Time for a Reset?

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

As 2018 careens to an end, few would challenge this has been a tumultuous year! It has been a period encompassing natural disasters, geo-political tensions, domestic polarization, and extremis positions taken on multiple matters.

In every aspect of daily life we see an either/or mentality becoming prevalent: EITHER cats OR dogs. EITHER Republican OR Democrat. EITHER Citizen OR Foreigner. It’s coffee or tea, and those who like both, or prefer to drink water, must pick a side or risk being excluded from the conversation.

In our client work, DPC has found these and other elements to be fostering an unfortunate and unintended consequence in the workplace environment.

The outcome of the above is we are discerning a significant increase in the words “bully, victim, rude, and fear” the frequency of which is, frankly, disconcerting.

During a recent DPC internal exercise focused on “what are we noticing that is of concern” we collectively concluded that while references such as the above were not unheard of, they are now normative lexicon, and this is alarming!

The average age of DPC Advisors is now 67 with an on-average Consulting experience level of 40+ years so when we notice such an observable trend, we have to ask “what are the implications for our clients”?

The conclusions we have drawn based upon this trend are three-fold:

  1. Many actions seem to prompt an over-reaction—reduction in filters, aka an epidemic of lack of restraint or perspective
  2. There is an expectation that, in order for someone to win, someone has to lose— internal competition at expense of collaboration as a team member or corporate member
  3. Biased listening is the communication foundation—talking past each other, resulting in a loss of both objectivity, and opportunities to learn.

Our internal narrative has become, regardless of personal or career situation, one that appears to be built on underlying anxiety, and driven by uncertainty.  Accordingly, this disequilibrium is negatively influencing behaviors and engagement, and our perceptions of people, places, and even ideas.

During the Viet-Nam era the saying “we have met the enemy and they are us” first surfaced in the comic strip Pogo. This sentiment was not US centric, being replicated in many societies.

Given the demographic of DPC Advisors, our recollection is this saying resonated due to then societal circumstances.

Our belief is that a similar phenomenon within enterprise settings is embedding itself and unless confronted it will be a lose/lose for the individual and the enterprise.

History can repeat itself!

We prefer our clients not to become their own worst enemies. It is essential that they confront any aspect of the culture that nurtures anxiety, fear or disunity.

Tolerance vs. confronting is not a tenable path for organizations. We encourage leaders to examine the prevailing mindset of executives and to make the investment in reaffirming the commitment to “being mindful and respectful”. Otherwise, allowing personal ambitions to compromise collective achievement is too great a risk.

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Enterprise Continuity-Danger Ahead

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

As fall approaches and 2019 to 2020 planning becomes as a serious effort there are two demographic challenges that will have to be addressed simultaneously:

  1. The accelerated desire to retire of Baby Boomers whom while may they remain in the workforce will not be doing so as full time employees
  2. The painful awareness on the part of Generation X executives that the dreaded age of 50 is imminent prompting the likelihood that company/role changes, are being contemplated “before I get too old”

Boomer Executive Transitions
Discussion Partner Collaborative
began researching and providing Advisory support on Executive Transitions in 2013 primarily focused on creating a “soft landing” for both the senior leader and their company when the “Boomer” retired.

Both DPC’s research and client work with now over 500 executives suggest a much more generous interpretation of the word retirement is long overdue.

The reality is that most executives while leaving full time employment remain engaged in a myriad of capacities such as Interim Executives, Board Membership, Advisory Endeavors, Educators, and Entrepreneurs.

Given the Executives now feel “in control of their life and calendar” they engage in two to three endeavors usually on a part time basis.

Discussion Partner’s best selling book on this topic Executive Transitions-Plotting The Opportunity! will be reprised with a new book in 2019, Executive Transitions-Looking Forward In The Rearview Mirror!

Aging Dilemma for GenX
Beginning in 2016 via our research and advisory work in the Succession Planning/Executive Transitions area we became aware of a significant risk to enterprise sustainability and engagement.

