless amounts of research and data in every industry, including life and death ones, like in the article Bias in the ER — about how doctors suffer from the same cognitive distortions as the rest of us. Endless amounts of research on adult development approaches to bias by Kahneman, Tversky, Kegan, etc., all say similar things about our explicit and implicit bias/limitation of the brain that gets in the way of decision-making — some that were published back in the 1770s let alone the more recent stuff in the 1970s. In 2017, senior executive professionals in the field of learning and development are aware of the research, data, lawsuits and impact that UB has on decision-making and outcomes. In 2015, 20 percent of most large companies had unconscious bias (UB) and gender, diversity and inclusion programs (GD&I). By 2020, it is predicted that 50 percent of companies will have UB and GD&I programs. But what kind of programs will they be? The “bouillon cube” kind?

WHAT WORKS? VERTICAL LEARNING PROGRAMS SHIFT MINDSETS, CHANGE BEHAVIORS, AFFECT BUSINESS-RELATED ACTIVITIES AND CHANGE OUTCOMES.

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Experts know that mitigating the negative effects of bias requires a special kind of transformation program — vertical (adaptive) learning programs — that unlock “next-level” mental complexity and emotional intelligence for leaders who want to pursue that. It’s an operating system upgrade. But most time-constrained and mind-constrained corporations deliver bite-sized, horizontal learning. Horizontal learning is adding skills at the current level of the current operating system. Horizontal learning is fine for many developmental needs but useless with regard to more complex adult development needs. To address bias with horizontal learning programs (or not knowing the difference) is useless, negligent and blameworthy bystandering.

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Complex adaptive challenges (like culture change, mindset shifts and mitigating unconscious bias) require complex adaptive leadership training to overcome bias/beliefs (long rewarded and held consciously and unconsciously), creating blinds spots at the current level that block them from seeing the possibility of additional/viable perspectives, leaving leaders trapped by their prior success and by what they know, incapable of expanding their own perspective let alone facilitating a high-performance environment that can. Vertical learning programs include: a) stretch experiences; b) more direct applicable focus on the business challenges/goals, giving everyone a stronger reason to practice; c) new paradigms, frameworks for thinking, responding, practicing; and d) are designed to create long-term, formal and informal, peer-based (social learning) communities of practice that deliver depth over speed while being speedy. That’s how adult development is accelerated. That’s how adults increase their mental complexity and emotional intelligence. Complex adaptive leadership muscles are muscles that all leaders have. But for most, they have not yet developed them sufficiently to lead in the 21st century/Fourth Industrial Revolution.

 INCONGRUENCE — NOT WALKING THE TALK

I cringe when leaders say, “Our senior executives are all very aware of this priority, but we’re still figuring out how to solve it. They are all just so busy that it is not reasonable to expect them to spend more than a couple hours on this — though that’s all they need; they are very smart.” ARE YOU SERIOUS? That’s a real quote (from a distinguished Ph.D.) heard in similar forms from more than one diversity leader and more than one innovation strategy leader at double-digit, multibillion-dollar organizations. That’s what fear and confirmation biases sound like — unknowingly contributing to protecting the preference for the status quo = homeostasis at work.

Here are some additional examples of where the (“it’s a priority”) incongruence and appropriately labeled “bystander” behavior shows up:

  1. Most senior executives don’t go through the training themselves. They don’t go through the stretch experiences and conversations that they want others to go through — and it shows.
  2. Most executive sponsors demonstrate how they perpetuate organizational contradictions and how little they have prioritized the treatment of bias with their “cringeworthy” sponsorship speeches and oblivious comments like: “I don’t even think about gender bias; I don’t do that on my team” — only to embarrass themselves and undermine the integrity of the program and leadership overall.
  3. Most programs only touch a tiny population of “high-potential” employees — with a tiny portion of content. In a company of tens of thousands of employees, they might only expose a couple hundred employees (at best) to the program over a year’s time and then send them back into the inertia of the organization where it’s quickly understood what is valued and what isn’t.
  4. Most company leaders are afraid to publish your numbers for gender and diversity pay parity, promotion rate, etc., because they haven’t changed sufficiently. They don’t publish the metrics, don’t have target goals, and blame the attorneys for that bad business practice (plenty of companies, with more attorneys than you, do publish), and the transparency tsunami is going to expose your numbers soon enough. Some are updated regularly in public Google documents (e.g., women in software engineering).
  5. Most company leaders are visibly suffering from the leadership complexity gap, unable to respond better to change, lack of agility, curiosity, collaboration, engagement, etc., any better than they could decades ago.
  6. Most company leaders still proudly protect their own status by showing a tendency to focus on short-term efficiency over effectiveness; cost vs. transformation outcomes; speed over depth; etc., contributing to a lack of progress closing the leadership complexity gap.

Why is corporate bystandering still so prevalent? We all know it’s happening, right?

Corporations have not invested in training their mindset shifting muscles. They don’t have an expert orientation to their role as culture or change leaders. L&D has taught them to prefer and settle for edutainment bu$$sh#t awareness programs.

Power, it turns out, diminishes empathy and increases the “knower/fixed” mindset. And we all know that dominant power structures are biased and don’t give up their dominance willingly, even when it’s in their best interest and the best interest of the whole. Unless, of course, you are aware of your biases, then you can work on them.

WHO’S BYSTANDERING THE MOST IN THE FACE OF BIAS AT YOUR COMPANY? IT’S DIFFERENT EVERYWHERE. YOU DECIDE.

  • CEO (chief executive officer)? Yes, ultimate accountability, but most hide behind latanetheir executive team and blame them or they blame the culture (everyone else but themselves)
  • CHRO (chief human resource officer)? Yes, they should have command of all things people related but are focused mostly on administrative, policy, procedure, budget and legal matters
  • CTO (chief talent officer)? Should be connecting future capabilities/resources and business needs (It’s rare to find one who has enough business experience and people experience to be consciously competent for this role.)
  • CLO (chief learning officer)? L&D? Should be the experts at prioritizing vertical and horizontal development needs but are trapped by the same learned helplessness as the general population — deferring to business short-term demands and power structures, living in fear from budget to budget, trying to justify their own job through self-preservation vs. effectiveness
  • GD&I (gender, diversity and inclusion) leader? Should be the powerful expert integrated into the business but typically reports to CHRO
  • BU (business unit) leader?

 WHO IS WORKING ON IT LIKE A BUSINESS PRIORITY?

Chuck Robbins, CEO at CISCO, is very clear on the business benefits of addressing biases (conscious and unconscious) in a deliberate and strategic way. It is tangible in how the CISCO innovation team aligns with learning and development and gender, diversity and inclusion priorities as you can read what Robbins wrote in his blog post:

“With the increasing pace and complexity of today’s market, it’s critical that our leadership team understands our customers, delivers results, brings diverse perspectives and experiences, and builds world-class, highly motivated teams. This will differentiate us as a much faster, innovative organization that delivers the best results for our customers.”

 

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