4 Ways Top Visionaries Thrive During Crisis

The COVID-19 crisis will have a lasting impact on how your business operates. As an organizational leader, you are facing a choice. You can live in the anxiety of uncertainty and wait anxiously for the new normal to take shape, or you can be a visionary for your organization and create new possibilities. By doing the latter, you are helping to co-create the new normal that is so needed today.  

LEVERAGING THE LAW OF CREATIVE TENSION

If you are a leader in the midst of our COVID crisis, you might feel like a rubber band that has been stretched too far.  This isn’t all bad, though, given that tension is part of what creates the drive for a new way forward.  Just think about what it might be like to stretch a rubber band between your right and left forefingers for an extended period. Would your fingers win, or would the rubber band? If you held it long enough, the tension of the rubber band would eventually take over as your fingers grow tired. Tension always seeks resolution.

Today’s tension is a good thing and can be harnessed right now to help you and your organization grow.  It invites us to find new solutions, not unlike what some of the great visionaries of our time have also encountered.  Examples of visionaries are numerous, but think about how these individuals leveraged the creative tension created by their circumstances:

  • Nelson Mandela and his dream to end apartheid
  • Steve Jobs and his desire to create the first Mac
  • Herb Kelleher and his vision to create a different kind of airline.

In every case, the odds were stacked against them. But their brilliance, passion, and creative abilities overcame the odds because they refused to react and instead stood their ground as visionaries and used the creative tension to drive forward.

HOW TO FULLY ENGAGE CREATIVE TENSION

There are four consistent ways top visionaries engage creative tension. Consider how their ideas might apply to you.

First, get crystal clear around the most crucial aspects of your post-COVID19 vision. 

There are certain essential elements the must be part of your vision-creating experience for what will follow COVID-19 if you are to get traction and make progress. Consider the importance of defining:

  • The value you aim to create foryour various key stakeholders.
  • The new kind of leadership most needed to realize the new normal.
  • Enhanced processes necessary to turn the vision of the new normal into reality.

Second, turn away from your doubts.

In the face of uncertainty, doubts will arise. After all, we are facing something unprecedented. Yet, instead of falling prey to fear and anxiety, maintain a laser focus on what you are aiming to create.  When you turn away from doubts and refocus your attention on the dream, the creative tension will move you forward.

Third, create shared ownership of the vision.

Visionaries enroll and surround themselves with believers. This means bringing together a team of leaders who will co-create and hold the new vision, and help you develop a strategy to realize it. Over time, you can seek to continually expand buy-in amongst all your stakeholders by inviting their contributions as you move forward.

Fourth, create feedback loops that support your organization’s execution of the strategy.

As visionaries maintain a laser focus on the manifestation of their vision, they enlist feedback to improve the strategy and tactics. Thus, make sure you are asking for feedback early and often!

CONCLUSION

Turbulent times are always fertile ground for visionaries. During the current crisis, you have a choice. You can live in fear about what the new world will be like, or you can passionately lean into new possibilities. The former only leads to more fear and reactivity. The latter leads to inspiration and breakthroughs. Which one will you choose?

This article has been written by David Utts – the Executive Vice President of Business Development for People Acuity – in collaboration with co-thought leaders, DeAnna Murphy, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It suggests the principles of Interdependent Leadership, which starts with helping leaders lead themselves more effectively.  David is a 25-year executive coaching veteran and a seasoned business leader.  For a report that will give you tips from top leaders about New Leadership Skills for Our New World, click HERE.

Three Simple Ways to Position Yourself for Rapid Post-COVID Acceleration

COVID-19 can feel like a harsh teacher. Painful, new lessons are emerging from the ashes of this experience – including this one: there is no return to normal. The post-COVID world will be a world with an entirely new normal, one that gets created right now by intentional people who are positioned for future acceleration.

If you are hoping to be one of them, here are three simple ways that top business leaders around the globe are preparing for a rapid post-COVID acceleration.

Exchange Your Mantra from Go Faster to Slow is Fast

The idea of slowing down seems counter-intuitive when you think about ramping up for a surge forward.  Yet, this time allows for a different kind of preparation, one that starts with deep rest.

