Emerging Office Trend—No Offices!

Twenty years ago this month, Harvard Business Review wrote about the very latest in workplace trends for office space. At the time, innovative companies were adopting the Alternative Workplace Strategy of hoteling—the emerging office trend of dynamically scheduling the use of workspaces—as a means to saving money and working more efficiently. Under this approach, employees (particularly sales people and remote workers) were encouraged to limit their time in the office and share office work stations when they needed to come into the office.

The Harvard Business Review article highlighted my work as the initiator and implementer of this very approach at AT&T. In our situation, we needed money to invest in our employees, and headquarters said we needed to find it ourselves. We found it in hoteling.

Fast forward to today. With a commitment to sustainable growth and workforce flexibility, a new group of innovative companies is raising the bar again by utilizing enabling new technologies. I am honored to play a role at one of those companies, whose goal is even more aggressive: eliminate office space completely!

As a member of the Board of Directors of eXp World Holdings, I have had a front-row seat to the spectacle and brainchild of CEO and founder, Glenn Sanford. Significantly, his vision for an agent-focused real estate company included the seemingly radical idea of an organization without offices.

The company describes their virtual world this way:

“eXp World is the eXp Realty online interactive campus. Agents from across 49 states and 3 provinces in Canada as well as staff working around the globe create digital avatars that at first blush might remind you of popular video games like Minecraft or Fortnight. But in the fast-moving world of real estate, they aren’t playing games. Rather, agents visit virtual offices on a “campus” complex for support on everything from transactions in progress to IT support. Staff welcomes agents into these “offices” or may simply initiate a casual chat on a “bench” overlooking the “water.” 

Agents can embody the eXp core value of fun by dressing their look-alike avatars as they wish or even taking a speed boat out on the lake for a spin. Most of all, agents appreciate the flexibility of a virtual office space. As all of this communication is happening online, the participants are actually working from their home office or on the road. By providing this 24/7 access to tools, training, and socialization for real estate brokers, agents, and staff, eXp Realty carries no expensive leases and can reinvest in additional agent support and technology.”

This game-changing company has caught the attention of many media. What has been described as a “virtual reality real estate company” became very real this month when eXp joined the NASDAQ exchange—and flirted with its first billion-dollar valuation.

How might your company redirect the expense associated with bricks and mortar to better serve your clients, invest in your employees, and create sustainable growth for your firm?

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Was Fred Rogers a Chief?

If you believe, as I do, that Chiefs are people who impact others in their behavior, then TV star Fred Rogers would qualify as among the more impactful Chiefs during his 31 seasons in the spotlight.

The power of Fred Rogers will be in full display in an upcoming film on the 50th anniversary of his first TV show on PBS in 1968. The soft-spoken Rogers taught countless children both the importance of being the best they could be and how to do it. He was the antithesis of the hard-charging and domineering character of Chief Executive Officer Gordon Gecco presented in the movie Wall Street that many to this day would associate with the word “power.”

With a calming demeanor and an ever-present cardigan, Rogers created a place where millions came over decades to learn about their potential. He taught us self-reliance, and he helped us build lives in the real world by taking us to his Land of Make Believe. Working with hand-puppet characters that we came to know and love, Rogers helped us understand that everyone has doubts, and that everyone can work through those doubts and become confident. The characters in the Land of Make Believe showed us that while self-reliance is important, it is just as important to stay connected and serve others as a member of a community.

He also offered specific lessons on how to do it: Be generous. Be grateful. Be present.

But perhaps Fred’s most powerful lesson was that of acceptance. He taught us to accept ourselves and do the best we can with what we’ve got, and that we are okay as we are. He also taught us to accept everyone around us even though they may not look like us, talk like us, or believe what we do. Everyone else is okay as they are, too. These insightful lessons taught children to be powerful in the best possible ways. With this complete flexibility, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood felt like an inviting place for anyone to learn and grow.

