The Adaptable Definition of the Life Work Balance Debate

A very good friend and associate, Colin Smith and I were having our monthly catch up, Colin had just received a birthday present from a loved one, a Tibetan bowl. A Tibetan singing bowl is a type of bell that vibrates and produces a rich, deep tone when played. Also known as singing bowls or Himalayan bowls, Tibetan singing bowls are said to promote relaxation and offer powerful healing properties. When we moved our discussion to life-work balance.

The term “work-life balance” has yet to lose its buzz in the last few years. This is partially due to the dominating presence of millennials in the workforce. Employers have been putting in a tremendous effort trying to determine the best way to appeal to millennial workers. Brookings Education research predicts that the millennial generation of workers is projected to take up 75% of the workforce by 2025, many leaders think it’s time to redefine what work-life balance looks like.

In short, they want to be highly engaged by what they do and smart leaders will harness their sense of mission or risk losing these employees to more purpose-driven companies.

Work-life balance is an important aspect of a healthy work environment. Maintaining a work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace. Chronic stress is one of the most common health issues in the workplace. It can lead to physical consequences such as hypertension, digestive troubles, chronic aches and pains, and heart problems. Chronic stress can also negatively impact mental health because it’s linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

There are significant and horrific trends that show employee illness, mental health issues that directly correlate within the business, not to mention Zoom fatigue. Too much stress over a long period of time leads to workplace burnout. Employees who work tons of overtime hours are at a high risk of burnout. Burnout can cause fatigue, mood swings, irritability, and a decrease in work performance.

This is bad news for employers because according to Harvard Business Review, the psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees cost an estimated $125 to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the United States.

It’s important for employers to realize that work-life balance is about more than just hours. Besides promoting flexibility, employers should also strive to improve the overall workplace experience for their employees. Prioritizing a healthy culture and cultivating a happy workplace environment promotes work-life balance. When employees are happy in their roles, work will feel more like a second home, and less like working for a paycheck. Employers should prioritize competitive compensation, comfortable office conditions, opportunities for professional growth, and opportunities for social connections.

Attitudes on work-life balance will continue to evolve with cultural, generational, and economic changes. Flexible leaders can update or reinvent their workplace culture to try something new if employees report poor work-life balance.

While maximizing employee productivity will always remain a constant goal, ensuring employees have the time they desire away from the office and enjoy their time spent in the office is the best way to retain talented employees and make them lifers, regardless of perceived generational differences.

Think about a bell out of sequence or even a change ringing, change ringing is the art of ringing a set of tuned bells in a tightly controlled manner to produce precise variations in their successive striking sequences, known as “changes”. This can be by method ringing in which the ringers commit to memory the rules for generating each change, or by call changes, where the ringers are instructed how to generate each change by instructions from a conductor. This creates a form of bell music that cannot be discerned as a conventional melody but is a series of mathematical sequences.

To ring quickly, the bell must not complete the full 360 degrees before swinging back in the opposite direction; while ringing slowly, the ringer waits with the bell held at the balance, before allowing it to swing back. To achieve this, the ringer must work with the bell’s momentum, applying just the right amount of effort during the pull that the bell swings as far as required and no further.

Despite this colossal weight, it can be safely rung by one (experienced) ringer, but in the wrong hands of expertise at the helm, the bell will be imbalanced.

Just like at a theatre, the maestro is on the podium is one of classical music’s most recognisable figures, long before Toscanini or Furtwängler, Bernstein or Dudamel, there was Pherekydes of Patrae, known in ancient Greece as the ‘Giver of Rhythm’.

A report from 709 BC describes him leading a group of eight hundred musicians by beating a golden staff “up and down in equal movements” so that the musicians “began in one and the same time” and “all might keep together”. A music conductor can be responsible for much more than just how a concert turns out. The balanced conductor has the ability to influence the entire system of music education, which can be emulated all over the world.

This is why the importance of wellbeing, life balance and mental health has never been more important.
Research from Mind confirms that a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers:
• More than one in five (21%) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
• 14% agreed that they had resigned and 42% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them.
• 30% of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’.
• 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.

Employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This includes mental health and wellbeing. You can find out more about health and safety at work in our health and safety factsheet.

Employees who have a mental health condition may be disabled as defined by the Equality Act 2010, and will therefore be protected from discrimination during employment.

One of the greatest challenges for employers and workers in 2020 was finding ways to work to keep companies afloat and to support people, people managers and their psychological wellbeing.

This trend will not disappear in 2021, and it will be necessary to bolster and cultivate employee wellbeing while people continue to work remotely or in partial return to offices. There was a growing awareness of mental health and wellbeing throughout 2020, but the challenges are not over.

In 2021 and beyond, all organisations should be:
• Assessing overall levels of wellbeing of staff on an ongoing basis; and
• Ensuring frontline managers and teams are still sensitive to individual wellbeing.

At the leadership level, there is a sizable disconnect between how important purpose is claimed to be for business and how central purpose actually is to business decisions. This gap demonstrates the optimism and promise that leaders see in being purpose-driven to elevate business, but a hesitation to “walk the walk” and actively embed it into foundational elements of the company, such as organizational decision architecture.

In my mind, the purpose of a company is defined as the reason for being beyond profit. Or to cite EY, it’s the organization’s single, underlying objective that unifies all stakeholders. Purpose should embody the company’s ultimate role in the broader economic, societal, and environmental context for 100 or more years.

A clear purpose goes beyond products or services and instead describes what impact or change the company can make in the largest context possible. Some examples of good purpose statements are:
• Merck: “Our purpose is to preserve and improve human life.”
• Southwest Airlines: “We connect people to what’s important in their lives.”
• Zappos: “Our purpose is to inspire the world by showing it’s possible to simultaneously deliver happiness to customers, employees, community, vendors and shareholders in a long-term sustainable way.”

Clearly defining and articulating purpose can truly propel a company forward. Purpose helps set a long-term business strategy, creates a bigger competitive advantage and differentiation in the marketplace, inspires innovation, increases brand trust and loyalty, and ultimately, helps the company stand the test of time. EY and Harvard Business Review co-authored a research project which revealed that 58% of companies that are truly purpose-driven report 10% growth or more over the past three years, versus 42% of companies that don’t have a fully embedded purpose reporting a lack or even decline of growth in the same period.

Purpose also has the power to positively impact employees. In order for that to happen, the purpose needs to be relevant, aspirational, and actively embedded in the whole company. If that’s the case, a multitude of benefits materializes for employees.

Finally, we are living in a time of increasingly intelligent technologies, when an organization’s ability to be trusted really matters. But the way data and intelligent technologies such as AI are being used is creating significant trust gaps. For example, the public feels that intelligent technology is moving too fast and that regulators can’t keep up, as documented in the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer.

There are plenty of high-profile examples of data misuse and unintended outcomes from AI usage that have contributed to these gaps.

In short form:
• We need trust as an essential ingredient for wellbeing, life balance, mental health.
• Unless organizations anticipate and close the potential trust gaps, companies and regulators need to create policies to work with each other and with wider society to identify practicable, actionable steps that businesses can take to shape a new relationship with wider society: a new ‘settlement’ based on mutual understanding and a shared recognition of the positive role that business plays in people’s lives.

• To close trust gaps, organizations must embed a people-first strategy with purpose.
• Trust within and across this ecosystem is key to its long-term sustainability and survival. That’s why trust needs to be restored to the heart of the business world.

As Stephen M.R. Covey – American Educator, once said:

“Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.”

Guest-blog: Deana Mitchell CMP DMCP discusses the importance of wellbeing and why good mental health matters

Deana Mitchell

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two.

Since its emergence in Asia in 2019, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica.

But the pandemic is much more than a health crisis, it’s also an unprecedented socio-economic crisis.

Stressing every one of the countries it touches, it has the potential to create devastating social, economic, and political effects that will leave deep and longstanding scars.

Experts have predicted a ‘’tsunami of psychiatric illness’’ in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. For such a large-scale event like the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on mental health can be long-lasting.

The prevalence of common mental health disorders is expected to rise during the post-pandemic time as a result of the long-term effects of the pandemic, the restrictive measures such as social distancing and quarantine, and the socio-economic effects. This has implications for mental health services.

An inspired quote was shared with me recently ‘The darkest moments of our lives are not to be blurred or forgotten, rather they are a memory to be called upon for inspiration, to remind us of the unrelenting human spirit and our capacity to overcome the intolerable.’

People experience emotional disturbance, irritability, insomnia, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms immediately after the quarantine period. The long-term impact is considerable and wide-ranging including anxiety, anger, depression, post-traumatic stress symptoms, alcohol abuse, and behavioural changes such as avoiding crowded places and cautious hand washing. These psychological symptoms can last from several months up to three years after the quarantine period.

Social distancing could possibly lead to substantial increases in loneliness, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, child abuse, and substance abuse.

