Archives For innovation

As we begin to explore and to understand how cultural orientations affect our assumptions and perspectives, it is important to understand what a cultural orientation is and how it affects worldviews. Everyone has specific orientations, or ways of perceiving the world around them, primarily derived from our cultural background and the way we were raised.  These orientations, or world-views, combine to determine who we are and how we see the world around us. From that basis, we will begin to look at several layers of cultural orientation that specifically affect the way people view the world and the assumptions that are placed on interpretations in communication.

If we can leverage orientations to better understand our own perceptions, as well as help us to understand the complex network of cultures surrounding us in our work and in our lives, we can then begin to leverage cultural orientations as a communication tool for discovering creative solutions to problems – increasing the human potential of everyone involved, from every culture, and achieving success on a journey toward high performance and fulfillment that will far exceed everyone’s expectations. Let’s get started with the first set of cultural orientations…Power/Responsibility.

There are three critical elements to establishing how an individual or group may view where they, themselves, as well as others, belong on the Power/Responsibility continuum:

1) Humility; People should accept inevitable natural limitations and are not in control,

2) Harmony: People should strive for balance with nature, having a clear understanding of what one can control and what one can not control or

3) Control: People have determinant power and responsibility to forge the life they want, and are in complete control of every aspect of life.

Humility recognizes that most things are out of our control. Success is viewed as a combination of effort and good fortune, but is never of one’s own doing. Humility teaches us to gracefully accept our limitations, however humility becomes ineffective when it leads to passive acceptance of fate and prevents individuals from taking proactive steps toward positive change. It can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies perpetuating the status quo and causing missed opportunities. On the other hand, humility can teach wisdom: we can learn to accept what life has for us (gratefully or with a grain of salt), relieving us of the burdens of feeling responsible for what happens –  everything is beyond our control.

Harmony is the center-point of the continuum between Humility and Control, and is all about balance – knowing when to act and when to let go; maintaining balance between opposite forces. Those who strive for harmony tend to create an atmosphere of consideration and mutual respect.  There is a clear sense of when to take control and when to fall back and accepts that there are limitations. This approach fosters an atmosphere of unity and collaborative processes that lead to global success. The leader who knows when to listen, when to act, and when to withdraw can achieve anything.

Control-oriented individuals feel they are in charge of their own destiny – a belief in man’s will over nature, relationships, and happiness, as well as academic or business success. The positive side of control is that it often leads to productivity and strong self-fulfilling prophecies – one can achieve anything one puts his/her mind to.  It exudes a sense of optimism and an ability to attain extraordinary goals. The ugly side of control is arrogance and the potential for guilt and frustration when things do not happen as planned. After all, if you believe you are in complete control, it is also your fault when success is eluded. In addition, it is a high-risk proposition to try and control your environment and relationships – you may find in others an unwillingness to comply that ultimately impedes your goals, and thus your success.

Now, imagine the difference if you could begin to leverage the richness in each orientation, while being aware of, and watching for their downsides amongst your diverse global counterparts. If you understand that your own sense of Power/Responsibility may lie toward the control orientation on the continuum (for example), but you need to successfully establish annual goals with your staff in Asia, which are likely to lean more toward a humility orientation, how might you shift your approach to communicate in a way that may result in better cultural understanding and buy-in? If you need to change a process, how might you leverage your knowledge of Power/Responsibility and the associated orientations to alter your communications between regions to facilitate excitement and buy-in to change across various regions? Your understanding and use of cultural orientations communicates a sensitivity that will facilitate faster, more effective results in a fraction of the time that a “one size fits all” communication approach can ever hope to achieve.

If leveraged correctly, this concept will allow you to discover new options, shift perspectives, and quite possibly, to leverage differing orientations as you move between and amongst different geographical locations and cultural orientations. My theory…Acting Local is Acting Global.

For the next several weeks, I will be discussing specific cultural orientations that will facilitate successful communications and business results across cultures.  You can contact me at or by visiting our website Check back next Thursday for the second in a multi-tiered discussion on understanding cultural orientations for successful communication Across Boundaries & Borders, Time Management Orientations.

