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How Culture and Creativity Inspire Better Performance How Culture and Creativity Inspire Better Performance
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July 01, 2021

How Culture and Creativity Inspire Better Performance

Day 4: WOBI Management Week Recap

Jacqueline DiChiara, Director of Content, Acertitude

Over four days this week, a diverse range of business leaders and transformational thinkers are convening online for WOBI Management Week 2021. Acertitude is excited to be in attendance to summarize for our readers what trends, topics, and predictions are top of mind for global business leaders right now. On that note, here are three key takeaways from the final Day 4 of the event where conversations on emotional intelligence, brand transformation, and leading with creativity were top of mind. (Missed our other recaps? Check out Day 1 (3 Trends Global Business Leaders are Talking About), Day 2 (Reframing the Purpose of Work), and Day 3 (Redefining Leadership).

1. Make emotional intelligence part of organizational culture.

First to take the main stage was emotional intelligence pioneer and renowned psychologist, Daniel Goleman, whose contributions to the field of psychology have had a transformational impact on the world of business and beyond. He talked about how to design and build an emotionally intelligent workplace. 

Emotional intelligence is vital to building a high-performance culture. As Daniel told Acertitude’s co-founder and managing partner, Kevin O’Neill, at the 2018 World Business Forum, “The ability to manage yourself and to handle relationships effectively is the definition of emotional intelligence. That's what really matters.”

Higher emotional intelligence in employees and their leaders predicts things like better job satisfaction, lower turnover, more engagement, and more positive on-the-job feelings, Daniel explained to WOBI attendees. A leader is the driver of emotional intelligence across their company. “Positivity radiates out from a leader and connects with clients and customers,” he said. In turn, better business performance predicts improved customer satisfaction, he said. It also increases productivity and profit.

A leader is the driver of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a critical component of top performance. The top 10 percent of teams have high emotional intelligence at the team level, he said. This means these members also have empathy for each other, candor, self-awareness, accountability, and the like.

It is essential to instill a sense of belonging across teams to drive higher levels of emotional intelligence. People on the best teams feel like, ‘I belong here,’” he said. When someone presents, are people on their phones or starting side conversations, for instance? Actions like these tell everyone else in the room that a person doesn’t belong or a person is not valued, he said. “How you behave in that meeting, in that group chat, and in that Zoom call matters enormously in terms of if people feel like they belong,” he added.

Top leaders – people who expertly guide teams to success – tend to be exceptional at self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. On that note, Daniel specified three kinds of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and empathic concern. 

Leaders must possess organizational awareness, he said. This means understanding, for example, what kinds of technologies are emerging, what’s happening in a given culture, and what’s happening in a greater environment.

“How important you are as a leader is how influential you are,” he said. Emerging leaders are the ones people respect and listen to. “Articulate a sense of purpose and meaning that resonates with you and other people – that inspires people and promotes positive feelings,” he added. 

“Every leader needs a growth mindset – not only about how they can get better but about how other people can get better,” he said. “Every leader is a member of a team.”

Every leader is a member of a team.

To build an emotionally intelligent organization, Daniel recommended companies hire and coach for emotional intelligence, review performance for emotional intelligence, and emphasize emotional intelligence in training and development. Most importantly, he emphasized, build emotional intelligence into your organization’s culture. “If your top leadership team is talking about emotional intelligence, it ripples outward,” he said.

Four abilities essential for future high performance: tech skills/cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, innovation, and purpose. “How a company behaves will drive clients and companies in the future,” he concluded. 

2. Being future-proof means owning your culture.

Next to take the main stage was Martin Lindstrom, an internationally acclaimed expert in brand transformation who advises Fortune 100 companies on how to create future-proof brands. He discussed why organizations should increasingly focus on marketing in a post-pandemic world.

Martin started by describing when Steve Jobs famously wore a plain tee-shirt to work, this symbolized a much greater movement – the blend between people’s private lives and their work was showing up in different ways, including in how people dress. For example, when people wear athletic wear to work, it changes the culture and how people perceive themselves.

Consumer behaviors shift dramatically over time. Younger generations, said Martin, are generally mindful and socially conscious. For comparison, they tend to be more aware than past generations of not wanting to hoard products. Consider, for example, how Airbnb, doesn’t sell real estate but sells easy access to real estate.

“Don’t sell products. Sell experiences,” he said, touching on what consumers now want more of.

Going “back to work should be redefined as going “forward to work.”

The pandemic will leave a lasting mark on customer behavior, he said. But many companies, he emphasized, are losing touch with their customers. 

“Staying the same means going backward,” he said. Going “back to work,” for example, should be redefined as going “forward to work,” he added. “We need to change the way we look at things. We now have a completely new market and completely new needs, leading to a new playbook,” he said.

It’s the end of business-to-business and business-to-consumer as we know it, Martin declared. The future? It’s H2H (human-to-human), he added. “Amazon is a bigger B2B company than B2C,” he said. “The lines are blurred.”

The price of dogs right now is double because of the pandemic, he said. People crave connection, not screens. This need for touch is spilling into product trends too, he said. Textured products – like shoes with raised fabric on them – and the use of fragrance, for example, are becoming key marketing elements because they offer people sensory experiences and, hence, warmth during times of isolation. 

A company’s purpose and whether they walk the walk is of high value to more consumers. “The concept of global brands is dying,” Martin said. “The idea of a one-size-fits-all message doesn’t make sense.”

“Agility is going to be a huge part of everything as a consequence of COVID-19,” he stated. “The idea of everyone having the same shirt or behaving the same way is gone.”