However, on a more positive note, COVID-19 has created opportunities for businesses to become more innovative. Facing external pressures, some business leaders are stepping out of their routines and comfort zones to become creative problem-solvers.

Along the way, they rediscovered their entrepreneurial spirit and provided us with a new sense of appreciation and gratefulness. It has offered us a new perspective on everything we have taken for granted for so long – our freedoms, leisure, connections, work, family, and friends. We have never questioned how life as we know it could be suddenly taken away from us.

Hopefully, when this crisis is over, we will exhibit new levels of gratitude. We have also learned to value and thank health workers who are at the frontline of this crisis, risking their lives every day by just showing up to their vital work. This sense of gratefulness can also help us develop our resilience and overcome the crisis in the long-term.

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Deana Mitchell CMP DMCP – Deana and myself collaborated on a book, ‘God in Business’, I have the utmost respect for Deana and her work, and I know you will enjoy hearing her experiences and advice.

Deana Mitchell is an entrepreneur, mental health advocate, and co-author.

She started her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 14. Deana holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Louisiana State University and has enjoyed a three-decade career in the hospitality, meetings & events industry.

As the President of the newly formed company, Genius & Sanity, her mission is to help entrepreneurs and business owners reach their potential and thrive. The focus is to find the balance between career, success, and whole self-health.

In March of 2020, Deana founded the Realize Foundation which is dedicated to creating awareness around mental health. Specifically, depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation. Deana is going to talk to us about the importance of wellbeing and ‘Why Good Mental Health Matters’.

Thank you, Geoff, it is a pleasure to collaborate with you on this important subject.

“I woke up in the hospital, realizing I was still alive…”

In May of 1997, I survived a suicide attempt. And then I spent 23 years hiding it from the world, and from myself. During those decades, instead of practicing self-care, I threw myself into work 24/7. I was used to being a workaholic, in fact, it was all I knew.

Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, I had my first business was at the age of fourteen. In 2010, I started a venture that grew into an award-winning seven-figure company.

All came to a screeching halt in March of 2020 with the rest of the world. I found myself with no work to keep my mind occupied and no travel to keep me moving. I was learning that work was my coping mechanism. I had to focus on something, or I was not OK.

What transpired in the next few months was life-changing. There was research, many conversations, networking, learning, self-reflection, and yes therapy. The result was becoming a different person and realizing my true calling in life. Let me explain…

You see, all those years I was constantly obsessed with climbing the ladder. Driven by proving myself to everyone and anyone around me, and all the while hiding the depression and anxiety that I dealt with on almost a daily basis.

The year of COVID taught me the absolute necessity of honesty and hard conversations. There is no true success in life without some sort of failure. If being successful was easy, whether personally or professionally, it would not have the same meaning to us. There is something to say about overcoming obstacles and working hard for something. It has a deeper meaning and is more fulfilling once you get there.

Without failures and hard times, success would feel empty. I believe that God uses all the tough awful stuff in our lives for growth. Once we have experienced the bad, we can use it for good. In order for that to work, we must be willing to look inside ourselves and process the things we survive. Without self-reflection, we cannot truly be our authentic and best selves.

First, we must get honest with ourselves. I mean, really honest. In order to get there, we have to spend time alone and quiet. You must find what works for you: journaling, meditation, praying, being out in nature, listening to music… there is no right answer as everyone is different. The key is to truly connect with yourself, reflect on your life and discover the kid inside. This can be painful and freeing at the same time.

Try talking to yourself in the mirror. I have a friend that hosted a self-care challenge recently and she told us to get in front of the mirror and say, “I promise to take care of you mentally and physically every day”. I got the first two words out before the tears streamed down my face. I realized I had not taken care of myself physically or mentally in decades, possibly my entire life. I felt like a fraud.

For me, after 23 years of silence on this front, it was difficult to even remember all that I had been hiding. I am not going to lie, it was hard and there were lots of tears, but in the end, it has been more valuable than I can explain.

Talking heart to heart with old friends from childhood and college gave me the sense of the person I had lost along the way. Asking them how they remembered me, helped me find myself again. I decided how I wanted to show up in the world moving forward and I am not ashamed of my past anymore. My identity was not the career I had built, although that was the person people knew for decades.

We must look inside to understand the shortfalls and disappointments we have experienced. The wisdom you glean from being honest with yourself is immeasurable. It is freeing. Then you get to decide what to do with that information.

It will change you. Are you are feeling stuck, stressed, overwhelmed, stretched thin, and exhausted? Self-reflection and a custom plan of self-care can indeed change you into a happy, healthy, productive, rested, balanced person. It is a process, so be patient with yourself.

Next, we must get honest with the people closest to us. These conversations are hard, but I promise they will bring so much clarity and understanding. Preparing for these conversations is key.

Make sure you tell your loved one or friend that you need to have a serious conversation about something especially important to you. Make the time and space that you both need to make it productive. You cannot just schedule this as an hour in your calendar, it may need to be a whole day.

This works personally and professionally on different levels, but the person you are approaching needs context to understand what they are walking into, so they are ready, open to hearing what you want to tell them and not blindsided.

Think about the annual review you receive from your boss. You must mentally prepare for that conversation. Usually, even the criticism is constructive once you have time to digest and reflect on it. That information is painful at first but makes you stronger and better for it in the long run.

In my situation, I have the most loving supportive husband anyone could ask for, but he does not understand how my brain works. To be truthful, most of the time I do not understand how my brain works! Communication is key for him to help me get through. In the past, I hid it all. I traveled so much that it was easy to not let anyone in.

We can only hold it in and ‘go it alone’ for so long. There are people in our lives that care about us. If they knew what you were going through, they would do whatever they could to be supportive.

Having hard conversations does not end with your family and friends. It can be a business partner, employees, audiences that you speak to, or your followers on social media. If you start these conversations, there will have a ripple effect and help people in your various communities do the same.

Why do you do what you do? Does it make you happy? Do you enjoy your daily routine? I am not talking about what the people around you want you to do… or what you do to make others happy. This is not about why you make the world, or your industry better. But why do you do what you do? What is your passion? What makes you come alive? What is your life’s mission? Your true calling?

If you would have asked me those questions a year ago, I would have said I loved what I was doing. I had a wonderful husband and family, a successful business, an amazing team, and I enjoyed a plethora of colleagues all over the world. I served on several boards and was traveling all the time. It appeared that I had everything.

With the understanding I have gained over the last 10 months, the reality is that I was keeping up the appearance, so everyone saw what I just explained. But for me, I was exhausted, stressed, anxious and there was no end in sight. I was never home to spend time with the person in the world who loved me most.

The gift for me was understanding how life changes when you find your why. I lost a 20-year friend to suicide and knew at that moment I had to do something about it. That I needed to use my story to save others from the same plight. My silence did not help my friend, but the hard conversation may have.

When you understand your true calling in life and reach for it with everything you’ve got, your perception of yourself and the world changes for the better.

We all feel afraid, powerless, and alone at some point in our life. Whether it is a sick loved one or keeping our business afloat. Give yourself some grace, the world needs more kindness.

You matter, you are worth it, and you are not alone.

You can contact Deana Mitchell via the following websites and social links:

www.deanabrownmitchell.com

Linkedin – Deana (Brown) Mitchell, CMP DMCP
Facebook – @GenuisandSanity
Instagram – @geniusandsanity
Twitter – @GeniusandSanity

Foundation – www.realizefoundation.org

The four Intelligences; IQ, EI, SI, DI and why we need Wisdom Intelligence (WI)

I recently had a very in-depth philosophical discussion with a good friend and associate, Douglas, this was a fascinating discussion, one that could have easily progressed through the day and not the hour.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the “something” in each of us that is a bit intangible. It affects how we manage behaviour, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviour and relationships.

I have written on the subject of the balance between IQ vs EI and more recently ‘why emotional intelligence is leadership, team spirit and company culture’ and Emotional Intelligence and Your Survival through the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. It’s a powerful way to focus your energy in one direction with a tremendous result. TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills, and found that emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.

Of all the people I have studied at work, I found that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim.

The WEF (World Economic Forum) published a report, Future of Work 2020-2030, no big surprise that in the skills categories EI was identified as one of the key categories of skills to save your job in the decade.

The questions I am sure you are thinking:
1. What is Emotional Intelligence (EI) and why it matters?
2. What is Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and why it matters?
3. What is Spiritual Intelligence (SI) and why it matters?
4. Is there a significant relationship between EI and SI?
5. What is Decency Intelligence (DI)?
6. How does Wisdom Intelligence (WI) have a place in society?

It is clear that today’s executives are more diverse in terms of their wellbeing, age, culture, nationality and several other factors.

EI is the ability to sense, understand and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection and influence.
SI is the set of abilities that individuals use to apply, manifest and embody spiritual resources, values and qualities in ways that enhance their daily functioning and wellbeing.
With both these intelligences happening in the workplace, the environment will be more conducive. A better working environment relates to a higher level of productivity and wellbeing of both individual as well as organizational wellbeing.

