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In this COVID-19 World, Be realistic, But Optimistic.

optimistic

In this COVID-19 World, Be realistic, But Optimistic.

As business leaders, our goal is always to lead our teams to success. During these challenging COVID-19 times, it’s critical to strike the right adaptive mindset and not over- or under-react. We need to find a way not to be pessimistic, but also balance realism with optimism. As William Arthur Warn said: The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. The balance of optimism with realism during these challenging times is the way business leaders can win.

James Stockdale, the United States Navy Vice Admiral and aviator was awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War, during which he was a prisoner of war for over seven years and survived when so many others did not. Stockdale explained his significant insight as the following: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

This is indeed a paradox. Although we’re not prisoners of war, we relate to Admiral Stockdale in not knowing how long we’ll be wrestling with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic.  As business leaders, if we ignore the challenges on our teams, the leader will be naïve and out of touch. If the leader mires in the challenges, they risk creating a culture of pessimism that will demoralize and demotivate the team and undermine its effectiveness.

To promote Stockdale’s prevailing mindset as leaders of a team there are two helpful strategies.

The disruptive nature of working remotely 100% of the time while balancing personal and family challenges during COVID-19 requires a team to learn how to ruthlessly prioritize with more structure and pace without slowing the team down.

Rally team members around short-term goals to ensure “quick wins” and build morale.

Realistic business leaders will excel by keeping emotion out of the equation in business decision making. Adding optimism to realism allows leaders to see the brighter side of things demonstrating to team members that things will get better day by day. As Edwin Bliss stated: “Success doesn’t mean the absence of failures; it means the attainment of ultimate objectives. It means winning the war, not every battle”.  

Winning leaders and teams make things happen, plan, and prepare instead of hunkering down and waiting. Winning leaders see potential were the less successful dwell on the past. Winning business leaders might not know “how” they will excel and achieve their goals, but they always believe that they will figure it out. They know that effort is the great equalizer. If they do not already know what to do, they will learn it and perfect it. Successful leaders during this COVID-19 pandemic understand that worry, fear, action, and gratitude are all choices you get to make and that apathy is the enemy of achieving something great. Use the difficult times to realize as a leader of a business, this is the second chance your team has always been asking for. It’s critical to make decisions quickly during this difficult time. However, a business decision that is easy or guaranteed is bound not to be highly successful in the long run.

Overly optimistic business leaders believe in their soul that nothing — absolutely nothing — is impossible. However, unrealistic optimism and accepting that you are more likely to experience pleasant events, and less likely than others to experience negative ones can lead to disengagement of a team and hamper trust. A team that is blinded by optimism will not be able to change course when trouble is encountered. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure realism keeps optimism in check.

Pessimist business leaders tend to believe that bad situations are the fault of others or the internal team, and that good business outcomes are not caused by anything they or others have done, and most likely cannot be repeated.

So, when it comes to optimism or pessimism, “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” is an ideal motto. To achieve that, you must be honest with yourself about your approach and outlook.

Whether you believe the world is conspiring against us, or if you believe that the world is conspiring in our favor, it doesn’t make it any more or less realistic.

A business leader can be optimistic or pessimistic, but there is a also third state of mind called, Being A Realistic Optimist. This means that in general and for most business situations, a leader is an optimistic thinker. However, in particularly challenging conditions (e.g., before and during very complicated negotiations with many unknown and unfavorable variables) a leader might apply a more conservative style.

Optimism balanced by realism shines when faced with extreme challenge. Optimists choose to look for positivity in the situation, and most importantly, they always take action towards a better outcome, regardless of the problem.

Let’s take a moment to define optimism:

A tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and expect the most favorable outcome.” -Courtesy of Dictionary.com

What’s so unrealistic (or unhealthy) about that? Optimistic leaders believe that things will work out because in their minds believing in the alternative makes absolutely no sense. No matter what a leader’s goal, they have no control over the future. There is no one reading these words which can predict the future. And because of that, we have a genuine choice that we need to make about our expectations.

Since none of us know what will happen next, wouldn’t it make sense to always focus our expectations on what we want to happen in our lives instead of what we do not want to happen?

The word “Optimism “is originally derived from the Latin optimum, meaning “best.” Being optimistic, in the typical sense of the word, ultimately means one expects the best possible outcome from any given situation.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle (Albert Einstein).

Research has found that positive, i.e., optimistic thinking can aid in coping with stress, in becoming more resilient, in being more courageous, and plays a significant role in improving one’s health and well-being.

According to Martin Seligmann, people with a so-called optimistic explanatory style tend to give themselves credit when good things happen and typically blame outside forces for bad outcomes. They also look at adverse events as temporary and atypical.

Albert Bandura, one of the founding fathers of modern psychology, argued decades ago that optimism is the basis for creating and maintaining motivation to reach goals. And that an individual’s success is mostly based on the fact of whether they believe they will succeed. The results of his findings have yet to be proven wrong.

