The importance of post era newfound entrepreneurial spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Working from home is the new norm, while many personal meetings and conferences have been replaced by video meetings and other virtual forms of communication.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

Human challenges in a post-pandemic era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maris Popova, a successful Bulgarian writer once said:

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

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

Every disaster has things to teach us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at some examples.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Walt Disney once said:

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

Can we all be Super Human?

Recently, I watched a highly recommended film called ‘Limitless’, a 2011 American science fiction thriller film directed by Neil Burger and written by Leslie Dixon. Based on the 2001 novel ‘The Dark Fields’ by Alan Glynn, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Andrew Howard, and Anna Friel.

Limitless Trailer

Eddie Morra is a struggling author in New York City. His girlfriend Lindy, frustrated with his lack of progress, breaks up with him. Eddie encounters Vernon, the brother of his ex-wife Melissa, who gives Eddie a sample of a new nootropic called NZT-48.

On the drug, Eddie discovers he has acquired perfect recollection of everything he has ever read and refined interpersonal skills. As he swallows a pill, he is being yelled at by his landlord’s wife.

With his new power he calms her down, helps her with her homework and sleeps with her. His new power enables him to make significant progress on his book.

The next day, the effects having worn off, he brings his pages to his publisher, who praises them. Eddie seeks out Vernon for more NZT-48, but while Eddie leaves to run some errands for Vernon, Vernon is murdered by someone searching for the drug.
Eddie locates Vernon’s supply and begins ingesting pills daily. With its effects, Eddie improves his entire lifestyle, appearance, sex appeal, and social circle, and finishes his book.

While enjoying his new life, Eddie has an epiphany; in order to achieve the plan he derives from his epiphany, he decides to focus his talent on investing in order to raise capital.

Eddie quickly begins making large returns on the stock market and borrows $100,000 from a Russian loan shark, Gennady.

He is hired at a brokerage firm and resumes his relationship with Lindy. Eddie experiences what he refers to as a “time skip”, a momentary lapse in memory.
Eddie’s success leads to a meeting with finance tycoon Carl Van Loon, who tests him by seeking advice on a merger with Hank Atwood’s company. After the meeting, Eddie experiences an 18-hour party-hopping time skip. The next day in a meeting with Van Loon, Eddie sees a news telecast that a woman has been murdered in her hotel room. Eddie recognizes her as the woman he slept with during his time skip and abruptly leaves the meeting.

Eddie experiments with NZT-48 and learns to control his dosage, sleep schedule, and food intake to prevent side effects. He hires a laboratory in an attempt to reverse-engineer the drug, an attorney to keep the police from investigating the death of Vernon or the woman, and two bodyguards to protect him from Gennady, who is threatening him to obtain more NZT-48.

On the day of the merger, Atwood falls into a coma. Eddie recognizes Atwood’s driver as the man in the trench coat and realizes Atwood is on NZT-48.
While Eddie participates in a police lineup, his attorney steals Eddie’s whole supply of pills from his jacket pocket. Eddie enters into withdrawal, and while Van Loon questions him about Atwood’s coma, Eddie receives a parcel which is found to contain the severed hands of his bodyguards.

He hurries home and locks himself in, before Gennady breaks into Eddie’s apartment, demanding more NZT-48. Gennady flaunts his abilities while injecting himself with NZT-48. As Gennady threatens to eviscerate him, Eddie grabs his own knife and kills Gennady. Eddie then consumes Gennady’s blood in order to ingest the NZT-48 in the blood. This gives Eddie the mental abilities of the drug once again, and Eddie is able to kill the remaining henchmen. He then meets with the man in the trench coat, surmising Atwood employed the man to locate more NZT-48. Once Atwood dies, the two recover Eddie’s stash from his attorney’s apartment.

A year later, Eddie has retained his wealth, published a book, and is running for the United States Senate. Van Loon visits him and reveals he has absorbed the company that produced NZT-48 and shut down Eddie’s laboratory and both acknowledge that Eddie will likely become President of the United States one day so Van Loon offers Eddie a continued supply of the drug in exchange for Eddie assisting his ambitions.

Eddie tells Van Loon he has already perfected the drug and weaned himself off of it, retaining his abilities without side effects.

This all made me think beyond current limits and borders, and question will AI rise up and take over, what if humans become superhumans without AI?

