Archive for June, 2017

Understanding The Power of ‘Yet’

June 26th, 2017

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it”

– Andy Rooney

Most of us will acknowledge that we live in an ‘instant age’. Our access to information, resources and networks be it for personal or professional purposes has never been more easily or readily available. Quick Google searches provide answers in mere seconds often speeding up our abilities to make decisions and take actions; online shopping can see us in a new outfit the next day or deliver us dinner faster than we can cook it; and with the click of a button we can now connect and engage with community forums anywhere in the world on any topic we like.

But is this ‘world of instant’, creating unrealistic expectations that at times impede our growth, limit opportunities and cause us to lose rather than gain perspective? Are we now always looking for and expecting instant results, instant knowledge and skills, or instant rapport in relationships that in reality all still require some good old-fashioned hard work, problem solving, time and investment? Does the lack of instant success prevent us from exploring longer-term benefits by always defaulting to what is only achievable now or is ‘safe’ from failure?

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, conducted years of research about why people succeed or fail and how what she terms the fixed or growth mindset impacts the outcomes. Her TED talk, The Power Of Believing That You Can Improve provides a powerful insight into this concept and in it explains the ‘power of yet’. She begins her talk by describing her work with 10-year children and how they coped with learning challenges. In giving them problems that were slightly too hard for them, two distinct responses emerged. Some reacted in what she termed a ‘shockingly positive way’ adopting a mindset that saw them embrace the challenge, recognizing in the learning process regardless of whether or not the outcome was successful. The second group (those with a fixed mindset) felt it was a tragic, catastrophic scenario feeling that they had been set up for judgment and failure. Essentially they found that those with a fixed mindset will reject learning if it means not failing – and will often resort to cheating or finding those who have performed worse than they did in order to feel better about themselves. Those with a fixed mindset were ‘gripped in ‘the tyranny of now,’ where as those with a growth mindset were able to recognize and embrace the power of ‘not yet’.

Given that most of us acknowledge that we should never stop learning, how we embrace the growth mindset and apply it to our careers and lives is critical. Not only does it underpin our potential but also our future opportunities. Whilst it is important to recognize our innate talents and play to our strengths, it will be our abilities to embrace ongoing development; collaborate with and seek out new ideas from others; and invest in the learning process to solve problems with no guarantee of immediate success that will see us well positioned for the future. As Dweck’s studies found, it was these individuals that tended to achieve greater levels of success in both their personal and professional lives because they were less worried about looking smart and more focused on becoming smart.

As we continue to face rapid rates of change to the way we live and work, it will be our ability to embrace opportunities and learning in environments that are rich in volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that will see us succeed. With new industries rapidly emerging and old ones being disrupted; demands for greater flexibility and diversity in the ways that we work; and a requirement to operate in a much more globalized market we actually can’t afford to not adopt a growth mindset. To do so sees us risk relevance, opportunity and future success.

So what are the keys to building growth mindsets in our organisations and the people we lead? I would encourage you to consider the following 6 tips:

Cultivate purpose: When we truly know why we are doing what we do, we are able to focus on the longer-term gains and develop greater levels of perseverance, commitment and engagement.

Reward actions not traits: When we acknowledge the action taken we are more likely to see it repeated and develop patterns for success.

Stop seeking approval: When we constantly prioritise approval over learning we sacrifice potential for growth.

Separate improvement from failure: All too often we associate ‘room for improvement’ as failure. Rather we need to embrace it as opportunity.

Embrace the power of reflection: Taking moments to understand what worked or didn’t work allows us to replicate or adjust our actions accordingly.

Adopt the word ‘yet’: In acknowledging that we may not have mastered a skill or solved a problem just ‘yet’ removes the notion of having failed and reinforces that success still lies ahead.

As leaders need to accept that we don’t build a career or a business in one, two or even three years. It is a long-term game, that requires unnerving focus on your own ‘big picture’, a preparedness to make and learn from mistakes, a willingness to acknowledge that you may not be there just yet!

How are you cultivating this growth mindset for yourself and the people you lead?

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


Margot BLACK Signature

Workforce Planning: Fit For The Future

June 21st, 2017

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”

– Winston Churchill

With ever-increasing pressures on businesses today to innovate; increase operational agility; and grow global thinking and mindsets amongst their people, the importance of modern workforce planning practice has never been more critical.

CEO’s and business leaders openly acknowledging that in today’s ‘talent based economy’, robust workforce planning strategies and clear data analytics underpin their decision-making capabilities. Yet all too often organisations are missing key opportunities because current technology and planning practices are failing to reflect the pace of change and requirements of today’s workplace.