Unrealistic optimists (I also refer to them as naive realists), on the one hand, are convinced that success will happen to them almost automatically and that they will succeed effortlessly. Some of them even think (and hope) that only by sending out positive thoughts, the universe might reward them by transforming all of their wishes and aspirations into reality.

Realistic optimists are vigorously optimistic, too. They firmly believe that they make things happen and that they will succeed. They do not doubt it. Saying that, on the other hand, they perfectly know that in order of being successful, they have to plan well, to access all necessary resources, to stay focused and persistent, to evaluate different options, and to execute in excellence.

Being both optimistic and realistic, i.e., combining the two into one behavioral style of realistic optimism, creates a special breed of very successful people. Natural optimists stay positive and upbeat about the future, even – and especially – if and when they recognize the challenges ahead. As such, realism and optimism are not diametrically opposed. The contrary is true: They compellingly complement each other!

In case of doubt – and mostly if you want to achieve something very unique and impactful – the optimist in you should outwit your realist. Why? The realist might be too prone to anxiety. The optimist, however, if stimulated and guided well, will activate your fantasy, imagination, and boldness.

But there is an important caveat: to be successful, you need to understand the vital difference between believing you will succeed and believing you will succeed easily. Put another way, it’s the difference between being a realistic optimist and an unrealistic optimist.

Realistic optimists believe they will succeed, but also believe they have to make success happen — through things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies. They recognize the need for giving serious thought to how they will deal with obstacles. This preparation only increases their confidence in their ability to get things done.

Unrealistic optimists, on the other hand, believe that success will happen to them — that the universe will reward them for all their positive thinking, or that somehow they will be transformed overnight into the kind of person for whom obstacles cease to exist. (Forgetting that even Superman had Kryptonite. And a secret identity that took a lot of trouble to maintain and relationship issues.)

Believing that the road to success will be rocky leads to tremendous success because it forces you to take action. People who are confident that they will succeed, and equally confident that success won’t come easily, put in more effort, plan how they’ll deal with problems before they arise, and persist longer in the face of difficulty like the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Unrealistic optimists are only too happy to tell you that you are “being negative” when you dare to express concerns, harbor reservations, or dwell too long on obstacles that stand in the way of your goal. In truth, this kind of thinking is a necessary step in any successful endeavor, and it’s not at all antithetical to confident optimism. Focusing only on what we want, to the exclusion of everything else, is just the naïve and reckless thinking that has landed industry leaders (and at times, entire industries) in hot water during this difficult period.

Cultivate your realistic optimism by combining a positive attitude with an honest assessment of the challenges that await you. Don’t visualize success — visualize the steps you will take to make success happen.

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If you have any questions or would like help in the area of Compliance and Controls please do not hesitate to contact Frank at frank@ationadvisory.com or visit my website at www.ationadvisory.comAtion Advisory Group has expert financial and operational experience in development, manufacturing, distribution, and sales spanning 55 countries and, six continents, delivering individualized, proven methods to build out and implement highly successful and sustainable country-specific goals.  All executed with 100% FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) compliance.

leaders

How Strong Is Your C-Suite Bullpen? Preparing The Next Generation Of Leaders.

About $350 billion a year is spent on leadership development, but many companies aren’t getting much bang out of their buck. Studies indicate that lots of senior executives don’t think the next wave is prepared well enough to assume larger leadership roles.

With many companies in a transitional phase, either due to people retiring or radical changes prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, having ill-equipped leaders taking over can compound problems. Some businesses will suffer if they don’t make major changes in how they develop leaders, says Jennifer Mackin (www.jennifermackin.com), ForbesBook author of Leaders Deserve Better: A Leadership Development Revolution and a leader of two consulting firms.

“With baby-boomer leaders nearing retirement, there are fewer people in the workforce that are capable of doing the work required,” Mackin says. “Generation X has smaller numbers of people and hasn’t been invested in leadership development like boomers have.

“Many CEOs complain that their people aren’t ready to lead into the future. The source of the problem is leaders don’t know what to do differently to strengthen their people. A leader’s primary role is to coach and to create an environment that perpetually develops new leaders. There are ways they can refocus on that.”

One of those ways, Mackin says, is for executives to align business strategies with their people strategies. She offers these tips on how senior management can link the two and develop leaders in the process:

See the need to prioritize people strategies. Strategic plans, Mackin says, must address more than the financial component. “Too often CEOs and senior leaders put their people at the bottom of their strategic plans and fail to connect their business strategies with their people strategies,” Mackin says. “People are the most integral component of your strategies. If you decide, for example, that your organization will enter new markets, you have to connect that objective to your people. Maybe you will need 500 new people or 10 new leaders with certain skills to achieve your objective. How do you prepare for that?”

