7 Tactics To Lead Through a Crisis

By Ron Price

After 50 years of serving in a wide variety of leadership roles, I’m convinced that every leader will face multiple crises as a normal part of the leadership journey. In my own experience, I have found myself in the middle of crises brought on by leadership failures, destructive fires, economic downturns, supply chain breakdowns, regulatory battles, business fraud, work violence, and now in 2020, a global pandemic. For much of my career, I viewed these crises as interruptions and distractions, seeking to put them behind as quickly as possible so we could get back to our organizational plans.

What if crises are an important and useful part of the life cycle for leaders and the organizations they serve? What if we could use crises to increase the trajectory for future success? What if the following quote from personal growth expert, Napoleon Hill, became a pivotal belief in our mindset as leaders?

“Every problem, every adversity, and every heartache has contained within it the seeds of equivalent or greater benefit.”

If we really believed this quote, we would immediately view each crisis as new opportunity. We would face crisis with an optimistic belief that something good was waiting to be discovered. And with the belief that “luck comes to us when preparation meets opportunity,” we would spring into action with enthusiasm and a positive expectation for the future.

Starting with the right mindset about crisis, we can then take practical steps to lead others through the turmoil to a brighter future. How? I believe the following steps will help those we lead join us in exercising hope for the future after a crisis:

  1. Set the example by how you care for yourself. To navigate a crisis successfully, we need to summon deeper levels of strength. By setting the example of self-care, we can inspire others to do the same.
  2. Be honest about the crisis. Followers need to know that their leaders see things as they are in a crisis before they can fully embrace an optimistic view of future possibilities.
  3. Don’t make promises you can’t fulfill. It can be tempting to reassure others through confident assertions about the future. However, it is always better to under-promise and then over-deliver as you work your way through the crisis.
  4. Realign commitments and resources as soon as possible. Every crisis requires adjustments to plans, budgets, resources, and commitments. Thinking these adjustments through early, then communicating them clearly, will help followers have confidence and support the necessary changes.
  5. Think differently about the future. Crisis is an opportune time for creativity and innovation. Innovation includes creating new value for customers through new products or services, more efficient processes, rethinking market positioning, and sometimes, complete paradigm changes in the nature of your business.
  6. Communicate well and often. Crisis often brings a loss of predictability. Followers need to hear from their leaders regularly. They need to hear clear, consistent messages that evolve as clarity around the new circumstances grows.
  7. Communicate gratitude instead of victimization. Leaders well equipped for crisis are resilient and flexible. Though they can’t control everything happening, they are intentional in finding things to be genuinely grateful for and they don’t succumb to temptations to complain, blame, or express discouragement.

When we realize that crises will come throughout our careers and that these moments of abrupt change present real opportunities for growth, we will prepare and then respond better. Instead of being slowed down by crisis, we will be propelled to greater success and deeper fulfillment, both for ourselves and those we lead.

About Author

Ron Price is a leadership advisor, strategist and author whose latest books include The Complete Leader, Growing Influence and The Innovator’s Advantage. 

Posted in Development, ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Insights, Leadership Skills

Surviving Q&A in a Virtual World


by Jim Moushon

question-and-answer-sites-3995413-1-5b088124ba61770036760244With so many virtual meetings these past several months, a number of behaviors are becoming very noticeable. One behavior is the tendency for the facilitator to look at the face of the person on their computer screen asking a question, or they’re looking elsewhere. When that happens, it often appears as though the meeting leader is distracted or uninterested in the question or questioner. This often sets a negative tone and the audience may develop some measure of hostility towards the facilitator. To stay engaged with the questioner, as well as avoiding the perceived negative behavior of disinterest, do the following:

1. Look at the Camera.

When people are asked a question, they will often look up, down, or away when they are contemplating how to answer. This may be perceived by others that you are stumped or wishing you were anywhere else than where you are. This can be compounded in a virtual environment because what we see on our computer screens are usually close ups of the person’s face and where that person is looking. To avoid these potential misperceptions, look at the camera while listening to the question and while answering. When you look at the camera, it looks like you’re looking at the questioner and focusing entirely on that individual and what they are asking.

2. Listen to the Whole Question.

Another challenge is that too many times the questioner is part way through their question, and we think we know what they’re asking, so we quit listening and start to formulate our answer. When this happens, we shift from listening to understand, to waiting to respond. The negative result is we may end up answering a question that wasn’t asked or we may appear to be impatient with the questioner. You can often physically see the moment the person being questioned transitions from listening to thinking. They’re thinking: “hurry up and finish your question so I can get to my answer.”

3. Listen for the Question Word.

One quick way to not think of your answer too soon is to listen for the interrogative or question word. Words such as what, why, how, can, should, did, etc., is the first clue as to what the issue is. Anything said before the question word is usually a statement, a comment, or an opinion. As soon as you hear the interrogative, you had better focus like a laser because what is said next is the actual question. If you don’t hear a question word, then they haven’t asked you a question.

By engaging in the listed behaviors, a facilitator will be perceived as interested in what others have to say, and is listening to understand what is being asked, and not just waiting to respond.

Posted in Communication, ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Insights

How COVID-19 Has Pushed Companies Over The Technology Tipping Point—and Transformed Business Forever


By Laura LaBerge, Clayton O’Toole, Jeremy Schneider, &  Kate Smaje

business transformationA new survey finds that responses to COVID-19 have speeded the adoption of digital technologies by several years—and that many of these changes could be here for the long haul.

In just a few months’ time, the COVID-19 crisis has brought about years of change in the way companies in all sectors and regions do business. According to a new McKinsey Global Survey of executives, their companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years. Nearly all respondents say that their companies have stood up at least temporary solutions to meet many of the new demands on them, and much more quickly than they had thought possible before the crisis. What’s more, respondents expect most of these changes to be long lasting and are already making the kinds of investments that all but ensure they will stick. In fact, when we asked executives about the impact of the crisis on a range of measures, they say that funding for digital initiatives has increased more than anything else—more than increases in costs, the number of people in technology roles, and the number of customers.

To stay competitive in this new business and economic environment requires new strategies and practices. Our findings suggest that executives are taking note: most respondents recognize technology’s strategic importance as a critical component of the business, not just a source of cost efficiencies. Respondents from the companies that have executed successful responses to the crisis report a range of technology capabilities that others don’t—most notably, filling gaps for technology talent during the crisis, the use of more advanced technologies, and speed in experimenting and innovating.

Digital adoption has taken a quantum leap at both the organizational and industry levels

During the pandemic, consumers have moved dramatically toward online channels, and companies and industries have responded in turn. The survey results confirm the rapid shift toward interacting with customers through digital channels. They also show that rates of adoption are years ahead of where they were when previous surveys were conducted—and even more in developed Asia than in other regions (Exhibit 1). Respondents are three times likelier now than before the crisis to say that at least 80 percent of their customer interactions are digital in nature.

