Predictions for the start of 2021

The phrases used to describe the events of 2020 have now become a little cliché – but there’s no doubt it has been a very challenging year for every individual and every business on a global scale. From a deadly pandemic to a global movement for racial justice, the year 2020 has certainly experienced its fair share of world-shifting events.

Let’s take a look at some of the major events that took place in 2020

Australian bushfires; The country faced one of its most devastating wildfire seasons as the blazes continued from December 2019 into the new year and burned a record 47 million acres, displaced thousands of people and killed at least 34 people.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle quit royal life; The Duke and Duchess of Sussex shocked both sides of the pond on Jan. 8 when they announced they were stepping down as “senior” royals.

COVID-19 pandemic; The World Health Organization announced Jan. 9 that a deadly coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan, China. In a matter of months, the virus has spread across the globe to more than 20 million people, resulting in at least 751,000 deaths.

Stock market crash; The coronavirus pandemic triggered a global recession as numerous countries went into lockdown. The Dow Jones industrial average suffered its worst single-day point drop ever on March 9.

Black lives matter protest; The police-involved killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor this year sparked a wave of peaceful — and sometimes violent — demonstrations and riots across the world to demand an end to police brutality and racial injustice. More protests erupted in August when 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot by a Kenosha, Wisconsin, cop and paralyzed from the waist down.

Kim Jong Un death rumours; The North Korean supreme leader fueled speculation that he was either gravely ill or dead after he missed events commemorating his grandfather Kim Il-sung on April 15. He re-emerged 20 days later in photos released by state media at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The despot, however, faced a new wave of scepticism over his health in August when a South Korean official claimed all of the appearances were faked and he was in a vegetative state.

Beirut explosion; A massive explosion at a Beirut port, sparked Aug. 4 by the accidental detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, killed at least 190 people and injured thousands of others

West Coast wildfires; Deadly wildfires erupted from California to Washington state, burning millions of acres and displacing hundreds of thousands of people since mid-August.

Joe Biden becomes President-elect; Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States on Nov. 7, defeating President Trump with a critical assist from his birth state, Pennsylvania, which delivered the votes to propel him to victory and end one of the most contentious elections in recent memory.

COVID-19 in the UK: The UK becomes the first country to approve the new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 800,000 doses are planned for arrival in the coming days, with a further 40 million in 2021, enough to vaccinate 20 million people. The BBC reports that the jab is “the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span 10 years.

Around the world, we see many examples of resourceful responses to the world events in 2020, 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.
In 2021, we will face challenges both familiar and unforeseen—but we will also see shoots of rejuvenation as the world thaws from lockdown. Here are some predictions of how the next year will play out.

Remote work will persist through 2021 and beyond
One of the most significant shifts for many workers in 2020 was the swift adoption of remote work. While some companies expected newly remote workers to return to the office, this is no longer a reality. Many businesses will not expect workers to come to the office five days a week, if at all, and companies will shrink or reconfigure office spaces accordingly.

“The reality is, employees will not be returning to the same office they left behind,” a 2020 remote-work study by PwC indicates. “There will be fewer people, restricted collaboration spaces and rotating shifts — all of which will require teams to find new ways to connect and collaborate. More than anything else, this need for connections is likely to shape what the office is going to represent.”

Salaries could be adjusted for remote workers

Along with the adoption of remote work during the pandemic, many employees took this opportunity to relocate. Some companies have already indicated that they will likely cut salaries to match cost-of-living expenses, which could be a significant corporate initiative in 2021.

“We predict a tidal wave of comp adjustments in 2021 as many tech and professional services workers go remote and move away from company HQs,” Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain notes in the Glassdoor Workplace Trends 2021 report. “Once the dust settles on millions of employee relocations, we expect a wave of pay adjustments in 2021 for fully remote workers, whether or not they move to new cities.

Once local labor markets have adjusted to a wave of newly remote workers, the equilibrium pay for workers who’ve left expensive, congested metros like San Francisco and New York for smaller cities will almost certainly adjust downward.”

Some employers might require vaccination to come back in person

As the pandemic continues, some hope is on the horizon with promising vaccines from Pfizer and other companies. These vaccines could help employees safely come back to work in-person, and some companies are considering making the vaccine mandatory.

“A couple of my corporate clients are leaning toward making the COVID vaccine mandatory,” Rogge Dunn, a Dallas labor and employment attorney, told CNBC. “Under the law, an employer can force an employee to get vaccinated, and if they don’t take it, fire them.

Companies will reduce virtual activities and meetings

While businesses adopted virtual meetings fervently in 2020 as a way to help keep teams connected, they may not be so tied to them in 2021. As remote work becomes more of a norm, business owners could reduce these instances in order to give employees more time back to work.

“The Zoom happy hour has hit its expiration date, [with] too many long days of virtual meetings for months,” Nani Vishwanath, people team manager at Limeade, told TechRepublic. “[Employers will] gift employees with time back in 2021, such as cancelling recurring meetings or blocking a day for ‘no meetings’ and encouraging your team to recharge.”

Employees expect more diversity and company culture

Following major social and racial justice movements in 2020, companies should expect more scrutiny from employees and partners when it comes to diversity. For example, large asset manager BlackRock said it intends to push companies it has invested in for greater ethnic and gender diversity. This scrutiny will happen at the employee level as well.

“[Companies are] looking at what their policies say about company culture, what they’re willing to tolerate, what that does to employee morale, attrition and retention of employees, their reputation and ability to attract new talent and also their public perception,” Jennifer Schelfer, partner at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Employees are really expecting to see these initiatives in place and to see genuine support, especially from upper-level management.”

Business travel will be significantly reduced

As the pandemic continues into 2021, don’t expect travel for U.S. businesses to make a massive comeback in 2021. At the recent New York Times’ Dealbook conference, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates predicted a significant drop in business travel, and for there to be a “very high threshold” for companies that can conduct meetings from home.

“My prediction would be that over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office will go away,” Gates said at Dealbook conference. “Some companies will be extreme on one end or the other. … We will go to the office somewhat [and] we’ll do some business travel, but dramatically less.” Companies will reduce virtual activities and meetings

While businesses adopted virtual meetings fervently in 2020 as a way to help keep teams connected, they may not be so tied to them in 2021. As remote work becomes more of a norm, business owners could reduce these instances in order to give employees more time back to work.

“The Zoom happy hour has hit its expiration date, [with] too many long days of virtual meetings for months,” Nani Vishwanath, people team manager at Limeade, told TechRepublic. “[Employers will] gift employees with time back in 2021, such as cancelling recurring meetings or blocking a day for ‘no meetings’ and encouraging your team to recharge.”

Economic growth could return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021

For businesses that have made it through 2020, many are wondering if the economy will come back in the next year. A December 2020 survey of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) suggests the economy very well could roar back in the second half of 2021.

“73% percent of panellists believe that the economy will have returned to pre-pandemic GDP levels by the second half of 2021,” reports the NABE. “The 73% is a dramatic improvement from the October survey in which 38% of panellists believed that a full recovery would occur before 2022.”

Retraining and reskilling workers will be a 2021 priority
As the pandemic has put pressure on companies to lay off lower-skilled workers that can be replaced by automation or technology, some companies will also work to retrain and reskill employees.

“Cost-effective options — such as retraining, reskilling and redeployment — will continue to grow in popularity next year,” Michelle Anthony, chief revenue officer at LHH, told BenefitsPro. “Employers will be more committed to building a workforce of the future by helping employees acquire new skills so the companies can absorb downturns and market shifts without having to resort to the costly fire-and-hire cycle.”

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.”

Why Trust, High Standards and Outstanding People Deserve the Right Company Culture

A colleague who is an executive director in a large FMCG came down to see me for a discussion around my latest book, Purposeful Discussions.

In particular, David focused on an extract from Chapter Two;

When law firms, companies and others lay people off, the people who lose their jobs are generally the people who are ‘good’. People who are ‘outstanding’ don’t lose their jobs (or hardly ever).

Outstanding people are the ones who bring hard work, constant improvement and greatness to whatever they do. The world needs people who are outstanding and set the highest goals possible for themselves.

Everyone can be outstanding with the right standards. If you say you cannot be outstanding, you are slapping the face of your creator. There is nothing on this earth that does not have a purpose. You are in control over what happens to you and can control it by the standards you set for yourself. Life has meaning when you give it your all.

The secret lies in the standards you set for yourself and the decisions you make. What standards are you going to choose for your life?

David did continue our conversation to say what was my opinion of the current Furlough schemes and redundancies and what happens to a business that loses outstanding and good people.

As you can imagine this was quite a debate which I have written articles for several of the nationals through COVID19, I think we were both pleased that it was shared over a few glasses of wine.

It is true, some employees are more talented than others. That’s a fact of organisational life that few executives and HR managers would dispute.

The more debatable point is how to treat the people who appear to have the highest potential.

Opponents of special treatment argue that all employees are talented in some way and, therefore, all should receive equal opportunities for growth.

Devoting a disproportionate amount of energy and resources to a select few, their thinking goes, might cause you to overlook the potential contributions of the many.

But the disagreement doesn’t stop there. Some executives say that a company’s list of high potentials and the process for creating it should be a closely guarded secret. After all, why dampen motivation among the roughly 95% of employees who aren’t on the list?

Shocking research was released recently by The Gallup Group, indicating that 87% of the workforce is either not engaged (read: they are there physically but not mentally or emotionally), or totally disengaged (they actually undermine the success of an organization.)

This is the highest rate of disengagement ever measured and is in spite of the fact that over 85% of organisations have an employee recognition program (which obviously isn’t working).

