Labor Day in a Pandemic – Year 2

When the first nationally recognized Labor Day was celebrated in 1894, the day consisted of a street parade sending up a message of "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" (in the words of the AFL).  We have come a long way since then. Today, especially in this war for talent, most employers focus on offering opportunities and benefits to attract and retain talent. Yet, the disruption from the pandemic continues. Help wanted signs everywhere, a labor shortage stretching from unskilled workers to high-level professionals and executives.  Pundits of all types are offering commentary on this topic. Some say it's a permanent shift only to be resolved by wage and price inflation. Others say we have a move away from work and that automation will resolve the issue.   The Economist recently published a report entitled Will the Rich World's Worker Deficit Last?  The authors estimate the current employment deficit to be 3% below the pre-pandemic level. While acknowledging demand shortages, their research...
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Rewarding Innovation: Because Great Ideas Don’t Imagine Themselves

An engineer friend of mine works for a large, highly innovative company. You know the type of company I’m talking about: the kind that introduces new products, offers unique services, and establishes effective processes with remarkable consistency. The type of company whose employees are told over and over again, “You’re so lucky!” Here’s the secret: luck has nothing to do with it. Innovative companies, like my friend’s company, take creativity very seriously. Innovation isn’t a result (for example, a successful product). It is a plan of action, a series of concrete activities — including false starts — just enough to lead to successful products. For example, engineers at my friend’s company must set specific performance targets each quarter. Innovation points are an essential element of these targets. These innovation points are earned based on specific actions, including coming up with ideas, testing the concepts, taking the approved concept forward to the patent stage, and developing a marketable product. Coming up with an...
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Labor Day In A Pandemic

Labor Day has taken on new meaning in these times. In the early months of the pandemic, we celebrated the labor of our essential workers: food production and food service workers who make it possible for the rest of us to eathealth-care workers who care for the sicksanitation workers who keep our communities cleanpublic safety workers who keep us safe manufacturers that produce the good we needenergy workers, and others I am likely leaving off this list Labor Day historically marks the beginning of the school year. And once again, it is different this time. Different because the definition of school is both unclear and variable. Different because the clear division between parental responsibility and teacher responsibility has become blurred.  The impact of the lack of clarity is reaching into businesses in unexpected ways. Employees with children struggle to meet their work responsibilities while caring for their children and tackling e-learning.    The economic impact from this, both short and long term, remains...
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With Diversity, Comes Diversity

What does this statement even mean? Homogeneous groups have similar backgrounds, preferences and personality styles. Often homogeneous groups are homegrown with few additions from "outside."Diverse groups, on the other hand, may differ in traditional ways, i.e., gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual preference. Members may also differ in terms of their personality styles and backgrounds. Finally, a group's diversity may come from changes in membership as outsiders join and integrate into the existing culture. Diverse leadership teams are hard...they are harder to build, unlikely to come to a consensus, and are more likely to have conflict. So, why bother? Because... they are harder to build, are unlikely to come to a consensus and are more likely to have conflict, they make better decisions. Research studies prove this out. And, diverse groups only work when they can come together as an integrated team. The word integration is rarely used today in the context of a diversity conversation. It harkens back to the 1970s...
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Is your company divided between the “creatives” versus the “practical” people?

Do you divide your team into "creatives" and " practical" people? If so, are you missing out on the creative ideas of the other half? If you ask David Kelley, one of the founders of IDEO, and winner of countless innovation awards he will say yes. David maintains that human beings are naturally creative and it is fear of judgment that stifles creativity in most of us. He asks, what might happen if we were to overcome that fear of judgment and unleash our creativity? Perhaps the secret lies in what psychologist Albert Bandura calls guided mastery - a process whereby we identify a fear or phobia and by forcing ourselves to overcome that fear, we release our creative abilities. How might you as a leader create an environment that enables your employees to build their creative confidence? Perhaps a simple starting place is with more legitimate brainstorming - following the brainstorming rules - no idea is a bad idea! If you want to...
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When Is It the CEO’s Job to Create Drama?