This post is about you – as an organizational leader. Lifelong learning is a critical component of our personal and professional growth that we often seem to forget as we rise through the ranks. Unfortunately, as most of us become more senior within the organization, there is an undeniable challenge we face – facilitating our own ongoing growth and development. It becomes more and more difficult to identify growth opportunities, training, relevant readings, etc. and to deny the pull to remain stagnant – focusing on what we already know vs. the potential we have to know more. Perhaps most importantly, there is often a stealth sense of false complacency that emerges as a result of past success. However, the reality is that with the frequency and scale of change in global organizations, the leader that is not continually growing and changing with the environment may very well find that  s/he has been left behind at the last jumping off point.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own personal development…and reaching your potential.  Many leaders let the business take priority over reaching their potential, or wait for the company to assume ownership of their development. Is this really what is most beneficial for you, and by default, the organizaion?  As leaders, it is easy to forget that it is far more effective to stretch ourselves, and thereby our organizations, than it is to settle for the status quo.  But how do you continually push yourself to think harder and go further? You can employ any number of self-help philosophies, but the reality is that you will probably not follow through – and if you do, they will typically not generate the results you hoped they would.

Finding and engaging a good mentor may be a critical success factor you are missing. Mentoring is a process about enabling and supporting your personal and professional growth. Organizational life can sometimes feel like climbing up the side of a mountain – as we struggle up the steep parts we are breathless, challenged, single-minded, and in need of support and sustenance. There may even be some moves we can not make without being tied to a partner. Mentoring can help with your changes in altitude, and enable you to get to higher ground – where you just may be able to see things from a different perspective. You will be able to see the mountains in the distance and new ways forward that were just not visible from your position below. Your mentor should facilitate a process that leads you to consider different perspectives, new ways of thinking, and deeper self-knowledge.

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In an ever-changing global marketplace, those who lead across boundaries and borders are increasingly required to become Extreme Team Captains – guiding the organization through unfamiliar and turbulent environments, while maximizing the functional, geographical, and cultural diversity of their teams.  In today’s multicultural, dynamic world, ensuring the continuous learning and growth of global leaders is critical to achieving high performance and sustainable growth in every organization.

With markets, suppliers, competitors, technology, and customers around the world constantly changing the rules of the game, traditional leadership models no longer work. Companies need leaders of exceptionally high caliber and quality, as they are a key component of the only true source of competitive advantage – people. But how do we create this Extreme Global LeaderTM? Is there the possibility of exceptional leadership that transcends accepted leadership characteristics to create a global leader that is emotionally, politically, and culturally intelligent?  How do these high-potential leaders evolve and become extreme? What is the most effective method of creating a transformational leader?

Last week we pondered potential and its source. If we look at the critical components of what we perceive to be potential (performance, emotional intelligence, motivation, and agility), is it possible to leverage potential through traditional training and/or coaching? Both are valuable tools for learning, but have entirely different purposes and outcomes.

The purpose of training is to teach:

  • skills
  • methods
  • theories
  • tactics
  • strategies

It is the process of disseminating information from the trainer to the leader. Training provides a pre-set curriculum and the trainer imparts what is important for the student to know. Trainers have subject matter expertise and an understanding of teaching methods that work well with adult learners. Training offers economies of scale so, even when customized, it is often less expensive than coaching for a comparable number of students. Because training is typically a one-time event with little to no reinforcement, the benefits may have a very short shelf life.

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As a leader in Sales, you are well aware that the waters are rough, indeed.  In the past, the goal has been very straight forward – make sure your teams are capturing customers and making their numbers. Good relationships and ongoing offers of discounted pricing – on products and services – kept sales flowing and ensured the all important numbers were on target.  Unfortunately, those days of smooth sailing are gone.  Adjusting to the new reality means acknowledging that things have changed – customers have disappeared or have greatly reduced purchasing power and costs do matter – even in Sales.

