Building Confidence in the Age of AI

Rick Miller published on Forbes.com:

Many people are scared of what AI might mean for the future, and the media is to blame. As story after story churn out for consumption, most offer a common point of view—artificial intelligence (AI) will “take your job.”

Today’s headlines tout the elimination of truck drivers, bank tellers, cashiers, factory workers, and newspaper reporters—just to name a few.

This tired, fear-based approach to attracting eyeballs has been around for a long time. It plays into our fear of loss. Our parents were also scared when they read articles about how the travesty of automations progress would eliminate jobs and cause waves of unemployment. And when was the last time you talked to a switchboard operator, TV repairman, bridge toll taker, film projectionist, or railway station ticket seller?

Yet last I checked, the United States was operating at close to full employment.

The truth is that there is no consensus on whether AI will eliminate more jobs than it will create. But the central question is now, as it has always been, how best can the workforce adapt to unending change and progress, and minimize anxiety about the future?

To date, the answer has been simply, just learn new things.

But perhaps for the first time, it’s no longer enough to simply learn more. We also need to learn differently. In my view, we also need to learn in new ways, learn to integrate what we learn, and learn more about ourselves.

Learn New Things

There’s always been lots to learn. Now there’s even more. From Niklas Goke:

“Back in the 1960s, an engineering degree was outdated within 10 years. Today, most fields have a half-life much less than that, especially new industries. A modern degree might last you just five years before it’s completely irrelevant.”

In 2013, we created as much data as in all of the previous history. That trend now continues, with total information roughly doubling each year. Michael Simmons has crunched the numbers behind our knowledge economy:

“You probably need to devote at least five hours a week to learning just to keep up with your current field—ideally more if you want to get ahead.”

The 5-hour rule is getting lots of traction. And whether you follow that rule or make up your own, it’s up to each of us to invest time to stay current.

Learn In New Ways

With the world’s facts literally at our fingertips, accumulating knowledge is no longer the asset it once was. Instead of knowledge, we must focus on building intelligence.

Yuval Noah Harari’s new book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, asserts this:

“In such a world, the last thing a teacher needs to give her pupils is more information. They already have far too much of it. Instead, people need the ability to make sense of information, to tell the difference between what is important and what is unimportant.”

The ability Harari is talking about is the skill of learning, itself. The 2018 lawyer needs knowledge. The 2050 lawyer needs intelligence. Determining what to know at any time will matter more than the hard facts you’ll end up knowing.

As information sources continue to expand and as entire industries rise and fall within a few decades, learning will no longer be a means but must become its own end. We need to expand both what we learn and how we learn. At long last perhaps we will finally start to value the skillsets of teachers and invest more in the science of education.

Learn To Integrate

Harari goes on to describe the importance of the ability to combine many bits of information into a broad picture of the world. He coined the term multipotentialite to guide us toward what he believes is the answer to the prevailing past focus on specialization that must change:

“Idea synthesis, rapid learning, and adaptability: three skills that multipotentialites are very adept at and three skills they might lose if pressured to narrow their focus. As a society, we have a vested interest in encouraging multipotentialites to be themselves. We have a lot of complex, multidimensional problems in the world right now, and we need creative, out-of-the-box thinkers to tackle them.”

The combination of ideas from seemingly disparate categories can yield innovations that disrupt industries and push us forward as a society. We each have an opportunity to think of ourselves as integrators. As we do, we will each be better prepared to fully participate as problem solvers in the future.

Learn About You

With all that’s new in what and how to learn, perhaps one of the most important keys to future happiness and confidence in the age of AI is based in wisdom that’s been around for centuries. The ancient Greek principle “know thyself” may point the way.

It turns out that that specialization is the best approach in the area of self-understanding. Learning about yourself is more important than ever. Know what you stand for. Know your values. Use both as the foundation of relationships and confidence. Developing insight, or self-understanding, by turning your focus inward will allow you to align what you do to who you are. Turns out that the answer isn’t to out-do the machines, it’s to be more human.

I developed a Power Compass than can help you develop insight and confidence that allows you to be a Chief—an insightful human who knows how and what to learn—in a quickly developing technological world, no matter your position or title.

No artificial intelligence can come close to your uniquely human ability. Remember that next time the latest AI headlines grab your attention.

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Confidence, Power, and Values

Rick Miller published on Leader Values blog:

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”—Roy E. Disney

In working with leaders at all levels for many years, I have found that one simple exercise stands out as the single most impactful tool for Chiefs looking to increase their confidence. It comes down to values. And as we plan for 2019, who couldn’t use more confidence?

What is the exercise?

  1. Ask 10 people who know you well to each give you four words that describe what they think you “stand for.”
  2. Count how many different attributes show up among the resulting 40 responses.
  3. Ask yourself the question, “Can I stand strongly for 10, 20, or 30 values at the same time?”
  4. (This is the toughest part.) Review the sample list below and select the “core four” values you believe you most strongly stand for:

leader-values

  1. Write them down!
  2. Immediately begin a 60-day program to think more about, speak clearly about, write regularly about, and act consistently in alignment with these core four values.
  3. After 60 days, go back to the original list of 10 people and ask them the same question.
  4. Evaluate your feedback. You will see a sharpening of responses into fewer categories. Getting everyone to say the exact same four words isn’t the goal (“empathy” and “kindness” are kissing cousins and can count as a single response, for example).
  5. Once you know what you stand for, take more stands.