One of our Vistage speakers, Don Schmincke, is well known for “Discovering The Leader's Code: Ancient Secrets For Executive Performance.” The primary message Don drives home is the importance of having a positive Leadership Saga – because, in the absence of drama created by the leader, your team will create their own. Supporting Don’s message, an article several years ago in Science titled Inside the Mind of a Motivated Employee describes the efforts of two sociologists at the University of Vermont who tried to better understand the rise and fall of people's spirits. They studied the moods of 2.4 million people by analyzing the words they used in over 500 million tweets originating in 84 English-speaking countries over two years (February 2008 through January 2010). What they found was a daily cycle of positive and negative feelings that seemed to apply consistently across cultures, geographies, and time zones. Around the world, people's positive moods peaked in the morning (6-9 a.m.), dropped through the day until reaching a trough by mid/late-afternoon, began...
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Progress or Apocalypse?

Every generation has its world changing vs. world destroying technology. In the 1800's, it was the train. People genuinely believed that going that quickly would kill you in gruesome ways, such as your body melting. In the 1960's, we were told getting too close to a television or a microwave oven would give us cancer. More recently this same concern has arisen about mobile phones. In the 1990's, when Dolly the sheep was cloned, we became convinced that human cloning was months away. The new battle is over Artificial Intelligence. Will it change the world as Mark Zuckerberg believes or will it destroy the world as Elon Musk believes? As with previous inventions, AI will offer opportunities we can only dream of today. At the same time, prudence and regulation will be required as Musk suggests. One thing that is certain, no matter who believes what or what the dangers are, AI is happening. And, those who figure out how to enhance their businesses by using AI,...
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With Diversity, Comes Diversity

What does this statement even mean? Diverse leadership teams are hard...they are harder to build, are unlikely to come to consensus and are more likely to have conflict. So, why bother? Because... they are harder to build, are unlikely to come to consensus and are more likely to have conflict, they make better decisions. Research studies prove this out. Before we go any further, let's start with some definitions; here's mine: Homogeneous groups have similar backgrounds, preferences and personality styles Diverse groups contain individuals with a variety of backgrounds, preferences and styles Notice, I didn't mention gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference. Why? Because categorizing frequently leads to stereotyping and while stereotyping might be a shortcut to achieving diversity, it may not. In fact, it may instead simply lead to stereotyping or... In some cases, visible diversity as in gender and race, doesn't create a diverse team. Where backgrounds are similar, even with visible diversity, a team is likely to behave as a homogeneous group. What to...
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How Do You Know When to Go With the Flow?

Option 1 _ Sometimes, the best thing to do is to go with the flow and let things play out. Option 2 _ Sometimes, the best thing to do is to choose a desired outcome and lead others toward that outcome. How do you decide? In my experience, business owners have the tendency to choose Option 2. Owners get to decide the outcome they want and when passionate about that outcome, they choose to lead others toward it. Similarly, professional CEOs, especially those leading PE owned companies, generally choose Option 2. They have a clear mission from the PE board, have incentives that are aligned with the board, and therefore choose to lead others toward their desired outcome, leaving as little to chance as possible. On the other hand, my experience with executives is, it varies. And, since executives have both their careers to think about and their business to think about, they have two situations for which this choice must be made. Some executives are willing, and...
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Not Asking Has a Price Tag

We Vistage chairs often talk about the importance of staying curious, of asking questions. Often as leaders we tell ourselves that the only "cost" of being directive vs. asking questions are soft costs. For example, we make assumptions that are wrong and have to start over when we learn we are headed in the wrong direction. What about the hard costs of heading in the wrong direction? What about when we as leaders, march into a new area, or start a new initiative, everyone follows, and we are headed in the wrong direction? Money is invested and then we have to start over. If only we had asked a few questions up front, we tell ourselves afterwards, the price tag associated with the failure might have been avoided. This TED talk, titled simply, "If you want to help someone, shut up and listen!", by Ernesto Sirolli, brings this point home in a global way. Ernesto Sirolli is a noted authority in the field of sustainable economic...
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