Here’s a life boat with some less well-known tips  that may help Sales to survive, when others around you may be sinking fast:

  • Critically evaluate structure, purpose, objectives, and KPI’s:   In many cases, all of these components may need to change. Perhaps it is wise to reorganize – combining functions, regions, or customer segments? The initial changes may be dispiriting, but if you can make them all at once and they are focused on those who do not display the attitude or aptitude required in the “new” organization, Sales will become stronger as a result of the changes. The goal is not only to reduce costs, but also to get everyone focused on what they need to do for the customer and against the competition. Make sure you understand what the new purpose, objectives, and  KPI’s encompass at each revised level, and that the necessary training is provided to ensure buy-in and commitment to the new organization.
  • Create an intelligent network:  Build information networks that span the clients organization, continually assessing customer pain points and providing solutions before they even realize they are challenged. As a leader in Sales, ensure you are transitioning your sales people into  the eyes and ears of the organization – a network that provides ground-level intelligence that can be used to fuel fundamental decisions regarding overall corporate strategy and tactics. This new, evolved sales person will need to have the capacity to analyze each client to determine current and future profitability. They need to be able to tell you how decisions are made at the client site, what the dominant psychology is, and how that psychology is manifested as it pertains to  client decision-making, forecasts, purchasing, promotions, and product lifecycles. They all affect your ability to sell… and collect.
  • Know what your customers cost: Have a detailed understanding as to how each client affects each piece of the value chain. A good customer on the surface may cause you to incur hidden costs if they demand frequent changes, customized processes, or unusual services/materials. These types demands may put undue pressures or costs onto  production or purchasing departments…or they may tie up too much cash by requiring unique materials or components. An important customer that pays late can also become a liability when the seas are rough and the company is managing for cash. When a client’s ability to pay or credit rating drops, you don’t want to be the last one standing on deck when the Tsunami hits…
  • Know which customers to drop:   Sales people need to be able to help the company answer some critical questions – Is a customer viable? What strains are they under? Are they highly leveraged?  What does their cash flow look like?  What is the real cost of doing business with the client? Obviously the decision to drop a client needs to be made in conjunction with the executive team, however you need to have done your homework in order to make a sound recommendation. If the business case points to the client as a significant risk and they must be dropped, ensure your sales people partner with the client to ensure a smooth transition to a new supplier. Remember, if the client has a positive experience there will be a mutual respect and the potential of working together in the future will remain intact… should the opportunity arise.
  • Link Sales to R&D: Assign your most  aggressive and business-savvy people to a dual role – sales and business development. Creating cost-effective  solutions to client challenges often emerge from  discussions amongst people with different knowledge bases.
  • Tie sales people to CXO’s: The best intelligence is useless unless it is put into the right hands. Set up methods to ensure what is learned in the field  gets to the senior team. Set up weekly conference calls between your best sales people and critical decision makers… or initiate a program where the executive team will call a few of your sales people each week.  Top executives will have the opportunity to pick up ideas or nuances  from your sales people that they would not get from a formal meeting or a report – it will allow them to discern customer patterns, while motivating those participating on the calls to become more curious and vigilant.

In turbulent times, the context of Sales changes drastically. With orders dissipating and numbers falling out of control, the wise leader ensures sales is a critical component to the solution, rather than part of the problem. With the right focus and planning, your organization can steer the lifeboat out of rough seas and become better, faster and stronger in the process.

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you keep sales afloat in rough seas. Please feel free to contact me at  Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.comor by visiting our website at Check back next week for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.

Mind The Gap: Winning

October 21, 2010 — Leave a comment


Winning is rarely about a one time event. Winning is about sustaining performance, sustaining competitiveness – about getting to the top and staying there.  Many companies win once – but very few are able to continually adapt the thinking, systems and practices that enable them to sustain competitiveness year after year. Most of us realize that no one goes from being noncompetitive to winning The World Cup without going through a challenging and committed process. Being competitive means you can deploy a winning product or service from a position of relative strength. While there are rare exceptions to the rule, it’s almost impossible to go from a being a laggard in the market to a superstar without doing the hard work to get there.

