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Creating an agile environment that empowers your team with a shared sense of purpose is critical to leadership during radical uncertainty.
This episode is a replay of a 2021 session from the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, featuring leadership expert and Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill. She will show us how leaders can build organizations that can successfully pivot and innovate by allowing individual slices of genius to be leveraged into collective genius.
We will explore how to think creatively about the future and develop organizations where team members are willing to do the hard work that innovative problem solving requires.
Linda A. Hill is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and chair of the Leadership Initiative. Hill is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on leadership. She was named by Thinkers50 as one of the top ten management thinkers in the world in 2013 and received the Thinkers50 Innovation Award in 2015. Hill is the author or co-author of several award-winning articles and books including Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives of Becoming a Great Leader and Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership. Hill’s TED talk on how to manage for collective creativity has over 2 million views. In 2014, she co-founded Paradox Strategies — an advisory and research firm that advises organizations and boards on leadership, innovation, and diversity and inclusion. Hill is a member of the board of directors of Relay Therapeutics, on the board of trustees of the ArtCenter College of Design and Brigham Health. She is also a member of the Team8 Fintech strategic committee and she serves on the advisory boards of several organizations including the American Repertory Theater, the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), Eight Inc., the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. She sits on the board of the Global Citizens Initiative, Inc. and is a Special Representative to the Board of Trustees of Bryn Mawr College. Hill completed a post – doctoral research fellowship at the Harvard Business School and earned a PhD in behavioral sciences at the University of Chicago. She earned a BA, summa cum laude, in psychology from Bryn Mawr College.
- Learn more about Hill and Paradox Strategies
- Watch Hill’s TED Talk, “How to manage for collective creativity”
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- Register now for our free March 24th event, “How to Break Through Fatigue & Inaction on JEI,” and browse past sessions in the JEI series here.
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Transcript of Linda A. Hill Session
Good morning. It’s a privilege to speak with you today. I hope you and your family members have been as safe as they possibly can be in these very traumatic times. As you heard, I’m a leadership professor. And I particularly look at the connection between leadership and innovation. For the last 20 years. I’ve been studying women and men who have built teams, organizations, or ecosystems able to innovate time and again. What I’d like to do is share with you the lessons I have learned from them. Last March 2020, I called a number of the leaders I’ve been studying for a number of years now. One of the leaders I spoke with was the CEO of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. What he said to me when we got on the phone is he said, “Linda, I think this is a marathon, not a sprint we’re on. This is a very odd disease. I feel like I’m leading through a fog. And what does it mean lead when you can’t see when you have no vision?”
He said to me, “My first instinct was to try to take charge and steer the ship. But I soon realized that was exactly the wrong thing to do. Instead, I needed to figure out how to hyper-empower my people, how to make sure everyone in the hospital understood that this is not business as usual. We all need to be agile. I need to build an environment in which you will all be innovative, problem solvers.” So what does it take to build an environment where everyone understands they need to be agile and innovative problem solvers? That is what I’d like to share with you today.
The first thing that he said to me is, “You know what, Linda, I know I need to lead this way, but that’s not really who I am. I’m a surgeon. And when I see blood, my instinct is to put my finger in and stop the bleeding. That won’t lead to hyper empowerment.” And he’s exactly right, because there are these three imperatives of leadership you need to think about. The first one is that leadership is always about managing yourself. How do you use yourself as an instrument to get things done? How do you match your intent with your impact? Always easier said than done.
The second imperative is managing your network. This is about managing relationships with all those individuals and groups over whom you have no formal authority, but you’re deeply dependent on to get your job done. Some of these individuals and groups are inside the organization, peers and bosses. Others are outside, customers, regulators, suppliers. The third imperative of leadership is managing your team. Now this about managing those relationships with people over whom you do have formal authority.