Companies spend more than $100 billion every year trying to improve employee engagement in the workplace. Despite their efforts, employee engagement numbers remain under 35 percent. It’s vital for employers to understand the role employee disengagement plays in overall business success.

Let’s have a look at ten shocking facts on employee disengagement.

1. Less than three out of ten employers have an engagement strategy in place
According to a recent study by achiever.com, only 25 percent of employers have an established engagement strategy in place. As with most business processes, engagement won’t just happen overnight. It requires a comprehensive strategy that defines your company goals and develops techniques for fostering engagement throughout the workplace.

2. Only 30 percent of employees feel encouraged to grow with the company
Career growth and development is significant to today’s employees, especially millennials and Gen Z workers. In fact, the opportunity for career advancement is one of the top reasons people seek new job opportunities. Despite this fact, the latest Gallup’s State of the American Workforce shows that only three in ten employees feel that their employers are concerned about their development within the company.

3. 75 percent of employees quit because of their boss – not the company
According to a recent study, employee disengagement starts with the manager, not the company itself. This report revealed that 75 percent of workers state that they left a job because of their supervisor or manager and not necessarily the company. This statistic should be a wake-up call to companies across the globe. Employee engagement strategies must start at the top and work its way down. Only when these strategies attempt to boost engagement at all levels within the company can employers hope to deal with employee disengagement effectively.

4. Companies with higher engagement levels obtain 21 percent higher profits
Study after study shows a clear link between employee engagement and company profits. In fact, according to a study released by Forbes, companies with higher levels of employee engagement see a 21 percent increase in profits or more. This statistic alone should be enough to grab any business leader’s attention.

5. Only 11 percent of workers receive weekly recognition
There is a direct correlation between disengagement in the workplace and lack of recognition. Like everyone else, your employees want recognition for their hard work. Without consistent recognition, employee disengagement can skyrocket within your workplace. This level of disengagement can tempt even your best employees to leave. In fact, according to our recent study, nearly one in five employees stated their main reason for considering a new job was because they’re not being recognized.

6. Employee disengagement costs companies more than $450 billion a year
According to a Harvard Business Review report, employee disengagement costs employers anywhere from $450 billion to $550 billion every year. This amounts to an incredible amount of waste within the business sector. Many employers overlook most of these expenses because they fail to see the link between higher costs and low levels of employee engagement.

7. 21 percent of employees say that their employer never asks for feedback
Imagine trying to voice your opinion, and no one is listening. That is how many employees feel, and studies show that they might be right. In our recent report on disengagement in the workplace, more than 20 percent of respondents said that their employer was terrible at requesting feedback. In some cases, their employers never asked for feedback at all.

8. Only six out of 10 employees know what their job expectations are
It can be nearly impossible for employees to remain engaged in the workplace without having a clear understanding of their specific job expectations, as well as the company’s goals and missions. This fact may seem like an obvious point, but it might be just so obvious that many employers are overlooking it. According to Gallup’s report, only 60 percent of employees claim to know what their expectations are at work.

9. Higher employee engagement leads to fewer safety issues
Most employers don’t relate employee engagement with workplace safety, but maybe they should. A study of the healthcare industry showed that providers with high engagement levels have 70 percent lower safety incidents than companies with lower levels of employee engagement. This improvement in workplace safety can be attributed to enhanced employee feedback processes, comprehensive employee recognition programs, and more precise job expectations – all of which improve engagement rates.

10. Lack of inclusiveness can cause disengagement
There is good reason why 69 percent of executives surveyed by Deloitte cited diversity and inclusion as a top priority. Deloitte’s stats show that 39 percent of employees would leave their current company for one that had a more inclusive culture, and over half (53 percent) of millennials would do so.

A diverse workplace environment brings fresh perspective and it’s important to embrace diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Understand what truly engages and motivates your employees by collecting honest feedback.

We’re all familiar with the damage that can be caused by personality clashes in the workplace, but how can leaders ensure a harmonious balance between their organisation and its employees?

“Organisational culture is the sum of values and rituals which serve as ‘glue’ to integrate members of the organisation”

Building a culture of engagement, in which employees are seen (and see themselves) as stakeholders, will promote organisational harmony as well as creating additional financial benefits. A Gallup study found that companies with strong employee engagement saw higher productivity and were 22% more profitable than those with poor employee engagement. Unsurprisingly, employee retention was also significantly higher in these businesses.

“Trust is one important key to building a culture of high performance, whereby speed will go up and costs will go down.”

This statement by Stephen M. R. Covey (son of Dr Stephen R. Covey) in his book, ‘The Speed of Trust’, captures the essence of why trust (or lack thereof) is at the heart of every organisation’s culture. I refer to trust as the glue and the lubricant of culture. Trust is glue because it binds people together and converts routine work interactions into effective teamwork. Trust is also a lubricant because when it is present, as Covey suggests, things move faster with less expense. Let’s test this concept of the glue and the lubricant functions of trust.

Imagine for just a moment what your work culture would be like if there was absolutely no trust or mistrust between you and the people in your workgroup:

What if you couldn’t count on them to come to work on time or stay at their work when they were needed?

What if you feared anything you said might be reported to the media or to your competitors?

What would the day be like if you couldn’t trust anyone to do even the simplest task without making a mistake?

And what if the people in your group had absolutely no trust in you?

Stephen Covey taught a very simple but powerful metaphor of trust: the emotional bank account. This metaphor works on the same principle as a financial bank account – one can make deposits that build trust with others, and one can take withdrawals that diminish trust. You might consider the current state of your emotional bank account with important relationships.

It’s not all bad news. Boards are beginning to recognise and discuss the importance of building and maintaining a strong corporate culture, as recommended by the FRC’s report on culture and the role of boards.

But while the board itself may have a strong ethical culture, the challenge is to ensure that this “tone at the top”. and most people follow their lead. They have a duty to project and uphold the company ethos, vision and behaviours.

As the famous Tony Robbins once said:

‘Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.’

The Digital Boardroom is Not Always the Right Answer

Much has been written about the impact of the pandemic on our daily lives. Locked down in our homes, consumption of technology for business and leisure has reached unprecedented levels.

Many commentators have explored how this will play out post-lockdown; reduced international travel, sustained high levels of video calls and softening demand for office space are just some examples.

For technology businesses and investors, it is not what is happening in our homes that is most interesting, but the conversations happening in (virtual) boardrooms. The pandemic and resulting lockdown precipitated the biggest business continuity test imaginable. And it has not gone well. The failings of large organisations to address their technical debt have been thoroughly exposed.

“Keeping everyone involved when you don’t have those corridor conversations and that office osmosis brings a different kind of challenge,” says Andy Barratt – Managing Director, Ford of Britain and Henry Ford & Son (Cork) Ltd.

Tough times often call for tough measures. In the current environment, directors are likely to be ‘meeting’ more often than usual to discuss, take and implement significant decisions around their business’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

But with limitations on social contact and gatherings, most boards are being forced to hold these important meetings virtually.

It is important (perhaps now more than ever given the scrutiny that decisions made during this crisis may face) that directors are careful to exercise their decision-making powers in line with the company’s constitution, and also, from a practical perspective, that the virtual meetings themselves are well structured and delivered.

In general, the larger the company, the worse they have fared. Short term focus on maintaining the share price, incentives that reward maintaining the status quo and support an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, and the inertia that plagues large organisations, have left companies ill-prepared.

The ongoing wave of business disruption that is being led by many technology innovations and their resulting consequences is crashing at our shores.

Boards are concerned, and rightly so, about addressing these issues before their revenue streams, brands, share values and bottom lines are negatively affected.

Moreover, outside stakeholders from activist investors to regulators are starting to demand action and improvement in how companies manage digital risk. Whether leaders fix these deficiencies themselves or are forced to, change is widespread and unavoidable.

NTT Security’s Global Threat Intelligence Report identified a 350% increase in ransomware and called out spyware as the leading malware attack tactic, indicating that hackers are in it for the long haul — waiting for the chance that they know will come.

Boards also need to play the long game and this starts with understanding and governing technology fuelled disruption. Addressing this challenge boils down to improving boardroom digital diversity.

Corporate directors across industries can do this by introducing digital competencies into their boardroom and by actively developing the digital IQ of all of their board members.

Speed is everything in today’s tech-driven business world. In an effort to speed up even more, some so-called progressive business leaders are cancelling in-person meetings in favour of the latest high-tech solutions.

Face-to-face meetings allow for clearer communication. In addition to being able to read facial expressions, body language, and inflexion, in-person meetings often end up being more positive and considered more credible than online or virtual conversations.

Without non-verbal cues, you also run the risk of misinterpreting information. In fact, 60% of people regularly misread tone or message when communicating via email or phone, according to Entrepreneur.

Not only do in-person meetings tend to be more positive, but they also tend to be more productive. On average, an in-person meeting generates about 13.36 ideas versus a virtual meeting, which generates 10.43.

And although virtual meetings are sometimes more convenient, nearly 70% of people admit to browsing social media to pass the time during audio-only conference calls.

Even though there can be a prioritisation of speed over face time grossly underestimates the power of human interaction and the importance of face-to-face communication. If the point of business were simply to accomplish as many tasks as possible, then yes, an email would probably do. But that’s not what real leadership is about.

If you’ve ever been on the bad side of cyber miscommunication, you’ll agree that faster isn’t always better.

Managing a successful team and, consequently, a successful business requires personal connections and trust. Business is, in large part, about building relationships. Being a successful leader requires emotional intelligence as much as it requires drive, discipline and best practices.

