COVID continues to accelerate changes in business models

COVID continues to accelerate changes in business models

As I have said repeatedly, COVID is accelerating change for all businesses, whether or not they recognize it.  A recent survey by the IBM Institute of Business Value concluded that “executives must accept that pandemic-induced changes in strategy, management, operations, and budgetary priorities are here to stay.” I see three significant shifts taking place.

  1. How CEOs Lead
  2. Changes in priorities
  3. Changes in business models.

How CEOs Lead

  1. Unlocking bolder (“10x”) aspirations. COVID caused most CEOs to question their assumptions about the pace and magnitude change attainable. The realization that a change in mindset can dramatically affect goal setting and the operating model, many CEOs are effecting changes in a few months that companies previously assumed would take years. The speed for many of these changes is down to employees working longer and harder; however, many CEOs also recognize that many employees have more time available with the stop in travel.
  2. Elevating their “to be” list to the same level as “to do” in their operating models. With COVID, leadership has to change. CEOs’ priorities were setting up strategy, culture, and making people decisions at regular times. However, now it about maintaining morale and ensuring employees are prepared for whatever may come in the face of uncertainty. Thus, leaders are changing how they and their senior management team show up. Leaders now need to be empathetic and offer words of encouragement.  According to Lance Fritz, CEO of Union Pacific, “[Employees] need to see that their leadership is vulnerable, empathetic, and making decisions in accordance with our values, which I’d better be the living proof of.”
  3. Fully embracing stakeholder capitalism. While I have also previously discussed embracing stakeholder capitalism; however, COVID has accelerated this trend as it has emphatically affirmed the interconnection and interdependence of businesses with their full range of stakeholders. CEOs are confronting tough decisions with profound human consequences every day. CEOs have realized that their choices are affecting their employees, communities, and suppliers. How they behave will have a long term effect on their business, especially as 87 percent of customers say that they will purchase from companies that support what they care about.
  4. Harnessing the full power of their CEO peer networks. As a result of COVID, CEOs talk to one another much more and at a much greater rate. The belief is, “Let’s learn from each other. Let’s hold hands. Let’s commiserate.” They are achieving this through informal networks and groups like Vistage. The power of a Peer group where you can be vulnerable and get input into these hard decisions is immense. CEOs don’t have to feel like they are carrying all the weight themselves. During the Great Recession, Vistage member companies outperformed non-Vistage member companies [. ]

Changes in Priorities

Not only are CEOs changing the way they lead, but companies are finding that their priorities have changed dramatically! According to the recent IBM survey, companies will focus more inwardly over the next two years. Their top priorities now are:

87% Cost Management
87% Enterprise Agility
86% Cash Flow and Liquidity Management
84% Customer Experience Management
76% Cybersecurity
75% I.T. Resiliency
65% IoT, Cloud and Mobility
58% New Product Development
52% New Market Entry

 

As companies move away from just-in-time delivery, 40% of those surveyed identified the need for space capacity in their supply chains. However, about 60% said they were accelerating their organizations’ digital transformation, and three-quarters plan on building more robust I.T. capabilities.

Changes in Business Models

Finally, many companies have also changed their business models to address market changes resulting from COVID, including some clients. Some of the creative pivots are:

