Leadership

Finding the Middle Ground in a Politically Polarized World

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Consumers and employees increasingly expect companies to engage with social, environmental, and economic issues. But business leaders can find themselves between a rock and a hard place, especially when corporate political activism is framed as “take a stand or be silent.” The reality is that companies need a more nuanced set of options.

Five Ways to Improve Communication in Virtual Teams

If you think sophisticated communication technologies are the ticket to your virtual team’s success, think again. It’s not the tech that matters — it’s how people use it. New research reveals five strategies for conquering distance and improving communication and performance in dispersed teams. The same strategies can help colocated teams, which depend increasingly on virtual collaboration tools to get work done.

Why Tech Companies Don’t See Their Biggest Problems Coming

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Technology companies, such as Facebook, often fail to make crisis management a central feature of their operations, thanks to five blind spots to which they are especially susceptible. Recognizing these shortcomings is the first imperative; the next is developing a well-designed crisis-management program that includes several key features. All tech companies should take heed, because failing to reflect — and then act — can worsen the consequences of crises that come down the pike.

Bringing Lessons From #MeToo to the Boardroom

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In the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp social movements — not to mention the continuing wave of resignations amid misconduct allegations — sexual harassment policies must be on your board’s agenda. This is true regardless of whether the organization is public, private, or nonprofit. For the sake of all its stakeholders, employees, and customers, directors need to do the right thing — and do it now.

With Goals, FAST Beats SMART

The conventional wisdom of goal setting is so deeply ingrained that managers rarely stop to ask if it works. The traditional approach to goals — the annual cycle, privately set and reviewed goals, and a strong linkage to incentives — can actually undermine the alignment, coordination, and agility that’s needed for a company to execute its strategy.

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Interactive: Customer-Focused KPIs Fuel the Future of Business

Research from MIT Sloan Management Review and Google shows executives increasingly rely on key performance indicators (KPIs) to manage and lead their organizations. But what sets leading companies apart is not so much the number of metrics they track but how they use them to better engage customers — and thereby grow their businesses.

The Ability to Navigate the In-Between Spaces

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Efforts to effectively connect decision-makers in large organizations across functions, divisions, and business units — not to mention with other companies, governments, and other external stakeholders — usually require organizational innovations. Several key leadership attributes are necessary for this to work. They include the ability to navigate the gaps not covered by specialists, a record of following through and getting things done, and knowledge of other cultures, including the ability to speak multiple languages.

The Mindsets of a Leader

Researchers have identified six distinct mindsets that contribute to leaders’ portfolio of leadership styles by asking one simple question: Whom do the leaders serve? Identifying these mindsets can help companies recognize how the leader’s styles are helping — or hurting — their performance.

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Managing the Distraction-Focus Paradox

The seductive clamor of social media is a workplace reality from which there’s no retreat. Those who’ll succeed in this distraction-filled world as managers and innovators must combine two seemingly opposing traits: They must to be able to absorb information from many sources and to focus intensely. Together, these apparently contradictory qualities comprise the skill set for managing your most valuable personal resource — your attention — in a hyper-connected age.

Blockchain and the Clean, Smart Grid

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Some techies think that blockchain and “tamperproof databases” will revolutionize more than money: A blockchain platform for the energy sector could accelerate the transition to renewables. Blockchain can help by making tracking energy more granular, automated, and trusted, which can allow companies to better verify claims of carbon neutrality. It could also streamline financing and insuring new energy projects and even help create a new kind of energy market.

If You Cut Employees Some Slack, Will They Innovate?

Giving people time and resources to pursue innovation projects can produce extraordinary outcomes — but only if you match your “slack strategy” to employee type. The authors found that different types of employees respond in different ways to slack innovation programs; that different kinds of slack resources are better suited to certain types of employees than others; and that different kinds of slack innovation programs produce different kinds of innovation.

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The Quest to Create Utterly Normal Virtual Reality Experiences

Virtual reality is used today for job training, but that’s just the beginning. In a Q&A, Jeremy Bailenson, a leading expert in virtual reality, says that VR has the potential to be a much-improved video conference tool — one that’s good enough to reduce our need to commute. What Bailenson calls “avatar-based communication,” with eye contact and facial expressions, has the potential “to create the intimacy and non-verbal behavior that you get face to face.”

The Need for ‘Techno-Supporting Skeptics’

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Digital technologies will increase the high levels of ambiguity that executives must navigate. Aspiring leaders may respond by ignoring the challenge, which isn’t sustainable. A better response is to harbor healthy skepticism of the digital technologies they champion, develop values that will lead to better decisions, and work to institutionalize those values at the organizational level.

The Impossibility of Focusing on Two Things at Once

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Neurological science has demonstrated that brains are not hardwired to focus simultaneously on day-to-day activities and long-term objectives. In the workplace, that presents a challenge: How can employees maximize individual performance while enhancing organizational success? Research into employee behavior underscores the need for organizations to help employees familiarize themselves with perspectives not readily available in their current roles.

The Time for Retraining Is Now

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None of us know how our technological future will unfold. But whether there will be a net increase or decrease in jobs overall, it’s clear that these will be different jobs, requiring different skill sets. We need to act now to enable current employers and employees to gain the skills they are going to need in the brave world of AI technology.

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