Neurodiversity and the ROI of Hiring Those Who Think Differently

By Jeff and Rick Miller

Articles and studies advocating diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace often cite the benefits of such initiatives on other business objectives. A 2016 Economist article noted that “Companies may starve themselves of talent” if they ignore diversity, while a recent piece in Forbes found that 85% of executives with diversity initiatives view those programs as “crucial for innovation.” A 2015 McKinsey study discovered that companies in the top quartile for diversity hiring were 35% more likely to outperform their competitors financially.

We can all agree that filling key roles successfully, improving innovation, and strengthening the bottom line are results any business would love to have. But while most large companies have pushed to be more inclusive in terms of race and gender, some pioneering firms are expanding their definition of diversity further—and enjoying impressive results.

Companies like SAP Software Solutions, Hewlett Packard (HP), and Ernst & Young (E&Y) are targeting individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as part of new “neurodiversity” recruitment programs. Individuals with ASD process information in ways that their neurotypical peers to not. They think differently. So do some of the companies that now employ them.

The results for these pioneering organizations have generally been very positive, and sometimes surprising. They include lower turnover as well as higher productivity and better overall employee engagement. HP has also had success with ASD employees in roles as diverse as product management and customer support, dispelling previously held notions about the social limitations of some ASD individuals. E&Y notes that they have seen their managers improve in their ability to get the most out of all employees by viewing individual differences as potential strengths. SAP has had such success that they have committed to the goal to make 1% of their workforce neurodiverse by 2020.

The neurodiversity programs themselves take time and expertise to construct. There have been some challenges and false starts for both employers and applicants. Interviewing and onboarding processes may need to be adjusted. Supervisor training and some amount of ongoing support are also critical. But organizations are springing up with the expertise to help companies who see these benefits and want to share in them.

This shift comes at a critical time. While overall unemployment is under 4%, ASD unemployment for college educated individuals is a staggering 80%. 50,000 new applicants with ASD attempt to enter the workforce each year. While misconceptions about this community persist, the data show that companies can benefit from broadening their inclusion programs if they adjust some of their current practices. Forward-thinking organizations have found they are well served to tap into this underrepresented source of talent. It’s good for the applicants and for the bottom line.

Could it be good for yours?

Jeff Miller is CEO and Founder of Potentia (potentiaworkforce.org), a social enterprise focused on matching top employers with talented applicants on the autism spectrum.

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Why Is Sammy’s House So Special?

Conventional wisdom tells us to look toward the most accomplished among us for inspiration, motivation, and life lessons. We are seemingly obsessed by those who have “made it” and what they had to do to get “there.” How did they get to that “level”? How did they make so much money? Or more recently, how did they get so many “likes”?

It is also common practice for many to be influenced by the most physically attractive among us. We give a lot of attention to those who haven’t done anything other than simply be born with attributes that our culture finds appealing.

And as a result of conventional thinking and common practice, many of us are missing something really important. We are missing the opportunity to learn from some of the most special teachers on the planet. I was missing it too until I met Melissa.

I’ve told the story before in a prior article and in a TED talk, but when I met this amazing six-year old girl with cerebral palsy I didn’t know the impact this teacher would have on the rest of my life. She opened my eyes to something I hadn’t seen before. This little girl in a wheelchair was more powerful than most people I’d ever met.

Perhaps the world’s most special teachers are those who have had to face the biggest challenges and those who don’t get the societal benefits of looking like professional models as they do it.

When I first learned about Sammy’s House is Austin, Texas, I was struck by their mission to serve and support families of the most challenged kids in the special needs community. From care for infants and preschoolers, to grade school summer classes, to continuing education and support for parents whose divorce rate skyrockets due the unique stresses of a special needs child, founder Isabel Huerta and her amazing team work miracles every day.

When visiting Sammy’s House, I learned that the staff designed each class such that 75% of the kids have two and three levels of major challenges and 25% of the kids are typically developing peers. Why? Because the staff has learned that the 75% will actually push themselves harder to get closer to the performance of the 25% with a “reverse inclusion” model, while the 25% benefit from an optimized learning environment. Amazing. And while all the kids learn from Sammy’s outstanding staff, the staff was clearly learning from all the kids as well. It aligned with everything that Melissa had taught me.

