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Human Values: The Secret Ingredient in the Age of Digital and Disruption

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Original Date: September 7, 2016
The rate of change in today’s market has never been this fast and the challenge is, it is not going to get any slower. Digitization and disruption are happening in just about every industry and category. There isn’t a company out there that is disruption-proof. The question then becomes. What is it that leaders can do to prepare their organizations for what’s next?
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Katerina: So, good morning, good afternoon, good evening ladies and gentleman. My name is Katrina and it’s my pleasure to welcome you to the webinar ‘Human values – the secret ingredient in the age of digital and disruption’. This is one in a series of webinar where we connect for 30 minutes to bring to life the challenges we see in the market and share our experience on what to do about them.

Axialent is a global leader in business transformation services for organizations looking to move beyond profit and during this session, Silke Zanker will guide us through discussion on how going back to basics and focusing on values will support organizations and leaders to successfully navigate the current waves of disruption.

Silke is a learning and development expert who helps clients to increase personal and organizational effectiveness, well being and success through increased self-awareness, mindfulness, balance relationships, and purpose. Also, please note we will have a Q&A at the end of the session so, if you have any questions during the presentation you can use the question application and we will answer them at the later in the call. So, Silke.

Silke: Thank you very much, Katrina. So, welcome everybody also from my side. It’s good to be with you all and thank you so much for taking the time to be on this webinar. You’ve had the choice to be here, you could’ve done many, many other things but you chose to be here, which shows me that you are dedicated to your own learning and your own growth and the growth of the leaders you work with, the organizations you work with and that is something I think we need to really treasure, also about ourselves, if you do take the time out to do so. And like Katrina said, I’m gonna share some of our experience and the challenges that we see in the market and how we work with our clients and I really invite you to make this a shared experience or share your questions, your comments, insights and we will have enough time to actually go into these conversations and have that discussion.

So, the topic of today’s webinar, and I’m gonna go to the slides in a moment and I’ll come back to camera later on, so, the topic really is about how I was showing up in a time where disruption is the new normal. Where change is not something that only happens to a few in the market and to a few organizations but more than change, it’s about that every business, every industry and the way we show up in life is being disrupted and I’m pretty sure you can speak from experience that disruption is constant and it’s everywhere and all of society and organizations are influx.

That means, new business models are emerging faster than we can think. Technology is one of the main drivers and do you know when you think about technology and digital solutions, what was the latest thing a year ago probably doesn’t even exist anymore today and that places a very different demand on how we lead organizations and also how we interact with each other and how we communicate.

So, we’re living in a world of uncertainty and maybe uncertainty has been around since the beginnings of mankind but it always has been something that as human beings, we try to get away from and very often try to achieve a state of certainty, which is actually not really possible. So, uncertainty, I think, in complexity is becoming more and more the new normal for everybody.

In those times of tremendous transformation for businesses and for leadership, the question is, how can organizations learn faster than change itself? And change faster than change? And when we look at leadership, what are the influences of our environment right now on the way we lead? Many leaders have to lead on a really large scale in terms of leading people that we don’t see every day that we maybe never see and never meet once.

Many leaders lead in matrices, in a matrix situation and it is kind of this, not only one challenge but there are so many challenge on a personal level for leaders and on an organizational level. We have generations, multiple generations in one organizations and I think a lot what for, example for the generations of the millennials, is normal, isn’t very normal if we are not part of it. And so, that also places very different challenges on a leader.

In a world where control isn’t really possible, how come that sometimes we still think that one person, that one manager, that one leader needs to have all the right answers? That’s not even humanly possible, so why do we expect it from ourselves and from others? And that is a big part of what I would like to look at today and share examples with you how we work in Axialent with the companies that we work with and how we help the leaders who work with through programs and coaching to really step into their power so where they can say, “I’m ready to unlearn the model of leadership that I have in my head. That we’ve grown up with and find a different, define different model of what a leader, what it means to be a leader today.”

So, where being a leader doesn’t come from, “I feel safe because I know and have the right answer” but, “I feel powerful because I’m connected to something bigger than myself to the purpose of the organization that I work in to my own purpose and I have the curious and the courage to go out and venture out of something that is unknown to me.”

I’m 39, so I’m not quite a millennial and when I look how I grew up and many of the people I work with and we work with grew up so, we have a different model already. And that the people that leaders today will have to influence, they grow up with a different kind of leadership model. You also have to navigate those challenges and really help to bring different models of leadership together and create something new.