Despite some benefits to video conferencing, studies show there is simply no substitute for the effective experience of face-to-face communications. In fact, research from Vanessa Bohns, associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University, shows face-to-face interactions are 34 times more successful than emails.

CEOs know that trust and camaraderie build great teams, create loyalty, and are the basis of moving a business forward. Wealth and success depend on it. That success comes from, and is built through, face-to-face interactions and experiences and cannot be replaced in the same way with virtual experiences.

“People still feel they are at a disadvantage when they are remote,” said Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the technology advisory firm Enderle Group, in an article for CIO Magazine. “Side meetings, individual breakouts and even social interaction after meetings are not addressed by current video conferencing solutions.”

Technology assists us with many tasks in one way or another every single day. While technology can be an amazing and valuable tool that helps us in numerous ways, the wrong tools and apps can be incredibly frustrating. Most people think of technology as their best friend or their worst enemy. For board directors where many are at or approaching retirement, technology tends to draw more jeers than cheers.

When board directors are using the right technology, it can increase the pace of their work from a snail’s pace to that of a roadrunner. The wrong technology slows the pace of business down, exacerbates mistakes, and opens up dangerous new opportunities for risks.

Boards become vulnerable. The right board management governance software assures compliance, solves security issues, and enhances good governance principles. Boards become productive and efficient and are better able to keep pace with today’s business practices.

Essentially, the right modern governance tools set the stage for ultimate corporate success and profitability.

The Wrong Technology Creates Board Meeting Inefficiencies

The pace of corporate business is such that board directors can no longer wait for quarterly reports and updates. Corporate business happens in real-time. Without the right technology, board directors are left out of the loop and in the dark.

Board directors need the ability to stay continually connected and engaged with management and the pulse of their organizations. The wrong tools and apps can hang them up.

Routine tasks simply take too long. Manual voting processes, delayed meeting RSVPs and paper processes bog down corporate secretaries. Last-minute agenda changes can increase labour time and other costs greatly. Preparing agendas and board meeting minutes takes a lot of time to complete and get approved with manual processes.

Security Is Sorely Lacking in Boardrooms and in Board Processes

Board directors are keenly aware of the high risks of cybercrime. If it hasn’t been drilled into them enough, the media continually reminds them by reporting new instances of data breaches.

By and large, board directors find IT to be too technical and confusing for them to make good decisions about how to protect the board and the company. Cybercrime is more sophisticated than ever. Hackers are working doggedly around the clock looking for ways to penetrate multiple layers of security to make corporations vulnerable.

Nearly everyone now uses email, but once again, the media tells us that using personal and business email accounts and other electronic apps for communication lacks the necessary security to protect confidential board business. Insecure communications also pose a risk of accidentally sending disclosures to the wrong parties with no controls to prevent it.

While security is sorely lacking in the technology realm, boards that continue to use dated paper processes can’t have the assurance that their important documents are safe. Paper documents may be difficult to find if they’re stored in multiple locations, which means that it takes a long time to get the right documents or risk not being able to find them at all. What is worse is that paper is subject to natural disasters such as fire, floods and damage by vermin.

Finally, recent events, however, have identified core values that need to be revisited and enhanced.

Many businesses have, in the past, viewed face-to-face meetings as a cost center or a luxury. The residual trauma of this global experience and the absence of in-person time with one another has now reconfirmed the value of such interactions, purpose and trust.

Successful leaders know that people are their most precious resource. Now they are also realizing that those people, meeting with one another face-to-face is a critical part of business, and more important than ever before.

Regular computer systems lack the features and security to prevent employees and others from gaining access to confidential information, giving control to all the wrong people.

Tech Equipment Can Be Too Complicated to Use

While many boards need to meet more often because of the pace of the organization’s needs, the costs and scheduling can be a nightmare. The travel, food and lodging expenses of bringing on board members from various states or other countries can be quite exorbitant. It can be difficult to quickly find dates that accommodate all directors because of waiting for responses via phone and email.

Technical equipment can be complicated to set up and use. Systems may be electronically incompatible with each other. Poor audio or video quality makes for unproductive meetings. Some pieces of boardroom equipment are less secure than other pieces, setting the stage for spreading pesky viruses. If all that isn’t bad enough, cybercriminals have been known to hack into boardroom cameras, placing company business at risk.

Nokia-chairman Risto Siilasmaa shared his thoughts on why directors should open their minds and consider new ways of thinking about the future even if a company is performing exceptionally.

“When your team considers only a single plan with no alternatives, alarm bells should ring. Not preparing for alternative scenarios – even the most unlikely ones – is a guarantee of being blindsided. Thinking in alternatives is not just about identifying options to an existing situation but about constantly imagining and manufacturing alternatives. By making this mindset part of your leadership team’s culture, you automatically start to come up with a higher number and wider range of alternatives.”

Guest-blog: Sharon Shahzad discusses the importance of marketing and why NOW marketing is needed more than ever

Sharon Shahzad

As we face the unprecedented social, economic and political upheaval of the Covid-19 outbreak, trust has never been more important.

Declining levels of public trust over the past decade have impacted many areas of our lives, whether that is our trust in politics, banking, finance, business more generally or, closer to home, in advertising.

With this new global crisis, the decline in the bond of trust is brought into even sharper focus. There is increasing government intervention in our economy and daily lives, coupled with media coverage of the outbreak and businesses working hard to support an anxious population. All this means we need to place our trust in those around us like never before – whether that is friends, neighbours, employers or business and political leaders.

We are trusting our politicians to do the right thing, our media to carry the correct message and our retailers to ensure we can buy the products we need as we rightly stay at home to limit the spread of the virus.

Many people will have seen adverts about coronavirus around their neighbourhoods or directly in their homes in recent days, showing that when a message needs to be delivered to people with power and clarity, advertising remains the most effective way to do this.

But the past few days will not have made up for years of declining trust in our industry. We need to do more now, and even more again after this crisis is over.

In the immediate present, brands need to demonstrate they are on the side of the consumer and the gargantuan national effort we face. Some brands are already doing this; I’m thinking of marketing and advertising activity around discounts on food for key workers at a number of food and drink chains, special opening hours at retailers for our NHS staff or the businesses that have answered the call to switch their manufacturing facilities to producing ventilators.

A bond forged in times of difficulty can be the strongest bond of all and if we want the public to trust us again, we need to demonstrate we are on their side when they need us.

Amongst all of the confusion and uncertainty in the world at the moment with COVID-19, you will be starting to ensure that your business is ready for the challenges ahead. This involves navigating the pandemic as successfully and effectively as you can, whilst thinking about both the short and long term strategy of your business.

Just as we are all hoping that the impact of the Coronavirus is only short term, you should be thinking about putting your marketing efforts into a long-term plan.

As panic arises, it might be one of people’s first thoughts to cut their marketing budget. However, when thinking and planning for the long-term performance and prosperity of a business, keeping a marketing budget right now is more important than ever.

Which reminds me of a brilliant quote by Richard Edelman – President & Chief Executive Officer of the public relations company Edelman – ‘The marketing business has been just about promoting things, but we don’t believe that anymore. There has to be a societal component, too.’

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Sharon, who is aka ‘The Marketing Guru’, Sharon is a senior marketing professional and entrepreneur with over 15 years’ experience in marketing across multiple sectors. Her flexibility and mindset attributes are leveraged into positions at established firms as well as start-ups.

Sharon’s career to date has included senior marketing roles in a variety of industry sectors, including fintech, financial services, health-technology, recruitment, education, media and publishing. Sharon has experience in acquiring and maintaining business relationships with key decision-makers, sports brands, stakeholder groups and industry-leading publications to trade associations

Sharon is going to talk to us the importance of marketing and why NOW marketing is needed more than ever.

Hello everyone and thank you, Geoff, for your introduction, I have not written a blog in a while, as I have been in strict lockdown and have been shielding.

With the latest government guidelines on easing lockdown and for the economy to start moving, I thought now was a good time to issue my next blog.

In the last two blogs, I covered how lack of marketing can get you stuck in the start-up rut and the top 10 marketing essentials. A lot has changed since my last two blogs, with a global pandemic hitting us all, and with the entire world economy pausing, hard changes and choices had to be made to keep ourselves and families safe.

Businesses have suffered, people’s pockets have got smaller, with 9m employees on furlough for some to make major adjustments on getting a lower income of £2500 per month. We all have been affected in one way or another and not to forget those who have lost loved ones, life will never be the same, for them again.

Now that we are coming out of the lockdown and the economy is beginning to take steady steps. Many businesses will resume, although not pick up from where they left, as we all have to get used to a new normal.

Many businesses will be making major changes to their business structure, strategies, and staff, making cuts to survive. Many will just disappear as the lockdown has damaged their business for good. Many employees will be made redundant, and many will just decide to quit working for someone else and start up their own business, as they have had the taste of working from home with work-life balance. We will for sure have a new landscape on the business front.

To survive these unprecedented times and to keep your head above water, there is one key ingredient needed. It is to have a resilient marketing strategy. Businesses that are looking to make cuts should think twice before culling marketing departments. Marketing will be needed more than ever.

Reaching out to your clients, keeping them engaged and motivated through your communications and marketing messages. It is now imperative to be even more relevant to your audience. Hold on tight to your already established clients, as they will need the extra, attention, love, and care to ensure they do not go elsewhere.

Marketing strategies will have to take a different shape, those marketing plans devised pre-COVID-19 will no longer be useful in this new environment. The resilient marketing strategies will have to be more cost-effective; marketers will have to think more out of the box and adapt to new methodologies for reaching out to audiences.