And it became a no-brainer for me to donate 100% of all author proceeds from my book Be Chief, in honor of Melissa, to such a special place that supports such special people.

I also encourage you to consider three choices:

  1. Buy a bunch of books to help your network become more powerful as you help Sammy’s House.
  2. Make a personal donation to Sammy’s House to support their important work.
  3. Hold a local fundraiser to raise money and visibility for Sammy’s House.

Wouldn’t it be great if we followed Isabel Huerta’s dream as many followed Danny Thomas’ dream that started years ago at St. Jude’s? Who knew then that St. Jude’s would grow into an iconic institution supporting kids with cancer, and their families, with fundraisers across the country. Why not Sammy’s House, too?

In any event, I hope you consider rejecting conventional wisdom and common practice and perhaps thinking differently about those with special challenges and what they have to teach the rest of us.

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Time to Set Another Goal

The Tuesday after Labor Day (today) in the United States always feels like New Year’s Day to me. The slower days of summer vacations are behind us, and the pace of work (and for many, school) jumps into high gear. And like on January 1st, many people use the turn of the calendar to set new goals.

If you’re like me, you wake up this Tuesday morning feeling like the energy all around you is up a notch. Everywhere you look people seem to be in a bigger hurry to get where they are going. And many of us are re-assessing where we are going and how to get there.

They may not be called resolutions like they are after the ball drops in Times Square in four months, but action-item lists will be on the rise just like gym memberships.

For me, this particular day after Labor Day is really significant because it’s the publish date of my new book Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title. I’ve written before about the 10-year journey that started with an article in O, The Oprah Magazine, and blogged about the amazing people this project brought into my life, like the amazing Spencer Johnson, author of Who Moved My Cheese and so many other great books.

So as I reach a long-time goal I’m feeling the need to set another. And as I do, I’d like to share my simple wish for all of us who are setting new goals and objectives.

Let’s set the goal to do better connecting what we do to who we are. Let’s set goals that “fit” us better.

There is no lack of voices around each of us, ready at a moment’s notice to tell us what we could or should do or be. There’s no doubt that spinning class or that kickboxing gym might get you to meet new people and get you in better shape. But if spinning and kickboxing aren’t your thing, go find something else that is your thing. And stop feeling guilty about it. (BTW, I do enjoy kickboxing training with a former MMA fighter!)

As for me, here’s my goal: I’m going to be more me.

Good luck with yours.

Or, good luck being more you.

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The Importance of Being

When I recently saw a post by Richard Branson titled How to Be Happy, I smiled while reading about his focus on being. I was reminded of a conversation I’d had years earlier with gifted creative Michael Black on the importance of the concept of being. Michael had taken upon himself to offer a new brand for my message and my company. After investing considerable time learning about who I was, what I did, and how I did it … he nailed it. And ever since my company has served others under the name of Being Chief.

It’s been interesting to note in subsequent years how many more people have commented on the word Chief, as opposed to the word Being. Perhaps it’s because Being is the more challenging of the two.

Our culture sends us lots of positive messaging around taking action. Everyone is always telling others to “get going,” often independent of a well-thought-out sense of direction. As a result, we confuse activity with progress. It’s a common problem and the main priority of the Being Chief philosophy.

Being Chief is about connecting your doing to your being. More specifically, it’s about developing your own compass to help you determine the direction you want to go.

At the center of your compass are your chosen values. Those values are rooted in your choices to be your unique self. But there aren’t as many people who will suggest you slow down to learn who you are as there are telling you to speed up.

So, I will.