If you pause to consider sporting teams, they are notoriously BAD at sustaining competitiveness. They work hard over time, win the championship, then (more often than not) tank. They blame the draft, salary caps, or the governing body of the sport. They blame injuries, not having enough money, or anything except what really makes the difference – their ability to seriously commit to continuous improvement and accelerated change. Organizations are not any different.

Most businesses, and sports teams, perform in cycles. There are times when they are performing well – and times when they’re not. The competitive cycle of organizations around the world can be compared to a clock –

At 10 o’clock, the organization is poised for success – working hard and changing rapidly. Players are accelerating the rate of change by learning fast and by being innovative, they are committed to success…

At 11 o’clock, the team is approaching their best. They are properly aligned and playing well. They make the final series and they continue to strive for success. Most importantly, they have created a winning culture that has a high likelihood of succeeding…

At 12 o’clock, the team wins the Championship!  They are at peak performance when an interesting phenomena occurs – right when they are at the peak of the performance cycle, the team stops doing most of what they did to become successful in the first place…

1 o’clock and they stop being creative and open minded. The organization starts believing that their way is the only way and that they have the formula for success. This is where they really need to Mind The Gap, but more often than not, they simply fall in!  Why?  Because resistance to change is greatest when the team believes it has all the answers – it is a key reason most organizations fail to repeat success and the team faces a traumatic, extended losing streak…

2 – 3 o’clock and  the team continues to lose. Outside consultants are brought in to “fix” the problems – it is suggested that the previous MVP’s have reached their Peter Principle. The organization “invests” in new players, new equipment, and new coaches in a frantic attempt to stop the rapid decline in performance…

4 – 5 o’clock,  the CEO and management team are sacked – the organization is plunging into a deep, dark hole…

6’clock and the team cannot win a game. Clients and partners have left the stands… the promoters can not sell a ticket. It appears that the team may never win again…

7 o’clock and  someone with the power to act decides to make a change – and follows through on it. The gameplan is drafted in a new playbook, funding is allocated, and a strong team is put on the field to make it happen…

8 – 9 o’clock,  the team begins to have faith that things can change – they believe they can win again.  New game plan, committed players, and dedicated coaching staff all work together to change the game. There is enthusiasm, energy, and passion  – partners and clients are beginning to fill the stands once again…ticket sales are on the rise!

10 – 11 o’clock: It’s been a long, hard season, but the cycle is complete and the organization looks forward to a new season as their competitive clock is,once again, at its peak.

The reality for most organizations is that they spend one or two seasons (at most) between 7 and 12 o’clock –  then spend many years between 1 and 6 o’clock! There is no reason for organizations to spend years struggling to win a game, much less the championship, because they fall into a predetermined gap that they simply do not prepare to make the long-jump over! The goal should always be to create a high performance, sustainably successful, environment – ensuring the organization remains competitive throughout multiple seasons. The only way to accomplish sustainable success is to manage the performance clock.

Winning once could be considered lucky. Creating a continuous cycle of success is achieved through the sustainable competitiveness that comes only from good planning, good management, good vision and hard work. Success is not a destination – it is a moving target and your aim must continually be adjusted if you want to keep it in your sights!  What are you doing to control the performance clock?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you mind the performance clock in your organization. Please feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for the next installment of the Mind The Gap series.

There are two essential keys to success in global business today that will determine if you emerge bloody and battered  or ready for the next epic battle: 1) Cash is king and how you, as Commander, manage that cash will determine your ability to live to fight another day. However, if you do not strategically develop products and services that will enable you to consistently triumph over the competition, you will find yourself overtaken    2) If cash is king, then innovation equates to the arsenal of weapons used to protect the castle walls and conquer new territories. Without innovation you can not conquer your enemy or protect your kingdom.  If you, as Commander of all the armies within your domain, are responsible for ensuring strategic battle-plans are executed successfully,  you must leverage the best artillery you have available – including yourself… especially yourself.