Does anyone recall the Trachtenberg speed system of basic mathematics?

The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is a system of mental mathematics which in part did not require the use of multiplication tables to be able to multiply. The method was created over seventy years ago.

The main idea behind the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is that there must be an easier way to do multiplication, division, squaring numbers and finding square roots, especially if you want to do it mentally.

Jakow Trachtenberg spent years in a Nazi concentration camp and to escape the horrors he found refuge in his mind developing these methods. Some of the methods are not new and have been used for thousands of years.

Multiplication is done without multiplication tables “Can you multiply 5132437201 times 4522736502785 in seventy seconds? One young boy (grammar school-no calculator) did successfully by using the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics.

So, with human intelligence, why do we need AI, deep learning or machine learning?

It is a fact that humans have gradually discovered many additional recurring shapes and patterns in nature, involving not only motion and gravity but also electricity, magnetism, light, heat, chemistry, radioactivity and subatomic particles.
These patterns are summarized by what we call our laws of physics. Just like the shape of an ellipse, all these laws can be described using mathematical equations.

Equations aren’t the only hints of mathematics that are built into nature: there are also numbers. As opposed to human creations like the page numbers in this magazine, I’m now talking about numbers that are basic properties of our physical reality.

For example, how many pencils can you arrange so that they’re all perpendicular (at 90 degrees) to each other? The answer is 3, by placing them along the three edges emanating from a corner of your room.

Where did that number 3 come sailing in from? We call this number the dimensionality of our space, but why are there three dimensions rather than four or two or 42?

There’s something very mathematical about our universe, and the more carefully we look, the more math we seem to find. So, what do we make of all these hints of mathematics in our physical world?

One of the last subjects Stephen Hawking wrote was not as widely reported as perhaps it should have been.
The physicist, who had previously warned about the potential threat artificial intelligence posed, more recently suggested that humans faced an even greater and more immediate threat.

Sometime in the foreseeable future, he said, the human race could divide into two: those with an average intelligence level by today’s standards and those with super intelligence. The latter breed will have bodies improved by genetic engineering and brains improved by artificial intelligence (AI).
These “superhumans”, as they are called, will be relatively few in number, but will pose a serious threat to normal humans.

If “Super Humans” exist in future, the super-intelligent might be few in number because genetic engineering of humans’ brains and bodies will be very expensive, and only the very wealthy (or wealthiest) will be able to afford it.

The result will be the gradual consigning of most humans to the role of a subservient class, less healthy and less intelligent than the others. In a few generations, the superhumans’ progeny will begin to inherit the enhanced traits and, so, medical intervention to engineer those enhancements will become less necessary.

Some experts believe AI is a serious threat because machines will eventually become conscious, develop more sophisticated brains than humans, and decide humans are dispensable.
Yet despite such warnings about AI, nobody knows if machines will ever become conscious, indeed nobody really knows what consciousness is.

The idea of machines becoming smarter than humans and threatening the human race is pure speculation and most experts believe it’s unlikely to happen this century, if at all.

The creation of superhuman beings, however, is less speculative. Already, humans can be improved by genetic engineering and most experts accept that greatly improving the human brain’s cognitive abilities by both genetic engineering and electronic implantation will happen sooner than most people think.

Hawking suggests that anticipated advances in genetics will enable people to acquire improved memory and intelligence, as well as improved disease resistance and longer lifespans.

Talking about “Super Humans”, two solutions floating across the internet are:  To give every person the same chance to become superhuman.
The second is to ban the technology.

Neither of these solutions will work. The first one is simply not practical, not affordable and could be the biggest threat for the human race.
The later one will just stop human evolution. History is not reassuring on either count.

The common take-home message is that we often feel we have to strive for more in a commercial way, by buying things, getting a job that will pay us more money or moving to a bigger house in a better place. But if you look at people who are denied these things because they’re locked in, you realise that there are other, perhaps deeper ways to find happiness.

Thomas Jefferson declared that “the pursuit of happiness” was a universal right. But how can you define happiness? Is it material or spiritual—or genetic?

Final thoughts: Can we all be superhuman? Or are the rest of us condemned to remain mediocre?

Finally, we cannot all be superhuman, and I do not find that to be a depressing conclusion because I think we can learn from the things these people have accomplished and advance further forward and make ourselves happier in our lives and do a little better.