  • Mandarin Oriental. As mentioned last week, many high-end hotel chains are supplying alternative residences for the wealthy. MO has not only done that; it seeks to deliver the luxury experience where you are rather than at a destination. The company promotes “Staycations at M.O.” at its properties if there is one in your city. These staycations offer early check-in, late check-out, a free bottle of wine, and credits for other purchases. However, if you don’t want to leave you home, MO says, “Just call room service.” They will deliver food, items from the cake shop, supplies from the spa, or other merchandise to your house.
  • JD.com. For producers of alcoholic beverages, COVID was a considerable blow. During the Chinese shutdown, its e-commerce giant, JD.com, go D.J.s and performers to stage three hour live show online. During these shows, viewers could purchase alcoholic beverages from Rémy Martin to Budweiser and have it delivered to their doors with a single click. As a result, whiskey sales from “a single partner brand” increased eightfold during a day with the show. As a result, JD.com plans to continue its live music events but to expand the products it offers.
  • David Dodge. As auto sales plunged nationwide, according to the Washington Post reports David Dodge in Glen Mills, Pa., the auto dealership sold more cars in July than in any previous month in its 15-year existence. David Kelleher, David Dodge’s owner, pivoted to meet the changing market. The company created a business development center to consolidate online leads and located it prominently just inside the front door. Salespeople now work phones, email, texts, and Zoom. They are using FaceTime to accompany customers on test drives. For those customers who want to stay socially distant, David Dodge allows the whole process online, and they deliver the vehicle to the customer’s home. Kelleher and his top salesperson, Mike McVeigh, doesn’t expect to return to the old ways once COVID is behind them.
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill. For a company that had been struggling with several crises over the last few years, when COVID hit, Chipotle new it had to change its business model to survive. The model was for pickup orders to be its lifeline. The company added “digital kitchens,” which handle online orders for pickup, at those restaurants that didn’t already have them, to enable this pivot. In May, Chipotle announced it would add 8,000 new workers to meet the growing demand. In July, it needed to hire 10,000 more. The company has aggressively added “Chipotlanes,” drive-thru lanes exclusively for picking up digital orders. That business model requires more employees than traditional stores—hence all that hiring is much more profitable.

Cause for Concern

All these changes are requiring more from employees in terms of working longer and harder. As I have noted on numerous occasions, empathy is needed, and burnout is a huge issue. What is worrying is that IBM’s research, drawing from other surveys that included employees, found a disturbing wide gap between “employers significantly overestimating the effectiveness of their support and training efforts” and how employees feel about these measures.

Source: IBM Institute of Business Value

As CEOs and leaders, it is critical that as you face COVID and plan for changes in leadership style, changes in priorities, and pivots in your business model, you need to do more for your employees. They are scared, uncertain, working from with kids doing school virtually, potentially overwhelming debt (see below), and they need management to support them. Those leaders who don’t rise to this challenge will see the good employees leave and create a reputation stain that could last a generation.

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One of my first newsletters discussed hubris and how WWII was a result of hubris in many places from WWI onwards. Unfortunately, while the arrogance never left, it appears to be back with a vengeance as we struggle to deal with the COVID crisis.

Hubris is the wanton insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride or passion. It is the classic temptation of mortals who, finding themselves garbed in the unaccustomed robes of leadership or success, start imagining themselves bulletproofed against disaster — and so tempt the fates. Their own belief that they will prevail is enough to qualify as excessive hubris when they are defeated.

As I write this, Georgia has just announced the highest daily count of COVID cases, and the numbers have been rising for the last couple of weeks. To see more on Georgia and COVID, please see the article below.

In business, dashboards need data other than financial data as financial data is always backward-looking, and is not forward-looking. Well, the daily case count in most of the current COVID crisis states is backward-looking due to test labs being overwhelmed. The current wait time for results is over a week, so the number announced yesterday is over a week old, the actual number is much higher. Furthermore, deaths are currently lagging infections by 19 – 20 days, so if the case numbers are spiking and death rates are lagging those numbers, we can expect a considerable number of deaths in the next month. 

Where is the hubris? Our elected officials and ourselves. Our elected officials have decided that their beliefs and models will be correct regardless of the advice of public health officials. While I hear criticism of public health officials and scientists because they keep changing their views, I think of Paul Samuelson’s famous quote, “Well, when events change, I change my mind. What do you do?” With this crisis, public health official and scientists are updating their views daily as they get more information in a Bayesian way. Unfortunately, political leaders and the public don’t like uncertainty and changing information, so they have decided in their arrogance to plow ahead with their view of the world. 

Today we all continuously hear that everyone is entitled to their opinion. That is true. However, it is the next step that causes the problem; most of us believe that our opinions are facts. Wrong! The truth is that a fact is a statement that can be supported to be true or false by data or evidence. In contrast, an opinion is a personal expression of a person’s feelings or thoughts that may or may not be based on data. Indeed, we found many of our views on emotions, personal history, and values—all of which can be utterly unsupported by meaningful evidence.

The denial of scientific evidence and expertise because it doesn’t fit our narrative will cause untold damage to the country. I have seen many people say, “What is the problem, only one percent of those infected dies!” In truth, that number may be high with the benefit of remdesivir, but it is still over 0.5 percent. However, we have over 130,000 dead in the U.S., and the number is rising daily. Besides, many who recover from mild cases are experiencing strokes and blood clotting. More evidence is showing there is heart, lung, and neurological damage from the decease for those that survive. Finally, we look at SARS, a COVID precursor, four years after recovery, psychiatric morbidities, and chronic fatigue persisted.