And like I said earlier, so change doesn’t always have an impact only on the outside. The structure, the processes of an organization or how innovation is being done but, it has an impact on every single one of us. On our physiology, on our nervous system, on our energy levels because to survive in the midst of all that change and disruption requires a tremendous amount of energy.

So, energy requires change but to be a driver of transformation requires even more change, energy. What are we doing about that? As executives in learning and development but also for the leaders in our companies? When we look at the amount of energy all of that requires, it’s a fairly easy reaction to say, “I’m gonna put my head in the sand and I want to know.” And many people do exactly that. And maybe, you are one of the ones who doesn’t do that but you may have people around you who put their head in the sand and say, “That’s okay, but it doesn’t concern me. Doesn’t concern our industry or our organization. I only have another 10 years in my role and I’m gonna survive.”

So, the question may not actually be, “Why do we live in a disruptive world?” But, “Why are some people more able to deal with it than others?” And one thing that we have noticed in the work with leaders is the ability to make people feel that they are being listened to from an authentic place and from a caring place is a key for people to say, “Okay, let me put my head out of the sand and look around a little bit. And if I trust you, maybe I even take one step further.”

I remember after the recent events like the attacks that happened and a lot of upheaval that has happened in our world recently, one day I spoke with an executive at Google and she said, “My entire day has consisted of reaching out to people and simply talking to them. Acknowledging that the world is changing and acknowledging that we all, we may feel fear, we may feel uncertainty but, to not acknowledge it is to ignore that the world has an impact on how we perform and how we feel.

And she said that simply the act of listening and asking questions and genuinely caring for people, is something that is on top of her list of her responsibility as a leader in that organization. And for me, that is a real role model. What it takes in these times to help people to also look beyond them, look at the horizon of what is possible.

So, what does it then mean in that world when we say, “So, how can we prosper as organizations and as individuals?” What is actually the leadership model that we want to develop? When we look around and when we look at organizations that really navigate well in these times, I think a few elements that make up that model is a leader can become incurious and really collect it of its change. And a leader who knows how to get to that place herself and who knows how she can inspire others to get to that place as well.

It’s a world where innovation is not the work of an RMD department or marketing because marketing is out there, needs to respond to the latest technology changes but where innovation is the work of everybody all the time. It’s a world where people within organizations and the organization itself is adaptable and agile and can really preempt and change no matter whether it’s a start up or it’s, say, a company that has been around for hundreds of years.

And I believe it is a world where people are inspired to bring their gifts to the world place. Their gifts of passion, their initiative and their creativity. And where they really truly believe that business is a way of expressing themselves in the world. I remember Dan Ping in his book A Whole New Mind, he said that, “What sets companies and organizations apart that prosper,” and he said, “One of the elements is their story and culture as a competitive advantage.”

I believe it’s actually not that hard but it is a total mindset shift. It’s not so much about learning new skills, and I believe learning new skills is wonderful, but how can we, in programs that we roll out, really have a focus on a level that is deeper than learning skills but shifting the mindset of leaders and then shifting the mindset of everybody involved in an organization.

Because as a leader a lot of people would know how to work with technology much better than yourself, so it’s not a matter of learning everything but a matter of understanding and being able to initiate that shift. So, self awareness and care and creating followership, those are leadership skills and competencies that serve organizations really well in our time today.

I want to explore a little bit. How can we navigate that world and I said earlier, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we had the ability to just be calm and for our cognition to really work perfectly. So, that this becomes a choice whenever we want it and not something that we are dependent on our environment.” Victor Frankel said so beautifully that, “Between stimulus and response that there is a space and in that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” To be able to drop into that space at will, that is a leadership skill.

That is something that can be learned, anybody can learn that. It’s not a surprise that when we look at the world economic forum in Davos earlier this year, the mindfulness sessions and meditation sessions were almost scheduled every single day and they actually had to double those sessions because the attendance was so big. That companies like Peugeot Citroen, Cisco, Microsoft or Siemens. They all are integrating meditation and mindfulness practices in their programs and asking for that. But, instead of just talking about this, I just want to give you a brief experience of how you can drop into a different space in a very brief moment.If you just want to … Unless you’re driving, which I assume you’re probably not doing right now but, if you’re sitting no matter in the office or at home or wherever you may be right now, if you just will take a moment to sit down, put both feet on the ground and just give yourself a really good stretch. Very simple, stretch a little bit from side to side because our body is one of the best vehicles to actually get into that space. And then exhale and then just move your upper body a little bit and inhale one more time. Really inhale and stretch. Stretch your arms out and relax your face, move a little bit from side to side. You can look at that beautiful picture of nature, maybe even think about going for a walk later on. And then exhale. Then take a comfortable seat, just relax your arms and maybe even close your eyes for a moment.