There are ways of managing without being superhuman, that will still improve your happiness and day-to-day existence. Even if we know we’re not going to be superhuman, we can all improve and benefit from purposeful knowledge.

In today’s scientific world we have evidence that proves the importance of attitude and specific proven actions we can take to manage our attitude. We all know that being happy today is a daily challenge.

Between our personal daily struggles, the challenges of those we are close to, and the hardships that are happening globally, it’s easy to fall to a place of sadness.
And yet we still yearn and often times work towards a feeling of true happiness, purpose, self-acceptance and inner peace, which is pure elation.

A great quote by Ellen Key – Swedish Writer:

‘Unless one believes in a superhuman reason which directs evolution, one is bound to believe in a reason inherent in humanity, a motive power transcending that of each separate people, just as the power of the organism transcends that of the organ. This reason increases in proportion as the unity of mankind becomes established.’

Guest-blog: Simon Rycroft discusses the importance of basic cyber security hygiene and the 5 inalienable truths

Simon Rycroft

In today’s ever-changing threat landscape, it is more important than ever to use a cyber hygiene routine to help prevent hackers, intelligent malware, and advanced viruses from accessing and corrupting your company’s data.

Cyberattacks are growing in both frequency and impact. The repercussions of security mistakes often end up being headline news and can cause significant harm to the victim organisation.

However, there is a perception that only big, global, corporations are at risk and, as a result, thousands of attacks against the Small-Medium business sector go largely unreported. Most successful attacks leverage well-known security problems.

Reporting from the UK Government’s CESG (the part of GCHQ tasked with protecting the nation) indicates that around 80% of cyber attacks4 are the result of poor cyber habits within the victim organisations. To address this, a cyber hygiene strategy should be implemented which emphasises the importance of carrying out regular, low impact security measures.

James Comey – Former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation once said ‘We face cyber threats from state-sponsored hackers, hackers for hire, global cyber syndicates, and terrorists. They seek our state secrets, our trade secrets, our technology, and our ideas – things of incredible value to all of us. They seek to strike our critical infrastructure and to harm our economy.’

This will minimise the risks of becoming a victim of a cyberattack or spreading the impact of a cyberattack to other organisations. In this context, cyber hygiene should be viewed in the same manner as personal hygiene and, once properly integrated into an organisation will be simple daily routines, good behaviours and occasional check-ups to make sure the organisations online health is in optimum condition.

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Simon Rycroft, who is the CEO and CoFounder of CRMG (Cyber Risk Management Group), an expert company in the field of providing cybersecurity and information risk consultancy services.

Simon is passionate about cybersecurity, his career spans over 23 years. Most recently Simon held leadership roles at the Information Security Forum (ISF) as Head of Consulting and Global Account Director. In particular, Simon played a leading role in growing the ISF’s Consultancy business, steering it from its inception to become a multiple award-winning cybersecurity practice. Simon’s expertise spans both subject matter and operational management. Core areas of specialism include cyber risk management and assessment, information security governance and benchmarking.

Simon is going to talk to us across the importance of basic cybersecurity hygiene and the 5 inalienable truths

At CRMG we don’t have an aversion to the array of highly impressive products and services that compete for the modern CISO’s budget. As an example, the role that artificial intelligence (AI) can play in speeding up an organisation’s targeted response to a new breach is exciting. Where once a team of analysts might scramble to understand the implications of a piece of malware found on the corporate network – and err on the cautious side when deciding whether to advise pulling the plug on critical business systems – increasingly sophisticated tools can now instantly determine (and execute) exactly what containment measures are needed without bringing the organisation’s operations to a screeching halt.

However, irrespective of the pace of technological advances that increase our firepower in combatting the cyber threat, there remain a number of inalienable truths that mean we can’t ignore the importance of ‘basic cybersecurity hygiene’. Here are ‘5 truths’ that explain the point.

Truth #1: Don’t forget it’s still all about the information

There’s a reason why those of us who’ve been kicking about for a while in the cybersecurity industry used to call it ‘information security’. ‘Cybersecurity’ is no more than ‘information security’ on the steroid we know as the Internet.

