It’s unfortunate that Black Executives need to go abroad to feel valued.

America’s Black brain drain: Why African-American professionals are moving abroad—and staying there

Article from Fortune by Beth Kowitt

It was 2013, and Najoh Tita-Reid, then an executive at pharmaceutical giant Merck, was in the midst of the interview process for a job that would send her on her first international assignment. During a break in the conversation, “a white gentleman pulled me aside,” she says, and told her that all of the white men up for the role were “selling that they’d conquered the moon”—while she was focused on explaining what she saw as the weak spots in her résumé. If Tita-Reid wanted the position, he said, she would need to turn everything she had into an asset.

So she went back into the interview and laid out her biggest selling point: She was the best person for the job because she was a Black woman in the United States. She was used to being the only person in the room who looked like her. The “cultural competency” the hiring managers were looking for was not a skill she’d had to learn for work; it was something she’d had to master to just get by in her everyday life. “I can get the nuances of every culture because this is what you have to do as an African-American,” she told them. “You have to shape-shift to survive.” She sold it, she says, “and it was all true.” 

Tita-Reid got the promotion, running Western Europe for the company out of London. Seven years later, she’s still living and working abroad—now in Switzerland, where she holds a global marketing job for Logitech. And, at least for now, she has no plans to return to the U.S. 

Like many of corporate America’s ladder climbers, Tita-Reid first went after an international role with the goal of enhancing her career. But in the years since she made that first move to London, she’s become part of a cohort of Black American expats who have chosen to stay abroad because they’ve found that the professional benefits of working overseas are far more profound than the usual résumé-building check mark. Working in Europe, Tita-Reid says, has been like wearing an oxygen mask. It’s allowed her to breathe—to lead and perform without feeling the crushing weight of America’s dysfunctional racial dynamics at every moment. 

I’d never been an American first and then Black. It’s a refreshing change.

NANCY ARMAND, AN EXECUTIVE AT HSBC BANK USA

With her friends, Tita-Reid calls it the “James and Josephine effect”—a hat tip to James Baldwin and Josephine Baker, Black Americans who fled the racial persecution of the U.S. during the first half of the 20th century and ended up with thriving careers in Europe. “It’s not a new phenomenon at all,” she says. “I feel like part of that legacy.” 

The decision to work and live abroad has been brought into sharp relief for many Black American expats this spring and summer as they watch a national movement take hold back home in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. There’s a sense of guilt at not being on the front lines, mixed with affirmation of why they did not want to return. 

Working abroad, these executives say they left behind the fatigue that many described as routine for Black people in corporate America: the exhaustion brought about by being asked to solve your company’s diversity issues; living by the unwritten rules that dictate how you present yourself at work; having to prove every day that you deserve to be in your role. Once abroad, with the weight of their companies behind them, many Black expatriates said they felt instantly valued and treated with a level of respect and deference from their colleagues they had not known in the U.S. 

The benefits extend far beyond the office. The prevailing message in more than a dozen interviews with Black Americans who are working or have worked overseas: Their international experience was the first time race was not the primary frame of reference through which they were viewed. “You’re an American, you’re not African-American,” says Shaundra Clay, who lived in Europe for eight years as a health care executive. “You are not made to feel like you are carrying the burden of anything. You are carrying the power of something.” She said it was a level of privilege she had never experienced before in her life. In the U.S., Nancy Armand, an executive at HSBC Bank USA, was always conscious of her gender and race, she says. In the U.K., she was always conscious of her nationality first. “I’d never been an American first and then Black,” Armand says. “It’s a refreshing change.”

And yet these jobs can be isolating. Rarely does Tita-Reid see another Black woman at her level. “On a day-to-day basis,” she says, “I am alone.” That’s in part because the expat universe is running 20 to 30 years behind the larger corporate world in terms of diversity and inclusion, says Adrian Anderson, a partner in KPMG’s global mobility services. He has both personal and professional experience here: For more than 25 years, Anderson has worked in the industry, which helps multinational organizations manage their workforces’ foreign assignments; he has also lived abroad as a Black American executive. Most of these coveted international roles come through word-of-mouth networks, which have historically boxed out Black employees. Or they are reserved for developing those expected to move into the executive suite—a space that has also long passed over Black talent. Anderson says most global organizations prefer that executives have international experience in order to move into top-level roles, making the lack of access to the expat world a systemic barrier that has kept Black employees from reaching the top echelons of corporate America. 