Intelligence quotient (IQ)
Total score derived from a set of standardized tests or subtests designed to assess human intelligence. The abbreviation “IQ” was coined by the psychologist William Stern for the German term Intelligenzquotient, his term for a scoring method for intelligence tests at the University of Breslau he advocated in a 1912 book.

Historically, IQ was a score obtained by dividing a person’s mental age score, obtained by administering an intelligence test, by the person’s chronological age, both expressed in terms of years and months.

The resulting fraction (quotient) is multiplied by 100 to obtain the IQ score. For modern IQ tests, the median raw score of the norming sample is defined as IQ 100 and scores each standard deviation (SD) up or down are defined as 15 IQ points greater or less. By this definition, approximately two-thirds of the population scores are between IQ 85 and IQ 115. About 2.5 percent of the population scores above 130, and 2.5 percent below 70.

If you take an IQ test, you will be presented with questions to assess the following competence:
• spatial ability, a person’s capacity to visualise space and shapes
• mathematical ability, how a person uses logic in solving problems
• language ability, the recognition of meaning from incomplete sentences and jumbled letters
• memory ability, how a person recalls information

Emotional Intelligence (EI)
Daniel Goleman in 1998, defined emotional intelligence as ‘the capacity to recognize our own feelings and those of others, for motivating our-selves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.’ EI is essential for the accomplishment of day-to-day objectives of life, which is a challenge to everyone. EI is increasingly relevant to organizational development and developing people because EI provides a new way to understand and assess people’s behaviours, management styles, attitudes, interpersonal skills, and potential.

EI is an important consideration in human resources planning, job profiling, recruitment interviewing and selection, management development, customer relations and customer service, and more. EI determines the potential for learning practical skills viz. personal skills and social skills. These skills lead to superior performance at work which is based on the five elements: self-awareness, motivation, self-regulation, empathy, and adeptness in relationships.

Spiritual Intelligence is the ability to act with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the circumstances. Spiritual intelligence is the way we assign meaning and feel connected to the power of larger than ourselves.

It has been identified as a key component of leadership by bestselling business author Stephen (2004), who observes that Spiritual Intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences, because it becomes the source of guidance for others. Spiritual intelligence is one of the several types of intelligence that can be developed independently and contributes to psychological wellbeing and overall healthy human development (Vaughan, 2003).

The four components of spiritual intelligence are critical existential thinking, personal meaning production, transcendental awareness and conscious state expansion.
Critical existential thinking is best described as the capacity an individual to critically contemplate meaning, purpose, and other existential/metaphysical issues; to come to original existential conclusions or philosophies, and to contemplate non-existential issues in relation to one’s existence. An ability to derive personal meaning and purpose from all physical and mental experiences, including the capacity to create and master a life purpose is regarded as personal meaning production.

Transcendental awareness is the capacity to identify transcendent dimensions/patterns of the self, of others, and of the physical world during normal states of consciousness, accompanied by the capacity to identify their relationship to one’s self and to the physical world. Conscious State Expansion is defined as an ability to enter and exit higher/spiritual states of consciousness at one’s own discretion.

Decency quotient (DI)
Bill Boulding is dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business who goes on to say that DI goes a step further than EI and IQ and combines SI. DQ means that a leader has a genuine desire to do the right thing for employees and colleagues. DQ means wanting something positive for everyone in the workplace and ensuring everyone feels respected and valued. DQ is evident in a manager’s daily interactions with others, as well as in setting goals for the company that meet fiscal objectives and improve lives. DQ implies your focus is on doing right by others.

Decency quotient has to start at the top. It’s essential that leaders and managers model this type of behaviour more than ever, because outside forces of polarization are working against us. The world feels like an ugly place for many people. It’s impossible for employees to check their feelings at the door, and naïve to think they can.

Leaders with DQ will better navigate what’s bleeding in from outside the office to instil a sense of common purpose and shared values at work. Employees will know the leader always has their best interest at heart. People want to work for decent people, and they will give those leaders their best. Decency is at its core a moral obligation, but it can also be key to a winning business strategy.

If business becomes intentional about decency, it can become the healing force our world so badly needs. It can be the model for how people who are very different come together to work with common purpose. It can demonstrate respect and caring that transcends difference and polarization. It can solve some of the world’s toughest problems by uniting people to find solutions.

Wisdom Intelligence
If you were to look up the word wisdom in the dictionary, you would find a simple definition: a person’s ability to act sensibly, reasonably, and correctly. Of course, that raises some questions. Doesn’t intelligence give you the ability to act reasonably in day to day life? Surely a high IQ guarantee’s the power to make good decisions?

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
-Socrates-

Of course, it can, but there are also different types of intelligence. A brilliant person’s success might be influenced by their personality and maturity, as well as their own ability to care for their own well-being and that of others.

Well, intelligence and wisdom need to be broken down and analyzed to gain a clearer and useful understanding. We have to recognize what’s really important. Beyond a high IQ, becoming exceptionally wise and developing clear values that go beyond cognitive or emotional reasoning is imperative.

It is very strange to know that universities and professors around the world have just started studying the difference between intelligence and wisdom. The concept of wisdom has often been associated with philosophical or spiritual disciplines. It was considered something that the great Greek masters or Buddhist monks studied.

However, a few psychologists investigated wisdom in the last few decades. These studies, like the one led by two University of California psychiatrists, Dr. Dilip V. Jeste and Dr. Thomas W. Meeks, uncovered quite a few interesting ideas.

Some of the findings:
Exploring minds say that ‘Wisdom’ doesn’t come from personal experience.

This important idea creates a common myth. Many people think that experience grants wisdom. However, there’s not a strong and direct association between the length of someone’s life and how wise they are. This quality doesn’t always naturally come with age.

Moreover, many researchers in the fields of psychology and sociology are trying to understand the social, emotional, and cognitive processes that transform experience into wisdom. There are many other mediating variables between the two, such as the ability to reflect on one’s actions. That ability may have created the experience/wisdom myth in the first place.

Intelligence makes you more efficient and competent

Intelligent people are efficient and have high standards. Because of this, they may get frustrated when things don’t meet their expectations. They are often goal-orientated and seek concrete results.

This viewpoint can often make them anxious. This is because people with high IQs often have poor tolerance for uncertainty. That’s precisely what sets them apart from wise people. Wise people are better able to accept the unexpected and unplanned. They know how to step back and take a patient, relaxed, and insightful look at reality.

Wise people make better decisions

Of course, there are huge individual differences between people with a high IQ. While some make reasonable, responsible decisions, others might get carried away by goals and statistics, failing to take other factors into account.

However, if there’s one clear difference between people with high intelligence or deep wisdom, it’s that the second group is often more open-minded. This is because wisdom is more than just factual knowledge. Wise people have experience, are able to reason clearly, and are able to accept life’s ups and downs.

Wise people are also usually more cognizant of how situations develop over time, which helps them stay balanced.

High intelligence can be used for noble ends or, on the contrary, to manipulate, conspire, betray, or create sophisticated plans for bad reasons. However, people also use their intelligence for unselfish and noble purposes.

Wisdom, on the other hand, is connected to an authentic sense of goodness. The word itself has connotations of goodness, humanity, and a sense of spirituality that inspires others to do good as well.

There’s one more interesting difference between intelligence and wisdom. Wisdom almost always gives you a more positive view of life, your situation, and other people. This hopeful yet resolute attitude is related to the factors mentioned above, and to kindness. Looking at a situation with wisdom can give us the energy and the motivation to move forward.

At this point, you may ask yourself which is better, being very intelligent or very wise. But neither quality is better than the other. There are plenty of wise, successful people who might not be very intelligent. However, they’re still happy and effective in their day to day life.

Therefore, aspire (as much as possible) to have both qualities. Train your cognitive abilities, improve in emotional intelligence, and integrate each experience to form a more reasonable, relaxed, and optimistic perspective.

Final thought, wisdom is the art of knowing what really matters and making good decisions to improve our own well-being and, more importantly, that of others. There lies the real key.

The quest for wisdom is an age-old effort. It’s one many have recommended.

It’s been said to be as useful for finding inner contentment as it for fueling external successes. It’s a more prudent way of interacting with reality.

While not everyone’s definition of wisdom is the same, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to distinguish it by a mode of deeper understanding. One that goes beyond just the knowing we commonly associate with the range of intelligence’s; IQ,EI, SI, DI.

When we think of the acquisition of intelligence, we think of new information inspired by a perspective-shift that tells us a truth about one aspect of reality.

Wisdom goes further than that. It strips that same information down to its essence so that it can relate the underlying principle of that knowledge to the existing information network that exists in the mind.

It’s the connectedness of this network that separates it from mere intelligence.

The more links between each pocket of information, the more valuable the whole network will be when tackling any other problem. It adds an extra dimension to each mental model contained in the mind.