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“We Change Best When We Are Strongest”

David Cooperrider is teaching an important course at Case Western Reserve University. As part of the school’s continuing education program, The New Change Equation: The 10 Most Powerful Change Management Tools offers an influential experience to help leaders bring out the best in human systems, rapidly and naturally. In The New Change Equation, David asserts, “We change best when we are strongest.” A key indicator of a company’s strength is the level of engagement of its employees.

David is a faculty director at the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. But he is perhaps best known as the author of Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change.

Then Secretary General of the United Nations, Nobel Laureate Kofi Annan, called upon David as an advisor and used appreciative inquiry to bring over 500 CEOs into a world summit at the UN. He shared, “Without your methodology of Appreciative Inquiry, it would have been very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to constructively engage so many leaders of business, civil society, and government.”

A UN leaders report for the Global Compact’s 8,000 corporations said, “Appreciative Inquiry is the best large group method in the world today.”

In our work at Being Chief, we have similarly focused on the conditions required to establish change-adaptive cultures as a prerequisite to create sustainable growth. Companies can only achieve sustainable growth when employees achieve it too.

The key is to help Chiefs at all levels to be fully engaged in their work, which will unlock their power. At their strongest, they will then be ready for change.

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8 Ways for Mr. Trump to Succeed as Chief

As the world anticipates the impact of Donald J. Trump’s ascension to the role of U.S. President and commander-in-chief, many wonder who the leader will rely on for counsel.

Potential candidates are lining up and include former federal and state officials, business leaders familiar to the president-elect, campaign staffers, and Trump family members.

Thankfully, president-elect Trump has already signaled major shifts away from several controversial positions that polarized voters and spread broad concern about the future moral authority long attributed to the world’s remaining superpower. The future has not been decided yet.

Optimistically, I’d like to suggest two sources of sage counsel for our future president. Each man is a true Chief, connecting what he does (with discipline, creativity, and support for others) to who he is (with insight and a strong commitment to values).

Separately, each has earned the respect of tens of millions of followers worldwide. Together, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have recently shared a simple eight-part plan for success in The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.

Specifically, they offer “Eight Pillars of Joy,” which provide a foundation for happiness in the face of obstacles such as fear, stress, anger, grief, illness, and death. If our new commander-in-chief adopts this wise guidance, I believe he will be more successful at bringing our nation together, a goal he has expressed.

How can this eight-part plan be applied to the most demanding job in the world? Here’s my take:

  • Perspective – Listen to the problems and worries of each group.
  • Humility – Understand that you may not have all the answers.
  • Humor – Be able to laugh at yourself once in a while.
  • Acceptance – Acknowledge your limits.
  • Forgiveness – Forgive those who have treated you badly and seek forgiveness from those you have treated badly.
  • Gratitude – Be grateful for how far you have come.
  • Compassion – Have empathy for each person you encounter, each group affected by your policies, and each nation you engage.
  • Generosity – Give more than you receive. Always.

As individuals, each of us needs to make our own contribution to the future of our neighborhoods and communities, and to the world at large. It is important for each of us to be Chief as well, connecting what we do to who we are. Everyone has a role in creating a better future.

Author Frank Outlaw offers all of us additional sage counsel as we mindfully do our part:

“Watch your feelings, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch or actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character; it will become your destiny.”

So as we look to the future, let’s remain hopeful about choices others will make and hold ourselves accountable for our own.

What will you do today to contribute to a better future for us all?

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What Could a Gymnastics Coach Teach Business Leaders about Sustainable Growth?

One of the biggest stories in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio is the dominance of the U.S. women gymnasts. In addition to capturing gold for team performance and gold and silver for top individual awards, many believe that program members who did not qualify for the U.S. team would have medaled in Rio if the U.S. team had been given more slots.

As the national team coordinator for the U.S. women’s gymnastics program since 2001, Márta Károlyi has built a program that evolved a team from not winning a team gold until 1996 to being the envy of the world.

