twitter Here are a selection of tweets from March 2020 that you don’t want to miss:

VIDEO: Series of 1-min videos on fear, connectedness, resilience and more from @JohnBaldoni
Rethinking Managing and Leading in Real-Time by @ArtPetty
Leadership Insight: How to Spot Fear by @KateNasser
The Power of a Strong Leadership Foundation by @DougConant
How to Find Thanks and Gratitude by @JesseLynStoner
How to Capture What You’re Learning From This Crisis Now via @LetsGrowLeaders
What Makes a Community Resilient? via @StanfordGSB
Five Strategies to Challenge Negative Thoughts by @ShirzadPQ via @StanfordGSB
You’re Only as Good as the Company You Keep by @FSonnenberg
Slack CEO’s Rise: From Games to a Workplace Communications Heavyweight via @StanfordGSB
Leadership by What Example? from @wallybock
How to Be A Great Leader When Crisis Hits by @LollyDaskal
Seth Godin Hates Being Organized by @danshipper Don’t ask: am I organized enough? Instead, you might ask: Am I shipping work in sufficient quality and quantity to cause the changes I seek to make?
Hard Startups Few recruiting messages are as powerful as “the world needs this, it won’t happen any time soon if we don’t do it, and we are much less likely to succeed if you don’t join.”
When in Doubt, Leaders Should Ask Questions by @natkarel via @INSEADKnowledge
Self-Awareness and Leadership: The Ins and Outs via @DDIworld
How to Make No-good, Useless Performance Feedback Helpful by @davidmdye
Pandemics Reveal Leadership Character from @JohnBaldoni
How to Recover From a Terrible Mistake by @Judy_Sims
READ, Caveat emptor, CEO by @TedKinni A short list of questions can help leaders avoid the potentially harmful consequences of flawed management studies.
Encouragement Required by @LeadToday Steve Keating
Organizational Change: Only the People Can Save the Organization by @BobQuinnUofM
Boss’s Tip of the Week: Act Consistently from @wallybock
101 Ways to Create a More Satisfying and Fulfilling Life by @AlliPolin
Want Employees to Own Their Career Development? Try These 2 Things by @Julie_WG
VIDEO: John Baldoni on Building Your Self-Awareness via @YouTube
How To Release The Grip of Backwards Thinking by @WScottCochrane
Your New Executive Transitions are (Probably) Going to Fail by @MattPaese via @DDIworld
The dangers of “workism” by @JoshLevs via @stratandbiz
Jack Welch: For a time, the most valuable CEO on earth by @geoffcolvin

See more on twitter Twitter.

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The Motive How to Find Your Edge

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Restoring the Soul of Business

DATA without soul is harmful. Science, math, and data do not excuse us from thinking. Instead, they make it imperative that we learn to think more critically and combine it with our humanness to come to more measured conclusions. The story we create with the data makes all the difference.

Rishad Tobaccowala is the chief growth officer at Publicis Group, a global advertising and communications firm. Flush with data, we risk losing something more valuable: what’s human.

Rishad writes in Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data, that we can have too much math and too little meaning. “Successful individuals and firms can never forget the importance of people, their emotions, the culture of the organization, and what cannot be measured. Successful people and companies combine the story and the spreadsheet, and by doing so, restore the soul of business.” It’s a balance.

The 6-I Approach

Extracting meaning and accurate insights from data is made better by implementing what Rishad calls the 6-I Approach.

Interpret the Data

Not all data is alike. “Develop hypotheses, search for patterns, look for outliers, create alternative scenarios to explain the information you’re receiving. Through interpretation you can enrich the data with meaning; you can identify the story it’s telling.”

Involve Diverse People

“Expand the group that examines the data. When you involve people with various skills and perspectives, you’re likely to receive a richer interpretation.”

Interconnect to Larger Trends and Events

How does the data relate to what you’re doing or to an emerging trend or a competitor’s product launch? “Making these types of connections helps you take the data one step further, determining if it’s going to have a short-term or long-term impact, if it’s suggesting the end of a trend or the beginning of a new one.” Give it context.

Imagine and Inspire Solutions

What possibilities does the data ignite? “Rather than allowing the data to limit options and actions, explore the solutions it might inspire. If the numbers show that your product category isn’t doing as well as it once did in Market Z, is there an emerging opportunity because the market still has potential and competition will be reduced because of this data?”


“Data can spawn new and better data. Is there a test you might run based on the information you’ve gathered that can produce more insightful facts and figures?” Ask new questions of the data.

Investigate People’s Experiences

“In a given organization, you have hundreds or thousands of people with data-relevant insights because in the past—whether while part of your organization or with a previous employer—they experienced something applicable to the current information.” Sometimes new data is just an old story on a new context.

Seven Keys to Staying Human

Each of these sections is full of practices to help integrate them into our organizations—to make them more human.

Talk About the Inconvenient (Tough) Truths

Three of the most valuable assets in communicating are the following four-, five-, and six-letter words: data, trust, and intent. “Do you have good data that supports your point of view? Can you be or are you trusted? What is your intent? – i.e., why are you saying what you’re saying? Organizations must encourage trusted, well-intentioned, well-informed people to display this type of candor, no matter what their titles are?