The identified concern is the pre-supposition of most Succession Plans that the pipeline of internal candidates from the Generation X cohort, will remain robust.

DPC experience has concluded this degree of comfort is misguided.

In the strongest possible terms we suggest companies not presume longevity of Generation X executives as a given.   Our validated premise is as Generation X executives spy age 50 on the horizon, there is an overt desire for change.  This is not due to unhappiness with their situation, moreover it is the concern that when they hit this mystical age, their career trajectory options diminish.

The above is more prevalent in larger, well-established companies, where the executive has been associated for approximately 10 years.  However DPC has also seen in our Advisory work the same phenomenon in sectors such as Life Sciences and Technology where tenure as a rule is short lived.

As proof of concern in the 18 months after creating a service offering to address this issue, DPC has worked with 80 clients.

78 of the 80 with the average age of 47 were contemplating a company change!

The Ongoing Priority of Building The Bench
In our Leadership Effectiveness work Discussion Partner Collaborative has concluded that any attempt to avoid the need to a. build a bench within the enterprise and/or b. manifesting reluctance to self assess incumbent aspirations, is self defeating.

Perhaps it’s the feeling of lacking control that has made succession planning—the continuity and transitional aspects of this effort in particular— such a hot topic these days. After all, it’s human nature to want to contain the uncertainties in life while maximizing the opportunities—as contradictory as that may seem!

Urgency” would be a fair characterization of the feeling our clients have expressed towards the holistic succession planning process.

If you accept DPC’s conclusion that your organization’s future will benefit from a deep-dive review of its Succession and Continuity planning processes taking into consideration the “age 50 paradox” we believe your Talent Readiness position will avoid unpleasant surprises.

Notwithstanding pre-existing protocols, we are suggesting this review encompass the most generous interpretation of processes concomitant with experimental and disruptive solution sets.

       I. What skills sets will we need beyond domain proficiency to have a sustainable
growth oriented enterprise?

      II. How does our current population of Leaders and Future Leaders compare to
these desired attributes?

     III. How can we develop and/or hire sufficient numbers of people to address deficiencies
in the above?

    IV. What is the true nature of our Leadership bench in respect to Readiness?

     V. What is our contingency plan to be deployed if necessary?

In 1964 The Who recorded the song My Generation containing the famous lines “hope I die before I get old!”

Dr. Lynda Gratton of London Business School last year published The 100 Year Life a now best seller in Europe.

Reconciling the contradictory thematic is straightforward.  Executives want challenge and a feeling of relevance in addition to longevity.  While logic suggests that 50 is not in of itself a career crossroad, it is one of those ages where reflection is normal.

DPC’s suggestion is to accept the realities of aspirations of both Boomer and Generation X cohorts, and plan accordingly. It is better to channel the dialogue than be surprised by a decision.

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The Challenge of the Non-Existent Employee

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

The terrific news on the domestic US unemployment rate does surface a huge dilemma for every economic sector, how will we fill the labor needs to pursue opportunities?

We need to accept as a given, the people we are looking to hire were never born! The recent DOL report suggests without reservation that the competition for skilled and un-skilled labor will increase in the months ahead.

In our Leadership Effectiveness work Discussion Partner Collaborative has concluded that any attempt to avoid the need to a. build a bench within the enterprise and/or b. manifesting reluctance to self assess incumbent deficiencies, is self defeating, and a sense of urgency exists to do both.

The Ongoing Priority of Building The Bench

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is more than halfway over! Given the geo-political dynamics before us, we can expect that, for better or for worse, the rest of the year will be just as turbulent as the first half, with a compelling aspect being the securing of sufficient numbers of employees to exploit opportunities.

It’s been a roller coaster in the labor market and unfortunately there’s not much the average though engaged executive can do but exert influence where one can.

Perhaps it’s the feeling of lacking control that has made Succession Planning—the continuity and transitional aspects of this effort in particular— such a hot topic these days. After all, it’s human nature to want to contain the uncertainties in life while maximizing the opportunities—as contradictory as that may seem!

