A Call to Simplify: The Need for Transformation in STEM Leadership vs. Adding More Skills and Complexity
To grow and stay current, change is inevitable, especially in the rapidly evolving sectors of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). To stay ahead of the leadership challenge we face in ever changing technology, globalization and workforce dynamics, it's not about constantly adding skills but transforming the way we think and operate.
STEM leaders excel in learning and adapting, but the real key to sustained success lies in transformational thinking. In this blog post, we'll delve into this concept and the importance of strategic simplicity, language alignment, and performance well-being - insights from a recent conversation I had with Richard Young Phd, former olympic athlete and coach. By the end, you'll understand why the future of STEM leadership relies on simplifying, not complicating. You’ll further understand how these factors can be applied to foster a transformational, even seismic shift in the mindsets in STEM leaders wanting to increase their impact.
The Power of Transformational Thinking in STEM
Let's face it - STEM industries are in a constant state of flux. A PwC survey revealed that 97% of tech industry CEOs consider innovation a top priority, with 61% planning to increase their innovation investments. But, are we focusing enough on the human element of this innovation?
When businesses discuss transformation, they often look beyond current practices to create new solutions. For STEM leaders, innovation is an attractive approach. But this is not transformation, and there is a limited understanding what transformation truly entails.
Transformation is not about adding more to the mix; it's about creating a fundamental shift of what it means to “be”. It is not building on what is already existing, it's about measured, intentional destruction and conscious reengineering.
Compare this to an adaptive and additive approach - something STEM professionals do very well. Because it is a preference, STEM leaders are often very open to the idea of ‘transformation’ - but then try to accomplish it through a linear additive process. This is flawed; let’s discuss the alternative.
Demystifying Transformation - a Fundamental Shift
Richard Young's theory of strategic simplicity, language alignment, and performance well-being offers a roadmap for embedding transformational thinking in STEM leaders. Let's break down these components:
Strategic simplicity involves identifying your strategy down to its core elements and focusing on them. It's about understanding your organization's purpose, values, and goals, and aligning all efforts towards achieving them. Strategic simplicity helps teams stay focused on what is essential and avoid distractions that can lead to loss of time, energy, and resources. The benefits are significant, enabling leaders to stay agile and adapt to changes in technology, globalization, and workforce dynamics. By focusing on the core elements of their strategy, leaders can avoid getting dogmatic, and bogged down in the complexities of their roles, or the myths of their disciplines. It helps maintain clarity and direction and openness. Additionally, strategic simplicity helps leaders communicate their vision and goals to their team members, enabling them to align their efforts towards achieving shared goals by leveraging the most fundamental.
When Steve Jobs rejoined Apple in 1997, he simplified their strategy to focus on user-friendliness and innovation. This move birthed the iPod, iPhone, and iPad - products that disrupted the tech industry. He simplified what market performance had to be.
Creating a shared language and culture that bolster your strategy and goals is crucial. It's about using inclusive, empowering language to cultivate a culture that promotes growth and learning. Language alignment helps STEM leaders create a shared vision and culture that enables their teams to work towards shared goals.
The importance of language alignment cannot be overstated. Quality of communication precedes quality of performance. When leaders use language that is unclear and confusing, it can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings among team members. This can create a lack of trust and collaboration, hindering the team's ability to work towards shared goals. By creating a shared language and culture, leaders can foster an environment of transparency, trust, and collaboration, enabling their teams to work together effectively.
Promoting Performance Well-being in Organizations
Performance well-being refers to employees' physical, emotional, and mental health, which are essential for optimal performance. This involves creating a supportive and inclusive environment that promotes employee satisfaction, productivity, and creativity. Prioritizing well-being can foster a positive and productive work environment.
But to help others, leaders need to also advocate for their own wellbeing. Professionally, nothing is more important to a good work-life balance, then finding a job that fits.
By focusing on the three questions and developing your skills in strategic simplicity, language alignment, and performance well-being, will help you become a consistent innovator and value creator as a STEM leader. Just like the notable leaders we've looked at, you can create a culture of success and growth within your organization while also taking care of yourself and your team.
Transformational thinking is crucial in business, but particularly for linear and additive thinkers, such as STEM leaders who want to stay ahead of the game. By adopting Richard Young's theory of strategic simplicity, language alignment, and performance well-being and applying these practical strategies, you can foster a culture of innovation, create a positive work environment, and steer your organization towards success. A great framework for developing a transformational mindset!
