The Founder/CEO Paradox

A recurring theme has been present in several consulting conversations lately. Be it at a networking event, over a drink, in the boardroom, or on a golf course, the discussion is similar. It focuses on working for individuals who are both founders and CEO’s. Here is how a typical conversation sounds.

LISA: Oh, you do Organizational Development work – that must be fascinating. I wish you could work with my organization. Actually, I wish you could work with our CEO.

ME: It is fascinating work. But why do you say that?

LISA: Well, our company has this great product/service. Our founder/CEO has worked hard to get this company off the ground and we’ve developed into quite a force. Their idea is brilliant, and we should have a bright future ahead of us. However, the founder/CEO continues to run us like they ran the start-up. And most of us see all sorts of problems that the CEO doesn’t – their leadership isn’t working anymore.

ME: What do you mean?

LISA: It’s like they need to be involved in everything. As we have experienced success, the company has grown beyond the founder’s expertise. As a result, they have hired some really good people. But then s/he won’t let them do their job. They micro-manage, don’t trust people and keep blowing things up because of their over-involvement. When they started the company, they were the reason for our success. But now they limit our success.

ME: Yes, I’ve heard this story a few times…

I’ve begun to quietly call this the Founder/CEO Paradox. It occurs when a gifted individual with vision and skill launches a company but struggles to take it to the next level. These organizations often get stuck. They recruit and lose talented people because of a simple leadership roadblock – the overall organizational capacity can only rise as high as the CEO’s capacity.

A minor Twitter war erupted a few weeks ago when NFL star Jalen Ramsey, tweeted that he could probably crack a National Hockey League line-up if he trained for six months. I should add an important detail – Ramsey has never skated in his life. To most of us on the outside, we know this claim is absurd. However, this laughable tweet exemplifies the same principle as the CEO/Founder Paradox.

Our most important gifts and abilities are not useful in every situation.

So, if this is true, what should we do? I suggest two antidotes:

  1. Hire people better than yourself. I personally sit in awe of gifted entrepreneurs. They have something that I don’t. Their stories, grit, drive and risk-taking abilities are aspirational. During start-up, this determination has them wearing many hats. However, as the company grows hats need to be handed off and experts with higher capacities need to be hired. This is the first antidote for the CEO/Found Paradox – hire people better than yourself to run areas you cannot.
  2. Know your sweet spot. When our children were born, my wife gave me a book about raising kids. While the content did not make me a perfect parent, it did offer some timeless advice that relates to our topic. It taught that each of us has a parenting ‘sweet spot’. For example, some of us love babies while others seem to naturally parent teens. More importantly, they also reminded readers that few of us are good at every stage. This simple lesson contains the second antidote to the Founder/CEO paradox – know your sweet spot (and celebrate the sweet spots of others)!

And based on several other conversations, I suspect that this paradox is equally applicable in the family business enterprise. But that’s another blog for another day…

Footnote: Thanks to CL for the stimulating golf-cart conversation which inspired this post.


Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Contact him today to find out how he can help enhance your personal and organizational effectiveness – jeff@jeffsuderman.com.

Photo Credit – FreeImages.com

Gen Z vs. Gen Y: What’s the Difference?

The past decade has had significant focus on the impact Gen Y is having on our workplaces. Since different generations are raised with different values, it’s not surprising that we experience shifts in our workplace values as well. Simple value tensions like respecting authority (Baby Boomers) versus a distrust of hierarchy (Gen Y, aka Millennials) will cause workplace conflict. Overall, this increase in generational value preferences has been a healthy movement as it has given us the opportunity to understand our differences. However, the focus on Gen Y is shifting as Gen Z are now entering the workplace (generational age norms are provided below).

Barna Research has released data which helps us understand Gen Z (as well as their predecessors). While Gen Z may share some common ground with Millennials, we would be mistaken to treat them the same. Some of Barna’s more notable Gen Z conclusions are as follows:

  • A key characteristic of Gen Z is that their expectations are largely shaped around themes of academic and career success — more so than any other generation.
  • However, nearly 40% want to spend their 20’s enjoying life before they take on the responsibilities of being an adult—significantly higher than the 25% of Millennials who said this.
  • Six out of the top 10 reasons teens look up to their role model are related to career or financial success.
  • Personal achievement, whether educational or professional (43%), and hobbies and pastimes (42%) are the things most central to Gen Z’s identity. Their responses stand out against those of their elders: Twice as many teens as Boomers strongly agree that these factors are important to their sense of self (22% and 24% in Boomers).

