My top 5 leadership principles

Leadership is constantly evolving to meet the demands of the times. To thrive as leaders, we must understand the needs of our teams and adapt accordingly. There are, however, some leadership principles that I have found to be essential no matter the situation.

1. Be humble. Leaders who place too much focus on results and control rather than the people on their team can create trust issues. Employees may feel restricted in their abilities to explore new ideas or even fearful of disappointing their boss. When teams operate out of fear, there can be several consequences, from a lack of engagement to high turnover. One Gallup study even found that one in two U.S. adults have left a job to escape a bad manager.

Because of this, leaders must embrace humility in their approach. While it is essential to hit targets and goals, the leader’s role is to help their team learn, grow, and explore without fear of failure. Leaders can benefit from their team’s expertise, experience, and insight by serving their employees rather than controlling them.

Ask your team how you can help them do their jobs and encourage them to experiment with innovative approaches and ideas. Create a safe environment for them to take risks and chances. Recognize that, even though you might be leading a team or organization, you are still a member of a team, and the best results will come from working together to find solutions and stay productive.

As my Mum used to remind me, we all put our pants on the same way. As human beings, we are all equal, and just because I might be the leader of a team doesn’t make me any better or less equal than anyone else in the team, no matter what they do. For me being humble means treating everyone as an equal and doing everything I can to help everyone else realize that we are all in this together as equals.

“The leader’s role is to help their team learn, grow, and explore without fear of failure.”

2. Treat everyone with respect and dignity. It’s essential to treat every person in your team and your company with respect and dignity. Each employee plays a vital role in how your business functions from the top of your organizational hierarchy to the bottom. How you treat them matters.

This principle highlights the importance of prioritizing diversity and inclusion. For leaders to encourage their employees to bring their whole selves to work, they must create an environment where people from all backgrounds feel accepted and valued. The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace are clear. Diverse teams consistently outperform those with less diversity, and employees on inclusive teams are 5.4 times more likely to stay at their company.

Treating everyone with respect and dignity can create a company culture that ensures employees feel heard and valued. In turn, this can encourage loyalty, productivity, and motivation. But that’s not why this is important, it’s important because it’s the right thing to do, and the right way to treat the people around us.

3. The team is always more important than the individual. No matter how talented, educated, or skilled an individual may be, nothing compares to the success of teamwork. By building a team with complementary skills, a leader can create a well-rounded approach to innovation where the team can learn from each other.

When appropriately used, collaboration is a powerful tool that can significantly improve outcomes compared to individual work. In addition, a Deloitte study found that employees that engage in collaboration and use digital collaboration tools are 17% more satisfied at work. While individuals may get tasks done independently, there is an increased risk of burnout and lower-quality results.

Leaders need to encourage open communication to enable teams to work together. Clear expectations and structure can also be helpful, such as assigning responsibilities to specific team members and designating particular times and methods of collaboration.

I remember many times in my career when I had no idea how we were ever going to achieve a particularly challenging goal or objective. Something that at first glance appeared impossible or completely unreasonable. But then something happens. Someone has an idea that triggers another idea, that leads to a first step, that leads to a second step, that creates a momentum that starts to take on a life of its own. The mood starts to change to a “We can do this!” and a palpable sense of excitement starts to build. There is a point in this process where the team shifts from a group of individuals to a thriving, thrumming “We can do anything!” functional unit that elevates everyone in it to achieve things they never thought possible. Things that could never be achieved by an individual or even a group of individuals – things that only a true team can achieve. If you’ve ever experienced that feeling, you know what I’m talking about.  

“A team is more than a group of individuals; it is also the energy that is released when true teamwork happens that elevates everyone involved.”

4. Have fun! Boredom is not a corporate objective. If you’ve seen the movie Office Space, you know how soul-sucking a boring (albeit fictional) office job can be. While the cult film is a satirical, darkly comedic take on corporate life in the 90s, it can also be a cautionary tale against boredom and monotony at work.

For leaders, it is crucial to know when and how to have fun. Happy employees are healthier, more creative, and more productive overall. So, what can leaders do to create a more fun work environment?