If you are a start-up and at a point of not knowing which direction to go, you should be thinking about marketing, your investment does not have to be too large in size, you might just need one marketing expert at hand or a cost-friendly agency that can work the magic.

Starting a new business with zero marketing strategy is not a good move. You will need that leverage to launch you into the market.

Over the years we have seen the big digital transformation take place from companies moving from offline to offer digital solutions to their clients and consumers.

Digital will prevail and will continue to be the much-needed solution for businesses to survive, as we’ve discovered the importance of online communication platforms, where companies moved their entire operations online, enabling employees to work from home using the various digital video, team collaboration tools.

If your business or service is only offline, now would be the time to think about a digital offering, supported by a robust digital acquisition marketing strategy.

You can contact Sharon Shahzad via LinkedIn or by email:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/chief-marketing-officer-cmo
sharon dot kalsi87 AT hotmail dot com (removing all the spaces)
Tel: +44 7843 470 307

Guest-blog: Salma El-Shurafa discusses 6 obstacles that can prevent you from becoming an effective leader

Salma El-Shurafa

Today’s business leaders are faced with an ever-growing list of challenges, with each one adding a layer of complexity to the day-to-day running of their business.

Traditional issues such as dealing with competition, change management, and staff development have been joined by more complex, current matters such as cybersecurity and digital transformation.

For a lot of modern businesses, this means looking outside their organisation to access the necessary guidance and skills to help drive their business forward, such as the recruitment of an experienced executive coach.

Confucius sums up the need for excellence in one of his quotes when he stated: ‘The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.’

One of the best ways to better company performance is to improve the impact of an organisation’s leaders and managers, but as the coronavirus pandemic has shown us, leadership is getting harder.

There is most likely no going back to the old normal after this crisis and this leaves us in a predicament. Our leaders are having to dig deeper, find new ways of working, grapple with new skills and make sense of what is a complex and challenging time.

COVID-19 has fired a warning shot that crises and uncertainty are going to be common events in the future and that means we need to find better ways of equipping our leaders to cope with change.

This is not driven by ambition, but by necessity. COVID-19 offers us a sizable opportunity to transform our leadership styles, philosophy and leadership development programmes so that in the longer term, our leaders and businesses will be more resilient, will recover more quickly and that the aftershock to the economy will be lessened.

If we are going to do this right, then the natural starting point is to refine key learning blocks built into many of our leadership development programmes.

Historically excellent for focusing on the strategy, business continuity and operations, some leadership development initiatives are not always as far-reaching when it comes to how to get the best out of yourself and your people.

Leadership development needs to be sharpened up so it is more relevant to the new era of work with a reinforced emphasis placed on developing people skills, building the right competencies and behaviours to lead others with confidence and embedding learning through more practical application.

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Salma El-Shurafa, who is an executive coach and confidant, facilitator and speaker.

Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project, which focuses on providing leadership development and executive coaching. TPP was born as a vessel, focused on guiding the region’s talents.

Through TPP, she was able to apply her professional experience to support emerging leaders in the Middle East on their own journeys to self-discovery.

Salma draws on 15 years of extensive experience as an HR professional, entrepreneur, coach and facilitator. She has coached hundreds of professionals, teams and groups across the Middle East, Asia and Europe, ranging from C-Suite executives to mid-level managers.

Working with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and leading organizations in the region.

She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.

Salma is going to talk to us the importance of executive coaching in today’s fast-paced world and why.

Being a leader means building traits and skills that make you stand out from the rest. These competencies and qualities include adaptability, time management, empathy, open-mindedness, self-awareness, and being results-oriented.

However, if you want to be a successful leader, you shouldn’t be spending all your free time developing these skills. You also need to work on overcoming obstacles that can prevent you from harnessing and maximizing your full leadership potential.

Leadership Barriers to Overcome

As a long-time executive and business coach, I have mentored and worked with numerous clients aiming to be the best leader they can be. I have taken notes of the common obstacles that my clients say have been the biggest hurdles they faced as they climbed up the leadership ladder.

Below are the top six challenges you have to overcome as you strive to be an effective leader:

1. Taking on the roles of manager and leader

Managers and leaders have different roles and mindsets.

For instance, managers create goals, direct and build processes and systems. Leaders, on the other hand, set visions, coach, and create relationships.

Although you are aiming to be a leader, being proficient in these two roles will help you a lot. After all, you need to be a visionary but, at the same, manage people and duties. Due to this reason, you have to learn and sharpen both your leadership and managerial skills.

To overcome your doubts about taking on both roles, you have to know the importance of using your managerial know-how to lead effectively. This means learning to stay on top of all your and your team’s day-to-day activities. And this is where becoming a manager will help you.

2. Developing employees and teams

The happiness and growth of employees impact the potential success of any business. Leaders often have to shoulder the huge responsibility of motivating their staff to ensure they are always being productive and performing well in the workplace.

Additionally, you can’t only focus on individual members. You also have to build and coach teams: you have to guide them as they learn to work together to achieve all goals. Your failure to inspire and lead these groups will affect the productivity of the organization, as well.

Building, coaching, and leading individuals and teams won’t be easy, especially if you have several people under you. As such, this is one of the toughest hurdles you have to overcome.

Proper time management and dividing your attention equally with each team and member can help you support employees better and encourage them to stay motivated. Avoid playing favorites; guide every employee to be the best worker they can be.

Even if you are looking for your possible replacement and want to mentor him or her, do not ignore the others. Try to spend an equal amount of time with every one of your employees and teams.

3. Losing confidence in your employees

Once you become a leader, your desire to get things done right away and perfectly may increase. Because of this, you may end up taking everything on your shoulders, which can lead to mediocre results and frustration.

Moreover, you will start losing the trust and confidence in your employees. This will lead to other problems that can be difficult to resolve.

To overcome this hurdle, you have to work on and allow your trust in others to grow. Continue assigning regular or new work to your employees or team and avoid interfering with their tasks or processes unless they ask for your assistance.

Also, do not be embarrassed to ask your employees for help. When you are swamped with work or need to take on other jobs, have someone take some tasks off your plate.

Open and constant communication is crucial for building trust. Schedule regular meetings and encourage everyone to speak up. Whether you want their input on a new project or know if they are having difficulties with some areas or processes, allow them to say what is on their mind.

4. Creating and maintaining genuine relationships in the workplace

Once you become a leader, your interactions with your employees may be reduced. After all, you have the huge responsibility of looking at the bigger picture while your managers and workers handle the daily operations.

Due to this reason, you will start feeling isolated and lose connection with your team. You may have difficulty starting new relationships in the workplace.

Constant communication with your team members can help you maintain your good relationship with them. Moreover, you need to be intentional when connecting with other people in your workplace.

Also, don’t forget to keep and strengthen your relationships with your peers. Whether you are working with them or they are part of other organizations, you will feel less lonely and have people you can turn to for help when you need it.

5. Staying humble and open-minded

Being at the top can increase your confidence a hundredfold. Although being self-assured and assertive can help you in various ways, you need to keep a check on these traits, too.

Having an extremely high sense of self-confidence can impact the way you work with others. Losing trust in your employees is only one possible effect; you may also have difficulty collaborating with and getting feedback from other people.

Being humble can be challenging, but simple practices can help you cultivate humility. Show respect to everyone, regardless of their position, work, or background.

Always help your employees so they know they can still rely on your assistance or guidance, even if, say, you advanced from being a simple line manager into one of the company’s VPs.

Also, stay open-minded. Be open to feedback and collaboration so you can earn the respect of the people around you and learn new things that can help you become a better leader.

6. Managing changes

Change is ever-present and affects how a company functions. As a leader, you need to anticipate these transformations and stay on top of them.

Moreover, you have to guide the organization to weather these changes and overcome any obstacles along the way.

Being aware of the current and expected trends in your industry can help you avoid problems in the future. Moreover, staying updated with industry trends will enable you to define them and articulate any challenges to your team effectively.

With these strategies in place, you will also be able to set goals and create a plan that will allow you and your organization to deal with these changes successfully.

When you are aware of these six obstacles and know how to deal with them, you can become an even better leader — someone that others can look up to, and one you can be truly proud of being.

You can contact Salma El-Shurafa via LinkedIn or by email:
salma dot AT pathwayproject dot ae (removing all the spaces)
linkedin.com/in/salmaelshurafa
website: pathwayproject.ae
Tel: +971 50 462 5698

The Company Culture Maze

The coronavirus has created a moment of truth for every company. Work-life has been utterly transformed during the Covid-19 lockdown. Bustling workplaces have been emptied out, replaced by home offices, dining-room tables or even bedrooms, and it is increasingly clear many of these changes will be lasting. The ‘new normal’ poses major challenges for trust, corporate culture and conduct… but also some opportunities.

Leaders are rightly asking themselves: Are our choices and actions right now reflecting our culture, purpose and the values that define us?

It is a key time for leaders to step up to the changes. However, a research report that my company commissioned, provided by DataPad, of 2,100 employees in the UK has revealed that a huge 69% of people don’t fully trust their CEO’s or line manager.

The study was unveiled to mark the launch of my last best-selling business book, Purposeful Discussions.

I believe executives in the great challenges of today’s new business world now have renewed responsibility to their leadership teams, employees, customers and stakeholders for what business does best; innovate, invest and grow.

Many people wait until circumstances force change and transformation, that can be radical and painful to all concerned.

I have always maintained, ‘we need Purpose and a positive culture to help us reconnect, going beyond our egos and our fears to build trust, strong relationships, communities, networks and organisations, so that through collaboration we can begin to co-create a more sustainable future’.