Thus the economic effects of COVID will last long past the point where we have a vaccine or herd immunity as many survivors have increased health issues. Thus, hubris is taking and will continue to take a terrible toll in terms of human and economic costs because of the arrogance of a few who find it not to fit in with their belives and models.

All of us can use this sad state of affairs as a lesson to avoid hubris in ourselves so that we don’t inflict damage on our organizations and lives.

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I have often repeated Peter Drucker’s quote that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This week someone said they thought is statement wrong as, without a strategy, you cannot achieve anything. I believe this is a misunderstanding of Drucker’s point. You need a plan, but if the culture is wrong, the strategy will fail because the culture is more important.

Like many things, COVID is accelerating the importance of corporate core values. During COVID and, more recently, BLM, many companies have not lived their core values. For example, if your core values are:

  • Do the right thing: What do you do when no one else is looking? Our teams act with integrity and honesty and focus on putting ourselves in the shoes of others; or
  • Make something better, today: We’re hungry, we’re passionate, and we love tough problems and new challenges. You don’t hear a lot of “I don’t know how” or “I can’t.” When faced with a hurdle, we jump.

Then how do you respond to the COVID crisis and BLM? I believe that doing nothing is not in keeping with your core values. Therefore, you must react and in a way that reinforces your values. Many companies are stuck not knowing how to respond to the BLM protests, to which I think the best answer is to look to your core values, they should guide you and will not allow you to make meanless statements, but do something that reflects the values.

Again, many companies that have their core values posted all around the office and on corporate stationery, but most employees couldn’t tell you what they are. One CEO I know went around such an office and offered any employee who could state the core values without looking at it $50. Out of 30+ employees, only one succeeded. In such an environment, you are not living them and using them to define your organization. Remember Enron had its core values – Integrity, Communication, Respect, Excellence engraved in its lobby. Then it collapsed and its many of its leadership team went to jail, so obviously its core values were not something it lived. If you want to see a great presentation of core values and culture, visit “Netflix Culture: Freedom and Responsibility.” Netflix says that its success and growth are down to its culture and it lives it.

As Jim Collins says, “Core values and purpose define the eternal character of a great organization, the character that endures beyond the presence of any set of people or individual leaders. In the long run, individual leaders do not hold an organization together; core values and purpose do. In the best organizations, leaders are subservient to the core principles, not the other way around.  …  core values and purpose as a defining boundary will become even more important. Given the obvious trends in organizations—greater decentralization and autonomy, wider geographic dispersion, increased diversity, more knowledge workers, technology and travel that make going into the office a less relevant activity—the bonding glue that holds organizations together will increasingly be in the form of shared values and common purpose. No matter how much the world and its organizing structures change, people still have a fundamental need to belong to something they can feel proud of.”

Tyler Cowen further emphasized what Collins said if you don’t have core values in a recent Bloomberg post, “In essence, without a local workplace ethos, it is easier to commoditize labor, view workers as interchangeable and fire people. The distinction between protected full-time employees and outsourced, freelance, and contract workers weakens. A company can make the offer of, ‘If you hand in your project, we pay you,’ to virtually any worker around the world, many of whom might accept lower wages for remote roles.”

If, as I suggested above, the organization pushes decision making down, then if its employees know the core values, they will make decisions that in the best interests of the organization, increasing its agility. Right now, agility is critical as we try to learn the “new normal” in a world were we don’t have clarity on what is happening. However, if they don’t know them or believe they are just pretty words, you will get conflicting decisions and confusion.

Again, as Jim Collins notes, the first of five things to look for when hiring people is, “The whole task is to find people who already have a predisposition to your core values…They must share the core values … those who do not have a predisposition to sharing the core values get ejected like a virus. Get escorted out the door by the organizational antibodies.” As companies pivot and adjust their human capital to reflect a new normal, this must be a vital part of the hiring process. It is more likely now that unlike prior generations, Millenials will self select those companies that reflect their core values. However, a good check of a prospect’s core values is to look at their prior employment, did those companies share your core values?