Why does it work?

Success occurs when you receive feedback that your intention and your attention can combine to deliver different results. In particular, when you align what you do (your thinking, speaking, writing, and acting) with who you truly are (your core four values), you are at your most powerful.

One of the most potent forms of power comes from the concentration of focused energy found in a laser. The same thing happens when you choose to focus and concentrate on a specific set of values.

As you set your New Year’s resolutions, you’ll be well served if you add this little exercise to the list that includes going to the gym and eating fewer cookies.

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These 5 Elements Measure Your Real Power as a Business Leader

Rick Miller featured on The CEO Magazine website:

How does a small business owner increase his or her power? If you believe as some do that power is all about title, position, authority, control, and supremacy, you’ll be hard-pressed for an answer.

Leaders in small businesses 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. They are the supreme ruler and answer to no one.

Ask any successful small business leader how much time they spend thinking about this type of power, and they will laugh. It’s a non-issue.

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

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

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

Discipline is an orderly pattern of behavior that increases both clarity as well as the likelihood of a desired outcome. Small business owners must certainly master discipline for their business to be successful, but the clarity it brings is where the real value is found.

Support is the act or process of promoting the interests or causes of another that increase influence. A small business owner who supports his staff, customers, vendors, and community will have influence that persists. He takes the request, “How can I help you?” seriously.

Insight is the power or act of seeing intuitively that comes with self-understanding, and it increases energy in a positive way. This form of energy is deliberate, concentrated, and effective.

Values are the foundation of relationships and of confidence. With a set of values unique to your business you’ll develop the trust needed to create confidence in every work-related relationship (and personal, for that matter) you encounter.

Creativity is the ability to bring into existence. Alignment of creative choices amplifies power and increases impact. In what ways are you bringing your vision to life?

Successful small business owners are optimizers. They don’t have time to waste.

Think about how you define the term power. Look at the choices you make that build real power, and those that don’t. In what areas can you be more disciplined? How can you support others on a regular basis? Are you tapping your own self-understanding to get the insight needed to navigate the fluctuations of your day-to-day decisions? What about the insights of your team? Does your business follow a set of values, no matter what? And last, how are you creating the future of your business every day?

If you need help, take my free Power Compass Survey. There you’ll be able to actually measure your real power and make choices about how powerful you want to be. You’ll start to answer the questions above when you understand what power really means, and how it can transform you and your business.

Small business leaders don’t have the benefit of cadres of help—yet. They need to be as powerful as possible.

Sound like you? I challenge you to be more powerful, in the best way possible.

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The CEOs Challenge with Change

Rick Miller featured on The CEO Magazine website:

Those who occupy the corner office know that expectations and opinions about WHAT should be done and HOW it should be done come from all directions. And while there is a wide variance in the “what’s” of CEO decision making, the “how’s” are delivered with surprising uniformity by CEOs across almost every industry. In particular, everyone expects those at the top to be confident, clear, concise, compelling, and consistent (the 5 C’s).

The challenge is to deliver on those expectations as well as creating a culture that excels while embracing the ever-present sixth C—which can disrupt all other C’s if you let it—change.

In my work supporting Chiefs, here are some best practices that will bring about the change you seek to make.

Be confident about people.

Over time as products/services and markets shift, it will be your employees who’ll navigate your ship. Jim Collins was right with his first rule of success in Good to Great: It’s Who First. Expressing confidence in people will fuel their motivation and productivity more than you know. The best CEOs I’ve worked with understand that optimizing the return on their human capital is every bit as important as their focus on financial capital.

Be clear about intentions.

Clarity is an undervalued attribute. CEOs are well served when they explain the motivation and rationale behind their decisions. When Satya Nadella took over as CEO at Microsoft, one of his goals was to simplify what leadership meant at his company. After months of study, Microsoft announced that leadership consists of three attributes: clarity, excellence, and results.

Be concise about priorities.

Companies struggle with retention. When I served as AT&T’s President of Global Services, we introduced a simple symbol to remind our workforce what was important. We printed “R3” on pens and hats and used it to set agendas for our meetings. Our simple priority was to drive results for three important groups of people (customers, employees, shareowners) with a focus on three attributes (teamwork, innovation, and speed). This simple reminder helped reinforce our mission. 

Be compelling about the mission.

Simon Sinek’s breakthrough TED talk in 2009 on the importance of “why” has been seen by over 37 million people. Not every CEO can deliver on stage like Simon, but we can all learn from him. CEOs are well served when they speak from their heart about their company’s “why.” It can serve as the North Star when things get crazy.

Be consistent about values.

CEOs are faced with the reality that over time everything will change, including people. Even above mission, a company’s values can serve as the foundation for constant evolution. An organization’s “how” is based in their values. Those values can’t be over-emphasized in an environment when everything else seems to shift. Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” My view is that consistency with values is the hallmark of those with clear vision.

Using the 5 C’s above, any CEO can navigate change in any organization. Are you up for the challenge?

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What Is Power, Really?

Rick Miller published on Forbes.com:

Many assume power comes from “outside-in.” They believe power is granted to a person by someone else. They see power as a position or title, which comes with authority and control, and a belief in the form of supremacy over others.