An organisation’s culture is its behaviour at scale, words, actions and defined outcomes. Culture is guided by purpose and values. And it will be put to the test by any crisis, as is happening right now with Covid-19.

Research by Bain and Company Inc tell us that among the values exhibited by strong cultures are collaboration, agility, integrity, people-centricity, innovation, accountability and ambition.

Companies that demonstrate a strong purpose and culture, have a strong internal compass and inspire their employees on a clear vision, which is found, 3.7 times more likely to be business performance leaders.

Culture is your company’s internal compass, informing actions to take in a time of crisis.

Positive thinking is one of the fundamental attributes which can have an effect on both our mental and physical well-being. With it, we can overcome serious obstacles in life, learn to live with chronic conditions or improve our work and personal lives. Without it, we run the risk of failing at every turn and never realizing our full potential.

Many entrepreneurs try to maintain their initial organisational structure despite stark growth or industry or a crisis event shift within the company.

Your structure is only as good as the people operating within it and how well they’re matched to their roles and responsibilities

As your business grows, it’s important to monitor the wellbeing of your people, by providing purposeful leadership that encourages growth, encouraging checks and balances between departments, maintaining strategic adaptations to changing business structures, and matching the ideal person for the ideal job, you are primed and ready to succeed in your business.

Business leaders can improve both their performance and that of their employees in reviewing the wellbeing and fitness of the business and emotional state of mind:

1. Anticipate the barriers
Confidence is vital – and the key to true confidence lies in rigorous planning that considers every likely obstacle to achieving a given goal.

2. Address your stress
Preparation, adaptation and recovery are vital parts of psychological resilience to stress. The first step is to understand your own capacity. Ask yourself: what triggers send me into a state of stress and what can I do that will truly minimise these and/or their impact on my performance?

3. Adopt a team mentality
Teams are built on mutual respect and the absolute conviction that you are a part of an outstanding group that perform their assigned roles effectively. Ensure that everyone understands both their own and others’ roles in achieving the clear business goals that have been agreed. Openly declaring a commitment to your own role will boost accountability and build trust.

4. Optimise your regime
Building in crisis recovery is vital for maximising performance in business. Ask yourself: when is the next critical moment approaching and how can I ensure that I’m physically and mentally ready for it? Planning to finish a difficult meeting before a lunch break, for instance, will give you scope to recover and gather your thoughts before you need to do any further important work.
All leaders should audit how they are spending their time. This will help you to determine whether you are devoting too much to reactive work rather than more strategic, value-adding tasks.

5. Encapsulate your values in a mantra
Ask yourself: why do we do what we do as an organisation? Articulating the meaning behind your enterprise unites employees in a common cause, boosting engagement and performance.
Business leaders have to demonstrate the stated values through their own behaviour if they expect others to adopt them. While most firms have developed collective values at some point, many fail to live by them, so authentic role models at the top of the organisation are crucial.

6. Adopt winning routines
Positive habit formation is a method that successful athletes have tried and tested. It entails identifying what behaviour is required to achieve a win and establishing a routine to reinforce this.

To apply it in business, ask yourself: what consistent actions do I need to start taking that would improve my overall performance? For instance, if meetings with a certain colleague often overrun, it’s worth considering how that time is being used, adopting a more efficient format and then embedding this through repetition.

Great performance is as much about the purpose and culture of the organisation. These beliefs are found in the vision, ethos and values, leadership, the strategy and plans, in people, and importantly that people are trusted to make things happen.

Reconnecting with your purpose and values will make it possible, when this crisis has passed, to look back with pride at how your company responded. Culture always matters, but it matters now more than ever.

If these core attributes are applied to the business then high-performance leaders must have an overwhelming desire to lead and that the desire to lead must be for the right reasons. It is only through having this overwhelming desire that they will have the emotional energy, enthusiasm, stamina and drive to undertake the unremitting pressure and sustained hard work required to turn an average organisation into a high performing one.

Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our world and the way that we work in an extraordinarily short time. It is becoming increasingly evident that we will have to live with and adapt to these changes for a long time and it is far from certain that we will ever return to life exactly as it was before the pandemic.

These changes bring with them great challenges and risks. These are uncharted and difficult waters to navigate. However, in our view there are also great opportunities, and these challenges can be met where leaders are able to move from a crisis management mindset to thinking about how to run their businesses differently, with a strong focus on culture.

Firms that get this wrong run the risk of poor conduct, low staff morale and ultimately, weak future performance.

However, those that find ways to nudge behaviours in the right direction have the chance to build business models and resilient cultures that adapt to the new circumstances with positive outcomes for customers, employees and investors.

It was Stephen R. Covey who once stated:

“Trust is central to an economy that works.”

Why Trust and Purpose is the new Normal in Organisational Development

COVID-19 is a crucible within which resilient leadership is refined. Acting without perfect information, often with only a few hours or days to spare, CEOs have to guide their organizations through myriad decisions and challenges, with significant implications for their company’s whole system: employees, customers, clients, financial partners, suppliers, investors, and other stakeholders, as well as for society as a whole.

Clarity of thinking, communications, and decision-making will be at a premium. Those CEOs who can best exhibit this clarity, and lead from the heart and the head, will inspire their organisations to persevere through this crisis, positioning their brand to emerge in a better place, prepared for whatever may come.

Crises like these, with deep challenges to be navigated, will also lead to opportunities for learning and deepening trust with all stakeholders, while equipping organisations for a step change that creates more value not just for shareholders, but for society as a whole.

From time to time, we lose our bearings as individuals, especially when facing overwhelming challenges, as we are today with the coronavirus pandemic; it is in these moments that we lean into our core, our character and personal values, to find strength and focus on what really matters.

Leaders facing the unprecedented times and circumstances of the moment are also looking to their organisation’s core, its communal culture and values, to inspire resilience, unleash agility, and help employees to thrive, not simply survive.

Setting a regular cadence with a clear voice is critical. Incomplete or conflicting communications can slow the organisation’s response rather than providing better guidance.

In a time of crisis, trust is paramount. This simple formula emphasizes the key elements of trust for individuals and for organizations:

Trust = Transparency + Relationship + Experience

Trust starts with transparency: telling what you know and admitting what you don’t. Trust is also a function of relationships: some level of “knowing” each other among you and your employees, your customers, and your ecosystem. And lastly, it also depends on experience: Do you reliably do what you say?

In times of growing uncertainty, trust is increasingly built by demonstrating an ability to address unanticipated situations and a steady commitment to address the needs of all stakeholders in the best way possible.

It’s also important to recognize and address the emotions of all stakeholders. This is not just about charts and numbers. Narratives can be powerful ways to acknowledge the fears that naturally surface in times of crisis, while at the same time framing the opportunity that can be achieved if stakeholders come together and commit to overcoming the challenges that stand in the way.

A survey I carried out by DataPad asked employees questions on ‘trust and respect’ in relation to their Executive Leadership, Heads of Department and their immediate line managers. The closer the manager’s role was to the respondent, the more likely it was for the employee to answer positively. Immediate managers were trusted “a lot” by 48% of those who responded and “a little” by 36%. 16% of immediate managers are not trusted at all.

Working with CEOs over the years, I have found that thriving cultures are those that are purpose-driven and characterised by vitality and a growth mindset. Organisations where leaders are purposeful and intentional and open to personal change, and where every employee has a voice and is actively engaged in living the organisation’s values, are those with thriving cultures. Many organisations entered into this crisis with such a culture. Others were struggling.

But, like the process of glass blowing, in which beautiful structures are created by manipulating molten glass in a hot furnace, we have observed healthy and resilient cultures emerge from the fires of crisis.

How can an organization maintain or build a thriving culture in this crisis? At their core, organisations are shadows of their leaders. Leaders who greet crisis with perspective and compassion, confront the current reality with optimism for the future, demonstrate personal resilience, and inspire that resilience among their employees are those who will make the difference.

Authentic cultures are not formed by values posted on the wall; they are the result of leaders being purposefully committed to living those values and willing to personally change in order to model the behaviours and actions that maintain integrity.

When values are real, employees and customers know the enterprise is authentic and true to its culture. Especially in a crisis, comparing actions to values is a litmus test of a company’s authenticity.

Culture, we know, is the core of resilience, but it alone is not enough. Other work by our firm has shown that organisations that accelerate performance during good times and bad are able to mobilise, execute, and transform with agility.

During today’s pandemic, agility matters more than ever. Amidst rapid-fire health updates, market volatility, and the extreme spread of the coronavirus, a company’s foresight, ability to learn, and adaptability will set it apart.

Companies strong in these areas have leaders who are future-focused, demonstrate a growth mindset, are able to pivot quickly in times of rapid disruption, and maintain resilience to navigate their organisations.

From swift decisions to shutter offices, institute work-from-home policies, and scale the technological tools to stay connected to customers and stakeholders, agile leaders have assessed the risk and pivoted quickly.

They must also reassess the medium and long term, building on past crisis interventions and associated learnings to evolve operations and innovate to meet changing needs, all while staying true to their culture.

In any time, thriving organisations are true to their purpose, rely on their values, and model agility. Today’s pandemic, which will reduce profits all over the world, is a searing test of every organisation’s culture and values.

Leaders who have laid a solid culture foundation, authentically committed to a set of values, and defined and depended on an inspiring purpose are leading through this crisis by making a difference in the lives of employees and the communities they serve.

This crisis also serves as a furnace for change for those companies that haven’t yet laid the foundation for a thriving culture.

Uncovering authentic organisational purpose can come quite simply from finding ways to be of service. What’s needed today is for all leaders to look beyond profit and ask, “What do I have that could help someone right now?