Finally, use this time of COVID, BLM, and other events to ensure your employees know your core values and culture. Build your organization folklore around how you live your core values, because as humans, we identify better with stories. If there many stories of how the organization lives its culture, the easier it will be for employees to learn and know the culture.

If you want to see a great example of the effect of core values, find a copy of Eco-Challenge – Borneo (a summary is here, but the 4-hour show is hard to find). Eco-challenge was a Mark Burnett production before Survivor, which involved co-ed foursomes competing non-stop for 11 days with almost no sleep through some of the most outrageous obstacle courses anyone could imagine. It’s not all about the specific feats of strength, the devastating effects on the body are many, including head wounds, spinal injuries, and malaria cases are plentiful. Teams from New Zealand and Australia were annual favorites and winners because one of their core values was – “They never argue.” An American squad comprising Armed Forces members could not agree on leadership and values leading to many arguments and disqualification early because two of their players forgot a map and end up swimming away from one of the many checkpoints.

So as you chart a new direction, ensure your core values are correctly identified, shared by all, and reflected in your decisions.

 

Copyright (c) 2020, Marc A. Borrelli

Want the Best Results, Get out of your Comfort Zone

Want the Best Results, Get out of your Comfort Zone

Introduction

How do we get the best results for an issue, product development, marketing plan, etc. within our organizations? Typically, we give it to our “A” Team for the area where the problem is, and they are known for getting the best results. However, do we know that we are getting the best results and not a Local Optimum?

Algorithm designers know of Local Optimum in developing algorithms, especially concerning NP-Hard Problems. A Local Optimum is “a solution that is optimal (either maximal or minimal) within a neighboring set of candidate solutions.” A Global Optimum is the optimal solution among all possible solutions, not just those in a particular neighborhood of values.

An example of an NP-Hard problem is the Travelling Salesman Problem – A traveling salesman (TS) has to visit some number of towns using the shortest route. To illustrate using a simple example, the traveling salesman has to visit ten cities shown below.

Their X, Y coordinates show their positions.

One way of solving the problem is to:

  1. Find the shortest route between Start and any town (A).
  2. Find the shortest route between that town (A) and the next closest town (B)
  3. Repeat for each town.
  4. Calculate distance from the last city back to Start

Below is the result of this solution. While it may not be obvious, the answer is not the optimal one, but rather a Local Optimum.

There are ways to improve on the solution using several different methods, i.e., branch-and-bounding algorithms. Implementing a branch-and-bound algorithm into the above, we get the following answer, which is a Global Optimum.

So How to Find Global Optimum Solutions

While the above works for algorithms, what about business decisions? Do employees make first-best choices? And do their choices converge to the optimum if the underlying problem repeats itself over time? Research shows results to No and No. So, what do we do? The best way is to get out of your Comfort Zone or Change Your Environment. What is meant by “Change Your Environment” and “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone?”

Change Your Environment & Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

In Changing Your Environment, you have to either remove the method that you have always used for the solution or put limitations on how you can approach the solution so you can find new and creative solutions.

Below are five examples of where either Changing Your Environment or Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone led to optimal solutions that previously were unfound.

1.     Tube Strike

On February 5th and 6th, 2014, the London Underground (“Tube”) was subject to a strike causing significant disruptions to the network, and the closure of some, but not all stations. As a result, some commuters had to experiment and explore new routes during this period, while others could go to work as usual. On February 7th, services returned to normal. A research project looked to see if those commuters that the strike impacted switched back to their original commuting paths? Or did some of them stick to alternative ways that they may have found during the disruption? By revealed preference, the latter possibility would suggest that they prefer the newly discovered alternative to their old habit, which would indicate that these commuters failed to find their best option before the strike.

The results showed that the strike on the Tube forced many commuters to experiment with new routes and brought lasting changes in their behavior. Changes in behavior were stronger for commuters living in areas where the underground map is more distorted, which points to the importance of informational imperfections. Information resulting from the strike improved network-efficiency as many commuters stuck with their new routes. Search costs alone are unlikely to explain suboptimal behavior.

Thus, if we force people to change their methodology by preventing them from using what they have used in the past, we may find they develop new methods that are better at generating an optimal solution.