As coordinator, Márta has overseen all aspects of the women’s national team, ranging from, among other duties, selecting the athletes for competitions to making specific recommendations about what routines are performed. As a result, they have captured the team title at the last two Olympics, and American women have won the individual all-around at the last four Summer Games.

The sustainable growth of the U.S. women’s gymnastics program could have as much to do with how Márta runs the program as what she does as coordinator. And I believe business leaders could learn a lot from her approach.

Specifically, in my view, Márta Károlyi runs her programs with i3k—intelligence, intensity, integrity, and kindness. And according to some sources, that last element has made a big difference.

When Márta  and her husband Béla defected to the United States from Romania in 1981, they came with a reputation as successful gymnastic program builders. Aspiring athletes were drawn to their Houston gym, which turned out excellent gymnasts. Márta and Béla were named as U.S. coaches for the 1996 Olympic Games, and the team delivered the country’s first team gold medal.

Poor team performance between 1997 and 1999 led USA Gymnastics to hire Béla as national team coordinator, but rumors of his severe treatment of athletes surfaced. A poor U.S. showing in the 2000 Games prompted the replacement of Béla with Márta  as national team coordinator.

By many accounts, Márta continued previous practices of hard work, high expectations, and no tolerance for shortcuts (e.g. illegal substances), but she also smartly brought innovation to the training regimen, allowing gymnasts to train independently while convening monthly in her Houston gym. She also brought a softer and more flexible approach to dealing with the athletes and their trainers.

According to The Washington Times, “Gold medal winner Simone Biles needed support on an emotional level, and her coach, Aimee Boorman, said Márta’s ability to be both demanding and flexible was critical to Biles’ success.”

And while Márta ’s “look of fierce concentration is most familiar to fans of the sport,” according to the Times, “Away from the floor, it gives way to a friendly smile and talk about cooking, family and travel as she walks through the family’s rustic home in the Sam Houston National Forest.”

It appears that a little kindness when added to the mix has brought Márta closer to her athletes and stronger, sustainable success for the program.

The results have been nothing short of amazing. And as Márta retires at the end of the Rio Olympics, U.S. Women’s gymnastics is on solid footing atop the world.

Well done Márta.

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Dad Was My First Chief

Chiefs are powerful, but in my view not for the reasons most believe. Real Chiefs don’t owe their influence to a title or a position given to them by others. Rather they earn their influence by the internal choices they make to connect what they do to who they are. I learned about real Chiefs from a mild-mannered, kind, hard-working introvert—my Dad.

Dad taught many lessons that helped me both personally and professionally. Three stand out:

Dad also taught me how to think about power in an unconventional way. As a trained human resource professional, he knew groups that succeeded understood four truths about how to harness team power and unlock team potential:

  1. People with titles have power (authority)
  2. People with and without titles have a different type of power (influence & energy)
  3. Everyone is at their best when they feel powerful
  4. Everyone is different and makes their own choices about exercising power

As I reflect back on the celebration of Father’s Day, gratitude is the word that comes to mind. And while I have been blessed to know, and learn from, many great Chiefs, Dad was the first.

Thanks Dad.

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What Makes Chief Lars Sørensen #1 Worldwide?

In a recent Harvard Business Review article Chief Executive Officer Lars Sørensen at Novo Nordisk was selected as the best performing CEO in the world. Why?

The simple answer is truly sustainable growth—and ranking methodology.

The ranking was based on a brand new HBR rating criteria that attempted to balance sustained financial performance (weighted at 80%) with a mix of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) measurements (weighted at 20%) for the first time. While many other publications offer CEO scorecards, ESG factors are typically left out of such rankings.

In the article Sørensen notes the true linkage between these factors, “Corporate social responsibility is nothing but maximizing the value of your company over a long period. In the long term, social and environmental issues become financial issues.”

While many could argue for a higher ESG weighting, simply adding a 20% factor had a big impact on several notable CEO’s.

For example, in 2014 Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earned the #1 ranking on this same list when HBR excluded ESG factors and used a solely financially oriented mix of total shareholder return and changes in market capitalization. This year, Jeff dropped to #87. Others were not as impacted.