Exhibit 1


Perhaps more surprising is the speedup in creating digital or digitally enhanced offerings. Across regions, the results suggest a seven-year increase, on average, in the rate at which companies are developing these products and services. Once again, the leap is even greater—ten years—in developed Asia (Exhibit 2). Respondents also report a similar mix of types of digital products in their portfolios before and during the pandemic. This finding suggests that during the crisis, companies have probably refocused their offerings rather than made huge leaps in product development in the span of a few months.

Exhibit 2


Across sectors, the results suggest that rates for developing digital products during the pandemic differ. Given the time frames for making manufacturing changes, the differences, not surprisingly, are more apparent between sectors with and without physical products than between B2B and B2C companies. Respondents in consumer packaged goods (CPG) and automotive and assembly, for example, report relatively low levels of change in their digital-product portfolios. By contrast, the reported increases are much more significant in healthcare and pharma, financial services, and professional services, where executives report a jump nearly twice as large as those reported in CPG companies.

The customer-facing elements of organizational operating models are not the only ones that have been affected. Respondents report similar accelerations in the digitization of their core internal operations (such as back-office, production, and R&D processes) and of interactions in their supply chains. Unlike customer-facing changes, the rate of adoption is consistent across regions.

Yet the speed with which respondents say their companies have responded to a range of COVID-19-related changes is, remarkably, even greater than their digitization across the business (Exhibit 3). We asked about 12 potential changes in respondents’ organizations and industries. For those that respondents have seen, we asked how long it took to execute them and how long that would have taken before the crisis. For many of these changes, respondents say, their companies acted 20 to 25 times faster than expected. In the case of remote working, respondents actually say their companies moved 40 times more quickly than they thought possible before the pandemic. Before then, respondents say it would have taken more than a year to implement the level of remote working that took place during the crisis. In actuality, it took an average of 11 days to implement a workable solution, and nearly all of the companies have stood up workable solutions within a few months.

Exhibit 3


When respondents were asked why their organizations didn’t implement these changes before the crisis, just over half say that they weren’t a top business priority. The crisis removed this barrier: only 14 percent of all respondents say a lack of leadership alignment hindered the actual implementation of these changes. Respondents at both B2B and consumer-facing companies most often cite a failure to prioritize as a barrier, but the responses to other challenges differ. Nearly one-third of B2B respondents say that fear of customer resistance to changes was a barrier, but only 24 percent of those in consumer-facing industries say this. After these two challenges, B2B executives most often cite organizational and technology issues: the required changes represented too big a shock to established ways of working, IT infrastructure was insufficient, or organizational silos impeded commitment to and execution of the required changes.

The largest changes are also the most likely to stick in the long term

Of the 12 changes the survey asked about, respondents across sectors and geographies are most likely to report a significant increase in remote working, changing customer needs (a switch to offerings that reflect new health and hygiene sensitivities), and customer preferences for remote interactions (Exhibit 4). Respondents reporting significant changes in these areas and increasing migration to the cloud are more than twice as likely to believe that these shifts will remain after the crisis than to expect a return to precrisis norms.

Exhibit 4


Respondents report that the crisis spurred shifts in their supply chains as well. The nature of these shifts varies significantly by sector, and they have taken place less quickly than other changes because of contracts that were already in place before the pandemic. Respondents in consumer-facing industries, such as CPG and retailing, often cite disruptions to last-mile delivery (that is, who interfaces directly with customers). Other shifts, such as building redundancy in the supply chain, are reported more often in sectors that create physical products.

The results also suggest that companies are making these crisis-related changes with the long term in mind. For most, the need to work and interact with customers remotely required investments in data security and an accelerated migration to the cloud. Now that the investments have been made, these companies have permanently removed some of the precrisis bottlenecks to virtual interactions. Majorities of respondents expect that such technology-related changes, along with remote work and customer interactions, will continue in the future. Nearly one-quarter of respondents also report a decrease in their physical footprints. This signifies a longer-term shift than would likely occur among the 21 percent reporting a drop in their number of full-time equivalents—at some companies, that could represent a temporary move in the earlier days of the crisis. What’s more, when we asked about the effects of the crisis on a range of company measures (including head counts), respondents say that funding of digital initiatives has increased more than anything else—more than costs, the number of people in digital or other technology roles, and the number of customers.

We also looked at the underlying reasons some changes would or would not stick: their cost-effectiveness, ability to meet customers’ needs, and advantages for the business. In addition, we examined the relationship between the length of the crisis and the permanence of the changes as “new” becomes “normal” over time.

Of the 12 changes, remote working and cloud migration are the two that respondents say have been more cost effective than precrisis norms and practices. Remote working is much less likely to meet customer expectations better than it did before the crisis; the changes that have done so best are, unsurprisingly, responses to the increasing demand for online interactions and to changing customer needs. Investments in data security and artificial intelligence are the changes respondents most often identify as helping to position organizations better than they were before the crisis. Across these changes, remote working is the likeliest to remain the longer the crisis lasts, according to 70 percent of the respondents.

Technology-driven strategy for the win

We’ve written before about the need for digital strategies to be true corporate strategies that take digital into account. And from earlier research, we know that at leading companies, digital and corporate strategies are one and the same. The COVID-19 crisis has made this imperative more urgent than ever. While the alignment on overall strategy and strong leadership have long been markers of success during disruptions or transformations, the extent of technology’s differentiating role in this crisis is stark (Exhibit 5). At the organizations that experimented with new digital technologies during the crisis, and among those that invested more capital expenditures in digital technology than their peers did, executives are twice as likely to report outsize revenue growth than executives at other companies.

Exhibit 5


The results also indicate that along with the multiyear acceleration of digital, the crisis has brought about a sea change in executive mindsets on the role of technology in business. In our 2017 survey, nearly half of executives ranked cost savings as one of the most important priorities for their digital strategies. Now, only 10 percent view technology in the same way; in fact, more than half say they are investing in technology for competitive advantage or refocusing their entire business around digital technologies (Exhibit 6).

Exhibit 6


This mindset shift is most common among executives whose organizations were losing revenue before the crisis began (Exhibit 7). Those reporting the biggest revenue hits in recent years acknowledge that they were behind their peers in their use of digital technologies—40 percent say so, compared with 24 percent at companies with the biggest revenue increases—and also say that, during the crisis, they have made much more significant changes to their strategies than other executives report.

Exhibit 7


What’s more, respondents say that technology capabilities stand out as key factors of success during the crisis. Among the biggest differences between the successful companies and all others is talent, the use of cutting-edge technologies, and a range of other capabilities (Exhibit 8). A related imperative for success is having a culture that encourages experimentation and acting early. Nearly half of respondents at successful companies say they were first to market with innovations during the crisis and that they were the first companies in their industries to experiment with new digital technologies. They are also more likely than others to report speeding up the time it takes for leaders to receive critical business information and reallocating resources to fund new initiatives. Both are key aspects of a culture of experimentation.