2.     Embrace the Shake

While in art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Devastated at the loss of his art form, Hansen floating without a sense of purpose. Then a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation and transcend it. As a result, Hansen developed many new ways of expressing his creativity and creating art. Once he embraced the restriction, he found that there were more opportunities available. The video below is from Hansen’s Ted talk on “Embracing the Shake.

3.     Oblique Strategies

Brian Eno has helped introduce unique conceptual approaches and recording techniques to contemporary music and is considered one of popular music’s most influential and innovative figures. He has collaborated with artists such as David Bowie, U2, Coldplay, to name just a few, as well as producing albums for many artists including Talking Heads and Devo.

In 1975, Brian and Peter Schmidt published Oblique Strategies, a deck of 2.8” in × 3.5” printed cards in a black box. Each card offers a challenging constraint intended to help artists (particularly musicians) break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking. Each card contains a gnomic suggestion, aphorism, or remark, to break a deadlock or dilemma situation. A few are specific to music composition; others are more general. For example:

  • Use an old idea

  • State the problem in words as clearly as possible.

  • Only one element of each kind.

  • What would your closest friend do?

  • What to increase? What to reduce?

  • Are there sections? Consider transitions.

  • Try faking it!

  • Honor thy error as a hidden intention.

  • Ask your body.

  • Work at a different speed.

  • Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify

  • Not building a wall; making a brick

  • Repetition is a form of change

There are several editions of the cards, and while some versions are expensive and rare, some of the less expensive ones are available on Amazon.

Many musicians working with Eno have used Oblique Strategies in creating their records, namely, R.E.M. and Coldplay. However, Oblique Strategies were most famously used by Eno during the recording of David Bowie’s Low, “Heroes,” Lodger, and Outside. According to Carlos Alomar, who worked with Eno and Bowie on all these albums, is a fan of using the cards, and later said “at the Center for Performing Arts at the Stevens Institute of Technology, where I teach, on the wall are Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards. And when my students get a mental block, I immediately direct them to that wall.”

While Oblique Strategies are primarily for artists, I am sure many of the cards would be great to help the creative juices within your teams who are searching for innovative solutions.

4.     Team Composition

The impact of diversity on group functioning is complex. A research paper looked at the effects of a newcomer joining the group, where the group was seeking to identify a murderer given a set of information about the case. In each case, the individuals (members of sororities and fraternities at Northwestern) had twenty minutes to examine evidence and make an individual decision regarding the most likely suspect. Then they were put into teams of three of a shared social identity and given twenty minutes to come to a group decision regarding the most likely suspect; after five minutes, a fourth person, the newcomer, joined the discussion.

In looking at the impact, the researchers conducted research looking at six situations:

Social Similarity of the newcomer to the old-timers: “in-group” vs. “out-group.”

X

Opinion Agreement: the Newcomer, has No opinion ally, One opinion ally, or Two opinion allies.

On reaching a decision, each of the group members individually completed a post-discussion questionnaire, assessing their opinions of other group members, about the group discussion process, levels of social identification with their sorority/fraternity, and their final belief regarding who committed the murder. Diverse groups, those with “out-group” newcomers, had less confidence in their performance and perceived their interactions as less effective; however, they performed better than Homogeneous groups with “in-group” newcomers. The performance gains were not due to newcomers bringing new ideas to the group discussion. Instead, the results demonstrate that the mere presence of socially distinct newcomers and the social concerns their presence stimulates among old-timers motivates behavior that can convert affective pains into cognitive gains.

So, want better results, change the team. Add people who are not part of the usual group, maybe someone from another office, to increase diversity. The effort may generate results that surprise you.

5.     Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert

Those of you who, like myself, enjoy jazz, have undoubtedly heard Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert, his legendary performance, which produced the highest-selling jazz piano album and solo jazz album of all time – over 3.5 million sold. So how did this excellent performance come about?

Vera Brandes, a 17-year-old young German student, part-time promoter, and avid jazz fan, was responsible for organizing the concert. For Keith Jarrett, who had played with Miles Davis and Art Blakey, this was to be the biggest solo concert of Keith Jarrett’s career, as Brandes had sold out the Cologne Opera house.

Jarrett was a renowned perfectionist, was meticulous about his pianos, and possessed perfect pitch. At Jarrett’s request, Vera had arranged for a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial concert grand piano for the show. However, the opera house staff provided the wrong piano – a much smaller Bösendorfer baby grand, which was in miserable condition and badly out of tune.