Simply knowing this doesn’t make a person more equipped to soak in wisdom, but with awareness and practice, new thinking patterns and imagination can be created.

The great Aristotle once stated when discussing Metaphysics :

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

A True Christmas and New Year Message

Following a turbulent 2020, Christmas this year is going to feel a little different to what we have previously known. The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, and the new habits we have formed will shape our behaviour over the festive season.

We would like to say a very special thank you to all of the organisations and individuals who have supported the courage and strength of our NHS, in a period of dramatic uncertainty and loss for many.

May peace fill all the empty spaces around you, your family and your friends and your colleagues at this special time of year, and in you, may contentment answer all your wishes.

Raise a toast to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s brighter future.

May comfort be yours, warm and soft like a sigh.

And may the coming year show you that every day is really a first day and a new year.

Let abundance be your constant companion so that you have much to share.

May mirth be near you always, like a lamp shining brightly on the many paths you travel.

Work with the best of your abilities in 2021 and show to the world your power to create wonderful and superior things.

New Year 2021 may turn out to be a year when you are put on the road to everlasting success and prosperity.

Be the change that you wish to see at your workplace and take initiatives to make things better.

Wish your tomorrow is more prosperous, happy and successful than yesterday and today.

Looking forward to another year with hunger and passion to exceed at work and you are sure to meet with success.

Let new beginnings signify new chapter filled with pages of success and happiness, written by the ink of hard work and intelligence.

May the New Year bring us more wonderful opportunities for success.

HERE’S WISHING YOU THE GIFT OF PEACE, GOOD HEALTH AND PROSPERITY THROUGHOUT 2021

Why complex and difficult conversations by business leaders can be trusted

I recently posted an article on one of the social media channels, which provoked discussion across leadership and importantly the difficult discussions that leaders try to avoid.

All leaders need to have difficult conversations at some point in time, whether it’s telling an employee they aren’t getting a raise or a promotion, disciplining poor performance, or even firing someone.

It is truly quite unbelievable why people put off these conversations? How does this then affect them psychologically?

At one level the answer is quite simple: human beings don’t like conflict and take great steps to avoid it at all cost. In businesses that we advise we observe far too many managers fail to address difficult conversations, putting them off for 15 months, rather than having a 15-minute challenging interaction.

In their own minds, and this is where the real problem begins, many line managers and leaders, knowing they have a challenging conversation in the future, start to play a continuous disaster movie over and over in their heads.

Every possible negative ‘what-if’-scenario plays out in their imagination and consequently, they start to feel under threat before any actual interaction has even taken place. This imaginary narrative increases the strain on an already difficult situation. If we assume that all parties involved are of a similar mindset, then the potential for failure in this conversation is always probable to be high and generally, the conversation will start and end badly.

It is an understatement to say that we are living in times of great turmoil, polarization, and change. It is a time when unresolved conflicts permeate our lives, our home/office workplaces, our politics, our community. Very few systems are immune to the tension conflict generates.

We watch helpless, as countries use war as a strategy for settling disagreements.
Our news sources are glutted with escalating reports of physical violence used as a method to mediate disputes.
Our schools have become battlegrounds as students grapple with ways to handle conflicting emotions and divergent points of view.
Our airlines sometimes get diverted due to a passenger who does not have the skills to deal with their anger. And tragically sometimes our workplaces break out in violence.

Most of the time, conflicts come to light when the people involved are so reactive that they generate strong emotions in everyone involved, even those witnessing the conflict. Whether those emotions are hot and violent or simply the cold chill of disconnected relationships, most of us shy away from conflict because we don’t know how to get beyond the fight-or-flight response our brains are hardwired for.

Some of us can’t imagine another way. We’re not comfortable witnessing conflict, or experiencing it, nor is it our first impulse to dive in and address it. And for those of us who are drawn to conflict, we still may feel that we lack the skills to handle conflict effectively.

Generally, our associations with conflict aren’t positive and we either stuff our reactions or overreact and complicate matters. But conflict can actually, have an upside, whether it’s in a personal or professional setting. Properly worked with, conflict can spur innovation, creativity, and a better understanding of issues and people.

Having the capacity to deal with conflict is the key to maximizing its upside. Whether the focus is delivering a difficult message, diffusing a tense situation, giving tough performance feedback, or confronting insensitive behaviour, most of us feel some reluctance when faced with having challenging conversations that have the potential to escalate into conflict.

People often have misconceptions about components of handling conflict:

The best thing is to be objective and stick to the facts. While objectivity and facts are important, many times during a challenging conversation, our feelings surface whether we want them to or not. Feelings are a component of any situation whether it’s personal or professional.

Simply sticking to the facts can block the opportunity to deal with both thoughts and emotions. Recent research shows that people often harden their position when only dealing with the facts anyway. To effectively deal with a difficult situation we need to talk about our feelings and reactions in a healthy way and without blaming the other person.

If you show empathy, it means you agree with the other person’s point of view. There is a difference between empathy and agreement. It’s good to let the other person know that we understand what they are saying and to acknowledge that we understand their position is true for them.

But acknowledging that is simply respecting the person, not implying that you agree. Using phrases such as “I understand what you’re feeling, but I have a different perspective than you,” allows you to honor the person’s point of view without yielding to it. While it is difficult to acknowledge the other person’s point of view when you are angry or hurt, there are communication tools that can allow you to keep your cool, even in the most emotionally charged situations including detaching personally from what’s being said to minimize defensiveness and optimize empathy in a way that inspires trust.

8 tips for managing difficult conversations:

Be direct.

When having a difficult conversation, be direct and get to the point quickly. This is not the time for feedback sandwiches or an excess of compliments. Both of these feedback techniques will mask the point of the conversation and lessen its impact. Difficult conversations become even more difficult when the delivery is muddled. While it might seem like you’re being too harsh diving right into the critique, you’re actually doing the other person a favor. Most of the time, the person you’re talking to knows that a critique is coming, so rather than dancing around the subject, just get to it.

Be specific.

Be honest and thorough with your feedback, and fully clarify why you’re having the conversation. Offer as many concrete examples as possible so the person understands you’re not just pulling things out of thin air. The more clarity you can provide, the better the critique will be received.

Plan out the conversation.

This is not a conversation you want to have in the spur of the moment. You want to think of what you’re going to say, as well as anticipate how the other person might react. Think of the questions they might ask and have answers prepared. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to stay even-tempered and not get flustered and therefore deliver a more solid critique.

Watch your language.

The actual words you use during the conversation matter. You must outline the critique and the reason you’re having the conversation, but don’t stop there. You’ll also want to talk about the outcome you’d like to see. If you’re disciplining an employee for poor team performance, explain that to them and also talk about what it would look like when team relations are strong. Illustrating what a positive outcome looks like gives the employee something solid to work towards, and helps them understand why they’re being disciplined.

Offer a solution.

Nothing is worse than delivering a critique and leaving it just at that. You’ll want to clearly explain the reason for the conversation, the specific critique, and then offer suggestions to improve. If you’re telling an employee that they aren’t getting a raise, explain why and let them know what they need to work on to make that raise a possibility. Even if the conversation is to fire an employee, you should still offer a suggestion that will help them improve in their next job.

Manage your emotions.

You want to have the conversation in an even tone and keep it professional. Don’t let your emotions dictate your delivery. If you get emotional, so will the other person. This is especially important when the conversation is with an employee who you care greatly for or work closely with.
In this situation, take a step back and remove the relationship from the equation. It can help if you simply look at things from a fact-based standpoint, and focus solely on that. When emotions start to take over, remind yourself that the more in control you are of your emotions, the better you’ll be able to deliver the message.

Be empathetic.

While your delivery of the message should be stoic, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t empathize. Think of how the other person will feel during the conversation, and allow them to process their emotions.
If you see they’re really struggling with what you’ve said, pause for a minute while they collect themselves. Clearly explain why you’re having the conversation to help them fully understand where you’re coming from. If they’re really taking the news poorly, remind them that you’re delivering this critique to make them better, and you want to see them succeed.

Allow the other person to ask questions.

Questions serve a double purpose. Asking questions helps the other person process what’s happened, and it allows you to clarify and solidify details of the conversation. If you aren’t sure that the other person fully comprehended the conversation, ask clarifying questions to check their understanding.

Final thought, one of the greatest skills managers and individuals can build is the art of listening well — to listen to themselves and their instincts about difficult situations and to the other person in order to really understand their point of view and perspective.

For managers willing to step up to the challenge, the results can be far-reaching, including quicker resolution of performance issues, better work relationships, fewer grievances, reduced tension, and fewer corporate crises.

We really must build the capacity to have the challenging conversations we have often avoided. “In these challenging times, the more we can master and model for others how to have challenging conversations the better our workplaces, our families, and our society will be. The choice seems really clear: do we build the capacity to deal with each other in healthy ways, or do we see the world we care about to deteriorate in unresolved conflicts and violence?”