Address the Reality That Change Sucks

People see change differently and are affected by change differently. “People won’t support and further change unless they perceive how they and their skills fit in. Employees need to see how the change strategy helps them grow, not just the organization.” When we are data-driven we see things in absolutes. Humans are more nuanced than that.

Unleash Creativity by Inserting Poetry into the PowerPoint

The spreadsheet “is not a clear window to view either the present or the future. Inherently, it’s backward-looking device that jails thinking within its cells. Within many organizations, highly innovative, potentially game-changing ideas are born regularly. Unfortunately, the left-brain environment of these organizations often starves these ideas of oxygen and they don’t survive.”

Introduce art into your organization. “Creativity is how we manage our own change.”

Recognize That Talent Does Not Work for Companies but Rather Companies Work for Talent

Data tends to favor the organization rather than the employee. “Working for talent translates into three developmental actions: helping people create their niche, voice, and story.”

Niche: In a connected world, a premium on expertise exists. Experts tend to be more productive, and hey tend to develop better solutions.

Voice: Niche focuses on the product while voice focuses on the process. If niche is a fact, voce is a feeling, and both are critical to building a personal brand.

Story: While niche is what someone is good at and voice is what makes someone special, story provides someone’s reason to behave.

Diversify and Deepen Time Usage

It is a mistake to allocate and measure time only in economic terms or numeric ways. The quality of how people spend their time is as important as the quantity of what they produce during that time. To get the most out of time, organizations need to sanction doing less and open spaces to do nothing.

Schedule More Meetings

Too often meetings are about the spreadsheet side of the business. “The received wisdom of minimizing meetings and only going to ones that create value for you is wrong. More meetings create more opportunities for productive relationships.” Rishad five types of meeting we should be having that are meaningful and relationship-focused.

Upgrade Your Mental Operating System

Organizations need to put a priority on mental self-improvement. “Provide them with the means and the encouragement to learn continuously—or rather, to learn and unlearn.”

Rishad make this important point about balance. When there is balance between the spreadsheet and the story, people are more likely to form their own opinions and be creative.

First, there is a need to balance ends and means. If the goal is to achieve a numerical goal at all costs, balance is missing; people will ignore rules and even laws to achieve goals. A second form of balance is recognizing that people have different skills and the company should not force consistency and conformity.

Restoring the Soul of Business is a much-needed book. In a world awash in readily available data, we must never forget the story. The story is what makes the data so valuable. That will be the challenge of the future. Data is the commodity. The story differentiates. Rishad writes:

My point isn’t to beat up on algorithms—they obviously are crucial in a digital age—but to suggest that if we leave organizational employees to their own devices (pun intended), they will be reactive and biased in their thinking. They won’t consider options beyond their own narrow beliefs; they will see the trends they’re exposed to rather than explore ones on the periphery; and they will fail to consider that their ideas might be wrong or outdated since their screens are confirming their biases.

If we put too much trust in algorithms, we are faced with three big risks: “The first is when you forget that a human programmed an algorithm and so it has a built-in bias. Leaving it to itself means you are giving up agency. Second, no algorithm, which is about zeros and ones, can truly capture humans who are variable. Third, if you can add no value to an algorithm, you have no job.”

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Questions Are Answer Competing in the Age of AI

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Eat Slep Work Repeat

SSTRESS is a given in our lives. Not all of it is bad. For most of us it comes and goes, but for about 25% of us, it is a severe and constant reality according to one NPR/Harvard study. Many are experiencing anxiety leading to burnout at increasingly higher rates.

There is something we can do to put joy back into our work. To that end, Bruce Daisley, a former VP at Twitter, offers 30 hacks for bringing joy to your job in Eat Sleep Work Repeat.

Daisley draws on insights from a range of researcher and experts to identify three themes for creating happier work environments:


Twelve simple hacks to restore energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. The fundamental problem is that we simply aren’t practicing behaviors that recharge us. And it shows. Several suggestions include:

Try Going for a Walking Meeting. When we get our blood pumping through our bodies, there is evidence to suggest that walking rather than sitting will clear our heads and increase our creativity by up to 60%.

Eliminate Hurry Sickness. Constant business doesn’t equal achieving more. Calibrate urgency. “On the next occasion, you find yourself asking for something urgently, ask yourself whether you really do need it ASAP. If you can make some things less urgent, you’re being more honest with yourself and helping to create a better working environment for everyone else.” Take time to reflect.

Turn Off Your Notifications and Have a Digital Sabbath. Set up microboundaries to make technology work for you. Avoid weekend e-mails and work. Cal Newport says, “The modern work environment is actively hostile to Deep Work. I think the way that we’re approaching knowledge work we’re going to look back at in maybe fifteen years from now and say hat was disastrously unproductive.” We don’t know how to use the technology we have.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is “better than any other performance-enhancing intervention.” If you think you need to burn the midnight oil to get more done, consider that “you’re more likely to get where you need to be after eight hours sleep.”


