Earlier this month, we held our annual executive client conference in New York. Trying something new, we focused the event entirely on thought-leadership content, with a central theme, “Disruption is Happening Now.” We didn’t present any SEI-specific content, and we were just another attendee.

If you read me frequently, you’re familiar with the term “responsive connectivity.” It’s the concept around which I’ve built our business strategy. The heart of this strategy is the connection of communities: customers, employees, partners and society.

It’s not about the product or services we sell; it’s about the purpose of your business, the connection to the various parties and the communities of practitioners we build.

disruptive happeningsOur conference was a chance for all of us to face disruption head on, and together, to learn to see opportunity over challenge. It was also a unique opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversation side by side, to talk about the idea of disruption and its impact to our industry, businesses and people.

The event included three incredible keynote speakers. Here are my key takeaways.

The future of work is valuing the worker

Marcus Buckingham is a global researcher and thought leader focused on unlocking strengths, increasing performance and pioneering the future of how people work. He was a senior researcher with the Gallup Organization for close to two decades and he had some really interesting thoughts about workers and how they learn:

  • “Excellence follows its own path.”You don’t learn by studying failure, yet human beings have a natural instinct to do just that. Study success because it can teach you so much more. A refreshing and very interesting change of perspective.
  • “It is not about feedback; it is about attention.”Help your employees feel appreciated and respected because that’s what they really want. They want your time and they want you to help them prioritize. He suggested conducting a 15-minute meeting each week where the employer asks the employee, “What are you working on this week and how can I help you?” He further advised that this approach would have a far greater impact on employee growth than a once a year, usually defensive, performance review. It really made you question performance reviews and their relevance.

People don't stay with a company.

People join a company; they stay with a team.

  • “Teams matter.”People do not stay with a “company.” They join a company but they stay with a team. It was a little like lifting the hood up and getting under what drives true performance. It made me think of the difference between what I call the big “C” (corporate culture) and the little “c” (team culture). As leaders, unless you run the company, you can only really control one of those. And how you choose to do so can make or break team morale and retention.

How do you value the humans in your business?

Geoff Colvin is FORTUNE magazine’s senior editor at large, a CBS radio daily commentator and best-selling author. He delivered a very insightful presentation about creating value and the impact it has on people:

  • “Get friction out of the system.” Focus on eliminating those things that do not add value. This requires taking an honest look at processes we all follow day to day. It makes you question all the policy and procedures we build and adhere to “because we always have.” Are they really still relevant? Are they really still necessary? Or do they hold us back from revealing our team’s true potential?
  • The high value skills of tomorrow are empathy, creative problem solving and storytelling.” Do we recruit for this, do we develop this and do we promote based on this?

The high value skills of tomorrow are empathy, creative problem solving and storytelling.

  • “Most problems in a company are human problems—talk candidly.” Do we talk candidly at work? As a leader, have you created the safe space for your team to talk honestly? We must build trust and empower our teams to be an equal part of the conversation.

Turn customers into raving fans

Jon Picoult is the founder of Watermark Consulting, a leading customer experience advisory firm. He has advised executives at many of the foremost brands on how to turn customers into raving fans. He has a natural ability to make you think from the perspective of the customer:

  • “Provide a wide spectrum of touch points for your customer.” Define the journey from marketing through use of the product or solution your customers bought. Where are the opportunities across this spectrum to reduce friction and drive an overall superior experience?
  • “Trust.” This is the backbone, the heart and the soul in any relationship. As businesses, how do we build it deliberately and maintain it authentically?
  • “Point vs. escort.” When your client has a question or a need, do you point them in a direction or do you escort them and stay with them until it is resolved? One immediately tells them they’re on their own; the other gives them a partner and peace of mind that no matter what, they aren’t alone. (Here’s a hint: We should be escorting them every time.)

Ignite ideas and put them into action

Provide a spectrum of touch points for your customer.

In addition to these amazing speakers, we visited several companies on the leading edge of technology innovation and saw some truly groundbreaking and emergent solutions on the horizon. We wrapped the day-and-a-half event with a facilitated session that allowed us to generate ideas for actions each of us could take to put these concepts to work when we got back to the office. The energy in the room during this closing activity was nothing short of inspiring and contagious. There were so many ideas being generated and most of them were easily actionable.

For my own action item, I’m actively working on deploying a process to drive “attention not feedback” and removing performance reviews entirely from my team’s processes.

What are you doing to turn disruption into opportunity?


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Al Chiaradonna