One way to promote more fun is to create experiences that allow team members to get to know each other and interact outside of a work setting. These experiences can be as formal as a monthly virtual happy hour or dinner, or as informal as a weekly group lunch or virtual coffee chat to catch up on life outside of work. While planning events like these can be a great way to create structured fun, simpler methods include encouraging employees to share photos, stories about their vacations, work-appropriate memes, and pictures of their latest golf outings in group messages or recognizing team members for big and small achievements.

Another way to promote more fun is to just have more fun. I also like to say, “We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time”. Life’s too short to take too seriously. Having fun at work doesn’t mean we’re not working hard; it just means we’re having more fun working hard.

5. Pay attention to the details – the small things matter. Leaders are often tasked with directing their team towards one final, all-encompassing goal. While this is important, it can sometimes lead to the dismissal of small but crucial details. Achieving one significant goal results from many small achievements that occur along the way, and each one is as important as the next.

For leaders, this puts them in the unique position of needing to keep both the big picture and the details top of mind. For this reason, it’s crucial to have solid organizational skills and a reliable team that you can delegate to as needed. Remain dedicated to the end goal while maintaining a broad understanding of what each team member is doing to succeed. Trust your team and avoid micromanaging but know when to step in as a leader to help push things forward.

These five leadership principles have helped me throughout my career as a leader, and I hope they serve you on your journey.

Have a leadership principle that you believe to be essential for leaders to know? Share it in the comments.

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My top 5 TED Talks of 2021

There’s no question that the past two years have been highly disruptive. Our daily lives look entirely different than they did in 2019, and we’ve all had to adapt in one way or another.

One thing that I’m grateful for, however, is that TED has continued to share inspiring and innovative TED Talks throughout this time to give us inspiration and insight. Watching these talented individuals on the stage has become a favorite part of my week as someone who misses in-person public speaking.

Here are my top five TED Talks of 2021:

“We were looking for bliss in a blah day and purpose in a perpetual pandemic. But languishing is not unique to a pandemic. It’s part of the human condition.” –Adam Grant, How to stop languishing and start finding flow, TEDMonterey, August 2021

The pandemic created a massive shift in our lives, and many of us found ourselves sinking into “languishing,” which Adam Grant expertly explains in this TED Talk. After spending nearly two years living through a pandemic, it feels validating to put a name to the feeling that so many of us were experiencing. Even better are the solutions that Grant provides in his talk.

“On today’s internet, we don’t get paid for the work we do with our minds. And what’s more, the content we upload to these services is trapped there. These services not only make money from our content, they control it. Until NFTs.” –Kayvon Tehranian, How NFTs are building the internet of the future, TEDMonterey, August 2021

NFTs surged into popularity in 2021, and people have been trying to explain them ever since. This TED Talk from Kayvon Tehranian does a brilliant job of explaining what NFTs are, as well as their potential to bring the internet into its next evolution.

“This wouldn’t just be better for chickens and cows and pigs and the people who have to farm them and slaughter them and process their meat. This could be better for the whole world.” –Isha Datar, How we could eat real meat without harming animals, TEDMonterey, August 2021

One of my daughters is vegan, and she’s always making creative meals for us to enjoy (like this vegan turkey). She’s inspired me to look into vegan options, but I have to admit that I love real meat, which is why the development of lab-grown meat is fascinating. This TED Talk from Isha Datar dives into the science behind lab-grown meat, as well as all of the incredible benefits that could result from this new means of food production.

“The future of work is not going to be created with top-down, opinion-driven edicts from senior leaders whose day-to-day realities don’t match those of us dual-career, time-pressed and income-pressed people. Of course, senior leaders want to go back. That worked for them. But they have to recognize that for 18 months now; their people experienced unprecedented agency, control, flexibility, trust, and accountability.” –Debbie Lovich, 3 tips for leaders to get the future of work right, TED@BCG, September 2021

There’s no question that the future of work has changed drastically, and the post-pandemic world is likely to see a somewhat permanent shift to remote and hybrid work. As Debbie Lovich says in this TED Talk, it’s time for leaders to embrace the change and learn new methods of leadership and teamwork.

“It’s not just about your commutes. It’s really about changing everything in terms of how we move people, goods and services, eventually.” –Aicha Evans, Your self-driving robotaxi is already here, TEDMonterey, August 2021

Self-driving cars are not a new subject, but Aicha Evans believes their technology has the potential to shift how our world moves entirely. In this TED Talk, Evans discusses how robotaxis could create a high-tech, sustainable, and convenient mode of transportation.