A great metaphor for the importance of this comes in the life of Secretariat, the greatest racehorse in history.  Just as he was making his push to become a Triple Crown winner, an infection interfered with his performance. Yet, it proved to be a strange gift to him because it required that he stopped for deep rest. When he came back afterward, he came back stronger and faster than any horse ever before him.

True, you are not a racehorse, but if you’re like most people, sometimes you push yourself like you are. And, right now, pushing yourself to do more will not necessarily help you perform faster later.  The wisdom of Alice Walton seems appropriate here: “Learn to sit with that feeling [of uncertainty] (through mindfulness and meditation) and let yourself navigate through it without coming apart … this is probably about the best thing we can do right now.”[1]

Rebalance Your Life

Many people were out of balance before the pandemic started. The stress of this time has amplified this imbalance, particularly if you continue to foster the same patterns you had before. Like the tires of your car when they are out of balance, your imbalance will ultimately affect your ability to function effectively. If you want to perform better when this is over, one of the best ways to prepare is to bring your life into balance.

There is a simple way to do this. Each week, begin by listing your most important roles, including family, community/church, and work. Don’t forget to add Self to this list, as it is essential for you to nurture your physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual sides to stay in balance going forward. Stephen Covey called this Sharpen the Saw.

Next, list one thing you can do to nourish and grow each role this week. Then, put these important things first in your life. Voila! You will see your balance increase in new, positive ways as energy begins to pour back into your sometimes world-weary soul.

Be Still to Be More.

This time offers a gift – not to “do” more, but to “be” more. It can be a gift for practicing “being” by responding in new positive ways to people in your life and the situations that frustrate you – including COVID-19. This means taking time without frenetic activity to be still so you can see differently and be different. You can’t pick up the gift of deeper peace and connected relationships as you speed by people going 60 mph. You can only receive these gifts when you slow down and allow yourself to see things you haven’t seen in a long time.

This is the time be still to be more, especially to be more to those who matter most. This is the time to rebalance your life and roles. It is the time to go slow so you can go fast later.

As you apply these three practices, you’ll find that on the other side of this pandemic, you’ll be ready for the race that lies ahead.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2016/03/29/uncertainty-about-the-future-is-more-stressful-than-knowing-that-the-future-is-going-to-suck/#49e5578b646a

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with co-thought leaders, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It includes information about Interdependent Leadership, which starts with helping leaders lead themselves more effectively.  DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries. To learn more about how to self-lead during this time (and beyond) with a COVID-19 special virtual program CLICK HERE.

The One Thing That “Your People” Need from You During COVID-19

Photo credit: https://bit.ly/3cDqVeE

You want to help. You NEED to help, but how? You can’t walk within 15 feet of anyone. Conversations with co-workers in the halls, hanging out with friends and extended family, even seeing strangers together with you in a restaurant are off limits. For “doers”, “helpers”, “get-it-done” people, these times are very stressful. There is a way to help. One that is meaningful, impactful and doesn’t violate the “rules” of social distancing. Here it is…

Pick up the phone.

Call someone. Connect live. Doing so is powerful for you and for others. “Your people” (family, direct reports, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc.) need it. You need it.

During this stressful and uncertain time, people (including you) need some control, to take action, a sense of normalcy and connection. Connection in person is the most powerful but given the global choices we are making to practice physical distancing and stay at home, how can we meet this need?  

Maybe what is needed most is to simply pick up the phone and reach out. Talk to your colleagues. Pause the texting, social media posting, and emailing and actually have a live, personal conversation. Doing so relieves stress and pressure.

What do you talk about? If they are a direct report, don’t ask about work. There is a time and place for those conversations, but they tend to raise stress, not relieve it. Simply ask, “how are you doing?” or “how are you/your family coping with the COVID situation?” and then listen.

Eva Stubits, PhD is a Houston-based clinical psychologist who specializes in stress management. She shares how important it is to provide talking opportunities for others, especially during stressful times like these.

