5 Steps for Ensuring Diversity in the Leadership Pipeline

A recent study found unintentional discrimination in succession planning in two-thirds of the responding companies.

By Martin Lanik, Ph.D.

Diversity in leadership helps organizations grow and develop at a faster rate than leadership with no diversity. Bringing a broader array of background and experience to the table results in a larger pool of creativity, innovation, and insight. However, women and minorities still face many barriers in attaining leadership roles.

Pinsight’s latest research study, “Repairing the Broken Rung,” focuses on fairness in how organizations identify and prepare the next generation of leaders. To conduct our study, we collected data from 129 organizations that together employ more than half-a-million people and span most industries. We studied how these organizations identify high-potential employees (employees who show potential for a leadership role) and select successors for executive positions. We found that men are three times more likely to be identified as high-potentials than their equally capable women colleagues, and we found unintentional discrimination in succession planning in two-thirds of the companies.

As a solution, we have identified five steps organizations can take to ensure fairness in the selection and development of future leaders. These include:

1. Get the data. Start by obtaining data about your current practices for identifying high-potential employees, emerging leaders, and succession pools. Monitor the balance in these programs with the same rigor you apply to hiring decisions. Calculate adverse impact against any protected group periodically, after talent review cycles or managerial ratings. Review industry trends and best practices, as well as legal cases to ensure you are aware of risks and trends in this space.

2. Roll out bias training for all. Bias training is a good starting point, but understand that it is meant to increase awareness of the issue, not solve it—you can’t train bias out of people. All humans use biases to save time and energy when making decisions. Training can increase awareness of what biases exist; how they can affect organizational decision-making; and where to look for them in talent reviews, high-potential selection, and succession decisions. Because most people are reluctant to see their own biases, use data from your organization as evidence that even your managers show bias.

3. Turn up the rigor. Apply rigor to your existing processes for identifying high-potential employees and successors across the entire leadership pipeline, from front-line managers all the way to senior executive roles. Examine not just how those decisions are made, but exactly how the processes are executed: Do managers write down names and submit them in a sealed envelope? Or is there a transparent assessment in place? Are nomination criteria clearly defined? Do you have a validated list of the characteristics and attributes needed for employees to access high-potential programs?

4. Identify selection criteria. Formulate the criteria for high-potential and successor selection based on science, and insist that managers use these during the nomination process. What characteristics best predict success in leadership roles at your company? Educate managers on the criteria and what potential performance looks like for future leaders. Use the criteria in the nomination and selection process, and ask managers to provide evidence that their candidates meet the criteria. Communicate the criteria to all employees to reinforce a culture of fair and consistent standards in selection to high-potential programs and succession plans.

5. Introduce blind auditions. Help managers make better decisions by giving them more objective data about employees’ readiness and future potential. Similar to our case study, you can set up a simulation of a leadership role and invite trained assessors who have no prior relationship to the candidates to observe their performance. Seeing all employees in the same standardized situation and using a validated set of criteria, you will arrive at a more objective evaluation of their leadership potential and readiness.

By taking action and implementing these five steps, organizations can move toward practices that are diverse, inclusive, and fair, ensuring that the most capable and most qualified individuals are given a fair opportunity based on their qualifications, potential, and merits rather than unrelated criteria such as gender or race. These practices set standards that are objective and quantifiable, removing subjectivity and human bias. In doing so, organizations can cast out a broader net when identifying high-potential employees while minimizing talent being left on the table.

Martin Lanik is the lead author of “Repairing the Broken Rung: Overcoming Bias in the Leadership Pipeline,” as well as the author of the bestseller, “The Leader Habit.” He serves as CEO of Pinsight, a Denver-based consulting firm that helps companies bring fairness to leader selection, development, and succession. For more information, visit: www.pinsight.com or www.repairtherung.com.

Employee Engagement Tech Key to Post-Pandemic Success

By Nicole Lewis For SHRM

As organizations learn more about the employee experience during the coronavirus pandemic, data has emerged suggesting that employers will have to adopt new approaches and invest in technology that helps them listen, learn and improve the worker experience. HR managers will also have to lead as they build mature employee experience programs.

COVID-19 caused a surge in remote work, accelerated digital transformation and prompted a greater focus on improving the employee experience and engagement. Research shows that these priorities will continue in 2021.