Black executives who pack their bags and leave the U.S. behind are quick to point out that they are by no means moving to any sort of utopia. “I’m very clear that wherever I go, I’m perceived as a Black man,” says Warren Reid, Tita-Reid’s husband and founder and CEO of Nemnet Minority Recruitment, a diversity recruitment and consulting firm that works with educational institutions. “Unfortunately, in the overwhelming majority of the globe, I don’t have a positive brand image. I’m mindful and not naive about that.” Despite such awareness, Reid and others interviewed for this story said they had not realized how heavily the stress of being Black in America weighed on them until they left. Even when they faced bias abroad, they never feared for their lives or their children’s the way they did in the U.S. Says Ini Archibong, a designer and business owner originally from California who now lives in Switzerland: “The brand of racism in America is unique.”

In corporate America, Black executives are used to having to tell people they’re the boss. Otherwise, says Tita-Reid: “When you walk into a room in the U.S. and you are five levels above your sales rep who’s a white man, they look at him and shake his hand and give you the bag.” But soon after transferring to the U.K., she had a meeting with a client who immediately identified her as the person in charge. “You’re a Black American female, and you’re here, so you have to be the best,” she recalls him saying. It was the first time anyone had labeled her the “best” at anything, she says. “I almost cried.” Reid distills the dynamic this way: In the U.S., he says, the question is always, How did you get in the room, and who let you in? In the U.K., the assumption is that if you’ve made it into the room you deserve to be there.

But working in Europe means adjusting to more subtle forms of racial prejudice—which often intersect with a strong vein of classism, say many Black execs who have done tours abroad. Arlene Isaacs-Lowe, a 22-year vet of Moody’s, transferred to the U.K. in 2015 to run relationship management for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for the ratings agency. The day she met her new U.K. team, she recalls being repeatedly introduced as an alumna of Howard University and a board member of its business school, followed by a recitation of Howard’s famous alumni. It stuck her as odd, she says, until she realized it was a way of establishing the bona fides of the historically Black university—and by extension, proving her “pedigree” as fellow member of the upper class.

Once that fear lifted from me, I realized I was never going to move back.

INI ARCHIBONG, A DESIGNER AND BUSINESS OWNER WHO NOW LIVES IN SWITZERLAND

In 2017, Tita-Reid joined a health food company as global CMO, and the family moved to Switzerland. In her new home, nationalism was the dominant force, she says. Swiss people support Swiss people first, she says: “If you don’t happen to be of that culture, it has nothing to do with you.” She recalls a conversation with a German businessman, who felt that there was bias against his nationality throughout the country. To Tita-Reid, it was a relief that everyone was considered an outsider. “We’re all equal-opportunity excluded,” she says. “To me, that’s amazing. It’s the first time I’ve ever been equally excluded.” She explained to the businessman that unlike when he returned to Germany and felt accepted, when she went back to the U.S., she still felt like an outsider. “The negativity of being an American in Europe is not as bad as being a Black American in America,” she says.

Three years ago, Tita-Reid had a chance at a job that would take her back to the U.S., but she turned it down. It wasn’t just a career decision but one for her family. “The stress that I felt in the U.S. and concern for my husband and son was gone,” she says. “It was more of a weight than I had ever realized.” 

I spoke to Reid over Zoom, where he sat outside their Zurich home on a sunny day with birds chirping in the background. He told me about the family’s first night in London when they were living in temporary housing. He was going back and forth between the hotel and the flat late at night when he saw two police officers walking toward him. “I remember in that moment, I went through my mental checklist of no sudden moves, communicate, make sure you’re seen.” The police officers walked past him with nothing more than a good night. “That blew my mind,” he said. 

After we talked, Reid sent me a follow-up email, quoting James Baldwin: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time.” Living abroad, Reid was free of that rage, he said: “It does not consume or preoccupy me in the way that it did and does when I return home.”

Newsletter-Gold-Line

For Dimitry Léger, the narrative of the Black American expat who thrives abroad holds true—until you want to get hired by a European company. If you have the wealth of America behind you, “you are welcomed with open arms,” he says. “When you ask for a job, things change.”

Léger made the move abroad 15 years ago. His then-wife is Swedish and wanted to live closer to her family, and Léger had always been intrigued by the idea of an international career. In 2004, he left journalism behind to get a graduate degree in international relations at Harvard, and the following year ended up in Geneva with the World Economic Forum as a partnership and communications manager. (Léger worked at Fortune from 1999 to 2002, but we never overlapped.) 