Exhibit 8


The notion of a tipping point for technology adoption or digital disruption isn’t new, but the survey data suggest that the COVID-19 crisis is a tipping point of historic proportions—and that more changes will be required as the economic and human situation evolves. The results also show that some significant lessons can be drawn from the steps organizations have already taken. One is the importance of learning, both tactically, in the process of making specific changes to businesses (which technologies to execute, and how), and organizationally (how to manage change at a pace that far exceeds that of prior experiences). Both types of learning will be critical going forward, since the pace of change is not likely to slow down.


The contributors to the development and analysis of this survey include Laura LaBerge, a director of capabilities for digital strategy in McKinsey’s Stamford office; Clayton O’Toole, a partner in the Minneapolis office; Jeremy Schneider, a senior partner in the New York office; and Kate Smaje, a senior partner in the London office.

This article was edited by Daniella Seiler, an editor in the New York office.

Posted in Business Strategies, ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Transformation

Six Problem-Solving Mindsets For Very Uncertain Times

By Charles Conn and Robert McLean

Problem solving-panaGreat problem solvers are made, not born. That’s what we’ve found after decades of problem solving with leaders across business, nonprofit, and policy sectors. These leaders learn to adopt a particularly open and curious mindset, and adhere to a systematic process for cracking even the most inscrutable problems. They’re terrific problem solvers under any conditions. And when conditions of uncertainty are at their peak, they’re at their brilliant best.

Six mutually reinforcing approaches underly their success: (1) being ever-curious about every element of a problem; (2) being imperfectionists, with a high tolerance for ambiguity; (3) having a “dragonfly eye” view of the world, to see through multiple lenses; (4) pursuing occurrent behavior and experimenting relentlessly; (5) tapping into the collective intelligence, acknowledging that the smartest people are not in the room; and (6) practicing “show and tell” because storytelling begets action (exhibit).


Here’s how they do it.

1. Be ever-curious

As any parent knows, four-year-olds are unceasing askers. Think of the never-ending “whys” that make little children so delightful—and relentless. For the very young, everything is new and wildly uncertain. But they’re on a mission of discovery, and they’re determined to figure things out. And they’re good at it! That high-energy inquisitiveness is why we have high shelves and childproof bottles.

When you face radical uncertainty, remember your four-year-old or channel the four-year-old within you. Relentlessly ask, “Why is this so?” Unfortunately, somewhere between preschool and the boardroom, we tend to stop asking. Our brains make sense of massive numbers of data points by imposing patterns that have worked for us and other humans in the past. That’s why a simple technique, worth employing at the beginning of problem solving, is simply to pause and ask why conditions or assumptions are so until you arrive at the root of the problem.

Natural human biases in decision making, including confirmation, availability, and anchoring biases, often cause us to shut down the range of solutions too early. Better—and more creative—solutions come from being curious about the broader range of potential answers.

One simple suggestion from author and economist Caroline Webb to generate more curiosity in team problem solving is to put a question mark behind your initial hypotheses or first-cut answers. This small artifice is surprisingly powerful: it tends to encourage multiple solution paths and puts the focus, correctly, on assembling evidence. We also like thesis/antithesis, or red team/blue team, sessions, in which you divide a group into opposing teams that argue against the early answers—typically, more traditional conclusions that are more likely to come from a conventional pattern. Why is this solution better? Why not that one? We’ve found that better results come from embracing uncertainty. Curiosity is the engine of creativity.


We have to be comfortable with estimating probabilities to make good decisions, even when these guesses are imperfect. Unfortunately, we have truckloads of evidence showing that human beings aren’t good intuitive statisticians.

2. Tolerate ambiguity—and stay humble!

When we think of problem solvers, many of us tend to picture a poised and brilliant engineer. We may imagine a mastermind who knows what she’s doing and approaches a problem with purpose. The reality, though, is that most good problem solving has a lot of trial and error; it’s more like the apparent randomness of rugby than the precision of linear programming. We form hypotheses, porpoise into the data, and then surface and refine (or throw out) our initial guess at the answer. This above all requires an embrace of imperfection and a tolerance for ambiguity—and a gambler’s sense of probabilities.

The real world is highly uncertain. Reality unfolds as the complex product of stochastic events and human reactions. The impact of COVID-19 is but one example: we address the health and economic effects of the disease, and their complex interactions, with almost no prior knowledge. We have to be comfortable with estimating probabilities to make good decisions, even when these guesses are imperfect. Unfortunately, we have truckloads of evidence showing that human beings aren’t good intuitive statisticians. Guesses based on gut instinct can be wildly wrong. That’s why one of the keys to operating in uncertain environments is epistemic humility, which Erik Angner defines as “the realization that our knowledge is always provisional and incomplete—and that it might require revision in light of new evidence.”

Recent research shows that we are better at solving problems when we think in terms of odds rather than certainties. For example, when the Australian research body Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), which owned a core patent on the wireless internet protocol, sought royalties from major companies, it was initially rebuffed. The CSIRO bet that it could go to court to protect its intellectual property because it estimated that it needed only 10 percent odds of success for this to be a good wager, given the legal costs and likely payoff. It improved its odds by picking the weakest of the IP violators and selecting a legal jurisdiction that favored plaintiffs. This probabilistic thinking paid off and eventually led to settlements to CSIRO exceeding $500 million. A tolerance for ambiguity and a willingness to play the odds helped the organization feel its way to a good solution path.

To embrace imperfectionism with epistemic humility, start by challenging solutions that imply certainty. You can do that in the nicest way by asking questions such as “What would we have to believe for this to be true?” This brings to the surface implicit assumptions about probabilities and makes it easier to assess alternatives. When uncertainty is high, see if you can make small moves or acquire information at a reasonable cost to edge out into a solution set. Perfect knowledge is in short supply, particularly for complex business and societal problems. Embracing imperfection can lead to more effective problem solving. It’s practically a must in situations of high uncertainty, such as the beginning of a problem-solving process or during an emergency.


Good problem solving typically involves designing experiments to reduce key uncertainties. Each move provides additional information and builds capabilities.


3. Take a dragonfly-eye view

Dragonfly-eye perception is common to great problem solvers. Dragonflies have large, compound eyes, with thousands of lenses and photoreceptors sensitive to different wavelengths of light. Although we don’t know exactly how their insect brains process all this visual information, by analogy they see multiple perspectives not available to humans. The idea of a dragonfly eye taking in 360 degrees of perception is an attribute of “superforecasters”—people, often without domain expertise, who are the best at forecasting events.

Think of this as widening the aperture on a problem or viewing it through multiple lenses. The object is to see beyond the familiar tropes into which our pattern-recognizing brains want to assemble perceptions. By widening the aperture, we can identify threats or opportunities beyond the periphery of vision.

Consider the outbreak of HIV in India in the early 1990s—a major public-health threat. Ashok Alexander, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s India Aids Initiative, provided a brilliant example of not just vision but also dragonfly vision. Facing a complex social map with a rapidly increasing infection rate, he widened the problem’s definition, from a traditional epidemiological HIV transmission model at known “hot spots,” to one in which sex workers facing violence were made the centerpiece.