While STEM disciplines focus on additive and linear approaches, a leadership future in STEMis not about adding more skills or tasks to your plate, but transforming to lead others effectively.
I'd love to hear about your experiences with transformational thinking in STEM leadership. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Are you ready for this transformation? As an impactful and effective leadership consultant, I offer personalized coaching in adopting transformational thinking and adapting Richard Young's sport theories into your business. If you're interested, don't hesitate to reach out. This could be the first step towards transforming your thinking and your organization.
ON STAR WARS DAY: let's talk about Transformation and how it is necessary for any leader to grow as their influence increases.
Just before Obi-Wan Kenobi died in Episode IV, he said, "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
It is a powerful idea - through destruction, we can become more powerful. Obi-Wan's purposefulness endured, and his legacy and teachings would empower Luke, who followed. And that's exactly what transformation is all about.
Just like Jedi Masters who achieved enlightenment and joined the force, leaders in business also go through a transformation to be able to inspire, empower, and lift up others. They have to destroy that which they were for something new.
Nowhere is this more evident than when working with technical or academic experts. They've developed in specialized roles and environments - so taking the lead of people can seem like a galaxy far, far away.
Finding success in a specific discipline, then being promoted into leadership can be a shock. When undersupported, it can lead to struggle, which leads to apathy and fear. It's a trip to the Dark Side many may take, and it unnecessarily risks the success of the organization. It can be avoided - but you need a guide. You need to forget all you know or think you know.
Don't be a Nerf Herder.
Let go, Luke:
To achieve transformation, leaders must learn to value themselves and make development intensely personal. As Yoda once said, "Do. Or do not. There is no try."
Transformation is not an easy process. It requires hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn and grow. It often requires an expert to present new ideas and perspectives. As Obi-Wan said, "Your eyes can deceive you, don't trust them." Leaders must be willing to question their own assumptions and beliefs to achieve true transformation.
Transformation is a necessary process for leaders in business, just as it is for Jedi knights. It requires vigilance, dedication, and a willingness to learn and grow, then "The Force will be with you, always."
May the Force be with you on your journey toward transformation and leadership success.
#leader #leadership #maytheforce #starwarsday #obiwan #transformation #stem #accademic #maythe4thbewithyou
Coming in Heavy: Why WestJet's decision to abandon April Fools' jokes is no laughing matter
As an organizational consultant and leadership coach, I can't help but have concern over WestJet's recent decision to forego its traditional April Fool joke in favour of a stern statement of responsibility.
On April 1st, I received a mass email
von Hoensbroech emphasized that I "deserve friendly, reliable, and affordable service every time you fly with us." Sure, but I don't believe this has to come at the cost of a light-hearted employee and more jovial flying experience.
I understand why disgruntled travellers and shareholders want reassurance that they take operational and customer service issues seriously. But a flight infused with humour and lightheartedness can enhance the overall experience, build customer resilience, and even camaraderie with the staff - which can counter air travel's frequent and unforeseen stresses.
As a proud Calgarian, it saddens me to see WestJet, a local company that was once known for its "employees/owner" culture, move even farther away from its roots of Western Pride, Hospitality and Irreverence that made it famous.
While I understand the need for reliability and affordability, operational efficiency, humour, and lightheartedness are not mutually exclusive. Personal, positive vibes still are a competitive advantage in the airline industry.
Empowering employees to have fun created the space to provide unique and enjoyable customer experiences is no small feat, and humour was a hallmark of WestJet's brand both inside and out. WestJet may survive by getting serious - but will it thrive again as a cherished Canadian brand if it equates delivering reliable and affordable service with being cold?
And abandoning humour and levity could ultimately harm the employee experience and retention.
What they are giving up:
"Furry Family" cabins for pets on their flights, launching a "SmartSeat" that could detect and respond to passengers' emotions and unveiling a "Flyre Festival" package that parodied the failed Fyre Festival.
WestJet has always stood out from other airlines by embracing their humanity and not taking themselves too seriously. Take, for example, their April Fool's classics of the new "KargoKids" service in 2012 that promised to keep kids entertained in the cargo hold on long flights so parents could enjoy their flights. The modified baggage area would even include a kiddy feed trough to keep Junior happy.
And in 2018, to become more Canadian and cut down on departure confusion, the airline announced it would switch to metric time. Now travellers could perform a simple conversion:
"Let's say your flights leave at 5:42 p.m. (or 1742 on the 24-hour clock.)
Take the 17 x 60 to get 1020,
add-in the 42 to get 1062 and divide by 1.44 to get your new
flight time: 737 Milliminutes.