If you’d like to stop confusing activity with progress, make choices to strengthen your being. Here are five:

  1. Be Present. When you choose to be present, you can use all of your senses to learn everything possible about the current moment. Specifically, when you give 100 percent of your attention to the people you spend time with, you’ll find that your relationships become much more fulfilling. Don’t think about your next meeting or get distracted by your phone. Keep your attention on what’s in front of you.
  2. Be Still. Contrary to many Western cultural norms, perhaps our most important choice is to develop the deeper understanding and truth that comes with being still. To maintain inner balance, choose the tranquility and peace of stillness. In that peaceful state, you will develop the ability to trust and have confidence in your own leadership and voice.
  3. Be Accepting. When you choose to accept people and circumstances for who and what they are, you can escape the frustration of trying to change them. When you take a nonjudgmental approach, you open yourself up to learning from all situations and every individual. When you accept your current reality with a certain degree of detachment, you will find that solutions come to you with a fraction of the effort otherwise required.
  4. Be Generous. When you choose to be charitable with your possessions, money, and time, you will experience inner satisfaction despite “having less.” When you are kind, helpful, encouraging, and gentle with others, the team around you will align. You may even feel aligned with a higher purpose. Try to balance giving with receiving to eliminate much of the possibility of arrogance; this way you can remain genuinely humble.
  5. Be Grateful. It is easy to be grateful when things are going well. It takes inner strength and composure to remain grateful when facing life’s inevitable difficult periods, especially when pressures from colleagues or board members mount. Try to remain appreciative of the opportunity to learn lessons from the challenges you face. As a leader, these challenges will only make you stronger.

Before you take your next action, consider how you will be as you take that action. The choice is yours to make a greater impact simply by being.

 

If you’re reading this blog soon after it posted, and you haven’t yet checked out my book, Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title, now is a great time to order. It comes out next week!

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What Are SDGs and Why Should We Care?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been around for over a half century. Generally, CSR has come to include six types of corporate social initiatives:

  • Corporate philanthropy – company donations to charity
  • Community volunteering – company-organized volunteer activities
  • Cause promotions – company-funded advocacy campaigns
  • Cause-related marketing – donations to charity based on product sales
  • Corporate social marketing – company-funded behavior-change campaigns
  • Socially-responsible business practices – ethically produced products and services

With the exception of the few companies truly engaging in the last initiative (socially-responsible business practices), until recently most companies have administered their CSR program from the staff side of things in human resources or public relations departments. It simply hasn’t been central to line operations in most organizations.

Oh my, how the world has changed.

Today, constituencies including customers, employees, shareowners, and the community at large take great interest in CSR. And for the last several years a fast-growing number of companies have stepped up to an even higher bar—Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SDG > CSR 

The Sustainable Development Goals, set by the United Nations in 2015, are 17 bold, broad-based goals that cover social and economic development issues.

Here are the SDGs:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and well-being
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption, and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land
  • Peace, justice, and strong institutions
  • Partnerships for the goals

There are 169 specific targets that, if reached, accomplish all 17 goals. While somewhat overlapping, the SDGs are gaining momentum and attention.

Employees, customers, shareowners, and the community at large increasingly care about these issues. As a result, companies are increasingly caring too.

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Powering Through Friendly Fire

Challenges from inside your own company can require you to be powerful.

When Mike Armstrong joined AT&T as CEO years ago, change accelerated at the company. He had inherited an organization that was ill equipped to deal with the competitive threats. Mike began an acquisition phase to add the people and other assets he needed to compete on all fronts. As part of the change, Mike also shifted several executives into new jobs.

When it was my time to meet with Mike, he opened the meeting with news that made me want to shout out loud. “Rick, you’ve done a great job and I think you can do more to help the company. I’d like you to become Global Services President.” I was tasked to lead a 10,000-person organization that generated close to $12 billion in worldwide revenue. I was happy and stunned at the same time.

I knew that leading a Global unit was going to be a challenge, but I had a secret weapon. I had a compass. I knew the key to success was to build a team of Chiefs, but there were many things I could not know.

From outside the company, I couldn’t know that our primary competitor, MCI/Worldcom, was engaged in illegal activities, giving them unfair advantages in the market that would result in their CEO going to jail. From inside the company, I couldn’t know that my biggest challenge would come from my own boss. This is when I learned that my compass would help me deal with “friendly fire.”

Mike needed lots of cash to pay for the acquisitions he wanted to make in the consumer segment of the market. He turned to the business segment for that cash—and our new benchmark for success was Worldcom.

To my boss’s credit, he pushed back on Mike and asked for more reasonable targets and accurately carried the message that Worldcom’s aggressive pricing seemed inconsistent with their quarterly reports of improving revenues and margins. Unfortunately, nobody was listening, and my job in Global was about to get a lot harder.

