Category Archives: Diversity & Inclusion

The Revolutionary Future of Human Resources

When many of us first embarked upon our professional careers, few if any disciplines had the opportunity to truly reinvent their organizational roles on the fly.  Things were fairly steady, moving forward at a relegated pace, keeping stride with what, at the time, was the revolutionary influx of information technology.  While the support tools were evolving, sales was still sales, finance was still finance, and HR was still HR.  Turning our contemporary lens back onto those bucolic days of the 80s and 90s now has the feel of looking back into the archeological record of some ancient civilization.

Things have change.  Really changed.  Not just on the surface, but deep into the very essence of what business now does in its never ending pursuit of value creation.

During the Industrial Age, value was created through the exploitation of cheap and abundant raw materials, the organization of specialized labor (think assembly lines), and the application of capital.  Industrialists like Henry Ford and Alfred Sloan helped usher in the golden age of the corporation.  Economies of scale, vertical integration, corporate finance and sophisticated marketing methodologies took root and flourished.  Great sales people ascended to dizzying heights.  These were the tools and drivers of their time.

The Information Age, the precursor of today, breathed new life into tiring, threadbare methodologies of management and organizational development.  Information technology enabled the aging structures to shed overhead and secure gains in productivity, while the very essence of their fundamentals were quietly slipping away beneath their feet.  Resource constraints, environmental concerns, the first waves of globalization, and labor strife were all taking their toll during the 1970s, right at the threshold of the coming IT revolution.  Those of you old enough will remember the gas lines, stagflation and the emergence of the Rust Belt that marked the close of the decade.

While the internet, cloud computing, and Big Data all offer productivity promise, the very source of value creation has shifted dramatically over the past thirty years.  In today’s economy, value is created through the efficient commercialization of intellectual property (IP).  The assembly lines of the past have been supplanted by teams of knowledge workers.  Multi-cultural, multi-generational workers that are often dispersed around the globe.  The new raw material of our age is human creativity and the human beings that bring their creativity to life.

The implications are far reaching, but the opportunities are even greater, especially for the professionals in Human Resources and Talent Management.  The fact of the matter is, what was once perceived by senior leadership as overhead, a department that was saddled with risk management and often derided as a necessary evil that slowed things down, is now center stage in the value creation equation.

With this unprecedented opportunity for unleashing remarkable productivity gains (Gallup® once again, for the 12th year running, reported employee disengagement levels hovering at 70%) comes equally remarkable challenges for HR.  While the source of value creation has shifted, the political capital HR requires in their new role has lagged behind.  Chances are, this political capital wont be philanthropically handed over by the Sales and Marketing folks; it simply isn’t in their nature.  But the fierce competitors must inevitably give sway to the fierce collaborators if companies are to maintain their competitive advantage in rapidly changing markets.

So HR professionals are left to blaze a new trail, to build their voice at the strategic table of senior management.  The challenge is, where are the forbearers?  Where are the pioneers to whom we can look for guidance and methods to set this new standard?  You’ll find them in the mirror.  It’s you, and it’s your time to step up and lead.

Having been on the forefront of this revolution for the past five years, I’d like to share a few thoughts as you embark on the first steps of this new journey:

  1. Cultivate your business acumen.  Tap into the thought leaders beyond the traditional practice of HR (i.e. The McKinsey Quarterly®, the Harvard Business Review®, and people like Dan Ariely, Daniel Goleman and Rich Davidson).  Tap into the many entrepreneurial voices heard through blogs and the unadulterated business press of the internet.  Find a senior mentor from outside HR and learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can about both the new and evergreen fundamentals of business.
  2. Invest in your leadership competencies.  Not the old command-and-control philosophies, but methods based upon transformational and service leadership.  It is values-driven leadership that resonates with today’s multi-cultural and multi-generational workforce.  And it is intrinsic values that resonate (i.e. authentic relationships, purposefulness, being of service and a part of something bigger than one’s self) in today’s world.  Leveraging extrinsic values alone (i.e. money, power, prestige) is an artifact of the past (and a contributing factor to endemic employee disengagement).
  3. Look for integrative solutions that drive insights.  Today’s business world is faced with accelerating complexity.  One-off, simple solutions are no longer capable of bridging the growing performance gap.  The solutions to today’s adaptive challenges lie in the convergence of seemingly disparate disciplines (i.e. the convergence of neuroscience, applied behavioral economics, emotional intelligence, leadership development, creativity science, and advanced analytics).
  4. Build metrics into every HR initiative.  This is crucial in gaining a respected voice at the leadership table.  Sales is transactional and easily measured.  Human creativity, collaboration, leadership development, and innovation precursors require a bit more thought to construct meaningful metrics.  But these metrics are there if you look, and be sure to ask every HR vendor for their metrics as well.  If they shy away from measuring their own impact on the business, find vendors willing to step up and be accountable.
  5. Be prepared to take some risks.  This is the threshold, the point at which you will either embark on what famed author and scholar Joseph Campbell called The Hero’s Journey or fall back into the staid definitions of the past.  Here’s the thing, if you follow the first four steps of advice, the risks will be measured, rational, and justifiable.  Those are risks worth taking and those are risks one survives.