As a famous American psychologist, George Kohl, once said:

“A hallmark of high-performance leaders is the ability to influence others through all levels and types of communication, from simple interactions to difficult conversations and more complex conflicts, in order to achieve greater team and organizational alignment. High performing leaders are able to unite diverse team members by building common goals and even shared emotions by engaging in powerful and effective dialogue.”

Why Trust and Respect is the Glue in our Client Relationships

The world of data is constantly changing and evolving. New technologies, legislations and policies pressure companies to re-examine the way they deal with data.

Developing a strategy to boost customer trust to your brand is critical to your business’s long-term success.

Due to COVID-19, every business today is in a competition for customer trust. The concept of trust is deeply hardwired in our brains. More specifically, trusting someone is associated with many positive emotions and is an amazingly persuasive force. Conversely, distrusting someone is associated with negative emotions.

How do you build trust with customers?

You earn customer trust by repeat good behaviour, and providing value to customers they can’t get anywhere else. Rather than create new customers right now, you can work on maintaining your relationships with your past customers. Today companies can do this by knowing their customers and finding ways to make customers’ lives easier and better. Like any relationship, exploit it and customers will run from the building.

In a post-coronavirus world, it could be a long haul back to business as usual. This is the time to think about your relationships and how to keep them healthy.

Customers tend to be people of habit, and many enjoy the benefits that come from being loyal to a brand. Loyalty programs used to just be for airlines and grocery stores, but now brands across all industries offer programs to reward customers for their loyalty.

Leading companies that develop a people-first approach will win in today’s digital economy, according to the latest global technology trends report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

As technology advancements accelerate at an unprecedented rate – dramatically disrupting the workforce – companies that equip employees, partners and consumers with new skills can fully capitalize on innovations. Those that do will have unmatched capabilities to create fresh ideas, develop cutting-edge products and services, and disrupt the status quo.

Although perceived value is a strong driver to encourage shoppers to return for future products, it has been shown by many retailers to not be the only driver and influences based around customer service, product range, stock availability and the shopping environment also have a key role in the shopper’s decision to return.

Research by HarvardBusinessReview shows that “increasing customer retention by five percent” can result in a “25-95 percent” increase in company profits.

This is unsurprising as Bain and Company found a direct correlation between the amount of time a customer has been with a retailer and the amount that customer spends. Their research revealed that “apparel shoppers purchase 67% more per order after shopping with a company for 30 months than they spent on their initial purchase”

I said back in the early 2000 era, we were all looking to deploy strategies across customer lifetime value – brand satisfaction and brand loyalty played a key part in our business survival toolbox. In today’s world customers staying loyal to companies for long periods are numbered.

The amount of trust consumers put in brands is decreasing all the time, and a typical consumer will now switch brands without hesitation if they get a better offer. The famous rule of 20% of customers accounting for 80% of the turnover has turned into more like 60/40 rule (40% of the customers generate 60% of the turnover) and it is slowly evolving towards a 50/50 rule where loyal and disloyal customers generate the same amount of income.

The conventional wisdom about competitive advantage is that successful companies pick a position, target a set of consumers, and configure activities to serve them better. The goal is to make customers repeat their purchases by matching the value proposition to their needs.

By fending off competitors through ever-evolving uniqueness and personalization, the company can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

But the idea that purchase decisions arise from conscious choice flies in the face of much research in behavioural psychology.

The brain, it turns out, is not so much an analytical machine as a gap-filling machine: it takes noisy, incomplete information from the world and quickly fills in the missing pieces on the basis of past experience. Intuition, thoughts, opinions, and preferences that come to mind quickly and without reflection, but are strong enough to act on, is the product of this process.

This behavioural shift is putting some fundamental, established marketing tactics in doubt, but are we as marketers powerless to stop it?

Loyalty programs are an often-overlooked aspect of customer experience, but they can be vital in building relationships and loyalty with customers — when they’re done well.

So exactly what is the solution?

According to popular theory, there are two ways to escape the commodity market. On the one hand, a company can work more efficiently, making it possible to sell its products cheaper. On the other hand, you can offer a unique added value, thereby re-establishing differentiation so you can charge higher prices again.

If we look at history and look at people behaviour, historically people engaged in brand loyalty, but how do you get customers to become loyal to your brand in the first place? Here are a few suggestions:

Build targeted messages

With social media being the centre of many people’s day-to-day lives, consumers want to see that brands care about them. Consumers are constantly bombarded with ads, so yours can easily get overlooked.

How do you stand out? Try targeting your ads, using campaigns that appeal to your audience’s specific interests, and customizing your messages with a personal touch.

Develop a loyalty programme

Customer loyalty programmes are a huge factor in retaining loyal customers. 44% of customers have between 2-4 loyalty cards, and 25% have between 5-9 loyalty cards.

43% join loyalty programmes to earn rewards, and 45% say it’s a primary driver for purchasing from a brand. As you can see, loyalty programmes are a huge deal with customers, and it pays by getting them to come back to your brand whenever they decide to shop.

However, be aware that you’re more likely to retain customers through a free rewards programme. The majority of people (52%) aren’t willing to pay a membership fee.

Adopt a mobile strategy

Brand loyalty has gone mobile. Seventy-seven percent of smartphone users say that mobile offers have a positive impact on their brand loyalty, according to AccessDevelopment.com. This can include surprise points and rewards or exclusive content.

Another 66% of consumers say they’d have a more positive opinion of a loyalty programme if it was available on their smartphone or in a mobile wallet app. Furthermore, 73% of smartphone users are interested in having loyalty cards on their phones.

What happens if you fall behind your competitors and don’t offer a mobile solution to your loyalty programme? You’ll likely see a decrease in customers. 66% of companies that saw a decrease in customer loyalty in the past year didn’t have a mobile app.

Implement feedback

Another reason a brand will lose customers is because it doesn’t respond to their needs. In today’s fast-paced social landscape, customers expect brands to respond to their feedback, and quickly.

97% of customers say they’re more likely to become loyal to a company that implements their feedback. By ignoring them, you’re sending a message that their loyalty doesn’t matter, and with that, they’re likely to move on to a brand that shows them otherwise.

Although ideas about brand loyalty have shifted from generation to generation, people are still brand loyal today. However, you will have to adopt strong social and mobile strategies to retain customers who rely on the internet landscape to make buying decisions.

Let’s have a look at the customer experience and why the need for product experience management.

Truly understanding customer needs may help companies improve not only the buying experience but also their bottom line.

A company’s relationship with its customers is about much more than improving product ratings or decreasing wait times. Understanding the customer journey is about learning what customers experience from the moment they begin considering a purchase, and then working to make the journey toward buying a product or service as simple, clear, and efficient as possible.

Customer experience has become the centrepiece of most marketing strategies today. Marketers have begun to realise that it’s the biggest differentiator a brand or a retailer has in today’s overcrowded market.

A great customer experience starts with a compelling product experience. Customers have their pick of channels, so standing out among the crowd with relevant product information is imperative.

The race to own customer experience is on. Companies are recognizing the importance of delivering an experience that makes them stand out from their competition. Some are learning the hard way.

Finally, my personal opinion is that the subject of whether sustainable competitive advantage has disappeared is greatly exaggerated.

Competitive advantage is as sustainable as it has always been. What is different today is that in a world of infinite communication and innovation, many strategists seem convinced that sustainability can be delivered only by constantly making a company’s value proposition the conscious consumer’s rational or emotional first choice.

They have forgotten, or they never understood, the dominance of the subconscious mind in decision making. For fast thinkers, products and services that are easy to access and that reinforce comfortable buying habits will over time trump innovative but unfamiliar alternatives that may be harder to find and require forming new habits.

Mona K. Sutphen, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff once said:

“Most good relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.”

This powerful statement makes us understand that trust is the glue in the retail customer relationship.

I can only imagine…

I recently decided to take a road trip, with all the ‘staycation’ I have found driving to the country very therapeutic, great for introspection, reflection and thought.

It was another beautiful hot day driving through some of the back roads in Surrey and Hampshire, I started to think about purpose-driven outcomes in business, the recent changes through the pandemic, the failures and successes, and one of my key topic’s leadership and trust.

I have always believed that meaningful lives are for extraordinary people: great saints, artists, scholars, scientists, doctors, activists, explorers, national leaders…. If ever we did discover the meaning, it would – we suspect – in any case, be incomprehensible, perhaps written in Latin or in a COBOL computer code.

It wouldn’t be anything that could orient or illuminate our activities. Without always acknowledging it, we are – in the background – operating with a remarkably ungenerous perspective on the meaning of life.’

Perhaps, I could be wrong. It is conceivable that everyone on the earth plain has a meaningful life in their own way, we all make choices, we all have dreams, and we all possess the ability to see out our individual outcomes, our purpose and trusting that the choices we make drive learning, expansion and growth.

Do we lack determination, imagination, courage, and passion in today’s business world?