Just because the Internet introduced new threats, attack surfaces, and accelerated the ability of nefarious entities (individual, corporate or nation-state) to cause untold mayhem, the underlying principle hasn’t changed. IT’S STILL ALL ABOUT THE INFORMATION.

Since the dawn of mankind, information has accrued value for its owner. Information is a competitive advantage. Information is intelligence about our customers that enables us to sell services to them without incurring undue risk. Information is the blueprint for the self-driving car that can tell the difference between an elderly lady about to cross the road and a traffic bollard.

Information is the finer detail of the due diligence activity on which our next investment round is predicated. Information is a commodity no less valuable than hard currency, and in many cases, it’s way more valuable.

Truth #2: Not all information is created equal

Assuming you accept Truth #1, it follows that it’s only worth getting out of bed to protect the information that you’re really bothered about. If you have no means by which you can value the information on which your organisation thrives (assuming you don’t have an infinite information protection budget), you might as well pack up and go home.

The information you’re really bothered about is entirely a subjective matter of course. That’s why purchasing off the shelf cyber products and services – without understanding whether you’re genuinely focusing on what matters – runs the risk of being the equivalent of buying up the entire stock of Fortnum’s ground floor on 22 December just because the in-laws are popping round for a mince pie and a sherry on Christmas Eve.

Truth #3: Sometimes what YOU think doesn’t matter

Sometimes, the decisions you make as to whether it’s worth protecting (or not) the information your business holds might just not be up to you. Something as simple as building a database of phone numbers and e-mail addresses of those you think might be interested in your services will, of course, incur the wrath of regulatory bodies if said database doesn’t meet the requirements of data protection regulations.

Depending on your native industry and target market, you may be subject to regulatory requirements that are completely beyond your control, irrespective of the information you hold or the value you attach to it. And more often than not, these regulations will require baseline information security measures to be in place. No ifs, no buts. That’s the nature of compliance.

Truth #4: Information has a nasty habit of seeping all over the place

Think of information as water that trickles throughout the arterial canals and rivulets of your organisation. Well channelled and protected, it enables the business to thrive. Leave a sluice gate open inadvertently and – to mix metaphors – you’re toast.

Pinning down exactly where information resides, and protecting it only in the locations in which you THINK it SHOULD reside, is a very tricky business. Even more so when you take today’s complex ecosystems of supplier relationships into account – introducing the possibility that your network of arterial canals and rivulets extends into places way beyond your control.

If you fail to apply a baseline level of protection throughout the entirety of your organisation (and its sphere of influence), you’ll run a significant risk that information seeps out via channels you just didn’t envisage and didn’t protect.

Moving on to another analogy, ghosts really DO exist in the information world. Even if you think you’ve disposed of information at the end of its useful life, the chances are that traces of it will still exist in multiple locations throughout the organisation. How can you be completely sure that staff haven’t created copies of information that you just don’t know about, and that these copies still don’t exist? Without the consistent implementation of baseline information security practices throughout the entirety of your organisation, you’ll likely be exposed.

Truth #5: The Robots ain’t taking over any time soon

The cyber workforce is still some way off. While AI is showing massive potential in all sorts of contexts, the human being as the ultimate decision-maker in our businesses isn’t going anywhere fast. For the most part, this is reassuring, not least because most of us aren’t likely to be put out to pasture just yet by a new workforce of indefatigable, infallible robo-colleagues.

The implication? Fallibility. Glorious, old-fashioned, human nature. Business decision-making tempered by human conscience. All good, until someone makes a glorious old-fashioned mistake, at which point you might wish that a robot had been in charge.

Did that procurement manager really mean to share a dump of the entire customer database with that unvetted supplier? Ouch. The point here is that, along with information, PEOPLE still represent most organisations’ greatest asset. The problem is that, on the flip side, people also represent most organisations’ greatest weakness.

Given that we’re not yet able to implant chips behind the ears of employees to regulate reckless decision-making, we come back to the importance of basic security awareness.

The articulation of meaningful, responsibility-riddled messages that resonate with staff, resulting in people refraining from doing bad things. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy either.

As your business matures you will inevitably turn to technologies to assist you in keeping your information safe and away from prying eyes. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology is a great example. Well implemented, DLP can prove a great asset in preventing important information from filtering outside the organisation without you knowing about it.