My first blow came when the business segment was burdened with irrational growth targets and expense cuts that needed to be distributed among the business sub-segments. For reasons known only to my boss, he chose to place a disproportionately high level of the expense cut load—a 50 percent headcount reduction—on Global Services just one month into my new assignment.

Blow number two came shortly after when I learned the company had decided to move some of Global’s largest accounts into a new international joint venture with partner British Telecom. We now needed to convince a number of my Global Service customers, and the employees who served them, that joining this new entity would be preferable to remaining with AT&T.

Blow number three came with a decision to transition account control from Global Services to the separate AT&T Solutions unit for all outsourcing contracts, and I felt like my head was spinning. This new direction would have a major negative impact on my team’s earnings.

Finally, when my boss chose to move smaller Global Service accounts to yet another unit, I felt like a knockout had been delivered. In this case, customers would need to adjust to a reduced level of service and build new relationships with a new group of AT&T leaders, creating a great opportunity for a competitor to step in.

Any one of these adjustments would have been challenging for a unit to absorb. Together, they signaled to the entire organization that Global Services was being taken apart. It did not take long for rumors to start circulating that my boss was behind the effort to dismantle the organization. Everyone was nervous.

How could we succeed and build a team of Chiefs when everyone thought the organization was being taken apart? In Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title I describe what we did to drive record levels of employee engagement in spite of this dire situation, but it was every bit as important for me personally to “keep my head.” And my compass was the key.

Looking back now, the influence and impact I needed to have with my team could only be generated from inside me. Help wasn’t coming from anywhere else. It was the support I provided for my team that kept my influence strong, just as it was the internal and external creativity I demonstrated daily that preserved my ability to have an impact on my team.

To keep me strong, I focused in three areas. To keep my energy high I focused on staying present, increased my daily meditation routine, and worked to accept the situation as it was. To keep my clarity I focused on the vision I had for Global and on the strategy and tactical plans that I could control to realize that strategy. And to keep my confidence, I reminded myself regularly about the values I stood for and took great comfort that I was living them.

At the end of the year, Global Services was indeed split apart, and we did miss the growth targets that had been established for us based on the misinformation of our primary competitor. We did have a large number of our team members select the voluntary force reduction plan and many more follow their clients to units outside of Global.

But employees who remained with Global sent a clear message to senior management by responding to the employee engagement survey that year with the highest engagement and confidence in unit management scores in AT&T history.

And with energy, influence, clarity, confidence, and impact I remained true to myself. I’m grateful for the experience.

How powerful are you?

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Be All-In! Here’s How

Ever since my first blog on the topic of All-In Leadership in 2011, the concept has led readers to ask for more. I obliged with blogs on All-In Women Leaders, 10 Reasons to Be All-In at Work, 12 Ways All-In Leadership Increases the Value of Any Team Meeting, and All-In Leadership—NOW!

The All-In concept advocates that we all have leadership potential, but too many of us are looking to others to lead. We need to stop looking “up” when we all should be looking in. All-In Leadership is a term I use to remind all of us about our individual choice to lead and how we can best approach this opportunity to be more powerful today.

But your feedback has been consistent: Rick, can you make it easier for me to see my All-In choices? Well at long last I can say YES!

I’ve just added a simple tool to my website that can provide you with a super-quick way to assess how All-In (powerful) you are today, and to decide what you might change to be more All-In tomorrow.

All-In Power

I believe that All-In power comes when we connect what we do to who we are. All-In power is comprised of five elements that can be found in every one of us:

  • Clarity – the quality of being certain or definite in a process or course of direction.
  • Influence – the capacity to have an effect on the development or behavior of someone or something.
  • Energy – the drive and vitality to live and engage fully.
  • Confidence – the feeling of self-assurance that comes from an understanding of one’s own priorities, abilities, and qualities.
  • Impact – the strong and/or immediate sway on someone or something.

I believe strongly in equality and that these opportunities can be available to everyone. I also believe we are all connected and that when we go All-In it affects those around us.

All-In Power Spreads

Research supports my view that once anyone in a group goes All-In, the chance that others will too increases.