We made this the last imperative not because it’s the least important, but because all of you would say, if I asked you to define leadership, you’d look down and you’d think about the people you’re responsible for. What we find is that you don’t always look up or out. You don’t necessarily think about managing your network as being a leadership task and you don’t necessarily look enough at yourself. These are all deeply interrelated. If in fact, you don’t manage your team, you don’t develop your people, you don’t delegate to them properly, you don’t turn the group into a team. You cannot leverage yourself. You will have no time left to manage the network nor manage yourself. So again, these are all very interrelated. And let me say a little bit about each.
The first, managing yourself. Leadership is always about making an emotional connection. It’s really about asking yourself what experience do I want people to have with me? And what experience do I want people to have of themselves when they are with me? It’s emotional. So you got to think about that if you’re going to match your intent with your impact. And what you got to do is manage yourself, because just like Dr. Suri said, his tendency is to stick his finger and stop the bleeding. That’s not going to lead to hyper empowerment. What you want to think about when you think about the experience you want people to have of you and you of them is that really you want them to and experience a notion of mutual trust. I trust you, you trust me. Now in figuring out whether or not people are going to trust us, we have to think about how we’re perceived, and people pay attention to two dimensions. They pay attention to your competence. Do you know what the right thing to do is? And they pay attention to your character. Do you want to do the right thing?
Now during COVID they know you don’t know what the right thing to do is. You can’t see just like Dr. Suri said, but they want to know you’re going to try to learn as fast as you can to figure out what is the right thing to do. That’s about being agile. They’re also want to going to know about your character and you know that. They need you to be present. They’re feeling burned out. They need to know that you care about them, that you’re empathic, and not just about your team or your organization. They’re also looking at how you manage and care about the community in which you reside, because that really lets them know that you are looking at what matters for everybody in these very traumatic times. And trust is about perception. You may know you’re trustworthy, but how do you provide evidence for them that you’re trustworthy?
That’s what you need to think about. And it turns out that those of you who are the stars out there, the smart ones, the ambitious ones, you actually have more trouble leading and building a sense of mutual trust. Again, it’s not because you’re a bad person, but because you’re so determined to get done whatever you’re told to get done, I suspect you have what is referred to as a real need for achievement. You want to get it done and you’re going to be very task related and maybe in fact not pay as much attention to the people. So one of the tendencies you will have, if you in fact are very ambitious, you are a star, is guess what? You will micromanage. You will fall into that tendency of putting your finger in it because you want to make sure it happens. And when you micromanage, it’s not your intention, but people will think, “Oh, Linda doesn’t trust me. Why is she looking over my shoulder?”
The other problem you have if you’re really good is that frankly, when people bring their work to you, you see what they haven’t done. Remember the first time your child brought home all As and one C? You didn’t see any of those As, you only saw the C. So what we see with people who are ambitious, talented, want to get it done, particularly when they’re pressured, feeling a little burned out, guess what? We don’t give much positive feedback. People don’t feel good about themselves, and we know how much we need that positive feedback right now. So managing yourself is an important part of the puzzle. You’re not a bad person, you’re just trying to get it done. And what we find is in these kinds of circumstances, people become the star producer. You kind of fall back into that individual contributor role.
And the more talented you are, the more complexity and dynamism you can deal with, the less you actually delegate. You just kind of get it done, because you want to get it done. And you actually abandon the leadership role. You don’t step back and think, how do I build an environment in which my people can be agile, in which my people can actually be innovative problem solvers? So it first starts with you and it really is your leadership makes a difference on whether or not your organization is going to be able to be agile and innovative.
Now the thing is, I’ve given you some questions here to think about, and don’t want you to feel bad about yourself, but this is a chance to reflect. Are you building that sense of mutual trust? Actually, you might need some feedback. You might need some advice. Do you have a personal board of directors that can help you think through, how am I doing, or even give you that support you might need just to get through the next day.
So, one of the things that Dr. Suri from Cleveland Clinic did is he basically said, “I always have a sparring partner, someone who really sees the world differently than me. I’m an optimist, so I always make sure I have a pessimist around who actually balanced me out.” And also what we see leaders are doing, is how do you do all this stuff virtually? What is your digital presence? When you look and get closer to the camera, what does it look like? Is your face too intense? When you step back or sit back, do people think you’re no longer engaged? So you might need some coaching on that, but for sure you’ve got to take care of yourself, because your emotional state really impacts the way other people feel and whether or not in fact you’re going to be able to inspire them to do the hard work they have to do.
