CEO’s are normally quick to hop on ideas, products, services, etc., that can and do yield favorable economic results. Yet, despite encouraging statistics showing its beneficial bottom line impacts, there has been little movement in most organizations to include diversity and inclusion as a strategic business priority.

A Harvard Business Review analysis of top-performing CEOs found a mere 5% of CEO’s whose organizations excel at both year over year financial performance and social and environmental dimensions. Study authors note that performing well on both elements is a rare but possible achievement.

The type of diversity these organizations practice — transcending both visible (race, age, gender, etc.) and invisible (thinking styles, values, beliefs, etc.) differences in pursuit of inclusive excellence — is wicked hard work. Work that requires a healthy appetite for disrupting the status quo.

CEOs and academics offer valuable insights into areas where organizations must change if they are to gain the positive benefits of diversity. (read more…)

Succession_300This post is an excerpt from “Succession: Mastering the Make-Or-Break Process of Leadership Transition,” by Noel Tichy, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright (c) Noel Tichy, 2014.

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In March 2014, James Hackett, who had served as CEO of office furniture manufacturer Steelcase for twenty years, turned over the leadership of the leading company in his industry to his successor, James Keane. Over the prior two decades, Hackett had spearheaded a fundamental transformation of his organization to make it much more than just an office furniture maker, but a full-fledged, highly innovative workplace design company that created total work environments, integrating furniture with high-tech applications, work space design and learning environments.

The company’s award-winning leadership development center, transformed from an old warehouse on the corporate campus, is a model for high-touch and high-tech learning environments that Jim Hackett consciously used as a critical component of his overarching strategy to construct a new creative culture at Steelcase. (read more…)

I am continually amazed by people who take a vision and attempt to turn it into a business reality. Of course, this requires passion, intelligence, insight, and commitment. However, it also requires something else – the realization that the effort is an experiment.

As Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble teach us in “The Other Side of Innovation,” “… the innovator’s job cannot be to deliver a proven result; it must be to discover what is possible, that is, to learn by converting assumptions into knowledge as quickly and inexpensively as possible.”

One such innovator who is in the throes of running an innovation experiment is 34-year-old Ashley Poulin, CEO of SharpHeels. Ashley’s vision with the website is to provide professional women a forum to learn, share and obtain knowledge and services that will help them enjoy, as well as advance in, their careers. She started this as a hobby while working as a marketing leader at a leading computer-hardware company and now dedicates herself full-time to the effort. (read more…)

Many budget processes look like this:

  • They happen once a year and go out a year ahead.
  • Managers and departments have every incentive to ask for everything, whether they need it or not, because their demands will be negotiated down. If they don’t ask for everything, someone else will.
    • Managers and departments often also have the incentive to spend everything from the year before. If you save money, you obviously didn’t need it and won’t get it next year.
  • Trust is minimal, as is input from people outside the room — the rank and file, particularly.
  • A budget is cobbled out of this somehow and sets the tone — and maybe the strategy — for the next year. See you in 12 months.

Sound familiar? For Aubrey Daniels, a noted expert and author on performance management and other management, leadership and workplace issues, budget planning is one of the more frustrating things about companies today, and he has some ideas on how to improve the process. (read more…)

There were 25 managers in a recent leadership program I facilitated. Part of the program included a pre-work assessment where each manager and their direct reports assessed the manager’s leadership behaviors and overall effectiveness.

For many leaders around the globe today, such feedback is unusual — and a bit threatening. Most organizations don’t provide leaders with this kind of feedback very often.

These managers had never received such feedback in their company. I walked them through the data, helping them understand where their team members see them doing well and not as well as needed.

One manager blurted out, “I’m a great engineer. I’m clearly a lousy manager!” (His terminology for “lousy” was, um, colorful.) The whole room laughed and a number of heads nodded.

I hope — and believe — I helped these managers learn from their assessment and “get past” the critical feedback they received.

What is obvious is that this company has been somewhat casual about defining leader effectiveness. (read more…)