Specifically, research has found that positive emotions spread from person to person in a work environment. An individual’s or group’s emotion plays a strong role in the behavior of an organization. Studies show that positive mood or emotion enhances creative problem solving, cooperation, decision quality, overall performance, the search for creative solutions, and confidence in being able to achieve positive outcomes. One study by Yale researcher Sigal Barsade, PhD, found that a spread of positive emotion is associated with improved cooperation, decreased conflict, and better task performance at work.

I’ll close this blog with the same paragraph that closed my first All-In blog 7 years ago: “All-In Leadership also requires courage. The serious challenges we face individually and collectively can feel daunting if they fall to only a few to solve. We need leadership from senior executives, group managers, and individual contributors. Together, our combined leadership capabilities and skills can make the difference. Why not start today?

Take the survey to get started!

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Do You Know When to Quit?

“Never give up.” “Persistence alone is omnipotent.” “When the going gets tough . . . ” and on and on. Our culture is awash in historical reminders to keep our “nose to the grindstone” until the job gets done. We’ve gotten good at the hustle. But the truth is that our culture doesn’t know when to quit, literally.

What if the best decision is to give up? In his book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit, Seth Godin reminds us of the strategies that can help us stop working in a dead-end job or project. There are times when it’s best to cut your losses.

The business world understands how the law of diminishing returns works; at some point additional investments of time, money, and resources are not justified by the return. The best strategy in many cases is simply to stop.

But how will you know when to quit?  The answer is to focus on two costs, and ignore a third.

Opportunity Costs

In The Dip, Godin suggests it is time for “strategic quitting” when the opportunity costs are greater than the benefits of continuing on your current path. An opportunity cost is a big deal. But what is it?

An opportunity cost is the value of what you’d lose by not pursuing a better alternative. As I shared in my recent TED talk, I decided to quit my job as President of Global Services at AT&T when it became clear that the benefit of staying wasn’t as high as the benefit of doing something else. The result of leaving in fact became the opportunity to run an internet startup that gave me a very different set of skills and experience that are critical to my current role today.

Figuring out what you could do at any point isn’t easy, but it’s crucial.

Personal Costs

Sometimes, we wrap too much of our own ego into a project to be able to step back and say with conviction, “It’s time to quit.” But, according to research from Northwestern University cited in a recent New York Times article, “. . . when we discard unrealistic goals and switch to alternate goals we’re happier, physically healthier, and less stressed.”

That means separating failure from your sense of self-worth and viewing it as a needed stepping stone to success. Such a perspective can help you calculate personal costs you’ve already invested into a project.

Sunk Costs

While opportunity and personal costs are often difficult to quantify, it’s a third set of costs—sunk costs—that are the easiest to quantify and, as a result, often become the biggest problems.

As people get overly invested in the decisions they’ve made in the past, sunk costs from the past loom larger than they should as we look forward. The best advice I can offer regarding sunk costs is, ignore them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Translation: Know when to cut your losses and go build something better.

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Meditate at Work

“Don’t Meditate at Work.” When I read that headline in the print version of last Sunday’s New York Times I was stunned. The online version of the article’s title went even farther by asserting, “Hey Boss, You Don’t Want Your Employees to Meditate.”

“Mindfulness meditation, a Buddhism-inspired practice in which you focus your mind entirely on the current moment, has been widely embraced for its instrumental benefits—especially in the business world,” write authors Kathleen Vohs and Andrew Hafenbrack.

“A central technique of mindfulness meditation . . . is to accept things as they are [emphasis mine]. And the very notion of motivation—striving to obtain a more desirable future—implies some degree of discontent with the present, which seems at odds with a psychological exercise that instills equanimity and a sense of calm.”

To support their view, the authors share that they conducted five studies to see whether there was “a tension between mindfulness and motivation.” They report in a forthcoming article in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes that they found strong evidence that “meditation is demotivating.”

But as a mindfulness meditation advocate and business turnaround specialist, I simply could not disagree more with that generalization. Here’s why:

Apple, Google, Nike, and other leading companies encourage brief meditations during the day to increase mindfulness. The authors do acknowledge that fact. They also acknowledge “the practical payoff of mindfulness is backed by dozens of studies linking it to job satisfaction, rational thinking and emotional resilience.” These factors all increase the important factor of employee engagement. They have also been proven to reduce health care costs.