The charts below provide many other helpful insights. However, I encourage you to remember the principle behind this data. We are all created uniquely and for different purposes. The rise of generational awareness is simply a reflection of our desire to be treated as the unique people we are. In fact, you and I personify a microcosm of this same principle. This truth requires you to do more than just manage people. Identifying and maximizing the potential of each employee is the work of a gifted leader!

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GEN Z were born 1999 to 2015 (only teens 13 to 18 are in this study) | MILLENNIALS were born 1984 to 1998     GEN X were born 1965 to 1983 | BOOMERS were born 1946 to 1964 | ELDERS were born before 1946


Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Contact him today to find out how he can help enhance your personal and organizational effectiveness – jeff@jeffsuderman.com.

Source: Barna Research

Photo Credit – FreeImages.com

 

 

 

 

University Degrees of the Future

Futurist guru Thomas Frey recently posted a list of 52 university degrees that we will need in the future. His insights reminded us of two important leadership strategy lessons.

Leaders Think Forward

While this idea seems obvious, I believe we understand it much better than we practice it. To prove the point, consider these facts:

  • When Google launched, no one was teaching online search engine strategies.
  • When Uber launched, no one was teaching sharing economy business models.
  • When Apple first opened their App Store, no one was teaching smart phone app design (Frey).

Experience and history indicate that gifted future-thinkers are not typically the popular people at the table. They push boundaries. They identify problems with your business model (and are the ones who actually talk about it – over and over and over!). They are not content and often become isolated because they make us uncomfortable. However, in an era where we love buzz-word disruptive technology, we must embrace the reality that disruptive ideas are sourced from disruptive people. Disruptive leaders know how to think-forward.

Leaders Take Calculated Risks

In addition to anticipating the future, we must also discern when it is time to act in advance of a market need. Frey noted that the Colorado School of Mines has begun to offer a degree in Asteroid Mining. Yes, you read that correctly – asteroid mining. Since it takes 6-8 years to launch new degrees and train students, we must become adept at offering programs (or products or services) before they are in high demand. However, the term innovative and universities are often at odds. As a whole, universities tend to offer the tried-and-true (as do many other industries). We are more apt to copy what is working elsewhere than to boldly go where none have gone before. However, we will need more degrees like the groundbreaking asteroid mining program!

Imagine how educational and entrepreneurial effectiveness could change if they worked in tandem!

For your interest, here is an abridged list of the degrees that Frey believes we need to offer to prepare for the future:

  1. Space exploration: space tourism, planetary colony design, non-earth human habitats and space infrastructure.
  2. Smart cities: autonomous traffic and construction integration, next-gen municipal planning and mixed reality modeling.
  3. Autonomous agriculture: robotic and drone systems, supply chain management and systems theory.
  4. Cryptocurrency: digital coin economics, cryptobanking design and regulatory oversight, and forensic accounting.
  5. Blockchain: Design, systems and application, biological blockchain technology, and municipal blockchain design.
  6. Unmanned aerial vehicles: filmaking, command center operations, and emergency response systems.
  7. Mixed reality: experiential retail, three-dimensional storytelling, game design, and therapeutic systems design.

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Contact him today to find out how he can help enhance your personal and organizational effectiveness – jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Thomas Frey

Three Ways to Create More Ethical Behavior at Work

Few of us would disagree that ethical behavior is important in the workplace. Yet how we do this is a much more challenging discussion! Below are three practical ways to foster a stronger ethical work culture.

  1. Visible Moral Symbols. Recent research published in the Academy of Management Journal revealed that individuals who have visible moral symbols in their workspace facilitate stronger ethical conduct. A virtuous quote, a religious image or a moral sign serve as visible reminders – both to yourself and more specifically, to those you work with – that ethical behavior is important. Google’s lead value, “Don’t do evil” is a great example of this (though you could debate if this has shifted in their recent value change from “Don’t do evil” to “Do the right thing”). Before you try this, remember to consider the cultural nuances involved in doing this effectively!
  2. Public Ovation. In Trust Factor, Paul J. Zak provides fascinating evidence that connects trust development with activities which release oxytocin (something our body produces which makes us both trust others more and become more trustworthy). In short, Zak teaches that creating moments which release oxytocin will build trust. Since trust is a foundational moral value (partially developed by congruence between what we say and what we do), we have opportunity to deepen trust be facilitating oxytocin-inducing moments. Public praise (or what Zak refers to as ovation) is an effective way to do this. When you catch someone doing the right thing, create a moment of public praise (which also serves as a Visible Moral Symbol!).
  3. Decrease the Gap. Ethics is a combination of two things: what we believe, and, what we do. Inevitably, there will be a gap between them! Effective leaders continually work to decrease their gap. Doing so increases trust and a climate for ethical behavior (see above!). One effective (and humbling) way to decrease the gap is to become a person who regularly asks for feedback. In Thanks for the Feedback (Even When It’s Off-base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered, and Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood), Stone and Heen remind us that research shows we all have 3.2 blind spots. This sobering fact should change the way you live! It also provides a practical method by which to decrease the gap!

