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Navigating Complicated Conversations

November 11, 2014 dawna Change, Leadership No Comments

conversationDespite so much focus on mindfulness these days, there are many ways in which we struggle to apply it, most of all with how we communicate.  When I coach executives about self awareness I am struck by how difficult it is to really own ourselves and our intent despite all the colourful greatness that comes with engaging others authentically.  The leaders I most admire have mastered allowing their confidence and vulnerability to coexist, especially when discussing sensitive topics.  Being vulnerable is not simply being open minded, it requires you to be upfront and authentic about your intent and feelings.

Over the years I have developed a strong sense of confidence in my ability to navigate change and all of the challenges and joys that come with it.  And at the same time I have developed comfort with being vulnerable enough to stumble, fail or be hurt and embrace the growth that accompanies exposing myself authentically.  What fascinates me is that we make confidence very easy to own, we are innately drawn to confidence in one another.  But historically we do not always openly embrace vulnerability with the same clarity.  The good news is we are seeing growing appreciation for leaders that win our deep respect and our hearts by revealing their vulnerable confidence.  But I wonder if they did not have to face numerous instances of judgement for their vulnerability before it manifested appreciation.  I know I have.  It seems that the powerful outcome of vulnerability reveals itself over time, eventually rising above all the biases we have towards it.  When we are in the throws of vulnerability often our irrational mindset kicks in which can surface behaviours we do not tolerate very well.  At times vulnerability can sound like complaining or whining and come across as insecure which can really muddle the emotions for everyone engaged in the conversation.  Even when this does not occur, vulnerability is complicated. We need to be mindful of how we express it and how we response to it.  First and foremost we need to recognize if we are passing any judgement when we first come across it and if so, that is coming from our own stuff and our own biases.  Second we need to listen more deeply, trying to understand the underlying intent and source of the vulnerability we are feeling ourselves or observing from others.

Our response to vulnerability is often at the core of the dysfunctional communications I encounter when I am coaching my clients.  And it is also at the core of most of my own challenges with communications.  With this in mind I have some suggestions on how we can mindfully navigate beyond the literal dynamics of vulnerability and find our way to embrace the beauty of it.

If you are the one feeling vulnerable first recognize that this invites an irrational state of mind and be open to how this may be diminishing your intent.  Try to get clear with yourself on your intent and what is in your way.  Own your emotions and observe how they are impacting your ability to communicate in a way that inspires others to listen.  A big part of vulnerability is accepting a lack of control, and a lack of control can surface manipulative behaviour even if that is not your intent.  Vulnerability is only a strength when you are not attached to the outcome.

If you are engaging with someone who is expressing vulnerability first recognize your own response to it.  Do you feel a sense of judgement? Are you listening deeply or simply hearing their words literally.  If you do innately recognize vulnerability as a strength then remind yourself of that in the moment and try to understand their intent before responding.  Acknowledge that they are likely less aware of their own behaviour in this state of mind, which may surface in their tone or ability to process your response rationally.

As I have already mentioned, navigating vulnerability in conversations is complicated.  It requires a delicate balance of self awareness from both perspectives.  Simply differentiating between vulnerability and manipulation can be challenging, ultimately we want to encourage the kind of vulnerability that pushes ourselves outside of our comfort zone so we can grow.  That is very different than manipulation, even though it may get communicated with similar undertones.  There is no prescriptive way to handle vulnerability, but we can be mindful about it. Listen and respond to people in context of who they are as a whole and avoid responding literally to any one situation and own what thoughts and emotions you bring with you.

Good communication is key to all our relationships, personally and professionally.  Arguably the degree to which you can communicate mindfully determines your potentiality to grow individually and as a team.

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Don’t write the U.S. off just yet – How the TIDES of Change model can help assess the future of the world’s largest economy

Don’t write the U.S. off just yet – How the TIDES of Change model can help assess the future of the world’s largest economy

“Many business leaders will realise, soon, that they are underinvesting in North America” says Joel Kurtzman a leading figure in the U.S. on the future of business. Joel founded the Booz & Co magazine Strategy+Business and is also a senior fellow at the Milken Institute, an economic and finance think tank. This is an interesting prediction especially as the prevailing wisdom suggests that companies should be focusing on the emerging BRIC nations. So should you take note of Joel’s prediction or is it the hype of an American consultant longing nostalgically for the return of America’s golden era? If Joel is right however, there will be important strategic implications for businesses, consumer confidence and the future of global economic growth.

