Virtuous Radicals: How Some Companies Achieve Positive, Large-Scale Impact on Society while Others Fail

By Jennifer Reimer

 

 

How can you and your company achieve greater impact on society?

Serious social and environmental challenges threaten the sustainability of human populations. Millions of Rands are spent each year on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes in South Africa and many large corporations have made commitments to socially responsible actions. Yet there is little evidence of a positive impact of these socially responsible actions. This threatens the positive future state of our society and environment.

At the same time, the future workforce, which will largely consist of millennials, is looking for greater influence on society and our planet through their workplaces. Engaging, motivating and empowering them is on the minds of leaders in South Africa today.

These are key challenges for the future leadership of our workplaces. To cultivate a positive interaction with our society and environment and to ensure a positive future state of our businesses and planet, it is critical that we understand the leadership qualities and processes that will guide these positive interactions. We need to know how these leadership qualities permeate through an organisation, empowering and inspiring the future workforce.

In the face of these challenges, we need to ask; Why are many companies failing to make a significant impact? Are there companies that have shown significant positive impact? What makes these companies different?

Jennifer Reimer, an associate of Business Results Group, and strategy and sustainability consultant is currently conducting her PhD research to discover why some companies have a large-scale positive impact on society and others do not.  As a leadership capability company, we aim to provide you with more information about the leadership and management qualities that can be cultivated to ensure a positive future state of your businesses and our planet. The findings of Jennifer’s research will be made available to enable BRG and our clients to better understand what drives some companies to have a significant positive impact on society while others do not.

In the first phase of her research, Jennifer interviewed employees and stakeholders of South African companies, all of whom reported to engage in socially responsible actions. She found that some companies fail to have a significant positive impact on society, and calls these ‘Moral Traditionalists’. They are trying to do the ‘right thing’ but have little impact.  Those that do tend to have a large-scale positive impact have very specific qualities that differentiate them from their peers. She has termed these companies ‘Virtuous Radicals’ and the world needs more of them, especially as corporations grow increasingly powerful, and humanity’s grand challenges remain unresolved.

The difference comes down to the beliefs of leadership teams and how they permeate through the company to influence the company’s role in society and company processes and actions.

The results include:

  • The three key factors that characterise the companies that have a large-scale positive impact – Virtuous Radicals;
  • The qualities of the leaders who are behind the Virtuous Radical companies;
  • The four actions that leaders can practice to cultivate the Virtuous Radical belief system amongst their employees.

Why is this important?

  • Companies want to ensure that their precious investments are, in fact, positively impacting the intended beneficiaries.
  • The ‘millennial’ population, soon to comprise 75% of the workforce, wants to know how they can make a difference at work and the results suggest some ways to do this.
  • To transform companies, leaders and employees for the future world of work, we need to understand what qualities are needed and what drives them.

Become part of the change

In order to learn about how the company’s leadership beliefs permeate through the company to impact employees, stakeholders, greater society and the environment, we invite you to participate in our 15-minute survey. Kindly click on the appropriate link below.

Survey for C-level executives

Survey for managers and employees

Participants will receive a summary of the first phase of the research immediately upon completion, and a summary of the survey results in a few months. Participation is voluntary and confidential. Your name, organisation and responses will be kept completely anonymous. Thank you in advance!

How Do You Create Business Value?

By Adam Rampton

In the past three months, I’ve been to China twice, each time working with different Fortune Global 500 companies that are all wrestling with the same challenges: changing market conditions, accelerating competition, and the tensions inherent in trying to maintain local connectedness while ensuring global reach.

In a world of increasing volatility and change, more organisational agility is needed. This puts tremendous pressure on HR leaders and professionals who want to create business value – they are increasingly asked to maximise ideas and outcomes that are inherently in opposition to each other.

Some examples that HR leaders and professionals must effectively tackle include the following:

  • Achieving short-term results and long-term growth
  • Improving customer service with reduced budgets
  • Building collaborative teams and having individual accountability
  • Increasing speed to market and quality
  • Enhancing local relevance/connectedness and driving global brand unity
  • Doing more with less

The CHROs and HR leaders at the multinational corporations operating in China that I work with recognise that their HR professionals and business partners need help navigating these paradoxes and managing these tensions effectively. A new mindset and skillset is needed. The changing business environment requires it and demand is high. These CHROs are working to build the supply side so that HR is better positioned to create real business impact now.