Others believe that real power comes from “inside-out.” They maintain that power is an opportunity for each individual to cultivate by themselves. Real power is increased within a person simply by the choices they make, the actions they take, and the thoughts they create.

I am an inside-out guy. I don’t believe it matters what the organizational chart says. Power is available to everyone, no matter their position or title. But what is power, really?

Real power is influence, and it increases as we offer more support to others. Being powerful is more about giving support than getting support. Contrary to what you may have thought about power, service is the highest form of leadership. Serving others is a key to sustainable growth. And it creates the kind of influence that truly powerful people wield—the kind that resonates and uplifts.

Real power is clarity, and it gets stronger with discipline. Having power is more about creating an environment that encourages every individual to engage in their own form of self-discipline. That’s not to say discipline never comes from above, but by empowering each member of an organization to be accountable, discipline from above will not be required as frequently. Discipline brings clarity to any situation, increasing an individual’s power.

Real power is energy, and it intensifies from inside as our insight and self-understanding grow. Insight is an integral element of being powerful. A person with real power does not influence the world around him or her without consideration of the bigger picture that begins inside. From my experience with this vantage point, true growth—both personal and professional—is far more likely. Insightful individuals are able to tap into an internal energy that is felt by others as power.

Real power is impact, and it grows as we focus on our creativity. Creating the future is not about waving a magic wand. It is a concrete practice that serves the purpose of being powerful with a purpose. Creative solutions make an impact—on people, organizations, and societies. Real power sometimes comes from the unlikeliest of places.

Real power is confidence, and it rises as we better understand and live our values. What do you stand for? When you speak about your values and act accordingly, you increase your power because you are confident in your assertions. The power is palpable—and effective.

Real power is what happens when people connect what they do to who they are. [click to tweet]

Power Is Contagious

Once anyone in a group chooses to become more powerful, everyone around that person becomes more powerful. Research supports this view. Scientists have 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 Wharton’s Sigal Barsade, PhD, found that a spread of positive emotion is associated with improved cooperation, decreased conflict, and increased task performance in the workplace. They call it “the ripple effect.”

I’ve experienced this cascading effect again and again throughout my career. I call it viral engagement.

How To Increase Organizational Power

When an organization builds effective, integrated strategies in six areas—customer, competition, financial capital, cost, community, and climate—they establish the conditions for creating real power. When the organization deploys plans in the following areas, a truly powerful organization is created:

Measure and improve employee engagement; ensure diversity and gender-balanced leadership; consistently assess, improve, and expand employee “hard and soft” skillsets; add new skillsets when necessary; align team members around a values-based vision for the future; and build a change-adaptive culture to meet accelerating changes in market needs tied to management’s strategic decisions.

What could happen if your organization recognized where true power comes from?

 

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The Power in Vulnerability

Rick Miller published on Great Leadership site:

“Never let them see you sweat.” Like many baby-boomers, I heard this and many other similar phrases growing up. The message was clear. Don’t show weakness because it will be exploited.

Fast forward to today and you see the opposite is true.

This shift may have started in 2010 when Brené Brown, a sociological research professor, published The Gifts of Imperfection, and perhaps took off with her next book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead in 2012. Both were widely acclaimed and New York Times bestsellers.

I learned about the power of vulnerability years earlier.

When I took over as president of a $12 billion unit at AT&T—overseeing 10,000 employees and a huge budget—I thought I had all the power I needed to succeed. I was wrong.

One of my first challenges was to engage with employees to learn about the business and what they thought was holding us back. I quickly found those same employees viewed people like me (AT&T corporate officers) as part of the problem, if not the problem. I did find a number of workers who stepped up to lead, however. I call these people Chiefs. But most needed a little coaxing to embrace change and become fully engaged in charting a different future for our unit.

To break down those barriers, I held a number of town hall meetings as forums for frank and open discussion. It was at one such meeting in New York City where I learned about the power of vulnerability.

During a Q&A session an employee asked if, as a corporate officer, I truly understood the impact of losing health care benefits while a family member was battling cancer. The person was evaluating an early retirement program and was concerned about health care coverage options. From the question, I inferred that most of those in my audience assumed officers—like me—were somehow insulated from the impacts of voluntary retirement programs. The question provided an opportunity to share a personal vulnerability to illustrate that all AT&T employees—including leaders like me—shared many of their concerns and anxieties.

Although I never hid the fact that I was a type one diabetic, I had never publicly shared that I was also a cancer survivor. Years ago, while working at Sperry Corp, my doctor discovered a malignant tumor and recommended immediate surgery. At Sperry and later career stops, I had kept my cancer battle under wraps because I feared it would hold back my career advancement. Other than my boss and assistant, no one in my professional circles knew… impact until that fateful AT&T town hall meeting.

After I addressed the specific question (transition healthcare insurance would continue to cover his family), I took a risk. You could have heard a pin drop when I revealed, “I am a cancer survivor and know how important health insurance is.”

I deliberately put myself in a vulnerable position as a way to connect with my team. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, by exposing my vulnerability, I was actually being more courageous than muscling through my professional life without opening up about my bout with cancer.

