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Podcast: The Customer Experience Show – Secrets of Successful Multi-Generational Work Cultures

Podcast: The Customer Experience Show – Secrets of Successful Multi-Generational Work Cultures

Dean and myself were interviewed by Michelle Romanica on the Customer Experience Show on Blogtalk Radio. It was a great show, with some fascinating insights into multi-generational workplaces.

The blurb of the show says:

In their work, Graeme Codrington and Dean van Leeuwen have conducted extensive research, working to address the emerging issue of generational differences that can cause problems in the workplace today. Graeme and Dean have worked to bridge this gap in theory, implementing it in practice in many companies. Anna Elwood, Director of Operations, was one of ZocDoc’s early employees who helped shape this company. ZocDoc has seen a work model emerge naturally; one that focused on the uniqueness of generational needs rather than focusing on differences to “divide and conquer”. It works on principles that demonstrate Graeme and Dean are not talking about “pie in the sky”. Here is a company that is practicing what it takes to “bridge the gap” and succeed together.

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Video: Fujitsu’s 21st Century Leadership series

Video: Fujitsu’s 21st Century Leadership series

Recently, I spoke at an evening function hosted by Fujitsu in London. The theme was: “Who’s in charge? Leadership in the 21st century workplace”. Liv Garfield, CEO of BT Openreach, and myself shared the platform and a panel discussion, and were then interviewed by the Financial Times alongside some of Fujitsu’s leading thinkers. It was an excellent evening, and a short 6 minute video was compiled by the FT with some of our key thoughts.  Enjoy.

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I want you in my office. Now. What’s really going on at Yahoo?

I want you in my office. Now. What’s really going on at Yahoo?

The biggest tech news so far this year has been an announcement by Yahoo that they want “all hands on deck” and that all work-from-home is being cancelled as from June. Irked Yahoo employees have leaked the memo that was sent by HR head Jackie Reses. Apparently the move comes from the very top, from CEO Marissa Mayer, and will be applied without exception to all remote workers, both those who do so full-time and any who have flexible work from home arrangements. Read the memo and some initial analysis here.

The key message is that Yahoo wants to become “the very best place to work”, and wants to do this using “communication and collaboration” and “working side-by-side”. But then, the real intent is clear: Yahoo wants to be “more productive, efficient and fun” and says that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”.

The response from a world that is assuming that more remote working is the future has been loud and incredulous. Is this really the way forward? Has Marissa Mayer made a huge misstep here? Or does she know something we don’t?

What’s going on?

We know that Mayer is under pressure to produce profits at Yahoo, and does not have much more time to deliver a fairly radical turnaround. We also know that she has a fairly forceful leadership style. Business Insider resported a few months ago that an unnamed staffer told them of a team of Yahoo’s product designers who pitched a new product to Mayer. She approved the product on the condition that they get it to market months ahead of their own schedule. Then Mayer supposedly told them they had exactly one week to figure out how to get the product out by the end of the year, and that they would all be fired if they couldn’t get it done.

The stated reason behind the move by Mayer is that she had done an analysis of the VPN (virtual private network) data of remote workers, and Yahoo employees working from home were not logging into the system for enough hours during the day. Supporters of the move have largely pointed to two things: the fact that work from home people can slack off, and the need to have everyone in the office if you’re going to effect quick culture change.

The second reason may be right, but the first one seems spurious. Most remote workers are unlikely to be constantly on the VPN, especially if the system itself is not as user friendly or helpful as it could be. And if you’ve employed a bunch of slackers, you can bet that they’ll slack off in your office almost as well as they could slack off at home. The only difference is that you’ll have lost some productive hours due to traffic and commuting time.

Studies on telecommuting are conflicted right now, mainly because it’s a nuanced thing. It works well for some functions, but not others. It works well for some people, but not others. However, it seems that, in general, in increases productivity, wellness and motivation for most people.

So, why did she do it?

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VIDEO: A free agent nation – disruptive employment

VIDEO: A free agent nation – disruptive employment

The world is being completely reshaped by five key disruptive forces: technology, institutional change, demographics, environmental and ethic issues, and shifting social values. This video investigates how one company has created a vision of how this might change the world of work.

There are exciting opportunities for many companies to shift from offering products to offering a suite of services to their clients. And even those companies that already offer services need to re-vision what those services might look like if they were offered as part of an outsourcing type solution for their clients.