“[Venting] helps take the feelings out from inside of yourself, it helps you to process them,” she says. “It’s kind of like the pressure cooker analogy: If you don’t open a lid periodically, the steam can build up and cause you to feel even more stressed. If you let it out, it can help you process whatever it is you’re worried about.”[1]

You aren’t a therapist nor do you have to “fix” their challenges. Just express confidence that they (and you) can get through this. Let them know you care. We all need to talk more, especially now. Even the most reticent of people benefit.

Take for example a conversation I had the other day. I am a leader in our church’s youth group. I called one of the 16 year old girls, one who normally doesn’t communicate much. I told her I was simply calling to check in and see how she was doing. She talked for 10 minutes straight and then, at the end, she said with all sincerity, “thanks for calling me.” Even highly, digitally-connected Generation Z kids benefit from real, live, vocal conversations. That personal connection can help everyone from going a little stir-crazy.

So pick up the phone and call someone today. No agenda, no goals. Just connect and listen. You’ll be surprised by the positive benefits for yourself and them. And then, do it again. It’s the one thing people are needing the most from you.

[1] https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/venting-talking-to-someone-benefits

This article has been written by Lisa C Gregory – Chief Product Officer of People Acuity, The Interdependent Leadership Company, and co-author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living.  It has been written in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, DeAnna Murphy and Steve Jeffs.  Lisa has lead teams of 2 people to teams of 242 people,reaching people on five continents. Learn more about how to self-lead during this time (and beyond) with a COVID-19 special virtual program. Learn more HERE.

Moving from Powerlessness to Possibility

If you’re feeling powerless and just a little helpless right now, join the crowd!  It’s a normal human response to a globally impacting, life-altering situation you have never before encountered.  Especially one that involves so much loss of life and so many unknowns.

The good news, however, is that just because you’re feeling powerless, it doesn’t mean you are.  You can shift from powerlessness to possibility.  Here is the simplest way to make such a monumental shift.

The Grand Canyon leap starts the moment you realize that focusing on what’s happening will only get you more frustrated and more stuck.  That’s because what you see creates your feelings, actions, and outcomes, including your way of being.  As you can see from the figure shown here, blaming your negativity on what’s happening means giving away the biggest power you have available to you: to choose the vantage point from which you will respond. 

Psychologists call this “framing.” It’s is a fancy way of saying that you can change the way you look at something.  After all, whatever you look for you will find.

Paul Dunn puts it another way.  He says:

“Only the view from where you sit will make you fear defeat –

Life is full of many aisles, why don’t you change your seat?”

His words are amusing, but you might appreciate a little help translating them to something a bit more concrete.  To this end, here are three possible frames you might consider as you search for a new “seat” from which to take in this COVID-19 crisis:

  1. Gratitude frame.  Rather than being worried about what is happening, every day look for one or two things to be appreciative of: “I’m so inspired by the way people of all backgrounds are coming together to try to make a difference.”  Or, “What are the gifts that seem to be coming from this?”
  2. Learning frame.  Instead of getting caught up with what isn’t happening, or what someone else should do, ask yourself: “What can I learn from what’s happening?”  Or, “How might this help me in the future?”
  3. Service frame.  When you get wrapped up in yourself, you just get more uptight and anxious.  However, the moment you find someone else to serve, your feelings, actions and outcomes turn on a dime.  Start with: “Who can I encourage today?”  Or, “What needs am I aware of and can help with?”

When you shift your attention from what’s wrong to what’s possible you will turn powerlessness into possibility, and frustration into fulfillment.  Even when the situation hasn’t changed, you will have. 

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with co-thought leaders, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It includes information about Interdependent Leadership, which starts with helping leaders lead themselves more effectively.  DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  For more information about how you can lead yourself (and others) out of powerlessness and into proactive possibilities, click here.

6 Critical Things You Must Do to Effectively Lead During These Uncertain Times – You Are Not Powerless

The COVID-19 crisis has shaken everyone’s world. For leaders who are used to having answers, the world is even more turbulent because there are few answers and they keep changing. How do you lead in such an environment? Despite all the uncertainty, there are a few things that ARE certain and that ARE still in your control. In fact, there are six critical things you must do to ground yourself so you can effectively lead during this uncertain time.