The benefit of openly acknowledging the link between our personal and professional lives is huge. After my “aha moment,” more and more employees began to engage me in conversation. It was clear that the initial animosity I faced as an AT&T officer had eroded. As a result, more of my team members stepped up as leaders in the transformation.

From this experience, I was again reminded that title, position, and authority don’t automatically translate into power and influence. Rather, my vulnerability had made me more powerful and able to effect change. In turn, it boosted the impact and power of my team.

What choices can you make to become more powerful? What could you do to increase your impact and influence?

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5 Ways A Leader Can Learn More About Themselves

Rick Miller published on Skip Prichard’s Leadership Insights:

Being Chief requires us to develop insight. It is as much about being as it is about being Chief. Insight is a key to increasing your confidence, effectiveness, and, since your power increases as you connect what you do to who you are, deepening your self-understanding through insight will deepen your power. Insight can come from the simplest experiences and from the places you least expect it. Always be on the lookout for gems of insight that can guide your path in life.

There are five ways a leader can learn more about themselves. Specifically, Chiefs choose to be:

  • Present

  • Still

  • Accepting

  • Generous

  • Grateful

Be Present: When you become totally aware and conscious, you can use all of your senses to learn everything possible in the current moment. Specifically, when you give 100 percent of your attention to the people you spend time with, you will find that your relationships become much more fulfilling.

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 voice.

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. Try to take a nonjudgmental approach to people to open yourself to the potential of clarity and deeper relationships.

When you accept the past and remain receptive to circumstances and people, you can open yourself to the possibilities of learning from all situations and from every individual. When you accept your current reality with a certain degree of detachment, you will find that things come to you with a fraction of the effort otherwise required.

Be Generous: When you choose to be charitable with your possessions, your money, and your time, you will experience inner satisfaction despite “having less.” When you are kind, helpful, encouraging, and gentle with others, 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 and truly humble.

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. The grace required to face tough times and remain thankful is a blessing. Try to remain appreciative of the opportunity to learn lessons from the challenges you face.

Insight is an integral element of being a powerful Chief and enabling a team of Chiefs. A real Chief does not abrasively influence the world around him or her but, rather, considers a wider perspective that begins on the inside. By taking the time and effort to be present, still, accepting, generous, and grateful, the more difficult aspects of being Chief will suddenly take on new meaning. From this vantage point, true growth—both personal and professional—is far more likely.

Your Turn

Please take some time to reflect on your own experience with listening to yourself and developing insight. How can you develop insight to learn more about yourself and to build a team of Chiefs? Consider the following questions:

  • What can I do to stay present and live in the current moment?
  • How can I quiet my mind to listen to the voice inside me?
  • Do I accept people and circumstances as they are in the moment?
  • How can I be more generous with my time and possessions?
  • Am I grateful for life’s gifts?

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What Does It Really Mean to Be Chief?

Rick Miller published on Forbes.com:

The coveted Chief title—Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, etc.—can be found today in all reaches of business as a way to identify who is in charge. As companies named endless vice presidents in times past, lately Chief titles are taking over. And this practice isn’t limited to business. You’ll find Chiefs, Senior Chiefs, Deputy Chiefs, Administrative Chiefs, and Assistant Chiefs throughout government. With so many Chief titles out there, what does it really mean to be 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.

It’s a Matter of Choice, Not a Title

Growing up, my dad would come home from work and tell us stories about what it really took to be Chief. He never used the word Chief, but his actions were clear.

My Dad was a mid-level personnel manager (human resources) working at the only non-union machine tool shop in central Massachusetts. Dad would tell me and my brothers about grievances, pay and benefit issues, and his challenge of connecting the managers at Heald Machine to the workers so the company could grow. In twenty-seven years at Heald, there was never even a single union vote. Why? Because my Dad treated everyone with respect and led without any positional authority.

[ctt template="1" link="H3e3K" via="no" ]Dad taught me that being Chief had more to do with choice than title or level.[/ctt]

I have benefited greatly throughout my career from the foundational lessons my Dad taught me. In the first phase of my career, I worked in one organization at a time. Over thirty years, I served in many roles in five organizations in five different industries. Early on I found myself consistently thrust into turnaround situations. Later, I sought them out. Success in each was due in large part to a specific roadmap that I used to enable Chiefs at all levels to unlock their potential. It’s an entirely new way to think about power, and where power really comes from.

As I worked my way up through these assignments, and I had the privilege of working with many strong individuals at all levels who possessed a power and influence that had nothing to do with their title or position, I came to understand that real Chiefs are people who connect what they do to who they are. Their power and influence come from inside.

Ten years ago, I made a personal decision to change my life-work balance. The nature of my turnaround assignments in phase one had taken a toll on the time I was able to spend with my family. I founded my own company, now Being Chief, LLC, as part of phase two. Now I work as a Chief supporting a limited number of Chiefs in different organizations. It is rewarding to serve others who can use my roadmap and guidance to help them grow as their organizations grow.

Anyone Can Be Chief

Conventional wisdom about Chiefs is all wrong. It says Chiefs are special. Chiefs are chosen. Chiefs have titles. And only those with the power and influence at the top can truly be Chief. In my humble opinion, another executive position in the already crowded C-suite is the last thing companies need.

