Building Your Legacy One Day, One Decision At A Time

How will you be remembered? Few questions delve deeper into global leaders' emotions, self-identities and ambitions. Few inquiries beg the kind of reflection that's required of each of us to sort our personal and professional priorities.

It's been said that time is the harshest critic. The older we get, the more we can appreciate the truth in that simple statement. Yet, as we rise to meet each day, there are decisions to be made about where we will focus our time and efforts. Unfortunately, it seems there is ever more that remains outside our control.

The decisions we make, how we make them, and their impact on others within our enterprises are the very stuff from which our legacies will be built. The time we devote in service to others. Our care and concern for the young and less fortunate. How we act, what we teach and expect of others.

Each of these will fall in the ledger books, either to cast doubt on our abilities as leaders, or in the good column that will magnify our good works and commitments and ethics as examples for future generations, be they in our family or our institutions or workplaces.

The matter of legacy, therefore, really is nothing more than a stringing together by others of the consistent stands we may have taken as business leaders - the things we committed to and the situations that demanded our best and got it when fate fanned the flames of courage and persistence.

We all want to be remembered in glowing terms. When we're gone, we'll each have absolutely no say in the matter. That's why the present is so important.

Today is critical, because it may be the timing of someone else's crucible - one we might help them struggle through and overcome if we make ourselves available to serve others. For some leaders, the best shines through when our respective backs are at the wall. And haven't we all felt that way on more than one occasion over the past year?

It's not too early to consider what our lives and careers will amount to when all is said and done.

Values And Expectations Regarding Leadership Are Changing

A recent TRANSEARCH survey among top leaders regarding their experiences and priorities in a shift to the "new normal" discovered that "Five values particularly increased in importance: purpose, trust, courage, entrepreneurship and appreciation".

TRANSEARCH provides a platform to its network of C-Level leaders for discussions on how to come out of the crisis stronger. For further information about the survey or discussion platform please get in touch with Dr. Carlo Mackrodt or Dr. Stefan Schwaenzl.

Agility is a Way to Think

Organisation agility isn't something that is "nice to have". It's about survival. The problem? Culture is a system and like any system only as strong as its weakest part. You can't sprinkle agility on the organisation. You can't add agility piecemeal.

Agility has to be embedded into every aspect of the organisation's culture. Be it - scenario planning or systems; the brand or the behavioural interview; shared values or structure; problem solving or process; diversity or dialogue; compensation or competencies; mindset or measurement; talent management or trust; learning or leadership - "agility" must be a fundamental building block in the organisation's DNA.

From working on organisation culture, it's clear that the majority of organisations are far less agile than the emerging business environment demands. And that shortfall will become an ever more limiting feature of competitiveness. The question becomes "Where to start?"

Agility has to be integral to the organisation's design. It has to be evident in the organisation's value proposition. It has to be built into the value chain and be apparent in every sales and/or service interface with the customer. It's a process. It's a way to act. More than anything else, however, agility is a way to think. It's a mindset. As such, without "leadership" you still ain't got much. Not the leadership that got us here - but a way to be that exudes, encompasses, encourages, and expresses agility in everything the leader does.

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".

Creating An Environment For Innovation

Charles Darwin is long remembered for informing us, based on years of study as a naturalist and biologist, that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather, the one most adaptable to change.

At least partly for this reason, business owners and global executive leaders rather predictably call for significant innovation when crafting their annual business growth plans.

Be this innovation grounded in expected technological advances, market research, organisational restructuring or hefty financial investment, the linkage between better results and doing something new or perhaps even bold has never been stronger.

There are, after all, a great many examples of people and enterprises taking small ideas and changing the world, along the way enriching themselves and their stakeholders. That's the kind of result the Chief Executive Officer wants to realise, and no doubt, you and your teams as well.

And there are likewise many business tales about the cost of standing still, of watching customers and markets change around them, and ultimately, realising it's simply too late to save the company.

So, if your company's greatest potential for innovation hasn't yet been realised, what's been holding it back?

That is a serious question worth asking and worth exploring until one can gain some answers particularly if you and your team have been tasked with ideating the next big thing for your enterprise.

For in order to innovate, one must operate in an environment where such exploration and risk is encouraged and rewarded. Further, one must find the time and resources to commit intense study and focus to just one pursuit at a time when the pressure to multitask and deliver results on multiple projects remains.

If one were to ask Darwin, today, about what to expect on the road to a true breakthrough, it may well be that setting up the dynamics and environment for innovation must indeed come before the great success. That is, there may be bureaucracy, internal politics and/or stubborn managers stuck in their old ways standing in the way of agility and change.

Darwin himself is also credited with this quote:

To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact!

Especially true in these times. The implication for today's global executive is that one must study whether the organisation has the ingredients, the environment, the culture and also the true resolve to innovate. Much like a scientist studying the natural world, one must assess whether the pre-conditions for life, or, in this case, for breakthrough discoveries that can revolutionise or accelerate the business are present or not.