#1 – Accept Uncertainty

Accept that it is normal for you to feel uncertain, off your “game” and off-kilter during these times. You are used to accomplishing, doing tasks, being in control and knowing what is what. Today, you are not in control. The local, state and federal governments are controlling much of what you can and cannot do. Add that to changed corporate policies and practices and you can see that much of what is happening is out of your control. Its unsettling. Its disturbing. Its new, different and totally uncomfortable. Of course you are uncertain and unsettled. That is a normal, even healthy response, to the lack of normalcy that is your current reality.

#2 – Acknowledge to Yourself That You Don’t Have to Know

Acknowledge to yourself that it is okay for you not to know right now, to not know what is happening, what is going to happen and when things will change. As a leader, you expect yourself to know or to get the knowledge when it is needed. Yet you can’t know right now. Things are changing by the hour and there is much more unknown than known. So, remove your own expectation that you know. You can’t. You don’t. And that is okay.

This acknowledgement leads to the third critical thing for you to do. Now that you have acknowledged to yourself that you don’t know, now acknowledge it to others.

#3 – Acknowledge to Others That You Don’t Know

Give yourself permission to admit vulnerability to your team and those around you. None of us have been in this situation before, so your team knows you don’t know everything. Admitting it will build trust: you are being honest, and they know it. Acknowledging your unknowing to others also reduces stress (it’s very stressful to pretend to be something you are not).

#4 – Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. Accept what you can control, let go of the rest. You can control what time you wake up and what time you go to bed. You can’t control when you’ll be able to go to a movie theater or restaurant again, but you aren’t powerless. Take a look at some of these suggestions from the CDC.

#5 – Take Care of Others

As you take care of yourself, also remember to take care of others. Reach out and connect by phone or video conference. Facebook has its place, but you need to live, real-time interaction and so do others. Be there to serve others even if it’s just a listening ear or sharing a funny story. Move from “me” to “we” and you’ll find greater satisfaction each day.

#6 – Reduce the Fear by Being Grateful

Finally, be grateful for what is good. it This will reduce the fear that you feel and see around you. In a conversation last week with other leaders, we each were able to identify several good things that are currently happening in our lives that we would like to continue beyond this crisis time. What are you grateful for today?

Doing these six critical things will help you ground yourself so you can effectively lead during this uncertain time.

Special Invitation: Join me for a specially discounted virtual program to meet with other leaders and learn how to increase your proactivity, focus, and productivity during this chaotic time filled with uncertainty and toxicity – for application now and in the future. Learn more HERE.

This article has been written by Lisa C Gregory – Chief Product Officer of People Acuity, The Interdependent Leadership Company, and co-author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living.  It has been written in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, DeAnna Murphy and Steve Jeffs.  Lisa has led teams of 2 people to teams of 242 people,reaching people on five continents. Learn more about Interdependent Leadership, People Acuity and its cutting edge virtual or live programs at www.peopleacuity.com.

Seven Surprising Reasons You Go Toxic (Even When You Know Better!)

A recent study of more than 30,000 people revealed that harping on negative life events can be the prime predictor of some of today’s most common health problems.  In fact, this pattern unknowingly can create a toxic relationship with situations and people that can actually cause as much harm to your health as having the coronavirus!  Toxicity, as you may know causes mental health issues and even life-threatening physical challenges. 

Surely, there must be a way to not become toxic, even when everything around you is falling apart.