At TomorrowToday we specialise in understanding disruptive forces and for over a decade we’ve been making sense of a changing world. Our research on disruptive forces indicates that economic and political power is shifting distinctly East as well as South away from the U.S. This trend, we believe is likely to continue for the next two to three decades until a new equilibrium is reached in the global economy. So on the face of it our research does not support Joel’s prediction. However, this is where it get’s exciting because disruptive forces have an uncanny knack of creeping up and catching business leaders suddenly off guard. To remain vigilant leaders need to seek out the voice of dissent, find the voice that goes against reason because these can often be the weak signal that things are about to change or be disrupted. For example, back in 2005, Raghuram Rajan, a chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, attended the top central bankers’ get together in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to present a paper on how the financial sector had evolved during Alan Greenspan’s era and gave a presentation that his listeners could never have expected. He argued that increasingly complicated instruments like credit-default swaps and mortgage-backed securities, had made the global financial system a riskier place, not less so as many believed. His presentation at the time represented the voice of dissent, under Greenspan the global financial market had never seemed more stable and Rajan’s audience didn’t take him very seriously. Three years later in 2008, however, his views proved prophetic. Rajan has since been credited with generally predicted the sources of the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

So as the global economy navigates to a point of equilibrium, the forces of disruptive change will make the journey somewhat turbulent and if Joel’s prediction represents the voice of dissent, it’s worth considering it in more detail. Using our TIDES of Change model on disruptive forces I’m going to test Joel’s prediction. The TIDES model assesses the impact of five disruptive forces – Technology, Institutional Change, Demographics, Environment & Ethics and Shifting Social Values.

Does Technology support Joel’s prediction?  … Continue Reading

Today’s youth: cleaner living, wholesome hobbies, socially conservative… Research

September 26, 2014 Graeme Codrington Future Trends, Generation X and Y, Generations, Parenting No Comments
Today’s youth: cleaner living, wholesome hobbies, socially conservative… Research

For over a decade now, we have been using our understanding of generational cycles to predict that today’s youth and young adults were likely to respond to social change by becoming more socially conservative. This would include reductions in hard drug use, reductions in anti-social behaviour, a more caring attitude towards to environment and generally more wholesome living.

The drug, sex and rock n roll fuelled young adulthood that many Boomers remember from the 1960s and 70s, and that Xers re-enacted in the 1990s, would be replaced by a very different looking generation.

Well, all around the world social science is showing that this is in fact happening. A recent article in The Telegraph went so far as to call them “Generation Yawn”. It’s actually an excellent article with great research to back it up. And I think you’ll be both amazed and uplifted by the information. Read it here.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. And all of life lives on normalised bell curves. So I am sure you know of a few very anti-social youths. But, in general, what is your experience of today’s young people? Does The Telegraph’s research ring true for you?

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Getting rid of email – here’s a company that’s done just that

Getting rid of email – here’s a company that’s done just that

Over the last few months I have begun to include a small section in some of my workshops on the clutter and “stuff” that makes work life a pain. Almost all participants identify meetings and email (and many add managers, for a “3M” trilogy of evil). Email is going to kill us. Or at least melt down sometime in the next few years.

You know this to be true. Your inbox is in much worse shape today than it was a few years ago. And it isn’t going to get any better by itself in the years ahead. We’re going to have to find a fix for this growing problem.

Some companies reckon that the solution is to abandon email altogether. The South American travel comparison site, El Mejor Trato is one such company. Fast Company magazine interviewed the CEO, Cristian Rennella (who only gets about five emails a day, from external people) to find out what they did, how they did it, and the impact it has made on their business. Read the report here (or an extract below).

This might be worth trying in your team or business. You’ve got to try something!