Know the key components of a people strategy. “Your people must fully understand the business plan for the next one to three years,” Mackin says. “Broad strategies for people have been identified to execute the business plan. There’s a plan for succession for all key roles. Gaps in knowledge, skills and abilities have been identified, and an overall development plan for the organization’s leaders addresses those gaps. Once you have the people strategy, companies can acquire the right talent based on well-defined roles, measure the outcomes, and adjust the plan as needed.”

Continue to scrutinize leadership readiness. These are questions CEOs must ask regarding where both their business and their leaders are today – and how to get them where they need to be tomorrow. “This must start with a plan that compares current state to future state,” Mackin says. “What are the gaps and how are you going to fill those with business and people strategies?”

Build a clear line of sight. Once the alignment is determined, Mackin says it must remain in sight for all leaders and their direct reports. “The leader knows where the organization is going, and direct reports understand their role in getting there,” Mackin says. “A clear line of sight means there is a connection between leaders’ objectives, the business strategy, and individual contributors’ work. It is also important for direct reports’ engagement and feeling of purpose that they understand exactly how their work and objectives add value to the business.”

“All senior leaders should be involved in the business strategy and people plans,” Mackin says. “It is critical that executives prioritize the development of leaders who can drive strategic change.”

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Jennifer Mackin (www.jennifermackin.com) is a ForbesBook author of Leaders Deserve Better: A Leadership Development Revolution, and a leader of two consulting firms – CEO of Oliver Group, Inc. and president and partner of Leadership Pipeline Institute US. As an author and speaker with over 25 years of consulting experience, she is a recognized leadership development influencer, having worked with CEOs, human resources managers, leadership development leaders, entrepreneurs, and other senior leaders in healthcare, hospitality, distribution, government, manufacturing, higher education, banking, financial services, and social services. She earned her BS in marketing from Indiana University and her MBA from Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

covid

3 Approaches to Continuing Operations through COVID

COVID has impacted every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Businesses across different industries and verticals are adjusting their strategies and day to day processes in an attempt to make the best of this unprecedented moment. For this reason, different types of technology have become more prominent as they allow businesses and professionals to maintain the pace of business in light of how COVID has transformed the way we work.   

A recent survey from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that half of Americans are currently working from home. Along with these changes in work come new challenges regarding problem-solving, engagement in work tasks, and productivity. But as the trend of working remotely is here to stay – especially for Dev teams, for whom this was already somewhat the norm. In fact, in a recent IBM survey, 80% of respondents want to work remotely occasionally, and over 50% want to work from home primarily.

In particular, businesses within the logistics industry need to be able to address the logistical issues of keeping employees safe and aware of the risks, as well as maintaining internal operations so that business can continue. Here are three tips and suggestions for technology and process shifts that can help logistics businesses continue operations through COVID. 

Large Scale Consent with COVID Waivers

As employees at all levels of the supply chain continue to work, and as plans to reopen the office are being built out, there needs to be a way to keep everyone safe and healthy. This involves letting employees know about risks associated with COVID. Using liability waivers – legal agreements that must be signed before a particular activity is undertaken – can be a good solution for this. But rather than use pen and paper contracts (which require face to face contact) or traditional eSignature (that does not scale, especially when there is a high volume of signers), consider one-click contracts. They allow for rapid and seamless acceptance and still carry the same legal weight as a normal contract. They can also be accepted via text or email.

Use Clickwrap to Present Standard Agreements

Because of COVID, businesses are seeking ways to improve their current processes by cutting down on the time or money spent completing them. When it comes to contracts, many use pen and paper or eSignatures to send agreements and collect acceptances. However, these old processes have no place in this new world. One solution is to use clickwrap agreements to present your standard agreements, or market terms. A clickwrap agreement removes the necessity of signing and replaces it with a box or button that users can check or click to signify acceptance. That way, there is no need for face-to-face contact, and contracts can be executed remotely as necessary. 

Automate Everything 

With the changes in business priorities, logistics teams will no longer have the bandwidth for some repetitive tasks that previously received a lot of attention. Instead of hyper-focusing on them or ignoring them altogether, automate those processes so you have time to focus on others. Workflow and Content Automation (WCA) is a growing category of technology that businesses should leverage. After identifying the repetitive processes, WCA enables you to identify high volume, low-value transactions and automate the document workflow associated with them such as implementing clickwrap agreements. This includes standardized agreements like terms and conditions, privacy policies, and NDAs. 

As these constant changes require businesses to make changes to their current internal processes using technology that helps them adapt better to the ongoing circumstances. Using clickwrap agreements can help significantly reduce the amount of contact between transacting parties. It can also be a massive internal lift as it helps with workflow and content automation, thereby enabling you to reduce repetitive processes. Finally, using COVID liability waivers that scale with your business is a sophisticated way to ensure that your business minimizes physical contact and protects its best interests in this new world.