Over a decade, Léger says he tried repeatedly to secure a full-time role with the UN, or as a corporate communications executive with a multinational company. Léger, who is Haitian-American and speaks both English and French, says at the UN he was repeatedly passed over; the jobs ended up going to Brits who were not perfectly bilingual—a supposed prerequisite for those roles. In the corporate world, interviews abounded, but he says the leads would turn cold once he showed up in person. One would-be employer went as far as explicitly citing his race as an issue, he says, telling him, “Our investors will have a problem with a Black spokesperson.” Eventually Léger started following the European practice of putting his photo on his résumé to spare himself the grief. Once he did, even the interviews dried up. 

Léger attributes part of his struggle to a lack of formal or informal support structures. The number of top Black executives in the U.S. is woeful, but in Europe Léger found the situation to be far worse. “There are no senior Black executives anywhere,” he says, “so there’s no network of us to look out for each other.” Several Black men, including Léger, told me it was often assumed that they were visitors, because otherwise how could they be eating in this fancy restaurant in this nice part of town? 

Now, with his oldest child thinking about attending college in the U.S., Léger was back in New York, living in Midtown Manhattan. When we spoke in June, he was regularly encountering the Black Lives Matter protests in the city and feeling nervous every time he saw a police car. “I did not miss that,” he says. But he was still glad to be home. “I like my odds of finding a stable full-time job in media,” he says, “of getting the job that eluded me in Europe, even in the middle of a pandemic and the ongoing fight for racial justice here.”

Newsletter-Gold-Line

One of the major downsides of transferring abroad is the struggle that comes with moving back. All of a sudden, executives’ worlds felt much smaller, their jobs narrower. Clay returned to the U.S. in 2016 after eight years in Europe. She described the experience as akin to going back to your hometown after decades away, and having your successes celebrated but no one fully understanding how much you have grown and changed. 

But for Black Americans, repatriation also came with unique baggage. Clay said the racism she had always seen and experienced in the U.S. now emerged with a different sense of clarity. “The longer you’re away, the more stinging and shocking it becomes,” she said. “All the burdens become your burdens again, and they feel heavier because you’ve lost the muscle of carrying them.” She and others I spoke to said they now had less tolerance for the racism they regularly experienced. 

Those who have remained abroad have faced their own new personal struggles this spring and summer, describing feelings of deep conflict in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and protests that have followed. Reid says by being abroad he’s meeting his primary obligation to provide a safe and affirming environment for his family; his children have not had to wrestle with some of the issues he did as a Black kid growing up in the U.S. “That’s been the good side,” he says. “The other side is there is a movement that’s going on, and I’m removed from it. There’s a little guilt that goes along with it: How could I bring to bear my education, resources, and network to move the movement forward?”

Archibong, the American designer based in Switzerland, says it’s difficult not to be in the U.S. right now. But while Switzerland has its own problems, he says, it’s not enough to make him want to go back. The power of escaping that constant existential fear described by so many of the Black American executives I spoke to is too strong. “Once that fear lifted from me, I realized I was never going to move back,” he says. Not being constantly concerned with his physical safety has allowed him to “clear up space” in his head and be more creative in his work. A few years into his move to Europe, Archibong stopped wearing the collared shirts he’d long worn every day—even if it meant being overdressed for the occasion. The formal look had started as an aesthetic choice, he says, but at some point he realized it had become a kind of armor. In the U.S., he’d felt safer when he was dressed up, he says, and the dressier clothes had helped him command the same professional respect that other, non-Black designers got even when casually attired. In Switzerland, he no longer feels the need; now he pulls out the suit and tie only when he’s in the mood.

Tita-Reid struggled to articulate what it’s been like watching the current movement in the U.S. from afar. She, like her husband, says she feels somewhat guilty that she’s an ocean away. It has been both sad and validating to see all of the concerns that had kept her from wanting to return bubble up to the surface. It’s also made her acutely aware of all the good things she had left behind. “You do give up something, which is having your culture, your people, your friends and family,” Tita-Reid says. “It’s at a cost.” 

Newsletter-Gold-Line

77%

Share of companies that say international experience is a critical skill for moving into leadership
Experts say Black executives have less access to global assignments, contributing to the systemic bias that Black professionals face in corporate America.

41%

Share of employers that said they have specific diversity and inclusion objectives as part of their global mobility strategy
Some employers are now focusing on ensuring that international assignments don’t exclude women and people of color, but it’s still a long way from being a top priority for most.

20%

Share of companies that said they were likely to see a decrease in international moves as a result of COVID-19
This shift could have an outsize impact on Black executives, who are already less likely to land foreign assignments because of the informal way they are doled out.

Sources: PWC, KPMG

A version of this article appears in the August/September 2020 issue of Fortune with the headline “America’s Black brain drain.”

A great post from HBR for people with kids that are remote learning….