I watched an inspiration film recently, a true story called “I Can Only Imagine“. The story revolves around the band’s lead singer Bart Millard, who in the film’s opening scene tells fellow performer Amy Grant that he wrote the song that changed his life in only 10 minutes.

“You didn’t write this song in 10 minutes,” Amy Grant replies. “It took a lifetime.”

The story then flashes back to Bart’s unhappy childhood when he was growing up with his abusive father Arthur and a mother who left both of them when he was an adolescent.

Even as a child, Bart loved music, but his father would have none of it. “Dreams don’t pay the bills,” Arthur tells his son. It’s one of many lines Arthur utters that signify what a miserable son-of-a-bitch he is, along with such gems as “Life hits me, I hit it back harder.”

It’s no wonder Bart grew up to be a pop star. Everything his father says sounds like the title of a country song. You can also tell how mean Arthur is by his perpetual stubble. Not a beard, not five o’clock shadow, but carefully groomed stubble that’s always the same exact length. There are male models who don’t pay as much attention to their facial hair.

Bart leaned into an active imagination and his love of music as escapes from a troubled home life. As he grew older, Bart turned to football in hopes of somehow connecting with his abusive father. But a career-ending injury-combined with the vision of a teacher who saw unlimited potential set Bart on a musical pathway.

Chasing a dream while running from broken relationships with his father and Shannon, his childhood sweetheart, Bart hits the road in an old, decrepit tour bus with his new band MercyMe – named for his grandmother’s favourite expression. With the guidance of a grizzled music-industry insider, the band begins a journey none of them could ever have imagined.

I can only imagine- the heart of the film

Some of my readers will remember my first book, Freedom After the Sharks, I have always said that each of us is, to some extent or other, a reflection of the experiences of our lives.

However, whether and how we succeed is determined at least in part by how we cope with those experiences and what we learn from them.

Freedom After the Sharks is the story of a man who, despite a difficult family life and professional setbacks, developed the determination, drive and skills to create a successful business and happy life. Skills and self-motivation gave this young man the drive, determination and tenacity to continue a journey through hardship to reach self-fulfilment and, ultimately, success.

The question is do we give up at the first hurdle or do we continue with perseverance?

Every leader eventually faces difficult circumstances. In these situations, perseverance, determination and courage is a must if you are to be able to achieve your goals. Without these traits, the opportunity to succeed becomes less because you don’t have the ability to persist.

There are countless examples of courageous leaders. The one thing that each has in common is their determination to continue pushing forward, despite what others believe, or what current circumstances continue to throw up at them.

Rather than focusing on failure, and becoming discouraged from pursuing their goals, courageous leaders look at challenges as opportunities to improve. Buoyed by optimism and enthusiasm, they motivate themselves to look for meaning in each challenge and turn it to their advantage.

Like many other leadership skills, courage is a skill that can be learned and strengthened. The following tips can help you to cultivate your courage and use it to increase your success!

One thing that commonly happens when you are pursuing your goals is that suddenly you’ll hit a roadblock and all movement comes to a standstill. The first emotion you feel at these moments is fear, and then panic.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed courage to be the most important quality in a man. “Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” When we are courageous, we step outside our comfort zone of predictability and familiarity and are exposed to new ideas. We can take in new information and broaden our understanding of the world, an important tool in overcoming adversity.

Having courage enables us to stay our course when external circumstances threaten to challenge our well-being. It empowers us to confront problems head-on, even if having doubts, rather than risk experiencing fear, resignation and victimization.

Through courage, we are better able to control our destiny and honour who we are and in what we believe. We have a chance to avoid even greater problems that might have resulted had we not been courageous.

We develop a psychological muscle when we push through fear. This muscle helps us when we need the strength and resilience to overcome or avoid adversity. The more we exercise this muscle, the more our self-confidence and faith will grow. We will feel empowered to confront problems head-on and courageous in challenging times that fill us with pain and fear.

Life is meant to take challenges and overcome hurdles and obstacles instead of having reservations on challenges. Success lies in going beyond the boundaries and leaving no stone unturned for achieving your goals. One has to read between the lines that what success lies in because pain is the only thing that tells that a person is alive.

When you believe in your purpose you can work through obstacles, overcome disappointments and endure hardship.

As John Seamon Garns – American Author of Prosperity, once said: ‘Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determinations.’

Often in life, you make a journey that changes the meaning of life as you knew it. I believe every single person can be extraordinary for something if directed in the right way and if circumstances can take them there for the great of good, amazing things can happen.

Final thought: society cannot flourish without some sense of shared purpose and belief system, and most importantly love.

I am a firm believer in the power of curiosity and choice as the engine of fulfilment, but precisely how you arrive at your true calling is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery.

Still, there are certain factors and certain choices on your journey of life that make it easier and more worthwhile.

Everyone has a story, despite difficulties in family life, professional setbacks and extraordinary events like COVID-19. The journey of life is the learning’s, we all possess the determination, passion, drive, creativity and skills to create a foundation.

Business professionals and individuals in the great challenges of today’s business world have renewed responsibility for what business does best: innovate, invest and grow.

We are all extraordinary people and have the ability to share and provide wealth creation and richness to our surroundings – the bigger question is how much do we want to change and to be extraordinary?

As Thomas A. Edison, American inventor and businessman, once said:

“Be courageous. I have seen many depressions in business. Always America has emerged from these stronger and more prosperous. Be as brave as your fathers before you. Have faith! Go forward!”

The importance of post era newfound entrepreneurial spirit

While small businesses are becoming increasingly purpose-driven, it looks like businesses are also becoming increasingly digital, and embracing agile business models that allow them to quickly adapt to new environments.

Throughout human history, crises have been pivotal in developing our societies.

Pandemics have helped advance health-care systems, wars have fuelled technological innovations and the global financial crisis helped advance tech companies. The present coronavirus pandemic will arguably not be an exception; entrepreneurs can be expected to rise to the challenge.

The pandemic has accelerated the process of digital transformation across almost all sectors. As the world slowly but steadily shifts to the recovery stage, we have also seen that the pandemic has brought on changes to consumer behaviour that is likely to stay for good. The question then becomes how we can empower entrepreneurs to leverage digital tools and innovations while navigating the pandemic.

Entrepreneurs help bolster economic development, create jobs, and invent products or services that can make the world a better place.

Being a successful entrepreneur requires outside-the-box thinking and larger-than-life ideas. Anyone can come up with a new idea, but building a successful business around it is the entrepreneurial challenge. The entrepreneurial mindset is unique in that one must be creative, communicative, and highly motivated to succeed, yet open to risk and failure.

The global pandemic and associated policies restricting people’s movements have caused major disruptions to many businesses. We’ve already observed major shifts in business practices. Working from home is the new norm, while many personal meetings and conferences have been replaced by video meetings and other virtual forms of communication.

Many firms have initially responded to the crisis not only by cutting costs but by engaging in new entrepreneurial activities.

Around the world, we see many examples of resourceful responses to the crisis with companies changing their strategy to produce hand sanitizers, protective gear, gowns and other supplies for hospitals, staff retrained to help out in hospitals, ventilators and life-saving medical devices, the list goes on.

The crisis created opportunities for businesses to become more innovative. Facing external pressures, some business leaders are stepping out of their routines and comfort zones to become creative problem-solvers. Along the way, they rediscovered their entrepreneurial spirit.

Beyond existing firms, some sectors of the economy are likely to grow. New technologies can offer numerous opportunities as the crisis transforms the products or services they can offer. Service businesses in particular are likely to see a lot of innovation in how services are created, packaged and sold.

Recent trends in China offer a glimpse of what is feasible for businesses. For example, online shopping and entertainment received a major boost during the coronavirus shutdown via online platforms like Alibaba, WeChat and their associated ecosystems.

In the health-care sector, health-related smartphone apps are proliferating. Artificial intelligence is helping hospital emergency rooms, while virtual reality has moved from an entertainment tool to a valuable resource for technical training and maintenance.

Companies that become competent and move quickly in these areas during the crisis will have a strategic advantage over their competitors in the post-pandemic economy.

These five key tech-subsectors are likely to benefit the most, both passively and actively – from COVID19:

1. Health tech
As an emerging discipline that combines big data analysis and AI with methods from biology, medicine and statistics to understand and predict the spread of a virus, digital epidemiology, a health tech development, has seen an unprecedented number of new applications in recent months.

2. Autonomous vehicles – drones
Drones have been another protagonist of governments’ responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Used to spray disinfectants and pesticides, or to transport both medical samples and normal deliveries, they help to significantly reduce human contact, speed up the process, and perhaps even be more efficient.

3. Delivery and mobility platforms
Gig economy platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo have often been at the forefront of Europe’s regulatory debates over the past few years, especially in terms of their business model and categorisation of workers. Uber and its new peer-to-peer delivery service, Uber Connect, is but one of many examples.