Urgency” would be a fair characterization of the feeling our clients have expressed towards the holistic Succession Planning process recently, and in response to that, today we’re sharing a slightly revised version of a blog we posted in January 2018. We have made updates to reflect the latest data from DPC Research and client experience. The data continues to support our original hypothesis that, your organization’s future will benefit from a deep-dive review of its Succession and Continuity planning processes!

Notwithstanding pre-existing protocols, we are suggesting this review encompass the most generous interpretation of processes concomitant with experimental and disruptive solution sets.

Our recommendation is driven by results of an on-going study DPC conducts with now over 2500 Global C-Suite participants.  The survey is on the topic of anticipated enterprise challenges. As of Memorial Day 93% of those surveyed indicated “the ability to attract, motivate, and retain top talent” as their #1 concern.

DPC envisions the announcement today by the Department of Labor on the Unemployment rate will only intensify thus concern.

Discussion Partner’s have been conducting this ongoing Pulse survey since our founding in 2007. The intensity of the above concern while always “on the list” since 2016 has been #1.

Augmenting prioritization the anecdotal justifications were compelling inclusive of envisioned shifting demographics, new worker expectations, disruption of organization models, competitive pressures, globalization, and ineffective human capital practices.

The May 2018 DOL report can be reduced to an unavoidable conclusion, the competition for critical mass and appropriately skilled workers will only get worse.

DPC’s recommendation is further reinforced by a review of the recent literature on this topic.

  1. The strategic imperative for Talent depth to be an asset vs. liability referenced in consolidated research on Leadership Succession/Continuity most recently 2017 and 2018 series of articles in HBR, WSJ, Financial Times, McKinsey Insights and Sloan Management Review
  2. The Point of View that has emerged from our Advisory work particularly in 2017 and continuing in 2018 represents an opportunity to use a “Disruptive Organization Model” for Talent processes overall and Leadership matters in particular

As further justification for this Recommendation the following foundation is provided.

  • Dr. Noel Tichy in his recent book Succession asserts that without proactive planning on how to fill, and inventory of talent well in advance of leadership, and/or key role “vacancies”, the chance of success is below 50% for replacement personnel
  • Ram Charan in his book The Attackers Advantage and HBR articles offers the following (paraphrased) –Leaders (Directors, Owners, CEO’s) who excel at selection are willing to expand the lens in how they look at the capabilities of reporting levels beyond performance track record to the 2 to 3 interwoven predictive behaviors that will be necessary for success

In the context of the recent HBR assertion “Succession Planning takes years not months” DPC would recommend the following steps:

  1. Senior level stakeholder interviews focused on “beyond task proficiency” what are the essential differentiating qualities that will be needed for success
  2. Comparative Inventory of Leaders (broad based) and high potentials in relationship to these attributes
  3. Embed into developmental and hiring strategies the lessons learned from this exercise
  4. Creation of a Critical Constituency Depth Chart whereby the following is highlighted
    a. Identification of 1 ready now replacement
    b. Identification of 2 possible replacements
    c. Identification of external Search capabilities to be deployed in emergencies and/or
    lack of “ready now” sense of urgency
    d. Assignment of non-senior leaders a “personal growth and development task”
    similar to the GE “popcorn stand” to provide additional evaluative foundation

The New England Patriots have a mantra of “do your job” multiple Superbowls indicates the validity of this philosophy. However, DPC would argue in the commercial sector this would be limiting for the medium to long term for any existing organization. Our impetus is that the above suggestions represent process steps that should be presently underway and if not, a sense of urgency should exist. DPC would substitute the words “do the job you should have been doing all along!”

Additionally, we would embed the following questions:

  1. What skills sets will we need beyond domain proficiency to have a sustainable growth oriented
    II.  How does our current population of Leaders and Future Leaders compare to these desired attributes?
    III.  How can we develop and/or hire sufficient numbers of people to address deficiencies in the above?
    IV.  What is the true nature of our Leadership bench in respect to Readiness?
    V.  What is our contingency plan to be deployed if necessary?