BUT – unless such solutions are supported by a consistent foundation of straightforward, well-understood, information security good practices – you’re taking a huge risk. This is why no CISO can afford to ignore basic cybersecurity hygiene. And if this argument doesn’t persuade you, your regulators most probably will.

So, what specifically are we referring to when we talk about basic cybersecurity hygiene? Here are just some baseline good practices. Just to add context, they are related back to the 5 truths:

Truth #1 (Don’t forget it’s still all about the information)

If you haven’t done so recently, embark on an information discovery exercise. At its simplest, this might start with a simple map of your key business processes and information systems that support them. Don’t forget to explore instances where information is shared between systems/functions and – just as importantly – to identify where information is shared outside the organisation.

This activity doesn’t have to be sophisticated (at least at first). You just need to come away from it with a high level of confidence that you understand what information lives in your organisation, where it lives, and who interacts with it.

As a tip, it can be really useful to run this exercise as a workshop that includes both technical and business people (or a series of workshops if your organisation is large or dispersed).

You’ll be surprised at what can get unearthed… did you have any inkling that Mervyn in Accounts routinely does a monthly .csv export of all employee data and shares it with your outsourced benefits management provider via a cloud drive that goes nowhere near your protected corporate network?

Truth #2 (not all information is created equal)

Once you have your basic map of what information lives where in your organisation, it’s a good idea to have a crack at valuing it in some way. This might be as simple as identifying what information your business can’t function without.

By implication, everything else will be slightly less important. Once you understand the relative value of different information types or systems, you’ll then know where information protection efforts should be focused – because the realities of business economics tell us that in most cases it just isn’t possible to apply the same level of protection to absolutely everything throughout the organisation.

By the way, possibly without knowing it, by this stage, you’ll have worked through the first steps of a basic information risk assessment (but we’ll save that for another day).

Truth #3 (sometimes what YOU think doesn’t matter)

This is all about regulatory compliance. All sorts of businesses face all sorts of compliance requirements. The point here is that you must take the time to understand exactly which laws and regulations you’re required to comply with by virtue of your business activities and the information you hold.

While highly regulated sectors (such as Finance, Insurance and Healthcare) have been used to managing compliance requirements for many years, there’s a whole new generation of businesses that have only really been forced to start taking notice of compliance because of GDPR. Once you know what regulations you’re required to comply with, you’ll then need to understand EXACTLY what measures you’re required to have in place to comply with them.

If you don’t spend money on consultancy anywhere else, this is one area where it’s probably a good idea to call in an expert to help you.

Truth #4 (information has a nasty habit of seeping all over the place)

Notwithstanding any beefed-up protection you apply to your most important information, you still need to implement a baseline set of security measures throughout the entirety of the organisation. This includes things such as:

• Developing a straightforward information security policy that is accessible by every employee and which clearly states exactly what is required by staff to protect the information handled throughout the business
• Making sure that all employees are aware of their information security responsibilities (more on that below)
• Liaising with key suppliers/partners to ensure they are operating to a minimum, defined, information security standard
• Keeping all systems patched and up-to-date, and checking this routinely
• Ensuring all systems and end devices are installed with up-to-date anti-malware software
• Only providing staff with access to systems if they really need it (when you do provide access, make sure that access rights aren’t excessive – and don’t forget to revoke them once they’ve moved to a different function or left!)
• Encrypting particularly sensitive information (remember that even if personal data isn’t critical to your business’ success, you’re still required by law to apply strict controls when storing or handling it)
• Maintaining backups – and testing them periodically
• Implementing business continuity and disaster recovery procedures (even if they’re basic) that support ‘business as usual’ as far as possible in the event of an incident
• Working with a credible third party to undertake a periodic penetration test of your systems – and making sure any recommendations are applied
• Having specialist support available on speed dial if something does happen that you can’t manage yourself!

Truth #5 (the Robots ain’t taking over any time soon)

Good information security awareness is critical to any business these days, and you just can’t afford to skimp on it. So, think about the basic information security good practices you want ALL staff to be aware of, and come up with an engaging way of ramming the message home. Be creative. Incentivise. Draw a picture. Make a video. There’s a reason why those opting to attend a driver awareness course instead of getting slapped with extra points on their license get shown the horrific aftermath of traffic accidents.