We’re truly working and living in unprecedented times.  The HR profession has arrived at a nexus.  The opportunities for those bold enough to redefine themselves and their role within the organization will enjoy equally unprecedented success.

© 2013, Terry Murray.

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Filed under Diversity & Inclusion, Health Care, Leadership Development, Organizational Culture, Talent Management

Performance Transformation, LLC™ Announces Change In Open-Access Policy For Methodologies and Intellectual Property

Due to a recent upswing in plagiarism, copyright violations, and the theft of intellectual property for commercial gain, Performance Transformation will curtail their standing, five year policy of open knowledge sharing.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ~ VENICE, Fla. — Performance Transformation, LLCTM (Venice, FL) announced today a change in their longstanding, open-access policy for the sharing of their knowledge systems, methodologies, and intellectual property.

“It’s unfortunate, but I suppose it’s a sign of our times.  Information should be open and new ideas and insights should be encouraged to move freely.  That’s the reason for copyrights as well as patents.  Patents are open for review by anyone looking to improve upon the patent.  Just like patent infringement, plagiarism is theft,” commented Terry Murray, founder and Managing Partner of Performance Transformation, a leading firm in the development and delivery of high performance leadership and enterprise performance insights and solutions. “The plagiarism and copyright violations have been growing incrementally over time. The recent theft of our copyrighted intellectual property, by a major, multi-national corporation, caused us to rethink and retool our policy. We will continue to share our intellectual property, as we strongly believe in the 21st Century business value of transparency, open collaboration, and the free flow of ideas as the propagating seeds of innovation. We will just reign it in a bit by implementing a chain of custody trail to those that seek to access our ideas and insights.”

Founded in 2008, Performance Transformation has developed and delivered highly innovative experiential learning programs and strategies for both the nonprofit and for profit sectors. Through their recent partnering with Talent SprocketTM, LLC (St. Petersburg, FL) they are the first leadership and enterprise performance firm to incorporate advanced, machine learning into their approach. Talent Sprocket incorporates sophisticated algorithms to deliver Predictive Human AnalyticsTM, a major step forward in the rapidly growing, talent management arena. The combination of Performance Transformation’s proprietary, developmental approach and Talent Sprocket’s analytical capabilities delivers concise, return on investment metrics for leadership development, a very unique benefit in the industry.

“Everybody claims to be an expert today, especially in the field of leadership development,” added Terry. “When we look at the research data, it’s quite obvious there are very, very few effective leadership development companies delivering viable solutions and value in the market. Corporations and institutions have invested nearly $1 trillion over the past twenty years in behaviorally-based leadership development programs. The ROI is pitiful, representing perhaps the worst, collective investment companies have made over the past two decades.”

The Gallup® Company’s recent, annual survey on the State of the American Workplace once again pegs employee disengagement at 70%. This figure has remained stagnant for more than a decade. McKinsey® published a study less than two years ago that demonstrated only 1% of executives scored excellent in eight key leadership competencies. Ninety percent scored below average.

Terry is the author of “The Transformational Entrepreneur”, which was cited by the academic Journal of Economic Literature in March, 2012. Performance Transformation’s pro bono program, “Warriors in Transition”, was formally commended by General David Petraeus in 2010. The program imparts leadership and resiliency skills in combat veterans working to successfully navigate the transition home. It has also

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been employed extensively for veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress to support Post Traumatic Growth.