… Continue Reading

What constitutes middle class, a growing global disruption

What constitutes middle class, a growing global disruption

Today Graeme Codrington and I are part of the London Business School team working with the leadership of a petroleum company from the Middle East. The course is being held in London and we were talking to them about disruptive forces. One of the forces that will change the world is a growing middle income population.  Our studies show that by 2050 the global GDP will quadruple, over 90 million middle class consumers are joining the global economy every year until 2050. That’s an economy the size of Germany being added to the global economy every year. By 2025, Mckinsey, a large consultancy, believe that global consumption will increase by thirty-five-trillion US dollars. In 2009 middle class was 1.8 billion, this will rise to 3.2 billion by 2020 and 4.9 billion by 2030.  Asia is almost entirely responsible for this growth. Its middle class is forecast to triple to 1.7 billion by 2020. By 2030, Asia will be the home of 3 billion middle class people. It would be 10 times more than North America and five times more than Europe.

This growth in global affluence, especially in the emerging nations is going to have a huge impact on business. Do you understand the impact it will have on your business or your industry? The change will be unprecedented. Are you thinking through what the new markets will be? What cities will you concentrate on (not what countries)? What competitors will emerge as companies in emerging nations become more cash rich, sophisticated and more competitive?

If you are not thinking through these questions and many other important one give TomorrowToday a call we can help you think through this and other TIDES of change

For more information of this shift read this excellent article on BBC News click on the link below

[here is an extract...]

The rise of the global middle class

So who counts as middle class?

According to organisations like the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it’s someone who earns or spends $10 to $100 per day.

That’s when you have disposable income and enough money to consume things like fridges, or think about buying a car.

As the UN suggests, the growth is being driven by industrialisation. The industrial revolution of the 19th Century transformed the economies of Britain, the US and Germany. The move from agrarian to industrial societies generated income rises that created the middle class.

Now it’s the turn of emerging economies, particularly in Asia. In Indonesia, for instance, investment now exceeds 30% of GDP, a sign that there is more manufacturing.

read more … Continue Reading

The Concierge: Luxury or Commodity?

The Concierge: Luxury or Commodity?

‘Get our credit card and we’ll give you free ‘Concierge’ service; sign up for our premium bank account and we’ll help you arrange your life beautifully, buy a VERTU and concierge comes for free … and if you’re in the US, buy a Hyundai Equus’ … “because your convenience is the greatest luxury of all”(1)

What happened to the legendary, mystique and secrecy of great Concierges that made the lives of the social elite a delight? What happened to the profession known for their unrivalled local knowledge, relationships and commitment to excel in faultless service delivery – all at unquestioned discretion?

The stories of Concierges range from arranging a simple wake-up call, to getting you a ticket to that already sold out concert, to finding a thousand roses at 5pm for a birthday party at 8pm, to arranging a white elephant for an Indian wedding.(2)

Steeped in History

The profession of the Concierge dates back to medieval France, when the ‘Comptes des Cierges’ (or literally: carriers of the candles) fulfilled the purpose of carrying light for the noblesse and elite during their travels. The Concierges were responsible for lighting their ways in times when light came at a premium. From there, the step to holding the keys to special places – and over time – relationships was no stretch: providing ‘access’ to places and people ordinary citizens could only fathom at, making the lives of the elite as smooth as possible in every aspect was quickly turning into a full fledged profession. To belong to the society of the crossed keys (golden, generally) is to this day an expression of status and recognition for any true concierge.

Fast forward to our era of not-enough-time

It is more than likely that the image of a concierge will conjure up an image of professional, gentlemanly help for you. For most of our recent time, concierges remained a proposition mostly encountered in upscale hotels of four stars and beyond. Up until recently, or to be exact up to the early 1980ies.

… Continue Reading

Award winning emerging market startups with a global edge

Award winning emerging market startups with a global edge

Seedstars World is a Geneva-based company that holds competitions for startups around the world. Their list of competition winners from the last year includes 19 emerging market companies that are innovating products and services with some exceptional promise.

We believe that disruption (and therefore, innovation) comes from the edges. These edges might be at the edge of an industry, an economy or geography. The interesting thing about the 19 firms listed by Seedstars is that they’re beginning to focus their attention on taking their offerings into established markets. With access to crowdfunding and venture capitalists who are starting to look beyond established markets in order to get higher returns, these companies may be hugely successful. But more than just looking at them, they’re a symbol of the change in mindset of business leaders around the world. Emerging markets should not be ignored.