In the seventh round of our global HR Competency Study (HRCS), two new interesting themes emerged:

  1. HR professionals who ‘navigate paradox’ have the highest impact on business results.
  2. Navigating paradox is not done well by HR.

Effective paradox navigators tackle conflict head-on and help their business leaders do the same. They shift from the traditional mindset of ‘either/or’ logic to one of ‘and/also’. These professionals focus on managing tensions that will unleash creativity and new insights.

Seem impossible? You’re not alone. To help you get started, here are four simple steps to strengthen your ability to navigate paradox and position your business for success:

CLARIFY THE POLES

Most business strategies fail in implementation because of unresolved paradoxes. Effective HR business partners will recognise these paradoxes and help their business leaders clarify the poles. What do we mean by “do more with less?” What short-term results are most important? How will we measure them? What does long-term growth look like? Where do we need to innovate?  How do we create space for and encourage experimentation?

Average leaders ignore one pole. Poor leaders swing back and forth or demand both. Great leaders see the inherent tension in both poles and bring the right people together to collaboratively clarify and address them.

DEFINE THE BEST ALTERNATIVE OUTCOME

Once the poles are clarified and we know what we’re trying to achieve, we work through a series of divergent and convergent processes to define the best alternative outcome. A useful tool is illustrated in the matrix below. This matrix helps to further clarify the poles where needed and, more importantly, provides the basis for divergent and convergent discussions to determine how best to move from current state to desired future state.

In this example, the strategy is to ‘achieve 20% EBIT while investing in long-term growth’. For each pole (light blue), the leader and team further clarify the poles by defining degrees of success (dark blue). Next, they identify where they are today and where they want to get in the desired future state (grey blocks). Spending enough time on this step helps the team align to define the best alternative outcome collectively.

SEE OTHER’S POINT OF VIEW TO FIND COMMON GROUND

The tool outlined in Step 2 helps teams see points of tension and begin unravelling paradox in a productive way. They are able to identify potential trade-offs. Effective leaders help the group converge (focus) using simple questions and then diverge (expand) to consider different options and viewpoints. They strive for integration, avoiding ‘either/or’ answers opting for ‘and/also’ solutions instead.

They ask questions like “where do we agree?” and “where do we disagree?” They listen.

In essence, good leaders and HR business partners lead through a series of divergent and convergent cycles to see other’s point of view and find common ground. This allows the group to align with the best alternative outcome and prepare to take first steps.

TAKE THE FIRST STEP

Built on the strong foundation created in the first three points above, these first steps should be easy to initiate. Outline specific first steps – things the leaders and teams will do in the next 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months – to demonstrate progress and maintain clarity. Sometimes these first steps will include two steps forward and one step backwards. Be consistent and help your leaders do the same by adjusting operating mechanisms, measures, and incentives to reinforce the desired future state. Take a whole-systems view to enable and sustain the desired change.

Paradox matters. It’s inherent in day-to-day and organisational life. Effective leaders embrace this fact and assemble the right stakeholder team to clarify and address paradox head-on. In HR, paradox navigation skills are the largest predictor of business impact. As HR builds this skillset, it will be better positioned to drive business results by helping leaders clarify the poles of paradox, define the best alternative outcomes, see other’s point of view to find common ground, and take the first steps towards the desired future state.

This article was originally posted on rbl.net

If you’d like to learn more about preparing HR professionals to navigate paradox, contact us at info@brg.co.za. Business Results Group is the exclusive Africa partner to Dave Ulrich’s RBL consultancy group.

 

Critical Lessons from Start-Ups for Human Resources

By Darryl Wee

The news is constantly discussing how digital start-up companies are disrupting their industries. Interestingly, when I examine these companies further, I find that many practices which are common among start-ups to drive more value in their businesses that HR should also consider adopting.

Are there lessons that HR can learn from start-up companies?

1. Start by Resolving Pain Points

When I listen to CEOs from successful start-ups describe the ideas behind launching their companies, 95% of the time the business was designed to resolve a real-life problem they faced: a specific pain point.

In HR, we should adopt a similar perspective, by looking at organisational pain points. Notice I refer to organisational pain points, not only HR pain points. HR can create the most value by looking outside of our core function and to the entire organisation.

In order to do this successfully, we must approach the pain point from the perspective of the customer and the business as a whole. We must examine how, as an organisation, we can resolve an issue for the business or customer. The solution may bring us back to some HR policies or practices; however, our analysis should not begin inside the HR function. It is important that we look at the issue strategically and from the outside-in, and not from the inside-out.

