A GUTSY MOVE KATTY KAY made a brave career decision in 2019. She took time off from broadcasting – taking a work sabbatical from the BBC and MSNBC. Katty's husband Tom, who runs the Washington, D.C. office for Africaworks, was setting up a non-profit in Senegal and it represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go and help out and also do research for her next book. Katty also brought her 13-year-old daughter Poppy, who attended school there. “She had an amazing cultural experience...and I think we’ve given our daughter the best education we could give her,” Katty said.
TAKING A STAND Have you noticed how more and more business leaders are becoming outspoken advocates on important topics? And - they’re making business decisions based on their convictions. The company that first got my attention on this was CVS which banned tobacco products from their stores in 2014, the first national retail chain to do so. They couldn’t reconcile being a health-focused company and selling a product proven to compromise their customer’s health. CVS has prospered in the aftermath. Since then, there’s been a trend of stakeholders holding companies accountable – asking them to stand for something more than just profits. These are the times we live in – and navigating that is tricky stuff for any business leader. Just ask Ed Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods who banned assault-style rifles and raised the age to purchase guns to 21 after finding out his store sold the Parkland High School shooter a shotgun. That gun wasn’t used, but he felt the company needed to do something. They turned $5 million in assault rifles into scrap metal. Actions like that have a profound impact on the corporate culture of an organization as well as how the company is perceived by the public.
WINNING BIG BY MAKING BUSINESS PERSONAL Why do some brands, even in supposedly mundane categories like car insurance, retail hardware, and enterprise software, attract not just customers, or even loyal customers, but passionate fans? These brands have learned to provide the human connection people are now longing for to drive business growth. DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT calls it a Fanocracy. Over the past three years, David’s research has uncovered that creating fandom isn’t just for actors, athletes, musicians, and authors. Fandom can be rocket fuel for any company or organization that chooses to focus on inspiring and nurturing true fans.
NAVIGATING DISRUPTIVE CHANGE As a leader, you and your organization confront the unexpected every single day. In an environment of constant disruption, the survival skill of our times is the ability to adapt on-the-fly. The foundation of that competency is a culture that is resilient, innovative, and constantly experimenting. In formulating a response to disruption, leaders must recognize - first and foremost - that all change goes against the rules. Polly LaBarre has devoted her career to uncovering the best examples of leaders and organizations that are succeeding by thinking differently about the forces driving change inside and outside their organizations. Polly is co-author of Mavericks at Work - Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win and also founding writer of Fast Company magazine. As co-founder of Management Lab, the think-and-do tank that provides counsel to top companies all over the globe, Polly tackles real-world obstacles to organizational competitiveness by helping clients create cultures that can adapt to change almost as fast as change itself. I asked Polly for her best advice for leaders who are navigating today’s unpredictable business environment. Here are highlights.
NATIONAL WOMEN'S HALL OF FAME INDUCTS NICOLE MALACHOWSKI They all came! For some reason, I didn’t think they all would – I imagined someone would have had an overriding obligation of some sort. But no: Every living inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for 2019 was there. The inductees included women I instantly recognized: Jane Fonda, Sonia Sotomayor, Angela Davis, Diane von Furstenberg, and Gloria Allred. Then there were others who, though I didn't recognize them, were equally exceptional and accomplished women. And then there was my friend, COL. NICOLE MALACHOWSKI, USAF (Ret.)
It was a beautiful Tuesday morning. Before I left for work, I remember marveling with my wife Joanna about the amazing blue sky and crisp fall air – the muggy Washington, D.C. summer seemed finally behind us. We talked about it being a “perfect morning” as I got into my car and headed for work on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
GEOFF COLVIN of Fortune has devoted his remarkable career covering the biggest stories in business. In recent years Geoff's focus has been chronicling the disruptive forces shaping the business landscape and how leaders are navigating them. From his work, Geoff says one thing is abundantly clear "the big difference between winners and also-rans in healthcare is that top leaders and companies confront the realities they’re facing faster than the competition."
REPORTERS HAVE THE BEST JOBS IN THE WORLD "If someone came from Mars and spent a year traveling in the United States, and went back to Mars and was asked, Who has the best jobs? The answer would likely be the reporters. Because reporters necessarily spend their days asking questions about what is important. What is happening? What are people talking about? What is truly on their minds? What does it mean? What is hidden? What don't we understand? How can we better understand? Who should we talk to? Where should we go? What should we read? What should we study? What is the impact? Never once in 48 years at The Washington Post, did I ever hear an editor say, Go find something routine. Something boring. Reporters ordinarily don't do the routine. We also get to make momentary entry into peoples' lives when they are engaged in the big issues and conflicts. And we then are able to get out of their lives when they are no longer engaged. A lawyer or doctor, for example, is often saddled with clients and patients who have routine, cookie-cutter problems. They can get stuck. The investigative journalist shouldn't get stuck but gets to move on. As Howard Simons, the great managing editor of the Post during Watergate, often said, find a subject on which the sun is rising, not setting. Search for the rising sun.” – Bob Woodward
As entertaining in the broadcast booth as he is a keynote speaker "Bill Walton is a national treasure," read one headline. "Walton was tapped for color commentary in Friday night’s White Sox broadcast and it was a treat for the senses," it went on to say. The Chicago White Sox tried an experiment in the broadcast booth last weekend. Regular announcer Steve Stone was taking the weekend off and the team paired Jason Benetti with four guest broadcasters, one of which was basketball legend BILL WALTON. The decision was inspired because Bill Walton lit up the online universe - becoming the #1 trending topic on Twitter that evening. Walton preceded his trip (no pun intended) to the broadcast booth with a pre-game talk to the team about the challenges of playing professional sports. It was uplifting advice from an icon who knows a thing or two on the ups and downs of a pro sports career. Bill then ambled up to the White Sox booth on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, wearing extremely bright Sox branded tie dyed t-shirts with a mindset to match. Benetti knew the kind of evening he was in for, having worked with Walton at the Maui Invitational Basketball Tournament for ESPN in the past. He gave Bill lots of room to be Bill. With that the evening began and the headlines after the game said it all:
If I asked you about your favorite hobby, your dog or cat, the sports team you're most passionate about, or an important charity you’re committed to, you could probably talk enthusiastically for an hour or more. It's the same for all of us; when we care deeply about something, we tell our friends and become great advocates. That's what fans do!