What About the Leaders as a Constituency?

Einstein’s definition of insanity is “continuing to repeatedly do the same things anticipating a different result”.

DPC thought it would be useful to share an exercise we conducted to answer the question do we remain “edgy.” Given the average age of our Partnership is 64, and our grandchildren now offer technical support, this seemed like a sensible idea.

The objective of our exercise was to insure as Advisors we were not getting intellectually lazy and out of touch with the Essential elements of both enterprise sustainability and the differentiating profile of the “new worker”.  Our catalyst was awareness that we were giving almost verbatim answers to these questions and felt the need to reality check ourselves on the wisdom of our advice.

To that end, we conducted an internal pulsed survey, which was later tested with key relationships on three questions:

  1. Are we doing the right things to remain edgy and how do we know?
  2. Are we assuming correctly our insights are relevant and actionable?
  3. Are we focused on those Leadership challenges that if not addressed by clients will act as Strategic Restraints?

Validating that we are at least attempting to focus on the right topics, at the right time, and embedding intellectual curiosity and rigor into our protocols, DPC as is our practice refined our similar points of view into Discussion Points on elements of “Core” as defined as the platform for growth or potential for meltdown on two topics:

  1. Differentiated Enterprise Success Factors
  2. Differentiated Behaviors for New Worker Success

Differentiated Enterprise Success Factors

In respect to Enterprise Success factors, we have an emerging level of comfort there are three Core Components as follows:

Enterprise Core Success Drivers

The three Core success drivers DPC have identified are what tongue in cheek refers to as “Triple A” positioning.

  1. Anticipation-being able to identify trends real time in advance of competitors that if pursued enhance the potential for enterprise success – for example an organized process for R&D investment vs. gravitation towards the loudest advocate for their idea
  2. Agility  the ability to pursue multiple tracks in tandem proficiently, embedding flexibility, ongoing incorporation of lessons learned, and deployment of a Null Hypothesis contingency if corrections are required – for example when to exit a business line
  3. Alignment – consolidation of initiatives purpose built for customers that promote their interests in a sustainable measurable manner vs. a “one off” success decision that ultimately is short lived or possibly even worse, results in disenfranchisement of enterprise wide success-for example a product that may enjoy success as a “fad” but whose success horizon is truncated

For Baseball aficionados the reference to Triple A is not accidental, as is the case in the Sport, the modus operandi of “trial and error” is encouraged.

Differentiated Behaviors for New Worker Success
Core Elements Incumbent Profile
There is no enterprise on the Planet that is not being challenged by the dynamics of the “new worker”. During our deliberations we asked ourselves the following questions:

  1. Do Boomers and Generation X have attitudes or behaviors that Millennial don’t possess or care to secure?
  2. Are the differences between and among the cohorts the result of leadership deficiencies vs. gaps in attitude or proficiency?
  3. Is it advisable to manage incumbents differently by cohort vs. self-awareness that career progression and aspirations are fluid?
  4. Should managers manifest sensitivity to, vs. modification of various leadership style dynamics?

After much deliberation and arguing, sometimes cordially, DPC has identified 3 key factors we perceive as the Contributory Differentiators regardless of workforce demographic (Boomer, GenX, or Millennial).

The three Key factors are as follows:

  1. Self Sufficiency-the incumbents ability to function independently, with low managerial maintenance, concomitant with willingness to take acceptable risks while always being prepared to defend decisions
  2. Accountability Obsessive-takes assignment of tasks, and acceptance of same, as personal promises, never deferring to “the other guys fault” or “dog ate my homework” defense for inadequacy
  3. Achievement Oriented-career focused and driven to succeed through collaborative means, eradicating from their personal identity, “for me to win someone has to lose” while recognizing the definition of success in of itself is different by person vs. universal by age

Transitioning Organizations Bifurcation Concept

A call out to the above is that in organizations transitioning, independent of impetus there are always incumbents whom for the moment are essential: but proficiency and/or attitudinal model. The key is to keep these “legacies” productive until such time as they are displaced. Be advised that how this process is handled is of critical importance as it sends messages throughout the universe these days and to avoid apologies, it is best the incumbent is aware, feels supported and most importantly treated with dignity.