A study released in December 2020 from Qualtrics and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) based on a poll of more than 200 U.S. CIOs, CTOs and other IT executives, highlights the trends in IT investments and indicates that employers are taking note of their workers’ concerns during the pandemic. Among the study’s findings:

  • Ninety-five percent of IT executives said they have increased the frequency of listening to employee feedback since the coronavirus began.
  • More than 65 percent of IT executives polled said at least 25 percent of their company’s workforce will continue to telecommute after the pandemic ends.
  • To meet remote work needs, respondents said investments were channeled toward security and privacy (82 percent), cloud infrastructure (78 percent), and additional IT support staff (71 percent). Additionally, 76 percent of respondents said they relied on employee feedback to gain actionable insights when considering new software or services, and 73 percent said they knew which initiatives would make the most impact on the employee experience.

Julie Schweber, a senior HR Knowledge Advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), said technology has helped remote workers collaborate even while they work from home.

“The beauty of technology is that it’s allowing us to have a WebEx call or a Zoom call to have meetings of 100 or 200 people, and they are able to break out into small group sessions. We can see each other live if we want to because of the technology and log in to our virtual private network at home in a safe, secure IT environment,” Schweber said. 

But technology can’t bridge the gap completely.

“You lose that personal touch in the virtual work environment,” she added. “Technology doesn’t take the place of a supervisor or a manager reaching out via a phone call or sending even just a small thank-you note. Managers and employees need to focus on that in addition to the technology, because having all that technology but not having a manager or an employer who is saying ‘we care’ may mean the message will fall flat.”

The Qualtrics and PwC study follows data from International Data Corporation (IDC) that gauges how IT has impacted the employee experience and focuses on the importance of employee engagement during the pandemic. 

IDC has been following the employee experience numbers since the pandemic forced nonessential workers to begin telecommuting in March. In a survey conducted in August 2020, IDC polled 670 company executives that have mature employee experience programs including work-from-home flexibility and employee feedback opportunities. When respondents were asked what benefits their organization’s employee experience program has yielded, 43 percent said higher employee productivity, 41 percent said improved employee experience, 38 percent said reduced absenteeism and 27 percent said higher employee retention.

Another IDC survey in April that collected responses from more than 500 company executives posed the question “Due to COVID-19 and the need for new technology and changes to the working model of some organizations, how will your organization’s demand for employee engagement technologies change?” Among worldwide respondents, 42 percent said they intend to increase their demand, while 45 percent of U.S. respondents said their demand will increase for employee engagement software.

IDC’s April data also found that at companies with a mature employee experience program, workers are five times more likely to be engaged in achieving organizational goals and are three times more likely to feel that their organization is providing a strong COVID-19 response. Additionally, employees are 35 times more likely to feel part of one team driving business results.

Laura Becker, IDC’s research manager in the Worldwide Services Group focusing on the employee experience, said there are several ways to improve employee engagement, such as implementing surveys and feedback measures; offering wellness and financial planning programs; and providing employee recognition and diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Selecting software with modules that underpin these programs can make a significant difference to a company’s success.

“If you have the technology in place and managers who are trained at using the technology, they can look at the data for insights to create action plans for their employees,” Becker said. “That creates a much better organizational culture, and it leads to resilience in the organization, which will set the stage for a much stronger recovery after the pandemic.”

SHRM’s Schweber added that one of the most important lessons of the pandemic is that employee engagement is particularly important now that there is a higher number of remote workers who will continue to work from home in the post-pandemic work world.

“Employee engagement impacts employee retention, employee and employer productivity; it increases loyalty; and it is directly linked to customer satisfaction—meaning the customers who are served by an employer have increased satisfaction when there is a higher engagement among the workforce,” Schweber said.

She added that employee engagement also impacts the company’s reputation and brand. If it’s a publicly traded company, the overall stakeholder value can increase if employees feel the company’s success is their success, too.

“It’s all tied into one circle,” Schweber said. “Respectful treatment of employees is very important and always has been. I think in terms of the pandemic, with what’s happening in the world, it’s likely even more important now.”

Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.

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Trapped in Analysis Paralysis? Try Sense-making Instead

By R Bruce Hull For RealLeaders

Like most professionals, you are wary of making decisions or offering advice when uncertainty is high, when you are likely to be wrong, and when the blame for failure will be yours. So, you err on the side of caution and pause to collect additional information in the search for clarity and certainty.

But the situation is complex, dynamic, and unique, so further information is unlikely to help, and you get stuck in analysis-paralysis. That means you’ve delayed the decision, which means you’ve allowed the status quo to continue, which means you’ve probably enabled worse outcomes than if you had acted and failed. Moreover, by not acting, you missed the opportunity to learn how the system responds to interventions, which is one of the critical tenets of learning-by-doing and what you need to do to make sense of the situation. 

