Recalibrate! The definition is “to reexamine (one’s thinking, a plan, a system of values, etc.) and correct it in accord with a new understanding or purpose.”
Recalibrate also was the theme for this year’s NeuroLeadership Institute’s summit, which was its first hybrid summit. (More than 1,000 of us attended the 2-day summit in early October via the online option. Compared to all the past summits I’ve attended in-person, participating online wasn’t as rewarding, but the convenience and much lower price made the experience worthwhile.)
As NLI’s Director of Leadership John Edwards noted in his introductory remarks to everyone, “With all the changes happening right now, if you don’t recalibrate, you’ll feel like a flip phone in a 5G world.”
Based on the answers to these two questions, recalibration will look very different for each individual, team and organization:
- Where do I/my team/our organization need to go?
- What do I/we need to do to get us there?
Nonetheless, all the different answers formed will sound a similar refrain. That’s “What got you here likely won’t get you there,” the title of Marshall Goldsmith classic 2007 book, John Edwards also observed.
Listening to the wide-ranging presentations, I was particularly struck by these three topics, which deserve both a rewired mindset and intentional actions:
- Increased needs for ability, agility, and mobility at work
- Artificial intelligence as a way to augment human intelligence, not replace humans
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as both a moral and business case
“Ability, agility, and mobility” at work
All of us – whether we’re leading, following, or doing both – are encountering headwinds with the extensive complexities, polarization, resource constraints, and other challenges we’re facing.
Dean Carter, the influential HR executive, explained that everyone in the workforce, especially knowledge workers, need to respond by thinking and doing differently. In particular, we’ve got to focus on “ability, agility and mobility.” This includes understanding the ability we need for our role, the level and degree of agility required, and the type of mobility that will work best for us in our role and for our organization.
This desire for mobility has become more apparent post-pandemic. It includes more flexible work that’s location independent. It also means more autonomy about how we design our work as well as our tasks.
As a result, employees and leaders are feeling more tension and disconnect with each other. That’s why one of the initial questions at the summit was “How can leaders and employees find common ground and reconcile their differences?”
Dr. Amy Edmondson, Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, who’s known for her groundbreaking work in psychological safety, suggested that we need to shift our mindset. Instead of being intent on needing to know, being right, being in control, and saving face, we need to embrace curiosity and mutual learning (and unlearning too), a la the ability and agility.
Besides providing each other with psychological safety and empathy, Dr. Edmondson and the other panelists recommended becoming more openminded and considering work more as a laboratory in which we experiment. It’s not possible to let people use their ability and agility to choose their own adventure, especially if it conflicts with the direction of the team and organization. However, we can be more like scientists, knowing our purpose and goals, defining a hypothesis, experimenting, and adjusting, which is more suited for our volatile world.
“How as an individual do you want to be augmented, especially if you’re a leader?” That’s the question to be asking about artificial intelligence, according to Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow at the Institute for the Future. As someone who’s been tracking the development of artificial intelligence since the 1960s (and still maintains that the name “artificial intelligence” was a bone-headed choice of words), Dr. Johansen said he believes the question isn’t whether AI will augment how humans think and work, but how.
Dr. Johansen himself uses the prompt “I want help….” to guide how he wants to be augmented. His answers include help for writing first drafts so he doesn’t have to stare at a blank screen; reaching new audiences for his many books; finding signals of the future and evaluating them and challenging his assumptions.
He and his fellow panelists agreed that AI is a helpful tool for reflection, which also contributes to work ability and agility. For example, generative AI can help you expand your thinking as well as provide new topics to explore. However, to avoid getting into trouble you need to view AI as a way to achieve greater clarity, not certainty. In other words, you can’t automatically trust the accuracy of AI answers unless you’re clear on the assumptions used in the large language models.
The recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action is contributing to confusion and complexity about how to handle DEI. Kenji Yoshino, professor at NYU School of Law, explained that you can’t conflate affirmative action and DEI because DEI, especially in organizations, is a much broader topic that’s captured the hearts and minds of many people.
Consider the programmatic aspects of unconscious bias training, sponsorships and mentorships, heritage months, and affinity groups. Also, a high percentage of DEI work in organization involves communicating the purpose of DEI, concepts, and actions around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
To avoid problems, Dr. Yoshino advised continuing to consider DEI as both a moral and business imperative. And practically, he also suggested conducting an internal audit and being aware of the legal issues. He also urged emphasizing storytelling, even more than data reporting, when explaining the impact of your DEI work. That supports the Supreme Court’s direction in preferring individual storytelling over numbers.
And if you host events, open them up for everyone. For the latter, you could still have a theme, such as “for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf” (Ntozake Shange’s iconic work that celebrates the power of Black womanhood) that everyone who’s interested could attend.
If you have any questions about my summary, ask me.
Connect the dots plus dot the “i”s to be more intentional, inquisitive and inclusive
How well are you tapping into the skills and wisdom you need to lead in a BANI world?
All the old playbooks are out-of-date. Instead, you need to reach inside yourself, tap into your wisdom, and connect the dots for yourself and others.
To start, you can use these 5 tips to embrace your humanity and become a better leader.