Where can I practice abundance where there is short supply?” Organisations will be changed by their actions to make a difference in these times of crisis. Connecting with employees at a human level as we enter into one another’s home offices and living rooms, meeting children and pets on the screen, is organically changing and strengthening cultures.

It’s happening today by default; tomorrow leaders can shape their cultures with lessons learned by design. Leaders and organisations that count on their core culture and values and make a difference while pivoting to solve for the future will emerge from the fires of this crisis and thrive.

Yet amid the crisis, a company’s purpose should remain steadfast: It’s never negotiable. Purpose is where the head and the heart unite. While many organizations today have articulated a purpose beyond profit, purpose risks getting ignored in day-to-day decisions.

In a recent survey, 79 per cent of business leaders believe that an organization’s purpose is central to business success, yet 68 per cent said that purpose is not used as a guidepost in leadership decision-making processes within their organization.

Making decisions that tie back to the organization’s purpose is particularly important during a crisis when companies are under increased pressure and stakeholders are paying close attention to every move. We know from research on purpose-driven organizations that they tend to thrive during challenging environments:

Purpose cultivates engaged employees. When companies are cantered on an authentic purpose, employees feel that their work has meaning. Research shows that employees who feel a greater sense of connection are far more likely to ride out volatility and be there to help companies recover and grow when stability returns.

Purpose attracts loyal customers who will stick with you in a downturn. Evidence-based research have shown that eight in ten consumers are more loyal to purpose-driven brands, which can help sustain customer relationships in a downturn and beyond.

Purpose helps companies transform in the right way. Companies that are guided by their purpose when they face hard decisions have a sharper sense for how they should evolve, and their transformation is more cohesive as a result. When purpose is put first, profits generally follow; when profits are first, the results can be more elusive.

Finally, moral and ethical leadership is the key to a successful business, yet it’s clear from the news that the leaders of some of our most influential governments and corporations are making morally questionable decisions. These decisions will lose the trust of society, customers and employees. Trust is the foundation of high functioning relationships and can only be achieved by meaningful dialogue. It is clear that this is not happening. Instead we’re using electronic communication, where it should never be used.

My latest book, Purposeful Discussions, demonstrates the relationship between communications (human 2 human), strategy and business development.

It provides a holistic overview of the leading methods and techniques. It is a hands-on guide for business professionals, and those in higher education, to help guide them through the next decade and the 4th industrial revolution

Any period of volatility can create opportunities that businesses can leverage if they are prepared.

In the case of the COVID-19 outbreak, organizations that take a more assertive and longer-term approach can spark innovations that will define the “next normal.”

A great quote by Stephen R. Covey, sums up the thinking behind trust:

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Organisational Trust is How to Think More Strategically – Less Operationally, and Without Micro-Management

We are starting to get back to work: ‘WFH’ (Working From Home), for some possibly one of the biggest challenges in their management career, managing remotely, and for those leaders who have adopted a micromanagement leadership style and approach to management, your eyes are possibly now ‘eyes wide open’ with a reset button to see that micromanagement can damage the work environment and that it is a result of unhealthy communication skills.

Today’s leaders are faced with a unique challenge – staying calm in the face of a pandemic and mounting a response befitting to the level of threat the company is facing.

Any crisis is characterized by two traits – unpredictability and uncertainty. It is the mark of a true leader to not dwell on yesterday’s developments but to look ahead and plan for a more secure tomorrow.

A predefined response plan is always less effective than assessing the real threat and taking measures to minimise.

Micromanagement is one of the most hated management flaws in business today. We have all heard the term and are familiar with it, at least theoretically. But how do you tell when you’re becoming a micromanager, and how do you step back from that place?

Trust more, control less

Micromanagement is a destructive way of leadership. It can destroy trust, morale, and you could damage your line of communication. You can get disengaged employees and then creativity will drop.

Employees’ self-esteem will then drop as well and over time, their performance. All in all, you become a large contributor to a hostile and dysfunctional work environment.

The traditional hierarchy of an organization might not be effective in containing or managing the crises.

Senior execs need to be ready to offer more responsibility and liberty to make decisions to their network of teams. The members of these network of teams have the updated information necessary to direct the crisis response of an organisation.

It is the responsibility of the senior leaders to ensure that they offer the responsibility to the correct people, who can correct crises.

With the evolution of a crisis, the team leaders may need to appoint more decision-makers from the network of teams or replace the ones affected by the situation.

Having a plan to appoint new temporary leaders among the network of teams during an unpredicted emergency can perpetrate confidence among the employees and promote the deliberate calm that can keep operations running irrespective of the location.

Some readers may remember a blog I wrote around leadership in ‘Is Micro-Management delusional or can it be effective?’

Most out-of-the-box or disruptive ideas are badly handled by a bottom-up resource allocation process.

It is top management that has to ask, “Is there a technology under development that looks inferior or uncertain today but will undermine our business from beneath once it is properly developed?”

The notion of a top-down strategic process depends upon central control of all steps in that process.

That level of control almost never exists in a large organization — quite the reverse: at the same time that corporate staff is beginning to plan for and roll out initiatives, operating managers invariably are already acting in ways that either undercut or enhance them.

Each leader develops techniques, procedures, and processes to accomplish their art.

Seen as tools in a toolkit, they use each one when the situation dictates to generate trust, produce a vision, or motivate a subordinate to deliver their goods. In this vein, micromanagement is nothing more than another tool in your toolkit. You use it when the situation dictates.

When there’s a high-value, critical project underway in your area of responsibility you do not have an option of failure.

Fulfilling Expectations of Superiors. Call it self-preservation. Call it pandering. I call it ‘smart’. Micromanagement sometimes needs to be deployed to satiate superiors who themselves wield micromanagement as their normal operating mode.

The following keywords are fundamental to leadership and organisational effectiveness:

Keyword: Trust
Trust is a key component to drive employee engagement. Have faith in your employees and leave them room to perform. You will soon see an increase in productivity. Trust will also give you valuable feedback, as micromanagement leads to employees shutting down the lines of communication.

Keyword: Time
You spend a lot of time micromanaging, is it worth it? Could you be better at time management? Should you focus on growth strategies instead of being detail-oriented?

Keyword: Communication
When you micromanage you are shutting down lines of communication. Your employees will stop talking to you in fear of becoming micromanaged. Laying low will become a strategy in your office, resulting in no communication, no engagement, no growth, and you will not have enough information to do your own job effectively.

Implement Trust, Free Time and Communicate

Crafting strategy is an iterative, real-time process; commitments must be made, then either revised or stepped up as new realities emerge.

In my career, I have had to tolerate a chief executive who was a bully. I was forced to accommodate a chief executive who was a caretaker. I had to adjust to a chief executive with a big ego. I had to abide a chief executive who took credit for my ideas.

But I was never able to tolerate, accommodate, adjust to, or abide a chief executive who was a micromanager.

Micromanagers make up for their total lack of imagination by deflating ideas and creating chaos over minutiae. Leadership inspires freedom, not serfdom.

Employees must be free to think, to talk, to act, to suggest, to solve, to invent, to dare, and even to interrupt.

No one is really managing a company successfully by shuffling numbers. Anyone can draw new organizational charts. Anyone can recite business-school maxims, ratios, formulas, and percentages.

It takes a leader to manage people – and skilled people to make a successful company. Even football coaches who call all plays from the sidelines allow their quarterbacks the freedom to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Why shouldn’t chief executives?

The most important question a leader should ask is: Are you placing the good of the organisation first? This is what leadership is all about.

Time and again, though, we see those same CEOs forgetting about the need to translate strategy into specific organizational capabilities, paying lip service to their talent ambitions, and delegating responsibility to the head of learning with a flourish of fine words, only for that individual to complain later about lack of support from above.

To be fair, CEOs are pulled in many directions, and they note that leadership development often doesn’t make an impact on performance in the short run.

At the same time, we see many heads of learning confronting CEOs with a set of complex interwoven interventions, not always focusing on what matters most.

But as the pace of change for strategies and business models increases, so does the cost of lagging leadership development.

If CEOs and their top teams are serious about long-term performance, they need to commit themselves to the success of corporate leadership-development efforts now.

Final thought, leaders need to focus on behaviour to transform culture – instilling new cultural characteristics requires a shift in values, mindsets and behaviours. Leaders need to model, acknowledge and recognize the behaviour that drives the desired cultural change.

To summarize, leaders are at the forefront of driving the cultural transformation within an organization.

Undoubtedly, every employee plays a crucial part in the process but ultimately it is the leaders who have the ability to set standards and a foundation for change and growth.

A great quote by John Stoker:

“Authority — when abused through micromanagement, intimidation, or verbal or nonverbal threats—makes people shut down & productivity ceases.”

Why Ethical Leadership and Conduct Matters

I recently had a coffee and discussion with a leader in technology innovation, we were discussing why doing the right thing, morally and ethically, in leadership can be the right thing to do.

As the coronavirus COVID-19 has seeped its way more deeply across the world, many tech companies are asking employees to stay at home. And work, of course.

The case in the matter we were discussing was prompted by Microsoft and their CEO, Satya Nadella, in an act of intelligent goodwill, Microsoft will continue to pay employees. No, not a reduced rate, but their full regular pay.

Have you ever noticed how decisions are so much harder when you try to do the right thing and make an ethical decision, rather than focusing on what’s easiest or most practical? This is mainly because “the right thing” means different things to different people.

The world of business is full of ethical dilemmas, from where to direct scarce resources to serving the local community. Every leader will make ethical decisions, whether or not they acknowledge them at the time. But the decisions they do make can determine whether their leadership is based on an ethical framework or not.