Discussion Partner’s finished this exercise with an awareness that it should be embedded into our ongoing methodology review or we will revert from Triple A to Sandlot players very quickly.

Summary Suggestion

DPC recommends that at the enterprise level a similar exercise is be conducted to promote your own “edginess.” Our rationale is that the pace of change is accelerating and there is a downside to the June 1st DOL report in that if a company ever find’s itself in the position of asking “what do we do now”, it is already too late.

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Bias Consciousness of the Unconscious

Posted on May 27, 2018
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

We all have bias’s, most we know, however many we don’t.  In the interest of context, I will share two:

I have been flying in various capacities for close to 50 years.  I hold elite status on four carriers.

In the 80’s when women were becoming more frequent occupants of the flight deck, I realized when boarding the plane, I was uncomfortable.  For some reason I had it in my head, that I was not as “safe” as if there was a problem during flight the solution would require brute strength.

This unease was not rational as evidenced by the extraordinary performance of the Southwest pilot in the recent past.  She was terrific!!!!

But it was my unconscious bias!

Another episode was after an expatriate assignment in South America, I joined a Big 4 Professional Services firm.

As a Partner we were required to take a Diversity course.  During a discussion one of the Senior Partner’s made the statement that “we treat all Partners the same”.

I thought the sentiment was odd, and noticed some of the female Partner’s looking at him in disbelief.

I decided to speak up stating, “as an expat, I was aware that I was different, culturally, linguistically, and adaptively, frankly this circumstance was exhausting”.

In the States we at long last are drawing a red line saying harassment should never be perceived as OK.  Those who have stepped up are to be applauded.

Unfortunately we are also at a point where racial and ethnic differences are being positioned as challenges to our National Security and ability to live our lives to the fullest.

On May 15th a lawyer went into a rant in a Fresh Kitchen restaurant because both customers and servers were speaking in Spanish.

He went so far as to say “this is my country and my next call is to ICE”.

This behavior is ignorant on uncounted levels!

In May of 2016 Discussion Partner’s authored a book, Executive Advice to Children-Don’t Repeat My Mistakes!

The saying “timing is everything” has merit as one of the book’s Executive interviews highlighted the phenomenon of unconscious bias.

DPC thought it would be useful to share this interview’s insight as we in the US sort through our decisions regarding degree of tolerance for those who are “different”.

Executive Advice to Children-Don’t Repeat My Mistakes! Chapter & Executive Interview (May 2016) -What Does A Liberal Do When He Finds Out He Is a Racist?

It has been a difficult period for tolerance in the United States.  Our political landscape clearly is anti-immigration to the point of building walls to “keep them out”.

Police relations are strained with comedians venturing, “the only way to avoid being shot is a. don’t wear a hoodie, b. don’t be big, and don’t be Black” and somehow we think this is funny!

It is easy to be sardonic when we hear the words “Black lives matter” and respond “All lives matter”. Yet our reality is much different.

Years ago there was a TV series L.A. Law which some of you are old enough to remember, if not there is always Hulu.

In one episode to compel a judge to recuse themselves from a trial of Black defendants, the lawyers presented him with statistical evidence that his decisions and sentencing outcomes were blatantly racist.

When presented with such evidence, one would expect this person, to be defensive.

In the episode, the Judge did the right thing, he recused himself. He was self-aware enough to know he was not self-aware, and his unconscious bias had been influencing his decisions!

Intolerance is ugly, as this chapter is being written the comments of Pope Francis characterizing the desire to build walls as “Un-Christian” and said commentary being referred to as “disgraceful” frame our next feeble attempt at deflective humor “who would you vote for President”.

