A few years ago, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world conducted their annual employee engagement surveys, eager to gauge the pulse of their workforce. The results revealed something odd: while employees ranked "Being an Innovative Company" as one of the highest aspects, there was a glaring contradiction. They also ranked "Ability to Get Things Done" as one of the lowest. How could a company be considered innovative while simultaneously lacking the ability to execute?
THE EXHAUSTION EPIDEMIC Are you feeling tired, like most of the time? You’re not alone! In the face of the exhaustion epidemic we’re experiencing, it’s time to rethink conventional wisdom about high productivity behavior. Grit and hustle certainly have their place in business but over the long haul, they’re also scientifically associated with burnout. If the pandemic proved anything, it’s that success in business is inextricably tied to health and well-being. You can’t have one without the other! It’s no coincidence that organizations and leaders have started to pay attention to the emotional well-being of their people like never before.
It’s a new year with big business challenges. You would have thought CEOs would be worried most about the impact of Covid – but not so. That’s #13 on their list. Disruption is the #1 fear. The frenetic pace of change in businesses and the world has accelerated during the pandemic. An Alix Partners study released on December 27 revealed almost every CEO (94%) surveyed said their company needs to reinvent the business model within the next three years. 57% fear they’re not moving fast enough. The situation is also spiking CEO anxiety: 72% of CEOs fear losing their jobs due to disruptions facing their industries. That is an unprecedented level of anxiety. All this comes as no surprise to veteran Fortune senior editor-at-large GEOFF COLVIN. He's been speaking and reporting on business model transformation for years – watching how leaders are leading the change that keeps their companies competitive and relevant. Here's a great example of Geoff's reporting and research – a Fortune profile on how Goodyear has reinvented their business. Geoff also co-hosts a Fortune podcast and a recent topic was GM's transformation towards electric vehicles.
STOP PROTECTING THE PAST; CREATE THE FUTURE Innovation, reinvention and transformation are the business survival skills of our time. In this edition of DN Conversations, I talk with GEOFF COLVIN of Fortune who gets to explore how top companies and business leaders are managing the daunting job of adapting to nonstop disruption coming from every direction.
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.
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.
BEFORE WE GET INTO THE SERIOUS STUFF - I received an email from GEOFF COLVIN of Fortune this week that said “For Christmas, my mother signed me up for 23 and Me DNA testing. The company surveys its customers on zillions of things (When do you get up in the morning? Do you like asparagus?) and then correlates the results with people's DNA. I just received an email from the company with a link to a new report based on my DNA: Geoff, based on your genetics and other factors, you are less likely to have a fear of public speaking.” “I’m relieved,” I replied! When it comes to speaking before audiences at top events around the world - something Geoff does with ease and quite frequently - the mountain of cover stories, columns, and feature articles he has written for Fortune are a window on the sheer breadth of expertise and insights he brings to audiences. I’ve listed links below to some notable articles by Geoff in Fortune. Some truly outstanding reporting that is designed to help leaders of all stripes be informed about the technological, economic, political, and market forces disrupting the business landscape. Even better - Geoff's pipeline to top business leaders gives him the chance to explain what they're doing right now to adapt to the disruption and win.
The Boeing 737 Max problem is a case study in crisis leadership, and though it’s still playing out, we can already say it’s unlikely to be remembered as a model of how to do it. Three errors stand out.
Hardiness and the Courage To Lead How do great leaders find courage in defining moments, while most people don’t? That's the essence of leadership and the question has intrigued GEOFF COLVIN for years and led him to spearhead Fortune’s effort to create a different kind of top leaders list in 2014. Last week, Fortune announced the sixth annual World’s Greatest Leaders for 2019. As in the past, this year's list has some names you’ll know and many more that you won’t; but they all share a common leadership trait: “Great leaders never know for sure if their plans will work, but they plunge ahead anyway,” says Geoff. “That’s why we recognize sheer audacity, well-intended, even if the results aren’t known and even if the plans aren’t universally applauded.”