Marketing must be at the heart of an organization. “People want a purpose,” he stressed. “Purpose equals a movement, and that movement can make change happen. But this movement isn’t happening often today.”

Martin urges leaders to ask, “Who owns the culture in your company?” 

The CMO should be a purpose conductor.

Some people may say human resources owns company culture. But human resources, he said, is perhaps often more of an extension of a legal department, and likely isn’t primed for this role. Others may point to marketing, but marketing has widely become an extension of driving sales and perhaps isn’t best suited for this task either, he explained. 

Martin pointed to how executive roles must be transformed to better take charge of their company’s culture – specifically CMOs. “The CMO role of the future has to change. The CMO should be a purpose conductor,” he said. This person should support the greater purpose of the people they serve. They should strive to ensure a company truly acts on the purpose it claims to represent. And to make sure every employee lives and breathes the company’s purpose. 

Trying to just bump up a company’s online traffic or update a logo, for instance, is all well and good, but it usually does very little to drive true value, said Martin. The silo effect companies are based on now must be narrowed down. CMOs must start to serve as the link between culture and brand. Also, a board must ask the CEO and CMO what the company is doing to retain people and drive culture, Martin urged. 

Have you ever been to a store where you like the brand but the people in that store are grumpy? “Suddenly, one person is impacting that entire brand,” emphasized Martin. “A lot of people believe you can separate those two things.” 

But, the pandemic is shifting how people think about the brands they interact with – especially those immediate consumer touchpoints. “We have a whole new generation who realizes they are not invincible,” he said. They are motivated by things they want to do, not by things they want to buy.

For example, a car to younger generations is more likely to be considered a tool of access now, not a status symbol.

“People are now saying, ‘I want to live my life,’” he said. Martin concluded by explaining that the business class seats on some airlines now tend to be more full than the economy class seats. “This is a wake-up call to transform fundamental business models and change the purpose of brands,” he stated.

3. To innovate, tap into your creativity.

Last to take the main stage was academy award-winning filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola, whose films include The Godfather and The Apocalypse Now. Francis, who also created a lifestyle brand called Francis Ford Coppola Presents, discussed how to lead with creativity.

Francis said his approach to life is to try things he is unfamiliar with. “My desire in doing anything is to do things I don’t know how to do. When I do this, I learn,” he said. For example, while he shot his film, The Godfather, in a classical cinematic style, his next film, The Apocalypse Now, had a contrasting visual style. And so on he went, making each new film different from those that came before. 

“My career was always leaping from something I knew how to do to something I didn’t know how to do,” he said. “I’m now in my early 80s and I have behind me maybe a dozen projects that are maybe as different as they could be from each other as is possible.” 

When you keep trying, something will eventually be blessed with success.

To push creative boundaries consistently and effectively Francis said not to fear failure.

“When good things or bad things happen, how you react is up to you,” he said. Consider poker players, for example, who always win – even when they get bad cards.

Staying creative under moments of stress and uncertainty means never giving up, he explained. “When you keep trying, something will eventually be blessed with success,” he said. Failure itself is a blessing, he emphasized. Because failure spurs you to keep going. 

Failure also pushes leaders to solve problems creatively and find new solutions. “If you’re out of your comfort zone, you’re looking for solutions,” he said. “Creativity is seeing connections between things that appear disconnected.”

“I have a good imagination and I’m enthusiastic,” he said. Joy is seeing something hatched in your mind that becomes something that influences people, he shared.

For those looking to expand their creativity in the workplace and beyond, Francis recommended people write down ideas as notes and then put the notes aside for a later time. “Then, when you take the note out again, you see it in a different perspective,” he said. And then, build on that a bit and put it away again for later. “Let your subconscious work for you,” he added.

“Keep the child in you alive,” he said. “This is the best part of you – it has all the instincts and all the magic.”

To identify and get the very best out of your talent, make people feel at ease, he told attendees. A good leader, just like a good director, he said, works to make talented individuals feel safe and comfortable while they’re on the job.

But also, off the job, as well. Francis emphasized the importance of working to satisfy people’s non-money-related needs and wants, versus just focusing on their financial compensation as a means of someone’s happiness. “Don’t look at your colleagues – those both under and over you – in terms of compensation,” said Francis. “Look at all the people around you in terms of their needs and hopes.”

To get the best out of your talent, make people feel at ease.

Francis noted his support for creativity on his team, not only for those he works with but for their loved ones, as well. “Anyone in my company or their children who want to try a creative activity like learning how to sing or dance or play the flute is something we will pay for,” he said. Turning an idea into actuality is a great source of personal joy he wants others to have access to, he said.

Final Thoughts

Today’s conversations were stirring and blunt regarding the rather stark simplicity of the messaging brought forth about the importance of kindness, listening, and compassion in leadership. The key reoccurring theme was that brilliant leaders create work environments in which people can thrive and bring out the best in those they work with. When teams feel trusted, safe, and inspired by a greater mission – one they are personally aligned with and feel is authentic – they unleash their highest performance. Inventiveness, sympathy, and purpose-driven mission must become the strategic lenses through which leaders lead in these ever-evolving times.

Inventiveness, sympathy, and purpose-driven mission must become strategic lenses.

Leaders, make decisions that stem from a place of brazen curiosity and unapologetic rebellion. Let reflection and silence be as important as actions and agendas. The workplace demands leaders of good character. Let’s ensure we all take time to reflect on our moral compasses, how our decisions shape the future, and how we can bring our best selves to work and beyond, every day.

For more information on the latest global leadership perspectives, read our Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4 WOBI recaps.