The authors started with the premise that we are all intolerant in some ways, this is not part of our DNA, and it is learned behavior.

The question before us was two-fold a. how did learn your self-image was delusional and b. what do you do when you are faced with your sub-conscious intolerance?

We were fortunate to find an Executive who was willing to share his experiences. What is of particular interest in this interview is that this Executive held public office in the past and was known as an advocate for tolerance on multiple issues.

Executive Interview-Former Congressman

During my formative years I was privileged.  Consequently my personal philosophy and points of view about race relations, immigration, and other issues were based on reading, discussions, not experience.

I always thought of myself as tolerant regarding people who were different whether it is gender, race, political orientation, sexual preference etc.

Unfortunately I was wrong….

I was giving a speech out of state and got lost on the way back to the airport.

This was in the days before iPhones so lost meant lost.  I had someone with me who was driving the rental car.

We wandered into a not so nice neighborhood and stopped to get our bearings.  I noticed 3 young men of color not far away whom were clearly aware of our presence.  We were scared! They started walking toward us and in an attempt to drive away we crashed the car.

They kept coming actually now running…when they got to us they said, “are you guys ok”, and “do you need some help”?  They could not have been nicer…they got us to the airport, arranged for the Rental Car Company to come…”they were great”.

Flying back home, I could not help thinking about how scared I was, and why? Clearly it was the neighborhood, the circumstances, and more importantly that the three young men were Black.

I asked myself the question “even in a rough neighborhood if they were white. dressed in khaki’s wearing IZod shirts, would I have reacted the same way”?  

Clearly not….

When I look back on that event I realized that even with a narrow definition of the word I am really a racist.  It shook my self-image and I try to be mindful that is “who I am, not who I thought I was”.

“The question before me at that time is how I channel this awareness minimizing the damage it can cause, and maybe even using the awareness to do some good”.

What got my attention though was when I relayed what happened to others, their response was disheartening as they commented, “I would have been scared too”. Also “you got lucky”.

2018 Unconscious Bias Suggestions

  • We are all intolerant of some things or many things
  • When we are confronted with our true beliefs or tendencies we can behave in 1 of 2 ways, ignore it, or attempt to channel it in appropriate ways
  • Self-Awareness is an asset, self-respect an aspiration, self-indulgence borderline ignorant, self-direction in a positive way an obligation even when it means challenging your self image

Different, means just that, not better or less then good.  In many societies, particularly now the US, we are almost at the point of taking sides in some us vs. them, context.  We should all put on our adult big person pants and confront what is a self-defeating societal tenant

We can all be surprised by learning that we are not who we envisioned ourselves to be.

The question is, does this self-awareness compel thoughtfulness or if inappropriate confrontation?  If not then shame on us!

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Nostalgia or Selective Memory

Posted on May 15, 2018
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

About a year ago, my son found himself in the hospital for an extended period. He is an active adult with two young boys, and was “bored to tears”.

I visited him one Saturday and listened to him complain that there was nothing to watch on TV. Sympathetic parent that I am, and also having been laid up for an extended period in my 20’s barked “stop your whining, at least you have Cable”!

For fellow Boomers, I can imagine you are also harkening back to when you were told by your parents “I had to walk 5 miles to school in a blizzard”.

Growing up in the 60’s was not always easy, but it was memorable. Looking back, we can now compare how some of our rights of passage while not necessarily nostalgic, are striking in their difference.

An immediate difference is the use of sunscreen. Coppertone was a luxury for many. Most of us burned, peeled, burned, and peeled again until Labor Day.

Seat belts were likely available: but usually ignored. I have the vantage point of being the oldest of 7. Once at a party I spoke to the youngest of 9 and we reminisced that on short drives in convertibles, she was positioned above the back seat while her older brothers held her legs. Today this would be reckless endangerment, back then a lot of kids, one car!