Successful organizations do more that pay lip-service to the need to act ethically. These three practices can help turn what you believe into what your organization does. What other practices have you used?


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Sources:

Jena McGregor (2015). Promoting more ethical behavior. LA Times, 2015.

Paul J. Zak (2017). Trust Factor. AMAcom.

Dr. Henry Cloud (2006). Integrity: The courage to meet the demands of reality. Harper Business.

Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen (2015). Thanks for the Feedback. Penguin Books.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution & the Employment Skills You Need to Survive It

An axiom reminds us that the lessons of yesterday do not always prepare us for the needs of tomorrow.

A recent post about developing future-ready work skills generated reader interest (Are You Second-Skilling?) and today’s post borrows this same theme. The infographic below provide insights about how to develop a skill-set that doesn’t become obsolete. For some readers, this information will help you focus on the education or training you need as you embark on your career. For others, this is a reminder of the skills you will need to upgrade or ‘second-skill’ in order to be competitive in the job market.


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Source – Guthrie Jenson

Who Owns Who?

President Trump has recently created a(nother) media stir by expressing his concern about the selling power of the on-line retail giant we call Amazon. While personal opinions about this matter will vary, it signals a quiet but important industry trend – the consolidation of companies. We cannot assume that a business’s name is synonymous with ownership.

For example, did you know that Amazon owns IMDB, Twitch and Whole Foods? Or that eBay owns Craigslist and StubHub? Or that Apple owns Shazam (yes, that’s why ‘OK Google’ can’t tell you song titles like Siri can!). The chart below is one helpful way to understand the complex web of brand ownership

While you may (or may not) find this chart interesting, it contains an important lesson. In an increasingly connected society we need to do our homework. If you are selective about who you do business with, you need to spend time researching who owns who!


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Chart Source

 

Are You Second-Skilling?

During a conversation with a colleague, she noted that she believes her job will be automated in the next five years. At a glance, her job of valuating the invisible worth of companies sounds like a complex task. However, she is close enough to technology to realize that these calculations are an algorithm that can be accomplished by a computer.

It’s a fact – the rapid pace of change is changing the way we do business. In turn, this is shifting what we need to do to stay employed. So how are you developing employable skills amidst this change?

A recent TED article highlighted a useful idea that is being utilized in a country with an unemployment rate of only 2%. Singapore had double-digit unemployment and low workforce literacy in the 1960’s. It has since vaulted to the status of a highly successful country which has a gross domestic product that is 300 percent higher than the global average (Oakley). So, what is their competitive advantage?

Barbara Oakley’s research reveals that Singapore has a national program which encourages education. And more recently, the focus has been on re-education. Called ‘second-skilling‘ or ‘upskilling‘, the premise is simple – facilitate ongoing training to help workers adapt to an adaptive workplace. Oakley compares this to metaphors of stepping stones and conveyor belts. In previous decades, each job was a stepping stone which led to the next one. This stepping stone model is logical and paced to the needs of the employee. In contrast, modern business is more of a conveyor belt, constantly moving and progressing. The choice of stepping where and when we wish is different as we shift from a stepping stone to a conveyor economy. Therefore, employability requires constant change to keep up (is anyone else picturing Lucy stuffing chocolates in her mouth at the end of the chocolate factory conveyor belt?). However, while our businesses move forward, it cannot be assumed that workers will also develop at the same pace. This requires intentional effort.

Developing second skills will require training which is outside of the scope of an employee’s current job or career. To facilitate this, Singapore’s government provides annual grants for citizens who want to upskill. This allows ongoing development of skills which can help expand knowledge, skills and employability.

The premise is simple – productive employees need to advance the pace of their personal conveyor belts. While some employers may facilitate this, many will be reluctant to invest in training which may not directly benefit themselves. Therefore, the force behind second-skilling will likely need to be self-motivated or incentivized by government agencies.