Now the second imperative is managing your network. And we know this is one that frankly women have more difficulty with. Women don’t tend to see managing your network as being about leadership. In fact, there’s research that suggests that women think of managing your network kind of as dirty. It shouldn’t be my job. Why do I to do this? This is the politics of organizational life. All organizations are inherently political and you need to know how to navigate through those politics because there are three primary sources of political conflict; diversity, interdependence, and competition for scarce resources. Diversity doesn’t just mean demographic diversity. It actually also refers to all the markets you serve, all the services, all the products. Because you have diversity in your organization, you have the potential for conflict. Now remember, and we’re going to talk about it, you need conflict to be innovative. So it’s not necessarily bad, but diversity, okay. It’s going up in all our organizations.
We also are interdependent. It’s not like you can just go your own way anymore. Our organizations can’t afford to be siloed. We have to collaborate across if we’re going to be agile, if we’re going to be innovative. So you got to really figure out how to work through that diversity. And finally, independently of COVID, there is going to be competition for scarce resources. So if you can’t work through the network, you will be powerless. And let me tell you, powerlessness is deeply corrupting. You cannot give voice to your values. No one likes to work for a powerless boss, because in fact, when you’re powerless, you’re not going to be working on the right things and your team’s not going to have the resources the team needs to get its job done.
So you’ve got to manage the network and think about it as a leadership task, and you got to think about mutual trust. Am I building those relationships, those connections with my peers and bosses that I need to or people outside so we can get things done? So I want to tell you about another leader and I’m going to just call her Ndidi because I’ve known Ndidi since she was a student at Harvard Business School. Ndidi has an agribusiness in Nigeria. When I called Ndidi that last Spring to talk with her, to find out what are you doing, how are you leading, how are you being agile? What she said to me is, she calls me Professor Hill, even though I wish she called me Linda, I guess I’m that much older. She said to me, “Professor Hill, if we don’t die from the disease, we are going to starve to death in Nigeria because it is planting season. How are we going to get seed to our farmers?”
So what Ndidi did is she understood that she had to make sure that her team knew how to be collaborative. And this picture’s meant to capture all the networks that they all have. She’s the dot in the middle. She needed to build a team that could bring the future if you will, to the present. And what do I mean by that? She knew that she needed to get digital tools on the phones of those smallholder farmers as quickly as she could. And she knew she needed African talent to help her with that. People who really knew Nigeria. So she created a platform, very quickly, called Nourishing Africa. And this platform was built to bring together agritech African entrepreneurs. And she said, come on this platform, I’ll introduce you to investors. I’ll help you get technical assistance. And once they came, she saw who knew how to do what, and her team was really the bridge between the future, these digital types, and these smallholder farmers.
And within weeks they got on the phones of these farmers those tools they needed to both order the seed, but also get their products marketed when the time came. So she understood very much that all of these networks matter, you have to manage them, and she had to make sure she built a team that knew how to collaborate, if you will, with that diversity. The agritech entrepreneur, you know what they’re like and these smallholder farmers, because that was the bridging they needed to do. So the network piece is very critical to being able to be an effective leader today because all of us are finding in our organizations that we just don’t have the capabilities we need in house to get done what we need to get done.
And finally, I want to talk about some questions with regard to the network. And this is something that again, I want you to always think about how do I make sure my team has that outside in perspective, that they understand that we may not have all that we need inside, and we always need to be looking out to figure out what’s going on. We also may need to really establish some relationships with some new partners, some unusual suspects. We see competitors having to partner to get access to what they need, but you want them to understand that, yes, we have a lot inside, but we always need to be looking outside because we’re going to need to build relationships maybe very quickly with different parties that we are going to need to help our whole community actually in this instance, eat. And for sure, Ndidi is someone you should look up and follow. She is a brilliant entrepreneur.