A study by the Cornell School of Industrial and Labour Relations (2010) found self-awareness to be the strongest predictor of overall success of leaders, and a key to getting out of toxicity.   “Self-awareness is the beginning of all wisdom,” Aristotle taught long before anyone ever made statistically significant findings about it.  This means that if you can understand how you got into toxicity, you have taken the first step toward changing it.   Check out these reasons why you might get stuck in toxic feelings and find your typical patterns. Toxicity can happen when:

  1. Other people around you are toxic.  If toxicity becomes a part of the normal social behavior of others, you are more likely to engage in it.  You may often find yourself unknowingly mirroring others’ negative behavior when this happens. 
  2. You are under pressure, making mistakes, or caught in uncertainty.  The ability to wisely respond to situations and people using your strengths is the hallmark of mature self-leadership.  If you don’t understand your strengths and how to wisely use them, you can get caught in toxicity pretty easily  because your strengths are flipped into weakness when you become triggered or have unmet needs.
  3. You are trying to manipulate, control, or shape other’s behavior or situations.  While this is not a particularly effective strategy, you might get stuck trying to use contempt, criticism, or blame as a backward way to make other people behave.  Most people avoid the unpleasantness of being singled out in negative ways, and you might use this to get others to conform to your expectations.
  4. You are not at your best.  Scientists describe something called the “fundamental attribution error,” which means you blame others for the very things that you, yourself, are guilty of when you are not behaving appropriately.  You become toxic and criticize others, show contempt, or stonewall, as a way of deflecting your self-judgment on to others.
  5. Your identity or sense of value feels threatened.  Society’s tendency to make your value equal to your performance, popularity, and external indicators of success can be one reason you go toxic.  For example, defensiveness toward others or criticism of yourself is a natural response when your value or self-identity seems compromised.
  6. You experience weakness, mistakes, and failures.  The belief that weakness, mistakes, and failures are bad often triggers shame, and that can quickly flip into toxicity toward yourself or others
  7. You were let down because you thought someone “should” do or be something.  If you are like most people, when the situation or interaction with someone doesn’t align with your view of the world, you might judge and blame others.

If you identified with any of these patterns, and you’re not proud of it, you can change starting today.  New insights can mean new choices!  Here is one quick trick you can use.

Think of a time when you were caught up in negativity and toxicity – and you got out of it.  What did you do then?  How did you escape?  More than likely your story will you tell something about a success pattern that is available to you the next time toxicity threatens to choke the life out of you.

If you take the time right now to make a proactive decision about how you’ll choose to respond to the next toxic opportunity, you’ve taken the first step to re-programming your brain.  This means that when toxicity comes to call, it will be met by a “No Solicitors Allowed” sign.  Not only will this redirect energy to be used productively, but it also offers a new trend for others to follow.  You can model a higher way for others who go toxic even when they know better.  Who knows?  Maybe your choice will be the first step toward a whole new culture trend for you and others around you.

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with co-thought leaders, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It includes information about Interdependent Leadership, which redefines the task-relationship dynamic and helps leaders balance people and performance effectively.  DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  For a free coaching conversation around your leadership, or to learn more about Interdependent Leadership, sign up for 30 minutes with DeAnna here.

5 Keys to Make Virtual Meetings Engaging for Team Members

With COVID-19 driving social distancing and causing teleworking and virtual work to take the stage, many leaders new to the arena of virtual meetings are at a loss as to how to make them effective, productive, engaging and “real”. Even leaders who have used virtual meetings in the past are experiencing unprecedented levels of frequency.

For at least the short-term future, this increased pace will remain. As a team of 100% virtual leaders doing business and training globally through technology tools, we thought it might be valuable to share our collective learning gathered over thousands of hours of virtual meetings.

Here are our top 5 keys for leaders on how to engage your teams and colleagues virtually through online meetings. Virtual meetings CAN be productive, effective and even fun. Here is how.

First, Key #1Define the Purpose.

Be clear on why you are holding the meeting. Make sure you should call the meeting to begin with. Ask yourself: What is the benefit that can only be gained by meeting together and talking live? If you can’t find a compelling reason, don’t hold the meeting. If you do hold it, be clear with everyone as to the purpose. Is it to gather input, solve a problem, brainstorm? State the intent so people know how to engage in the meeting and what you want from them.

Key #2 – Make agreements.

If you decide to hold the meeting, start it off right with some best practice ground rules. Use good virtual meeting etiquette and share some ground rules around how you will be together as a group. Our People Acuity meetings all start with reviewing these three ground rules:

  • No Judgment Zone (this is a place of curiosity and learning together, not judgment of self and others)
  • Bring Your Puzzle Piece (meaning everyone contribute)
  • Confident Vulnerability (you don’t have to pretend to be perfect or have all the answers).

