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Highlights of i4cp’s 2018 Conference – Next Practices Now – Day 1

“We are here today to share ‘Next Practices Now’ ideas and talk about agility, because there is a disconnect between a large majority of CEOs who plan to be disruptive in their industries and their employees –most of whom don’t yet believe their organizations will be disruptors.”  

Kevin Oakes, i4cp’s CEO, opened day one of the 2018 Next Practices Now Conference with discussion of the disruption gap and several other significant challenges and opportunities facing business and human capital leaders today. Noting that recent i4cp research found that high-performance organizations in this age of disruption are very good at sensing changes in the environment and are capable throughout the organization to respond. Kevin’s comments set a clear agenda for the three-day event, which provides countless resources for attendees to better sense the changes afoot and leverage the insights of the presenters, i4cp findings, and practice sharing among fellow conference attendees to translate the sensing into productive action. 

“The greatest challenge we have is helping our leaders recognize their call for courage … and help them increase their capability for difficult and productive conversations.”  

Dr. Brené’ Brown, renowned author, speaker, professor, and researcher, provided a positive yet ‘let’s get real’ tone as the opening keynote speaker. She built a credible case for approaching leadership effectiveness through vulnerability, clarity of values, trust and rising skills. She delivered a contemporary view of what will separate the value of enduring human contributions of empathy and attunement in the workplace vs. the rapidly increase use of machines and AI. Throughout her presentation, Brown was authentic—role modeling many of these qualities, from early-on asking for the house lights to be brought up so that she could more clearly see and talk with the audience, to pausing to ask to move out of ‘presentation mode’ to be vulnerable with her own thoughts, to ending early to engage participants in a Q&A problem solving session.  

“Don’t innovative; rather solve real problems that exist. Further winning is no longer about creating the best ideas, it’s about also catching the fastest learners.”  

Following Brené’ Brown is quite a challenge, and Dr. Andrew Razeghi, innovation guru and lecturer at the Kellogg School of Management, did an admirable job. Interesting and insightful in his own way, Razeghi presented his credentials for speaking on innovation in the framework of doing most of his work in three rooms—the classroom, the board room and the garage. Most impressive were his examples of coaching his students, coaching existing companies, and investing in start-up. At one point he explained he pulled out his checkbook to invest in a student’s start-up idea after reworking the idea to solve a relevant problem in a unique way (i.e., a dog resort rather than a gym for cats to exercise). One of the most relevant elements of his presentation is the melding of greater innovation by setting up entrepreneurial environments in many different forms to attract and support creative talent. 

“We need to start thinking very differently about the future … but don’t forget the purpose of HR is to put people first.”  

Ellen Shook, Accenture’s CHRO, provided example after example of thinking differently about the challenges facing the intersection of emerging disruptive workforce technologies and workforce development. For example, she used the term ‘new skilling’ the workforce rather than re-skilling as, in her words, it will be a never-ending process. New skilling will follow new skilling for the most relevant workforce. Shook cited fascinating findings from Accenture’s recent report, “Reworking the Revolution,” and she ended with two useful pieces of advice: First, shift thinking from workforce planning to just work planning–the tasks to be done–and the intersection of people and technologies and second, this ever-increasing change will produce levels of uncertainty and doubt and leaders need to provide compassion. 

“These companies are producing cutting edge people practices, being more competitive in the war for talent and advancing our profession.”  

Kevin Oakes began the afternoon by recognizing member organizations with i4cp’s annual awards. Four organizations then presented their work (Shell, BAE Systems, T-Mobile, Land O’Lakes) and the accomplishments of others were mentioned by three others (Booz Allen Hamilton, TIAA, and Toyota Financial Services). Aside from the great diversity across industries and the varying nature of the organizations, most interesting was how in many ways these innovative practices provided additional examples of how to meet the future challenges outlined by the other speakers of day one. 

“This is a next practices everyone has to get their head around … how are you creating an ecosystem of partnership to build, share, move talent and information, to be borderless?”  

Kevin Martin, i4cp Chief Research Officer, followed by presenting an overarching theme of the day about organization and leadership agility to successfully meet the changes afoot. He outlines six key practices of the most agile, highest performing companies in i4cp’s ongoing research, including sensing disturbances, failing forward, purposeful collaboration, nimble structure, adopting agile approaches, talent fluidity. boundaryless leaders.  

“What I really want to tell out about is the hard stuff and the story is more complicated than just reported progress of the numbers.”  

Candice Morgan, Chief Diversity Officer Pinterest, provided another role model example of courage and making a difference through her story of building a diverse workforce and lessons learned. Her four lessons learned each provided insight and specifics on how to operationalize each lesson. For example, increasing hiring diversity needs be immediately supported by onboarding efforts to reduce the ‘belonging uncertainty’ and training managers on unconscious bias right before talent and performance calibration meetings to improve the fairness of decisions. Her final point of real progress means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, reinforced one of the themes of the day. We shape the future we desire, we will all need to initiate discussions on topics we can’t ignore, and we need to productively lead others to and through uncertainty and risk. 

“The ability to generate and regenerate talent in a continuous basis is one thing that helps organizations win in the future.”  

Sydney Finkelstein, Professor Tuck School of Business Dartmouth College, wrapped up the day by covering the key findings in his new book, Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent. Based on six years of studying the phenomenon of talent generating managers, called “superbosses,” he found an interesting common set of practices across dissimilar industries, from fashion to food to the NFL to comedy. These eight practices, Finkelstein believes, can and should be developed in any organization for sustained success. Many of the practices provide contrasting (and often contradictory) actions that superbosses masterfully apply in balance, such as building teams that both cooperate and compete at the same time and pushing people hard for higher levels of performance but equally inspiring them, supporting them and building self confidence. He concluded by stating that all organizations have some superbosses and our job is to know who they are and build more.
Kevin Wilde
Kevin D. Wilde is a strategic business advisor to the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and currently serves as an executive leadership fellow at the University of Minnesota. His prior 34-year corporate career includes serving as the head of learning and talent management at General Mills. Chief Learning Officer magazine named him CLO of the Year in 2007. His most recent award-winning book is, “Coachability: The Leadership Superpower.”