Eight strategies that will bring trust and connection to your team, enhancing your powers of collaboration and building your collective intelligence. Several of the ways to improve team culture:

Move the Coffee Machine. The secret to building Sync is to get people talking together. Help people come together by design.

Create a Social Meeting. People experience Sync best in social situations. “Social time turns out to be deeply critical to team performance, often accounting for more than 50 percent of positive changes in communication patterns.”

Laugh. “The looseness of thought that laughter provokes triggers our creative juices, encouraging free association of ideas.” A lack of laughter may signal that something is wrong on the team.

Know when to Leave People Alone. Getting a team involved in a project too soon can be counterproductive. But we all need feedback and discussion to perform better. So there is a balance. “Sync is about people working together in harmony—but no amount of Sync will change the power of individuals applying gray matter to difficult problems alone. Creativity is about thinking and then discussion—a team in Sync will make sure it’s doing both.”


Ten ways to get your team to a “buzz” state—a sense of engagement and positive energy. Positive Affect (our inclination to experience the world in a positive way) + Psychological Safety = Buzz. How can we bring Buzz into our workplace?

Frame Work as a Problem You’re Solving. If we frame the challenge as a problem we all need to solve, we learn faster and together. “Frame the work as a learning problem, not as an execution problem,” and “introduce a clear sense of uncertainty into the room.”

Focus on the Issue, Not the People. If you provide incentives to cooperate, employees will share information and train others, but if you pit people against one another, they will naturally think only of themselves. It comes as no surprise that “workplaces that put too much emphasis on individual performance find themselves achieving worse results.” Again, there is a balance. “Remove the personal element and encourage people to focus on the work at hand than the individuals involved.”

Replace Presenting with Reading. While awkward at first, consider beginning each meeting by reading a document prepared for subsequent discussion. It can level the playing field. “Teams that have a more equal distribution of communication tend to have higher collective intelligence because you’re hearing from everybody, we’re getting information and input, and effort from everybody is they’re all contributing.” Successful teams are good at reading the nonverbal responses of others and adapting their behavior accordingly.

Relax. “One reason why Buzz so often seems to be beyond our grasp is that we’re not good at being ourselves.” A good sense of humor goes a long way to create positive affect and psychological safety. “Researchers found that “those who laughed together were significantly more likely to share intimate details with one another, and to be closer to their real selves, than those in a nonlaughing control group.”

While it’s true that for the vast majority of us, we can’t make these ideas company-wide policy, or control every demand placed upon us, we resort far too easily to blaming our circumstances on our company. We can do a lot for ourselves by approaching what we do differently. With a little personal responsibility and resourcefulness, most of these helpful hacks are within our grasp. Even a few of them would go a long way to improving our disposition.

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Deep Work Positive Leadership

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Competing in the Age of AI

Competing in the Age of AI

THE BIGGEST CHANGE being brought about by AI is not human replicas, but the emergence of digital operating models. These models aren’t the sexy, headline-grabbing side of AI, but they are profoundly affecting how we do business and the way leaders of the twenty-first century must think.

Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani, professors at Harvard Business School, explore these changes in Competing in the Age of AI with examples of businesses in many industries.

“When a business is driven by AI, software instructions, and algorithms make up the critical path in the way the firm delivers value.” And thus, how we think about the work we do and how we compete in the marketplace.

The business plan describes the problem that is being solved for the customer—a reason to buy. The operating model is how that is accomplished. “The goal of the operating model is to deliver value at scale, to achieve sufficient scope, and to respond to changes by engaging in sufficient learning. If a business can grow in these areas it can increase its value. But here’s the thing. As these areas grow in a traditional business model, it also increases complexity and as a result, management challenges. At some point, the traditional model limits further growth. This is where AI is changing the nature of business and competition.

With a digital operating model, “this new type firm is reaching new levels of scalability, achieving a vastly broader scope, and learning and adapting at a much faster rate than does a traditional firm. This is because the digital firm is transforming the critical path in the delivery of value.”

This lengthy excerpt lays out the nature of the issue that leaders of traditional operating models face:

Digital, AI-driven processes are more scalable than traditional processes. They enable greater scope (or variety), as they easily connect with a myriad of other digitized businesses, and they create powerful opportunities for learning and improvement, such as the ability to produce ever more accurate, complex, and sophisticated predictions and even gain fundamental understanding. In doing so, networks and AI are reshaping the operational foundations of firms, enabling digital scale, scope, and learning, and erasing deep-seated limits that have constrained firm growth and impact for hundreds of years.
To bring about the kinds of dramatic changes we’re describing. AI need not be indistinguishable from human behavior, or capable of stimulating human reasoning—what is sometimes referred to as strong AI. We need only a computer system to perform tasks that were traditionally performed by human beings, in what is traditionally referred to as weak AI.
We have entered a new age in which networks and algorithms are woven into the fabric of the firm, changing how industries function and the way the economy operates.
Indeed, the more a firm is designed to optimize the impact of digitization, the greater its potential for scale, scope, and learning embedded in its operating model—and the more value it can create and capture.
Amazon reinvents traditional business operations and puts them on digital foundations.
In a traditional business, size is a double-edged sword. As it grows, a business can usually deliver more value at a cheaper price. However, the advantages of scale tend to be limited by the firm’s operating model, which encompasses all the assets and processes it uses to deliver the value it promises to its customers.
But when Amazon digitizes an operating task, it embraces the advantages of digital scale, scope, and learning. Its digital systems scale more easily and continue to improve despite the size and complexity of its operation. When the order-taking system is fully digitized, it does not become harder to manage as more consumers use it, or as they demand more variety; it just gets better and better. As an increasing portion of the processes and tasks that deliver customer value are digitized, the advantages increase to create a much more scalable enterprise, capable of delivering an unprecedented scope of products and services, all characterized by an impressive rate of improvement and pinpointed targeting.
Amazon’s service improves with volume, whereas the traditional business runs into complexity costs.

AI is breaking down the limits that are inherent in traditional operating models to drive new value, growth, and innovation. And when businesses with a digital foundation collide with more traditional firms, they can completely transform and reshape that industry. The authors provide case studies from the travel industry to the retail, entertainment, and automotive industries.

The authors explain the issues faced when remaking a traditional operating model to exploit AI. They describe the journey to becoming an AI business.

As we enter the age of AI, they point out five principles that we need to pay attention to:

1. Change Is No Longer Localized; It Is Systemic. “Inventions during the Industrial Revolution pertained to individual industries or at least clusters of industries. In contrast, digital transformation cuts across every industrial environment at the same time. Digital technology and AI are meeting an increasing variety of needs and enabling an incredible variety of use cases.”

2. Capabilities Are Increasingly Horizontal and Universal. “What is needed to compete in an AI-driven world has less to do with traditional industry specialization and more to do with a universal set of capabilities.” And this is especially important in a leadership context. “This new universality of capability reshapes a variety of operating tasks and reaches into strategy, business design, and even leadership. We are moving from an era of core competencies, differing from firm to firm and embedded deep in each organization, to an age shaped by data and analytics, powered by algorithms and hosted in the computing cloud for anyone to use.”

3. Traditional Industry Boundaries Are Disappearing Recombination Is Now the Rule. “The advice to executives in search of excellence was once to stick to their knitting and stay with businesses they knew. However, in the age of AI, organizations that cannot leverage customers and data across markets are likely to be at a disadvantage.”

4. From Constrained Operations to Frictionless Impact. “As digital operating models continue to displace traditional industrial processes, they also remove traditional operating constraints. This is why a new generation of firms has grown to unprecedented scale at unprecedented rates.” At the same time, even as frictionless systems “create unprecedented valuation multiples, digital scale, scope, and learning also create a slew of new leadership and governance challenges.”

5. Concentration and Inequality Will Likely Get Worse. In a pattern similar to what we saw in the Industrial Revolution, digital networks also lead to the “concentration of the flow of transactions and data, and from that to increased concentration of power and value.”

All of this calls for—demands—a new degree of leadership wisdom. The implications of an AI-driven world are too complex and involve the exercising of values that only humans possess. Competing in the Age of AI is a fascinating book for not only implementing but understanding the transformations that are taking place in our digital world.

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Smart Business Is Your Organization Digitally Mature

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Canaday More Productive

FOR THE PAST DECADE or so I have spent a lot of time in organizations getting to know their leaders and how they work. That inside look has given me a firsthand account of what they are dealing with on a daily basis. Suffice it so say, this is not your father’s organization.

For example, the amount of incoming communication is staggering. The average knowledge worker in the U.S. is interrupted every 11 minutes by some form of communication. Every 11 minutes! That kind of distraction takes an unseen toll on us as leaders. Add to that the mountains of data we are generating and the inability to keep up with it, let alone make real sense of it.

Today’s leaders are being asked to both do more AND think more. Is that even possible? I’m a fan of multi-tasking but this seems unreasonable. Expecting leaders to succeed in the context of a constant, act-more, think-more, produce-more world is self-defeating, at best. At worst, it could be disastrous for our projects, for our teams, and for our health.

So, how do we keep pace and, at the same time, get better as leaders.

Evolved leaders have figured out that they need to hit the pause button. Instead of making action the default for every challenge, these leaders are pairing that alternative with an opposite response. It’s not about replacing action, which we know is a necessary leadership ingredient. We still need to reach our goals, meet deadlines, and produce results. This is different.

They think of it as developing a companion habit that celebrates THINKING rather than DOING. It involves a strategic pause. A “mental time-in”. Space for their brains to percolate and process the mounds of the information they’ve been packing in.

If you want more time for big-picture-thinking and the “mental space” to envision vastly different solutions, follow these steps:

1. Make an Unbreakable Appointment with Yourself

Set time aside every day (or at least every week) to step away from the chaos and let yourself reflect and plan. To connect the dots between information in different ways and to look at challenges from a fresh angle. It can help you gain remarkable clarity and give you the mental space to finally execute on ideas you’ve been sidelining.