By carefully considering the opportunities as well as the obstacles to innovation, one should be able to see the potential for great success more clearly. This improved vision could translate into a defined set of actions required to nurture experimentation.

If your mandate is to innovate, or to drive innovation, you would be well served to understand whether you have the people and the will to fight through organisational barriers. Otherwise, you might only realise that despite the rhetoric about change, your company only wants to keep spinning its old wheels.

Who "Owns" The Culture?

Is the organisation in question currently "managing its culture"?

The simple answer to that lies in the degree to which people from across the organisation can answer five central questions:

  1. Where is the organisation heading (critical, strategic priorities)?
  2. Why do we do what we do (compelling purpose)?
  3. What are the organisation's values and can you give an example of a recent decision that was shaped by those values?
  4. What makes the organisation special (unique capability)?
  5. How does the organisation make a difference in society (giving back, the environment, building bridges to the local community)?

The five questions posed are just as meaningful to a small consulting firm as they are to a multinational. Who to ask? Clearly you want the top team to be in agreement. The acid test, however, is how middle managers respond. If they are not all on the same page, culture is, at best, an afterthought.

Who "feeds" the bulk of the workforce? The answer: middle management. Which group is the most important to the organisation when it comes to actually delivering the needed culture? The answer: middle management.

The dilemma here is that engagement scores from both sides of the Atlantic show middle management as the group that is least engaged. It's a group that, taken overall, is disappointed, disengaged, disheartened and discouraged. And when it comes to culture, if you don't get middle managers on board then no one is on board.

Why have middle managers become disconnected? Top leaders have forgotten the basic law of gravity: effluent flows downhill. And after the best part of a generation of downsizing, rightsizing and upside-down–sizing - where the "Middle Kingdom" is constantly asked to do more with less - the typical supervisor is standing knee deep in it.

There is a simple message here. "Invest your next dollar, euro, pound, whatever, in the training, education and coaching of the one group that 'owns' the culture."

Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".

TOP Leaders Have a Passion to Learn

Exploring new ways to learn

TOP (Transforming, Outstanding, Performance tested) Talent refers to those fully equipped to excel in a, hitherto unknown, level of business and societal uncertainty. Those who don't read are no better off than those who can't read. Indeed, now more than ever, leaders are readers. And they go out of their way to share the learning involved with those around them. We are also talking about a special kind of learning - challenging oneself, pushing forward, reflecting on what works, embracing risk and kicking performance up to the next level.

Traditional learning is all about gaining knowledge and/or skills. Expertise is essential but continuously learning how to learn is even more important. This speaks to moving to the edge of one's comfort zone. It captures a leadership approach where stepping into new space is obligatory. It's about letting go of the past and coming to terms with taking emotional risk. Curiosity is the start of it, acquiring new skills is part of it, but learning how to learn is the heart of it.

Without truly challenging the status quo, things are destined to stay the way they are. Without reflection, there is no learning. And without constantly exploring new ways to learn, there is little hope of learning faster than the competition.

Learning how to learn

Tomorrow's organisation will be a team of teams. And forget the notion that the team is made up of people you meet with regularly. A boundary-less mindset, connect-ability, collaboration at a distance and enabling people with ideas to bump into each other is the only game in town. As for consensus … we don't have time! Ensure that team members get their fingerprints all over the issue. Encourage candour. Draw out disagreement, but once the decision has been made - full agreement or not - commitment is assumed. Learning how to learn.

Even when hiring people like you, the "interview" is an inadequate tool. Throw millennials, iGen and gig employees into the mix and its reliability goes down. Think short-term projects, reviewing past work, tracking down past colleagues, temporary assignments, meaningful reference checks and having the candidate deliver a presentation to the team. Learning how to learn.

Learning is drawn out of the experience … but it starts with a question. The better the question, the richer the experience that explores that question … the more impactful the learning. The question that frames truly impactful learning isn't always apparent to the learner. Drawing it out is the art of facilitation.

A passion to learn

What does a passion to learn look like? It starts with a great question. It implies constantly challenging the way things are. It demands reflection. It becomes a habit through self-discipline. Listening, meanwhile, is nothing less than the, all essential, lubricant of learning. As for follow-up, without it, what we are describing is little more than "a nice conversation." Follow-up means not only following through … but sharing the learning with the team and beyond.

And the difference that makes a difference: Pass both the process and the learning content to those whose behaviour you seek to change. It's a matter of more "power to" and less PowerPoint … especially when seeking to draw the best out of recent generational cohorts to the workforce. Nurture the assumption that, ultimately, how we learn is more important than what we learn.

Insights by John Burdett. Orxestra Inc., © 2018.

Insights from "Tomorrow's Leadership Will Be Different".

A Reckoning for Companies and Global Leaders Alike
transearch.com

Whatever your view of the future, trust that others are seeking answers to new, worrisome challenges and may well come to you for insight, encouragement and a reason to believe in the future.

Listen, learn and think about how you are being called to lead in difficult times. Your resolve to lead others to a brighter future will boost your confidence and define your legacy as a leader, too.