But you know that if you rush into a decision, you may misinterpret it because you’ve seen research showing that experts don’t do well in ambiguous and uncertain situations: experts tend to fall victim to the confirmation bias that selectively identifies observations that fit their theories and past experiences. You’ve also read that people make poor decisions about unique situations when stressed, hurried, and have limited information. In such cases, most people instead invoke stereotypes, see patterns where none exist, and ignore anomalies. So you pause, ponder, and analyze.

And, importantly, you are aware of the sunk-cost fallacy: once a decision gets made, people tend to defend and repeat the same or similar decision, regardless of whether it is working, because to stop and try something different is to suggest that the time, resources, and people who supported previous efforts were wasted. So, if you commit to an action, you worry that changing direction will be difficult. Knowing this, you are cautious about making quick decisions, trapped in analysis-paralysis, and supporting the status quo, which you know is bad and what to avoid. The cycle repeats, and you are trapped in analysis paralysis. 

If you find yourself in such situations, then sensemaking provides a way forward. Sensemaking has two aspects: mindset and practice. 

Sensemaking as a mindset requires being flexible, taking time to consult others, broadening your perspective, and searching for the next decision without getting trapped in searching for the right decision. When things are highly uncertain, better decisions emerge when ideas are proposed, tested, rejected, and replaced with new ideas to retest, again and again, and again. That means you must be courageous enough to propose and make decisions while being humble enough to abandon what does not work, following the vital sensemaking principle of strong ideas weakly held. A sensemaking mindset encourages course corrections rather than rigidly following a planned path toward a predetermined solution. It promotes tolerance for results that differ from those that were predicted. It views failure as an opportunity to learn rather than an opportunity to cast blame.

Sensemaking as a practice can be equally powerful. When confronted with ambiguity and overwhelming complexity, sensemaking provides a place to engage the problem. Here are several tools you are probably familiar with:

– sSWOT: The Sustainability Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats analysis helps organizations take action on environmental challenges by exploring collaboration with internal departments, as well as suppliers, customers, or other stakeholders on strategies to create and sustain long-term value. Most importantly, it can help identify and communicate possible decisions.

– 3SO: Every sustainability situation has four dimensions: Stakeholders, Strategies, System, and Outcomes. Stakeholders use Strategies to change Systems to produce desired Outcomes. To quickly make sense of a situation, iteratively work through each of these four dimensions. What you learn from one dimension (i.e., stakeholders) can inform and help you more effectively see relevant information in another dimension (i.e., strategies the stakeholders are using and the outcomes they seek).

– Cynefin: The framework sorts the issues facing leaders into five contexts—simple, complicated, complex, chaotic, and disorder. It helps leaders diagnose situations, so they respond in contextually appropriate ways, make better decisions, and avoid the problems that arise when they otherwise respond with their preferred/default management style.

– PEST/PESTLE/STEEPLE: Helps analyze the Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural, and Technological challenges you face. It helps understand the “big picture” forces of change you’re exposed to and take advantage of the opportunities that they present.

– Natural Step’s 5-Level Framework: Most every situation has five levels: (1) the System in which it is embedded, 2) what counts as success, 3) the strategies that produce success, 4) the concrete actions or tactics associated with those strategies, and 5) the tools those actions use such as life cycle analysis or ISO 14001.

– VISSI.  The Vision and goals describe what success looks like. The indicators help gauge progress towards those goals. The System maps the causes, effects, and leverage points where Innovation is needed to create change, and the Strategies produce the required change. 

The scale, complexity, and uncertainty of sustainable challenges can be daunting. Where do you start? Who should you talk to? What can you do? The familiar parable about blind men encountering their first elephant illustrates how easy it is to misinterpret complex situations and how easy it is to become stuck in analysis paralysis.

Six blind men encountered an elephant. Not knowing what it was, they decided to explore it. “It’s a pillar,” said the man who touched a leg. “No! It is a rope,” said the man who touched the tail. “It is a tree,” said the man who touched the trunk. “It is a hand fan,” said the man who touched the ear. “It a wall,” said the man who touched the belly. “How can that be. What I feel is a solid pipe,” said the man who touched the tusk. 

Because the six could not make sense of the situation, they could not respond to the risks and opportunities it presented. We can only hope they are well and did not extend the analysis of the elephant much further.  