Yes, I know that will feel awkward at first. Your calendar is probably jam-packed with meetings and commitments, so it might seem unnecessarily selfish to mark off some “me time.” Don’t let that stop you. Consider this an unbreakable appointment with yourself.

2. Make everything you do earn its rightful place on your calendar

Why? Leaders often feel trapped by an endless treadmill of meetings and tedious paperwork and that level of chaos has likely become their new normal. Even strangely comfortable. In fact, NOT doing all of those things would somehow feel wrong. If you want to free up time to let all that you have consumed percolate, you need to take a fresh look at everything you do. Ask yourself:

• Does this meeting or task move me or my team forward?
• Does this support department or company objectives?
• Am I doing this to drive results or to make someone else comfortable?

Taking a fresh look at everything inevitably uncovers opportunities to free up time for big-picture thinking.

3. Make a “Stop Doing” List

Ironically, some leaders approach downsizing their to-do lists by…creating another list: a “Stop Doing List.” This is actually an excellent mental exercise and an important step in making room for a “mental time-in”.
Your “Stop Doing List” might include things such as:

I will stop saying “yes” to every request without first considering its worth.
I will stop letting other people control my day and my time.
I will stop allowing interruptions that hijack my schedule.

Through the process of letting go, you can find time you never knew you had.

4. Encourage your team to pause.

As a leader, you have the power and influence to help your team members develop new habits that can make them more productive. Make sure they also have time in their schedules to stop and think. That’s tricky when deadlines are tight, but the long-term benefits will be worth it. Give them the calendar space that encourages them to give it a try.

As hard as it is for us doers to believe, all the evidence says that maximum effectiveness and innovation start with…STOPPING.

Yes, it’s tough to do. I admit it. We’ve been taught to move forward, to finish, to be relentless. We have even been handsomely rewarded for it.

But if you want your organization and your team to grow, take a strategic pause. Give yourself time and space. You, your team, and all your stakeholders will be glad you did.

* * *Leading ForumSara Canaday is a rare blend of analytical entrepreneur and perceptive warmth. That powerful combination has increasingly made her a go-to resource for helping leaders and high-potential professionals achieve their best.

Her insights come from her real-world experience and a surprising phenomenon she noticed in her own rise up the corporate ladder: The most successful people aren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQs or best job skills. Career advancement is actually more closely linked with how people apply their knowledge and talents—their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others. Sara is the author of Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom for Breakthrough Performance and You—According to Them. She is a sought-after leadership speaker and educator, a leadership instructor for LinkedIn Learning and is an adjunct Executive Coach with the Center for Creative Leadership.

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You According to Them Simplicity

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Empathy-Driven Leadership

EMPATHY? Isn’t that for directors of nonprofits and starry-eyed Millennial entrepreneurs with idealistic dreams? What good is empathy in an uber-competitive, saturated marketplace where leaders need to capitalize on every opportunity to stand out? The Empathy Edge definitively answers these questions showing how for-profit leaders can use empathy to gain the upper hand.

Contrary to popular belief, compassion and empathy are actually huge assets in the business world. What if leaders could shift the cultural mindset around what gives businesses a competitive advantage and recognize the benefits of being more human? Not only would they build smarter businesses, connect more deeply with their customers, and become stronger leaders, but also maybe, just maybe, our world could become a little bit better.

This is an interesting proposition. Leaders are in a position to influence how we think about the relationship between empathy and industry. Still, a sea change like this is hard-won. So, what’s in it for the leaders themselves?

Benefits of Empathetic Leadership

When you start to explore the benefits of empathetic leadership on a deeper level, it becomes difficult to see empathy as anything other than essential for competent leadership. Highly empathetic people (or HEP’s) recognize the pain and suffering of others as a problem in need of a solution. This is the foundation of every good business model. Further, without empathy, leaders can’t build a team, inspire followers, or elicit loyalty.

Among the benefits that come to empathetic leaders, whether they are entrepreneurs or c-suite executives, are the following:

Empathy is a catalyst for entrepreneurship or innovation
Empathetic leaders engender loyalty among both customers and employees
Empathetic leaders make good decisions because they are adept at processing information
Empathetic leaders are agile and connected and
Empathetic leaders are adaptable

The benefits of empathy for individual leaders are many, and this list likely only scratches the surface. But it’s clear that empathy is a core leadership skill.

Now you may be wondering what it takes to be (or become) an empathetic leader. You may recognize empathy as an innate human trait, and as with all human traits, there is a spectrum of strengths and weaknesses. Some of us are naturally “gifted” when it comes to being able to relate to others’ experiences, while others are naturally lower on the empathy scale.