“What would our economy, companies and nation look like today if these traditional approaches to leadership development had actually delivered on their promise? It’s why we come armed with a validated, neurologically-based approach grounded in the needs of the individual as well as the business, build skills around tangible business outcomes, and hold ourselves accountable with our analytics capabilities. We’re determined to make a change.”

In addition to publishing his book in 2011, Terry has written and published more than 300 articles and blogs, openly sharing his wisdom, knowledge and expertise. He is a frequent guest of the media and a sought after speaker for professional conferences and symposia.

“Congruency is such a part of our philosophy and we believe in giving forward and openly contributing to support positive change in our society and communities,” said Terry. “Capitalism can be, and should be, a force for good. When business leaders embrace this perspective, it resonates with today’s multi-cultural, multi-generational, global workforce. Enormous productivity gains and value is lying quietly, just beneath the surface in many companies and organizations. Our approach is proven to capture and leverage that value, driving remarkable, breakthrough business results. We simply will no longer subsidize individuals and corporations that don’t share in our honesty and authenticity.”

For more information on Performance Transformation, please call (941) 485-7428.

© 2013, Performance Transformation, LLC™.  All Rights Reserved.

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Are You Positioned to Succeed in the Third Industrial Revolution?

The risk of being an innovator is that you’re often the first one in the room with the next big idea.  It can be a lonely place while you’re waiting for the mainstream to catch up.  Trust me, we know.  We’ve been at the very forefront of thought leadership for nearly five years, but the wait was worthwhile as study after study is hitting the mainstream business press validating our approach with one salient, statistically-signficant point after another.

Here’s another study that supports our perspective.  The SHL Talent Report is monumental, having canvased data from more than one million professionals, executives and associates from around the world to gather insights into People Intelligence and the strategic role this perspective is already playing in organizational success or failure.  The study focuses on several key facets of Leadership for Today, Leadership for Tomorrow, Innovation, Talent Management and Behavioral Risk, Gender & Generational Diversity in Leadership, and the Global Race for Talent.  I think you’ll find it to be an informative and eye-opening weekend read!

Here are some of my thoughts on the major points brought to light in the study ~

First, an opening word on People Intelligence.  SHL defines this as, “The intelligence that is delivered through reliable, scientifically valid and objective measures of people’s talents, ranging from their potential to be an effective leader to the specific skills and knowledge required for the thousands of daily transactions that make or break an organization.”  As a former member of Naval Intelligence and a seasoned Executive Strategist, this is why our firm is in the sector we chose to be in…human beings are the raw material of value creation in the New Economy.  It’s also why we partnered to bring Talent Sprocket (Talent Sprocket Performance Transformation Toss Sheet eVersion) and Democrasoft® (How One Simple Step Can Solve Your Engagement, Inclusion and Collaboration Challenges eVersion) into our open network partnership.

Leadership for Today ~ The great disconnect continues between leaders and associates.  Only 1 out of 4 associates believe their organizations have the leadership necessary to succeed in the future.  Only 1 out of 3 associates believe their firm has the the top leadership available from within their industry.  Leaders are equally concerned about the pool from which they can find the successors to the 76 million Baby Boomers that will be retiring in the coming years.

The study goes on to identify both the transactional skills and transformational skills necessary for effective leadership.  These skills include the ability to build effective relationships, analytical and organizational skills, adaptive ability to navigate change, effective communication skills, collaborative influence, lateral creative thinking to deliver new insights, and the drive to see things through.  Notice a theme?  These are primarily the soft skills that many still roll their eyes at the mention.  Feel free to continue to roll your eyes, but take a moment to notice what happens to your field of vision when you do so.

Takeaway ~ Only 6.7%, or 1 in 15 managers, professionals, or global executives have the skills and potential for effective leadership today.

Leadership for Tomorrow ~ Take heart, fore herein lies our future success.  One out of three professionals from Gen-X and Gen-Y display some potential (same criteria as above) for effective leadership tomorrow.  The challenge lies in identifying the right high potentials and investing in their training and development to translate potential into actuality.  U.S. firms best beware, however, because emerging economies have a greater pool on which to draw upon.