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Brian Powers is the founder and CEO of PactSafe and a licensed attorney. As the CEO, Brian leads the strategic vision of the company’s high-velocity contract acceptance platform.  Prior to founding PactSafe, Brian’s law practice focused primarily on representing the transactional needs of tech companies. Brian is a frequent speaker, instructor and author on topics ranging from clickthrough contract acceptance to privacy-related consent management.

GT Podcast – Episode 122 – Craig Reed with Avalara

In this episode, Global Trade Magazine speaks with Avalara’s, Senior Vice President of Global Trade, Craig Reed about the tips and trends of e-commerce, and how their technology is helping companies streamline their taxation compliance.

An Economic Recovery From COVID-19 in 2021 Is Possible – But Massive Uncertainty Remains

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on human life. But it has also caused widespread economic upheaval for both advanced and emerging market economies as countries shut down to try to stop the spread of the virus. The U.S. for instance is set to see the most severe economic downturn since GDP was first tracked in the 1940s.

This means deep hardship for many businesses of all sizes and across all industries. Shutdowns caused many firms to entirely cease operations for a time. Now, they are grappling with plummeting demand as a result of rising unemployment and uncertainty, on top of supply chain difficulties and uncertainty as to financing resources.

Bad Timing for a Global Crisis

Although there is no “good” time for a pandemic to strike, business conditions in 2020 were already a little shaky prior to the outbreak. At the beginning of the year, the global economy had just finished its weakest year since the Great Recession, global trade was turning sour, trade finance had become more restricted and continued uncertainty from the U.S.-China trade war weighed on businesses everywhere.

If the outlook was stormy at the beginning of the year, it’s now outright bleak. Atradius economists are now forecasting that global trade will decrease approximately 15 percent in 2020, while global GDP will decline about 5 percent. The U.S. will perform below average, with a 6.1 percent decrease in GDP – largely due to its lag in controlling the virus and subsequent record high in number of COVID-19 cases, in addition to soaring unemployment as well as pressure on incomes, leading to a drop in consumption.

Will Government Intervention Be Enough?

Governments and central banks the world over have enacted measures to counteract the pandemic’s economic devastation. Early in the crisis, for instance, the European Central Bank put in place a Long Term Refinancing Operations III program, while the U.S. Federal Reserve increased quantitative easing.

Countries have also put together aid packages, such as the U.S. CARES Act and a number of packages from individual EU economies and the UK. Similarly, China is providing tax relief, state-backed credit guaranteed, and delayed loan and interest payments. Altogether, global government stimulus measures amount to approximately 9 percent of global GDP, or around $7.8 trillion.

But will this be enough? Atradius economists suggest not – not unless countries also enact vigorous policies to revitalize the economy at every level. The EU Pandemic Fund provides a good example: the $750 billion initiative will bestow loans and grants to the areas and sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, allowing for a more even recovery rate across the entire EU.

Although stimulus measures are necessary, soaring government debt levels are also cause for concern – even before the outbreak, many countries had worryingly high debt levels. The most recent baseline scenario from Atradius economists has the U.S. federal budget deficit, as a proportion of GDP, increasing by more than 10 percentage points this year. The UK will fare even worse, seeing a 13 percentage point increase in deficit growth rate. China and India are the only major economies likely to maintain moderate debt ratios through the pandemic.

All that said, low interest rates will likely stick around through the end of 2021 at least – this should help offset some of the concerns over high government debt levels. Moreover, central banks like the Fed and ECB will continue purchasing government bonds, suppressing any financial market stress.

What’s Next?

While the global economy is under undue strain at the moment, Atradius economists predict a recovery could begin as early as this year, continuing into 2021. Our baseline scenario has global GDP rebounding by 5.7 percent in 2021, with the U.S. coming in just under that, with GDP growth of 4.2 percent.

This scenario, however, is shrouded in uncertainty and hinges on a few key assumptions:

-That researchers are able to develop a successful vaccine in the near-term

-That lockdowns will be limited throughout the remainder of the outbreak

-That oil prices will remain low

-That the U.S.-China trade war will remain at a standstill

-That the rise in financing cost for firms, if any, remains limited

Should these assumptions not play out, the global economic recession could be much worse than anticipated – contraction rates could be twice as damaging as those currently predicted, with global GDP contracting 12.2 percent in 2020 and U.S. GDP seeing a 7.9 percent drop. Recovering from a contraction of this size would be a slow, painful process, although we would expect 2021 to see similar growth rates.

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John Lorié is chief economist with Atradius Economic Research. He is also affiliated with the University of Amsterdam as a researcher. Previously, he was Senior Vice President at ABN AMRO, where he worked for more than 20 years in a variety of roles in commercial and investment banking. He started his career at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. John holds a PHD in international economics, master’s degrees in economics and tax economics as well as a bachelor’s degree in marketing. 