Quite simply, what got us here is not going to get us there. Getting ‘fit for the future’ requires not only clarity of future business direction and workforce capability requirements, but also an understanding on the key trends of how people want to work and engage. The reality is we are now operating in an age where traditional employment structures are disappearing, replaced by more nimble, networked workplaces and contingent workforces.

KPMG’s Now or Never 2016 Global CEO Outlook notes that 72% of CEO’s believe the next three years will be more critical for their industry than the last fifty; 77% are concerned whether or not their organisation is keeping up with new technologies and ways of working and 99% identify the need to take action to develop existing and future talent.

Overlay this with the Future of Work 2020 report, which notes that workplaces will be significantly impacted by forces such as extreme longevity that will see over 70% of 60 year olds still in the workforce; advanced technologies that will require new forms of media literacy; and global connectivity that will require new levels of global thinking and agility; and it is clear that we cannot continue to look at workforce planning through the same lens.

There is no doubt that in order to effectively respond to these changes and demands, business leaders need to not only anticipate them and the impact on their business strategy but also know how to align their current and future workforce. To do this you need to have an accurate and informed view of what your people can do, will do and want to do. Without it you are unable to ensure that you have enough of the right people, to deploy to the right place at the right time.

Aligning business strategy with people strategy helps leaders understand whether or not they have the capability to deliver and how to shape and engage their people in a timely, purposeful and cost effective manner. Gaining deep insights of a workforce though can be tricky because people take leave, move up and out of organisations, or simply don’t wish to move from what they are doing now. Gathering a clear view into the capabilities, motivations and ambitions of a workforce requires us to combine the human element with the data element. Open, pragmatic conversations about personal and career ambitions combined with sophisticated data management and modelling tools are required to support detailed mapping.

5 key considerations:

People: What skills, capabilities and attributes do we require? Do we currently have them in our business or do we need to either develop them or recruit them?

Place: Have we got the right people in the right places to support critical business outcomes and growth strategies?

Time: At what point do we need to review the roles and ways of working to ensure that they are still relevant and effective?

Structure: How do we best structure teams and roles to support agile and productive ways of working that also serve to motivate and engage people?

Tools: What data management and technology tools will serve to enable the planning and implementation of workforce plans whilst also providing transparency on their effectiveness and return on business investment?

Competitive advantage, business efficiency and success will all be determined by our ability to use new information and insights to carefully plan, measure and align both individual ambition and capability with business opportunity. In today’s aggressive business climate, we need adept workforce planning and analytics to both survive and thrive.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot BLACK Signature






Breaking The Silo Mentality

June 14th, 2017

Ask any business leader today what their biggest barrier is to driving innovation, building momentum or increasing efficiency and they will very quickly tell you it is ‘silos’. Invariably their answer is quickly followed by stories of immense frustration, team hostilities and painful recounts of missed opportunities, damaged relationships and a very real impact to bottom lines.

Like grain silos, business silos house precious resources that are separated according to type and are difficult to gain access to. Whilst this might work well in housing and protecting grain from nature’s elements it’s not so beneficial when it comes to business innovation, efficiency and collaboration. Unfortunately though too many businesses are losing market share because of their siloed way of working and the employee mindsets that are permeating workplace cultures.

The silo mentality is commonly defined as ‘a mindset present in some companies when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company”. Often it is evidenced through a ‘them and us’ attitude; an ‘it’s not part of my job’ approach; or situations that see individuals and teams hamstrung and unable to progress because you either have to wait and chase information from others. Typically the bigger the organisation the more damaging and impeding the silos can be. With the very nature of work rapidly changing and continuously pivoting, business leaders can’t afford to not examine how silos may be limiting both the success of the business and their own impact as a leader.

Patrick Lencioni, author of Silos, Politics and Turf Wars describes how silos – ‘and the turf wars they enable devastate organsiations: They waste resources, kill productivity, push good people out the door and jeopardise the achievement of goals’. To overcome them he highlights the need for strong unified leadership that is prepared to look past the behaviours that result from silos and focus on the contextual issues that are often at the heart of the organisation. Whilst it can be very easy to assume that the inefficiencies and lack of collaboration in a team or organisation are a result of employees not knowing how to play nicely together, often the behaviours result from a sense of powerlessness to actually do anything about the problems they have identified. Leadership teams who recognise this and seek to create solutions that remove roadblocks, facilitate new ways of working and empower employees will create long-term solutions that are easy to execute and scalable.