Transistor radios, were the form of non-visual news and entertainment, the functionality of which required a battery. The battery, as essential in its day as an outlet for an iPhone today.

Batteries became even more of a necessity during a power outage.
I recall as the oldest once being chartered to go in pursuit of a battery in the early stages of a hurricane. When my mother assertively pointed out the wisdom of this move, my father’s rejoinder, “you have to think long term, if he blows away it’s one less college tuition”. My mother’s response was “good luck honey”.

You can see the origin of my parental sympathy gene!

Halloween was a great time growing up. We sometimes went to the best candy provider three times without a costume change. I don’t recall my parents having to be human x-ray machines to make sure we were going to be safe gorging on our bounty.

Jimmy Kimmel would have no post Halloween “I ate your candy” segments as “our” candy hoard rarely survived until the next day.

We didn’t think of candy as “junk food”, more an annual entitlement.

I have no appreciation as to how many TV options we have now; when I was growing up we only had 3 all ending in C. For the longest time, if you had a color TV you could only watch 2 shows, Bonanza, and Disney.

The National News was only 30 minutes a night, probably the aspect of growing up I miss the most!

Well in truth, I probably miss the 1-speed bike the most today’s transport mode too confusing!

The pace of innovation is increasing, and memories are getting shorter. I vividly recall my 10-year-old grandson spying a flip phone asking, “What’s that”? I shudder to think of him being exposed to a rotary dial!

I don’t recall when growing up feeling I had it easy, just the opposite.

I do reflect now as a parent and grandparent that it certainly was different, not better nor worse, just memorable.

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Social Media – An Asset or Liability???

Posted on April 6, 2018
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

The Below Blog Has Been Updated From The Original Published June 2016 Entitled Circles Within Circles

We have all experienced the phenomenon of being recognized by someone who knew us “back in the day”!

The interaction usually follows a sequence of “aren’t you Tim Burton”? You then gaze at the person trying to assign a name to a face that has aged 40 years.  Usually they introduce themselves, “I’m Jim Carter, and we were in High School together”!

Hopefully by then you have a memory refresh!

The other avenue for reconnection is of course social media.  These exchanges usually are someone reaches out to you to Add as a Friend, and your curiosity gets the best of you to answer the most important question of the ages, “what do they look like now”?

At 68 I like many of us are at the decision point where there is as much intellectual focus on  “where am I going, as well as where have I been, presently we should also be asking what have I/we become?

On the positive side via Social Media I had the good fortune of having lunch in Lima Peru with a couple whom I had not had a meaningful interaction with since 1967!

Let me rewind a bit, the couple and I while never close growing up although did know each other, the wife was a friend of friends, and the husband and I grew up on the same street, later becoming a Doctor so as you can correctly surmise I was already intimidated.

Their career’s intersected with my family.  The wife and my son and daughter in law were teachers at the same school.  The husband after medical school later became my mother’s doctor.

We all have stories similar to the above, and I am reasonably certain we all conclude that these kismet moments are special, and frankly for that we can thank Social Media.

In this instance Social Media was an asset, as I was heading to have lunch with this couple, I was contemplating the likelihood of the following:

  1. Three people of the same age
  2. Each grew up in the same city
  3. Two of whom married
  4. Each taking a different career path
  5. Each career path intersecting with familial relationships
  6. Meeting for lunch 49 years after High School graduation
  7. Having lunch in Lima Peru where one semi-resides and two were visiting

Have no idea how to assess the likely % speculate they would be quite high!

However presently I have migrated towards the conclusion that Social Media is now more of a liability.

The platforms have gone beyond keeping one informed of the status of their friends, or interesting things to do, becoming mechanisms that at best heavily involved in espousing a point of view, and worse weaponized to instill fear and/or influence judgment.

In the recent past five episodes influenced my perception.