Theo Smid is an economist with Atradius Economic Research. His work focuses on business cycle analysis, insolvency predictions, thematic research and country risk analysis for the Commonwealth of Independent States. Before joining Atradius, he worked for five years in the macro-economic research team of Rabobank, focusing on business cycle analysis of the Dutch economy. He holds a master’s degree in economics from Tilburg University.  

business plan

10 Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Many entrepreneurs and business owners make mistakes when they rush to start a business before considering important details.

A great business plan can help you anticipate important issues and possible challenges before you start your business.

In fact, studies show that entrepreneurs who take the time to write a business plan are 2.5 times more likely to follow through and get their business off the ground.

Here are 10 tips to help you write a great business plan.

1. Learn from other entrepreneurs and business owners

Start by reading as many business plans as you can get your hands on.

-Search the tables of contents and consider which parts are relevant to your business.

-Flip to the index and see how well organized and granular it is.

-Check out any exhibits or charts and consider how your business plan could benefit from similar exhibits or charts.

Remember, you’re not reinventing the wheel here. For example, you can get a free business plan template for a traditional business plan and a one-page business plan.

There have been many who did this before you and you can benefit from their experience and expertise.

2. Be prepared and do your homework

Don’t mess around – research everything.

Thoroughly.

If you expect to be the market leader in 2 years, you need to demonstrate why this is possible and how you’ll meet this goal.

If you say your product will be viral, you have to support this statement with facts.

If you say your management team is experienced and qualified to help the business succeed, you have to support that claim with resumes that demonstrate the experience.

It’s easy to lose credibility – and investors – if you’re making claims you can’t fully support.

Need specific insights on how to write a great business plan?

Read this definitive guide on how to write a business plan. You’ll learn about each section of the business plan, from the executive summary to the appendix, and you’ll be able to download free business plan templates for a simple one-page business plan and a traditional plan, and other important templates, including a SWOT analysis template, sales forecast template, profit and loss template, cash flow template, and a balance sheet template.

3. Know your market and your competition

Some business owners avoid talking about potential competitors.

This is a mistake.

Unless you’re creating a new industry, you will have competitors. And you’ll need to figure out how to beat them or at least to compete with them.

To understand your competitors and the industry, you’ll need to do market research.

Invest some time and effort and do it correctly. A business can’t succeed if the owners don’t understand their industry, target customers, or the competition.

4. The table of contents is your friend

The TOC is your outline for the plan.

Take your time with it; make sure you are including all of the relevant topics.

At a minimum, your plan should include sections on the company you are forming, your marketing plan, financial information, and your go-to-market and growth strategy.

Look to other business plans for inspiration.

5. Don’t give away your secrets when sharing your business plan

If you plan to share your business plan with potential investors, bankers, or others, require confidentiality.

And make sure you cover yourself with a strong disclaimer. The last thing you want is for a potential investor or partner to claim that your business plan misrepresented your business.

6. Write a strong executive summary

People are busy. Few read 50-page business plans. Even fewer read 100-page business plans.

Most will read only the executive summary and flip through other sections of your business plan.

This creates both a challenge and an opportunity.

If your executive summary is strong, you increase the prospects to have a further conversation with a potential investor or partner to make your pitch in person.

Bottom of Form

7. Know your audience

Who will be reading your plan?

Is it written for investors? For potential partners or board members? For a bank to get a small business loan?

Anticipate the kinds of questions those people will want to be answered and answer those questions. For example, if your audience includes bankers, think like a banker and write what they would need to see to fund your business.

A great business plan will show that you have thought through your business idea clearly and have developed a plan to develop the idea into a sustainable and profitable business.

8. Make the business plan readable

A great business plan should be compelling, interesting, informative, and exciting.

Make sure that you include detail, but not so much that people are overwhelmed.

Use appendices for the details and anything else (like resumes) that would bog down the body of the plan.

Do a careful edit for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and voice.

Get a second (and third) set of eyes to give you constructive feedback.

Do not be stingy with charts, graphics, illustrations, and tables. They are great ways to present detailed information in a digestible form.

9. Use Pro-formas wisely

People interested in your business plan will want to see projections of your performance, your costs, and your anticipated growth.

But, they are sophisticated enough to recognize when those numbers have been arrived at based on real data compared to when you simply make up the numbers.

So, be conservative in all financial estimates and projections. If you think you’ll get a 25% share of your market in 2 years, hint at those numbers but assume you’ll get only a 5% share for purposes of your financial projections.

One good approach is to show the best, worst, and most likely scenarios for sales and growth.

10. Keep it simple

Keep your language simple and use readable fonts and a clean layout.

And, let your personality show. If you believe in what you’re writing, your passion will show in the final product.

And at the end of the day, remember that most people don’t invest in a business plan.

Most people invest in a person.

You.

