My latest Articles

(Thought and Vigor, Fast Company, Talent Culture, Switch and Shift, and more)

  • Here’s How Your Ambition Today Might Let You Down Later
    Why do you want to be a leader? For the pay, the influence, the swanky office? Or for the difference you can make along the way? Of course, these things aren't mutually exclusive, and it's okay to be ambitious. But if you tend to weigh the former perks more heavily, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because real leadership isn't about the destination—you never actually arrive. It's an activity, a process—and treating it that way is the only way you'll get real satisfaction from your work. Why You'll Never Reach That Peak . . . Treating leadership as a prize, as something prestigious you'll earn after putting in a certain amount of hard work, means aiming for a goal that doesn't exist. We don't get to become a complete, whole person and then stay that way. We're always growing, always changing, always aging.One reason for this is obvious, or should be if we stop to think about it. Leadership is hard work. Once you get there, you'll always have more to do. It isn't the reward for your work—it is the work. Once you reach the upper level, in whatever your field, you'll have to keep working hard to stay there. And that requires a careful, often difficult balancing act. But the other reason is that the idea of reaching "the top" is itself a fantasy. Power and prestige are relative. However high you climb, someone will always have more than you or appear higher up. If Read more
    Source: Fast CompanyPublished on 2016-05-12By Mark Lukens
  • Should We Cap Executive Salaries? Pay in the Age of the Social Business
    Social business isn’t just about creating more ethical products. It isn’t about small tweaks that make a business less ugly. It’s about addressing the fundamentals of society and of a business within society. And nothing is more fundamental to business than pay. After all, nobody would go to the office without it. So what are the problems with the current approach to pay? And what might we change to make pay work better for society? Letting Go of Entitlement There’s a reason why we’ve heard so much talk about entitlement in recent social debates. Arguments ranging from political engagement to the plots of computer games often boil down to attempts by one side to create greater equality, while the other side defends the status quo, feeling they are entitled to what they have simply because that’s how things have been. Like the angry voices of “Gamergate,” many in business feel entitled to ever-rising pay. In this view, doing well entitles us to ever higher wages. Our pay should never drop unless we make a cataclysmic error. And it indulges those at the top to massive sums, with CEO’s receiving 300 times as much as average workers. But this approach to pay is not set in stone. As recently as the 1970s, the pay ratio between CEOs and average workers was only twenty-five to one. Ever-rising wages are connected to the dangers of inflation. If we let go of our entitled assumptions, what models could we adopt instead? Leaving Behind Performance-related Pay Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-05-11By Mark Lukens
  • Why Leaders Should Seek Out Immigrant Employees
    Migration is one of the greatest challenges facing modern society. The OECD estimates there are currently 232 million migrants globally, while Migration Policy Institute data shows the United States is the most common destination. Reactionaries see this as a threat. But as socially conscious business leaders we should be seizing the opportunity it creates – to build closer communities, a better society and stronger businesses. The Great “Debate” The arguments against migration are all too well covered in the press. While politicians in America discuss whether to build a wall or just use armed men to keep out our neighbors, Europe grapples with the crisis triggered by sudden and massive migration from Syria, a country devastated by environmental collapse, fundamentalist politics and civil war. While Canada sets an example by welcoming refugees as human beings, most of the West is screaming in alarm. The arguments are simple – these people will take our jobs and destroy our culture. In reality, the sort of people who migrate are disproportionately those who will contribute well to the economy. Demonizing them creates the sort of dysfunctional society of which politicians often complain. Embracing them can help us to build a better workforce. Addressing the Facts The truth is immigrants are not taking on the same jobs that American-born workers prefer. They are around fifty per cent more likely to work in service or heavy labor jobs, and significantly less likely to work in the professional and office-based occupations that provide the greatest status and wealth. Immigrants are taking on the jobs Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-05-08By Mark Lukens
  • What Causes Uncomfortable Work Conversations And How To Avoid Them
    The foundation of good communication isn't the words but the feelings underlying them. In 2010, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Boston found that the U.S. medical industry wastes over $12 billion per year thanks to inefficiencies caused by poor communication. You probably don't need a study to tell you why good communication is so important in the workplace, though. At best, it heads off conflicts and keeps everyone working together—productively and happily. Other studies (for good measure) have shown how communication plays a direct role in boosting employee satisfaction and avoiding burnout. Even trying to lighten the mood can do damage when it's done wrong.So it follows that, at worst, bad communication can be a major source of stress, discomfort, and even employee attrition. But not all uncomfortable work conversations are necessarily bad—they might just signal that it's time to make some improvements in how your team members communicate with one another. Here's how. Creating Positivity In A Bad Environment Unfortunately, poor communication is the norm in many businesses. Typical workplace conversations have been found to contain four times as much rehashing of past problems and assigning of blame as they do present-day and forward-looking solutions. This leads to an atmosphere of fear and tension, and increases the number of uncomfortable conversations employees are likely to have. Before long, a combative mentality pervades your office, preventing basic cooperation from occurring. Under these conditions, even trying to lighten the mood can do damage when it's done wrong. Read more