This short video highlights one company’s story. How might this look for you?


This video of Graeme Codrington was recorded by our good friends at Your Business Channel as part of their ongoing work to capture the best business insights in video format. See more video at our TomorrowToday TV channel.

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Leadership Self-Awareness

I have yet to meet a leader that can effectively solve problems or conflict by way of assertion. In fact, assertion as a means to resolution is highly toxic to your organizational culture.  Assertion is like holding a beach ball under water, holding it steady is consuming and the slightest shift will cause you to lose control of the ball.  Yet time and again leaders default to assertion or bully tactics to try to attain control of problems or conflict, at best this provides a temporary false sense of control.

When leaders engage others by way of assertion it is a clear indicator that they are lacking in self-awareness and perspective-taking; the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes.  Self-awareness requires an openness to introspect upon how your biases, beliefs and values affect what you say and do and ultimately how you affect those around you.  Few people take notice of how their own biases manifest irrational behavior and even when we do pay attention, it is challenging to change our deep-rooted habits.

Problems and conflict are a part of life and your level of self-awareness and perspective-taking shapes your response to them.  As you change your level of consciousness your situation changes.  In fact the most powerful method of resolution is to elevate your level of self-awareness and perspective-taking.

We can view self-awareness through three lenses:

Literal awareness: is when problems or conflict are repetitive in nature, they feel frustrating and draining and your perception is that others are the problem and that you are right.

Symbolic awareness: is when problems or conflict are viewed metaphorically, you recognize the patterns, biases and perceptions that are at the root of the problem.

Creative awareness: is when problems or conflict become opportunities for your creativity to shine, your symbolic awareness has enabled you to discover resourceful ways to find resolution and learn.

When someone pushes your buttons, you are in literal awareness and the key to disabling your buttons is to choose a more symbolic perspective.

Next time you feel the urge to assert yourself to resolve a problem or conflict take a step back and gage your level of self-awareness and then consider the perspective of others before you respond.  The same goes when you feel your buttons being pushed, this is not easy, in fact it is very humbling at first but you will quickly discover that this is the most effective and sustainable path to resolution.

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A question to leaders everywhere: What questions are you asking?

A question to leaders everywhere: What questions are you asking?

Most people collect something or other. For some it is stamps, for others it might be model cars or antiques or things that have little significance beyond the passion of the collector. I too have a collection, albeit an unusual one but one that I think every leader would do well to imitate. I know that may sound somewhat presumptuous but I really do believe that my collection can make a significant difference to those tasked with the heavy responsibility of leadership.

To be honest I’m not quite sure when it all started and it is not the kind of collection that one can display; nor is it one that could be sold as it really doesn’t have any intrinsic value in and of itself. Yes, it is an unusual collection but one I would like to share with you as you make your way in the journey we call ‘leadership’.

I collect questions.

Not just any questions but those kinds of questions that seem to have the ability to turn things inside-out, upside-down and sometimes, right-way up. The kind of questions that can serve as a companion for quite some time and that tend to stick with you whether you like it or not. The kind of questions that are hard to ignore and the type of questions that somehow invite new insights and fresh perspectives. The type of questions that act as gateways to paths previously thought unattainable.

But you know what I mean.

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The Best Way to Develop Leaders Yet!

The Best Way to Develop Leaders Yet!

“I have done all the tests,” he said to me, “and the Enneagram is by far the best I have ever done. It really has made a difference in my life. Would you please come and do it for my team”.  So came the request that sees me once again presenting an Enneagram workshop- something I have done countless times in many countries. Every time that I get to present the Enneagram leaves me amazed yet again at how powerfully it resonates with those experiencing it for the first time and the impact it makes.

Today there is a growing understanding of the importance of leading ‘out of who you are’  – an understanding that leadership has more to do with ‘character’ than merely being a ‘skill-set’. There is a growing appreciation for the role that emotional intelligence plays in the leadership mix and it is in such circumstances that the Enneagram offers the ‘best’ solution.  As you start to understand leadership in this light, so the work leaders need to do in order to be ‘fit’ changes. If the world has changed, leadership needs to change. The world has changed! This is one reason why leadership development and leadership education have to shift.  What has gone before is inadequate for the demands placed on leadership into the future. This is the reason that one of the finest business schools globally has invited us to share with them how best to incorporate the Enneagram into their executive leadership education curriculum. It is work we anticipate with relish as the uptake on incorporating the Enneagram will be profound.