As Commander, you are prepared to go forth and conquer everyday operations, selectively forget past triumphs, and boldly and strategically go forth into uncharted territories. In doing so, do you fully comprehend what it will require of you, personally, in order to fight successfully on all three battlefields and emerge triumphant in a war that is constantly evolving – a moving target? What is it that separates the good commanders from the great? What kind of leader does it take to mandate continuous, aggressive innovation on an ongoing basis?

Who has mastered the art of war, successfully engaging innovation as a strategic weapon to consistently emerge victorious?   Steve Jobs, Lou Gerstner, John Chambers, Richard Branson, Larry Page/Sergey Brin, or perhaps Mark Zuckerberg…all of these commanders have some distinct characteristics we can look to for guidance. If we observe behaviors, what we find is that strong commanders that embrace the role of innovation consistently:

  1. Embody Energy & Drive
  2. Display Courage & Focus
  3. Possess Mental Clarity
  4. Create Demand
  5. Seek & Drive Change
  6. Develop Dreams
  7. Engage & Deliver
  8. Value Accountability
  9. Intuitively Understand Customer Needs/Wants
  10. Embrace & Use Failure As A Springboard To Success

But how do you, as Commander, agressively drive innovation both internally and externally? Because you are the weapon of choice and will ultimately have a great impact both in the midst of ongoing battles, as well as on the outcome of the war, it is critical for you to embrace the fact that innovation will substantially drive outcomes. Ask yourself some interesting questions as you evaluate your commitment to innovation:

  • Passion: Do you, as Commander, have the vision, energy and drive to look into the future for new, unclaimed territories or are you stuck on the bloody battlefield on which you currently reside? Are you internally driven to focus not only on the future, but across industries, sectors, or nations to generate innovative ideas that will enable your troops to overtake the enemy and secure new, previously unexplored territory? Are you passionate about identifying significant events that will change industries, companies, customers – impact nations or the world – and do you ENGAGE them? What are you willing to give up in the name of innovation?
  • Possibility: Do you see potential and have the capacity and conviction to develop what you envision? Do you engage in intelligent risk-taking every day? Are you intuitive – understanding what people/clients want before they do? Do you consistently ask what it is that a billion people need and don’t have? Do you constantly scan the environment for opportunity? Do you work backward from your imagination or forward from your past?
  • Purpose: Do you have a personal sense of ownership and commitment to continuous change and securing new territories? Do you have a deep understanding and sense of purposeful investment in the continuous evolution of your army and your arsenal? Are you personally committed to discovering uncharted territories? Do you set highly ambitious, but realistic, goals?
  • Practice: Are you consistently encouraging your troops to engage and practice the innovations that arise within a controlled environment prior to attacking the enemy? Do you practice what you preach? Do you use practice as a competitive weapon, leveraging it as an opportunity to enhance the battle-plans and your ability to win prior to engaging?
  • Perception: As Commander, do you often reject conventional wisdom?  Are you constantly looking over your shoulder at the bloody battlefields on which you have triumphed in the past or are you looking forward toward unexplored territories? Are you looking for ongoing opportunity gaps? Do you believe in your ability to win?
  • Persistence: Are you relentless in constantly asking, “what’s new?” of everyone you come in contact with? Do you make an effort to see everything through multiple sets of eyes – the eyes of the troops, the enemy, and the innocent bystanders (your customers)? In every instance, do you think, seek, search, listen, probe, and extract? Are you focused on seeking out unexplored opportunities? Are you prepared to condone cannibalization – constantly annihilating yourself in order to renew products and services before the competition takes the advantage?

Within your arsenal of weapons lies innovation – too big, and too formidable, for any enemy to conquer if the Commander (you) chooses to leverage the competitive advantage within. How far will you go to ensure you are not the weak link in your companies ability to innovate?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you mind the innovation gaps in your organization. Please feel free to contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for the next installment of the Mind The Gap series.