Article by Avni Patel Thompson

How to Plan Child Care in Uncertain Times

Lisa and Geoff are a dual career couple, living in Chicago, IL with their six- and eight-year-old sons. Until last March, managing two careers and two kids was challenging — especially without family in town — but they had figured out a routine that worked for them. The boys were in kindergarten and second grade at a neighborhood school they loved that also had a great after-school program. Work was demanding and engaging but manageable. Like most families today, it wasn’t easy, but it worked.

Then Covid hit and the foundation of every working family’s careful balance was pulled out from under them — namely, school and child care. While Lisa and Geoff managed to cobble things together for the rest of the school year and through the summer, they held out hope that the fall would bring a return to some semblance of structure and certainty. That hope was shattered when, like many school districts across the country, their school announced options for 100% remote learning or a limited hybrid model of two days in school and three days remote.

Now Lisa and Geoff, like millions of other working parents, are left wondering how they’re going to manage. Some are navigating suboptimal options for schooling — trying to decide whether structure, socialization, and support of an in-person classroom outweighs the health risks and extra complexity of managing remote learning at home (if given the option at all). Others are weighing different questions: understanding the risks of sending a child back to day care; whether they can afford the cost of a tutor, nanny, or part-time sitter; whether this is the opportunity to move closer to family for help; or whether one partner needs to cut back at work to help weather the uncertainty for the family.

As the founder and CEO of a company that builds software to help working parents manage the weekly complexities of running a family, I’ve seen variations of these dilemmas play out in thousands of households. There are different priorities and situations for each, but the worry, anxiety, and exhaustion are all the same. What we’ve found is that there are two things at play:

  1. Dealing with constant uncertainty: On top of existing work and home challenges, parents are managing the cognitive load and exhaustion of making — and adjusting — plans that can be quickly rendered obsolete.
  2. Lack of child care makes everything shaky: For most families, schools form a critical part of daily child care. Without in-person school, parents are feeling uncertainty in all of the other parts of their lives — from their ability to work to their mental health. And with day cares limiting class size and others not reopening, this stress extends to most parents with kids under 12.

Given this, we’ve found it’s important to help parents build plans that work for their specific needs but that can also be adapted for a range of situations. Here are three steps for how you can do the same.

Start with your priorities.

Parents are already master prioritizers, but in times of greater uncertainty, we need to protect the most important things — no matter what. Make a list of all possible priorities in your family’s life. (To make it feel less daunting, focus on just the next quarter.) Then, pick the three that you want and need to protect most. This doesn’t mean that the others aren’t important, but just that anytime the top three are in jeopardy, the rest will have to take a backseat.

For instance, a single parent living close to high-risk grandparents may prioritize their extended family’s health, their job, and their family’s social and emotional health. A dual-working couple with elementary-aged kids may prioritize their relationship, consistent logistics, and both jobs. And a single-income family with a high-risk child may put education, physical health, the parent’s job first. Even though each of these families have core child care needs, what their priorities are will guide the options they’ll explore. A starter list of priorities for your consideration include:

  • Extended family
  • Relationships with partner + kids
  • Education and extra learning
  • Physical health
  • Social/emotional + mental health
  • Socializing with friends
  • Careers
  • Financial health

Identify options for each priority. 

Now that you have your top family priorities, consider how you’ll best be able to maximize each as using three sets of options: Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Plan A can be what is ideal, assuming all is going as planned. Plan B is your classic backup for when A falls through for the most obvious reasons, like a sick caregiver, an unexpected injury, a scheduling conflict, and so on. Finally, Plan C is your safety net, a potentially more drastic option if the first two stop being effective.

To create these plans, consider how options on the table might vary depending on your priorities. For instance, if extended family is a priority, like it was in the single parent example above, your options may range from including grandparents within your bubble, choosing remote learning, or taking the opportunity to move to be closer to family. Protecting your career may mean reducing your child care uncertainty; options can range from hiring a nanny to teaming up with two to three other families in a similar position and taking turns handling last-minute hiccups. For education, you might decide to dedicate part of your budget for a private tutor that can supplement school curriculum, or you might keep learning opportunities at the forefront all week through real-world adventures and explorations. Consider your priorities and outline plans that work within them — what you want to do, a backup, and a third-tier option.

Put plans in action, with ample buffer.

With the plans and options identified, it’s time to enlist the help of others and create actionable weekly plans. Communicate the high-level points of your plan with people in your life — from your nanny or sitter to helpful neighbors and fellow parents in the community that you might be collaborating with during Covid.