Whatever approach you choose (and remember it doesn’t need to cost a fortune and it doesn’t have to be cast in stone… you can try different methods over time), just make sure you do it. And do it again.

Also, have a think about whether there are specific roles in the business that require an additional level of training – particularly those handling sensitive information.

Lastly, remember that people – just like information – have a habit of moving about. Don’t forget that when new people join, staff move to new roles in the business, or when they leave, you’ll need to have a clear process to make sure they’re getting the right security awareness training at the right time.

None of what is outlined above should be considered to be advanced if your organisation conducts its business using the Internet (and whose business doesn’t?). There’s plenty more you’ll need to do as your business matures. We haven’t even mentioned cybersecurity strategy, threat profiling, and so on….

If you choose to skip any of the basic hygiene measures outlined relative to Truths #3, #4 and #5, have a long hard think, because you might not have a business left to mature if you ignore them. Choose to ignore the guidance related to Truths #1 and #2, and you’ll have to protect everything to the highest level just to be sure – which in an extreme case might just amount to the same thing.

Thank you Simon, for your incredible insights on a terribly important subject, cybersecurity threats I fear will not be removed any time soon.

You can contact Simon Rycroft:
LinkedIn – profile
email – simon dot rycroft AT crmg DASH consult dot com (removing all the spaces)
web – www.crmg-consult.com

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.”

The benefits or not so beneficial aspects of telecommuting

Telecommuting has made the news a lot in recent years. Technology has enabled this growing trend, and more and more companies are taking advantage of it. Well, this has certainly been the year, working from home (or WFH, as I recently learned is a widely utilised acronym) is hardly a new concept.

Yet, we have encountered an unprecedented time when many who did not have the option to telecommute previously are now mandated to partake. This experience has elicited an array of reactions and results across the nation and the globe.

COVID-19 struck fast and hard when the whole world was unprepared for it. From social distancing, working from home (WFH) and panic buying, life took a sudden turn for the worse. As the new normal takes a foothold, mental health has become a bigger national concern as more people are forced to remain isolated away from loved ones and support systems.

New studies are popping up to show the benefits and concerns of social distancing and remote working. These studies run the gamut from fears and vulnerabilities to a rise in virtual meetings that might be the future of work.

A very serious lesson in a pre-COVID-19 environment, I recently met a Family Office who invested heavily in a small company 3 years ago, when discussing some of the family’s portfolio, we came to discuss a particular company to find that the leadership was mismanaged, money and investment was wasted and the remote working development operations manipulated the code of operations, business ethics and this conduct and set of practices caused an unprecedented situation has resulted in the ownership and operations now managed by the Family Office.

Although remote workers can save the company money in terms of renting out office space, they can also be risky for the firm, especially if they use personal electronic devices for official correspondence. As a company, you must ensure that you have security measures to handle the remote staff.

There are risks that the company faces when working with a remote team. The security of the client information and the firm’s servers are a huge concern. Unlike an office setting where the IT department can easily control the access of information because all the machines are in one building, it is difficult to monitor the security of data with remote workers because they use different devices to access company data.

The main reason most employers are not in favour of home-working is that they don’t trust their workforce, according to Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School. “They’ll never say that, but that’s what it’s about. Managers want people in the office because they want to see their little empires there in front of them,” he says. “It’s totally about trust, and the incompetence of managers who don’t know how to manage people remotely.”

Telecommuting – one of the new terms for working remotely – seems to be the perfect arrangement for workers in dozens of industries. And, for the most part, it is. Companies that encourage and support remote work often report higher levels of employee retention and engagement, reduced turnover, higher employee satisfaction, increased productivity and autonomy, and lots of other benefits.

I wrote a blog in March 2015, Is Telecommuting to be Considered or Banned? The essence of the blog I discussed Yahoo’s decision to ban its staff from “remote” working. After years of many predicting working from home as the future for everybody.

When a memo from HR dropped into the inbox of Yahoo staff banning them from working from home it prompted anger from many of its recipients. ‘Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” the memo said. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.’

The move to get staff back into the office is thought to have been driven by the then-new chief executive Marissa Mayer, who herself returned to work weeks after giving birth. COVID-19 and employers decision to increase remote working may seize on the opportunity of allowing telecommuting to cut down on the amount of office space they need or to channel the time employees would otherwise spend commuting into business-productive work, but these real opportunities of purposeful discussions will have a real effect on strategy to execution.