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Ross Kimbarovsky is founder and CEO at crowdspring, where more than 220,000 experienced freelancers help agencies, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profits with high-quality custom logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. Ross mentors entrepreneurs through TechStars and Founder Institute, was honored as one of Techweek100′s top technology leaders and business visionaries, and enjoys wearing shorts to work after a successful 13-year career as a trial lawyer. Ross has founded numerous other startups, including Startup Foundry, Quickly Legal, and Respect.

philosophy

Why Today’s Leaders Are Channeling Ancient Philosophers

Steve Jobs wished he had met Socrates.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Marcus Aurelius fan.

Elon Musk leans toward Aristotle.

Across the land – and the world – leaders in business, government and other areas look to the future by seeking wisdom from the past – the far past. While that might sound surprising, perhaps it shouldn’t be – especially when it comes to entrepreneurs and CEOs.

“Philosophy is one of the most important things that can be introduced into the corporate world today because of its fundamental properties and practical benefits,” says Cristina DiGiacomo (www.cristinadigiacomo.com), author of Wise Up! At Work and founder of MorAlchemy, a leadership consulting firm that helps CEOs and executives use philosophy to tackle challenges by teaching them to think differently and see new solutions to help their companies thrive.

“In fact, most of the important and progressive management, communication, and organizational practices are based on principles firmly rooted in philosophy.”

Helping others and doing your work dutifully come from philosophies of service espoused by Romans such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, DiGiacomo says. Ideas of employee-centric cultures and employee-driven suggestions are a modern expression of Plato’s ideas. Reciprocity and meritocracy, mutually beneficial acts, and equitable work cultures can be traced to ideas from Confucius.

“Even the idea of work/life balance has philosophical moorings in Lao Tzu’s teaching on balance in life,” DiGiacomo says.

At some level, many top leaders understand this – either knowingly or unknowingly channeling ancient philosophers whose wisdom has remained constant and relevant for centuries.

Just a few examples of the phenomenon are:

Musk and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings have both used “first principles” thinking to grow their businesses. The term “first principles” was coined more than 2,000 years ago by Aristotle, who believed we learn more by understanding a subject’s fundamental principles, breaking down problems into their basic elements and then reassembling them.

Schwarzenegger, the actor, politician and businessman, cited the words of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius when he addressed 2020 graduates in a video commencement speech. The COVID-19 pandemic created plenty of obstacles in the final months of school for those students, inspiring Schwarzenegger to use the Aurelius quote: “What stands in the way becomes the way.” In other words, Schwarzenegger told the graduates, impediments that keep us from our goals can also be the motivation to achieve our goals.

Robert Ceravolo, head of Tropic Ocean Airways, said in a Forbes interview that one way he manages the stress of running a business is by reading about stoicism, particularly Aurelius and Seneca. “What makes something good or bad is your perception of whether or not it’s good or bad,” Ceravolo says. “When [the worst] happens, it’s not a massive shock.”

Lucio Tan Jr., CEO of Tanduay Distillers Inc., has said that his father taught him Confucian values, such as doing to others as if you’re the other person. Tan has said the Chinese philosopher’s teachings “give you a deeper perspective of humanity, respect for others and for nature,” and have served as a guide for his approach to leadership and life.

“The reason ancient philosophers continue to have relevance in America’s corporate boardrooms is simple,” DiGiacomo says. “Their ideas stand the test of time and still have practical applications in the 21st century, just as they did hundreds or thousands of years ago.”

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Cristina DiGiacomo (www.cristinadigiacomo.com), author of Wise Up! At Work, is the founder of MorAlchemy, a philosophical consulting firm. She also is the inventor of industrial philosophy and is the driving force behind the idea of applying philosophy in the workplace for the benefit of the leadership of organizations. DiGiacomo has 20 years of corporate executive experience at companies such as The New York Times, Citigroup, AMC Networks, and R/GA. She holds a master’s degree in Organizational Change Management from The New School. She also dedicated nine years to the study and practice of philosophy.

GT Podcast Episode 121 Beating Covid and What Lies Ahead

GT Podcast – Episode 121 – Sean Strawbridge with Port of Corpus Christi

In this episode we welcome special guest, Chief Executive Officer of Port of Corpus Christi, Sean Strawbridge, to take a deeper look at what to expect for our ports and trade in the midst, as well as after, Covid 19.

knowledge management

Researchers Propose a Model to Better Manage Knowledge and Innovation in Multinational Corporations

With a clear understanding of knowledge management, executives can make more effective managerial decisions. Knowledge management has been evaluated from various perspectives. This variation may differ because knowledge management is understood in many different ways and therefore different scholars focus on different aspects of it and offer several options of managerial application. These perspectives are discussed below.