3 Leadership Tips to Overcoming The Silo Mentality:


  • Unify: Silo mentalities are rarely created from the ground up. Leadership teams who are unified in their vision, committed to their strategy and consistent in their communication create high trust environments that empower and enable others. They help break down the barriers that get in the way of success and lay the foundations for high performing cultures.
  • Focus: When leaders and their teams are clear on the vision they are able to focus with crystal clarity on the goals at hand.  It is easier for employees to identify the role they play, take ownership for their outcomes and identify any roadblocks or enablers to their success. When individuals understand the impact that they have and the interconnected nature of their teams, aligning and focusing on the overarching goals is more obtainable.
  • Recognise: In order to successfully deliver on a company vision and strategy, leaders need to understand and recognise what motivates, inspires and incentivises individual employees. When they do, employees are more likely to stop ‘protecting their patch’ and engage more collaboratively and productively.


Margot BLACK Signature

Building Globally Connected Teams

June 6th, 2017

“Talk with people who make you see the world differently”

– Author Unknown

As the global nature of business continues to grow, geographically dispersed teams are more and more common in today’s workforce. Offering access to a greater range of talent and deep local knowledge in established and emerging markets they draw on the benefits of international and cultural diversity by bringing together people with varied knowledge, experiences and perspectives.

Whilst there is no doubt of the enormous benefits that such rich diversity can bring it is not without its challenges for leaders of global teams. Creating cohesive, connected teams is often hard enough when everyone is local and sharing the same pool of resources, networks and office space, but add in the complexity of cultural difference, language barriers, varying locations and time zones and it is all too easy to see how communication, misunderstanding and confusion can emerge.

In her recent Harvard Business Review article ‘Why Global Teams Work’, Tsedal Neeley states that the primary challenge for global leaders to overcome is that of social distance. Her study of successful global teams highlights the one basic difference between global teams that work and those that don’t is the degree of emotional connection between team members. As she notes, even teams who are culturally diverse but operating in the same place can build trust and rapport much more quickly because of the range of formal and informal interactions that take place. All of a sudden the value of pre-meeting banter and incidental kitchen conversations become so important because all too often when they are taken away so to are some of the moments of connection.

Establishing strong emotional ties between team members is therefore a much-needed priority for leaders with disperse teams. To do this takes deliberate planning, discipline, tact and empathy. Like all strong relationships it also takes a considerable investment of time and resources. Without it though not only are cohesive productive relationships compromised but so to is individual and business success. In a time where global leadership is a much sought after capability, leaders who master the art of leading geographically dispersed teams are firmly establishing their future career path.

So what are the critical considerations for building strong globally connected teams? I would encourage you to consider the following six points:

Create team moments: Moments of shared time are critical for building understanding, cohesion and connection. Moments that celebrate the success that others don’t see; moments to disagree and debate ideas and issues; moments to build awareness of other markets, teams and agendas; moments to simply connect and have those ‘water cooler’ type conversations that so often provide insights, knowledge and context.

Design a team language: Teams that are rich in cultural diversity need to find a common language that defines what they do and how they do it to ensure that miscommunication and misunderstanding is minimised. Creating a shared language also helps to build clarity, momentum and unity amongst those who use it.

Recognise and leverage differences: All too often we stress the importance of finding ‘common ground’ or identifying similarities however the danger of doing that with globally dispersed teams is the ‘us versus them’ dynamic. Recognising the individual differences, knowledge, skills and networks helps remove the stereotypes that all too often get in the way of producing great results.

Revisit objectives and metrics often: The lack of day to day context experienced by dispersed teams combined with the very nature of how quickly things change requires regular review to ensure clarity and momentum is maintained.

Define how conflict is managed: All teams are prone to conflict, however they can arise more quickly in dispersed teams from lack of shared context, misunderstanding of cultural differences and miscommunication. Creating a clear and responsive way to table and address conflict is imperative for global teams to explore different points of view, ways of working and perspectives.

Provide the necessary tools for collaboration: Despite having the capacity to be more connected than ever before, our technology tools can also be one of the greatest barriers when they fail to work are unreliable or not suited to the type of communication required. It is imperative that the tools provided act as enablers and not barriers.

Creating globally connected and cohesive teams is hard work. It takes deliberate and consistent effort on the part of the leader to continually build moments that create shared understanding and trust. However the rewards are high both personally for leaders and the businesses that they lead.   

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