This approach led to the “Avahan solution,” which addressed a broader set of leverage points by including the sociocultural context of sex work. The solution was rolled out to more than 600 communities and eventually credited with preventing 600,000 infections. The narrow medical perspective was sensible and expected, but it didn’t tap into the related issue of violence against sex workers, which yielded a richer solution set. Often, a secret unlocks itself only when one looks at a problem from multiple perspectives, including some that initially seem orthogonal.

The secret to developing a dragonfly-eye view is to “anchor outside” rather than inside when faced with problems of uncertainty and opportunity. Take the broader ecosystem as a starting point. That will encourage you to talk with customers, suppliers, or, better yet, players in a different but related industry or space. Going through the customer journey with design-thinking in mind is another powerful way to get a 360-degree view of a problem. But take note: when decision makers face highly constrained time frames or resources, they may have to narrow the aperture and deliver a tight, conventional answer.

4. Pursue occurrent behavior

Occurrent behavior is what actually happens in a time and place, not what was potential or predicted behavior. Complex problems don’t give up their secrets easily. But that shouldn’t deter problem solvers from exploring whether evidence on the facets of a solution can be observed, or running experiments to test hypotheses. You can think of this approach as creating data rather than just looking for what has been collected already. It’s critical for new market entry—or new market creation. It also comes in handy should you find that crunching old data is leading to stale solutions.

Most of the problem-solving teams we are involved with have twin dilemmas of uncertainty and complexity, at times combined as truly “wicked problems.” For companies ambitious to win in the great unknown in an emerging segment—such as electric cars or autonomous vehicles, where the market isn’t fully established—good problem solving typically involves designing experiments to reduce key uncertainties, not just relying on existing data. Each move (such as buying IP or acquiring a component supplier) and each experiment (including on-road closed tests) not only provides additional information to make decisions but also builds capabilities and assets that support further steps. Over time, their experiments, including alliances and acquisitions, come to resemble staircases that lead to either the goal or to abandonment of the goal. Problem-solving organizations can “bootstrap” themselves into highly uncertain new spaces, building information, foundational assets, and confidence as they take steps forward.

Risk-embracing problem solvers find a solution path by constantly experimenting. Statisticians use the abbreviation EVPI—the expected value of perfect information—to show the value of gaining additional information that typically comes from samples and experiments, such as responses to price changes in particular markets. A/B testing is a powerful tool for experimenting with prices, promotions, and other features and is particularly useful for digital marketplaces and consumer goods. Online marketplaces make A/B testing easy. Yet most conventional markets also offer opportunities to mimic the market’s segmentation and use it to test different approaches.

The mindset required to be a restless experimenter is consistent with the notion in start-ups of “failing fast.” It means that you get product and customer affirmation or rejection quickly through beta tests and trial offerings. Don’t take a lack of external data as an impediment—it may actually be a gift, since purchasable data is almost always from a conventional way of meeting needs, and is available to your competitors too. Your own experiments allow you to generate your own data; this gives you insights that others don’t have. If it is difficult (or unethical) to experiment, look for the “natural experiments” provided by different policies in similar locations. An example would be to compare outcomes in twin cities, such as Minneapolis–St. Paul.


It’s a mistake to think that your team has the smartest people in the room. They aren’t there. They’re invariably somewhere else. Nor do they need to be there if you can access their intelligence via other means.

5. Tap into collective intelligence and the wisdom of the crowd

Chris Bradley, a coauthor of Strategy Beyond the Hockey Stick, observed that “it’s a mistake to think that on your team you have the smartest people in the room. They aren’t there. They’re invariably somewhere else.” Nor do they need to be there if you can access their intelligence via other means. In an ever-changing world where conditions can evolve unpredictably, crowdsourcing invites the smartest people in the world to work with you. For example, in seeking a machine-learning algorithm to identify fish catch species and quantities on fishing boats, the Nature Conservancy (TNC) turned to Kaggle and offered a $150,000 prize for the best algorithm. This offer attracted 2,293 teams from all over the world. TNC now uses the winning algorithm to identify fish types and sizes caught on fishing boats in Asia to protect endangered Pacific tuna and other species.

Crowdsourced problem solving is familiar in another guise: benchmarking. When Sir Rod Carnegie was CEO of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (CRA), he was concerned about the costs of unscheduled downtime with heavy trucks, particularly those requiring tire changes. He asked his management team who was best in the world at changing tires; their answer was Formula One, the auto racing competition. A team traveled to the United Kingdom to learn best practice for tire changes in racetrack pits and then implemented what it learned thousands of miles away, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The smartest team for this problem wasn’t in the mining industry at all.

Of course, while crowdsourcing can be useful when conventional thinking yields solutions that are too expensive or incomplete for the challenge at hand, it has its limitations. Good crowdsourcing takes time to set up, can be expensive, and may signal to your competitors what you are up to. Beware of hidden costs, such as inadvertently divulging information and having to sieve through huge volumes of irrelevant, inferior suggestions to find the rare gem of a solution.

Accept that it’s OK to draw on diverse experiences and expertise other than your own. Start with brainstorming sessions that engage people from outside your team. Try broader crowdsourcing competitions to generate ideas. Or bring in deep-learning talent to see what insights exist in your data that conventional approaches haven’t brought to light. The broader the circles of information you access, the more likely it is that your solutions will be novel and creative.


Rookie problem solvers show you their analytic process and math to convince you they are clever. Seasoned problem solvers show you differently.


6. Show and tell to drive action

We started our list of mindsets with a reference to children, and we return to children now, with “show and tell.” As you no doubt remember—back when you were more curious!—show and tell is an elementary-school activity. It’s not usually associated with problem solving, but it probably piqued your interest. In fact, this approach is critical to problem solving. Show and tell is how you connect your audience with the problem and then use combinations of logic and persuasion to get action.

The show-and-tell mindset aims to bring decision makers into a problem-solving domain you have created. A team from the Nature Conservancy, for instance, was presenting a proposal asking a philanthropic foundation to support the restoration of oyster reefs. Before the presentation, the team brought 17 plastic buckets of water into the boardroom and placed them around the perimeter. When the foundation’s staff members entered the room, they immediately wanted to know what the buckets were for. The team explained that oyster-reef restoration massively improves water quality because each oyster filters 17 buckets of water per day. Fish stocks improve, and oysters can also be harvested to help make the economics work. The decision makers were brought into the problem-solving domain through show and tell. They approved the funding requested and loved the physical dimension of the problem they were part of solving.

Rookie problem solvers show you their analytic process and mathematics to convince you that they are clever. That’s sometimes called APK, the anxious parade of knowledge. But seasoned problem solvers show you differently. The most elegant problem solving is that which makes the solution obvious. The late economist Herb Simon put it this way: “Solving a problem simply means representing it so as to make the solution transparent.”