Read "A Reckoning for Companies and Global Leaders Alike" leadership insights

Shift Your Organization from Panic to Purpose
hbr.org

"At such times of crisis and adversity, employees, clients, and customers are looking to leaders for reassurance, inspiration, and courage to guide them through the storm… So while this is far from the best of times, it is worth asking what this time is actually best for… The challenge for leaders now is to steer colleagues and associates from business panic to brand purpose."

Read "Shift Your Organization from Panic to Purpose" leadership insights

The Importance of Picking The Right Leader

The most important decision

Choosing the right leader for any organisation is its most important business.

Just ask employees and shareholders, and they will tell you that their experience and investment will hinge on whether they can follow the person with the utmost accountability for future results.

Customers, too, will weigh in but most often only if issues with products or services are somehow disrupted or changed without their support. These are the silent majority stakeholders who will assume the mantle of leadership for the brands they support will be passed from one capable steward to another.

Trust the view of others

Too often, companies select an individual based on their deep corporate experience and bottom-line track record without probing at the personal attributes that tell others about the kind of person they truly are and what new charges should expect from them.

Trust the view of others who would tell you that there are individuals in major leadership roles within large, global enterprises who, at their core, may not actually be leaders capable of inspiring others, but who are rather lacking in character, courage and respect and therefore tend to alienate the real leaders below them in the organisation chart.

This isn't saying that people who are universally liked and admired must be the only ones considered to lead today's global companies. Quite to the contrary, many recognise from the start of their business careers that one cannot please everyone. Invariably, big business results require difficult decisions.

The larger question, however, is whether the individual in the Chief Executive's seat is consistent and equitable in his or her communication with and treatment of others, and whether the individuals who most closely demonstrate the stated values of the organisation hold the leader in high regard or harbour resentment about the boss.

A true difference maker

Personal stories and experience about individuals' one-on-one experiences with a leader offer an important glimpse into what motivates the leader. The things that are most important to him or her – and whether their daily behaviour aligns with those same things – say an awful lot about the person and what should be expected of them in the future.

Among the most revealing signposts of executive leadership are the little things that frame the memories of current colleagues, former employees and other business associates. These are the individuals with the most informing perspectives about the candidates for your company's leadership role because the volume of time spent with the individual is significant and consistent.

Sure, they can share a few of your candidate's idiosyncrasies. After all, you're not hiring a perfect candidate. More importantly, however, they can relate views on how the leader inspired them to greater success and career growth. They may also share stories about how their lives have been changed for the better from the experience of working with a true difference maker.

What matters most?

As with so many things in life, with great opportunities comes great risk. Just remember that picking the right leader for your enterprise is about far more than evaluating the individual's fit with your biggest and most important job description.

What matters most is whether the individuals who best represent your company's values would get excited to follow the person you choose to lead. That's when the magic happens for others.

Creating An Environment For Innovation

Charles Darwin is long remembered for informing us, based on years of study as a naturalist and biologist, that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather, the one most adaptable to change.

At least partly for this reason, business owners and global executive leaders rather predictably call for significant innovation when crafting their annual business growth plans.

Be this innovation grounded in expected technological advances, market research, organisational restructuring or hefty financial investment, the linkage between better results and doing something new or perhaps even bold has never been stronger.

There are, after all, a great many examples of people and enterprises taking small ideas and changing the world, along the way enriching themselves and their shareholders. That's the kind of result the Chief Executive Officer wants to realise, and no doubt, you and your teams as well.

And there are likewise many business tales about the cost of standing still, of watching customers and markets change around them, and ultimately, realising it's simply too late to save the company.

So, if your company's greatest potential for innovation hasn't yet been realised, what's been holding it back?

That is a serious question worth asking and worth exploring until one can gain some answers particularly if you and your team have been tasked with ideating the next big thing for your enterprise.

For in order to innovate, one must operate in an environment where such exploration and risk is encouraged and rewarded. Further, one must find the time and resources to commit intense study and focus to just one pursuit at a time when the pressure to multitask and deliver results on multiple projects remains.

If one were to ask Darwin, today, about what to expect on the road to a true breakthrough, it may well be that setting up the dynamics and environment for innovation must indeed come before the great success. That is, there may be bureaucracy, internal politics and/or stubborn managers stuck in their old ways standing in the way of agility and change.

Darwin himself is also credited with this quote: To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact! Especially true in these times.

The implication for today's global executive is that one must study whether the organisation has the ingredients, the environment, the culture and also the true resolve to innovate. Much like a scientist studying the natural world, one must assess whether the pre-conditions for life, or, in this case, for breakthrough discoveries that can revolutionise or accelerate the business are present or not.

By carefully considering the opportunities as well as the obstacles to innovation, one should be able to see the potential for great success more clearly. This improved vision could translate into a defined set of actions required to nurture experimentation.

If your mandate is to innovate, or to drive innovation, you would be well served to understand whether you have the people and the will to fight through organisational barriers. Otherwise, you might only realise that despite the rhetoric about change, your company only wants to keep spinning its old wheels.