The Enneagram is based on ancient wisdom that enables us to understand our personal compulsions that drive our behaviour. In effect the Enneagram invites deep personal exploration, a look ‘beneath the waves’ and therein sits the tremendous transformative power of this tool or framework. If we are to change there has to be an appreciation for what underpins the surface behaviour and this is where the Enneagram offers insights like no other self-awareness tool.  So many of the more familiar and popular tools used in this regard fail when taken across cultural and geographic borders. They hold up well in the West but fail dismally in the East. The Enneagram transcends such borders – something I know from personal experience having worked with the Enneagram with over 30 cultures spanning Asia, Africa, the Americas, Western Europe and Eastern Europe.

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Building successful teams is hard work

June 20, 2012 Graeme Codrington Connection Economy, Leadership, Talent, Teams No Comments
Building successful teams is hard work

Everyone has their favourite Olympic event. For many it’s the 100m sprint as the fastest men on earth hurtle down that tiny corridor to victory and fame. But for me, amidst all of the individual events that characterise the Olympics, the event I look forward to the most is the 4 X 100m relay. These are often the final events in the track schedule – the pinnacle of the stadium show. I might be revealing too much about myself if I say that the reason I like the relays so much is because often world-class athletes are made to look like school children: fumbling the batons, running past each other and just generally falling apart. It’s like watching a motor race just to see the accidents. And accidents happen regularly in relays.

The reason is obvious. It’s the same reason that many sports teams fail to reach their expected potential: they don’t know how to act as a team. A group of highly talented individuals is not a team. A group of people all brilliant at what they do as individuals can still fail if they do not work together effectively. Over and over again, the world of sport shows this to be true.

Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, and one of the greatest athletes to ever play any sport, once said:

“There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual goals more difficult to achieve. One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

What is true for sport is equally true in today’s workplace. In our complex, fast-moving, technology-driven world, collaboration and team have never been as important as they are now. Of course, there are many different types and forms of teamwork. We’re increasingly being required to work in virtual teams, separated by space and time zones. Yet, the essence always remains: teamwork is the art of joining others in pursuit of a common goal.

Teams don’t just happen

Actually, it’s more than just joining. We don’t join a team. We become a team. And becoming a team requires hard work, commitment and sacrifice.

Just as the 4 X 100m relay athletes have to put some real effort into becoming a team, and need to learn a few new skills to help them do so, we also need to work hard to build our teams in the office.

It requires that we discover our own strengths, and play to them. It will need to agree together on where each of our strengths lie, and agree to sometimes step back out of the limelight to allow someone else to contribute their best efforts. It will take learning new skills, especially “soft” skills of communication (by which I really mean listening), empathy, understanding and connection. And it will mean that we put the good of the team above our own advancement.

It’s that last one that is at the heart of it all.

We really do need to believe that we only each succeed as individuals when the team succeeds in its goals. We need to act in ways that are consistent with that belief.

It might be worthwhile, as we head towards the Olympics of 2012, for you and your team to take some time out to use this metaphor of a relay team to help frame a conversation about how you can become less like individual super stars, and more like a well oiled team that is able to sprint towards the finish line with victory as your prize.

Credit goes to Mike Henry of the Lead Change Group for inspiring these thoughts.

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Living Up To Expectations: Understanding Generational Expectations in the Workplace

Living Up To Expectations: Understanding Generational Expectations in the Workplace

Not only are expectations subject to personal nuances, they can be further understood by looking at broad generational values that underpin behaviour.

Generational Theory as originally promoted by Howe and Strauss, two Yale and Harvard trained political economists, suggests that there are value bases to each generation that have been shaped during our formative years and influenced by local events with a global reach. Of course a great deal has since been written and debated when it comes to this theory and arguably TomorrowToday, having presented and taught Generational Theory is some 45 countries, has more experience in this area than any other consultancy or institution globally. The theory provides a helpful framework from which to explore and understand generational differences – and generational similarities.

When it comes to workplace expectations it is useful to understand that each of the Boomer, Gen X and Gen Y generations have distinct and at times contradicting expectations. Let me highlight just three dominant expectations for each of these generations.

Let’s start with a brief look at the Boomers (those born from around 1947 – 1969). Boomers are ‘in charge’ – a fact that needs to be acknowledged as one ramification of this reality is that it is Boomers who set the policies, determine the rules and create the management blueprint.  When you step into a work environment the chances are you will be stepping into a Boomer environment. Being prepared for this will help you adjust!