In May, 2017, IBM made the decision to call its remote workers back to the office. This was a huge surprise to many, given that IBM has long been a staunch supporter of remote work environments for its employees. The official reason was that the company believed greater productivity can occur when teams of workers are physically together “shoulder to shoulder.” This move was followed by a number of other enterprises making the same decision – Aetna and Bank of America being just two examples.

Impressive, right? Why then, in March of this year, did IBM pull thousands of its workers back into the workplace? Was it the desperate move of a company whose profits had fallen, as some pundits suggest? Or might it be the result of something else – something that has triggered companies like Yahoo, Aetna and Best Buy to also pull back their work-from-home policies, and corporations like Apple and Google to pass on the concept of telecommuting in the first place?

Consider, for instance, the increasing emphasis on collaboration and the corresponding realisation that any collaborative effort is highly dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants. While remote workers might be highly efficient with individual efforts, nothing builds collaborative relationships better than being physically present.

In face-to-face encounters, our brains process the continual cascade of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy. Face-to-face interaction is information-rich.
We interpret what people say to us only partially from the words they use. We get most of the message (and all of the emotional nuance behind the words) from vocal cues, facial expressions, and physical movements. And we rely on nonverbal feedback – the instantaneous responses of others – to help us gauge how well our ideas are being accepted.

So potent is the nonverbal link between individuals that, when we are in genuine rapport with someone, we subconsciously match our body positions, movements, and even our breathing rhythms with theirs. Most interesting, the brain’s ”mirror neurons” mimic not just other people’s behaviours, but their feelings as well. (A reaction referred to as “emotional contagion.”)

But companies are not the only ones dealing with issues of a remote workforce, many of whom are a part of the new gig economy. Remote workers themselves face challenges that can hinder their productivity and job satisfaction.

Here are some challenges you may be facing that can negatively impact your work life and productivity.

1. The feeling of being disconnected
Even though there are great tools now for video chat and conferencing, there is still a “disconnect” when a remote worker sees his team members physically together at the office, while he is physically removed.

2. Interruptions
The ability to focus on the task at hand is critical for remote workers. And yet they often feel a need to respond quickly and immediately to any messages they receive from the “home office.” These can come via chat or email, and so the worker finds himself constantly checking to see if messages are coming in or responding to an alert of a message. Each of these interruptions means taking focus away from a task, engaging in responses and then attempting to get that focus back once again.

3. You never really “leave” work
When people work in offices, they leave at the end of the day. Sure, they may take some work home with them on occasion, but they physically remove themselves from their workplace. Gig workers do not do this – their workspace is right there, 24-hours a day. This leads to the ongoing temptation to skip that after-dinner walk or kid’s sports game in favor of moving back into that office space and trying to get more accomplished.

4. Loneliness
Working remotely is somewhat a lonely proposition. Some people, particularly introverts, love this arrangement. Others, not so much. And the problem is that continuous isolation can lead to mental health issues and even increased mortality. Only you know whether you can be happy and productive in a remote work environment, and you may have to actually try it out for a period of time before you do have the answer for yourself.

5. Risk to long-term career growth
As a remote worker, you will not have a lot of visibility within the company. If you are looking for an ultimate C-level position, then your choice to work remotely is the wrong one. You need to be physically present to gain the visibility you need for those major promotions.

Final thought, if relationships are the key to innovation and collaboration, trust is at its heart. When it comes to developing trust, there’s no substitution for getting people face to face.

Building trust is a multi-sensory process, and it’s only when people are physically together that are they able to use all their senses. At my seminars on collaborative leadership, audience members tell me about the challenges and frustrations of trying to get their virtual teams to bond. Although it can be done, various studies confirm that it is more difficult to build trust in virtual teams, harder for informal leaders to emerge, tougher to create genuine dialogue, and easier for misunderstandings to escalate.

Whether working from their homes or globally dispersed, remote workers are part of business reality today. But in our world of video meetings and teleconferences, the value of face-to-face encounters can often get overlooked.

As Oliver Markus Malloy, Inside The Mind of an Introvert once said:

“Being a self-employed means you work 12 hours a day for yourself so you don’t have to work 8 hours a day for someone else.”