Taking a Technological Perspective

Executives know that they can take a technological perspective. In this case, the executive understands how knowledge management as facilitating organizational processes and activities uses information technology to organize existing information. Executives have found that knowledge management embraces information technology to convert individual knowledge into valuable resources for their organization. Executives focus on individuals as the major source of knowledge and show how followers tie together so that they can effectively share the storage, transfer, and application of knowledge within organizations. Executives, therefore, see these connections, and the related shared knowledge and memory, as central to the effectiveness of knowledge management.

Taking an Economic Perspective

Executives agree with Doyle McCarthy, who sees society as a product of knowledge. Defining culture as various forms of knowledge and symbols that make up an organization’s culture. However, knowledge is a by-product of culture and knowledge’s role in guiding and facilitating people’s action is key to executive decision-making. Four scholars by the names of Bernard Marr, Oliver Gupta, Stephen Pike, and Goran Roos define knowledge management as “a set of activities and processes aimed at creating value through generating and applying intellectual capital.”

Executives direct practices that create value from intangible organizational resources. For executives, it is clear that the objective of managing knowledge is to add value to organizations. The focus here is that executives consider the fact a firm’s knowledge is positively associated with its outcomes.

Taking a Process Perspective

The process perspective focuses on knowledge flows that executives use through embracing the processes of knowledge management for strategic management decision-making. Managing knowledge is not new, scholars have considered the various processes involved. Executives can look at three-step processes of knowledge accumulation, integration, and reconfiguration. Jang-Hwan Lee and Young-Gul Kim’s model for managing knowledge takes a strategic process-oriented approach and is relevant to executive leadership. Executives build a climate of openness for individuals to exchange ideas. Knowledge is accumulated by creating a new approach to gathering, evaluating, and disseminating information throughout the organizations.

Executives inspire people to create new ideas and develop effective mechanisms to acquire knowledge from various sources such as suppliers, customers, business partners, and competitors. This is similar to a value-chain approach. Executives need to first support this approach for the model to work because they play a strategic role in expanding the knowledge accumulation through applying incentives as mechanisms to develop a more innovative climate and managing effective tools to acquire knowledge from external sources.

Executives then integrate knowledge internally to enhance the effectiveness and efficiencies in various systems and processes, as well as to be more responsive to market changes.

Accumulated knowledge is synthesized to produce higher quality outcomes. Thus, knowledge integration focuses on monitoring and controlling knowledge management practices, evaluating the effectiveness of current knowledge, defining and recognizing core knowledge areas, coordinating expert opinions, sharing organizational knowledge, and scanning for new knowledge to keep the quality of their product or services continuously improving.

Executives can promote knowledge integration by creating expert groups or steering committees to enhance knowledge quality and evaluate knowledge assets. Follower’s diversity of skills and interpersonal relations that is based on trust and reciprocity can improve the performance of group cohesiveness.

Therefore, in the process of knowledge integration, knowledge enters organizational processes and provides valuable contributions to products and services. Executives as leaders steering the organizational strategy facilitate this process, by undertaking initiatives that improve knowledge transfer, thus enhancing the performance of employees and the implementation of effective changes to maintain the quality of products and services. The burden of success when the effective implementation of knowledge integration is concerned is heavily dependent on the capabilities of the organization’s leaders.

Executives must also curtail knowledge within organizations. This knowledge needs to be reconfigured to meet environmental changes and new challenges. At the same time, it should not be leaked to the competition in any shape or form unless agreed upon by senior executives. When executives agree to share knowledge with other organizations in the environment, studies have shown that that knowledge is often difficult to share externally. One reason is that other organizations have too much pride to accept knowledge or are apprehensive to expose themselves to the competition.

Therefore, executives may lack the required capabilities to interact with other organizations, or distrust sharing their knowledge. In addition, just the notion of creating an expert group or steering committee may be shortsighted because such groups may not have sufficient diversity to comprehend knowledge acquired from external sources. On the other hand, executives are aware of networking with business partners is a key activity for organizations to enhance knowledge exchange.

Networking is a critical concern for leaders in this process is developing alliances with partners in external environments. Executives and their expert groups and/or steering committees are the ones who can make final decisions about developing alliances with business partners.   Figure 1 depicts this model of knowledge management.

In Conclusion

There are some executives that like to look at academic journals but unfortunately, the crossover literature has not reached them enough. This article attempts to blend scholarly concepts with real-world applications. This article introduces an applicable model to evaluate knowledge management success. Also, this article provides evidence that knowledge management is used in corporate infrastructure for strategic decision-making.

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Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.

communications

3 Ways to Ramp Up Your Internal Communications and Improve the Bottom Line

A workplace should be more than simply a place where employees carry out their jobs. It should also be a place where they feel empowered to grow, develop, contribute to the organization, and feel the direct impacts they have.

Think of your workplace like a car: Communication functions like the car’s internal computer, sending the correct signals to disparate parts so they can function, work together, and deliver a top-notch finished product or service. The best way to create this environment is to implement tools and processes that promote internal communications.