Notably, John Chambers at CISCO made a small move from #3 in 2014 to #2 in 2015. And this year’s superstar Lars Sørensen moved to the top from his #6 position last year. That’s quite a jump.

This well-conceived and developed article serves the business community well in offering a fresh report card methodology for consideration.

The key points to take away have less to do with who ranks where and more to do with changing the definition of what success looks like.

To those who would prefer to continue using solely a short term financial report card, Sørensen offers the last word, “The business of business is business—but with a long-term perspective.”

Disclaimer: As a type-1 diabetic, Novo Nordisk products keep me alive. But my admiration for Lars goes beyond my personal need to my belief that with an ESG focus Novo Nordisk will help all of us thrive in generations to come.

In my view, Lars Sørensen will remain at the top of the rankings independent of the methodology chosen.

He is a true Chief.

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Learning Clarity from a Chief—Spencer Johnson

As a newly minted manager at Sperry Corporation in 1982, I got clarity on what to do and how to do it from Spencer Johnson. To be accurate, I also got it from Spencer’s co-author Ken Blanchard in their best-selling book The One Minute Manager. In three simple steps the authors offer the key to success in what others describe as the most challenging job around.

The book was instrumental in helping teams of Chiefs (including me) drive sustainable growth in million and billion dollar organizations. I still keep a first edition copy of the book on my desk at all times. Fifteen million others have purchased the book. Earlier this year, Spencer and Ken partnered again to produce a completely updated book, The New One Minute Manager, a must-read for all managers.

Among other gifts, Spencer has an amazing ability to simplify the complex. Called “the king of parables” by USA Today, Dr. Johnson is often referred to as being the best there is at presenting complex subjects as simple solutions that work. His brief books contain valuable insights and practical tools that millions of people use to enjoy more happiness and success with less stress.

Facing one of the largest turnaround assignments of my career as President of AT&T Global Services at the end of 1998, I again got clarity from Spencer—this time on how to best handle change. Who Moved My Cheese? provides seven powerful principles that enable people to thrive amid rapidly accelerating change.

We utilized these principles to help drive record levels of employee and client loyalty while doubling our growth rate in a complex $12B business, despite major internal disruption and rapidly shifting market forces. Time magazine called the book “the best-selling business book of all time,” with 26 million copies sold. It remains a critical resource for leaders today, at work and at home.

Most recently, I’ve been working toward my own book. Having self-published two traditional books and an e-book, and contributed to yet another book with partners Jack Canfield, Deepak Chopra, and others, I didn’t consider myself a newly minted author. Already four years into the project, I thought I was close to the end of the process—until I sat down with Spencer and gained yet more clarity.

Spencer kindly spent time with me up at his New England home and asked me great questions. As a result, my book’s focus got a lot sharper. BEING CHIEF became BE CHIEF. Sections were cut, and whole new ideas have been generated. The book offers choices in five key areas and pragmatic tips to help anyone step up to the power of being a Chief.

I am currently following the checklist that Spencer has used to deliver thirteen New York Times best sellers and over 50 million book sold. Publish date for BE CHIEF is now 2016.

One book on management, one book on change, and one book on power—two by Spencer Johnson and one greatly influenced by him. Thank you Spencer. Clarity is a beautiful thing.

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Business Lessons from Chief Educators

The media is full of stories about business Chiefs and the pressures they are under to perform. At every turn, Chiefs are faced with changing requirements, inadequate resources, technology shifts, limited time, high stakes, and even higher expectations. These challenges parallel those of a less touted yet equally important group: educators.

In my view, business Chiefs would do well to take a page out of the notebook of leading Chief educators. I have a specific group in mind: the educators supported by the Griffin Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) outside of Atlanta Georgia. Recently I had the privilege of offering a keynote at their 6th annual summer meeting of education leaders. The theme of this year’s conference was Improving Performance Through Effective Leadership.