4. Immersive tech
Among the regulatory challenges traditionally faced by immersive technologies are content regulation, including health and safety concerns, data management and protection, and questions around the protection of IP rights and liability obligations. While these issues are likely to remain the subject of future legislative proposals, the COVID-19 crisis might help regulators see these technologies under a different light.

5. Fintech
The spike in contactless and mobile payments, branchless banking and crowdfunding platforms are some examples of how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted the fintech sector. The same could be said for the opposite: a number of financial companies and start-ups have been rolling out new tools and/or open banking technologies to support self-employed workers, sell vouchers to customers, and provide supplementary credit cards to give friends and family to use on people’s behalf while isolating.

The digital economy represents a departure from the traditional zero-sum-game business model with its focus on shared value creation.

The digital services that people relied on during the outbreak like online marketplaces, cashless payment, contactless delivery and live streaming will almost certainly become ubiquitous now. In building an ecosystem, entrepreneurs need to adopt a platform approach that can enable multiple players to solve issues together.

The ability to build new systems from the ground up could accelerate the rise of SMEs and entrepreneurs from emerging markets and put them in a more advantageous position in economic recovery post-COVID-19. This presents enormous opportunities for entrepreneurs across these markets.

The benefits of the digital economy will also see mass entrepreneurship spur on social mobility, and there will be greater economic participation from marginalized populations.

SMEs are the backbone of any society for job creation and economic contribution. They are the pathfinders during the journey to economic recovery. Those among them who can pivot their venture and team to adopt digital technologies and enable their customers, partners and the local community will have the best opportunity to survive and thrive in the long term.

Finally, it’s clear the post-pandemic future will be different. What’s happened during the crisis will have a lasting impact on society. Current signs of entrepreneurial initiative and goodwill give us some cause for optimism. The future I envision post-COVID is one where people and businesses are prepared and enabled through technology.

Whether it is to continue business operations or maintain access to essential needs, the digital economy will play a crucial role in all aspects of our lives. This is the brave new world we will have to create together, and now is the time to empower and work with entrepreneurs to help build it.

As Brian A. Wong – Vice President, Alibaba quoted by saying:

“SMEs are the backbone of any society for job creation and economic contribution. They are the pathfinders during the journey to economic recovery.”

Human challenges in a post-pandemic era

In the wake of this once-in-a-century pandemic, COVID-19 has turned into a global crisis, evolving at unprecedented speed and scale. It is creating a universal imperative for governments and organizations to take immediate action to protect their people.

It is now the biggest global event—and challenge—of our lifetimes. As such, it is changing human attitudes and behaviors today and forcing organizations to respond.

As the immediate impact of the coronavirus shock becomes clear, we will inevitably turn to the question: what long-term changes will this bring about and how will all of us be affected?

COVID-19 has forever changed the experience of being a customer, an employee, a citizen and a human. Expect to see behavior change at scale for some time to come.

What will have changed in the way we think? How will that affect the way we design, communicate, build and run the experiences that people need and want? The answers to these questions will lie in the way people react and how individuals, families and social groups all sources of creative innovation hack new ways to live. Every organization must become a listener sharpening their sensitivity to signals in real-time in order to respond immediately.

We are witnessing massive behavior change at a scale and speed that we’ve never seen before, sparked by fear, proselytised by social media, encouraged by the government. Such change includes frequent handwashing, working from home and discouraging bad behavior such as toilet paper hoarding.

This goes way beyond “nudge” techniques, though some are being used, and extends to the outright insistence that is either working naturally or enforced. Twitter even launched a handwashing emoji.

The science of behavior change had already become a known subject of study and an increasingly important tool for design over the past ten years. Leading companies had already instituted tools and practices to monitor, collect, analyse and act on a mix of digital surveys, behavioral signals, listening and sentiment.

Now, the need for these capabilities will become foundational to experience creation, and the speed at which companies can and, increasingly must respond to them will become sources of competitive advantage.

The coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally shifting how we live and do business and will accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution, fuelled by smart technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and mobile supercomputing.

The formula is to listen, empathy, learn, execute reassess and execute again, using kaizen as a continual performance measure to everything we do.

Evidence-based research suggests that 20% of the world’s population is currently under lockdown due to the current pandemic. Those that are not in full lockdown are likely experiencing significant disruption to their usual routine. For the vast majority of us, these are strange and unprecedented times.

Isaac Newton was forced to practice the early-modern equivalent of social-distancing twice during his time as a Cambridge undergraduate. Like many others in Cambridge during the Great Plague of 1665-6, Newton retreated to the countryside to escape the disease-ridden city and spent two extended periods at his family home in rural Lincolnshire, Woolsthorpe Manor.

While many of us are struggling to adapt to the new and uncertain challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak, Newton thrived in his period of isolation, and later described it as one of the most productive times in his life. Freed from the limits of the Cambridge curriculum, and from the rigor and bustle of university life, Newton found that he had the breathing space to reflect on and develop his theories on optics, calculus, and the laws of motion and gravity.

Another world event was the financial crisis of 2008, we saw cloud computing kicked into high gear and started to become a pervasive, transformational technology. The current COVID-19 crisis could provide a similar inflexion point for AI applications. While the implications of AI continue to be debated on the world stage, the rapid onset of a global health crisis and concomitant recession will accelerate its impact.

Times of crisis bring rapid change. Efforts to harness AI technologies to discover new drugs – either vaccine or treatment – have kicked into hyperdrive. Start-ups are racing to find solutions and established companies are forming partnerships with academia to find a cure.

Other companies are researching existing drugs for their potential applicability. AI is proving a useful tool for dramatically reducing the time needed to identify potential drug candidates, possibly saving years of research. AI uses already put into action are screening for COVID-19 symptoms, decision support for CT scans, and automating hospital operations. A variety of healthcare functions have started to be performed by robots, from diagnosis to temperature monitoring.

The time to act is now. Below I have set out 5 simple steps to support in the new era:

Trust
The erosion of trust will make purpose more important than ever before. This will necessitate a “trust multiplier” action that, to be effective, rebuilds trust quickly and credibly. Focus will be on purpose-building through every channel.

Justifiable optimism will sell well. All of this may change the nature of what we regard as premium products and services.

The online world
The enforced shift during the worst of the pandemic to virtual working, consuming and socialising will fuel a massive and further shift to online activity for anything and everything. Anything that can be done online will be.
Winners will be those who test and explore all of the associated creative possibilities and necessitate steps to protect and secure their IT infrastructure, irrespective of micro, small, medium or large users.

Your health and wellbeing is everything
The concerns about health amplified during the crisis will not ebb after it is over. Rather, health will dominate. A health economy will emerge with opportunities for all to plug into. Every business will need to understand how it can be part of a new health and wellbeing ecosystem that will dominate citizen thinking.

Innovative isolation
The desire for isolation at home, along with opportunities for those with creative strategies to enable it, will move center-stage for the same reason. Winners will be those who zero their sights on the home. At the height of the crisis, many workers, especially are spending more time at home. After, this pattern will endure with meaningfulness and comfort carrying a price premium.

A purposeful authority
A reinvention of a purposeful authority is likely after the effect of travel limitations, self-isolation and lockdown officially mandated by many governments. This is likely to be the trickiest of the five human implications as its impact could go one of two ways.
If governments get their handling of the crisis broadly right, expect top-down control to be back in fashion; if not, the reverse. This is likely to vary by geography. What role will companies play and how will this be implemented?

Another perspective….
All attempts to predict the future could famously turn out to be completely wrong. “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere,” claimed the New York Times in 1936, three decades before man landed on the Moon. Last year, the Economist magazine predicted that the 2020 Olympics would be a great success. Anyway, Mayo’s prediction is extreme; in the end, most people will return to the status quo.

Much science fiction has proved to be uncannily accurate. In George Orwell’s 1984, “telescreens” meant public and private spaces were filled with cameras. Today, CCTV and video calls mean we are constantly on screen. And people worldwide have been captivated by Dean Koontz’s 1981 novel about a virus called Wuhan-400. Maybe Mayo’s vision is not as outlandish as it seems.

My thoughts on the matter……
Covid-19 has triggered such an immense wave of social experiments that some change seems inevitable. But which experiments will we want to continue and which should we discard? Some, such as homeschooling, will be enthusiastically abandoned, while others, like virtual working, we might wish to keep at least in part.

We have already experimented with new ways of living and working on a vast scale, yet as we face the current crisis as a society, we must resolve the competing values of protecting health while also ensuring privacy and liberty.

And we must find a balance between business viability and protecting the ability of people to earn a reasonable living. There is no going back; we’re heading into a new normal. Immediately, the focus will have to be on managing the crisis with the best available tools.

This period could be 12-24 months until there is enough herd immunity, treatment therapies, and an effective vaccine.

During this time, governments will need to do everything possible to provide a social safety net, at least until business can resume and employment levels approach pre-crisis levels.