These were some of my favorite TED Talks of 2021, and I’m looking forward to more educational and inspiring talks in 2022!

Share your favorites in the comments.

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How to Think Like a Futurist

The following is an excerpt of article that was first published in the Summer 2021 issue of HP’s Innovation Journal:

The world around us is changing and advancing at breakneck speed. From cars that can see around corners to robots on Mars, hyperloop travel, and artificial intelligence (AI) that can write a poem like Coleridge or fiction like Kafka, keeping up can be overwhelming. For business leaders, innovators, and organizations, the central question becomes: How do we lead this change, rather than being led by it?

I’d posit that we all need to learn to think like futurists. Thinking like a futurist shouldn’t be reserved for a select group of people, but instead is a basic skill set that anyone can learn.

Tapping into your inner futurist requires that you stay aware of what’s happening in the world around you, and think through the long-term impact on countries, societies, industries, and our day-to-day lives. But it’s not a spectator sport; it also requires that you anticipate, plan for, and take action to create the future you want. It’s about monitoring shifts, visualizing outcomes, and adopting an innovation mindset.

Monitoring shifts

No one can predict the future, but understanding the global socioeconomic, demographic, and technological shifts that are shaping the world around us can help point the way. It’s important to understand how these trends will influence our human experiences — from how and where we work, to how we make things, to how we stay healthy, learn, and live our lives. Being aware of these shifts enables you to spot new opportunities, reach your goals, and make plans based on the world of the future, not the world of the past.

For example, prior to the pandemic, only a quarter of US workers did some work at home. During the pandemic that number skyrocketed to more than 80%. The future of work will undoubtedly see many jobs becoming primarily hybrid. Many employees will do their desk work at home or at coworking spaces, while offices transform into places employees go to collaborate and innovate as a team.

The pandemic and today’s geopolitics have also shone a light on the need for supply chains to become more flexible and resilient. As we look to the future, the inherently digital nature of 3D printing opens a world of possibilities for manufacturing to become more digitized and sustainable as well, and for products to become more personalized.

Similar shifts are happening in healthcare, education, retail, and across our business and personal lives in general. Moreover, the role of business in society is changing, as customers increasingly expect more from the companies they engage with, and companies must stand for more than the products they sell.

Read more in the Summer 2021 issue of HP’s Innovation Journal.

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How to lead a remote team during COVID-19

Our “new normal” requires leaders to rethink how they lead. These tips will help you lead a team that’s working from home.

Internet access has also become congested because more people are online during the day performing their jobs and attending school virtually. Carriers have reported their customers are using more voice calls and many of them are using Wi-Fi rather than cellular. In addition, Facebook has seen a 70% weekly increase in the number of people using Facebook Messenger for group video calls.

As the pandemic continues to alter our everyday lives, we’ve become reliant on services that allow us to work from home. Meetings are happening on Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Hangouts. In fact, Zoom reported daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December.

Creating a culture of a high-performing team can be challenging under normal circumstances, but what does it look like during a global pandemic? As a leader how can you adapt your leadership style and processes to meet your employees’ new expectations? Here are the top tips I have learned through my own experience leading a global, remote team.

  1. Communication is crucial.
    Implement tools that allow you to communicate easily. We use Skype and Microsoft Teams, and find it great to stay in touch with quick messages and updates on projects without cluttering our email inboxes.

    You can use a messaging tool to encourage socializing, too. Create a group in Whatsapp or whichever messaging platform you use that is not specific to work. Keep the “water cooler conversations” going and allow your team a space to share their non-work related content.

    For updates that require more than an email or chat message, hold daily or weekly stand-ups. We use Zoom for video meetings and find it a great tool to hold virtual meetings. Your team can share what they are working on, any challenges they may have, and ask questions. If you plan on having your stand-up as a video call, make sure your team knows that ahead of time and that everyone joins using video.  It not only makes the meetings more engaging, but it also discourages multitasking. 😃

  2. Manage expectations.
    Does your company require your team to be online during certain hours of the day? Communicate that with your employees, don’t assume they will follow the same hours as when they were in the office.

    If you don’t already use a project management tool, consider implementing one so that your team can keep track of upcoming deadlines, project statuses, and the items on their plate.