Takeaway ~ The question isn’t whether or not their is potential leadership talent, but how intelligent your enterprise is in recognizing that talent and developing it.  Currently, only 1 in 15 managers or executives have the potential to become a top leader, but why?  A recent CEB study identified that the vast majority of firms overlook the right high potentials because they don’t understand or recognize the contributory skills and aptitudes that are cogent for today and the future.  They’re caught looking for the attributes of yesteryear.

Innovation ~ Today’s buzzword, right?  We all know this is the key to survival in the future.  However, companies are often missing both the recognition of true innovators and cultivating the fertile soil of organizational culture necessary for innovation to translate into commercially viable products and services.  The study identifies the behaviors that drive effective innovation that evolve around a mix of focus, insight, networking and collaboration.  These include, ability to reason, capacity to think laterally, focus, adaptability, persistence, a capacity to build effective relationships, ability to navigate social networks, influential communications skills, and the ability to impart excitement and passion for the innovation.  Pretty similar theme to the leadership attributes listed above, wouldn’t you say?  Again, soft skills and creativity reign.

Takeaway ~ Innovation is a strategic imperative.  Innovation is, at its very core, about change.  Yet 70% of traditional change management programs fail. In addition, only 1 out of 17 graduates and professionals, or 5.8%, have the capacity to become true innovators.  How are you going to attract, recruit, retain, reward and acknowledge these rare talents?  This is why culture is key.  According to a report published by The Economist, this will be the driver of The Third Industrial Revolution.  If traditional change management fails, why would you look to traditional organizational and leadership development approaches to drive innovation?  It’s a recipe for failure.

Behavioral Risk ~ People take risks, not processes and Talent Management must be seen as a part of Risk Management.  Risk comes from hidden biases that stem from a lack of self and social awareness.  Again, developing soft skills, at all levels of the organization are key.

Takeaway ~ As the speed of change continues to accelerate, authority and trust must move deeper into the organization.  Developing self and social awareness throughout the business mitigates organizational risk.

Gender & Generational Diversity ~ The study demonstrates that the difference between leadership potential for women and men is less than 1% (and it slightly favors women, by the way), yet on a global level men enjoy senior leadership positions by a ratio of 3:1 over women.  In the U.S. the figures are exceptionally poor, with 83% of leadership roles held by men.  Only places like Japan and countries in the Middle East fare worse.

Generationally, only 30% of Gen-Y’s plan to spend their entire career with one firm.  They’re mobile.  And they embrace intrinsic values (personal and professional development, authentic relationships, purposefulness, being a part of something larger than themselves) over the extrinsic values of the Baby Boomers (money, power, prestige).

Takeaway ~ I’ll leave the gender diversity issue for Warren Buffett to answer.  As to generational diversity, if you’re not strategizing how you’re going to leverage intrinsic values over extrinsic values, you’re holding the door open for your technology natives and future innovators to walk out the door.

The Global Race for Talent~ I’ll let you read this for yourselves.  The point I wish to make here is the U.S. ranks 23rd in the world for professionals with the right talents to succeed globally in the coming years.

Takeaway ~ Simply put, the traditional approaches for leadership and organizational development in our country have failed.  It’s time for a breath of fresh air and if innovation is important to you, perhaps it’s time to embrace an innovative approach to leadership and organizational development.

© 2013, Terry Murray.

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Want to Lead and Innovate Like Google ~ Look to Their HR Practices

In case you may have missed it, Google’s stock price recently broke $800 per share, making them the third most valuable company in the world.  Outside of multi-national petroleum companies, the other leading firms on this list of value include Apple, Microsoft, IBM, GE, J&J, and Pfizer.  Companies that are all driven by innovation and their ability to effectively commercialize the creative collaboration of their most valuable resource…people.

DecisionsAn interesting article was recently published detailing Google’s approach to what is being called people analytics.  The fact is, human beings are the the raw material for value creation in the new economy.  This is something we’ve been speaking about for five years, but is just now starting to gain traction in the mainstream business community.  This doesn’t just apply to information technology companies, but all companies, because innovative thinking at every touch point in the organization is the key driver of competitive advantage.  To refer back to a term once bandied about in corporate circles; HR can no longer be viewed as a cost center, it is truly a Center of Excellence in today’s hyper-competitive world.