To get better at show and tell, start by being clear about the action that should flow from your problem solving and findings: the governing idea for change. Then find a way to present your logic visually so that the path to answers can be debated and embraced. Present the argument emotionally as well as logically, and show why the preferred action offers an attractive balance between risks and rewards. But don’t stop there. Spell out the risks of inaction, which often have a higher cost than imperfect actions have.

The mindsets of great problem solvers are just as important as the methods they employ. A mindset that encourages curiosity, embraces imperfection, rewards a dragonfly-eye view of the problem, creates new data from experiments and collective intelligence, and drives action through compelling show-and-tell storytelling creates radical new possibilities under high levels of unpredictability. Of course, these approaches can be helpful in a broad range of circumstances, but in times of massive uncertainty, they are essential.

Posted in Competence, Development, ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Insights, Leadership Skills

This CIA Spy Game Reveals the Secrets of Successful Teams




By Joao Medeiros

spy-pictogram-avatar-character_24911-44993In the late 2000s, the CIA conducted a research project with Harvard University called Project Looking Glass, designed to understand why the intelligence community had failed to foil the September 11 attacks. The project consisted of a spy-game simulation of a terrorist attack: a team of scientists was tasked with planning an attack, and a group of intelligence officers asked to prevent it.

During the simulations, the “terrorists” consistently beat the “spies”. Researchers noticed that the experts struggled to collaborate effectively because they were not making use of individual team members’ different strengths. It was only when they forced them to communicate properly – instructing members to talk to each other about their areas of expertise before moving forward – that they managed to be successful.

The experiment led one of the researchers, Anita Woolley, to rethink the intelligence of teams. Traditionally, a group’s intelligence was assumed to be the aggregate of the intelligence of its individual members, measured by a metric such as IQ. But Woolley wondered if groups of people actually possessed a collective intelligence that could transcend the sum of its parts.

In collaboration with a team from MIT, Woolley brought nearly 700 people to her lab at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The participants were given individual intelligence tests and then randomly assigned to teams to work on tasks that included solving puzzles, making moral judgments and negotiation.

Woolley observed that if a group performed well on one task, they tended to perform well on the others. This wasn’t predicted by the maximum nor the average intelligence of the team members. Instead, Woolley found a collective intelligence score, “c”, with predictive power: when the teams were brought back to the lab to play a video-game simulation, their performance was correlated to their c factor. The study, published in 2010 in the journal Science, was one of the first to suggest a metric for collective intelligence.

In subsequent experiments, Woolley and her team began dissecting what actually contributed to collective team intelligence. Factors like group satisfaction, motivation or psychological safety did not contribute. Competition within a team actually lowered its intelligence. One finding was that teams with more women outperformed male-dominated ones. “You have a benefit to having a majority of women, but you still need some men,” she says. “The teams that are consistently more intelligent are gender diverse.”

Woolley also found that teams that communicated a lot, with plenty of conversation between members, also tended to be more intelligent than those where a few people monopolised the conversation.

These two observations could perhaps be explained by a third – that teams whose members were more socially perceptive were also more collectively intelligent. Social perceptiveness was based on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people infer emotional states from images of other people’s eyes. Women tend to score higher than men on this test, and socially perceptive people also tend to be better communicators. “That doesn’t mean that individual ability doesn’t matter,” Woolley says. “What we’re saying is that what matters is both that individual ability and co-ordinating it effectively.”

Woolley was curious to see to what extent her findings on collective intelligence would translate to teams working online. Her team built a web-based software for online groups to chat and collaborate on tasks. Much like working face-to-face, the best teams chatted more and participated more equally. What surprised her, however, was how much social perceptiveness remained a strong factor for collective intelligence – even though team members couldn’t see each other’s facial expressions. “This is related to something called the theory of mind, which is the ability to know what the other person is thinking or feeling, and it generalises to all sorts of inputs,” she says. “Turns out the inputs can be as subtle as text chat. It’s a skill that transcends different kinds of communication.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, Woolley received many emails from companies unsure about how to navigate the world of remote work. “I was probably one of the few people cheering when people started working from home,” she says. “A lot of companies are recognising that there’s much more that can be done. They feel like they need to bring people together out of laziness and poor management practices. Given the right tools you can foster co-ordination and collaboration online.”

Building such tools, however, is not straightforward, and they can easily have a detrimental effect. When Woolley trialled an AI chatbot manager that helped divide and assign tasks she found that “a number of teams got preoccupied with planning and spent very little time actually working on the tasks.” On the other hand, an AI facilitator that helped group members talk about their skills and expertise – similar to in Project Looking Glass – had a positive effect.

For Woolley, this represents the first sketch of what the productivity software of the future might look like: a facilitator that’s running in the background, picking up on the fact that people are good at different things and prompting them when they are available. It’s about managing individual skills and the allocation of effort, she says: “The tools that help prompt that conversation.”

Posted in ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Insights, Productivity, Workplace

100 Powerful Quotes That Will Boost Your Productivity

Lolly Daskal



By Lolly Daskal

light-bulb-lit-many-lights_1232-911Everyone wants to be productive, but boosting productivity doesn’t happen by itself.

Sometimes it takes a motivational quote to shift us in the right direction. Here are some powerful thoughts to get you started on a more productive year.

1. “It’s not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.” –-Tony Robbins

2. “Focus on being productive instead of busy.” –Tim Ferriss

3. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” –Stephen Covey

4. “Ordinary people think merely of spending time, great people think of using it.” –Arthur Schopenhauer

5. “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” –David Allen

6. “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” –Coco Chanel

7. “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.” –David Allen

8. “Action is the foundational key to all success.” –-Pablo Picasso

9. “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” –-Paul J. Meyer

10. “The best way out is always through.” –-Robert Frost

11. “It’s not always that we need to do more but rather that we need to focus on less.” –Nathan W. Morris

12. “Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” –Franz Kafka

13. “Life is too complicated not to be orderly.” —Martha Stewart

14. “You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.” –Seth Godin

15. “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today.” –Nolan Bushnell

16. “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” –-Peter Drucker

17. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” –Bruce Lee

18. “Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year–and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” –Tony Robbins

19. “Great acts are made up of small deeds.” –Lao Tzu

20. “It’s fine to decide not to decide about something. You just need a decide-not-to-decide system to get it off your mind.” –David Allen

21. “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” –Napoleon Hill

22. “It is not enough to be busy…. The question is: What are we busy about?” –Henry David Thoreau

23. “There’s a tendency to mistake preparation for productivity. You can prepare all you want, but if you never roll the dice you’ll never be successful.” –Shia LaBeouf

24. “You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” –Warren Buffett

25. “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that in itself is a choice.” –-William James

26. “Effective performance is preceded by painstaking preparation” –Brian Tracy

27. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” –Walt Disney

28. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” –Steve Jobs

29. “People often remark that I’m pretty lucky. Luck is only important in so far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you’ve got to have talent and know how to use it.” –Frank Sinatra

30. “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” –Zig Ziglar

31. “Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night.” –Michael Jordan

32. “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” –-Norman Vincent Peale

33. “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” –-Dwight D. Eisenhower