Learning that there was no time to get a replacement piano, Jarrett threatened to cancel the show. Jarrett was in bad shape as he had been suffering for several days from excruciating back pain, which had resulted in a run of sleepless nights. Having driven 350 miles, the five-hour drive to Cologne from a concert he’d given in Zurich further exacerbated his condition. Given that situation, it was no wonder that the pianist was ready to call it a day.

Vera Brandes, with a sold-out venue, refused to give in and over a brief dinner managed to coax Jarrett to perform. Meanwhile, the opera technicians spent several hours trying to make the piano playable and sound halfway decent – at least to an untrained ear. While the technicians managed to tune it, they couldn’t do much to improve its tone and timbre, which was defined by jangly high notes and a less than resonant bass register. Besides, the piano had several malfunctioning sustain pedals.

Even so, the pianist – wearing a back brace to give him extra spinal support – eventually went out on stage at 11.30 pm, as the concert was following an opera performance. To deal with the recalcitrant piano, Jarrett often used ostinatos and rolling left-hand rhythmic figures to give the effect of stronger bass notes, and he concentrated his playing in the middle portion of the keyboard. ECM Records producer Manfred Eicher later said: “Probably [Jarrett] played it the way he did because it was not a good piano. Because he could not fall in love with the sound of it, he found another way to get the most out of it.” All of this changed his environment and took him out of his comfort zone. The result: battling through pain and exhaustion, Keith Jarrett gave one of his most memorable concerts ever.

As mentioned above, they recorded the concert. It produced the highest-selling jazz piano album of all time. Before the show, when Jarrett was of the plan to record the show, he objected as he said it would be terrible given his condition and the piano. However, his manager persuaded him to go ahead with the recording so that he would have a benchmark of “terrible.” Thank goodness for us who enjoy the music.

So next time your team has a challenge, change the environment, and get them out of their comfort zone by providing something that they cannot rely on as heavily as they have in the past.

 

Conclusion

The above examples have shown how a change in the environment or taking people out of their comfort zone produces much more significant results, moving us from a local optimum to a global optimum. Is it time to challenge your teams to create “global optimum” solutions by changing their environment or taking them out of their comfort zone?

Finally, I would recommend you listen to Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert, David Bowie’s “Heroes,” and Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Also, you should listen to the BBC’s oral history, “For One Night Only: the Koln Concert.” produced by the BBC.

Copyright (c) Marc Borrelli, 2020

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A Leadership Style User Manual

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In the interview above, Adam referred back to one of the more provocative ideas that arose from his hundreds of Corner Office interviews with top leaders, a Manager’s User Manual. Basically, how great would it be if managers wrote a “user manual” about their leadership style, in which they explain some of their unique preferences and quirks to the people they’re managing?

You’ve in charge of a new department, and your reports are wondering what you’re like — your pet peeves, your quirks, and what it takes to earn a couple of gold stars from you. Over a year, they will figure these things out through trial and error, through observation, and maybe through some awkward conversations, you have with them about something they’ve done or haven’t done.

If you buy a car or a new TV, it comes with an instruction manual; however, we humans don’t, and we have to work with people who may have never worked with us before. As we don’t know how each person works, we what worked in the past, but that is not guaranteed to get optimal results. So why not shorten that inevitable learning curve, and let people know what you’re like right up front?

Here is an outline of how to produce a Leadership User Manual.

 

Step 1 – Rough Cut

Take no more than an hour and answer these questions with the first thing that comes to mind.

  • What is your style?

  • When do you like people to approach you, and how?

  • What do you value?

  • How do you like people to communicate with you?

  • How do you make decisions?

  • How can people help you?

  • What will you not tolerate in others?

 

Step Two: First Draft

From the above, you have a rough draft, so now you need to add depth and smooth it out. First, use some other tools to help you refine your manual. Look for clues in assessments you have done in the past. Myers Briggs? Strength Finder? Also, re-read your performance reviews from the last few years for clues.

 

Step Three: Input & Workshop

Ask your colleagues to answer the questions in step one about you. Ideally, this together around a table rather than over email so that group feedback is incorporated. What is their impression? Once you have their feedback, incorporate it into yours and then share your draft and ask for feedback on what they find accurate, off, or not clear.