    Source: Fast CompanyPublished on 2016-05-02By Mark Lukens
  • What Causes Uncomfortable Work Conversations And How To Avoid Them
    In 2010, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Boston found that the U.S. medical industry wastes over $12 billion per year thanks to inefficiencies caused by poor communication. You probably don't need a study to tell you why good communication is so important in the workplace, though. At best, it heads off conflicts and keeps everyone working together—productively and happily. Other studies (for good measure) have shown how communication plays a direct role in boosting employee satisfaction and avoiding burnout. Even trying to lighten the mood can do damage when it's done wrong.So it follows that, at worst, bad communication can be a major source of stress, discomfort, and even employee attrition. But not all uncomfortable work conversations are necessarily bad—they might just signal that it's time to make some improvements in how your team members communicate with one another. Here's how. Creating Positivity In A Bad Environment Unfortunately, poor communication is the norm in many businesses. Typical workplace conversations have been found to contain four times as much rehashing of past problems and assigning of blame as they do present-day and forward-looking solutions. This leads to an atmosphere of fear and tension, and increases the number of uncomfortable conversations employees are likely to have. Before long, a combative mentality pervades your office, preventing basic cooperation from occurring. Under these conditions, even trying to lighten the mood can do damage when it's done wrong. Deliberately injecting humor might feel like a smart move, and mere light banter, Read more
    Source: Fast CompanyPublished on 2016-05-02By Mark Lukens
  • Should We Cap Executive Salaries? Pay in the Age of the Social Business
    Social business isn’t just about creating more ethical products. It isn’t about small tweaks that make a business less ugly. It’s about addressing the fundamentals of society and of a business within society. And nothing is more fundamental to business than pay. After all, nobody would go to the office without it. So what are […] Read more... Read More» The post Should We Cap Executive Salaries? Pay in the Age of the Social Business appeared first on Switch & Shift. Read more
    Source: Switch and ShiftPublished on 2016-04-26By Mark Lukens
  • Revolution or Evolution – Which Will You Lead?
    Transformation is a big deal in business leadership. Since the Second World War and the Japanese economic resurgence that followed, we’ve seen a steady growth in the tools and techniques of transformation. We’ve analyzed how to transform a businesstypes of transformation, how to overcome the challenges, even the details of how to make specific transformations. Is it time to move the conversation on? The Grand Upheaval The Second World War led to two great strands of change in business processes, both rooted in manufacturing. In the United States, analysts such as Robert McNamara brought data-driven analysis to the arms industry to fight the war more efficiently. The necessities of global conflict made it easier to push through change. In the post-war era, their insights led to an interest in change management that eventually gave birth to Six Sigma in the 1980s. Meanwhile, in reconstruction Japan, engineers were building on the work of Sakichi Toyoda, Kiichiro Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno to create the Toyota Production System. This approach, and the lean management techniques that followed, focused on process analysis and the removal of waste. The upheaval of war created radical new approaches. To break through the barriers of habit and complacency, they were executed through transformational projects of great drama and energy. A whole industry of transformation consultants emerged. But is this still what we need? Evolving a Business Doubtless, some businesses still benefit from the swift kick in the pants that is a transformational project. But as history has shown time and Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-04-20By Mark Lukens
  • Zuckerberg’s LLC and the Future of Social Business
    “By using an LLC instead of a traditional foundation… we gain flexibility to execute our mission more effectively.” – Mark Zuckerberg The foundation of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s new philanthropic venture, has drawn attention for the generosity of its founding investment – 99 percent of Zuckerberg’s Facebook shares, valued at $45 billion. But in some ways, the form the initiative will take is as important as the amount of money being invested. The Initiative will be an LLC rather than a registered charity, an unusual model for a philanthropic endeavor, and one for which Zuckerberg has been criticized. Zuckerberg’s approach highlights how much using business models can benefit social enterprises. Flexibility The LLC is among the most popular forms of corporate governance, and with good reason. It provides a level of flexibility not available in most other structures. In particular, it has more flexibility than a charity. Charities are bound by legal restrictions, and with good reason. For a conventional charity to work, it has to be trusted. Donors need certainty that their money will be spent on the cause to which they donated, and that it will spent wisely. They need to know that the people running the charity aren’t just out to make a profit for themselves, and regulations provide reassurance. But a foundation such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative doesn’t need to earn public trust. Its funds come from the private wealth of its founders. It can function without the restrictions legal charity Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-04-14By Mark Lukens
  • Are You Taking Social Marketing Seriously?