The conference was conceived by Dr. Stephanie Gordy, Griffin RESA Executive Director, with the intention to share best practices among leaders in the agency’s targeted eight counties. Over 200 amazing teachers and administrators were in attendance, including many from the other 151 counties in Georgia as word has spread about the conference’s value.

The two-day conference provided a framework for success that would provide a positive impact for any company. In this case, the balanced focus was on teachers (think: employees) and students (think: customers). The similarities to business practices were apparent. Among the sessions offered were:

Engaging Your School Community to Improve Results
Leadership Doesn’t Always Come from the Front Office – Cultivating Your Teacher Leaders
Changing the Culture of How Children Learn
Strategies to Regain Teacher Time
Tech Tips for Timesavers
Strategies for Successful Mentoring
Improving Performance through Impactful Communication
Increasing Achievement via Support Systems

Many of these topics are aligned with my own views on what it means to be Chief. Spending time with these committed professionals was a reminder in servant leadership, discipline, teamwork, life-long learning, perseverance, walking the talk, values, and kindness. It was an honor to keynote their conference, and it reinforced my belief that we have much to learn from educators.

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Aetna’s Unconventional Chief is Setting the Pace

Mark Bertolini is in the process of transforming a once stodgy insurance company into one of the most progressive companies in America, according to a recent New York Times article. Aetna’s Chief is succeeding on all fronts with a foundational approach to implementing programs that offer an unconventional level of employee support.

Bertolini has offered all 50,000 Aetna employees free yoga and mindfulness courses as part of an effort to create a healthier company by creating healthier employees—13,000 have taken advantage of the offer so far. The newsworthy mindfulness program delivers on Aetna’s core mission of “building a healthier world” and demonstrates their values of integrity, excellence, caring, and inspiration.

But that’s just part of the story.

To me the bigger takeaway is the extension of Aetna’s mindful service orientation to all of its constituencies under Chief Bertolini. I share a number of examples here.

For employees Aetna has delivered:

  • Increased pay by 33% for the firms lowest paid employees
  • Reduced out-of-pocket health care expenses for all employees

For customers and partners Aetna has delivered:

  • Leading solutions for—and with—government, employers, providers and individual consumers

For shareowners Aetna has delivered:

  • Industry leading revenue growth (14% CAGR) and earnings per share growth (15% CAGR)
  • Better total shareowner returns than any competitor with a tripling of the stock price

For the greater communities in which they serve Aetna has delivered:

  • Consistent improvement against aggressive targets in areas of land usage, transportation, water efficiency, building efficiency, ozone protection, renewable energy, air quality, and waste management

In short, Aetna’s mindful approach to their employee base is consistent with their service-oriented approach to all involved groups. Chief Bertolini is an unconventional Chief setting the pace for others in his industry, and in many ways, for the many other companies searching for role models who mindfully deliver on their mission.

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The Most Important CTO

When I refer to “CTO,” does Chief Technology Officer come to mind? Or maybe Chief Training Officer? How about Chief Tax Officer? You might be surprised to learn that I am referring to another CTO—the most important CTO. In my opinion, the MVPs among CTOs are Chief Talent Officers. Often referred to as CHROs (Chief Human Resource Officers) or EVPs or SVPs of Human Resources, Chief Talent Officers lead teams that can make a sustainable difference in the performance of any group.

Having just returned from a national summit of Fortune 1000 CHROs/CTOs hosted by EVANTA where I was asked to speak, I was reminded again of lessons my Dad taught me over 50 years ago: Results come when relationships come first.

Spending time at the summit with top talent/human resource professionals was enlightening. In the company of the very best in their field, I was struck both by the quality of their respective best practices but also by their willingness to openly share over the course of two days.

Some highlights:

Chief Cynthia Trudell kicked off the session by describing how PepsiCo faces its “talent conundrum” by building a world-wide talent pool that can operate across a complex and evolving global marketplace.

Mark Reid shared some of the great work being done at USAA to earn amazing employee engagement results, unleashing the creativity of its talented workforce.