Additionally, along with all of these proven benefits, the author’s studies conclude that meditation had no impact on performance.

The study participants were less motivated simply because they weren’t concerned with the future or the past. They were engaged in the moment. In fact, the study “showed that mindfulness enabled people to detach from stressors, which improved task focus.”

Essentially, the study participants still got their work done, and under a state of calm and serenity.

The crux of the issue seems to come from differing views on the word acceptance.

In the view of many mindfulness experts, acceptance of “what is” allows individuals to channel their energy toward the change that they are committed to creating, as opposed to wasting energy on the needless frustration of whatever led to the current reality or what might result from it.

In my experience, with mindfulness people can both accept the reality of any situation and at the same time be totally motivated toward action to change the future.

My counsel: Don’t be misled by a headline. Mindfulness and meditation are both great tools that can lead to better health and greater productivity. While the scientists figure out exactly how and why mindfulness works (and the media continue to misconstrue those results), just know that it does work and is worth the effort.

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What Power Really Means to an Entrepreneur

How does an entrepreneur increase their power? If you believe, as some do, that power is all about title, position, authority, control, and supremacy, you’ll find it a challenge.

Entrepreneurs can give themselves any title or position they want. They have complete authority to do whatever they want whenever they want, and they have ultimate control.

Ask any successful entrepreneur how much time they spend thinking about this type of power and they will laugh. Because the answer is zero.

But ask these successful business people about the importance of energy, clarity, confidence, impact, and influence, and you’ll get a very different response. Entrepreneurs know their success is almost totally dependent on this definition of power.

In my work with many great entrepreneurs, we focus on how they can be powerful by increasing their:

  • Clarity with simple choices around discipline.
  • Influence with simple choices around supporting others.
  • Impact with simple choices around creativity.
  • Energy with simple choices around self-understanding and insight.
  • Confidence with simple choices around values.

Successful entrepreneurs are optimizers. They don’t have time to waste.

Entrepreneurs starting out don’t have the benefit of cadres of help. They need to be as powerful as possible.

How about you?

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Do We Need Another Executive Row Chief? No!

Should the C-suite make room for another Chief? According to Luis Gallardo, a global brand and marketing leader and author of the just-published book Brands and Rousers, companies should add a Chief Reason Officer (CRO) to executive row. I thought I had seen every Chief title possible, but I was wrong.

Luis makes his case in a recent Forbes article, where writer Bruce Rogers asks why companies need a CRO. Gallardo asserts, “[Companies] need to develop new executive positions like this in order to stay focused on their purpose and culture as progress occurs.”

While I’m one of the biggest advocates for added focus on purpose and culture, this is the craziest idea I’ve heard in a while. In my humble opinion, another executive position in the already crowded C-suite is the last thing companies need.

What we do need is more focus on the practices, skills, and tools required to enable all workers to be more agile in already top-heavy companies. And we need more investment in training, communication, and enabling technology that allows for broad decentralization, self-directed teams, and sustainable growth.

I’ve worked with teams that have consistently TRIPLED the growth rate of million- and billion-dollar organizations with just this approach.

More Chiefs do drive better results, and we need many more of them. Just not in executive row.

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Is Work-Life Balance the Wrong Goal?

My clients used to struggle with an issue that many people face. Both those with Chief titles and those without share the challenge of demanding jobs and a commitment not to let their jobs define them. At the same time, they constantly encounter the ever-present objective of “work-life balance.” We all do.

I’ve long relied on the wisdom of the book Sequencing by Arlene Rossen Cardoza, PhD, who wrote primarily for women. Her central premise was, “You can have it all, just not all at once.” In my work today, Dr. Cardoza’s words resonate with truth for both the men and women that I work with.

The Sequencing view is a longer-term view, one I believe makes the work-life balance issue finally attainable. Over decades, it’s logical to see life as a series of chapters in which different experiences fold together to create a book of a life well lived. With a longer view, there is time for marriage, family, care of children, career, care of parents, friends, travel, and personal growth.