With high-level plans in place, it’s time to execute efficiently. We’ve found that the greater the uncertainty, the greater the gains in proactive planning vs. last-minute reacting. Families we work with find that dedicating just 10 minutes on Sunday evening to plan the week ahead results in fewer missed things, an ability to anticipate tricky spots, and a general feeling of family cohesion and collaboration. We also found that this approach saves roughly 20 minutes each day that is otherwise spent in researching, debating, and deciding — a number that easily adds up to a critical 10 hours a month.

To get started, schedule a standing weekly meeting with your partner (Sunday evening after the kids are in bed is a popular time). Then, use this guide to walk through the six main areas:

  1. Schedule review: Identify your meetings and high-priority items that you need dedicated time for and must work around.
  2. Child care shifts: Decide who handles pickup and drop-offs for school and day care, or covers remote learning and child care shifts throughout the week.
  3. Meal plan: Jot down a quick list of what lunches and dinners — nothing fancy — to save valuable time and energy during the week.
  4. Key reminders: Talk through anything remaining that you need to remember.
  5. Priority household to-dos: Pick no more than five chores to divvy up and add them to the schedule.
  6. Backup planning: Talk about the trickiest parts of the week and how Plan B and Plan C will kick in if Plan A fails.

Despite the best-laid plans, we know each day can and will bring unexpected challenges. The goal, then, is not planned perfection, but something solid that you and your partner feel good about.

Families have never been under greater pressure to manage a tremendous amount of uncertainty, while needing to make critical decisions that involve our health, learning and relationships. In this marathon, we need all the help we can get in lessening the uncertainty and creating plans that work for our specific needs, whether that’s in the time of a worldwide pandemic or simply another week as working parents.

Becoming the CEO Your Business Needs

Bringing an organization to the next stage of the business life cycle frequently requires a transformation. Often hard. Usually messy. But oh-so rewarding.

Meet three Vistage members navigating those changes. Despite being at different stages of their companies and leadership journeys, each one had to develop new skills, move out of their comfort zone and broaden their vision to drive the business forward.

As you’ll read, their road to success was never only about meeting the numbers — but becoming the leaders that their businesses needed.

Sharpening Strategy and Leadership

Vector Marketing CEO Albert DiLeonardo embraces new generations of sellers and buyers

Rebuilt to Scale

Nonprofit CEO Deborah Winn-Horowitz scales level of care at her elderly-care facility for a booming population

Navigating the Growth Stage

GLDN CEO Christine Lavdovsky grows custom jewelry business for the masses

Forbes Shares Four Concepts To Drive Innovation In A Time Of Crisis

Article by George Baker Sr.

What we are experiencing throughout the current pandemic as family members, friends, colleagues, professionals, citizens and human beings, is conflict. Conflict is frightening and unnatural for us. But also, because of these exact qualities, it is a catalyst for innovation.

My team members are well aware that I often repeat quotes from great thinkers to put the finishing stamp on a thought. I do this with complete faith that the successes and challenges we encounter have been experienced, in some capacity, by others.

The quotes I will share undoubtedly originated from a place of conflict, and they can help structure our way forward during these trying times.

‘Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity — not a threat.’

Let’s forget that this Steve Jobs quote might be considered a cliched reference from a technology entrepreneur and think about its essence. We are preconditioned to view change as a threat. It is an inherently negative feeling. However, if we were not experiencing any modicum of threat in our daily lives, it would be hard to imagine what would drive us.

In more than 20 years serving the parking industry — from striping and sweeping the lots as a teenager to managing parking operations on a national level — I became driven to change it. I understood the issues and inconveniences around parking because I experienced them firsthand on both sides of the operation, and I wanted to solve for them.

‘If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.’

Charles Kettering succinctly sums up what we don’t always want to hear. It can feel unsympathetic to say to people you care about, or even yourself, that change is often for the best. But contrary to every natural impulse within us, we know it is.

Years ago, I saw my industry hampered by outdated processes. I saw consumers frustrated with an experience that was often their first point of contact at a destination. I wanted to challenge the friction that had become the norm and offer a solution. The conflict I felt became the vision for the company I founded and lead today.

‘Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure.’

A logical approach to dealing with a tough problem is to think about it. Albert Einstein seemed to say in this quote that it just doesn’t work. Innovation is driven by conflict, and it is also removed from it. If we meet a problem by focusing on the problem itself, it limits our capacity to imagine a situation any differently. We remain in the confines of what we know.

An alternative is to create a solution and then tie it back to reason. I created a minimally viable product and shamelessly put it in front of people who might need it. When it turned out they did, they brought valuable insights into how it could be improved. The products I devised are still being iterated on based on clients’ new operational needs and the ever-growing capabilities of my team.