The good news is—no matter where you find your natural tendency—empathy, like other leadership skills, is something we can learn, cultivate, develop, and teach to others. In the book, you will find seven simple ways to train yourself to lead more empathetically. Here are four of the most actionable steps you can take:

1. Practice Presence.

When you feel constantly scattered and spread too thin, it may seem like you can’t find even five minutes in your busy workday to take a break. But if you can’t ground yourself, how can you expect to be able to consider others’ perspectives? When you’re present with yourself, you’ll have a fighting chance of being present with others. Create space for a daily practice of meditation or simply sitting in silence. Even a few minutes will help.

2. Listen More, Stay Humble.

Empathy requires a mind that is open to listening to people’s experiences, stories, and perspectives. When you really listen, you aren’t tempted to jump in and offer advice or make demands. Instead, the tendency is to pause and look for patterns before providing relevant feedback. Empathetic leaders embody a servant’s mindset staying humble and looking for common ground with colleagues, employees, and customers.

3. Be Curious.

The ability to put yourself in the shoes of those you’re leading requires being genuinely curious about where they’re coming from. Authentically empathetic people have never met another person from whom they couldn’t learn something. As a leader who may be tasked with teaching others, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the part of yourself that is constantly curious. But if you look carefully, you’ll find it’s still there. Reconnect with your curious inner child, stay open, and watch opportunities come your way.

4. Get in the Trenches.

Empathetic leaders are hungry to understand their staff better. There’s no better way to understand someone else than by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them and experiencing exactly what they experience. If you deem a job “beneath” you or a “waste of your time,” consider the message you’re sending to those doing this job. Try a colleague’s job, work the customer support phones, or go on a sales call. You’ll be surprised by what you learn about your company, your employees, and yourself.

* * *Leading ForumMaria Ross, the founder of brand consultancy Red Slice, believes cash flow, creativity, and compassion are not mutually exclusive. Maria has authored multiple books, including The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success. She has spoken to audiences ranging from The New York Times to BlogHer and has written for numerous media outlets, including

* * *The Empathy Edge expertly weaves together engaging stories and compelling interviews with leaders who embody empathetic leadership. Maria Ross’s talent as a storyteller is rivaled only by her ability to offer straightforward, practical steps for executives and brands that want to increase productivity, find financial success, and integrate emotional intelligence. The big takeaway: when empathy and compassion lead, incredible success—both professional and personal—follows.

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Netflix Patty McCord Business Chemistry

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Thrive in an Economic Downturn

A convergence of troubling signs forecast a looming economic downturn. Many believe it’s certain that a recession is pending.

Proactive business leaders aren’t worried. They see any economic change as a springboard for profitable growth and competitive advantage. Rather than spreading a message of caution, worry or gloom, they’re sending a more strategic message: “We will not decline when the economy falters. We will instead show the market what we’re made of.”

The strategic leader knows the importance of stepping out of the busyness of business despite the temptation to go faster in times of economic uncertainty. But speeding up only adds pressure and overwhelms the workforce. Stretching employees to the limit by having them put in longer hours, sell more, and get faster results only leads to burnout and neglects the longer view. By attending to the here-and-now and neglecting the longer view or bigger picture, organizational leaders and their teams may do well enough for a while. But they’re unlikely to thrive over time.

True success lies in knowing when to slow down and when to speed up. Building in a strategic pause, or deliberate break in the day — or week or month — allows leaders to stop doing and start thinking. It allows time for developing a high-impact plan of action with clear accountabilities, timelines, and pathways of communication. They can then come away with a renewed sense of confidence, purpose, and optimism.

To recession-proof their businesses, companies should be slowing down and allowing time to identify ways to be proactive, strategic, and future-focused.

Use strategic pauses to assess these six factors that can lead to accelerated growth and a recession-proof business:

1. Assess the competition. Make time to understand in which ways the competition has the advantage. What are your competitors’ gaps or weaknesses? How can you differentiate and elevate your organization to gain advantage and increase market share?

2. Assess your organization. Determine where you are today as a team and a company. What do you bring? What are your signature strengths and talents? Do you have the right people in the right roles, doing the right things to ensure success today and accelerate growth and innovation for a stellar future? And, importantly, are you adding value in ways that mean the most to you, the company, the customer, and your clients?

3. Assess the market. What will differentiate your organization as a future-focused, customer-centric, innovation-driving engine of growth? Where will you see profitable openings in the market? Ask yourself: Will less agile organizations struggle to keep up? How will we pick up customers in need of access to the products and services we offer? Which new products and services can we provide to fill the void?

4. Assess risk. Where might you lose market share in the face of an economic downturn? Which employees are likely to become worried about the future of the company or industry? What’s your plan for retaining and developing your top talent?

5. Look out over the horizon. While it’s essential to continue providing exceptional customer service, product reliability, and your tried-and-true client offerings, you must also be laser-focused on driving meaningful innovation that improves all your product lines and service offerings.

6. Assure your stakeholders. Make sure that your employees, customers, and investors see you and your company as confident, courageous, savvy, and ready to make the most of any economic shifts that come along.

Slowing down and pausing can feel implausible and impractical in the midst of an economic free-fall. But by taking the time to develop a more thoughtful path forward, you will be ensuring your success in any economic climate.