It's as simple as switching Fahrenheit to Celsius!"
While some may consider these gags unnecessary, they showcase WestJet's culture to employees and travellers. And this levity carried on in the cabin, complimentary on every flight.
The meme of a WestJet flight attendant giving a hilarious preflight demo went viral worldwide.
Studies have proven that allowing employees to have fun at work leads to increased engagement, productivity, and employee retention. A 2017 Great Place to Work Institute study found that companies with a positive and engaging workplace culture have higher levels of employee engagement and retention.
So, what happens now that WestJet has decided to ditch its April Fool's jokes? It's unlikely that becoming more "serious" will help them overcome operational challenges... and with less emphasis on humour, this move could ultimately result in a less engaging customer experience and a less enjoyable workplace for employees. WestJet will take another step to become an average airline, failing to remain committed to that that differentiated it in a competitive marketplace.
WestJet's decision to abandon its April Fool jokes is misguided. The airline is risking its brand, customer experience, and employee experience by moving away from this commitment to levity.
Customers who have come to expect and enjoy WestJet's annual April Fool's jokes may be disappointed or perceive the company as losing its playful and customer-centric approach. Employees may lose creative expression and morale if the company eliminates this longstanding tradition.
Other airline companies are ready to make this their calling card... so the decision to stop kidding around may carry a very un-funny risk of diluting WestJet's brand and corporate personality and losing one more differentiating factor in an unforgiving airline industry.
What data pushed them to assume operational issues somehow conflicted with levity?
This same thinking leads to the "Resting Work Face," where walking around looking serious or acting overworked makes employees seem busier or more indispensable. Ultimately this does little for the employee or the company.
While providing friendly, reliable, and affordable service is essential, Profitable, reliable service can be achieved more effectively and sustainably when the fun and engaging culture that made WestJet a legendary Canadian brand is intact.
I hope that CEO Hoensbroech realizes WestJet can be "serious fun" and chooses to keep the humour that made the company unique. Customer experience and employee engagement is no joke, and if you abandon the competitive advantage of humour, you are completely missing the punchline.
Decision-making during a pandemic - how to choose from bad options and disagree while preserving your important relationships
Some decisions are tough. But covid is creating unique uncertainty about the future for nearly every decision we make. Wouldn’t it be great to know you are making high-quality decisions?
As the weather cools, children return to schools, and the holiday season approaches, we will have to take a different approach to the mitigation of exposure risk than what we’ve experienced so far.
If you’re finding it hard to make one or more decisions right now - it might be time to take a different, more structured approach.
Years ago, I took a six-week course through Stanford University on SDG’s Decision Quality framework - this model sorts decision types by both frequency and value:
When viewed through this lens, it is clear that covid-19 and related exposure risks have changed routine, benign, automatic decisions into major “Strategic Decisions” with non-trivial implications.
This year our daughter is entering high school, which is an important milestone in any year, but now we’re facing so many more complicating factors. So our family has found it helpful to use a structured approach to making decisions around back-to-school for Grace, Aubrey and John, and in managing our approach to other major covid-related decisions.
The Decision Quality model considers six elements when making important, strategic, high-quality decisions:
While making decisions is necessary, how we discuss those decisions is equally important.
When we disagree with someone important in our lives on issues that challenge our core values, it can be tempting to prioritize merely reaching an agreement. To maintain a healthy working relationship, openness and trust, and reach high-quality, collaborative decisions, we need to ensure we are listening and seeing each other along the way. The journey is as important as the destination - quick agreement is damaging if it comes at the cost of belonging and security.
It’s equally important to realize that a well-made decision (making the best decision with the information you have at the time) can still have disappointing outcomes.
Covid-19 continually forces us to choose between several sub-optimal options. Each choice carries risks and none guarantee a positive outcome, so we are unlikely to be completely satisfied with whatever decision we make.
Consider the six attributes of decision quality, stay true to your core values, and work on building bridges of validation with those you care about.
If you’d like help finding perspective and balance between the roles you fill in your life and work, we’re here to help. Book a free consultation.
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Time to face it: leaders have an enormous responsibility for safety and should wear face masks in the workplace. Use these facts and practices to help your team breathe easy.
By Michael Fiss, Kate Bourque and Tim Sweet
Workers are now returning to offices and bringing with them a wide variety of opinions and sensitivities when it comes to wearing masks. Meanwhile, more and more jurisdictions and businesses are implementing mandatory mask-wearing laws and policies.