I am less interested in your title than in the choices you make in life and business, and how those choices align with who you are. And I’m less interested in a company’s organizational chart than I am in its values and how it uses support, insight, discipline and creativity to engage its employees, shareholders, and community.

A real Chief doesn’t need a title, although she may have one. But it’s her actions, her words, her thoughts, and her values that show everyone around her that she’s Chief—and that enable others to also be Chief. What you and your organization do, rather than what you say you do, speaks volumes.

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.

More Chiefs do drive better results, and we need many more of them. Just not in executive row. What are you doing to step up and be Chief?

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The Power Inside Each of Us

Rick Miller published on ThinDifference.com:

People are always fascinated by, and have many questions about, power. Who has it? How much of it do they have? How did they get it? How can I get it?

But maybe the biggest question is, what is power?

The answer to that last question depends on who you ask, and the answer generally falls into one of two distinct categories. Some assume power comes from “outside-in.” Those with this view often define power in terms of a title or position that is granted to an individual by someone else. Along with that status comes authority or control. In this case, the power of influence and the ability to have an impact come from a belief in the form of supremacy over others.

Others maintain that real power comes from “inside-out.” These people hold that power is not bequeathed by another but rather is the ability of each individual to cultivate by themselves. This group defines power very differently. You might start to notice these divergent sources of power in your own life.

I’ve experienced both types of power in my career. I’ve held titles including CEO, COO, and President in many companies and led organizations as large as 10,000. In service to you, I offer answers to the following questions:

What Is Power?

I believe that real power comes from the inside-out and is comprised of five elements that can be found in each of us. Here are my definitions:

  • 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 our power affects those around us.

Power Spreads

Research supports my view that once anyone in a group chooses to become more powerful everyone around that person becomes more powerful.

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 increased task performance in the workplace.

How Do I Get More Power?

There are five key enablers that can increase your power when even small shifts are made:

  • Discipline is an orderly pattern of behavior that increases both clarity as well as the likelihood of a desired outcome.
  • Support is the act or process of promoting the interests or causes of another that increases influence.
  • Insight is the power or act of seeing intuitively that comes with self-understanding and increases energy.
  • Values are the foundation of relationships and of confidence.
  • Creativity is the ability to bring into existence. Alignment of creative choices amplifies power and increases impact.

Not only can you get more power, but you can measure it, too.

You can take a free short survey to get a baseline of how your current choices create your power and then assess what you might want to change to increase your power and the power of those around you.

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What Does Sustainable Growth Really Mean?

Rick Miller published on Forbes.com:

People are often confused by the term sustainable growth. While most believe it a worthy objective, its definition is less clear. Does it mean “green growth?” Is it part of the “triple bottom line”? Does it have to do with the corporate social responsibility (CSR) framework, which suggests that an entity has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large? And what about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations?

When I attended Bentley University as an undergraduate in 1976, I learned how to grow a business and understood that true success was reached when you could sustain that growth. At the time, sustainable simply meant repeatable. During my freshman year, Bentley opened its Center for Business Ethics and taught students that sustainable meant repeatable and ethical. More recently, customers and employees are speaking up, expecting companies to be more socially and environmentally aware, accountable and responsible for the impact they have, and can have, in society.  

Today, sustainable growth means growth that is repeatable, ethical and responsible to, and for, current and future communities. And it’s key to the long-term success of any business.

To achieve this worthy objective, it has been my experience that diverse groups of leaders at all levels in companies need to regularly come together and hold themselves accountable to this higher bar. Success starts by asking the right questions.

Repeatable Growth

When I was growing up in Massachusetts my Dad taught me to be a sports fan. We followed the Red Sox, the Bruins, and the Patriots. But Dad’s favorite team (and mine) was the Celtics. Dad taught me that real success was building a team that could win repeat championships. By the time I was 11, the Celtics had won 10 of them. Building businesses that could perform like the Celtics did isn’t easy. But there is a formula.

My formula for repeatable growth integrates focused excellence across six areas including customers, competitors, costs, capital, communities and culture. There are lots of questions across these areas, including:

What will my current customers’ needs be tomorrow, and where might a competitor today be an ally tomorrow to face a new competitor? How can I build strategies to reduce both expenses and improve margins as I ensure adequate capital and offer better-than-average returns for my investors? How can I build a reputation as a great corporate citizen and create a change-adaptive culture at the same time?

Ethical Growth

When I took over as President of Global Services at AT&T, I knew one of our strengths at AT&T was our strong set of five company values known as the Common Bond. Our entire organization was steeped in teamwork, innovation, respect, customer focus and integrity. I also knew our team had a tough task. According to our main competitor, MCI/Worldcom, the market was growing at greater than 10% annually, yet our unit was only growing at 4%. We set our growth targets based on that information, and while we doubled our growth rate, we fell short of our goals. But they were lying. On March 15, 2005 it was confirmed they were falsely reporting revenue growth numbers, when CEO Bernie Ebbers was convicted of securities fraud, conspiracy and filing false documents with regulators.

Thankfully, unethical practices are by far the exception in the broader marketplace. But a key question remains. Specifically, are we doing all we can to reinforce our stated values in the day-to-day decision making in our company? How can we take our values statements off the walls and put them on our agenda?