  3. Be flexible.
    Work isn’t the only thing in our lives that has been disrupted by COVID-19. For those who are at home with their children, caring for a loved one, or experiencing another life event that is disrupting their normal, flexibility is paramount.

    One important aspect of emotional intelligence I’ve discussed in the past is empathy. It’s the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they might feel in a certain situation. As leaders, the more we’re able to relate to others, the better we help them feel understood and inspired.

    Check-in with your team on a regular basis and be fully present in your conversations, so you can make genuine connections and better understand their point of view. Once you have checked in, be flexible in creating a schedule and culture that considers their needs and current demands they’re facing.

  4. Cut yourself some slack.
    Remember, you and your team are going through massive changes in a quick time frame, so don’t expect things to be perfect from the start. Focus on small changes to start, and you will build a stronger and more supportive work culture.

    Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. We’re all in this together.

Are you leading a remote team? I’d love to hear about your experience and any tips you’ve learned along the way. Please share them in the comments below.

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HP Megatrends 2020 Refresh

Staying ahead of constant requires a keen understanding of the global forces that will shape our human experiences and business decisions

The amount of change happening in the world today is accelerating, creating a continuous challenge for how companies stay ahead of it all, decide where to invest, think about the future, and innovate in ways that enable them to do the disrupting, instead of being the ones disrupted.

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Preparing for Gen Z as a Futurist

As a futurist, my job is to anticipate change and stay on top of current trends. There’s a new generation entering the workforce – Generation Z. Following Millennials, this generation includes those born between 1995 and 2010. While being defined as the most ethnically-diverse and largest generation in American history, Gen Z also grew up surrounded by technology, also making them the most tech-savvy generation.

I’ve previously provided some thoughts on thinking like a futurist and today, we’re diving deeper into the role Gen Z plays in the future. Here are my tips for how to collaborate with Gen Z:

1. Put yourself in their shoes

It’s important to acknowledge the obvious differences that divide each generation. For example, Gen Z grew up in a post-9/11 world with new technology and completely different childhood experiences than those of previous generations. With technology constantly at their fingertips, this generation of “digital natives” have had nearly lifelong access to boundless amounts of information at the drop of a hat. In fact, 97% of Gen Z have smart phones and spend more than 4 hours a day online.

And because they’ve never spent a day offline, they are acutely aware of the issues and challenges happening in the world around them. As a result, they are 54% more likely to say they want to have an impact on the world as compared to millennials. Also noteworthy is their attitude towards work and employers; almost half consider what the company does to make the world a better place as important as the salary.

By becoming familiar with Gen Z, and by understanding the different era and experiences they’ve grown up with, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to effectively collaborate with them. Whether it’s through asking questions, doing research, or understanding current trends, you won’t fully see eye-to-eye with this generation until you put yourself in their shoes.

2. Pay attention to what’s important

In the next decade, Gen Z is expected to cause an influx of roughly 60 million job seekers, effectively transforming the workplace. Concerning their careers, Gen Z-ers are very driven and competitive. Nothing motivates them more than achieving success and being rewarded for their good efforts. They value skill development and appreciate feedback, as they are always hoping to improve their performance. A controversial topic amongst Gen Z is the debate over work-life balance. It can be argued that this generation struggles the most with this – 24% say they feel guilty for taking time off work. On the other hand, 39% view work-life balance as a top priority when choosing an employer. Knowing these statistics as an employer can help foster a healthy work environment for future employees.

When choosing where to work, Gen Z will base their decision on the company’s values. This generation’s passion for sustainability, diversity, and inclusion reflects in their expectations for their future employers. Studies show that 77% of Gen Z believes a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there.

3. Stay up to date on trends

As any futurist knows, one of the most important ways to prepare for the future is to stay up to date with the latest trends. This applies to Gen Z trends as well. The more informed you are, the more prepared you will be to work with this generation.

Here are some resources for futurists to better understand Gen Z:

  1. After the Millennials
  2. Gen Guru
  3. Gen Z Insights
  4. Generational Differences in the Workplace Infographic
  5. Looking Ahead to Generation Z

We can all benefit from learning from one another. As this new generation enters the workforce, preparing through a lens like this will allow us to better understand and support them in their journey as they embark on this new chapter.

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