Susana Suarez and Glenn Gilkey shared Fluor Corporation’s strategy for their Human Resources organization to be its very best, including a strong focus on professional development.

Michael D’Ambrose from Archer Daniels Midland made a powerful case for companies to step up to their social responsibility to support future talent and help the million high school students who do not graduate each year.

Marissa Andrada offered insights from Starbucks where they have established a new relationship with their talent by shifting to a successful partnership that has positively impacted their bottom line.

Jeri Buchholz provided an inside view on supporting innovation at NASA.

Alejandro Quiroz led a great discussion on what it’s like to partner with a great CTO/CHRO organization at Whirlpool where innovative approaches help them with global workforce challenges.

Breakout sessions were led by an equally impressive set of Chiefs including Dean Carter at Sears, John McMahon at Cumberland Gulf, Peggy Pego at PSEG, Regis Mulot at Staples, Shibu Varghese at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, among others.

My talk focused on choices each Chief can make to be their very best, even in tough times. I offered my All-In Roadmap to the attendees as a tool for unlocking their potential and the potential in their teams. From their feedback it was clear my message struck a chord, and I was grateful to have served such a distinguished audience.

It is clear that the market success enjoyed by each of these industry leading companies can be tied, in large measure, to their respective focus on talent and their obsession to deliver for and through their employees. I applaud their tenacity and dedication.

CTOs (Chief Talent Officers, including leaders with other titles who focus on talent) rule!

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Missing Warren Bennis—A True Chief

The following thoughts are extracted and inspired from Warren Bennis’ New York Times obituary by Glenn Rifkin printed on August 2, 2014.

The world lost what Harvard Business School Professor Bill George called the “father of leadership” when distinguished author, consultant, and professor Warren Bennis died on July 31.

A distinguished professor of business administration for more than 30 years at the University of Southern California, and author of over 30 leadership books, Bennis believed in the adage that great leader are not born but made. Indeed, great leaders, whom I call Chiefs, are made by their choices. Warren Bennis was a real Chief. “The process of becoming a leader is similar, if not identical, to becoming a fully integrated human being,” Bennis has stated. He was also among the first who believed in leadership tenets that are now widely followed, including the following:

We need leaders who can connect what they do to who they are. Bennis has said, “The leader never lies to himself, especially about himself, knows his flaws as well as his assets, and deals with them directly.” It takes insight to be able to know oneself in this way, and it makes for outstanding leadership.

We need leaders to face corporate corruption by building trust from the inside out. Creating a culture of individual accountability—again, through the development of insight—is the key to rebuilding trust.

We need high-quality training at the nation’s business schools. While ethics training in school is a good start, leaders must double-down on the job as well, with consistent actions to ensure that a culture of ethical behavior is the most visible attribute in an organization.

Warren Bennis also remained optimistic about the next wave of business leaders, labeling it “the Crucible Generation.” Because the incoming leaders are inheriting a complex global environment, they will better understand the territory in which they lead, Bennis thought. These young leaders are just in time, as the world faces challenges that will put them to the test.

If more leaders follow the advice of Warren Bennis, I, too, remain optimistic about the future of business. Bill George put it best, “Warren’s legacy will be found in the leadership of the people he touched personally with inspiration, kindness, and thoughtful mentoring.” Luckily, he has also left a large body of work for new generations of leaders on how to succeed. Warren will be missed.

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Zappos’ Holacracy—A Brilliant New Idea or Not Necessary?

Did you see the news that Zappos announced it is abolishing bosses? Zappos refers to their “new” approach as holacracy, and it’s already being heralded as tech’s latest new management craze. In summary, holacracy is management by committee with an emphasis on innovation—even the CEO formally relinquishes authority by agreeing to a constitution and reorganizing everyone into decentralized teams that choose their own roles and goals.

The objective of holacracy is to unleash the potential of every employee to behave like a Chief. While I am a huge fan of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, in my view this organization design is not new, nor is it required to unlock employee potential. Here’s why.