If you just want to … Unless you’re driving, which I assume you’re probably not doing right now but, if you’re sitting no matter in the office or at home or wherever you may be right now, if you just will take a moment to sit down, put both feet on the ground and just give yourself a really good stretch. Very simple, stretch a little bit from side to side because our body is one of the best vehicles to actually get into that space. And then exhale and then just move your upper body a little bit and inhale one more time. Really inhale and stretch. Stretch your arms out and relax your face, move a little bit from side to side. You can look at that beautiful picture of nature, maybe even think about going for a walk later on. And then exhale. Then take a comfortable seat, just relax your arms and maybe even close your eyes for a moment.

Just close your eyes, make sure that you sit upright so your spine is nice and tall, you’re upright. And then just connect to your breath for a moment. Just observe your breath without changing and without judging it. And then you can open your eyes again. Right, I’m going to demonstrate to you a breath that we’re gonna do very simple through your mouth. Just watch me for a moment. So, you breathe in and you exhale through your mouth. Okay, so let’s do that together. Inhale and then exhale. Then inhale again through your mouth, hold your breath for a moment and now as silently and slowly as you possibly can, exhale and rest all mental activity. Beautiful. Let’s do this one more time, the short exhalations. So, inhale and exhale. One more time. Inhale fully. Short pause and now as slowly and silently as you possibly can, you exhale and you rest all mental activity.

And then just observe how you feel for a moment. Beautiful. So, that was two minutes of our time. It doesn’t take that much, it doesn’t take that much time but it takes practice and commitment and remembering that we have a lot of tools that can get us into this space.

So, now I would like to come back to something that I mentioned in the beginning. How do we work with organizations and what is maybe some best practice around how to respond to the disruption and to a world that is constantly changing. One of the elements is really the question of, what is the purpose of your business? What is your personal purpose? And how do we enable purpose driven leaders?

Purpose really is not something that you can create, it’s something that is already inside of you as a person and it can’t be taught but it can be facilitated so that people can discover their purpose. And for organizations, the purpose is also something that emerges out of the conscious decision to really connect to it and for leaders to say, “How can I engage more purposefully every day in every action that I take?” And that is something that we can explore in trainings and in coaching’s and into actions every day.

So, it requires a radically different conversation to have the conversation about purpose and link it to the business challenges because I think that is an element of success in that conversation is to say, “So, how does discovering the purpose of an individual, as a leader or living the purpose of an organization help in meeting the challenges that come at us every day?”

And so, one way of doing it and really working with that every day is to say, “How can we make that purpose practically?” When we have a business challenge, when we have a difficult conversation, are we going back to our guiding philosophy, are we going back to the values that are important in our business and really live them? And remind ourselves and have an open conversation to how much is this decision serving the purpose of our business?

And again, that goes back to looking at programs for learning and development. Not to focus so much on how to behave as a leader but rather focusing on the depth of looking at what are the values and beliefs and the purpose that lead to our behavior? I find it quite interesting that I was teaching a program at business schools for quite a while in entrepreneurship and students in that program were 20, 22, 23 years old and they all had these questions, they were curious.

So, at business schools when people do an MBA they look at, “What does it mean to live my purpose in business?” So millennials for sure come with these questions and they challenge us and they expect that talking about purpose is not a conversation you only have in a leadership training. That it’s a conversation I can have with my manager as we are looking at the business challenges. As a leader it is really important that we can articulate who am I as a leader? And what is my story and what matters to me or how can I encourage someone else to have these questions and actually have an open conversation about them without having to have the one right answer because there is not one right answer.

And that is also the beauty about it because we are all unique and we are all different but we can inspire each other and contribute to something that is bigger than simply reaching our personal goals with that. And so, developing programs that give leaders and give leaders the space to have these conversations and to have a reflection that is deeper than we maybe sovietisms do on an everyday level. That is really something that we encourage.