Responsible Growth

Twelve years ago, Andrew Savitz added his perspective on the term sustainable growth when he published The Triple Bottom Line, which advocates for a balanced focus on profit, people and the planet. Around the same time, I heard former competitor and IBM CEO Sam Palmisano promoting his focus on sustainable growth. I loved that Sam made his points with four questions:

Why would someone work for you? Why would someone invest his or her money with you? Why would someone spend their money with you—what is unique about you? And why would society allow you to operate in their region? The first three questions were in line with what I had learned about sustainable as repeatable. But the fourth question was new to me. There was now a higher bar.

Today, there are many views on the expanding scope of corporate social responsibility. In 2015, the United Nations offered a view that sustainability includes a focus on areas as diverse as poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, environment and social justice. And as CSR expands and moves beyond the marketplace and the workplace to the environment and into the community, there are lots of new questions.

How can we move quickly at first to determine our impact on the environment? How much water are we using? What’s our carbon footprint? How can we get to a position of “do no harm” and then beyond to opportunities that allow us to actually enhance the environment? What is our obligation to extend our company values to those in the greater community? Should we use our corporate voice to advocate for public policy change? How should we serve?

Progress toward any worthy objective is enhanced when diverse groups of people work together to create solutions. Sustainable growth that is repeatable, ethical and responsible is one such worthy objective. And it all starts with asking the right questions.

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Working in the Key of Change

Rick Miller featured in Bentley Magazine article:

When business leadership expert Rick Miller ’80 imagines employees of the future, he sees an orchestra. That is, musicians with very specific talents: playing multiple instruments, harmonizing in a diverse group, and being able to work with sheet music and improvisation at the same time. The key, he says, is depth and breadth of skill sets, ability to connect into teams and adaptability to constant change.

Experts of every kind are making predictions about workplace trends in the next decade. Navigating issues related to technology, gender and age comes down to how well people can prepare for change, adapt to change and be the change that is needed.

Miller’s company, Being Chief LLC, helps senior executives develop their potential to lead. His three decades at Fortune 10 and 30 companies, nonprofits and startups have offered a front row seat to the forces of change. These days, that seat is typically not around a board table. An afternoon meeting might involve Miller’s avatar in a cloud campus, interacting with top managers and board members, half of them women, from around the country.

“That would have been unthinkable 20 years ago,” he says. “Today, diversity of all types matters; leveraging technology matters. Companies who get that are already outperforming those who do not.”

Miller’s musical analogy about tomorrow’s workforce resonates with Bentley management professor Tony Buono, who chaired the university’s 2017 faculty research colloquium on the future of work.

“In the past, if you had significant expertise and depth in a particular area, that was sufficient,” he says. “Today, industry is also looking for a broad understanding of the cross-functional realities of an organization.”

A ROBOT CHORUS?

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has sparked debate on whether humans will be replaced by robots on the job. Research by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company suggests it is misleading to focus on how AI will impact specific jobs.

“Very few occupations will be automated in their entirety in the near or medium term,” according to the report, Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation. “Rather, certain activities are more likely to be automated, requiring entire business processes to be transformed, and jobs performed by people to be redefined.”

Susan Brennan, associate vice president for university career services at Bentley, sees promise in leveraging human traits to work alongside robots. “Computers will never have the heart, courage and brain for future-based thinking.”

Brennan’s must-have skills: empathy, critical thinking, humility, judgment and collaboration. 

Otherwise, she says frankly: “You will not survive the artificial intelligence revolution. Those competencies are what will allow humans to take technology to a higher level through decision-making and risk-taking.”

PLAYING IN PARITY

Melanie Foley, MBA ’02 remembers starting work at Liberty Mutual in 1996. The Internet and World Wide Web were growing but not omnipresent. Cellphones were expensive and anything but mobile. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 19 percent of women in the U.S. had four or more years of college.

Foley is still at Liberty Mutual, but points to changes such as “the speed and ease of global communication and an increasing number of women not just in the workforce, but who hold leadership positions.”

Over much of her career at Liberty, Foley took on sales and marketing roles of increasing responsibility within its U.S. personal insurance business. Her current work, as executive vice president and chief talent and enterprise services officer for Liberty Mutual’s 55,000-plus employees worldwide, focuses on talent, procurement, communications, real estate, and workplace services and strategies.

One constant: her support for gender equality in the workplace. Liberty itself has strong female representation overall (55% of all employees), on the board (30%) and across management (50% front-line managers; 35% midlevel; 30% executive/C-suite).

But that isn’t typically the case. According to a study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org (Women in the Workplace 2016), while women account for almost half of entry-level professionals in corporate America, they fill only 19 percent of C-suite posts and 5.8 percent of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies.

“That’s a lot of talent not being fully utilized at many companies,” Foley says. “By revisiting and revising their approach to recruiting, hiring, development and promotion, companies can affect the changes needed to bring more women into senior executive positions.”

Leadership development early in a woman’s career is a key factor in later success, according to Deborah Pine, executive director of the Gloria Cordes Larson Center for Women and Business (CWB) at Bentley. Research by McKinsey finds that, among young professionals in the initial step up to management, men are promoted at a 30 percent higher rate than women.

“Women are not only significantly underrepresented in the C-suite, they are also primarily in staff roles and not senior vice president line roles,” says Pine, noting that, in 2015, men accounted for 90 percent of CEOs promoted from line roles.