34. “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.” –John F. Kennedy

35. “Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” –Leo Babauta

36. “Live daringly, boldly, fearlessly. Taste the relish to be found in competition–in having put forth the best within you.” –Henry J. Kaiser

37. “The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” –Tom Peters

38. “If you have time to whine then you have time to find a solution.” –Dee Dee Artner

39. “I get to do what I like to do every single day of the year.” —Warren Buffett

40. “No matter how many personal productivity techniques you master, there will always be more to do than you can ever accomplish in the time you have available to you, no matter how much it is.” –-Brian Tracy

41. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” –Stephen King

42. “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” –Theodore Roosevelt

43. “To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.” –Corita Kent

44. “Time is not refundable; use it with intention.” –Unknown

45. “Starve your distraction and feed your focus.” –Unknown

46. “Create with the heart; build with the mind.” –-Criss Jami

47. “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” –Oprah Winfrey

48. “Reflect on what you do in a day. You may have never realized how some simple, harmless activities rob you of precious time.” –Vivek Naik

49. “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” –-Saint Francis of Assisi

50. “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” –Zig Ziglar

51. “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes in a day.” –Denis Waitley

52. “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” –Muhammad Ali

53. “To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

54. “There is no substitute for hard work.” –Thomas Edison

55. “When we truly need to do is often what we most feel like avoiding.” –David Allen

56. “Stressing output is the key to improving productivity, while looking to increase activity can result in just the opposite.” –Paul Gauguin

57. “One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we’re idling in front of our computer screens.” –Joshua Foer

58. “When you waste a moment, you have killed it in a sense, squandering an irreplaceable opportunity. But when you use the moment properly, filling it with purpose and productivity, it lives on forever.” –-Menachem Mendel Scheerson

59. “Words may show a man’s wit but actions will show his meaning.” –Benjamin Franklin

60. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” –Martin Luther King

61. “Never mistake motion for action.” –Ernest Hemingway

62. “You don’t get paid for the hour, you get paid for the value you bring to the hour.” –Jim Rohn

63. “Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday.” –John Wayne

64. “Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” –Sam Levenson

65. “Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

66. “All our productivity, leverage, and insight comes from being part of a community, not apart from it. The goal, I think, is to figure out how to become more dependent, not less.” –Seth Godin

67. “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” –Will Durant

68. “While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” –-Henry C. Link

69. “Lost time is never found.” –Benjamin Franklin

70. “Don’t confuse activity with productivity. Many people are simply busy being busy.” –Robin Sharma

71. “What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50 percent.” –Susan Cain

72. “Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.” –Dale Carnegie

73. “Productivity is the deliberate, strategic investment of your time, talent, intelligence, energy, resources, and opportunities in a manner calculated to move you measurably closer to meaningful goals.” –Dan S. Kennedy

74. “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” –Henry Ford

75. “Sameness leaves us in peace but it is contradiction that makes us productive.” –Johnann Wolfgang von Goethe

76. “Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity.” –Gretchen Rubin

77. “Knowledge is the source of wealth. Applied to tasks we already know, it becomes productivity. Applied to tasks that are new, it becomes innovation.” –Peter Drucker

78. “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense.” –Thomas Edison

79. “If you want an easy job to seem mighty hard, just keep putting if off.” –Richard Miller

80. “Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, and carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy.” –Denis Waitley

81. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.” –Calvin Coolidge

82. “Work hard, have fun, and make history.” –Jeff Bezos

83. “Don’t worry about breaks every 20 minutes ruining your focus on a task. Contrary to what I might have guessed, taking regular breaks from mental tasks actually improves your creativity and productivity. Skipping breaks, on the other hand, leads to stress and fatigue.” –Tom Rath

84. “I do not equate productivity to happiness. For most people, happiness in life is a massive amount of achievement plus a massive amount of appreciation. And you need both of those things.” –Tim Ferriss

85. “The merit in action lies in finishing it to the end.” –Genghis Khan

86. “There is never enough time to do it right, but there is always enough time to do it over.” –John W. Bergman

87. “Creativity isn’t about wild talent as much as it’s about productivity. To find new ideas that work, you need to try a lot that don’t. It’s a pure numbers game.” –Robert Sutton

88. “Position yourself to succeed by doing the other things in your life that rejuvenate you. Exhaustion affects your quality and productivity.” –Jeff VanderMeer

89. “Productivity growth, however it occurs, has a disruptive side to it. In the short term, most things that contribute to productivity growth are very painful.” –Janet Yellen

90. “If you want something done, give it to a busy man.” –-Preston Sturges

91. “The key to productivity is to rotate your avoidance techniques.” —Shannon Wheeler

92. “The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, productivity. You can be, too.” –– Norman Vincent Peale

93. “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” –-Charles Darwin

94. “I always had the uncomfortable feeling that if I wasn’t sitting in front of a computer typing, I was wasting my time–but I pushed myself to take a wider view of what was ‘productive.’ Time spent with my family and friends was never wasted.” –Gretchen Rubin

95. “If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” –Thomas Edison

96. Life’s gardeners pluck the weeds and care only for the productive plants.” –Bryant McGill

97. “The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.” –Henry David Thoreau

98. “Multitasking is a lie” –Gary Keller

99. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –H. Jackson Brown, Jr​.’s mother

100. “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” –Sir Edmund Hillary


About author

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

Posted in ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Insights, Motivation

Why Does Changing Behavior Take So Long? 3 Solutions To Speed Up The Process




By Jack Zenger

NowYears ago, I was sitting in a meeting of leadership development professionals from Fortune 50 companies. One person remarked, “We won’t know for 25 years whether our work will produce any positive results.” Many nodded their agreement. Two alternative reactions went through my brain. One was, “How do you get a job where there is no accountability for a quarter of a century? Where do I apply?” The other reaction was, “If you don’t see any differences in behavior within six weeks, I doubt you ever will.”

Leadership development is about changing behavior. Yes, knowledge can be useful. Self-awareness is a necessary starting point for development. New mindsets can create the guardrails leading to better outcomes, but the only rock-solid measure of success in developing leaders is a new behavior.

Unfortunately, many executives remain highly skeptical about leadership development.

·      Can, and do leaders change their behavior?

·      What is responsible for this widespread doubt?

·      What could change the minds of those who doubt that leaders can make a significant change?

How to Change Perceptions of Leadership Development

1.    Make specific behavior change the objective, not the byproduct. Those seeking to develop leaders often focus on creating a seminar or workshop. Assume the topic is coaching skills. The instructional designers may structure blocks of information highlighting the importance of leaders being good coaches, or what business outcomes result when better coaching occurs. Conceptual models are presented to give insight into various theories of coaching. Facilitator guides and exercises are designed to have participants better understand what good coaches avoid doing. I could go on, but the point is that these are all activities designed to educate the participant on this subject. These activities are “intervening variables” designed to lead to a general outcome.