It is about the quality of the conversations we’ll lead in our training and in our programs but also every day. And really good examples, is also work that sometimes we do with leadership teams and help them to take time out. Sometimes in an off side and really taking the time out but sometimes even within a meeting to just say, “Can we check in with each other and just look at, who are we and who is showing up as a person? How are you doing? How are we doing as a team and how does this relate to the challenge that is ahead of us?” So, as leaders to have to cultivate the capability to take time out to work on the business instead of in the business and to be agile and flexible to switch between the two is a fantastic skill to have.

So, that can give a sense of perspective to everybody who wasn’t involved. And then that can then leverage and really influence the entire organization. Holding the light of purpose of something that can shine light a lot of the things, a lot of the goals we have and a lot of the outcomes that we want to achieve.

And very closely and you probably saw that in the description of this webinar, our three values that we believe help organizations to navigate in our times. And one of them is ‘courage’ and we’ve put courage first because it does take courage to ask powerful questions. It does take courage to do things differently from how we’ve always done it. And it does take courage to ask questions around identity and questions around purpose. And to now with the change and the visibility that is out there that is happening these days, it does take courage to be more in the public eye. Even if the public eye is maybe the internet or the internal online community and I observe that in trainings where participants say, “Well, that if I type something on that online community forum, it’ll be there forever. Everybody can read my answer so, I first need to think about how it could be a politically correct answer.”

And that’s a filter and that’s a big filter and I think that’s a conversation we need to have in our organizations, any leadership trainings. If we want to really have truly blended programs where online is an essential component it’s a mindset to have to say, “I have the courage to show up and be okay with making a mistake.” And that’s okay in our culture as well.

It also takes courage to be out there on the marketplace. What do you write on your LinkedIn profile? What do you encourage leaders to write there? How do they show off authentically on that? Or deliver a webinar or are on Twitter or on Facebook, because these conversations are not necessarily conversations we can always influence but what we can influence is how people connect with an organization and how courageous they are in showing their true self.

And Brene Brown, who we probably all know as one of the leading researchers, she has done 13 years of research on courage and vulnerability at the University of Houston. She has a really beautiful definition of courage and she said that courage is a heart word, the root of the word ‘courage’ is ‘core’ and that is the Latin word for ‘heart’. And so, she goes on and she says, “Courage is not so much about the being a hero and about brave deeds but courage is something to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” So, speaking from our heart, that is ordinary courage.

The question is, what is a courageous act that maybe you and I can undertake today and what would it take for our leaders and our programs and at the workplace to show more ordinary courage? And linked very closely to ordinary courage is curiosity. It’s kind of having that curiosity of being okay to not having all the answers and being open to asking questions. Also, knowing that as a leader I may have a puzzle piece, one puzzle piece but many other people can add to that mosaic to that puzzle.

If curiosity and courage come together, they’re a really powerful combination. And in order to be truly curious and to be truly curious about the world of the other person and understanding that my view of the world is really only that. It’s my view of the world it’s not the truth. There’s one third component that is really essentially in that mix. It’s a word that sometimes we don’t really speak really openly about in our world. It’s humility.

Humility, really caring for people, seeking to serve other people and then to share the credit because when that condition is given, then true curiosity can arise and people dare and people dare to be courageous. Humility is one of the things that we can’t fake. You always know when somebody tries to be humble but really isn’t humble. A beautiful quote that I want to leave you with on that subject of humility is by C.S. Luis who said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

So, now my question is or my invitation is to really integrate these elements into our leadership programs. Into how we show up as learning and development leaders, as leaders wherever we are placed in whatever we do. And it starts with self awareness, it starts with appreciating the strength of other people and being curious and connecting to something that is bigger than ourselves, to our true purpose that is already there.

And so, I’m curious as whether you have questions or insights or comments and Katrina, she has been collecting some questions so, if you haven’t done so, there is a tab on the webinar where you can send in questions.

Speaker 3: Yes, hello Silke. I can start with the first question? I have a bit of an echo there. I have a bit of an echo there. I’ll try now. So, the first question is, can you provide examples of the main challenges or obstacles you saw companies face when you helped them to go through this process?