Training and development must cross genders and generations. Ernst & Young LLP, for example, is “constantly training and retraining employees,” according to Ellen Glazerman, executive director of the EY Foundation.

The organization aims to develop three mindsets it considers essential for the modern workplace. First, she says, is the embrace of analytics to manage data that “everyone is going to confront regardless of their job and location”; next is the adoption of innovation to “fail forward and fail quickly, then get up and keep going — but not without a risk assessment to ensure that your failure is never big and brings you closer to a better answer”; and finally is a global approach to “work with people from different backgrounds and abilities in a way that will find the best answers.”

GIVING DIVERSITY A VOICE

As workplaces become more diverse — by age, gender, race, ethnicity, lifestyle and more — Buono says that people will have to get comfortable with change.

“It’s going to be very different, for example, as people in their 20s work with people in their 70s. There will be different expectations, learning styles and work styles.”

Reverse mentoring, through which younger people help older colleagues work with the technology that is changing organizational practices, will require some senior managers to put ego aside. Conversely, millennials and Gen Z will need to develop confidence to make suggestions — which may include taking advice from more seasoned coworkers.

“There will be much more decentralization and egalitarian relationships in organizations,” says Buono. “The ability to manage interpersonal relationships, understand our own feelings and exhibit self-control is going to be crucial.”

Foley sees many organizations starting to fully embrace diversity, which includes not only demographic factors but also backgrounds and experience.

“A different perspective is a fresh perspective, which can often generate innovation for a team, particularly if current members have overlapping skill sets and perspectives,” she says. “Embrace diversity, and you’ll usually end up with a high-performance ceiling for a team.”

CREATING HARMONY

Managing diverse teams poses special challenges for leaders, according to Miller. “There is an art to bringing talented people together, helping them feel good about what they do, giving them input into what happens, recognizing them and retaining them.”

Succeeding in the innovation economy also requires some soul searching. “As people learn more about industries and their skill sets, they will also need to focus more on learning about themselves,” he says. “Power comes when you develop and listen to your own voice, not the voice of a spouse or a well-intentioned friend or advertising. In a very left-brain dominant culture, the ability to better understand ourselves can really unlock a power that will accelerate great things.

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CEOs to employees: Take a vacation, already

Rick Miller quoted in FierceCEO.com article:

CEOs are increasingly touting the importance of employees taking time off, but the message may not yet have reached the rank and file among U.S. workers, who are taking only half of their eligible vacation time per year. The reasons point to a need to change the work culture within companies, according to one human resources expert.

“Employees should take advantage of available vacation time for a variety of reasons. In today’s very fast paced environment, the idea or concept of work life balance has slowly been shrinking away and employers have recognized that,” said HR Florida State Council Vice President Jennifer Gunter. “And with so many competing priorities workers face, it’s time to evaluate internal time-off policies and create a culture in which employees are encouraged to take their vacation time as opposed to leaving multiple days, weeks or hours on the table. By successfully promoting and encouraging employees to utilize vacation time, employers can combat low productivity, employee burnout and improve employee morale.

Vacations have devolved from getaways to brief respites where the office is just a phone call or a text away, a survey said. According to a 2017 Glassdoor survey the average U.S. employee only took about half (54%) of his or her eligible vacation time/paid time off in the 12 months prior to the survey.

And more Americans (66%) today report working when they do take vacation compared to three years ago (61%).

Of employees who receive vacation/paid time off, 9 out of 10 (91%) report taking at least some time off in the last 12 months, up from 85% in 2014. Over the same time period, 23% reported taking 100% of their eligible time off, while another 23% of employees reported taking 25% of their eligible time off (both down two percentage points from 25% in 2014). Nine percent reported taking no vacation or paid time off at all.

Despite slightly more employees taking vacation time overall, it doesn’t necessarily mean more are getting away from work. Fewer employees who take vacation/paid time off report being able to completely “check out” while they are on vacation, while more than one quarter (27%) are expected to stay aware of work issues and jump in if things need their attention while they are away, up from 20% in 2014. More than 1 in 10 (12%) employees who take vacation/paid time off are expected to be reachable, deliver work and/or participate in conference calls etc. while on vacation (compared to 9% in 2014).

It’s a situation that routinely raises eyebrows across the pond, where vacations are practically enshrined in the work culture. “It’s not that Americans do not want a vacation—it’s that they are afraid to take it,” an article in The Guardian noted back in September.

The article cited a U.S. Travel Association survey that said that 28% of workers passed on taking a vacation because they didn’t want to be seen as slackers, but as dedicated employees instead. And another 40% didn’t want to deal with the pile of work that would be waiting for them when they returned from taking several days off. 

With the surveys beginning to pile up, some CEOs are taking the situation in hand to make sure their employees get the rest they need and recharge.

Employees should feel comfortable requesting time off, said Mike Flaskey, CEO of Diamond Resorts. “Leadership can promote this type of culture by encouraging team members to plan their vacations early and let their teams know if they’re thinking about taking time off, so everyone can prepare,” Flaskey said. “It’s easy to be consumed with work emails or phone calls even when on vacation, but if teams are well-equipped and updated beforehand, it’s also easier to unplug knowing everything is under control. Taking time for oneself to recharge is crucial not only for the individual, but the company’s productivity overall.”