Case in point: 71% of frontline workers state that new communication tools increase their productivity, which improves the bottom line with timely communication between head offices, team leads, and frontline workers. Because better communication tools and processes also lead to less time spent in meetings, frontline managers can focus on their tasks while eliminating nonvalue-added steps.

As companies navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of internal communications becomes even clearer: An Edelman study recently found that workers currently trust their employers more than they trust the government when it comes to information about the pandemic.

During these turbulent times, your workers require empathy and need to feel safe. It’s absolutely essential to remain in close contact with your teams and keep them informed of ever changing regulations and policies that impact the way they work.

The Case for Revamping Your Communications

Over the long run, businesses that implement effective internal communications strategies tend to have more aligned and engaged employees who outperform in their roles. This is because they’re enabled to easily access up-to-date information and freely share ideas. As a result, companies reap many benefits, including improved employee morale, reduced turnover, better customer service, and increased innovation through collaboration.

Beyond that, digital communication tools can also provide a big boost to a business’s bottom line. Employees often waste precious working hours searching for documents and information because companies don’t store these materials in a strategic fashion. We know that, on average, employees waste about 8% of their working time per week, according to Deloitte. Depending on your company’s size, that could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars spent every month on simply searching for information to do the job right.

To make it easier for your frontline workers to find what they need, opt for a single point of contact that includes all their communications and tools.

3 Steps for Facilitating Impactful Internal Communications

Currently, not nearly enough businesses capitalize on the benefits of internal communications. In fact, an alarming 60% of companies have “no long-term strategy or vision” for internal communication. The reason behind this is nothing new: It’s because business leaders have historically resisted the adoption of new communication tools and strategies.

For example, when email first emerged, a common reaction to the technology was: “Why do I need an email account when I can just send a fax to my employees?” It took several years before companies wholeheartedly embraced email and made it a natural part of daily communication.

Today, emails are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to workplace communication. Widespread smartphone usage has unlocked an entirely new world of options. Plus, 80% of the global workforce is made up of frontline workers who aren’t tethered to a desk. It’s clearly time for companies to embrace a mobile-first communication strategy that effectively and efficiently loops in every employee in real-time.

The following steps will help your company revamp its internal communications infrastructure:

1. Audit your current systems and processes

Conduct a comprehensive assessment of how your company currently communicates. Then, identify all of the different tools and methods each team uses to exchange information. Keep in mind that managers and executives have completely different workflows than frontline workers. Leaders should either spend time in the field to better understand how these individuals communicate with each other or conduct a series of in-depth conversations to ensure they have an accurate picture and can effectively coach employees.

Ultimately, you’ll likely end up with a long list of communication methods, including emails, phone calls, text messages, digital files, paper documents, and more. From there, your goal should be to eliminate manual paper-based processes and narrow the list down to as few digital avenues as possible. Streamlined internal communications will help you ensure consistent messaging and better organizational alignment.

2. Give every employee a connection and voice.

Each employee at your company should have a unique digital identity. Regardless of their roles, employees should be able to log into an online communication portal that allows them to send individual or group messages, access important documents, and read companywide announcements.

In many cases, companies will spend millions of dollars on complex digital systems but grant access only to a small group of employees. Many other companies will fail to properly utilize the tool itself, and the project ultimately fizzles out because employees refuse to adopt the system.

In reality, you don’t need a complicated piece of software to accomplish your communication goals. A simple, intuitive, and relatively inexpensive mobile app could do the trick — and your workers will thank you for offering this option. After all, modern-day employees are digitally savvy and want to communicate with colleagues using their smartphones.

Likewise, encourage your frontline employees to speak up using these communication tools. How you encourage that conversation will depend on your organization, but you should be able to understand their perspective and offer a sense of belonging by implementing a bottom-up communication strategy.

3. Follow up and seek feedback.

After meetings, many companies overlook an essential element of effective internal communications: following up with employees. Upload a recap of every meeting to your digital platform and ensure everyone is clear on the messaging and aligned around the next steps.

And don’t forget that internal communications should be a two-way street. Throughout the year, host a combination of town halls, webinars, and digital Q&A sessions that allow workers across all roles to share ideas and insights with the leadership team. Surveys and polls are another effective way to collect feedback — whether they follow meetings or events or simply function as a quick pulse-check. All in all, provide ample opportunities for each employee at your company to let his or her voice be heard.

It’s time for business leaders to start thinking more critically about how communication ties into productivity, profitability, and safety — especially during a global pandemic. By clinging onto inefficient, outdated communication tools, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to create a stronger, safer, and more productive workforce.

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Daniel Sztutwojner is chief customer officer and co-founder of Beekeeper, the single point of contact for your frontline workforce. Beekeeper’s mobile platform brings communications and tools into one place to improve productivity, safety, and agility. Daniel is passionate about helping businesses operate more efficiently. He has a background in applied mathematics and more than eight years of experience in sales and customer success.