Silke: Sure, yep. Happy to speak about that. I think what is always a challenge is that enthusiasm has a half life. So, we may be curious and may be enthusiastic about diving deeper into that but then life happens and business happens and one of the biggest obstacles that I see is to really make this work a priority. A priority in our training programs and in our lives. It is something that as leaders and really if you are in a privileged place in an organization where you work in a learning and development environment so you can influence the conditions and give people the tools to learn, I think that’s a very privileged place to be, to role model that.

So, that is something that I have seen work really well. So, as a leader to take that time, to make it a priority to put it in the calendar, to schedule that with my team, to say, “Today we are not talking on the ‘it’ level, on the level of numbers and budgets and deliverables but we take some time out as a team and even if it is one hour and we look at, “So, how are we actually showing up? How are we living our values? How much trust is there? What can we do and how can we empower each other? To actually step more fully into that place?”

I think that is something that I’ve seen work really well and that also links to the example I gave earlier of this executive at Google who says she schedules time in her calendar to reach out to people to talk. So, that I think is probably the most important one and also that work is not work that can be accomplished by just a few people in a meeting room. The invitation is to make it collaborative work. Let this be co created and really share that learning journey so that everybody in the organization also understands we are creating this together and it’s okay to make mistakes on the way and that can be in very simple ways.

It doesn’t always have to be that big initiative but it is something that you do with consistency. So, consistency is important to keep enthusiasm alive and to show that it is a priority.

Katerina: Yeah, I just saw one of you saying, “Okay, I don’t have question but I’m really liking it. So, thank you so much for sharing that.” Perfect.

Silke: Maybe we take one more question.

Katerina: Yes, so the second question is, “How do I make time for this kind of deep work?”

Silke: Okay, so that is probably really linked to my answer of the first question. I’m sure there’s different ways to answer that question. I would say, make it a priority and really link it to the definition of success that you have for yourself and for your team and for the organization. Because, if there’s no direct link then it’s a nice to have. But organizations that understand the importance of that work and some are organizations we all know about like, Sacco’s or Southwest Airlines and many, many more. It’s not a nice to have for them.

Looking at priorities and knowing how much energy it requires to work in that space, I think is really important for the success. But then also coming from a mindset that is abundant to say, “Okay, it’s also okay to start small and to start with having one conversation and to actually, not always is showing humility and showing curiosity is not really something that takes more time. It takes more awareness and it takes more reflection.”

So, you’re gonna have the same meetings and the same conversations that you normally have but with a different kind of awareness and a different kind of presence. And that is the work as well. And that goes beyond the work we do at work and the businesses we are in. That spills over into our families and into our personal life and that those are beautiful places to practice all of this. Yeah.

Katerina: Okay, so Christine is asking a question that is to see, in the question tab and she says, “Looking at big organizations, how can we start that movement of being vulnerable as a leader?”

Silke: I believe there is, from what I have seen, it needs to be a conversation that is on the table. It needs to be a topic that we can speak about. One way of doing it is to really making it an agenda point to also in an organization, have it as a topic. In leadership programs to speak about this, how do we define vulnerability and to make it a topic to speak about but then also show it and afterwards reflect back and say, “That was an act of authentic leadership and that person showed vulnerability.” They may have not succeeded in the first place but really having a conversation that is not only centered around the results that we have on a task level, but also, and whether somebody has achieved exactly that goal but also looking at the process and looking at the fact that success not only defined by the outcome but it is also defined about the process of how we are getting to the outcome and how much somebody can show up in that moment.

Yes, like how so many things, Christine, I think it does start also with leaders and at the top to be willing to have that conversation and to be willing to be seen. And so, taking time to do that and to have these conversations and also integrating it. We do that very often with our clients to just sneak it in. When you send out a communication and you attach a piece, maybe an article that is worthwhile sharing, and it’s about vulnerability or a case study around that and have something in your online portals and really make it, if that is a topic that is important, make the topic be seen in different places, talked about by different people.

Okay, so if there is one more question then we take that and otherwise I’m gonna close. So, let me come on camera again. So, if you have more questions or you just want to give feedback or share your experiences because that also helps us to define the next topics for the webinars. If there’s any topic that you are interested in that you would like to hear about then please do send us an email, let us know. My contact information is on the slide. It’s silke.zanker@axialent.com and yeah. Katrina, anything that you wanted to add?

Katerina: No, I just really hope … You, everybody enjoyed the session today and we are looking forward to seeing you in one of our next webinars. So, thank you very much Silke and wishing everybody a great day. Thank you.

Silke: Thank you, bye.

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