Google is reinventing the HR practice to reflect the strategic imperative of fully engaging passionate people to collaborate and innovate on an unprecedented level.  The article quoted two points that reveal their strategic perspective towards reinventing the HR practice:

1. “All people decisions at Google are based on data and analytics.”

2. Their focus is to “bring the same level of rigor to people-decisions that we do to engineering decisions.”

The article goes through ten, distinct steps that differentiate Google’s approach to the Human Resource function.  I’ll refrain from rehashing them here, but I will touch on the highlights of their approach.

~ Google is focused on identifying the top, currently relevant leadership competencies that fit their culture and business objectives.  Coaching and frequent employee feedback are at the core.

Google is employing a retention algorithm, an effective hiring algorithm, calculating the business value of top performers, and using predictive analytics to drive the value-creating, HR flywheel.

~ Google is applying experimental pilot initiatives to determine ‘best practices’ in people leadership that fit their business and strategy.

~ Google is focused on improving diversity, creating innovative and collaborative workplace design, and migrating from traditional ‘training’ to discovery, novelty and learning opportunities for their employees.

Google is using the resulting, forward-looking data these initiatives are generating to influence and convince internal managers of the wisdom and business value of these people-centric practices.

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, well of course Google is using analytics and sophisticated algorithms.  These skills are core competencies that built their dominance in the search engine business.  But we don’t have those competencies…how do we adopt these new competitive practices?”

This is part of the beauty of the new economy we live in.  You don’t need to own competencies in order to take full advantage of their being out there in the landscape.  Our firm is a great example.  We’ve adopted an open-network structure (i.e. innovative and collaborative workplace design) that taps into the competencies we need, when we and our clients need them.  We’ve invested in partnerships that deliver platforms that deliver hiring and retention algorithms, machine learning systems for people practices, predictive analytics, and content collaboration platforms that accelerate value creation at a surprisingly reasonable cost.  Firms no longer need to buy these advanced competencies by hiring the brightest mathematicians hailing from MIT or Stanford.  They can lease the tools they need, when they need them.  Our firm integrates and adds value by providing the leadership development (experiential learning programs that create a shift in perspective; i.e. rewriting the human software running in our heads), aligned pilot program initiatives (i.e. Google’s experiments), and the metrics (i.e. forward looking data) to fully leverage these evidence-based approaches that will revolutionize Human Resource practices to fully drive competitive advantage.

The fact is, any firm can begin to lead and innovate like Google, Apple, IDEO and other thought-leading companies that understand the value of their human talent.  There’s a certain irony here, too.  The same dynamics that are driving such unprecedented, accelerating change are the same dynamics that are affordably delivering the practices and tools that any firm that wishes to lead the disruptive wave of the new strategic imperative of innovation, collaboration and value creation!

© 2013, Terry Murray.

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March 5, 2013 · 11:44 am

The Top 5 Signs You’re Already Losing the Talent War

I just returned from attending and speaking at the HR Management Institute’s conference entitled, “Enhancing HR as a Strategic and Transformative Business Partner in Times of Volatility and Change”.  It was a compelling event in which our team had the opportunity to meet and interact with some of the most progressive HR executives I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with throughout my career.  Upon my return home, I read an article about Yahoo’s CEO making the decision to end telecommuting at their company.  The irony of this decision hit me immediately.  One of the few companies to survive the dot com crash over a decade ago, a company that is entirely built around the value proposition of internet connectivity, is retreating to an Industrial Age, brick and mortar mentality.  Just as the rest of the business world is poised to leverage new thinking and new technologies that will catapult the foundations of internet connectivity to transparent engagement and rapid innovation.

These two recent experiences compelled me to share my insights on the early warning signs that you may already be losing the talent war (and by the way, 2.9 million workers voluntarily left their employer in January, the highest level since June, 2008).