Holacracy is Not New

I recall a sales review I did almost 20 years ago as a Regional Vice President at Unisys Corporation. During a forecasting session, a sales representative told me he had no idea when a computer sale would close because his customer made all decisions by committee. That’s when I first learned about a company named W.L. Gore.

The sales rep told me that founders Bill and Vieve Gore started W. L. Gore & Associates in 1958. The company initially served the electronic products market. The company’s 1969 discovery of a versatile new polymer led to the development of many new applications in medical, fabric, and industrial markets.

What distinguished Gore from its start in 1958 was its innovative management structure. Specifically, it has never utilized traditional managers, titles, or budgets, and it has always been very wary about economies of scale. Amazingly, their CEO has never been appointed by the board, but instead has been chosen by peers. The Gore culture expects every associate to act as a Chief. As a result, what has Gore accomplished?

Today, Gore is one of the 200 largest privately held U.S. companies with 10,000 employees (called associates) and more than $3 billion in revenue. In 2014, Gore retained its position as a member of the U.S. “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, as one of the few earning this distinction every year since the ranking was initiated in 1984. Gore has been granted more than 2,000 patents worldwide in a wide range of fields, including electronics and polymer processing, and has had more than 35 million of its medical devices implanted, saving and improving the quality of lives worldwide.

If it’s so successful, should every company move to holacracy?

Holacracy is Not Necessary

In my experience, neither Zappos’ holacracy nor Gore’s committee structure is required to enable companies to create a culture of Chiefs, in which individual potential is unlocked. I have personally worked in a wide range of companies and company structures that delivered great results with cultures that enabled every associate to act as a Chief. For example, an internet startup facing a market crash grew revenue from $1M to $11M in just a year, and a multinational tripled its revenue growth rate from 5 to 15%, growing to $5B while facing intense market competition. In each case, both employee and customer satisfaction reached new levels.

The keys to success can be found in Jim Heskett’s and John Kotter’s book Corporate Culture and Performance. First published more than 20 years ago, it provides great insights on how any leader in any company can build a culture of Chiefs.

Heskett and Kotter offer specific, research-based advice on how to create performance-enhancing, change-adaptive cultures where Chiefs lead at all levels. They focus on actions (discipline, support, and creativity) and attributes (insight and values) that unlock employee potential, drive innovation, and lead to sustained success:

10 Specific Ways to Build a Culture of Chiefs in Any Company

  • Establish a vision for the organization that emphasizes consistent tactical adjustments
  • Communicate consistently and broadly
  • Display an “outsiders” propensity to embrace change and new ideas
  • Reinforce the importance of innovation
  • Build and maintain an “insiders” credibility
  • Establish leadership or the ability to produce change as an important focus at all levels
  • Decentralize decision making where possible
  • Promote carefully, and demote when necessary
  • Operate as a servant leader

The bottom line: success comes from an engaged employee group in which individuals at every level are empowered to act as Chiefs. This culture can be created in any organization with the right attention and intention.

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A Grand Strategy—Five Questions

The following information is offered as a restatement of the ground-breaking work of Patrick C. Doherty, Director, and Col. Mark “Puck” Mykleby USMC (ret), Senior Fellow, both at the New America Foundation.

1. What is the reality of our current and growing challenges, including recession, depletion, inclusion, and resilience?

  • The U.S. macro-economy is in a deleveraging, not a cyclical, downturn. The spiral has been contained, not solved, by extraordinary federal intervention. Demand has shifted away from the Cold War-era, U.S. economic engine.
  • The climate is warming. Two-thirds of ecosystem services are being depleted (e.g., soil, fish, and forests). Three of nine planetary boundaries (carbon, nitrogen, and biodiversity loss) have been crossed.
  • Three billion people will be entering the global middle class in 20 years. Commodity prices are already at or near all-time highs. Access to energy, water, food, and minerals is driving conflicts between major economies.
  • Critical systems, supply chains, and infrastructure (bridges, roads, and energy grids) lack resilience. U.S. infrastructure is $2.2T in arrears.