She very much understands about how you build an organization that is agile, because you know how to build out that ecosystem. So you do want to ask is my team collaborative ready, do we know how to reach out and do things? Now I then want to say a bit about the managing your team piece. And this is the piece again that almost everybody thinks about when they think about leadership. Now here, I said, going back to the beginning, what you really want to be focusing on is have you built the culture and capabilities necessary for all the people on your team to share what we’ve come to call their slice of genius? So one of the leaders I’ve had the privilege of studying for almost 20 years is the co-founder of Pixar, Ed Catmull. And one of the things they say at Pixar is that everybody has a slice of genius.
Everybody has a slice. And the role of the leader is to unleash, to amplify that slice of genius and make sure that slice of genius gets leveraged to do the collective good. And that’s about building the right kind of environment for your people. So here, what you first want to do is you want everybody to understand that they all can innovate. There’s not a special group over there that can innovate. You know, they’re the innovators, they’re the cool people. Over here, who are we? We’re the executors, we’re the doers. Everybody in the organization, just like we heard Dr. Suri say, he said, “Uh-uh (negative), I have to hyper empower all my people, all my caregivers, as they call them.”
So what you want to have on your team, you want everybody to be both a value creator and a game changer. Both are difficult. You want to make sure people are paying attention to delivering what they should be doing, but also delivering what they could be doing. Be a little ambitious. If you’re in business, if you don’t really pay attention to those opportunity gaps, guess what? A competitor’s going to come in and close the opportunity gap, and it’s simply going to become your performance gap. So you want your team to be using their networks to scan and sense, what are the opportunities? What should we be working on? Not just, what could we be working on? Not just, what should we be working on? And you want them to know how to close those gaps.
So that’s the first thing you see in these organizations. It’s not just about me, the leader, having the vision and saying, follow me instead. It’s about creating environment in which people co-create the future with you. It’s a different kind of mindset you see in these leaders. So you want everyone in your organization to fall into box one. Now I’ve been looking at organizations, very established ones, who are having trouble growing. And one of the reasons they’re having trouble growing is they frankly only have people who fall into box three. Now I want to be clear. It is really, really hard to be a value creator, really, really hard to close those performance gap. That is just not enough in this world where it’s moving very quickly. We all need to be prepared to be agile and be game changers.
You also need to be able to be a game changer. When we did research and asked around the world, what does it take to be a high potential today, they told us it used to be enough to be a value creator, but not anymore. Value creation, again hard to do, but those are table stakes. Unless you can do this game changing, you will not be viewed as high potential in your organization because you are not going to be a person who knows how to take the organization to the future.
So let’s talk about what these organizations, what’s the culture look like? What do the capabilities look like if you want to be able to innovate time and again? Now I apologize for these words, but these are the words we came up with that describe the capabilities. Creative abrasion, creative agility, and creative resolution. Creative abrasion is about can you create a marketplace of ideas through debate and discourse? It’s a marketplace. Yeah, you might start brainstorming and anything goes, everything goes, but eventually there’s got to be some abrasions. So you get a robust pipeline of ideas.
So what you see in these organizations is that individuals know how to inquire and actively listen. They also know how to advocate for their point of view because it’s a competition of ideas, a rubbing up against of ideas against each other so that you get a robust pipeline of ideas. One of the individuals I’ve had the privilege of researching is President Mandela. And one of his beliefs was that an important role of a leader is to make sure that the minority voice is heard. And the reason why you need to hear the minority voice is because you actually need to understand what those contrarian views are because often, they’re really identifying risks that need to be mitigated. So you want to make sure you understand that you’re never going to get innovation without that diversity and that constructive conflict. And that’s what creative abrasion is about.
The second capability is creative agility. This is where most organizations start when they want to become more agile. This is about design thinking, lean startup, agile technologies, or agile ways of doing things. It’s all about the fact that we know that not only do you need collaboration of people with diverse perspectives and have some conflict if you want to get innovation, you also need to understand that you cannot plan your way to an innovative solution. You have to act your way there.