1. You’re resisting flexibility in the workplace ~ I haven’t worked out of a traditional office setting since 2000.  I’ve worked with teams of dispersed associates scattered around the country, and now around the world, and we’ve created remarkable value.  Knowledge workers warming a seat in a cubicle does not ensure productivity or innovation.  At a time when, according to the CEB Executive Guidance ~ 2013 report, CEOs are looking for an additional 20% increase in productivity, forcing knowledge workers to waste time commuting to an expensive piece of real estate doesn’t make sense.  The American Consumer Institute reports that over 350 billion days per year are spent community.  The lost work time and transportation expense represents roughly 7.2% of our gross domestic product.

Even worse, the not-so-subtle message Yahoo is telling its employees is, “We don’t trust you and feel compelled to babysit you to ensure you’re getting your work done.”  Gen Y workers are interactive, online, mobile workers.  For them, the lines between work and life are blurred.  Take that flexibility away from them and you wont have to worry about engaging them; they’ll be working for your competitor.

2. You’re still exclusively entrusting psychologists to train your next generation of leaders ~ McKinsey & Co.® published a study in July, 2011 that identified only 1% of “C” level and one step down executives scored excellent in eight core leadership competencies.  Ninety percent scored below average.  The Corporate Executive Board’s Executive Guidance ~ 2013 report identified the top ten, key competencies shared by more than 23,000 current high performers in today’s fast paced, ambiguous business environment.  Of these ten competencies, only three were identified and measured by the McKinsey study. A study published a mere eighteen months ago.

According to a study conducted by Doris Gomez of Regent University, and published in 2007 in the International Journal of Leadership Studies, corporations are spending in excess of $45 billion a year on leadership training.  That’s a breathtaking investment level for the reported outcomes and painfully obvious disconnect revealed by the McKinsey and CEB studies.

I don’t mean to take the organizational psychologists to task.  I’m sure they have good intentions and work hard at their profession.  They simply are not solely equipped to train the leaders we need today and for tomorrow.  Psychologists have long dominated leadership training efforts and leadership development firms.  If they have been so successful, why do we see such a disconnect?  The fact is, leaders develop leaders, not academics that have been comfortably observing on the sidelines, with no skin in the game, while the rest of us are engaged in the day-to-day trenches, actually leading fellow human beings.  Academics enrich the discourse through their research and scientific method, but this needs to be mindfully blended with real world, leadership experience.

3. You’re still focused on yesterday’s leadership model ~ Transactional leadership is about as relevant today as a rotary dial phone.  Command-and-control leadership tactics are the fastest way to disconnect Gen Y and Gen X workers and create cross generational and cultural rifts in the workplace.  Why?  Because transactional leaders focus exclusively on leveraging extrinsic goals and values.  What motivated and engaged a homogenous workforce once dominated by white, male Baby Boomers rings hollow in today’s multi-cultural, multi-generational workplace.

To engage today’s remarkably rich and diverse environment, one must include intrinsic goals and values in their approach to leadership.  Authentic relationships, opportunities for personal and professional growth (Gen Y and Gen X don’t differentiate between the two), and purposefulness, of feeling a part of something meaningful and larger than ourselves, transcends multi-cultural orientations and multi-generational perspectives.  It speaks to how we’re neurologically wired for survival.  It speaks to that which makes us human beings.

4. You’re still focused on training hard skills and not developing the soft skills of your talent ~ Training is fine for health and safety, but it does nothing to move the needle of effective leadership, employee engagement and innovative collaboration.  It is rote and boring (a Harvard study demonstrated that traditional lectures improve conceptual learning by only 14%).  Companies must embrace more compelling opportunities that include experiential learning and environments that support the development of emotional intelligence competencies (research shows that 80% of success in life can be attributed to one’s emotional intelligence, with the remaining 20% based in cognitive abilities).

For years we’ve been told to leave our emotions at home when coming to work.  The fact is, this disengages us from our authentic selves and creative abilities.  Emotions are a part of our primary survival mechanism.  Emotions inform us, guide us, and connect us on a neurological and biochemical level.  This also harkens back to the problem of having psychologists running leadership development.  The mainstream academic field of psychology dismissed emotions as messy side effects until the 1980s.  Shocking, right?  It shocked me when I discovered, while reading Richard Davidson’s book, “The Emotional Life Of Your Brain”, that up until about thirty years ago, mainstream psychologists were entirely enamored with behaviorism.  Progressive researchers like Dr. Davidson struggled to even get approval from their institutions, never mind the funding, to conduct psychological studies that looked into the relationship between the brain and emotions!  Thankfully they prevailed, and the field of Affective Neuroscience was born.