As a result, people feel safe contributing and are more engaged. Meetings fly by rather than drag on.

Key #3 – Invite multi-tasking.

Yes, you read that right. People are going to multi-task during the meeting so invite them to do it IN the meeting. This is about giving permission to multi-task in ways that serve the purpose of the meeting. Invite them to use the chat box liberally to respond to each other and to the topics being discussed. Invite them to add their questions, thoughts, encouragements and ideas. This allows people to connect with each other, and for ideas and thoughts to develop as the meeting progresses. It is engaging for participants and works best if followed by Key #4.

Key #4 – Pay attention to the chat box.

Designate someone to pay particular attention to the chat box and bring to your attention anything that might need to be addressed in the meeting – questions, suggestions, etc. Pause and scan the chat box yourself, and read comments out loud for those who may have missed them. People like to hear their own words even if they didn’t want to say them out loud, which allows you to ask for elaboration on comments as needed. Just make sure you aren’t challenging people when you ask for clarification or more information. Remember Key #2: Agreements! You’ve got to be curious, not combative otherwise you’ll shut down people’s motivation to comment, and you will kill engagement.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t scan the chat box when someone is commenting live. Look at the screen and LISTEN to that person. If you’re leading the meeting, briefly summarize what you heard after someone speaks, as this will convey your value of each person and encourage more interaction.

Key #5 – Use the technology.

Use the technology to make interacting in the meeting smooth and easy. An online meeting is different to an in-person meeting, and it can be difficult to organically notice when someone else wants to contribute. Online, you can set some technology signals to alert the meeting leader that someone would like to contribute. Here are some ways we do it:  

  • If everyone has their video up, have people simply unmute when they want to speak. Or, invite them to wave and wait to be called on.
  • If videos are off and someone wants to make a comment, have them turn their video on to send a signal that they are prepared to share.
  • Some platforms have a “raise hand” icon, which can also be effective if you are watching for it.

Whatever you choose, share the plan at the beginning of the meeting when you set ground rules so that everyone knows how to signal when they want to contribute verbally.

Virtual meetings are only effective when people are engaged and there are agreements about how to be together. As the leader, let go of 100% control and 100% responsibility. Let the group contribute to the meeting and co-lead it with you. With intentional practice around these keys, you and they will make virtual meetings engaging, productive and fun. We promise.

This article has been written by Lisa C Gregory – Chief Product Officer of People Acuity, The Interdependent Leadership Company, and co-author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living.  It has been written in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, DeAnna Murphy and Steve Jeffs.  Lisa leads virtual meetings and training sessions weekly – reaching people on five continents. She holds nearly 100 certifications and is an expert in instructional design, facilitation, and engineering client solutions. Learn more about Interdependent Leadership, People Acuity and its cutting edge virtual or live programs at www.peopleacuity.com.

The One Thing Great Leaders Always Do in Times of Crisis

Two months ago as the coronavirus raged across China, Belinda Wong, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks China was faced with a painful decision to close the doors to 4,300 Starbucks stores.  This is exactly the decision that many U.S.-based companies are presently facing, as you well know.  “There was no playbook for this,” she said. “It was nothing we’d dealt with … and we had limited facts. There was a lot of uncertainty and the situation was evolving every minute. We had to quickly decide how we were going to lead.” 

Notice the words she used here as you consider your own decisions as a leader.  They are an important clue to the most important lesson we can learn from great leaders and how they lead in times of crisis. 

Just so you have a reference point for understanding how amazing Belinda Wong truly is as a leader, you might want to know that she was recently named to Fortune’s international list of the Most Powerful Women in Business.  She is also the leader of the fastest growing market for Starbucks, opening new stores at the unprecedented rate of one every fifteen hours. In fact, under her leadership, Starbucks China is on track to open 6,000 new stores in 230 different cities within the next 18-20 months.  No wonder she has been recognized among the top 50 people most shaping the future of USA/China relations, and among the most influential women in China by Forbes!