The change I am proposing is that we shift the focus squarely on the outcome. Make the main focus the simple fact of whether or not the participant can display good coaching behavior with their colleagues at work. The measure of success is not the participant’s satisfaction with the “f’s” of the event (facilities, faculty, food, and fun) but with their ability to conduct a more effective coaching conversation.

2.    Dramatically cut the period of time in which you expect change to occur. Laurence Peter observed that the discussion in a meeting will always expand to fill the time allocated for the meeting. If scheduled for one hour, it will take at least one hour. Most of the time, projects will take as long as the time that we anticipated they would take. These become self-fulfilling prophecies.

How long does it take for human behavior to change? We’ve all known or heard of people being in therapy for countless years. That may help to account for the fact that when we think about some major changes in human behavior, we are prone to think in terms of years.

Recently I was drawn to an article with a heading that described a research study about psychologists successfully changing people’s personalities in two weeks. It caught my eye because it was so contrary to all that I had been led to believe was possible. Changing personality in two years would normally be seen as impossible. Yet this group of psychologists at the University of Zurich demonstrated success with 255 subjects in two weeks. Participants were students and full-time working adults. They were assigned to two groups based on their selection of a development objective. One group selected to become more self-disciplined. This pertained to behaviors such as exercise and improved eating habits. The other group chose to become more open to new experiences.

The primary intervention was two daily calls on the participant’s smart-phone. The first, in the morning, reminded them of their objective and gave them an encouraging message. The evening smart-phone message asked three simple questions, seeking their assessment of their progress during the day. Post-measurements after the two weeks showed measurable behavior change. Follow-ups two weeks later, and then ten weeks later, showed the change persists. (In all candor, I’d describe their accomplishment as behavior change, not fundamental personality change. Luckily, it is a behavior change that most leaders need.) The exciting part of this research is the bold target of changing behavior in a short time span, not months or years, but only 14 days with minimal time away from the participant’s normal daily activities.

3.    Creating a new habit is the longer-term objective of leadership development. The success of the experiment described above hinges on the fact of making the specifically identified behavior become viewed as a practical, reasonable target. Then, the emphasis on the immediate application, when practiced for a relatively short period of time, became a repeated behavior, which became a new habit. For it to become permanent, there must be ongoing self-monitoring or external follow-up.


The changes proposed above may not seem all that dramatic to the casual reader. I would emphasize, however, that these shifts represent a new mindset about leadership development.

 From:                                                                 To:      

1.    Ideas, information, insights                   Specific new behavior

2.    Distant future implementation             Immediate application

3.    Anticipated occasional use                    New habit, frequently monitored

When implemented, these changes are attainable and would rather quickly change the way those inside every organization perceive leadership development. Skepticism would diminish as observers identify tangible and immediate changes in their colleagues. The outcome? Participants would become more vigorous champions because they could recognize their new behavior, which in turn would be converted into better business results.

About author

Jack Zenger 

Jack Zenger is the CEO of Zenger/Folkman, a strengths-based leadership development firm. He is the author and co-author of 13 books including including How To Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths, The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders and The Inspiring Leader: Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate, along with his newest book Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution (McGraw Hill, 2016).

Posted in ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Insights, Leadership Development

Virtual Instructor-Led Training: The Not-So-New Way To Train

Training Industry



By Brent Colescott and Elisa Vincent

Virtual instructor-led trainingLast year, it was unlikely anyone would expect the workforce to look the way it does now. The global pandemic has seismically changed the way we work — everything from working environments and social dynamics to the tools we are using. For professionals in the training industry, we’ve seen notable change as well. With remote work becoming the norm for organizations around the world, one training modality has seen a surge in attention: virtual instructor-led training (VILT).

We could call VILT “an overnight success, 20 years in the making.” The offering itself is nothing novel, and it’s certainly nothing new. The technology to conduct training online has been around since the late 1990s, but it’s taken a long time to encourage widespread adoption. VILT used to be an “only when necessary” option: For businesses of all sizes with widespread stakeholder groups, this type engagement makes perfect sense, as they could save money and time on travel and stay connected with disparate clients and employees.

So, what has kept VILT out of the zeitgeist for so long? To be frank, it’s the fact that a lot of VILT is not resourced, designed and deployed effectively.

Moving Existing Training Online Won’t Work

While VILT is a great mechanism for everything from skills training to company-wide discussion forums, it is not identical to in-person instruction. Organizations that rely on existing content without reworking it for this new method of delivery will have problems with execution and engagement.

It’s not that technology can’t support in-person training. The problem with VILT is not a technology problem but an application program. There are ways to make it seem as though the technology has melted away, leaving attendees with an experience that’s similar to or even better than an in-person experience.


It’s crucial to be present and engage with the audience directly.


Effective VILT Comes Down To Delivery

By considering all aspects of learning — from registration to attendance to subject transference — training professionals can shape any content so that it’s relevant and easily digested. Attention spans are much shorter online, so it’s best to change learning modalities frequently. Learners do not sign up to have a PowerPoint read to them; effective VILT comes from instructors who engage with the participants and form a community of learning during the session. By establishing elements like discussion breaks, live quizzes and polling, facilitators can make participants feel a part of the action. Beyond encouraging engagement, these types of modules that test learning can reveal to both instructors and learners which information they are missing and which information they are retaining.

It Pays To Invest In A Producer

On top of having a main facilitator — someone who understands how to engage online and break through a participant’s “second screen” — good VILT also has a producer. Producers manage the virtual room behind the scenes and are responsible for troubleshooting, answering chat messages, changing slides and managing polls. If the content is well designed, there will be many areas where participant engagement is necessary. For the session facilitator, it’s crucial to be present and engage with the audience directly. The producer collects questions or poll results in real time to find areas of insight on what will likely disrupt the flow — and effectiveness — of the session. This partnership between facilitator and producer creates a more interactive and intensive experience for the participants.

Test (And Test Again)

The fastest way to kill a good VILT program is having a system that learners cannot understand. Review the steps necessary to register and attend a VILT session; if attendees cannot overcome the technical challenges of attending, the presenter will burn up time and effort just helping people enter the session.

Internet connection also plays a major role. Presenters need to consider all of the devices being used at the same time. Local area network (LAN) connections are more reliable than Wi-Fi, as a wireless signal weakens with distance from the router. The more prepared the presenter feels, the more comfortable he or she will be throughout the presentation, leading to a stronger experience for everyone involved.

VILT has evolved over the years to be more than just a cost-saving approach to learning. It is a more efficient and scalable way to train distributed audiences. It helps remote teams establish a sense of community, and it does so in a shorter time frame to provide organizations with alternative mediums to reach people they otherwise couldn’t.

Looking at the world of work today, it’s hard to be certain of anything. What does seem clear, however, is that the adoption of technology is sustained and seismic. The need for VILT is not going to go away, and the demand for it will only grow. Organizations that embrace and invest in its best practices now will find themselves prepared — even in a future of unknowns.


The need for VILT is not going to go away, and the demand for it will only grow.


