Low unemployment rates have led to a highly competitive talent market. The Conference Board predicts talent shortages in key sectors over the next 15 years and in a recent survey identified that “…attracting and retaining talent ranks as the foremost concern not only among CEOs but also the rest of the C-Suite, including CHROs and CFOs.”
Organizations are coming to understand that career development is a powerful strategy for retaining top talent. They also recognize that recruiting is easier and more effective when they have a reputation for developing talent. And—for better or worse— given the visibility that social media facilitates, candidates are making choices based upon an organization’s reputation for staff growth and development.
“Career development is a powerful strategy for retaining top talent.” -Julie Winkle Giulioni
You have been waiting all year for this moment and it’s finally here! Drum roll. It’s time to announce our favorite book covers of the year.
Do you ever buy a book because of its cover?
Do you ever just admire the book cover for its artistic qualities?
Regular readers of this website know that I make a list of the best book covers each year. And, it’s not only fun, did you know that book covers also offer valuable leadership and goal setting lessons? (Click here to read more.)
If you want to compare this year’s list with previous years:
Recently I read The Leader Architect by business leader Jim Grew. It was a practical guide written by someone who has clearly wrestled with the issues facing many leaders. In one section of the book, he discussed the need to reduce the power between leaders and followers. I reached out to ask if we could excerpt that section with his permission as I believe it is insightful:
Reducing the Power Gap
The doorway to change is reducing the power gap and the communications gap between you the leader and your people.
Here are five steps you can take to reduce the power gap in your organization.
Get over your title.
It’s an invitation to contribute, not a statement of rank. Colin Powell, one of the highest-ranking generals in the United States, said, “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” If you imagine yourself as helper instead of leader, you’re off to a good start.
That ability looms in the background of all employees, but it is of tiny consequence to the business. It is not an element of leadership; it’s emotional blackmail. If you rely on it, you’ll get the response of people who feel blackmailed—all defense and no initiative. Usually, if you must fire a person, it’s your failure for hiring them or not training them. Occasionally, folks self-select out, but not often.
Apply railroad leadership.
When you walk around, stop, look, and listen (especially listen). You don’t have to produce brilliant anything, other than thanks.
Cheryl Heller is the founding chair of the first MFA program in Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.
What is social design?
Social Design is the design of the invisible dynamics and relationships that affect society and the future. It’s the creation of new social conditions intended to increase human agency, creativity, equity, resilience, and our connection to nature.
It is essentially the same process used to develop innovative products and services, but applied at a larger scale. Instead of a small team of expert designers being responsible for the creative output or product, however, social design is done by cross-disciplinary teams, including both people inside the company and in external stakeholder communities. The goal, in addition to breakthrough products and services, is breakthrough interactions between people that lead to ongoing innovation. Because the process is participatory, everyone learns to do it. Because learning to do it instills a greater sense of agency and possibilities, everyone who participates is transformed.
“Social designers are resourceful, observant, open minded and able to live and work with ambiguity.” -Cheryl Heller
Social Design differs from traditional approaches in several important ways:
‣ It looks far beyond design thinking, which has made significant inroads in business, education and social organizations in recent years. It is an iterative process for developing alternative ideas and strategies based on understanding a “user” and a specific problem. Social design’s purview is whole communities or societies.
‣ The design process isn’t relegated to a team of designers, or isolated in a specific phase of the research and development process. Cross-departmental teams, some of whom are designers, are formed around a particular goal or outcome, and everyone participates in the entire process. What are typically sequential activities, performed by a series of experts, like research, problem framing, synthesis, ideation, testing and the like, are collapsed into a series of fluid stages in which everyone’s perspectives are integrated. This not only surfaces opportunities and challenges early, but also gives everyone access to insights that make them smarter, regardless of which stage they are accountable for.
‣ Social design relies on observation and inquiry rather than formal strategies and fixed plans. Preconceived ideas, however brilliant they sound, are to be avoided. Research is undertaken not to prove a theory, but to understand context and reframe questions. Answers are not determined in advance. The ultimate outcome may be fixed and inviolate, but not the step-by-step path to getting there. Observation of patterns, of unexpected reactions, whether in team members or customers, become the source of inspiration and invention—the real-time feedback that makes the idea, when it is developed, far more likely to work and succeed.
‣ Social design employs “making to learn.” That means giving ideas form to which others can react and help refine in collaborative fashion. Instead of waiting to get an idea “perfect” before showing it to its intended audience, users respond to versions in unfinished stages, and that input is incorporated into the design. Making-to-learn relies on iteration, and requires the freedom to pivot along the way, sometimes abandoning an idea, but always long before a big investment has been made. Giving form to ideas makes those ideas more appropriate to the people for whom they’re intended and makes them accessible to more people, and more diverse perspectives, as they’re developed.
‣ The outputs aren’t PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets. Instead, they are maps and sketches and images and pictures underpinned with data that bring to life the entire ecosystem of stakeholders and forces in play. These visual outputs help make sure diverse people are seeing the same thing and can uncover otherwise hidden dynamics.
“Social design relies on observation and inquiry rather than formal strategies and fixed plans.” -Cheryl Heller
Though we live in an ever-connected, always-on world, we somehow seem less connected to actual, real people than ever before. Is it possible that the very technology that connects us is contributing to a sense of loneliness and isolation?
Tell us more about your research into workplace loneliness and its connection to technology.
There is a loneliness epidemic spreading across the entire world. An Aetna study shows that almost half of Americans are lonely. In the UK, nine million people are lonely and over 200,000 haven’t spoken to a close friend or relative in the past month. In Japan, 30,000 people die from loneliness each year. I’ve read about the impact of loneliness and have felt lonely myself as an only child and someone who lives alone in New York City. For my book Back to Human, I conducted a global study with Virgin Pulse of over 2,000 managers and employees from ten different countries. Overall, I found that 39 percent say they at least sometimes feel lonely at work. I spoke to the former U.S. Surgeon General, and he said that loneliness has the same health risk and reduction of life as smoking fifteen cigarettes each day. In the workplace, technology has created the illusion that we are all hyper connected, yet in reality we feel disconnected, isolated and lonely over the overuse and misuse of it.
“It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.” -Ed Catmull
Share a little about personal fulfillment and how we can enhance it on the job.
In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, after we meet our physiological and safety needs, we need to focus on belongingness and love if we want to be self-actualized, reaching our full potential at work. We spend one-third of our lives working, so if we have weak relationships with our teammates, we feel unfulfilled. We are less productive, happy and committed to the team and organization’s long-term success as a result of not having close ties. In order to best serve the needs of our teammates, we have to first focus on our own fulfillment. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing the most, what do your past accomplishments say about your strengths, what your core values are, what brings out your positive emotions and where you envision yourself in the future. Once you’re fulfilled, it’s important to get to know your teammates on a personal level, understand their needs and then service those needs. You can do this through on-the-job training, coaching, mentoring and regular meetings where you show you’re committed to their success.
“Given how much time you’ll be spending in your life making a living, loving your work is a big part of loving your life.” -Michael Bloomberg