Conversely, when the time horizon is “today” or “this week,” the work-life balance goal loses its utility, and many believe they are failing. But it doesn’t need to be that way. In my experience, a goal shift to “work-life integration” has offered my clients huge relief from what might be considered an otherwise impossible goal.

Many people view work-life balance as unattainable, offering up an image of the scales of justice with plates on either side that seek perfect symmetry; equilibrium only attained when things are still. But things are never still. More than that, many report a feeling of being judged by others or judging themselves with an unstated standard for what work-life balance should be. There are no shoulds.

Using the term work-life integration has proven to be helpful to my clients primarily for two reasons. First, it enables people to feel better about the constant change and seemingly accelerating pace of both work and life. Second, while the term balance brings up thoughts about a law of nature, the term integration brings with it a feeling of flexibility and permission.

Could a simple word choice help you? I hope so.

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Two Ways to Catch a Bus—Use Both

Military and business best practices have a lot in common:

  • Discipline
  • Commitment to teamwork
  • Focus on adapting to change
  • Seeming obsession of the top to meet the needs of those on the front lines
  • Focus on values and service

But many business leaders are missing out on one particular best practice in the military that would offer huge benefits—the after-action report process, a retrospective project evaluation used to determine effectiveness and efficiency, and propose adjustments and recommendations. It answers one question: What can we learn from the past that will help us be better in the future? In my work with Chiefs with and without titles, I encourage the adoption of this practice in business. In my view, it’s more important now than ever.

With the current “fail fast”/agile focus of many businesses today, managers are encouraged to move quickly forward. And while I am a fan of speed, experience has shown me that too much speed also has a downside—you don’t learn all you can from your mistakes.

I work with business leaders to integrate this valuable practice.

In fact, my counsel to business leaders at all levels often includes many lessons that may seem obvious, but part of my job is to help them retain and apply lessons that will help them succeed. Founder Tom Watson famously used a single word to guide managers at IBM to “Think.”

I often use the statement, “There are two ways to catch a bus: either leave early or run like hell,” toward the same goal. The understated message is, start early whenever you can. (At several client offices, managers distribute small buses as a reminder to employees to start early whenever possible.)

My clients also hold “bus reviews” to retrospectively discuss lessons learned after a project is completed. When did we run like hell, and could we have started out earlier to catch the bus? Growth and wisdom come from learning. And learning takes time.

When could you or your team benefit from a bus review?

There’s no doubt that there are times when running like hell is the only way to catch the bus. Companies should be comfortable failing fast and using speed as an asset. But there are also times when leaving early—and reviewing when leaving early could have made sense—is the best option.

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The Power of This Year’s Graduating Class

If you are a graduate celebrating this month or next, you have a lot to be proud of. You put in a lot of work to make it to the end. Congratulations! You should feel great. In fact, you should feel powerful. The power of this year’s graduating class is unconventional.

Power is traditionally associated with superiority, authority, title, position, and control. But in my view, this association is perhaps one of the biggest problems—and opportunities—we have today. Too many people are looking for the easy way out by asking others for answers to important questions when they should instead own the responsibility to take their own position.

I believe power is a choice available to everyone. My definition of power differs from conventional thought and aligns with what power really is today. To me power is clarity, influence, energy, confidence, and impact.

I created the Power Compass to show you how to increase real power in five main ways:

  1. Increasing discipline leads to increased clarity.
  2. Increasing support for others leads to more influence.
  3. Increasing insight and self-understanding leads to improved energy.
  4. Increasing alignment with your values leads to higher confidence.
  5. Increasing alignment of your creativity choices makes a bigger impact.

Members of the class of 2018 understand what real power is. And more importantly, whether you are a high school or college grad, increasingly you are using your power to effect change.

College campuses in the United States have long been places where individuals have challenged conventional power centers. More recently, high school students have joined the fight to challenge the status quo. My hope is that you keep it up. We need your clarity and energy to make us all better.

As you celebrate your accomplishments, remember to thank those who taught you what real power is. And wherever you go from here, please pay it forward.

The rest of us need you to be powerful.

Congrats to the graduating class of 2018!

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