Innovation is really about doing discovery-driven learning together, and there are going to be missteps and there are going to be even failures as you do this. And again, this is where we see most companies start when they’re trying to become more agile. The third capability is creative resolution. This is about how the organization makes decisions. And what you see in organizations that are innovative is that people don’t go along to get along. They won’t simply compromise. They also don’t let one group dominate. They don’t let the bosses dominate. They don’t let the experts dominate. Turns out Steve Jobs was very worried about the experts, because the experts can be very wedded to the status quo, because once the status quo changes, guess what? They’re no longer the expert.
So what they do instead in these organizations is they’re very clear about decision-making rights. Who’s really going to make the decision, but they also have a more patient and inclusive way of collecting the points of view, those diverse points of views out there, as they’re making a decision, so that they actually are more likely to come up with what Roger Martin refers to, ideas that are both and kinds of ideas, as opposed to either or. And those tend to be more innovative solutions. Now that all sounds very abstract, but let me make it much more sort of practical for you. And I want to introduce you to Michael Ku. Michael Ku is a leader I’ve been studying for about six years now. And as you see, he works at Pfizer. And in fact, Michael is the person who’s running those trials. Believe me, he is working 24/7 to make sure that we all have hope, as he puts it. He and his team are an incredible group of people.
Now, when I started studying them, they were doing what they referred to as a digital transformation. And what Michael wanted to make sure happened is that they had a patient’s first end to end digital and physical supply chain. And they started working on all of that. He thought it would take them about three years to get done, but it actually took about five. And it wasn’t the technology part of it that was hard, it was really learning how to work differently so that they could take full advantage of the digital assets and the new data they had. They had to build a new culture and capabilities, or not a new one. They had to transform, lots about their culture was right. But what I want to point out about this is that what was most important and is always most important in all these innovative organizations, is that people have a sense of community, a sense of belonging, and what gives them that is that they have a sense of shared purpose.
I’m so glad to see that everywhere you read now, people are writing about purpose. We all need to know why are we together? Who do we serve? That’s what makes our work meaningful? Otherwise, why should I work this hard? Why should I take these risks? Patients first. Michael really started there. Now I’m going to show you, these are kind of complicated pictures, but I’m going to make them make sense to you, because I want you to see the whole thing as an integrated whole. One of the problems with the idea of culture and capabilities is it’s hard to imagine what does that really mean. So we have this tool that assesses that, and what you see here are pictures of what were the data for Michael’s team, the leadership team. This is after working on this for two years or so. And what was the data for the whole organization?
And I got to tell you these pictures, particularly the one of his leadership team, is about as good as it gets. Now one of the things you need to understand about his leadership team is that it’s a pretty big team because in fact, he looked upstream and downstream and said, “You know, these are the partners in the organization that we need to work with most closely, if we’re going to be agile and innovate.” So he went to his peers and said, “Would you allow one of your hyper 10 to join my leadership team?” And he did that a few years ago so that they would know him and his team. And he would know them and their team. He built that trust. And boy, this has been really important to them pulling off that miracle of being able to do those trials in 266 days. So what you see on one side is culture. On the other side is capability.
I just want to talk with you a little bit about how I look more deeply at the organizational data because there’s still some more work to do there. And partly it is a global organization. It’s not easy to build a culture that actually cuts across the world and goes up and down all the levels. So the first thing you had to do was convince people that they in fact could innovate or they should innovate, that they needed to think about coulds and shoulds. Because think about it, at a Pfizer, often we think the innovators are the scientists, not the people in the supply chain, but he said, “No, no, no, no. If we’re going to be able to deliver the hope that the scientists are recreating, we have to be as agile and as innovative as they are.” And thank goodness he started to do that, because they would all tell you now in his group that if we hadn’t started this culture capability work, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did.