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’

Fast forward five years, and I am now seeing numerous partners experiencing drastic setbacks due to the pandemic. I am also seeing a burgeoning of innovation across the industries we serve, which brings to mind the words above, which are commonly attributed to Charles Darwin.

As a dedicated partner and professional, I am determined to listen, advise and collaborate to promote our adaptation to change. It’s not a matter of paying it back or paying it forward. It’s just the way I prefer to approach conflict.

Looking to Sell your business? Would it be nice to work less and make more?

We recently sold our house.  Every time we sell a house, I complain that I fixed it up for someone else to live in.  When I complain about fixing up my house to sell, it is about not getting to enjoy it after I have fixed it up.  If you think you can scramble to “fix up” your business for someone to buy it, think again.  It takes years. And if you are not thinking of selling any time soon, wouldn’t it be nice to have processes and systems in place that:

1.       Make it more valuable when you do decide to sell

2.       Make it more fun and easy to run for while you still own it.

Join us next TUESDAY, AUGUST 25 at Noon MDT to hear how you can make your life easier while you own your company, and help you get highest value when you do decide to sell.  Carlos Duno with NAVIX will help you see how you can navigate through the selling process or just make your business worth more because of the fixes you make today.    Register by Friday, August 21 to get the pre-webinar  assessment and link to the meeting. 

Vistage CEO, Sam Reese shares 4 Priorities to manage in the pandemic.

Build Your Priorities Playbook: A Guide for Small and Midsize Businesses in the Pandemic

The unpredictable nature of the pandemic has sidelined most companies’ long-term business plans. And while companies will always need to remain true to their mission, vision and purpose as their North Star, I firmly believe that leaders who focus on short-term results right now will be well positioned for long-term success. Because, ultimately, success begets success.

But it can be difficult for leaders to decide what to prioritize, even in the short term. In my discussions with leaders of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) I’ve heard firsthand how they are facing a variety of new challenges from inventory and supply chain shortfalls to employee capacity, facility remediation, and PPE for employees. The following “Priorities Playbook” shares ways SMBs are successfully managing toward new, shorter-term goals by focusing on four key priorities:

  1. Managing Costs. Many SMB leaders have been taking a careful look at their costs during the pandemic, and some were even surprised by areas of their business that had become bloated. Leaders can minimize surprises like those by more regularly assessing changing external and internal risks and opportunities brought about by the pandemic, and realigning their resources around those factors. By maintaining strong financial discipline, leaders can be better prepared for the unpredictable. When leaders operate a lean business, they free up resources to invest in innovation that can lead to new growth.
  2. Customer Management. Every employee needs to be in the customer management business now. The best leaders ensure their teams regularly connect with customers, listen to their feedback, and exercise flexibility. Customers will appreciate when companies are nimble enough to understand their changing needs and offer new ways to help. The work leaders do now to retain and strengthen customer relationships will pay dividends in the future.
  3. Talent Management. Without customers and great employees, there’s no business to plan for. And making sure the right team is in place who understands how to support customers sits at the top of the priority list. The best leaders are really detailed and purposeful about the people they are onboarding now. Leaders have an opportunity to hire new and diverse talent to meet new challenges and correct business vulnerabilities uncovered by the pandemic.
  4. Culture. Through this pandemic, I’ve been amazed to hear the stories of companies that just refused to quit. Their business and people are too important to them. If that determination and perseverance wasn’t a fundamental part of the DNA of a company’s culture before the crisis, that’s not something that can be suddenly turned on when things get tough. When companies have a compelling purpose that people can rally around and believe in, teams can quickly get aligned and overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. Every good coworker has a passion to have a job that is relevant and important. Strong leaders give their people a voice in their organization, and ensure they have autonomy and competence to act. Disruption, uncertainty and remote working do not have to shatter culture. Culture can set you apart, help you retain and attract top talent, and make customers proud to work with you.

Although I agree with Peter Drucker’s saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” SMBs cannot afford to completely do away with strategic planning right now. Keep an eye trained on the big picture, but today’s “priority playbook” has to start with what’s right in front of you. Putting in place priorities to control costs, nurture customers, care for your employees and protect your culture are the best plans for helping SMBs not just survive this pandemic but also prepare for greater future success.

Lean on me: How CEOs are helping each other lead through the pandemic

Article from Fast Company by Todd McKinnon

Every CEO should reimagine the future with a fresh lens: We’ve already vaulted five years forward in digital adoption, and we can continue to accelerate it further.

In February, I attended a dinner with CEOs from Slack, Box, Zoom, and PagerDuty. We discussed business plans, roadblocks, and aspirations for 2020. COVID-19 did not come up once. But by early March, all of the shop we talked just weeks earlier became obsolete—almost everything about our plans changed as we faced a slew of difficult decisions that were never accounted for.