R Bruce Hull is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability and co-author of a book hat explains and illustrates many strategies for dealing with wicked problems: “Leadership for Sustainability: Strategies for Tackling Wicked Problems.”

Brentwood neighborhood pays it forward

A look at what one community did over the holidays this year by Dawnmarie Fehr Correspondent for The Press

A community of homes on Baird Circle in Brentwood came together this season to collect toys and canned goods for the Brentwood Regional Community Chest.

The Baird Circle neighborhood is a small development with a close-knit community that regularly hosts block parties and holiday gatherings.

This year, in lieu of their annual Christmas party, the cluster of 50 homes decided to use their energy to collect toys for the Brentwood Regional Community Chest (BRCC) Holiday Toy Drive.

“Usually, every Christmas we host a holiday party,” said Baird Circle resident Catherine Morgan, who noted pre-COVID BBQs and karaoke parties were common on her street. “This year we decided to come together for a bigger effort, which is to give back to the community in need.”

Morgan spoke with BRCC secretary Lil Pierce and learned most of the organization’s collection barrel locations had been eliminated by COVID-19. Many municipal spots – like city halls, fire stations and schools – were closed or unable to collect toys due to health restrictions.

“Catherine was very enthusiastic, and they put together a toy drive and it was wonderful,” Pierce said. “The community really stepped forward. I am so proud of people in Brentwood, they really stepped up and to have a small neighborhood group like that supporting their neighbors, it’s just a wonderful thing.”

Morgan spread the word about the toy drive through the neighborhood’s homeowners’ association (HOA) and the donations poured in.

“We were able to raise two barrels full of toys,” said Morgan. “Then we went over and volunteered and actually stuffed bags full of toys with the Brentwood Regional Community Chest . . . it’s completely volunteer-run and it was amazing to be a part of it from beginning to end.”

On Dec. 19, 500 East County families received a full holiday meal, a bag of age-appropriate toys and canned goods through BRCC. Donations of food and toys from groups like the Baird Circle community made the event possible.

Though only three years old, the homes on Baird Circle have fostered many traditions and hosting a toy drive was not their first effort at helping those in need. Last year, the neighborhood started a free library and added a free pantry feature when the pandemic started.

“I can’t tell you how often the groceries were taken, and then new donations showed up,” Morgan said of the pantry. “It’s a really cool community and really cool to see that movement of giving back and how it spreads.”

Morgan said she hopes members of the Brentwood community will continue to help BRCC, and other organizations like it, throughout the year.

“If people want to help and get involved at a deeper level in the community, it doesn’t just have to be during Christmas,” she noted. “BRCC needs a lot of help all year, and if it’s not them, there are so many organizations just in our little town of Brentwood. We can help to give back in this crazy time and it really does make a big difference.”

For more information about BRCC, visit http://www.brcchest.org/.

5 Must Have Productivity And Life Hacks

Robyn Foyster Editor of Women Love Tech

Working from home can be challenging, especially for those who aren’t used to working remotely. But with the right work and life hacks, tools and mindset shifts, you can make it work. Here we’ve collected 5 the best productivity and life hacks to make your working-at-home experience more manageable and efficient.

So, no matter if you’re a freelancer, small business owner or temporarily working from home during the pandemic, it’s crucial to follow some simple hacks to create a productive, positive, working environment. These hacks can help to keep you on track and healthy while working remotely.

  1. Optimise your workspace

You’ve probably heard the quote ‘a clean space makes a clear mind’ but keeping your workspace clean and clutter-free could be one of the best ways to stay productive. In a survey by OfficeMax, 77% of respondents said that clutter impairs their productivity and more than half of those surveyed said it also negatively affects their motivation levels and state of mind. Optimise your dedicated working from home office by clearing any clutter, adding air-purifying plants, mind-focusing music and a whiteboard or notepad to scribble down all of your ideas.

  1. Create a schedule that works for you

Once your workspace is ready, establish a consistent routine that works for you. Sure, one of the benefits of working from home is being able to work whenever you want, but that doesn’t mean you should. Having a structured schedule helps to keep you on track and boost productivity. It also makes it a whole lot easier to keep your work and personal time separate.

Notice during what times of day you’re the most productive and build your schedule based on that. The beauty of working from home is that, in many cases, the traditional 9-5 work hours no longer exist, so there’s no need to force yourself to become a morning person if you’re feeling more productive at night.