Now, what I’m showing you here is going down deep and we’re not going to go through all pieces of it. But one thing is you see they know their customers. Now I got to tell you, you need to go back and get to know your customer again, because it’s a new world. Your customer has changed. They never call patients customers. So I’m going to apologize for doing that if anyone from Pfizer is watching right now. But what I’ve discovered is that often when people aren’t green on that, they don’t know the customer. Now, one of the things you want to do is know the customer because all the innovation you’re doing is to serve that customer. And if you don’t know them, you can’t serve them properly. So that’s got to be green. Now that turned green because they spend a lot of time really getting to know and talking to people in trials, visiting them in hospitals, clinics, or at their homes to really see what goes on when you’re in a trial.
Now the other part you see in terms of agility, they’re not so good at experimenting. Although this is an improvement, because I said this is two or so years in, but they’re not so good at it. We’re not so surprised. They’re highly regulated. Safety, quality cannot, in no way can you do anything that in any way challenges that. The other challenge of course is that this whole idea they have in Silicon Valley of fail fast, as one leader told me, not just advisor said, “You know what? We don’t have a career where you fail fast. There’s no such thing.” And it’s not really about failing fast. It’s about learning fast. So they aren’t much better at learning. You see that says they know how to reflect on whatever they’ve done. They know how to run an experiment, reflect on both the positives and the negatives, and they know how to adapt. They know how to pivot.
One of the things I see leaders saying to people right now is everything we’re doing is a working hypothesis. We collect as much data as we can, we validate the data, but we’re going to have to decide on very incomplete and sometimes ambiguous data. That’s just the way it is when you’re going through times like this. And if it’s not right, what really matters is we got to learn as quickly as possible so that we can pivot and do something else. And I will stand up as a leader and say, “I apologize, we didn’t get it right. We’re going back. We’ve learned the last sudden we’re going to fix it.” Now you can’t really get good at agility until you get better at decision-making, and decision-making is a bit of an issue here. Right locus means they don’t necessarily have the right people in the room.
Now why has that happened? I want to go back to the creative abrasion story there and just look at it for you. They have more diversity of thought now than they used to. Actually, they’ve been opening up new kind countries, they’ve been bringing in more digital talent, et cetera, but they didn’t have as much diversity. Not because it wasn’t so much bad, but people like Pfizer and they stay, and so they had long tenured people. But they’ve been mixing it up a little bit now, and everybody really benefits from that. They now have a place to have the marketplace of ideas. You can have the diversity, but if you have no place where these people can interact and talk, then that’s a problem. Well, they now have cross-functional teams. They have some new structures. But what they’re not good at is constructive conflict and debate.
And they’re not good at it because they’re polite. They’re nice. That’s what they would tell you. So they don’t really ever want to put anybody on the spot. Plus they deeply respect expertise. So even though we’re on a cross-functional team, if I think the problem is more in Linda’s space, I let Linda kind of decide, and I don’t say much. So what’s happening here is they escalate. They don’t make the decision because they know they’re not really saying what they think. And you know what? When it comes to senior management, they’re busy. They were just making the decisions. We told them they were empowered, but you know what? If it’s back here, we’ll fix it. Finally they all got sick of this. And part of the reason they got sick of it was they weren’t killing stuff. As one person put it, there were lots of walking zombie projects and they didn’t really have much resource, but no one wanted to say, “I don’t want to kill that because that’s Sally’s best project or her pet.”
But you know what? They finally said, someone said, “It’s got to go. We’ve really tried it enough. We’ve learned enough and we know it’s not working. What else can we try?” So they began to do this almost out of necessity. They became better at it. And in fact they created something that they called and they used something that was already being developed at Pfizer, called the straight talk coin. Everybody got a coin. And if people weren’t saying what needed to be said, then you could put your coin on the table and say, “What does the patient need from us? What does Bob the cancer patient, what does he really need for us to be talking about today?”