I am not suggesting that as HR we should not represent our function, or use our functional expertise to address said issue, but I have found that when HR operates as a business leader rather than just as a functional expert, more value is created. The business as a whole benefit from another pair of eyes, analysing an issue with an external lens. Once we have clarity on the pain point and how we may want to respond, we can then add our HR lens to explore additional solutions.

If we are looking at resolving HR pain points, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of our employees and honestly look at what is and is not working. In order to make a real impact, we must minimise our emotional defensiveness from the perceived effectiveness of an HR solution, and really listen to what our customers are telling us.

2. Think Big, Test Small, Learn Fast

After launching their products, start-ups develop, improve, and adapt when necessary. Frequently, after these numerous improvements and tweaks, the original value proposition of their product is significantly different from the end result.

In many larger organisations, there is an expectation that the product be 100% perfect prior to launch.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no matter how much we plan, unexpected things can happen that we are not prepared for. While I do believe that we must be very thorough in our work, I also feel that a more agile approach allows us to react more quickly, focus on solutions, and accomplish more optimal results.

The ‘think big, test small’ methodology is being implemented throughout many organisations. I have noticed that even government ministers are using this terminology. I would believe in this concept but take it one step further: ‘learn fast’.

For years, Dave Ulrich has inspired HR and business leaders to ‘think big’. From my perspective, we should always plan our actions in order to have the most significant impact on the entire business. By thinking big, however, we should not be deterred by the size or complexity of the issue or solution at hand. ‘Testing small’ is an excellent means of quickly piloting a solution to ensure its feasibility and scalability. Start-ups constantly send prototypes that are 70-80% finalised for beta testing with the intent of receiving meaningful feedback before the full product launch. The company expects imperfections but is committed to obtaining insights into potential shortfalls and oversights as quickly as possible. This agile approach allows organisations to act swiftly in refining the product before the final launch.

The third element is to ‘learn fast’. Testing small is not effective or useful if we are not learning from customer feedback to adjust our products and solutions accordingly. In some cases, we see companies rapidly realising a more compelling and practical application of a solution or product, so they ‘pivot’ their focus entirely. As HR, we should also learn how to be agile, and pivot to boost our organisation’s value and total impact.

I am sure that there are many additional lessons we can apply; however, in following the theme of this article, I believe that HR can actively help reduce organisational and individual pain points by ‘thinking big, testing small and learning fast. Utilising this methodology, we will increase our impact on the people within our organisation.

This article was originally posted on rbl.net

Contact us at info@brg.co.za to equip HR to drive more value in your organisation. Business Results Group is the exclusive African partner to Prof Dave Ulrich’s RBL consultancy group.

 

Neuroplasticity: Upgrade Your Brain

by Adam Gale

Focus, creativity and stress-management are all things you can change with a bit of brain science.

WHAT IS NEUROPLASTICITY?

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form new synaptic connections between neurons. It’s what enables us to learn new things.

We’re at our most neuroplastic as babies, but as we get older and become more efficient at doing things we already know how to do, we get less neuroplastic. In recent years, however, scientists have discovered that adult brains are far more malleable than they’d previously thought.

WHY DOES IT MATTER TO ME?

Because it means you’re able to improve things that you didn’t realise you could. Whereas before you may have thought there was no point trying to improve because you were congenitally unimaginative or irredeemably scatterbrained, now you have no excuse.

‘Neuroplasticity is happening anyway, we don’t have to do anything to make it happen,’ explains Dr Jenny Brockis, author of The Future Brain: The 12 Keys to Create Your High Performance Brain. ‘If you are exposed to new stimuli, your brain will rewire itself in response.  But if you choose to, you can literally upgrade how well your brain functions in areas like memory or focus.’

HOW CAN YOU USE NEUROPLASTICITY TO UPGRADE YOUR BRAIN?

We are creatures of habit, whether we like it or not. If we’re in a situation often enough, our brains will form such strong pathways that our responses become automatic. It’s similar to riding a bike or using a keyboard.

Unfortunately, our brains can just as often form unhelpful habits as helpful ones: giving a speech automatically causing unnecessary anxiety, for instance. If we want to harness our inherent neuroplasticity to replace bad habits with good, we simply need to practice applying the good habit in a given situation instead of the bad one, until it becomes our ‘new normal’.