 

Step Four: Finalize

Based on the inputs from your colleagues, make a final edit.

 

Step Five: Revise

Once a year, dust your manual off and see if it still feels accurate to you and your colleagues. Any new insights?

 

An Example

Abby Falik, Founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year, did this and posted her User Manual on LinkedIn. It is below:

My style 

  • I’ve been hard-wired as an entrepreneur since I was a kid.

  • I hover in ambiguity and possibility and am most energized when I’m connecting dots/people/resources that translate challenges into opportunities. I am always scanning for information to feed ideas in my mind and typically do my best thinking out loud.

  • My high expectations are matched by my commitment to support people in meeting them. I believe in giving people freedom, flexibility, and “stretch” assignments, and equipping them with the tools they need to uncover and develop their potential.

  • I’m determined to prevent my attention from being hijacked by technology. I never open my computer until I’ve written my quick list of what I intend to do; I hide my inbox to help me focus, and I’ve tried to take control of my phone by removing everything that’s not a “tool” from my home screen.

What I value 

  • I value resourcefulness and proactivity.  Be smart, move fast, and pivot quickly. Ask forgiveness rather than permission.

  • I’m obsessed with efficiency: I touch each email only once (respond, delete, delegate, or delay), and live by the law of 80/20 – often prioritizing promptness (i.e. 24-hour rule in following up on a meeting) over perfection. I start each day by “eating my frog” when my energy and attention are fresh.

  • I expect my teammates to value efficiency, as well. Before doing something “the way it’s always been done,” scan for an easier, cheaper, simpler way to maximize your “return on effort.” Before starting something from scratch, ask if it’s already been tried.

  • I value scrappiness and feel an obligation to our staff, Fellows, partners, and donors to focus our limited time and resources on the “real good” vs. the “feel good.”

  • I believe work-life alignment matters more than work-life balance, and that strategic self-care – whether sleeping enough, leaving work early to exercise, meditate, or spend time in nature – is the key ingredient to becoming our best, most productive and happy selves. I am religious about spending time unplugged – a day a week, and a few weeks a year.

What I don’t have the patience for

  • If you make a mistake or something is heading off the rails, tell me before the crash. Failure is great (as long as you learn quickly); surprises are not.

  • I get antsy with hypothetical musings and over-analysis. I learn best through experience and experimentation and have a strong bias toward action.

  • I default to trust, but if my confidence is shaken, it’s hard to rebuild. Ways to lose my trust: not following through, withholding important information, avoiding hard conversations, or treating others with disrespect.

  • I am turned off by entitlement, boredom and taking things for granted – it’s a privilege to do what we do, and it’s our joyful responsibility to take our work seriously, but not ourselves!

How best to communicate with me 

  • Be crisp.  Start with the headlines. I prefer bullet points to prose, and .PPT to .DOC.

  • I love to solve problems, remove barriers and help others move the ball forward.  Come to me not just with problems, but with plausible solutions and your recommended course of action.

  • I value authenticity, honesty, and transparency. If I say something you disagree with, tell me. I am hungry to be challenged in thoughtful and constructive ways. I respect people who have the right blend of confidence and humility to know when to question someone (even the boss!), and when to defer to another’s expertise.

How to help me

  • I move quickly and don’t always catch every detail (except when it comes to our brand and communications where I’m a painstaking perfectionist).  I appreciate help making sure the details are covered and flagging for me any that need my attention.

  • Nudge me when it’s time to start or end a meeting – but have (some) patience with my flexible approach to time.

  • Tell me what I need to know, not what you think I want to hear.

What people misunderstand about me

  • I am an introvert, posing as a professional extrovert.  Don’t confuse my tendency to work alone in my office with being disengaged.  My door’s always open.

  • I speak with conviction, but I’m not set in my thinking. I’m open-minded and always delighted to be shown a better way.  I make decisions quickly, but if you give me reasoning or data that points in another direction, I’ll happily change course.

Finally, I may be the boss, but I’m also a person, a teammate and a messy work-in-progress. I’m committed to always getting better at my job, and becoming a wiser, kinder and more impactful human.

CEOs and leaders have gotten very positive feedback from their colleagues and subordinates who have received these user manuals. Shouldn’t you consider preparing yours?

 

© 2019 Marc Borrelli All Rights Reserved

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