Yet making ethical business decisions is increasingly important in today’s world. News of a leader’s questionable behaviour can spread around the globe in seconds, and bring down an entire organisation.

Employees who trust their immediate boss have higher job satisfaction, more commitment to the company, and feel they are treated more fairly in processes and decision making. Employees who trust their business leaders feel more committed to the company, feel the organisation supports them more, and feel that leaders fairly allocate resources, treat others well, and follow procedures transparently.

Trust works in different ways, depending on where you are in the organisation. For this reason, C-suite leaders should consider focusing on different elements of trust-building than managers closer to the bottom of the organisational hierarchy.

Humans are social creatures and both historic and current findings confirm that strong, supportive communities have higher survival rates, prosper better and enjoy more content and fulfilled lives. This is also true of business communities.

Leaders today are constantly in the spotlight and are often called upon to earn authority without control. Economic and social change demands leadership by consent rather than by control. What we perceive as good leadership tends to be created by leaders, followers, and the context and purpose of the organisation, thus it is a collective rather than individual responsibility.

Trust is a key ingredient of successful leadership. Trusted leaders are the guardians of the values of the organisation. Trust can release the energy of people and enlarge the human and intellectual capital of employees. In a trusting environment when we are committed to our shared purpose we play active roles both as leaders and as followers.
We talk a lot about trust these days because it tends to be a precious and scarce resource.

When we listen to the emerging needs of the workplace we step into the most relevant and useful roles and make relevant and valuable contributions both when leading and when following. Members of organisations who are sensitive to people’s reactions trust themselves and each other. They build and nurture trusting relationships and allow the future to emerge organically.

No heroic leader can resolve the complex challenges we face today. To address the important issues of our time we need a fundamental change of perspective. We need to start questioning many of our taken for granted assumptions about our business and social environments.

My business partner, Mark Herbert, recently shared The Edelman Trust Barometer with me and discussed the findings of the report, The report found that people are suspicious of change and innovation when they do not see the long-term benefits for all stakeholders. Fifty-four per cent of respondents believe that business growth or greed/money are the real impetuses behind innovation, and only 27% say that business innovates because of a desire to make the world a better place or improve people’s lives.

Leaders need to treat employees as adults, openly and honestly discuss the organisation’s challenges and take responsibility for their decisions and actions.

Leaders also need to listen more. The trouble is that most are unable to recognise, let alone change, the structural habits of attention in themselves and in their organisations to drive key factors such as trust. Learning to recognise our blind spots in any business culture requires a particular kind of deep personal and collective listening.

The benefits of connecting mind, heart and our senses are well documented both in scientific and popular publications. Integrating such practices into the organisational culture increase not only the level of wellbeing but also the levels of trust, honesty and openness of communication.

In spite of decades of discussions and research on ethical leadership, the available information is largely anecdotal and remain highly normative until very recently little has been done to systematically develop an ethical leadership construct necessary for testing theory about its origins and outcomes with business.

This has to be questioned, why boards, CSuite and senior managers have never questioned the moral and ethical standing of organisations, why corporate governance is only now an inclusion around the values and standing of the largest component in business, people.

It is particularly in times of corporate scandals and moral lapses that the broader public and interest groups in a corporation ask themselves the fundamental question, namely, who are corporate managers and are they ethical.

Being ethical is about playing fair, thinking about the welfare of others and thinking about the consequences of one’s actions. However, even if one grows up with a strong sense for good or bad, the bad behaviour of others can undermine his ethical sense as well.

Ethical leaders think about long-term consequences, drawbacks and benefits of their decisions. For the sake of being true to their own values and beliefs, they are prepared to compete in a different battle on the market, where the imperative is: Do what is right.

Leaders serve as role models for their followers and demonstrate the behavioural boundaries set within an organisation. The appropriate and desired behaviour is enhanced through culture and socialisation process of the newcomers. Employees learn about values from watching leaders in action. The more the leader “walks the talk”, by translating internalized values into action, the higher level of trust and respect he generates from followers.

When leaders are prepared to make personal sacrifices for followers or the company in general for the sake of acting in accordance with their values, the employees are more willing to do the same.

Unethical behaviour by business damages not only a company’s health but also public virtues. Reputational capital is difficult to repair once it has been damaged.

One of the reasons why many corporates that still behave badly, with leaders that don’t take ethics seriously, is that sometimes shareholders and boards place singular emphasis on competence and quantitative results at the expense of good behaviour. There are leaders who are competent technically, who get the job done, and show good quantitative results, yet are found wanting when it comes to ethics.

The rise of ethical leadership can be traced back to the scandals inside the corporate world in recent decades. The fall of big organisations such as Enron and the Lehman Brothers has partly been blamed for unethical behaviour and therefore, there’s been a call for more ethical leadership to appear.

Ethical leadership is considered to be one solution for creating a balance between the wellbeing of the subordinates and the wider community, and the organisation’s profitability. The theory understands the importance of trust and good relationships. In essence, modern ethical leadership theory places importance on the idea of service.

Ethical leadership often takes the form of three separate approaches to leadership. The three have historical and philosophical foundations and all three emphasise different aspects of decision-making.

The first approach is Utilitarianism Theory, which sees the leader maximizing the welfare of the subordinates. The focus is on ensuring the subordinates feel good and are happy, before deciding on an action.

The second approach focuses on the Libertarianism Theory. The leader is to protect the freedom of the individuals as the main concern. If an action or decision would restrain the subordinate’s freedom, then the leader would not proceed with the course of action.

The third approach is an approach to leadership emphasizing Immanuel Kant’s Ethical Theory of doing the right thing. The approach to decision-making is, therefore, looking at the proper means.

Moral and ethical actions come from understanding what are the rules and customs of the organisation and following these. The idea is that by understanding these common, agreed values, a leader can make the right decisions.

Final thought, ethical leadership should also be understood through the lens of its influence over other leadership theories. Being ethical is a core part of other leadership styles and a strong ethical foundation is required for styles such as transformational and charismatic leadership.
While the strong ethical outlook is required for these leadership theories, ethical leadership places the biggest emphasis on implementing ethical values to every aspect of leadership.

Can a company be successful and competitive on the market and at the same time ethical? Akers believes that market success and ethical conduct go hand in hand: “Ethics and competitiveness are inseparable. We compete as a society. No society anywhere will compete very long or successfully with people stabbing each other in the back; with people trying to steal from each other; with everything requiring notarized confirmation because you cannot trust the other fellow; with every little squabble ending in litigation; and with government writing reams of regulatory legislation, trying business hand and foot to keep it honest”

Pope Benedict XVI once said:

“To me, it really seems visible today that ethics is not something exterior to the economy, which, as a technical matter, could function on its own; rather, ethics is an interior principle of the economy itself, which cannot function if it does not take account of the human values of solidarity and reciprocal responsibility.”

Guest-blog: Stephanie Barnes discusses the importance of knowledge management

Stephanie Barnes

Peter Drucker once said: ‘that today knowledge has power because it controls access to opportunity and advancement’.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is undoubtedly the century of knowledge. The everyday usage of available advanced information, business and internet technologies in business activities confirm that this is not only a phrase from the literature, but true reality.

Globalisation has brought many modern trends, and companies have the task to be flexible and adapt as quickly, easily and painlessly as they can in order to survive in the competitive market.

The vital strategic resource today is the knowledge; individual and organisational. By realising the major value of intellectual resources, companies have begun to manage rationally and improve them.

Hence the importance of knowledge management as a concept of organisational knowledge, aimed at effective application of knowledge to make quality decisions. Leadership has a central role.

Intellectual resources, and the first place knowledge, contribute to the company as a revenue contribution of products and services, preserve and increase the reputation, through the reduction of operating costs, create barriers to entry of potential competitors, by increasing customer loyalty and create innovation. The success of organisations largely depends on continual investment in learning and acquiring new knowledge that creates new businesses and improves existing performances.

Brian Tracy once said ‘Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.’

Knowledge management serves a true purpose being a fundamental business enabler, knowledge management will help organisations:
• Protect their intellectual capital
• Focus on their most important assets: their human capital
• Re-orient their culture by opting for an optimal knowledge-sharing strategy
• Link people to people by setting up collaborative methods

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Stephanie Barnes, Stephanie has over 25 years successful, experience in knowledge management and accounting in the High Technology, Health Care, and Public Accounting sectors. She is also an accomplished artist having had exhibitions in Toronto and Berlin.

Stephanie is a knowledge management consultant at Entelechy working with clients in a variety of sectors. In her consulting practice she focuses on aligning people, process, and technology to not only help organisations be more efficient and effective with what they know, but to be more innovative and creative, too. Stephanie has been bringing success to knowledge management for more than 20 years.

Stephanie graduated from Brock University with a BBA in Accounting and from McMaster University with an MBA in Information Technology. She is ITIL Masters certified, has a Business Systems Analysis certificate, as well as completing a certificate in Gamification.

Stephanie is going to talk to us today about the importance of knowledge management in today’s business world.

Thank you Geoff, I am honoured to be here on Freedom After the Sharks discussing such an important subject, lets us now introduce the subject:

We are well established in the Knowledge Age and have been for a while, yet many organisations still have an Industrial Age mind-set, treating their people like cogs in a wheel and their operations like a production line. Have you made the transition to the Knowledge Age?

Are you taking care of your knowledge and your most important knowledge asset, your people? Taking care of your knowledge means addressing people, process, and technology, in a strategic, meaningful way:
• People: what they know, how/what they learn, how they are treated;
• Process: how they create knowledge, share it, and manage it;
• Technology: supports and enables peoples and process.