It’s hardly rocket science (or indeed brain surgery…), but it works. To increase your chances, Brockis advises picking one thing to work on at a time. ‘New synaptic connections are incredibly fragile when they first form, so you’ve got to nurture them and make sure they stay intact by going back to them and practising. It’s a bit like when you learn to drive a car for the first time – it’s clunky and horrible at first but with repetition and time it becomes much easier,’ Brockis says.

Don’t expect a one-off fix, however. Vigilance and discipline are required. ‘We don’t break habits, they just get weaker if we can replace them with a new, stronger habit. But when a bit pressure comes along, the stress levels go up and we default to the old ways. The brain’s hardwired to go back to the simplest route it knows best.’

WHAT IF YOU DON’T GET THE CHANCE TO PRACTISE YOUR NEW GOOD HABIT?

Rewiring how your brain responds to something that happens regularly (your nightmare morning commute, let’s say) is a lot easier than when the trigger happens less frequently.

Public speaking, for example, is something that for many people only comes along once or twice a year. It’s not impossible to use neuroplasticity to your advantage in these situations, however. Visualisation has been proven to activate the same parts of the brain as actual practice does while focusing on a positive past memory can help to improve your mindset.

ARE THERE LIMITS TO NEUROPLASTICITY?

The short answer is we don’t know. The research is still in its infancy. However, it would seem unlikely to expect you could transform yourself from, say, a numbers dunce to an arithmetical genius, just through a spot of practice. Some things are just hardwired.

But progress is possible where before we assumed it wasn’t. It’s a particularly relevant message for older workers, who might face the prospect of having to retrain mid or late career. ‘The more we use our brain to continue to learn new things the more plasticity we retain. That old saying of “use it or lose it” was right,’ says Brockis.

Old dogs can learn new tricks then, but only if they keep trying.

 

This article was originally posted on Management Today.

Contact us at info@brg.co.za to book Dr Tara Swart and achieve peak brain performance through neuroscience.

 

Sleep your way to the top

By Dr Tara Swart

What makes a good leader?

Senior executives, managers, and business leaders are paid to use their brains. So it is surprising how little emphasis many put on this vital organ.

In a fast-paced world that is constantly changing, the brain’s executive functions, such as creative and flexible thinking, task-switching, bias suppression, and emotional regulation, are becoming increasingly important. But our ability to perform well at these outputs will be enhanced only if fed the right inputs. These include nourishing, hydrating, and oxygenating the brain appropriately, simplifying tasks to give the brain mindful time, and resting it.

That final element – rest – is one of the most crucial. We often hear stories about famous leaders such as Margaret Thatcher surviving and even thriving on very little sleep (Thatcher did suffer from dementia in her later life). It is true that an extremely limited number of people (1-2% of the population) have a genetic mutation that reduces the amount of sleep they truly require for optimal functioning to 4-5 hours a night. But for the rest of us, getting seven to nine hours of good, quality sleep every night is vital for staying on top of our game.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep deprivation will negatively impact your cognitive performance. Getting less sleep than the recommended amount can cause an apparent IQ loss of five to eight points the next day, and population norm studies have shown that losing an entire night’s sleep can lead to up to one standard deviation loss on your IQ. In other words, you’re effectively operating with the equivalent of a learning disability.

Shorting your sleep can have longer-term effects as well. Our glymphatic system requires seven to eight hours to clean our brains, a process which flushes out protein plaques and beta-amyloid tangles that can lead to dementing diseases if allowed to accumulate. Not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep (which includes sleeping after drinking alcohol) inhibits this process and can therefore increase the risk of developing these types of disease.

While high stress levels can make sleeping more difficult, getting a good night’s sleep can also help to reduce the effects of stress.

How can I improve the quality of my sleep?

There are many simple but effective ways you can improve the quality of your sleep. Those who work late on phones, laptops, and tablets are at a higher risk of poor sleep quality. This is because melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our sleep, is released by the pineal gland into the bloodstream. The blue light that phone and laptop screens emit confuses the gland because darkness is what triggers it to start work. Our ability to fall asleep, and the quality of that sleep, is thus impacted. Brain activity may increase by virtue of the information we are consuming at those late hours as well. Turning off all screens an hour before bed is a good antidote to this.

Other simple ways of improving sleep quality include:

  • Making sure you are sleeping in complete darkness—no stand-by lights in the bedroom and with black-out curtains (or wear an eye mask).
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks after 2:00 pm. The half-life of caffeine is 8-10 hours and its effects can disturb your sleep.
  • Try lavender. Our olfactory nerves directly connect the nose to the limbic part of our brain. Lavender is the strongest naturally occurring neuro-modulator. Try using it to relax and to create an association with sleep when you go to bed.
  • Skip the nightcap. Although alcohol is often used by people to help them fall asleep, it interferes with proper sleep cycles and does not provide a benefit.