Elizabeth MacBride, a writer for Forbes magazine took the list and categorised it helpfully as follows:

Financing infrastructure is being constructed fast and at the cutting edge.

    • Accra, Ghana-based Kitawa is building a Bitcoin-based online payments platform.

    • Remit.ug, based in Kampala, Uganda, enables people from all over the world to transfer money to mobile wallets in Africa.

… Continue Reading

The Business of Holidays

September 6, 2014 Dil Sidhu Strategy No Comments
The Business of Holidays

Summer is just about over and many of us have enjoyed a break, whether it was a ‘staycation’ or ‘vacation’. I spent 10 days on the southwest coast of Cyprus where the weather was flawless and thankfully, not a lot else to do other than sit near a pool, catch up on my reading (with many still-unopened books), enjoy family time (one reason I keep pictures of my kids in my wallet is so I’m able to recognise them when I come home after extensive business trips away!), stroll along the beach at sunset and then order another drink!

However, that wasn’t the whole story as there was another activity that took up some of my time, albeit it was my choice, which was to do some ‘work by stealth’. So while the family thought I was relaxing in the ‘laps only’ pool I was actually on the ‘iThing’ checking emails and even sneaked-in two conference calls because I didn’t want to miss out on decisions being taken in my absence.

Then I noticed it what was happening around me! I wasn’t the only one doing it! I began to see that many people on holiday were sitting with earpieces on and speaking quietly into their gadget of choice and some even taking notes!! The ‘Always On’ work phenomenon had made it to the pool’s edge. Okay, I admit it willingly that I’m also easily bored so after page 56 of the slow-burn spy novel ‘Smiley’s People’ I wanted something else to do. So, I started looking at the holiday experience from a business perspective and being an ex-consultant it didn’t take long for me to start taking note of the ‘Current State’ situation.

… Continue Reading

A leader’s most important job

A leader’s most important job

Discovery leaders explore new ways. New business and markets are created because someone found a better way to do something. Discovery is an adventure. Imagination, design and creativity are the lexicons of discovery. It is fleet of foot, nimble and athletic. Discovery is where value is born, nurtured and grown.

If discovery leadership results in success, delivery leaders follow, most certainly if the business takes on outside investors. The delivery leader’s job is to make business more efficient, more rational and take the costs out of it. Numbers and accounting is the language delivery leaders. Delivery is where value is extracted.

Getting more efficient is seductive; it’s targetable, quantifiable and delivers quick results. But as the delivery strengthens, it overwhelms the discovery gene, pins it down and mutes discovery’s voice. The discovery muscles grow weak, untrained and unfit. Then business wakes up one day asking the question: How come we don’t know how to compete any more?

The most important role of the leader is as chief discovery officer, because that is where the value is created.

Financial success is a by-product. Leadership’s aim should be to focus on competitive advantage. The leader’s job should be to get the company ready for the future, keep the discovery gene fit, well trained and amplify its voice.

Protecting discovery by understanding what matters for customers and community. Explore new ideas, experiment, fail fast and tell stories of the future that inspire people –  The French poet and explorer Antoine de Saint-Exupery  said, “If you want to build a flotilla of ships, you don’t sit around talking about carpentry. No, you need to set people’s souls ablaze with visions of exploring distant shores.” – that’s your job.

Discovery, that’s how to be a successful leader, that’s your most important job.