  1. Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook information to influence the 2016 election.  The fact that this group could get access and frankly steal the information of 50 Million people is an obscenity
  2. Ted Nugent hitting the airwaves referring to the Parkland students at “liars”.  How dare you!!!!! I am not sure performing Cat Scratch Fever is at the same level as hiding in a closet in fear of your life.  Sometimes the First Amendment is a pain!
  3. The clearly NRA subsidized ad’s on Social Media that portray School Shootings as an aberration…maybe one but not 19 in 90 days!
  4. The commentary by a Newscaster on the college acceptance rate of a survivor of Parkland.  Having only gotten into college due to family connections, later to flunk out of not one but 2 schools!  I’ll bet on the kid’s moral compass over the critical “adult”! (For those in a rush to Google or LinkedIn, I did graduate and competed two Master’s degree’s)
  5. The Firing By Tweet, regardless of the esteem in which you hold the dismissed common decency would suggest an alternative approach.  I recall the 1983 movie The Survivors where a Parrot fired Robin Williams! Please draw your own conclusions as to how you would prefer to find out your services are no longer needed.

As I can’t rely on Social Media not to share my information without knowledge nor approval, or put a Ted Nugent interview between information about my grandchildren, I have to conclude like many, it is now a liability the medium of which I want no part.

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Transitions – Edgy & Absent!

Posted on February 6, 2018
by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

2018 is a transition year for many Boomer Executives whom will be reaching the milestone age of 65!

Granted the “70’s something” Stones, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney are still touring and Clint Eastwood at 87 has a movie coming out.  Regardless the magical age of 65 remains a threshold, as it was the age when most of our parents left the work force.

At the time however, after they got their gold watch, took a cruise, there was not much meaning nor life left based upon actuarial tables and cultural norms.

Discussion Partner’s launched ourTransition Advisory Service offering in 2013 after the publication of our book Executive Transitions-Plotting The Opportunity!

Since that time we have worked with now over 500 executives in a variety of sectors on creating the “soft landing” for the company derived from and organized Succession Plan and executive via a structured approach for thinking about “what’s next”.

In Discussion Partner’s experience regardless of age and psychographic profile it is prudent to substitute the question of “How will I focus my energies for the next 3 to 5 years” vs. “What will I do with the rest of my life”.  This is the working hypothesis of Inflection Point we utilize in our discussions with clients.

There are two areas we suggest be front of mind as the journey begins!

Pre-Departure Dislocation
DPC has found that many executives feel “awkward”, or “uncomfortable” when visibly continuing with their employer when their Successor has been identified and on-boarded.

This discomfort is exacerbated by the fact that the executive is likely more focused on life’s next chapter.  DPCrefers to this feeling of disequilibrium as “Elvis has left the building” emotion.

In these circumstances we suggest a modality we refer to as the 3 D’s Framework as presented below:

  • Disappearance- significantly reduced visibility on-site unless required (counterintuitive when one is still employed although this approach has merit)
  • Directive- it is hard to abruptly avoid behaving like “the boss”.  DPC strongly suggests that a “have you considered vs. you should” approach as preferable when interacting with Successor or key incumbents
  • Distance- in support of your Succession plan it is preferable to avoid being “the Wizard behind the curtain” and maintaining a respectful distance both logistical and relationship wise during the bridge tenure, with clear boundaries worked out in advance with your Successor

Post Transition Common Denominators
Regardless of age, enterprise tenure, or post departure endeavors, DPC in our client work has found that there are three common denominators that if front of mind, contribute to  success.

We have labeled the “top 3” as Next Generation Engagement  as follows:

  1. Edgy- the ability to engage in activities that challenge intellectual curiosity via continued acquisition of knowledge and adjunct expertise
  2. Control- the ability to have as much as possible total control over calendar and focus of activities
  3. Relevance- the ability to continue to promote personal brand and be recognized as a domain “expert” regardless of future setting

Many executives “can’t wait” to get started on the next phase of life while others are somewhat fearful.

The position taken in our client work is that the more organized the pre-departure thinking, and awareness of possible outcomes the more likely the executive will be comfortable with “what’s next”!


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