* * *Leading ForumLiz Bywater, Ph.D., works with senior executives and teams across an array of companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AmerisourceBergen, and Nike. She brings a rapidly actionable framework for success, which is captured in her book, Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed and Thrive in a 24/7 World. She writes a monthly column for Life Science Leader and provides expert commentary for the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, FierceCEO, and other top media outlets. Learn more at

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Improvisational Comedy

DISRUPTION is happening in even the most stalwart industries, leading business leaders scrambling to create a culture of innovation in their organizations. Coming up with amazingly novel ideas isn’t an innate ability but can be a learned skill that leaders and their teams can develop. The techniques of improvisational comedy can provide important lessons for developing a innovation mindset.

From my 20 years of performing, directing, and producing live improvisational comedy, I’ve learned that fresh ideas are out there for the picking. Originality and innovation blossom from deep in the recesses of the mind, not because some people have the magical creative gene, but because they open themselves up to recognizing and exploring the uncharted areas in everyday work and life. This is where improvisational actors excel and why improv comedy techniques can lend themselves to promoting an innovation culture within organizations.

Here are some methods honed through improv that can trigger new and expansive ideas:

1. Steer clear of the word “No.”

In improv, actors are taught to avoid saying No. If an improv actor offers an idea and the scene partner replies No to it, then the scene is effectively over. Improvisational actors are trained to use the words “Yes, and…” to quickly move ideas forward and create completely new and unexpected concepts.

Using “Yes, and” works best while your team is in the ideation phase. As you get to the execution phase, you may need to start saying No and eliminating concepts with little chance of working. But by listening and encouraging the team to offer ideas in the initial stages, team members will feel included and be more inclined to have buy-in on a final decision.

2. Perfect the practice of “heightening.”

Heightening is a way to allow concepts to evolve in ways that allow them to grow from a seemingly normal, practical idea into a wild, unconventional end product. In improv comedy, the actors step out on the stage not knowing what they’re going to do or say, or what their fellow actors are going to do or say. Without any planning, they take the rawest of material and weave a tale with multiple layers, different characters, random jumps in time and unexpected twists and turns — all somehow leading to a neat resolution. This is “heightening,” and it allows their imaginations to go to exciting and original places, unfettered by practicality or reality.

When teams allow heightening to take, they generate far more material to consider. The original idea is still there and you can go back to it at any point, but you may also find that by letting imaginations run free, you’ll have new, exciting and more interesting versions of the original concept.

3. Expand your curiosity.

Make a point to follow where your curiosity leads you. Interested in bird watching? Sign up for an outing where you’ll meet people who can share their knowledge about types of gear, bird species, and even what’s threatening bird habitat. Pursuing new interests can’t help but have a ripple effect.

The unexpected benefit that comes from putting new pursuits into motion is that you discover all the different offshoots that surround an activity. Simply by expanding your knowledge, you have a means of uncovering fascinating raw material to turn into new ideas. You’ll begin to see connections or possibilities in all kinds of unexpected places. Those unexpected connections are what lead to innovation.

4. Brush off the shame from being wrong.

The fear of being wrong is one of the biggest reasons we don’t put our ideas forward. The way you build your tolerance to feeling shame from a failure is by repeated exposure. Working as a comedian has helped me build up my resiliency. By failing a whole bunch of times in low-stakes environments — on open mic stages in crappy bars and clubs — I began to develop scar tissue. And when I failed, I dissected what worked and what didn’t so I could improve the next time.

Being willing to strike out into the unknown and face the chance of failing or being wrong becomes easier each time you do it. Also, acknowledging you were wrong about a decision or idea can open you up to being right. You learn something new from being wrong and, oftentimes, better options appear. Failing allows things to become clear, and you begin to understand what you may not have realized before.

Allowing yourself and your team to become unfettered in idea creation, to open up to outlandish ideas, to be unselfconsciously curious, and to overcome fear of failure. If you do this, you and others on your team will start to experience the feeling of inspiration finding you instead of you finding it.

* * *Leading Forum
Norm Laviolette is the co-founder and CEO of Improv Asylum, IA Innovation, and Asylum Gaming and Esports (AGE). He has performed, directed or produced more than 10,000 improvisational comedy shows on three continents. He brings the experience of building companies from the ground up into multi-million dollar businesses. Norm Laviolette has worked with Fortune 500 companies, including Google, Red Bull, Fidelity and more. His new, The Art of Making Sh!t Up: How to Work Together to Become an Unstoppable Powerhouse (Wiley, May 7, 2019), describes how the techniques of improv can transform teams into more powerful, creative and healthy organizations. Learn more at

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The Gift of Struggle

The Gift of Struggle

BOBBY HERRERA has a message and the message is “We all struggle. Inside every struggle is a gift. Leaders share their gifts with others.”

We tend to not share our struggles or the lessons we learn from them. They are painful and very personal. But Herrera—CEO and cofounder of the HR service company Populus Group—say that’s exactly what leaders do. And that’s why he is sharing his stories and lessons in The Gift of Struggle.