CEOs across every industry can relate—no business was left untouched by this generational pandemic. But one major learning in a year filled with them is that decision makers don’t need to be alone in sorting out what’s to come next. When the world turned upside down, I was in almost daily contact with other CEOs, and their insights were validating, eye-opening, and, at times, liberating. In the spirit of those shared experiences, here are a few of the lessons learned on leading during unprecedented change. 

MAKE CLEAR CHOICES AND STICK TO THEM

Employees take their cues from the top. If you can lead by example, be decisive, and be clear when sharing critical updates, you will send a signal to your team that a well-thought-out plan is being executed. This is especially true when it comes to major updates like expected timelines.

In a conversation with Peter Gassner, CEO of Veeva, we talked about how to communicate important decisions more clearly. He talked about how every team has either a remote-first or an office-first culture. If your default is remote, employees who choose to go into the office have to dial into meetings from their desks to maintain the remote culture for everyone. If it’s office-based, the priority is to accommodate team members in the office. 

I realized that although we’d been remote at Okta for a few months, we were still in limbo: everyone considered working from home a stopgap. I needed to make and communicate a firm decision about our default environment. I sent an email to the entire company letting them know our new default was remote, and that my team of direct reports would commit to working remotely until there is a vaccine or medical treatment for COVID-19. Since this conversation with Peter, I’ve worked harder at making firm decisions, sticking to them, and communicating them early and frequently, often across multiple mediums to drive home those decisions.

DITCH THE “RETURN TO NORMAL” MINDSET 

Even when the pandemic is behind us, we’re still not returning to “normal” as we know it. Every CEO should reimagine the future with a fresh lens. At Okta, we’ve prioritized building our “Dynamic Work” plan—a strategy that allows employees to work when and where they want and offers more experiential office spaces. When our head of workplace services first proposed this plan, I thought it was too drastic. But after experiencing the benefits of remote work, I realized we had a unique opportunity to create a more inviting, flexible, and productive way of working. 

But ditching a return to “normal” isn’t just about how we work, it’s about totally rethinking goals and priorities. We updated all 2020 goals when COVID-19 set in and the world shifted to a remote economy. We re-prioritized more timely needs like doubling down on training to empower strong remote leaders across all teams. 

And just as you shouldn’t be afraid to rethink your goals, don’t shy away from bolstering your technology stack to power virtual business. Those who stay at a standstill awaiting a “return to normal” risk missing out on critical technologies that can help your team stay innovative and keep your customers engaged. As a society, we’ve already vaulted five years forward in digital adoption, and we can continue to accelerate it further. 

DON’T BE AFRAID TO REALLOCATE YOUR TIME

We are creatures of habit, but the past few months have called for new routines. While it can be hard to stray from the norm, don’t hesitate to give up what you know and embrace what your people need. During times of uncertainty, people want leaders who are present, engaged, and transparent about how they’re coping. 

In the past few months, I’ve worked more closely with my team than ever before. When we brought on David Bradbury as our new chief security officer in April, I met with him for at least one hour each day. Prioritizing these in-depth meetings with critical new hires can make it easier for them to jump on board and make a difference early. It’s also a signal to the rest of the organization, illustrating how onboarding in a remote environment requires more of an investment. It’s part of how we’ll attract and retain the best minds.

I’m also opening up more personally with the Okta community, whether that’s through leading a burpee contest (no gym, no problem!), engaging more on Twitter, or participating in a virtual cooking class with customers. We’ve always had an anonymous Q&A forum where employees can submit questions for me to answer during our weekly all-hands meeting, but we’ve taken that a step further. At the start of the pandemic, I hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session about our response to COVID-19, and a couple of weeks ago, I held a “listening tour” to hear employees’ questions on Okta’s support for Black Lives Matter. By opening the floor for questions on critically important topics, you demonstrate the value of transparency, encourage your team to start hard conversations, and get the chance to answer good questions.

We still have a ways to go when it comes to uncovering how to best keep employees informed, connected, and productive at home. In addition to answering every question, sending out surveys frequently to gauge how your team feels about their productivity makes a big difference. And know that we’re in this together—no leader is an island, and we have a long road ahead. I plan to continue turning to the experience, guidance, and advice of others and sharing my own findings when I can to help collectively determine the best path forward.

Forbes article shares step by step how to cultivate a mentoring company.