  1. Wear blue light blocking glasses while you work

Office workers are estimated to spend almost a third of their day looking at a screen and all those long hours of blue light exposure from screens is thought cause digital eye strain which can be harmful to your eyes and affect productivity. Wear blue light blocking glasses while you work to reduce the impact that exposure to digital screens can cause. These lenses have specially crafted tinted lenses with anti-glare protection to block or filter out the blue light to keep your eyes refreshed, reduce headaches and increase focus.

  1. Incorporate productivity apps

Even the leading boss babes have an assistant, so why not get yourself one? Some people might think that working remotely means not having to watch the clock, but the opposite is true. Time management is key to helping you stick to that schedule you’ve established while meeting all of your deadlines. Whether you need a project timer to track hours for a specific client project, a tool to track your status updates or manage your team, apps can help to keep you productive and focused throughout the day.\

  1. Take breaks

Along with keeping a realistic schedule to make sure your work-from-home arrangement remains productive, you need to take real breaks during the day to keep it manageable. It might sound counterintuitive but stopping every 90 minutes renews your energy level and gets you ready for your next task with a new outlook. During these breaks step away from your screens, get up and stretch or do light exercise, refill your bottle of water, go outside for some fresh air or eat a healthy snack and come back refreshed. Ensure you are allocating time to step away from your desk for a proper lunch break too, just as you would in the office.

Robyn Foyster is an award-winning journalist and former Editor-In-Chief of The Australian Women’s Weekly. She is also the owner and publisher of Women Love Tech, Game Changers and The Carousel. Robyn’s tech company produced the augmented reality app for Sydney’s Vivid Festival in 2018 and the retail app Sweep. She is a speaker and a judge of the Telstra Business Awards and Mumbrella Awards. Robyn is passionate about supporting women in STEM.

Are You Looking For Online Education Opportunities While Many Of Us Continue To Remain At Home?

CAMICB recognizes that during the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person education opportunities have halted with the worldwide shift to social distancing. To assist in this transition, CAMICB offers a number of online continuing education opportunities.

We have a helpful list of On-Demand webinars available here for managers to view that are free or low-cost, and CAI Headquarters has an entire library dedicated to webinars available for continuing education credit available here. All of CAMICB’s continuing education opportunities can be found here

CAMICB also offers the option for managers to seek out online opportunities that work best for them, and unapproved online options can be e-mailed to info@camicb.org for approval consideration.

For any questions, please reach out to CAMICB at info@camicb.org

Making the Case for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion During Disruption

Gartner, July 14, 2020 Contributor: Jackie Wiles

Learn seven ways HR leaders can keep diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) top of mind amid economic and business disruption. 

What seems like a watershed moment for DEI could be lost as senior leaders tackle the coincident pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, racial tensions and an economic downturn. But HR leaders can keep DEI efforts at the forefront.

While recent, widespread protests against racism prompted countless organizations to make public commitments to diversity and equitable treatment for all employees, the pandemic only highlights glaring inequities that organizations must still acknowledge and address. 

Workplace equity isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s a strategic and financial advantage 

“Underrepresented groups — racial/ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and women — have been disproportionately affected by the health and economic impacts of COVID-19,” says Lauren Romansky, Managing Vice President, Gartner. “And yet, in a recent Gartner survey, only 2% of HR leaders identified DEI, by itself, their No. 1 priority in light of the pandemic.” 

Learn more: Drive Results Through Workforce Diversity

And now, many organizations may be tempted to reexamine and potentially roll back commitments to DEI programs or initiatives, especially as cost-conscious leaders weigh or implement hiring freezes, furloughs and layoffs to combat the economic fallout from the pandemic. 

Hesitation would come at the very moment that leaders have committed to do more — and employees and other stakeholders increasingly expect them to make good on their promises.

Keep DEI top of mind

In the U.S., at least, early studies show that people of color are experiencing higher COVID-19 infection and mortality rates than their white counterparts, and economically, women and people of color are experiencing the greatest proportion of job losses.

This partly reflects the fact that women and minorities are overrepresented in the types of jobs most affected by social distancing measures — notably, positions in hospitality, travel, recreation and retail industries. Women and minorities are also more likely to be less tenured and hold marginal or low-authority positions, increasing their risk of suffering job losses during layoffs. 

 Help managers and leaders understand the link between DEI and business outcomes 

But as organizations navigate the pandemic and its effects, HR leaders can help limit the disproportionate impact on marginalized groups and ensure that DEI remains top of mind for leaders and managers. 