While these things are all commendable, and represent enviable fruits of her leadership, they are not the things that make her a great leader, however. Of all the things that Belinda Wong does well, there is one thing that sets her apart, one thing that most leaders simply miss because they are so caught up in the thick of thin things.  This one thing makes her more than just a regional hero.  It inspires deep loyalty, even love, from the 58,000 people that she has day-to-day responsibility for.

Belinda rigorously holds the balance between people and performance – and she never forgets which of those two things comes first in the equation, even when the business is on the line.  The order matters to her.  After all, it’s people who grow the business, and her Interdependent Leadership approach/results attest to the power of putting people first in order to consistently get high performance.  She gets this truth better than most leaders ever will!

Belinda describes her leadership in simple terms: “I’m here to take care of my people — the 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 Starbucks partners — and to do what I can to help. … And it’s not just them, it’s their families.”  She is clear about what leadership truly means – and she is not afraid to put her money where her mouth is.

Because of this, it was a no-brainer for her to close the doors of all Starbucks stores so as to keep employees and customers safe.  It was equally obvious that they needed to continue to pay employees even while the business was shut down.  And, as if these things were not enough to convey caring, she also extended insurance benefits to employees’ families, including their parents. She did this even though these choices would affect the business’ bottom line to the tune of an estimated $275 million.  Not easy decisions! If you’re having a heart attack as a leader just thinking about making such staggering choices, you might be interested to know that it is exactly decisions like these that have made Starbucks’ employees among the most engaged in the industry.  This means that Starbucks China will likely outperform its competitors by 202% when this all shakes out.  It also means that what appears to be a short-term loss may set Starbucks China up to be the clear market leader for years to come.

If you’d like to see your business outperform its competitors and recover quickly from this crisis, you need the same kind of clarity that Belinda Wong demonstrated.  It starts by asking yourself the tough question, the one that most leaders are too busy chasing performance to ask.  Simply stated, it is this: “What is truly important here?”

If you don’t answer “people,” maybe you’ve forgotten why you’re in business.

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with co-thought leaders, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It includes information about Interdependent Leadership, which redefines the task-relationship dynamic and helps leaders balance people and performance effectively.  DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  For a free coaching conversation around your leadership, or to learn more about Interdependent Leadership, sign up for 30 minutes with DeAnna here.

A Surprising Secret to Turning COVID-19 into a Disruptive Innovation Catalyst

Hailed as the most influential business idea of the 21st century, Disruptive Innovation can create new market opportunities for you and eventually displace your market-leading competitors.  It has, in so many ways, become the Holy Grail for many companies and almost mandatory to survive in today’s economy. 

If you’re like most people, you likely wouldn’t consider the coronavirus a positive catalyst in any way related to business, let alone as a catalyst of Disruptive Innovation.  After all, innovation can’t thrive in a fear-mongering environment, and it seems that COVID-19 has certainly promoted fear.  You only need to watch the stock market’s response to it to be sure of that! 

You likely would agree that COVID-19 is most definitely a disruptor of business – but, could it also bring about meaningful innovation for you and your business?  And, if the answer to that question is yes, then how would you go about it?

The answer to both of these questions is found in a clue offered by innovation expert, Soren Kaplan, who reminds us that the first strategy needed to leap into Disruptive Innovation is to listen to yourself, not the market.  He reinforces a truth taught by Stephen Covey, who reminded us that the key to positively influencing any situation begins with Self-Leadership and proactivity.  When you reactively follow the crowd’s way of thinking, it often means you ignore your own instincts and inner wisdom.

Crowdsourcing information is a huge barrier to Disruptive Innovation – and the reactivity it causes is the first barrier that must be broken through to create new ways of thinking.  If you are a leader who has been trained to watch data patterns, and listen to the market, you may avoid wading through the uncertainty of your own unvalidated ideas and listening to your own inside voice.  Interestingly, this is where Disruptive Innovation is usually born! 

This is how COVID-19, in a very strange way, might be a catalyst to help you as a leader flip from reacting to the market, to Disruptive Innovation of the market. 