2. Is there a Grand Strategy that could address all of these national and global issues, built on a foundation of historical research?

Yes. During both WWII and the Cold War, Washington shaped the economy to do the heavy lifting, out-producing the Axis and outperforming and outlasting the Soviets. These earlier versions of a Grand Strategy aligned our economic engine, governing institutions, and foreign policy to meet the global challenge of the era.

3. What would a modern Grand Strategy plan look like for both the sustainable economic engine and the required foreign policy focus to meet today’s challenges? It would:

  • Create new demand by focusing on mega-trends in communities, agriculture, and productivity.
  • Utilize record corporate cash reserves and other underperforming assets.
  • Leverage stranded human capital, infrastructure, and ecological assets.
  • Develop new global partnerships that facilitate regional economic blocs.
  • Assure security with consistent U.S. strategic behavior ensuring predictable regional economic transitions.

4. What could happen if the United States stepped up again with a Grand Strategy?

  • The U.S. economic house would be in order with widespread prosperity and public revenue.
  • U.S. interests would be aligned with major economies and partners.
  • A positive narrative of America’s role would restore global credibility.
  • Greater citizen participation and trust in government would return.
  • Price signals would reshape global markets toward sustainability.
  • Agile U.S. firms would receive early-adopter trade advantage.
  • Tensions over resources would be reduced.
  • Ecological depletion would slow.
  • Vulnerability to geopolitical disruption would lower.

5. Would you be interested in learning more?

For a video of Patrick and Puck sharing the central messages of their Grand Strategy, go to bit.ly/GrandStrategy. Patrick is scheduled to present the Grand Strategy in November at the SRI (Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing) Conference. Or connect with either of these superstars at doherty@newamerica.net or mykleby@newamerica.net.

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The World’s Greatest Leaders

We love lists. There is something about a top 10 or a top 50 list that draws us in. On Fortune magazine’s recently released list, The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, we find individuals with experience in business, government, religion, philanthropy, acting, education, sports, and activism. A majority are well known and all have made (according to Fortune) meaningful contributions to society.

Like many others, I enjoy reading these types of lists to learn and be inspired. At the same time, I like to use these lists as an impetus to develop my own list of great leaders, made up of individuals who I know personally. I use that list to make sure I let each and every one of them know how I admire them for what they do and who they are.

What do all truly great leaders haven common? They serve others naturally as they connect what they do to who they are. I refer to these leaders as Chiefs. With or without the title, real Chiefs take three steps:

  1. They choose what they do: Real Chiefs consistently act as servants, they act with disciple through hard work, and they act to create the future.
  2. They understand who they are: Real Chiefs demonstrate their values by building insight. They are present and focused on the moment at hand, accepting of the world as it is, grateful for all they have in their lives, generous with others, and they are able to be still long enough to hear their own voice.
  3. They connect what they do with who they are: Real Chiefs are powerful in a way that has nothing to do with their position. Real Chiefs are powerful because they connect what they do to who they are. Have you ever been so involved in a project that you lost all sense of time? Have you felt “in the zone”? Real Chiefs operate in this way on a regular basis.

Of the amazing leaders highlighted in Fortune’s top 50 list, two leaders stand out to me. They are both without fancy titles or large organizations to run, and yet they are true leaders in every sense of the word. Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani women’s rights and education activist who began standing up to the Taliban at the tender age of 11, has inspired a worldwide movement to educate children and has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. While less known, Tetiana Chornovol is a Ukranian journalist and civic activist who was severely beaten for her investigative reporting on Ukranian corruption. She is a true hero.

These two women connect who they are with what they do every single day. They are real Chiefs. Chiefs are all around us—in business, education, religion, and right next door. What it takes to be Chief is not who you know or even what you know. It’s who you are—and then what you do with it.

I encourage you to create your own list of Chiefs and let them know how much you appreciate what they do, how they do it, and who they are.

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