One of the core principles at the Populus Group is that “everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed.” It makes sense, and it drove Herrera, but he felt like the people working with him didn’t share his passion and didn’t understand why he did what he did. But once he shared his story—his struggles—they connected, and it gave them meaning. It not only changed the employees but more importantly, it changed him. He understood them better and became a more compassionate leader.

If you don’t step up and tell the story that gives you identity and purpose, your people will be left on their own, trying to guess what matters to you and why. Without fulfilling work, they will make assumptions about your mission—or lack thereof—and leave when they find a competitor who offers what you’ve withheld. Until them, they’ll give you just enough to check the box and get through the day.

His journey to founding and building the Populus Group is full of ups and downs. But every struggle left him with a gift he used to grow and overcome. The stories he shares are relatable and illuminate the gifts that will help you become a better leader.

Here are overviews of some of the gifts you will learn:

Share What You Imagine—Build Together:
These organizations don’t allow “ROE” (“return on ego”) to compromise the integrity of the culture. Enduring cultures are never enforced by a top-down hierarchy. Everyone lives in a culture, and therefor everyone must use their voice to contribute to it.
Own Your Part:
Leadership amounts to wanting more for your people than we want from them.
Always be a Student:
If you want to be a wise leader someday, you must fiercely apply what you learn. You must also be selective when choosing who you will study.
Not Everyone Will Summit:
The guide said, “I can’t recall a climb when everyone made it to the top. It’s possible, I guess, but it seems like something always happens.”
There is no actual summit in business. There are peaks and valleys—the business cycles we endure, the victories and pain points within an organization—that we experience as highs and lows. And yet as long as our doors remain open, there is no final endpoint, only new challenges, problems, innovations, and solutions.

And applying this gift to people, I thought this was eloquently put:

It’s is important to realize we are all climbing our own mountains. Everyone you hire started their career climb before you met them, and they will continue climbing for a long time after their tenure with your company is over. All of us are working within our own set of constraints, goals, and unexpected life events that shape our journey.
We all climb for different reasons, so it’s important to honor people’s dreams. Your job as a leader is to encourage the growth of your people and to appreciate their particular contributions to the ongoing climb of the company. Regardless of when a person chooses to strike out on a different course, celebrate your time together. Life is a sequence of intersections, shared efforts, and differing goals.

Herrera says, “struggle is the currency of progress.” We need to become students of struggle. Welcome it into our lives as a tool for growth and increased meaning. Strength comes from our struggles. When you view your struggles as a gift, you will become a stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate leader.

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Tony Saldanha

How true disruptors use innovation, including digital,to grow the market and create new business models


OR YEARS I was taught that growing the business in an industry with strong competition was mostly a zero-sum game. You took away share from competition or they took it from you. Or else, you took on the hard work of growing the entire market. I’ve learned this is not always true. Many digitally native startups seem to find a third way – a digitally enabled non-disruptive creative growth. That’s the beauty of digital capabilities. It can drive new business models, open up adjacent products and help you grow the whole market.

1: Open adjacent product areas: For the people across the 147 countries around the world who learned about colors and the alphabet from Sesame Street, there’s one more lesson that the beloved TV program can offer. We can learn about how the program created an entirely new segment of preschool “edutainment.” Sesame Street did not disrupt a prior market for childhood education. It created a new one. For more information on this and the concept of non-disruptive creation see this blog post.

2: Create new technology enabled business models: GE’s Jeff Immelt and Dartmouth Professor Govindarajan are back, with lessons on digital transformation. Other than emphasizing that digital transformation is hard work, they make a valid point about how industrial manufacturing firms that used to sell hardware and give the software away for free, have created new business models selling personalized performance-enhancing software too. This article also has good advice to leaders not to talk themselves out of the hard work of digital transformation.

3: Grow the whole market using digital capabilities: Digital disrupters affect their industries in complicated ways. AirBnB did not take market share directly from established chains. According to this article from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42-63% of established hotels probably would not have taken the rooms that AirBnB gained in the lodging business. However, the overall profitability of the hotel industry went down 3.7% with the introduction of AirBnB.

While some disruptors can completely change the nature of the industry (as Netflix did with Blockbuster) others slowly change industry profitability and grow the entire market. In either case, Digital Transformation is an opportunity for established companies to play a more innovative role in non-traditional ways. Now, more than ever, you can grow your business in the new and adjacent areas enabled by technology.

Go forth and transform.

* * *Leading Forum
Tony Saldanha is president of Transformant, a consulting firm specializing in assisting organizations through digital transformations. During his twenty-seven-year career at Procter & Gamble, he ran both operations and digital transformation for P&G’s famed global business services and IT organization in every region of the world, ending up as Vice President of Global Business services, next Generation services. He is an advisor to boards and CEOs on digital transformation, a sought-after speaker, and a globally awarded industry thought leader. His new book is Why Digital Transformations Fail: The Surprising Disciplines of How to Take Off and Stay Ahead. Learn more at

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