Getting Started

In its simplest form, knowledge management is about connecting people to the knowledge they need to do their jobs. It gets more complicated as we look at how to do that. Is it people? Is it process? Is it technology? What do we need to do and what does this really mean?

The truth is knowledge management is about all of those things people, process, and technology. We have to know how to balance those things, to do that we need to have a strategy, so that’s where we start.

To develop a strategy we look at the organization its goals and objectives we talk to the users and see what their needs are what would make their lives easier, understand how they do their jobs, the language they use, the processes they execute, the people they work with, we need to understand all of these things.

Once we understand the internal situation of the organisation and how we would like to be working we can look at the external environment and observe what is happening in other organisations.

Not, just organisations in our industry, sector, or country, but more generally in any/all industries, sectors, or countries—there is much to be learned from any and all of them. Knowledge Management is not specific to one sector: the people, processes, and technology enable behaviours and are largely content-independent.

Reasons for having a Knowledge Management Program

There are four main reasons/purposes organisations implement knowledge management activities. These are not the only ones, and in some cases, they might be combined to make a new one, depending on the situation and the organisation.
1. Operational Excellence: improving internal processes through the application of knowledge
2. Customer Knowledge: building a better understanding of customers wants and needs and how to satisfy them
3. Innovation: creating new and better products
4. Growth and Change: replicating existing success in new markets or with new staff

For each of these purposes, there are different supporting people, process, and technology components. For example, operational excellence may focus on lessons learned, while innovation may focus on ways to help people develop their critical thinking, and creativity.

Benefits

The benefits of knowledge management are many and can be quite complex when it comes to trying to measure them, but it is possible to measure many of the benefits, the organisation just needs to be thoughtful and careful not to measure things that can drive the wrong behaviours. What follows is a brief discussion of some of the benefits of implementing a knowledge management program, as you will see many of them tie into efficiency and effectiveness, but not all. Some help people be more creative and innovative, while also improving employee engagement because of the underlying behaviour changes that are encouraged and supported.

People

In the Knowledge Age, people are the most important part of any organisation, regardless of whether the organisation has a tangible product or not, people are at the front lines, interacting with customers/clients/stakeholders, they are developing and delivering products and services. They know where the problems are, what could be better, what would be easier, involving them in developing and rolling out knowledge management activities helps ensure that they:
• Know where to find what they need;
• Share what they know;
• Collaborate with others
• Create what they need to create, and reuse what can be reused;
• Innovate when necessary;
• Apply critical thinking when things aren’t working as expected;
• Learn and adapt to new situations and information; all of this improves
• Employee engagement, which reduces turnover costs, among other things.

Process
There are two types of processes that are part of a knowledge management program, those that specifically have to do with knowledge management, e.g. lessons learned or community of practice processes, and those that have to do with the organisation’s operations, e.g. accounting and finance, sales and marketing, research and development, that benefit from having some form of knowledge management applied to them. Generally speaking, focusing on processes means that:
• Efficiency and effectiveness are improved; that the processes are aligned to
• Support the organisation’s goals and objectives; and
• Improve quality; while
• Reducing errors; and allowing for
• Continuous improvement.

The idea of continuous improvement isn’t just about efficiency and effectiveness. Continuous improvement can also be about innovation and doing things differently when the “same old way” isn’t working any more. I will discuss innovation a bit more later in this article.

Technology
While I could discuss each of the different types and purposes of supporting technology, and there are many, in general, they do two things:
• Support and enable the organisations’ goals and objectives; and
• Enable the benefits of People and Process described above.

Knowledge Management technology is not an end in itself, many organisations believe that it is, and this is where things can get stuck (more on that later), but the benefit to technology is that it supports the people and the process pieces of the knowledge management puzzle and makes them more scalable, repeatable, not to mention efficient and effective.

How to be successful
The first step to being successful with knowledge management is to develop a strategy and a plan. Knowledge management has many different reasons and components, so it’s important to understand how they all fit together and work on them in a balanced, simultaneous way without focusing on one part to the detriment of the others, e.g. focusing only on technology and ignoring the role that people and process play.

That said, based on my experience one of the keys to being successful with knowledge management is to work across the silos of the organisation, this makes a lot of people very nervous, but it’s the only way to do it and be successful. This means talking to people, involving them, keeping them informed.

Another key is to involve users. This often gets called design thinking, these days, but design thinking wasn’t something I’d heard of when I first did it 20 years ago, it was just the right thing to do. I certainly didn’t know what would make people’s jobs easier, and reduce their workload, or at least not increase it, so I asked them. I talked to them about their processes, what they call things, how they are organised, the things that worked for them, what didn’t work for them.

Once I get user/stakeholder input I created wireframes and prototypes and validated them with the people I’d talked to, making modifications where I’d misunderstood something or not asked enough questions. We often did this 2-3 times until we got it right. Today, this gets call agile, trying and failing, or iteration; again, it just seemed to be the right thing to do when I first did it. I was realistic enough to know that I wasn’t an expert in whatever my users were, so if I was going to help them, I was going to need their help–it was a team effort, we were in this together.

Something else that is critical is keeping everyone informed: users, management, other stakeholders. We had regular emails, updates, and meetings as well as documents being posted online for people to access. It takes a lot of communication!

It’s also critical to ask questions and ensure alignment. When something doesn’t make sense, go back to the users, the use cases they had described, the organisation’s vision or strategy, whatever helps me ensure we are moving in the right direction, in the best interests of the people I was working with and the organisation as a whole. If I have conflicting information, we talk about it and make a decision, sometimes, I make the decision, sometimes the team does, whatever keeps us moving towards the goal and has buy-in and support. The times that I make the decision, I explain my rationale and reasoning, so that people don’t feel excluded, like I have “done it to them”. We are in this together, we only succeed together.

I treat people like equals, with the trust and respect they deserve. They come to trust me and work with me to achieve our objectives. It is hard. Lots of people don’t like it. Lots of people want a command and control approach, but that’s not going to be successful. We’re in the age of the knowledge worker and have been for a long time. It demands a different approach than the industrial age.

have to be passionate, tenacious, and willing to admit you don’t have all the answers, but you’ll find out. Success takes leadership, not a place on the hierarchy.

Three Reasons People get Stuck or Fail with Knowledge Management

There are almost as many reasons why knowledge management programs get stuck or fail as there are organisations implementing it. But, based on my experience, these three arise most often:
1. The knowledge management project/program manager is new to knowledge management and they are confused about where/how to start;
2. The organisation underestimated the complexity of the task, e.g. the need to work cross-functionally;
3. The organisation focused only on Information Technology.

Reading this article/blog post can help you figure out how to address these things, and hopefully, by reading it, it’s also becoming clear how complex it is, and that giving responsibility to someone with knowledge management experience and expertise regardless of their other subject matter knowledge makes sense.

Three Stages of Knowledge Management Execution and What to do First in Each Stage

There are three stages of knowledge management. Those organisations who are just starting and wondering what to do or where to start. Often the person responsible is new to knowledge management and expects to treat it like they have treated other projects or programs that they have run, however, all too often those other projects or programs were centred on one idea/technology/content area, nothing is quite as complex as knowledge management. These organisations need to develop a strategy and a plan for knowledge management, identifying a prioritised list of activities as part of this plan for moving forward.

The second stage is made up of companies who have been working on knowledge management for 3-5 years and who have had some success. These organisations need to assess the maturity of what they have accomplished and plan out next steps for taking knowledge management to other parts of the organisation or maturing the use of the activities within the organisation, i.e. making the application of knowledge management processes more consistent.

Finally, the third stage is when the knowledge management program is being asked to broaden their activities to include other purposes/motivations, like helping the organisation be more innovative and creative. Again, in this stage, the organisation needs to develop a strategy and a plan, and consider what activities will help them meet this new purpose.

In some cases, like with innovation and creativity, the knowledge management program may need to look outside of the typical knowledge management activities and consider other disciplines, like design, or art (in the case of creativity and innovation).

What a Knowledge Sharing Culture Really Means

A knowledge-sharing culture means that the organisation is open to and encourages the sharing of knowledge. This means that people are expected to ask questions and search for the knowledge they need, and also, that the people who have the knowledge are expected to give it to those who need it. Although, like the rest of knowledge management, it is more complicated than this would lead one to believe.

People need to feel that it is safe to ask questions and admit that they don’t know something. They need to be given time for research and reflection. Those with the knowledge to share need to know that it is okay to take the time to share, and they need to understand the value of sharing both to themselves and the organisation.

There is a common belief in many organisations that people should hoard knowledge rather than share it, because they are afraid that by sharing their knowledge, they decrease their importance and open themselves up to being laid-off and replaced by someone at a lower salary. However, this is not true, the value in the knowledge is in the sharing of it and a person’s worth increases the more they share and are seen to be sharing.

When organisations start to consider increasing the knowledge sharing that happens, they need to help support these behaviours by redesigning performance reviews and rewards as well as putting activities in place to help encourage sharing, e.g. communities of practice.

Summary

It is time for knowledge management to be more than an after-thought for many organisations, in the Knowledge Age, it is time that knowledge be taken seriously and treated like the strategic asset that it is. Knowledge is alive, it lives, and it breathes through its sharing, it is not an information technology project, it is a people, process, and technology program. It encompasses all of the complexity of an ecosystem and needs to be understood as such.

You can contact Stephanie on the web:
www.realisation-of-potential.com
– LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/stephanieabarnes
– Email: Stephanie AT realisation-of-potential.com (removing all the spaces)