Mandatory masking has become an issue of personal identity and polarizing values. Unchecked, this conflict threatens to unravel corporate unity and undermine cultures of safety. How will your organization respond in a way that is credible and consistent with your values and established safety culture?
After reading this you will have five data points and four behaviours you can use to inspire a safe, consistent approach to phased reopening.
Staying calm is good. Carrying on in the middle of a crisis - not so much.
When it began to gain prominence in North America, I, like everyone else though “Keep Calm and Carry On” was cool. I didn’t regard it as a mind-blowing advice, but it had a retro look and some kitsch to it.
Now… three years on, I’m telling clients to think twice before adopting "Keep Calm" when designing change and improvement slogans. At best it's overused... at worst it's harmful and counter productive. Leave it out of your HR and Change Management campaigns – and, do not promote it as a virtuous leadership behaviour.
An Opiate for the Masses
“Keep Calm and Blankity Blank” statements are being overused by shortsighted leaders trying to forward their own agendas, to the point of nausea. The meme is applied like a salve to “sooth” the masses while asking them to do something. The medium is the message, and this medium implies it should be done without question – unfairly making it an issue of loyalty and stoicism.
Do you have employees that carry stress home? Their lives literally depend on the organizational culture and leadership style you choose to adopt. You can make a huge difference to the happiness and balance in your peoples' lives.
Do you have employees that thrive at home and at work? Their lives literally depend on healthy organizational behaviour and company culture on the job.
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It was great to hear Dr. Mohan S. Sodhi speak at the Alliance Pipeline Seminar "Supply Chain 3.0 and the Search for Performance" on Friday.
Fantastic to meet and have conversations with Professor Sodhi, my friend (and Co-Author) Jaydeep Balakrishnan, Shawn Baker, Fernando Torres and many more.
Dr. Sodhi (whose work you'll find in the Sloan management review and the Harvard Business Review) nailed home the point that organizations can incur an incredible loss if they fail to deal with supply chain challenges at the appropriate 'level' (operational, supply chain, social.) The analogs presented demonstrated the effect of failing to have an appropriate response when a threat materializes.
I left with the feeling that this risk will become increasingly relevant if organizations go insular on increasingly public social issues, or go to social media to justify poor internal decisions or quality issues.
We've seen disastrous of this mismatch when Airlines, Automobile Manufacturers, Technology and Government deal with mistakes that harm stakeholders.
I found the learnings extended far beyond supply chain; being equally valuable for governance and regulatory, and safety teams to consider.
A big thanks to Alliance and the Haskayne School of Business CASL for putting on this excellent series.
Uber and the Oil Town
I hope this gives more perspective on what Calgary is experiencing.
I hope you'll consider joining our community and engaging in more leadership conversations that matter.
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Happy Canada Day!
Are you not smiling enough? If so, it's time take a breath, reach out, and rediscover the fun of leading again.
3 Common Strategic Planning Practices that Suck The Life Out of Teams: How To End Them And Get All Hands On Deck!
Aiming for a step-change in performance in 2019? Start now!
Don’t let a plodding strategic planning process suck time and energy from your team, and set the wrong tone for the next year.
You’ve got a lot riding on your 2019 plan; let's set the bar higher!
Here are three tactics that you can use to create a breakthrough in the quality and impact of your 2019 planning efforts. By no means a complete list, I hope this offers a glimpse into how you could be settling for a sub-optimal planning cycle in your business, and what you can do about it.
2019 is almost here. Will this be the year where you decide to become a high-performance team?
You can do it!
A FREE TOOL TO HELP YOU: Use the TWE Big5 checklist to consider high-performance for your team and how to get there. 5 simple questions that help you get real, get together, get moving on performance!
TWE High Performance Offsites!
Aiming for a step-change in performance in 2019?
If you're looking to avoid tired, plodding planning sessions where attendees disconnect and stare at their phones, then let's set the bar higher. For 2019, take you strategic off-sites from boring to breakthrough!
Please contact me if you'd like to explore the advantages a TWE High-Performance Offsite can give your team!
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April 04th, 2018
What leaders can learn from my blender.
Insight can come from the most mundane tasks.
As photographer and author Chris Orwig said in his TEDx Talk, Finding the Magnificent in the Mundane, “beauty can be found in unexpected places… by savoring the moments in life.” The other day I paused while cleaning my blender and found meaning in a simple act - a metaphor which crystallized my thinking on an aspect of sustaining dramatic improvements in performance.
It’s always more efficient to "clean-as-you-go."
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