5. You’re still conducting traditional diversity and inclusion training as a compliance-driven have-to-do ~ As an esteemed colleague of mine says, “We have diversity, what we don’t have is inclusion.”  Many organizations still conduct D&I training at the same level of enthusiasm and strategic importance as they conduct health and safety training.  Employees are sent an email, told when and where to show up, and they check off the box for another year.  The demands and pace of business are such that we had better be fully engaging our entire workforce.  And if we’re to capture that 20% improvement in productivity CEOs are looking for, I don’t think we can consciously or unconsciously relegate a single employee to the sidelines.

We need all of our associates to feel authentically cared for and genuinely included in the central conversation of the business.  If we don’t, one of our competitors certainly will.

© 2013, Terry Murray.


Filed under Diversity & Inclusion, Experiential Learning, Health Care, Leadership Development, Organizational Culture

If Warren Buffett Gave You An Investment Tip, Would You Listen?

Tip of the IcebergOkay, so I just asked the most rhetorical question in the world, I know.  In a December interview that appeared in the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, (and oddly enough didn’t seem to get much press here in the U.S.) the Oracle of Omaha shared his optimism regarding the long-term prosperity of the U.S. economy.  The source of his optimism?  Women, and more to the point, the fact that our country is just now starting to embrace the full potential of more than half of our population.  Mr. Buffet makes some salient points and I highly recommend reading the short interview!

With Mr. Buffett’s insights in mind, let’s take a quick look around at the current landscape.  In January, 2.16 million people voluntarily quit their jobs (this is independent of retirements). This is the largest number since 2008.  We all know who the most mobile people are, too; the most talented.  You know that so-called Talent War we’ve been reading about for the past two years?  I think we just heard the proverbial shot heard around the world!

Here’s another interesting tidbit…a recent, major study demonstrated that companies with the most diverse leadership teams deliver a return on equity 53% higher than the least diverse companies. This is in addition to delivering a 14% advantage in EBIT as well.
Gallup, for nearly a decade, has reported that only 3 out of 10 employees are thoroughly engaged. And according to 2012 research from the Corporate Executive Board, CEOs recognize the need to draw an additional 20% of productivity from their existing human capital in order to meet current performance goals.  Historical, annual gains in productivity, since the early 1990s, has averaged a little more than 3% per year.

The fact is, there’s a hidden workforce and enormous, untapped talent pool lying just beneath the surface in many organizations.

If we’re to trust in Mr. Buffett’s insights (and who wouldn’t?), and acknowledge the current landscape supported by the research, shouldn’t we, as leaders, thoroughly consider one of the best investments we can make in our organizational fitness at this time? Investments in talent that will add dimension to our leadership acumen, strategic insights, and cultural inclusion?

If we’re to quickly capture a 20% increase in productivity of our current human capital we need to embrace and act upon one of the most exciting investment tips I’ve heard in years.  There’s still a bounty of low lying fruit right within our midsts!

© 2013, Terry Murray.

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February 15, 2013 · 12:43 pm

The Dimensions of the Next Productivity Breakthrough

We’re on the threshold of a very exciting time to be in leadership.  Having survived the shocks of the Great Recession, business leaders are recognizing the traditional approaches to increasing productivity, engagement, collaboration and innovation have run their course.  Fresh thinking is needed to spark the next wave of prosperity.  Interestingly, insights from the broad and burgeoning field of neuroscience are validating the approach and philosophy we’ve been pursuing for five years.

Sophisticated neural imaging is providing hard evidence of what’s occurring in our brains under a variety of controlled inputs.  Our brains have plasticity, which is a relatively new understanding of what was once thought to be a staid organ once the developmental process was complete.  Our brains are constantly changing based upon our experiences and the neural input we choose to, or unconsciously, consume.  By developing intentional, neural development strategies, we can change the way we interpret and respond to the world around us.  To quote Dr. Richard Davidson, Affective Neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin, commenting on the brain’s experience-dependent neural plasticity, “Neural plasticity refers to the idea that the brain can change in response to experience and in response to training.  The brain is literally built to change in response to experience.”