“The importance of restoration is rooted in our human physiology,” said Susan Kuczmarski, co-founder of Kuczmarski Innovation. “Employees are not able to expend energy continuously. Rather, it is best to pulse between spending and recovering energy. Vacations allow us to restore, re-energize and re-generate—so we can begin fresh again, ready to positively impact our work agenda.”

And, while taking time off may be counterintutive for many workers, and is at odds with the prevailing work ethic in many companies, “it renews our energy level—and this makes us able to do our work more efficiently and effectively,” Kuczmarski said. “Energy is finite, but renewable. Vacations are not wasted time, but prescriptions for maximizing our productivity. They are entirely necessary.”“I want all of my employees to take vacations and when they do, I want them to turn off I don’t bother them,” said John Crossman, CEO of Crossman & Company. “I want them to have fun and relax. Vacations are crucial to overall health and creativity.”

Vacations are not only essential, but also more important than ever to corporate productivity, given the influx of millennials in the workforce and their priority on work-life balance, said Rick Miller, principal of Being Chief. “On an even broader scale, numerous studies by the American Psychology Association and others clearly show the myriad benefits of taking time off. For employees, vacations are proven to alleviate stress, cut risk of cardiovascular disease, and boost sleep. For companies, this means lower health costs and turnover from employee burnout, as well as greater engagement and productivity.”

 

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Sustainability Needs Leaders Motivated by a Compelling Purpose

Rick Miller featured in GreenBiz.com:

In business school, the classmates who stood out fell into three categories: investors; combiners; and entrepreneurs. Visionary investors could see what capital owners needed and when they needed it. Visionary combiners could see the efficiencies possible through unexpected mergers and acquisitions. And visionary entrepreneurs could see a market earlier than anyone else, and create a new category to go after it.

To thrive today, CEOs need all three skills plus one more: They need to give purpose to their employees and to their business model.

My friend, legendary agency founder Roy Spence, wrote the book on purpose a few years back. His core concept is still spot on: “It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for.” At the time, purpose was found within the category, such as BMW’s focus on creating the “ultimate driving machine.” But today, a visionary purpose is increasingly tied to solving an intertwined pair of global problems.

In other words, it’s no longer enough to be best in class. Today, best in class means best for the planet and the people as well as best for profit. Tesla illustrates this ideal perfectly. Volkswagen illustrates the opposite. Walmart is executing what may be perhaps the most dramatic 180-degree turn, from a company that accelerated social and environmental depletion to one that champions sustainability and employee engagement. Walmart is boosting wages and exiting the supercenter footprint that gave it such unparalleled economies of scale.

For CEOs, two issues are causing the biggest consternation as we move into 2017: climate change; and sustainable, long-term growth. Just last year, CEOs from more than 400 of the world’s largest companies urged world leaders to adopt aggressive climate targets in the Paris Conference of Parties. Two months later, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, wrote a chairman’s letter asking every Fortune 500 CEO to send him a strategy for sustainable, long-term growth.

Waiting on Washington

Not too many CEOs got A’s on Fink’s homework assignment. Understandably, CEOs are finding it impossible to chart a long-term growth strategy when all the incentives in the system are pointing in the opposite direction. Instead, CEOs have been waiting for Washington to create the level playing field in which climate change and long-term growth can be addressed. Those CEOs are happy to lend their name to a campaign just as long as they can get on with the business of business.

Except the 2016 election delivered a roadblock. At the risk of understatement, the new power in Washington is not focused on climate change nor on long-term growth — yet.

So CEOs need a plan B. This week a group of chiefs are gathering at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, to talk about climate change against the backsliding signaled by the new U.S. president. From where I sit, they, and hundreds of others, need to rise to the occasion. In doing so, there is no better role model than Bill Knudsen.

Knudsen was CEO of General Motors in the perilous years before America entered World War II. He recognized two things: the unavoidable threat of the day, fascism; and that as Henry Ford’s former mass production wizard, Knudsen himself had unique talents the nation would need to defeat two wealthy industrial enemies. Before Congress had the nerve to act, Knudsen started to re-organize American industry, giving FDR the term “arsenal of democracy.” Knudsen gave business new purpose.

For some CEOs, taking a stand is already in their DNA. Groups such as The B Team, Focusing Capital on the Long Term and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have been grinding away for years.

But at the dawning of 2017, sustainable growth has taken on new urgency. CEOs no longer can set aside some corporate social responsibility funds to support incremental advocacy efforts. Now the CEOs — and the big institutional clients of Fink — have to roll up their sleeves and figure out how to design and implement a new grand strategy for sustainable growth that addresses people, planet and profits.

The business case for strategic leadership is a no-brainer. For the United States, “The New Grand Strategy,” by GreenBiz Executive Editor Joel Makower and co-authors Mark Mykleby and Patrick Doherty, lays out a pragmatic strategy for extraordinary growth. Overseas, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission’s new report does the same. The challenge lies in transitioning to the new economics of sustainable, long-term growth without help from government.

As CEOs know, the problem never has been about finding the right ideas. It’s all about leadership motivated by a compelling purpose. The purpose is now clear. We just need some Knudsens.

 

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