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Source: Barbara Oakley

10 Questions Leaders Ask in Team Meetings

A few weeks ago my post on Questions to Ask During a One-on-One garnered a lot of attention. Today’s post follows a similar theme and, thanks to a tip from Shannon at Soapbox, provides 10 questions to consider asking during team meetings (with a few of my own ideas thrown in).

  1. When is the best time to give work-related feedback?
  2. What information do you need in order to perform better? How would this help you/us?
  3. What is our team’s biggest challenge?
  4. What blocks our success?
  5. What do we need to start doing? Why?
  6. What do we need to stop doing? Why?
  7. What have we forgot to do that worked in the past?
  8. What was a win we/you had last week?
  9. What is an example of how we successfully demonstrated one of our core values (with our team or with our customers)?
  10. What is an example of how we failed to demonstrate one of our core values? How can we avoid doing this again?

There are a lot of great questions and this list simply provides a few fresh ideas. What would you like to this list?


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Google’s Perfect Employee – Skills for Today’s Marketplace

A significant amount of my consulting work is spent improving organizational performance by developing people. Sometimes employee development is done proactively – like taking vitamins before you get sick. More frequently, employee development is a reactive approach to problematic performance. Like setting a broken leg or providing an antibiotic, this approach can still be successful. However, like a physical ailment, it typically involves some organizational headaches and pain.

Negative employee performance often leads to discussions about hiring practices. How can employers screen potential employees in ways which maximize organizational health and minimize organizational ailments?

Traditional hiring methods focus heavily on technical or hard skills. This approach believes that an educated and skilled workforce will bring beneficial competencies into our businesses. In other words, a bevy of technical skills will equip an individual to succeed. However, this model breaks down and we’ve all worked with gifted (aka – skilled) people that no one can work with. So how do we find the right employee?

Recent research from Google provides helpful insights into this important question. Their study about workplace success contradicts the conventional ‘hard skill’ approach. Google, a company founded by techies (and, one that has historically relied on hiring hard skills) analyzed their own data to find their success recipe. In short, they discovered that it takes more than a knowledge of technology to be a technology company. By crunching their own data, Google discovered the following skills were most important:

  1. Being a good coach;
  2. Communicating and listening well;
  3. Possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view);
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues;
  5. Being a good critical thinker;
  6. Having effective problem-solving skills; and,
  7. Being able to make connections across complex ideas.

The most fascinating insights is that, direct technical skills, sits at number 8 on this list! While technical skills are needed, they follow (not lead!) the list of high performing employee attributes.

“Google’s Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard” (Strauss).

These conclusions align with the triadic leadership model I use with clients. This diagram is a visual reminder that effective employees (and leaders) are a composite of three equally important ingredients:

  1. Skills – what a leader does.
  2. Self-awareness – who a leader is.
  3. Morals/values – why a leader leads.

Over-focusing on any single part of this model (e.g. – hard skills only focus on ‘what a leader does’) will lead to performance gaps.

There is no perfect system to hire or develop an ideal employee. But research is revealing that hard skills are not enough. Soft skills will play an important role in our modern workforce (and increasingly so as automation and robots are equipped to undertake traditional hard-skill tasks).

So, what does this practically mean for you and your organization? Here are a few concluding ideas for business leaders to consider as they seek to implement Google’s conclusions. Please add your own insights to this list!

  • Does your resume review focus on hard skills or soft skills?
  • How do your interview questions assess soft skills?
  • Many of the skills in Google’s list require strong moral development (e.g. – listening skills. empathy or generosity). How do you develop ethical behavior in employees? How do your interview questions reveal a candidate’s moral norms?

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

Questions to ask during one-on-one’s

Clients sometimes ask for input on how to conduct great one-on-one meetings with their team members. One suggestion is to ask good questions. A recent blog post at Soapbox provided 9 helpful questions to consider.

  1. What are your biggest time wasters?
  2. What does our organization/department need to start doing?
  3. Would you like less or more direction from me about your work? In which area(s)?
  4. Are you getting enough feedback about your work? Where are the gaps?
  5. What could I do to make your job easier?
  6. Is there an aspect of your job that you need more help or coaching with?
  7. How could we improve the way our team works together?
  8. On a scale of 1-10, how challenged are you at work?
  9. What organizational strategy or goal are you least clear about

What do you think? Which questions are missing? Are there any you don’t like? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Thanks to Brennan at Soapbox for the great content!


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com