If your sleep has been disrupted, there are ways you can cope in the short term:

  • Napping during the day gives your brain a power boost. A 30-minute nap improves your learning and memory. A 60–90 minute nap will help additional connections to form, which aids creativity.
  • As little as 12 minutes of meditation or mindfulness activity can boost your cognitive function significantly enough to build up your mental resilience.

Through my work as a leadership coach and the courses,I teach at MIT (Applied Neuroscience: Unleashing Brain Power for You and Your People and Neuroscience for Leadership) I regularly come across driven, ambitious, capable people who want to excel at what they do. But often they have not considered the mental resilience it will take to achieve and sustain their goals, whether heading up a global company or simply reaching the next level in their career. Resting your brain properly through a good night’s sleep is essential to achieving mental resilience and peak brain performance.

About the Author: Dr Tara Swart is a neuroscientist, leadership coach, award-winning author and a medical doctor. She works with leaders all over the world to help them achieve mental resilience and peak brain performance, improving their ability to manage stress, regulate emotions and retain information.

Contact us at info@brg.co.za to book Dr Tara Swart and achieve peak brain performance through neuroscience.

 

Communicating Under Pressure

By Brent Gleeson

Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.” – Jim Rohn

Communicating under pressure is a critical leadership component learned very early on during Navy SEAL training. Without having the ability to maintain composure, think clearly, gather information and make a call, you can’t succeed in combat. Which of course can lead to the worst possible outcome.

The same applies in business leadership situations, without death and dismemberment of course. We all know what it’s like to have the perfect response pop into our heads after an important situation or verbal exchange, too late to be of any use. And then there are those who can face all kinds of conflict and seem to know exactly what to do and say. And they do so in a calm and tactful manner. Faced with an angry customer, an uncooperative co-worker or tense negotiation, they don’t stammer or get upset. They keep their cool and glide through the situation getting what they want without breaking a sweat. These are the people who typically rise rapidly through the ranks. But great communicators are made, not born. It’s simply about having the right tools and knowledge.

Thinking on Your Feet and Communicating Effectively

Performing well under pressure builds trust within the team and makes others confident in your ability to not only lead the team but also support the team in stressful times. Here five benefits of thinking on your feet:

  1. Credibility: Others will believe what you have to say. Your associates will believe in you when you earn their respect. You do that be being credible, especially under fire.
  2. Professionalism: Being able to think on your feet means that you can respond, in some capacity, to all questions. You don’t always have to have the perfect answers, but rather ownership over finding solutions.
  3. Reliability: Others will find you dependable. When you are effective in critical situations others will look to you for leadership.
  4. Relationships: You will increase positive rapport with others.
  5. Confidence: Others will see you as more sure of yourself.

The more we focus on communicating well under pressure the better we will be at it. So let’s take a look at how to identify snags and improve leadership communication.

Eliminating Your Communication Hang-ups

Everyone has trouble communicating ideas at some point. Awareness of your communication hang-ups and how you react in various types of conversations and communications can help you develop solutions for improvement. Here are four common hang-ups:

  1. Controlling Emotions: This is a big one for most people. When we lack the ability to control our emotions we appear less confident. That weakens our ability to clearly get our point across and makes others less likely to be receptive to what we are saying.
  2. Prejudice: When we go into a conversation without an open mind nobody will benefit. When we take time to clear our minds and tell ourselves we will put our prejudices aside we will have a better foundation from which to have more productive communication.
  3. Fear: There are plenty of times we fear the conversation that needs to be had. Most people don’t enjoy conflict and therefore prefer to put those tough conversations off or sugarcoat what they are trying to say. Don’t put off the tough conversations. Remain calm, be candid and take it one step at a time.
  4. Body Language: Communication is about 7% the words we say. The rest is tone and body language. Be aware of these things and control them when possible.

Communication problems begin when you don’t keep an open mind to what others have to say and refuse to compromise. When you don’t strive to achieve a collaborative solution everybody loses. Remember to remain objective, actively listen, ask good questions, and concentrate on creating common ground.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.

Contact us at info@brg.co.za to equip your leaders to be calm and effective no matter what. Business Results Group is the exclusive licensed provider of  Think On Your Feet® across Sub Saharan Africa.