You take people right back to that purpose. Dare you not say what’s on your mind, dare we take a risk and not do what’s right about Bob? People begin to speak up. So now when you talk to them, they talk, we had a little creative abrasion moment last week to get through what we needed to do. And they would all say, if they hadn’t developed these capabilities and you still can do it nicely and you can still do it in a way that you respect expertise, but you knew need to understand that in fact, the experts may not be expert in this new situation. You’ve all heard about EQ, emotional intelligence. There’s now something we talk about called CQ, contextual intelligence. How do you know that your past experience is really relevant for right now? So what I want to show you is what they begin to work on in terms of their culture, was they began to work on, are we always evidence based?
You always have to have evidence. You can say, “My experience tells me, my expertise tells me,” but then someone can question you and say, “Huh, okay. That worked before. But is it really relevant now?” Dr. Suri put someone on his team who had never seen an epidemic before, because he wanted them to have the naive eye to ask that so-called stupid question that would make them all up and look at their assumptions. So for sure, that’s what they began to work on. It took some time to do that because most of us are in fairly hierarchical places where you don’t take on the boss that way or a peer even, but they also needed to think holistically. So you could say, “Okay, that solution will work for you. But you know, for my team, that’s really going to create a problem. Can we do some more problem solving about how we can help my team make sure that we can deliver what’s necessary.”
So you see over time that having that sense of purpose being all green is so important if you’re going to work through all of these challenges. So yes, you want to build a team that can deliver today, but you’re really trying to build a team that can deliver tomorrow as well. And for sure, if you don’t have that sense of shared purpose, it’s going to be real hard to do. The one thing I would really encourage you to do is to go back and ask yourself, do we need to look at our behavior and our rules for how we want to interact and think together, now that we’re having to work either in a hybrid setting or a virtual one? It’s a good time to go back and review what people’s assumptions are about how to work most effectively. And for sure, I’d encourage you to pay attention to your decision, making your diversity of thought and again, how are you gathering intelligence?
This goes back again to the network piece. You don’t just want to be looking inside and saying, this is what we see. You want to be looking up and out and seeing what other people are seeing to figure out are we really working on the right performance gaps, are we really working on the right opportunity gaps. There are tons of them. How do you prioritize them? You prioritize them by going about having conversations with your network, your bosses and peers, two-way conversations where you share with them, what are the priorities? What are the constraints? What do we really need to be doing? And you tell them from your point of view, what you’re thinking to your boss and your boss tells you so that in fact, you’re more likely to have access to those resources you need. So now I want to just end with one last piece and that is, this has been a time of discovery and you need to step back individually and collectively and do some discovery.
What have we learned? Who are the leaders in your group? People are volunteering to do stuff that you never knew had talents that they were using outside the organization that they had never brought in. What have you learned about yourself and your own leadership? How about your leadership team? Have you discovered that people have talents you didn’t know they had, they’ve been using outside the organization and you never created the space, if you will, for them to use that slice of genius inside the organization. What are you learning about your relationships with your stakeholders? Are there some people out there in the ecosystem that you’re not connected to, that you need to be connected to? Going back to Michael Ku, Michael actually is responsible for the Pan-Asian ERG advisor. And boy, he’s called upon all of those people that he’s met as a part of that work, what he calls his night job, to help him figure out how to do his day job, what’s happening in your country, because there are Asian people all over the world.
So where I want to end is that really, unfortunately, the academy is siloed. And frankly, the people who look at leadership are often different than the people who look at innovation. But it’s really the connection between the two that makes the difference. Now, this is meant to put a little challenge to you and that is, it goes back to you. You have impact, you are an instrument, and you’re trying to use everything about you to get done what needs to get done in your organization. So I’d encourage you to think about what you should keep doing, what you should start doing and what you should stop doing, because you can’t do everything.
So you’re going to have to stop some stuff. You’re not going to do all of this at once. And frankly, you’re already pretty stretched. So just make the list to get started and you don’t have to worry about each box and only work on one thing, okay? We’re not super women. We’d like to be, but we are not. These are tough times and it has been my pleasure to at least speak with you about what I’ve learned from people who are really good at this stuff. And they know they’re not perfect. They’re actually quite humble people. They’re very curious people, and they’re very focused on always learning, always figuring out how they can do better. I wish you all the best and thank you for your time and attention.