 

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Meet Gen Y: Five videos, ten minutes and a lot of insight

Meet Gen Y: Five videos, ten minutes and a lot of insight

Raymond de Villiers is TomorrowToday’s Gen Y guru. He works hard to understand today’s young people, and then make sense of them for you and me and our businesses. He’s packaged some of his insights into short “thought bullet” videos that I am sure will be valuable to you. Here are a few of my favourites (if you can’t see the videos embedded, just click the titles for a link to YouTube):

Meet Gen Y, and the two key forces that have shaped their world, and them:

Here’s a slightly longer extract of an hour long talk Raymond did recently on generations, in which he introduced Gen Y:

My favourite label for this generation actually helps to make sense of them: Digital Natives:

… Continue Reading

Insights on Beer, Vinegar and Customer Experience

beerI have come to believe that we are all spinning our wheels in our efforts to change until we learn to understand and embrace our irrationality.  I watched anotherDan Ariely talk this weekend and he shared an analogy that really helps illustrate why we are so irrational about understanding our irrationality.  Humans by nature are irrational beings, so how can we become rational about our irrationality?  He speaks about a study where they provide two types of beer and ask the participants for their preference.   One group is told they are tasting one beer with vinegar added and another beer without; in this case the participants all prefer the one without.  Then they offer the same two beers to a second group only this time they don’t share that one has vinegar in it; and in this case the participants prefer the one with vinegar.  Turns out that vinegar enhances the taste of beer but our preconceived notions of what vinegar would do to beer trump how we experience it.  In other words, our preconceptions shape our experiences and trump reality.  Which highlights that we don’t even have a clue when we are being irrational.

So how can companies design products and services that account for what we are unaware of?  And how can we advocate change when we are neurologically wired by our preconceptions that inhibit us from embracing what we really would otherwise prefer.

I think it is fair to say that most companies are finally focusing on Customer Experience as a key imperative.  But they are doing this with little to no regard for how we human beings actually experience products and services.  These days data and rational strategies are typically the drivers behind most Customer Experience initiatives, with high rewards.  But with this approach we are only scratching the surface of the opportunity to maximize the value and returns of our efforts.  If we layer in mechanisms to interrupt or disguise our preconceptions that block us from a positive experience than I believe we can exponentially impact outcomes both for our customers and financial stakeholders.

Ariely gives a powerful example of this in context of social conflict.  An example I see time and again in business is when companies deliver a new message, or create a new product or service that they are certain is of great value for their customer.  Yet it gets received with reluctance, caution or even rejection.  Typically the response to this is to either push harder, re-engineer, or to abandon the change altogether.  When really what is needed is to better understand the preconceived beliefs that are in our way.  To complicate this challenge further, our own personal preconceived beliefs about what our customers needs are may be in our way too.  Bottom line is that we need to invest in a sophisticated understanding of human behaviour.  This awareness needs to begin academically, and once we begin to understand the nuances of it we will see, hear, and experience everything differently.  Only then can we really begin to expand on the rewards of designing meaningful experiences for our customers.

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Recent media mentions

Recent media mentions

Graeme Codrington has appeared in the media a few times in recent weeks. Here is a sampling of his contributions:

Speaking on Gen Y at the British Hospitality Association annual convention, Graeme focused attention on the impact that a younger generation is having on an industry that needs to employ significant numbers of young people to succeed. His presentation and contribution to a panel discussion was captured in the June/July 2014 edition of Hospitality Today (page 24-25): read it online here.

Graeme spoke at an Extended Knowledge Conference for Baloise Insurance Group in Germany recently. Here is a summary of the session.

Graeme was recently interviewed on CapeTalk 567 radio, on how to future-proof our children. Listen to the 15 minute interview on SoundCloud here.

A number of the TomorrowToday team have been featured on yourBusinessChannel’s Inside Finance TV channel. See their briefings videos here. We especially like the video on “Blowing Industries Apart”.

… Continue Reading

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Primary Blog contributors

The main contributors to this blog are:

Dr Graeme Codrington, co-founder of TomorrowToday, author, speaker and expert on the changing world of work
Dean van Leeuwen, co-founder and CEO of TomorrowToday UK & Europe, speaker, consultant and Chief Intellectual Adventurer
Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday South Africa, leadership development guru, speaker and author
Professor Nick Barker, director of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii, leadership development expert
Markus Kramer, marketing director for Aston Martin and brand building expert
Keith Holdt, Visionary Enabler of business growth and change, currently works for LDC as an investment executive.
Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer, Manchester Business School; Executive education specialist.
Dawna MacLean, expert on fostering meaningful change and creating authentic experiences through transparent and trusted partnerships.

Click here for a full list of contributors


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