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Wisdom and insights from Seth Godin

Wisdom and insights from Seth Godin

I am a huge fan of Seth Godin, and subscribe to his daily insights blog and emails. So many of his daily nuggets are pure gold, and I find myself wanting to share them (I do this through Twitter @workforcetrends or my Speaker Profile Facebook page if you’d like to subscribe) and write blogs of my own based on them. But time is not kind to me.

So, instead of adding my own insights to Seth’s nuggets, here are four of my most favourite recent blog entries from him:

  • Organized Bravery – most organizations institutionalize cowardice
  • Avoiding false metrics – make sure you’re measuring the things that make a difference to what you’re really trying to achieve
  • Free samples – when it’s right and when it’s wrong to give – and take – a free sample (hint: the rules are different in the physical and digital worlds)
  • Bandits and philanthropists – Both have been around forever, but the web magnifies the edges and brings these two opposite extremes into focus (take away: don’t be be a bandit)


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Secrets to Success in a New World of Work: High Tech, High Touch, High Trust

Secrets to Success in a New World of Work: High Tech, High Touch, High Trust

The world we live and work in has become increasingly complex in the past two decades. Rapid advances in technology, together with globalization and fast growth all combined to rewrite the rules of success, failure and organizational design. The result is that in most multinationals we now have very complex matrix reporting structures, a proliferation of geographically dispersed teams, managers who would not be able to complete the work of absent team members, and more stress and pressure than ever before.

In this environment, we have no choice but to rely on others for our success. This is raising the premium on at least three aspects of this new world of work: computers, connections and collaboration. A high tech world is still high touch, and demands high trust.

High Tech

It’s almost impossible to imagine that a little over two decades ago we had no mobile phones, no Internet, no email and no 24-hour TV news channels. In less then one generation we have revolutionised communication and initiated significant change in every aspect of our lives. Initially it seemed that the revolution was simply to speed up everything we had been doing, but increasingly we’re discovering that advances in computing power, processing speed and bandwidth, also allow us to do different things and to do what we do in entirely different ways.

Companies are only just beginning to discover the benefits of this high tech world. Many organisations still fear it, banning Facebook, YouTube and Skype, and limiting access to the digital world during office hours. Some have begun to experiment with using technology to enhance what they do already, including video meetings, in-house instant messaging and document management.

But only a very few are truly stepping into this high tech world and trying to take advantage of issues like “big data” (our ability to harvest, process and utilize hundreds of thousands of data points, and use algorithms and intelligent systems to look for patterns in the data that can influence our decision making), social business (using the concepts underpinning social media to devise entirely new approaches to all aspects and functions of business), BYOD (bring your own device, as companies stop insisting on specific hardware or uniform platforms for staff) or truly mobile, cloud-based, digital communications (that will free people up from needing to be in any specific location).

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Leading Diversity: The Zoo versus The Wild

Leading Diversity: The Zoo versus The Wild

I was recently asked to write an article for the Switch and Shift leadership blog. I picked up a theme that has been a significant one for our team for many years. It is one that our new business partner, Prof. Nick Barker has most of his professional career working with. It is the topic of cultural complexity, diversity and difference. The topic is a vital one for all larger businesses these days, as we deal with the increasingly complex interactions between people of different worldviews, cultures, personalities, generations, genders and all the other factors that cause us to see the world differently to others.

One of the most significant leadership issues in the 21st century is going to be the issue of diversity. This is because it’s not just about ensuring the requisite numbers of women and ethnic minorities at various levels within your organisation.; It’s about engaging with difference, and using that engagement to enhance your business success.

But this can only happen if we have a significant change in mindset.

Put simply: the goal of diversity is not harmony. And this is the problem: Most leaders approach the issue of diversity with a checklist in one hand (to make sure they’ve covered all the ‘diversity factors’ they’re being measured on) and a hope of maintaining harmony in the other. They see the management of diversity as the “taming of difference”.

The result is that you end up with something that looks and feels a bit like a zoo does: all the different species are there, neatly and carefully labeled, but they’re all locked up, artificially caged, and the visitors are not allowed to feed them. Zoos have their place, of course, and a lot of good work goes on in the world’s zoos. But they are not reality. They’re sterile places. And they are not self-sustaining.

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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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