Dr. Davidson’s work goes on to identify that the practice of compassion activates the part of the brain that processes our perspective of people, events and the world around us.  Cultivating compassion also activates the part of our brain, the insula, that is in two way communication with our organs and body, and gamma waves expand that are associated with the creation of new neural connections.  New neural connections, initiated by novel experiences, are the foundational spark of creative thinking and innovative problem solving.

How does this relate to productivity in the workplace?  Let’s look at what CEOs and senior HR executives have recently acknowledged and are currently seeking to cultivate in their organizations:

1.) CEOs have identified inspirational leadership, customer obsession, and leadership teaming as the most important traits they are seeking in their leaders.

2.) CEOs surveyed in 2012 see human capital (71%), customer relationships (66%), and innovation (52%) as key sources of sustained, economic value creation.  They are also recognizing the need for more openness, transparency and collaboration.

3.) According to IBM’s 2012 research, CEOs are most focused on three organizational attributes; ethics & values (65%), collaborative environments (63%), and purpose & mission (58%).  CEOs in growth-market industries are 79% more likely than their mature market peers to make significant changes to their organizational values over the next three to five years.

4.) According to a SHRM 2012 survey, the three biggest challenges HR executives anticipate over the next ten years are:  Retaining and rewarding the best employees (59%), developing the next generation of corporate leaders (52%), and creating a corporate culture that attracts the best employees to their organization (36%).

5.) CEOs have acknowledged they will require an improvement in productivity of 20% from their current human assets in order to maintain competitive advantage moving forward.

If we reference the recent research from the Corporate Executive Board’s Executive Guidance – 2013, we can see today’s high performers and high potentials are already demonstrating many of the so-called, soft skills necessary to succeed in highly volatile, ambiguous times.  Skills that are grounded in Emotional Intelligence competencies (in particular and from the report, self and social awareness) and a passion for the customer and business that are a result of full engagement (both cognitive and emotional).  Skills that demonstrate nimble, neural plasticity.  Skills that can be taught to others.

Since 2008, we’ve intentionally chosen to work extensively with at-risk populations in our society and have come away with some powerful experiential lessons.  Segments of our society that present significant challenges in their engagement levels, awareness, sense of purpose, and ability to function as productive members of society.  Veterans and their families struggling with PTSD.  Teens incarcerated in juvenile detention.  Women coming out of county jail.  At-risk girls living in poverty and surrounded by crime.  Diverse populations that cling to the fringes, almost entirely excluded from participating in, and contributing to, our collective prosperity.  Populations that are dealing with challenges that are significantly greater and more deeply engrained than what we typically see with our business clients.   We’re happy to report we’ve witnessed remarkable results!

Here’s an example of a recent program for young, at-risk girls in our community:

So, as a business leader, where do you begin?  We suggest looking to the types of values your organization is leveraging for engagement.  Are they purely extrinsic (compensation, power, prestige) or a balance including intrinsic values (authentic relationships, personal development, purposefulness…feeling a part of something important and larger than one’s self interests)?

Extrinsic values, while highly effective during the Industrial Age, when the workplace was culturally homogenous, no longer resonate in today’s multi-cultural, multi-generational workforce.  Intrinsic values transcend the differences stemming from generational perspectives and cultural orientations.

These values resonate through the emotions of compassion, empathy and caring for one another.  These were, and still are, the survival skills that enabled human beings to survive, evolve and flourish.  Research from the neurosciences supports this insight.  It is only through the intentional creation of a culture that propagates these emotions and strikes a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic goals and values, that the targeted 20% improvement in productivity can emerge.

© 2013, Terry Murray.


1.) “Leading Through Connections – Insights From the Global Chief Executive Officer Study.” IBM® Institute For Business Value,  May, 2012.

2.) ibid.

3.) ibid.

4.) “Challenges Facing HR Over The Next 10 Years”, Society for HR Management, November, 2012.

5.) “Breakthrough Performance in the New Work Environment – Identifying and Enabling the New High Performer”, Executive Guidance for 2013, CEB, December, 2012.

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Filed under Diversity & Inclusion, Experiential Learning, Leadership Development, Organizational Culture, Team Building