You see, every day, by its very nature, the coronavirus is producing a remarkable experiential learning laboratory.  It is inviting you to build an entirely new muscle around navigating unexpected events, inevitable failures, and a fundamental lack of control.  Ironically, these three things are all inherent to the process of creating Disruptive Innovation, and those who have no ability to navigate them will fail the innovation test even before it starts. 

If you are like most leaders, you have not been formally trained to deal with these realities.  You’ve most likely come through the leadership ranks because of your ability to create predictability and control the factors that shape your performance.  Yet, Disruptive Innovation will never spring from predictability and control!

In the end, the first Disruptive Innovation that needs to happen is to your own leadership mindsets and patterns.  Innovation cannot happen “out there” (in your business) if innovation has not first happened “in here” (inside you), and in your own mind and heart.  After all, it is not what happens to you that causes you to feel or act in certain ways or create outcomes you dislike. It is how you SEE that determines how you FEEL, what you DO, and ultimately what you GET.  This includes the kind of Disruptive Innovation that puts you in the forefront as a market leader

The real question, then, is: Will you use what’s happening today to disrupt your own reactive leadership patterns (starting with listening to yourself)?  If the answer is yes, what’s keeping you from starting today?

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, Lisa C. Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It includes information from their soon-to-be released book on Interdependent Leadership.  DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  Learn more about Interdependent Leadership and download the new Interdependent Leadership eBook – at www.peopleacuity.com.

Military Secrets About Igniting Millennial Engagement

Millennials are the least engaged generation in the workplace today – and if you’re like most people, your experience tells you that this is not new news.  After all, ninety-one percent of Millennials don’t expect to be in their same job in three years, and 67% of them are looking for work right now.  You might even find this to be anxiety-producing when you consider that 75% of your workforce will soon be made up of Millennials, and that every employee turnover costs you 90-200% of his/her salary. Ouch!

Ironically, Millennial disengagement holds true virtually everywhere except for the military.  There, you’ll find that the Millennial engagement rate is a whopping 90%!  This feels significant given that Millennials constitute 75% of the military today – and that our national security is in the hands of the generation most prone to quit their jobs. 

It is good news that military Millennials are not leaving.  They’re not just staying and getting by either.  They love what they do, and they feel ignited and driven by their work.  Maybe it’s possible the military’s secrets go beyond warfare.

According to Doug Wortham this is true.  He was a Command Sergeant Major and the Minnesota National Guard command senior enlisted leader.  He would know.  He suggests there are three military secrets to Millennial engagement:

  1. Clear Purpose Alignment.  First and foremost, a crucial part of initiation into the military is to help soldiers identify and align with a clear, compelling why – something bigger than self, something that matters enough to die for.  Military Millennials know their why!  They believe in it.
  2. Valuing the Individual.  Every single soldier understands his or her unique contribution and the difference that he/she individually brings to the whole.  They know they matter – and exactly how they matter.
  3. Solid relationships.  Up and down the ranks and peer-to-peer, there has been an increased emphasis on building solid relationships of trust.  The emphasis on relationship is equally important to mastering and executing the tasks associated with their role.

Interestingly, Doug identified one final secret that is the key to all the others.  He described it as Interdependent Leadership – which he suggested is the complete opposite of the command-and-control style that was once popular in the military.  In case you’re wondering what Interdependent Leadership is, and how it might help you, you may want to check out this brief video explanation where you can learn more.  Don’t be surprised when you discover that this innovation in leadership, Interdependent Leadership, is described as the ability to effectively balance the task/relationship dynamic.  Easier said than done, by the way.

The military has it right.  Interdependent Leadership is the only way you can truly win the hearts and minds of your people.  There are no shortcuts and no way around that fact.  What if your Millennials were as enthusiastically ignited as military Millennials?  What might be different in your organization?

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, Lisa Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It includes information from their soon-to-be released book on Interdependent Leadership.  DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  Learn more about Interdependent Leadership and download the new Interdependent Leadership eBook – at www.peopleacuity.com.