Article by Ruth Gotian

It is well documented that those who are mentored outperform and out-earn those who are not. They get promoted more often and report lower burnout rates. However, having just one mentor is limiting. Having a team of mentors puts you in the driver’s seat. It is essential to have your personal mentoring team. This collective, which has your best interest at heart has to be selected carefully.

A mentoring team offers a diversity of thoughts, perspectives, skills, and social capital. The more diverse your team, the greater your reach and potential. I always encourage my clients to curate mentors from a diversity of industries and geography in order to learn and appreciate new ways of thinking and approaches to problems. Don’t limit yourself to one industry or organization. Think globally. To truly get a wide array of outlooks, make sure your mentoring team doesn’t all look like you. Aim for a cross-section of genders and ethnicities. My team of mentors includes people from a wide range of industries including medicine, science, education, law, and military. I’ve learned countless tips from each one of my mentors and have grown my network exponentially. My mentors led me to publish in major journals, taught me how to develop mentoring circles in my organization, and how to get face time with key people when traveling to their institution. You are the common denominator among your team. While you can reach out to any and all members on the team, they don’t all need to meet together.

But how do you identify who should be on your team? A simple five-step process can help you identify who can help guide your career and serve on your Targeted Mentoring Team. 

Step 1: Name your goal

What is your immediate goal? Is it to get promoted to vice president or associate professor? It’s important to identify and label your attainable short-term goal. Knowing what you want to achieve and where you want to go will help dictate the path you should follow. The reason for not choosing a long-term goal at this point is that as you develop new experiences and skills, you might find your long-term goals change.

Step 2: Identify your plan

French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” Naming your goal is a critical first step. To prevent your goal from becoming a fantasy, identify what you need to do in the short term to achieve your goal. Do you need to land a big account or publish more articles? Be very specific about what the next steps are.

Once you have these steps identified, you can start building your mentoring team. This is the group of people who will help you actualize your plan, provide insight, and connect you with the right people. You are developing your Targeted Mentoring Team. Envision a bullseye, with a total of three circles, one inside the other.

Step 3: Your inner circle

List the names of people who know you best. They know you when you’re tired, hungry, and maybe even cranky. They could be your partner, family, closest friends, maybe even your children. These people, even if they are not in your industry, will tell you the truth, even if it hurts. They know the ‘personal’ you.

Step 4: Your middle circle

This circle, right outside your inner circle, includes your closest work colleagues. They’ve seen you under the pressure of a deadline, crises, or being understaffed. They are attuned to your work ethic and reputation. These people might be senior or junior to you or right at your level. They know the ‘professional’ you.

Step 5: Your outer circle

This is the circle that will take the most work. It includes acquaintances and people who work in or outside your field. You may not know them directly, but you know of them. They may include people you have heard speak and those whose work, position, or reputation you admire. They don’t need to be in your immediate industry. If you are having trouble with negotiations, having a master negotiator on your team, from any industry is paramount. These potential mentors can be approached remotely. 

This list might need to be tweaked a bit, but the bones are there for you to work with. Start with the inner circle and work your way out. Tell people what your goal and plan is. Mentors will emerge with guidance and connections to their network. Build on that. Ask for introductions to your outer circle if need be. 

The circles are permeable. Being a mentor is not a life sentence. Add and remove names of potential mentors as the needs arise and your circumstances change. Before long, those in the outer circle will move toward the middle circle and new names will be added to the outer layer as you advance. Your mentoring team, if chosen carefully, will help you ascend and achieve your goal.

Heightened Concern Over the Second Wave

Article from ITR Economics by Brian Beaulieu

With cases of COVID-19 rising in several key states, and states reversing their reopening trends, the developing recovery is clearly coming under pressure and is in danger of being forestalled. The map below shows which states are reversing direction as regards opening up.

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The next chart, “US Hot Spots for New Cases,” shows that some of the states reversing direction aren’t the most egregious when it comes to hot spot activity. That makes it all the more challenging to determine how this trend will play out over the coming weeks and months. The lack of correlation exemplifies the political/emotional aspect to the decision-making process.

Fatalities are going to lag the increase in cases, as evidenced by the chart below. We can see it occurring in Texas. Perhaps because we are looking for a silver lining, or perhaps because we are numbers-driven, it is noteworthy that the fatality rate is running below what it had been. That suggests that the number of fatalities may not rise in a manner commensurate with the number of cases to the same extent as earlier. We think this could make the current shutdown a shorter-lived ordeal than round one. However, being keenly aware of analyst-bias, I readily admit that shorter lockdown periods would be ideal for getting our economy on track for 2021.

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Economically speaking, no change to our forecasts yet. Our dashboard of leading indicators was turning increasingly positive. We expect that will come to an end in the coming months. Stay tuned.