About authors

Brent Colescott and Elisa Vincent

Brent Colescott is the senior director of global business strategy and transformation for SumTotal, a Skillsoft company and leading platform for learning and talent development. With over 20 years’ experience in the learning and talent fields, he has successfully initiated and optimized online learning platforms and programs during his career in the human resources, utilities and energy industries.

Elisa Vincent is vice president of global talent enablement at Skillsoft, where she leads strategic initiatives that foster the individual and collective success of the organization. She has more than 20 years of experience leading and transforming human capital management; leadership development; talent management; organizational design; and diversity, equity and inclusion across global enterprises.

Posted in ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Learning, Skill Development, Training, Virtual Events

Managing a Large Virtual Audience is Like Piloting a Commercial Aircraft




By Jim Moushon

Pilot CabinA quick glance into the flight deck of any commercial airplane and one can be overwhelmed by the number of different dials, lights, instruments and equipment. The more sophisticated the aircraft, the more training necessary for successful outcomes for each flight. The same is true for managing a large virtual audience. The presenter (the pilot) must be interesting, organized, and informative while addressing technology issues; trying to stay on time; and maintaining good presentation skills to keep the audience engaged; all while heading for a successful outcome.

A pilot and co-pilot go through a pre-flight checklist before every flight. A presenter should also have a routine he/she follows before, during, and after each presentation. A few items which should be on any checklist:

  1. Send out the meeting agenda ahead of time with the purpose and outcome clearly stated so attendees can prepare their contributions and questions.
  2. Go online several minutes before the stated start time and greet people as they enter the meeting. Engaging in small talk ahead of time can put people at ease and make them more likely to contribute during the meeting.
  3. Call attendees by their name; give them context; then ask them for their input. For example: “Jayne, you’ve had experience with international vendors. What do you see as the top 3 areas we should focus on when acquiring new vendors?” This will give Jayne a “heads up” in case she was multi-tasking, and won’t put her on the spot or embarrass her.
  4. Be engaging with your body language, volume and inflection. Smile when appropriate. People tend to mirror your behavior.
  5. Have a co-pilot. The co-pilot can take some of the burden off of the presenter by monitoring the chat box; watching for raised hands; and assisting attendees with technical issues.
  6. Utilize the annotation tools available on your platform. White boards, chat box, raised hand, breakout rooms are some of the tools available on many platforms.
  7. Stay on time. You can always end early, but you cannot go over your stated end time. The closer it gets to the stated end time, the more the attendees start to mentally check out. They’re already thinking about the next thing on their calendar.
  8. Debrief with your co-pilot and anyone’s judgement you trust. What went well? What can we do better?


About the Author

Jim Moushon is a Senior Master Trainer at Communispond. Jim’s areas of expertise are in executive coaching, presentation skills, media interviews, persuasive dialogue, interpersonal communication, business writing and sales effectiveness. In addition, he does train-the-trainer for Communispond as well as for many of Communispond’s clients.

Posted in ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Virtual Events

Why Leaders Should Be Prioritizing Their Own And Their Employees’ Well-Being

Training Industry



By Sarah Jones

3 minute read

Leader-Well-being-8.20.20-928x522For the past few months, we have found ourselves working in uncertain and unprecedented times. These events have forced many leaders to rethink aspects of the business and some to pivot their entire offerings. It is also important to accompany this process with policies that safeguard the well-being of both leaders and employees. Leaders are often quick to put in place measures to safeguard others without taking ample time to look after their own well-being.

To fulfill their key role, leaders need to take care of themselves both physically and mentally. Here is why they should do so and how they can create a culture that prioritizes well-being, even when employees cannot be together physically.

Setting The Example

If employees see leaders taking care of themselves, they are more likely to follow suit. Providing employees with resilience techniques and strategies to protect their well-being is key, particularly now, as many are suffering with increased personal pressures or may be adjusting to working from home. However, these policies begin to lose some of their impetus if leaders do not also follow them — for example, if they regularly send work-related messages outside of work hours.

It is not enough for leaders to tell employees how they can take care of their well-being; they should also clearly demonstrate how they are doing so themselves. This behavior gives employees role models they can emulate.

Setting Boundaries

In times of crisis, people naturally look to their leaders for support, within their government, personal relationships or workplace. Leaders are likely in that role because they are the most well-equipped person to deliver that support, but it should not be at the expense of their own well-being, nor should this responsibility rest solely on their shoulders.

It is easy to slip into unhealthy patterns, particularly when working from home, such as trying to be available all hours of the day or increasing working hours in a bid to pick up the workload of others. While it may support employees in the short term, it creates some longer-term negative patterns. Boundaries are important for leaders, too, and they should adhere to them as much as possible. If leaders take care of their own well-being, they will be in the position to support and guide others.

To fulfill their key role, leaders need to take care of themselves both physically and mentally.

2 Steps Leaders Can Take

Prioritize Mind And Body

When our movements are restricted or we are working from home, it is easy to spend each day inside the same four walls, which can be detrimental to our overall well-being. Mental and physical health are linked with many of the mood-boosting hormones raised when we exercise.

It is easy for leaders, in particular, to feel like they should be constantly working, but a lack of “off” time could place them firmly on the road to burnout. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise; it could be a short stroll in nature or with family — whatever boosts their resilience tank.

In the workplace, leaders could promote whole body wellness by introducing a lunch-time yoga session via a streaming platform or creating a friendly monthly steps challenge. These types of initiatives would not only promote wellness but would also help bring colleagues together who are not able to meet in person.

Pool Resources

Encouraging staff to share their challenges and resources they have found helpful is another way leaders can promote well-being in the workplace. In challenging times, leaders sometimes feel like they have to have all the answers, which is not good for their well-being. In fact, their team is a great sounding board for solutions. They can also consult a mentor they admire or a friend outside of the workplace who could provide an objective viewpoint.

Similarly, leaders should encourage people to share the resources that they have found to boost their resilience. For example, books, podcasts and online courses can provide some great strategies. The sharing of both challenges and helpful resources creates a collaborative working culture that is supportive of everyone’s well-being, even when employees cannot be together.

During a pandemic, protecting the well-being of everyone in the workplace is paramount. Leaders should promote well-being and resilience strategies that encourage employees to share their challenges, pool their resources, and look after body and mind. But, first and foremost, leaders must role-model these behaviors themselves.

Leaders should encourage people to share the resources that they have found to boost their resilience.



Sarah Jones is an accredited coach, trainer and speaker specializing in career coaching, leadership, talent development and team productivity. After a successful career in public relations, Sarah founded her coaching business, Sarah-J Coaching, to help people find purpose, meaning and direction in their lives and careers and support organizations with talent development and executive leadership coaching. Sarah is a neurolinguistic programming (NLP) practitioner and holds a diploma from the Coaching Academy, accredited with the International Coach Federation, and a personal performance coaching diploma and a corporate executive diploma (both merit) from the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Posted in ELAvate! Leaders eZine, Health, Leadership, Leadership Development, Workplace, workplace wellness

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