Concurrently, people should realize there will be new rules in the new normal, especially those who work in fields where automation is likely. They should use this period to learn new skills such as systems analysis and evaluation, problem-solving, ideation, and leadership. Many companies, from Shell to Amazon have announced plans to re-skill large segments of their workforce. More will need to do so.

Protecting privacy and liberty is perhaps even more challenging. Once surveillance technology is used in response to an immediate crisis, it is difficult to reverse. Surveillance does not need to be our manifest destiny.

One proposal out of Europe would limit the retention of collected data for only 14 days, the period of possible virus transmission. The only effective means to reasonably protect privacy is to require that surveillance powers assumed during a crisis expire when the crisis ends.

COVID-19 will accelerate the trend towards corporate-purpose made visible through experiences and corporations standing for something bigger than their core output. The legacy effect on the sustainability debate will be profound.

It will be interesting to see if, among the majority of customers locked down who have been forced to think for many weeks about their priorities, there is an accelerated shift to “conscious consumption” – buying only what matters and what they really need. Will life’s little luxuries rebound fiercely as everyday life resumes? Or will luxury be redefined?

A culture may emerge that’s far more sensitive to ostentatious displays of exclusivity. Brands now trading off luxury will face a choice. Should they embrace and communicate meaningful values that benefit the greater society? Or should they become an “invisible luxury” brand that eschews materialistic ostentation in favor of discreet experiences, for example, or relationships, and understated signifiers? This would not just change what these brands sell, but how they market and sell it.

Finally, the subject of EQ is not new, we all need to understand behavior: honing your emotional intelligence to better understand your customers’ and employees’ behaviors new, changed or those left unchanged. Be ready to draw on all three sources of data: big data, thick data (deep insights on people), and broad data (contextual and market trends). Ensure that all data sources are constantly updated and utilised across the organisation.

As the effects of COVID19 pan out we will have to wait and see exactly what takes place for the good of change.

Maris Popova, a successful Bulgarian writer once said:

“On the precipice of any great change, we can see with terrifying clarity the familiar firm footing we stand to lose, but we fill the abyss of the unfamiliar before us with dread at the potential loss rather than jubilation over the potential gain of gladnesses and gratifications we fail to envision because we haven’t yet experienced them.”

A world event and perseverance may just be the start of a new journey of innovation

The current COVID-19 pandemic is presenting business leaders with some very difficult decisions.

COVID 19 is not alone on the list of world event’s and its easy to forget the legacies of the past that have shaped our world. World history is filled with disasters, and most of them come with extremely high death tolls.

This list looks at the top 12 disasters:
1. Shaanxi Earthquake 1556
2. Tangshan Earthquake 1976
3. Antioch Earthquake 526AD
4. Haiyuan Earthquake 1920
5. Aleppo Earthquake 1138
6. Hongdong Earthquake 1303
7. Hiroshima Nuclear Detonation 1945
8. Nagasaki Nuclear Detonation 1945
9. Spanish Flu 1918
10. Asian Flu 1957
11. Sept. 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks
12. SARS 2003

The Worst Disasters on Earth have been truly devastating, and they go to show that no matter how impressively we build our structures, Nature wins out in the end.

Every disaster has things to teach us.

Looking back at a decade in which superstorms, wildfires, disease outbreaks, and monster earthquakes have taken unimaginable tolls all over the planet, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.

But learning the lessons of every disaster, every time, is important. Every time, the world can respond more effectively – drawing from past experiences and avoiding past mistakes. As extreme weather worsens, people’s understanding of a disaster’s scope and effect can evolve as well.

Isaac Newton was in his early 20s when the Great Plague of London hit. He wasn’t a “Sir” yet, didn’t have that big formal wig. He was just another college student at Trinity College, Cambridge.

It would be another 200 years before scientists discovered the bacteria that causes plague, but even without knowing exactly why, folks back then still practiced some of the same things we do to avoid illness.

In 1665, there was a version of “social distancing” – Cambridge sent students home to continue their studies. For Newton, that meant Woolsthorpe Manor, the family estate about 60 miles northwest of Cambridge.

Without his professors to guide him, Newton apparently thrived. The year-plus he spent away was later referred to as his annus mirabilis, the “year of wonders.”

In London, a quarter of the population would die of the plague from 1665 to 1666. It was one of the last major outbreaks in the 400 years that the Black Death ravaged Europe.

Newton returned to Cambridge in 1667, theories in hand. Within six months, he was made a fellow; two years later, a professor.

Resilience is the process of being able to adapt well and bounce back quickly in times of stress. This stress may manifest as family or relationship problems, serious health problems, problems in the workplace or even financial problems to name a few.

Developing resilience can help you cope adaptively and bounce back after changes, challenges, setbacks, disappointments, and failures.

To be resilient means to bounce back from a challenging experience.

Research has shown that resiliency is pretty common. People tend to demonstrate resilience more often than you think. One example of resilience is the response of many Americans after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives.

Persistence is the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties. It is one of the qualities of high achievers. The longer you stay committed to a task or goal, the more likely something good will happen for you. And believe me- the Universe will test your commitment to your goal. You develop yourself and learn new lessons, you face challenges and obstacles, but the payoff comes when you refuse to give up.

Have you heard that anything worth having is worth working for? It’s true. Some of my most difficult situations preceded tremendous breakthroughs. There are tons of examples of underdogs or heroes of ours who persisted, stayed on course, and met or even exceeded their goals.

Let’s look at some examples.

• NASA experienced 20 failures in its 28 attempts to send rockets to space.
• Tim Ferriss sent his breakthrough New York Times bestselling book 4 Hour Workweek to 25 publishers before one finally accepted it.
• Henry Ford’s early businesses failed and left him broke 5 times before he founded Ford Motor Company.
• Walt Disney went bankrupt after failing at several businesses. He was even fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination and good ideas.
• Albert Einstein was thought to be mentally handicapped before changing the face of modern physics and winning the Nobel Prize.
• It took Thomas Edison 1,000 attempts before inventing the light bulb. His teachers also told him growing up that he was too stupid to learn anything.
• Lucille Ball was regarded as a failed actress before she won 4 Emmys and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors.
• Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers before it was accepted.
• American author Jack London received 600 rejections before his first story was accepted.
• Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, though today, his works are priceless.
• Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for not being good enough.
• J. K Rowling was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, and a single mom, who went to school while writing Harry Potter. Rowling went from needing government assistance to being one of the richest women in the world in a 5-year span through her hard work and perseverance.

Persistence as with resilience, determination and purpose is the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties. It is one of the qualities of high achievers. The longer you stay committed to a task or goal, the more likely something good will happen for you. Some of my most difficult situations preceded tremendous breakthroughs.

Persistence is one of several vital characteristics of successful leaders. Driven by an indomitable spirit, successful leaders never give up on their dreams of building a viable business. There is no impediment too great. This unflagging attribute is a key characteristic of triumphant business builders.

Purposeful Driven Leaders tackle bewildering and potentially catastrophic situations. They possess courage, hope and a deeply held belief that they can survive the moment and continue to prosper.

Personal strength, greatness, self-confidence, maturity and wisdom are by-products gained through unfathomable adversity. It has been said that men become great mariners when sailing on troubled waters, not calm seas. The same axiom applies in the business world.

Serious hardships may be financial in nature. They might also be employee-, client-, vendor-or investor-based. They may arise through human error or market conditions. I can see, in my mind’s eye, the depressed face of a purposeful leader who can’t make payroll or has just lost a substantial client. I can sense an owner’s profound frustration upon learning a product has failed and there is a lawsuit to manage.

We can empathize with a founder’s pain when there has been a fire, theft or betrayal. Consider the emotions felt with the death of a spouse or key employee. These occurrences are severe, somewhat common, and require a powerful and thoughtful response.

We need to have more gratitude for the amazing opportunities that are born from disasters and world events.

On a final note, the first step in becoming innovative is accepting that the world around us needs to change, sometimes because of unexpected and unprecedented events, and believing that we as individuals must take initiative to make that change happen.

It requires ongoing learning and an open mind with a willingness to see the world in new ways. Upon such realization, one must develop an unshakeable mental toughness for the long haul.

Changing the way we live or do business requires imagination and creativity. And that requires staying curious about the world. The less we’re wrapped up in our current situation or thinking, the more we notice about the world.

Even Einstein famously declared that he had “no special talent beyond being passionately curious,” which means there is no better avenue to cultivate creative work aside from impassioned curiosity.

Taking unconventional paths requires taking risks for a greater reward (financial or otherwise). It takes courage to act differently than others might. Innovative people tend not to dwell on things, but are decisive – the unknown does not paralyze them. They invest in their own capabilities and plough forward to create access where there is none. This brings us back to the need for mental toughness, because many times those risks don’t pay off right away.

Connecting the dots between the access one already has and the access one needs, coupled with the traits described above, allows us to survive and thrive.

As Walt Disney once said:

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”