    Are You Taking Social Marketing Seriously? We all talk the social marketing talk. Whether it’s in blog posts, books or dinner party conversations, the air of business is heady with the jargon of social media as a marketing tool – demographic slices, viral videos, tweets, followers, traction, penetration, and a thousand more buzzwords that seem to fit the theme. It’s easy to talk the talk. The question is, are you really walking the walk? A New Age Social marketing isn’t just about taking old approaches and applying them through new channels. It’s not that you can’t apply the old ways on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can apply those old ways anywhere. But in the new world of social marketing, they won’t gain you the traction to get ahead of your competitors, or even ahead of where you are now. Old approaches to advertising were about putting out a single mass message. You reached millions of people, and hoped to attract a few thousand of them to your products. A campaign built for social media is far more sophisticated and more tightly focused. Instead of wasting effort on reaching a mass market, it targets the customers most likely to want your products. By being personal and targeted it reaches them in a way that mass marketing never could. It is more focused, more effective, and will beat old approaches every time. Giving to Receive This means that your marketing can’t just be a matter of empty slogans. Your marketing is Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-04-12By Mark Lukens
  • Why Leaders Should Seek Out Immigrant Employees
    Reactionaries see this as a threat. But as socially conscious business leaders we should be seizing the opportunity it creates – to build closer communities, a better society and stronger businesses.... Read More» The post Why Leaders Should Seek Out Immigrant Employees appeared first on Switch & Shift. Read more
    Source: Switch and ShiftPublished on 2016-04-12By Mark Lukens
  • Revolution or Evolution – Which Will You Lead?
    Transformation is a big deal in business leadership. Since the Second World War and the Japanese economic resurgence that followed, we’ve seen a steady growth in the tools and techniques of transformation. We’ve analyzed how to transform a business, types of transformation, how to overcome the challenges, even the details of how to make specific […] Read more... Read More» The post Revolution or Evolution – Which Will You Lead? appeared first on Switch & Shift. Read more
    Source: Switch and ShiftPublished on 2016-04-06By Mark Lukens
  • Applying Analytics in a Human Way
    Applying Analytics in a Human Way Big data has been one of the big trends of the past year. But by its very nature it can be dehumanizing, distancing us from the reality of people’s lived experience. The challenge we must face this year, and going forward from it, is how to connect that analytics into the lived experience of employees and so use big data in a more human way. Encouraging Self-awareness One of the growing trends in big data is using its power to understand and manage talent. At the moment, this is often viewed from a high level. Managers use the data to identify gaps in the talent pool within their organizations, as well as for opportunities to grow the existing skill base. That insight becomes the basis for broad talent development strategies, which eventually filter down into individual training and development. But there’s a disconnect between the data and the ways that employees experience the results. While the organization is using data to self-reflect and improve, it isn’t using it to give employees the same opportunity. The best learning and development comes from understanding ourselves. If we can use the available data to increase employees’ self-awareness then we can make them agents of their own talent development, not just recipients of training courses. We should use the data to help them understand their own performance, put that performance in the wider context of the business, and show them what they could be achieving. It’s about connecting Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-04-05By Mark Lukens
  • Communicating in depth
    Communicating in depth How authentic is your approach to communication? It can be a difficult question to ask ourselves. In the age of Twitter and corporate spin, a lot of the communication around us can seem shallow and devoid of meaning. A lot of it is. It’s easy to slip into the habit of communicating in bulk rather than in depth, running around expressing frequent messages rather than deep, well-considered ones. But think about how you respond to that clutter of communications noise. Do you take more in because there’s more out there? Of course not. What works is communication that shows quality and depth. So how can you cut through the noise? How do you achieve that sort of communication? Balance There is a balance to be struck here. You don’t want to become so afraid of over-reaching or creating noise that you recede into quiet passivity, your message all but forgotten. Equally, you don’t want to become ‘that guy’, the aggressive communicator who’s so busy putting his message out that he never stops to listen to others. The balancing place in the middle, the spot where successful communication lies, is assertiveness – not letting your views be drowned out but not drowning others out either. Part of this balance is in how much you communicate and how hard you think about it. Pushing too far into high quality can mean spending hours over every single sentence, hardly ever getting your message out. In an ideal world every message Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-03-29By Mark Lukens
  • Zuckerberg’s LLC and the Future of Social Business
    Zuckerberg’s approach highlights how much using business models can benefit social enterprises.... Read More» The post Zuckerberg’s LLC and the Future of Social Business appeared first on Switch & Shift. Read more
    Source: Switch and ShiftPublished on 2016-03-29By Mark Lukens
  • How to Tap into Employees’ Social Skills
    Are you ready to tap into Employees’ Social Skills? Social skills have always been important to work, though their vital role is not always well recognized. With the growing sophistication of management techniques and the meteoric rise of social media, they have leapt to the forefront, and are now on the minds of recruiters and managers looking. But if you want to make the most of these skills, it is not enough just to recruit the socially adept. You need to find ways to best channel the social skills of all your employees. The Age of Social Skills A recent paper by David J. Deming illustrates the long term rise of social skills. Analyzing data gathered by the U.S. Department of Labor, Deming found a steady increase in the importance of social skills across the American workforce since 1980. In the space of a generation, the amount of time committed to social tasks rose by 24%, and continued to rise even as other rising skill sets went into decline. The importance of this finding cannot be overstated. The prominent place social skills have gained in recent years is not just a reflection of the rise of social media. It is part of a long term trend, one that looks set to continue. Your workforce will increasingly be focused on social tasks, and you need to be ready for that. The Danger of the Vague Making your business more socially skilled is not just a matter of employing people with those Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-03-22By Mark Lukens