To do so, they must emphasize company culture and branding during and after the crisis, and help managers and leaders understand the link between DEI and business outcomes (including crisis resilience).

Employees, customers and other stakeholders are already paying close attention to how companies are responding to this crisis. They are likely to remember how different companies responded and which issues were stressed, acknowledged and communicated, as well as those that were sacrificed or went unaddressed. 

Companies that appear to practice their values will likely be viewed favorably, while those whose actions don’t align with expressed values may lose out — whether in terms of lower levels of trust, branding appeal, customer satisfaction, or employee engagement or retention.

The suggested actions for HR leaders reflect the reality surfacing in a growing body of research: Workplace equity isn’t just the right thing to do; it is a strategic and financial advantage. 

7 ways to rally support for DEI initiatives

  1. Identify highly affected employee segments and provide additional support. Consider how COVID-19-related disruptions affect different workforce segments, such as parents, certain demographics (younger or older), different gender groups, races and ethnicities, or those with disabilities (visible and invisible, e.g., those without technology skills).
  2. Leverage employee resource groups (ERGs) to communicate and connect with a wider network of employees throughout the organization and create social connections that might be missing in a remote work environment.
  3. Identify “volunteer” or expanded opportunities for HR and DEI teamsto partner more closely and support critical engagement and employee experience projects — especially in developing emotional well-being resources and remote work best-practices.
  4. Ensure that rapid response teams are diverse. Make sure these teams represent different parts of the business and geographies, as well as varied demographic groups.
  5. Partner with internal communications to embed DEI messaging. Advocate for communications that emphasize unity and shared sacrifice. Ensure that changes and strategies, including the DEI strategy, are positioned in an intentional and inclusive manner.
  6. Support and coach managers to incorporate inclusion in a remote and high-stress work environment. Ensure managers know what inclusive behaviors look like in a remote environment, are modeling them properly, are prepared for how they will be tested in a stressed environment and know how they can help all employees to be inclusive.
  7. Develop a working draft of your response to this question, “What did you do for your customers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic?” Partner with DEI teams and other organizational stakeholders to clearly articulate the ways in which the organization practiced its values and commitments.

This Co-op’s Holiday Tipping Point Was a Very Big Bed

Jonathan Vatner in COVID-19 on December 11, 2020 For Habitat Magazine

With New Year’s Day just three weeks away, it’s safe to say that never before in recorded history has a year passed so quickly. The days last about 20 minutes; the weeks are over in half that. It’s possible we accidentally skipped May. Which is the only explanation for the pandemic year of 2020 coming to a close almost before it began.

Yes, it’s already time once again to tip the building staff, to thank them for working tirelessly to ensure that our home lives during the pandemic remain frictionless and safe. But this year money hardly seems adequate. In March, when the entire tristate area went into lockdown, the staff at our Westchester County co-op became heroes. My husband and I spent the second half of the month in a daze, worried and fearful, but the staffers donned their personal protective equipment and kept the co-op running. I’m in awe of their selflessness and courage in the face of a mysterious, deadly disease.

Their courage got personal. In April, my husband and I came down with COVID-19 and its unnerving symptoms. While we recuperated in isolation, our super came up multiple times a day to deliver our packages and take out our trash.

The staff’s fortitude during the pandemic was cause for peak gratitude, but in truth, we’ve been relying on the staff for favors, small and large, almost every day – most commonly, signing for and guarding our deliveries. In this year marked by worry, fear and anger, online shopping has become my avocation and solace, and it’s not unusual for us to receive three or four packages in one day: books I lack the concentration to read, clothes I might never wear, and so much flavored seltzer, the doormen probably think we bathe in the stuff. Our cats have more toys than most children, and we have finally achieved the American dream of owning a TV large enough for our neighbors to watch from their apartments.

Our friendly and skilled handyman and super have cleared bathroom clogs (plural!), sealed up a window draft and carted away an old couch. Late one night, I called the front desk to complain that a screeching sound from the building’s ventilation system was keeping us awake; the super immediately got out of bed to fix it.

I’m grateful to the staff for all those kindnesses, but in tipping this year, I’ll also be hoping to expunge my guilt over one favor in particular. A few weeks into the pandemic, we decided to replace our bed frame. Not only was our existing metal frame very prison-chic, it also squeaked at the slightest provocation. So we splurged on a new frame and a gorgeous handmade headboard crafted from solid oak.

We were promised white-glove delivery into our bedroom. But the day before the bed was to arrive, I received a call explaining that because of COVID-19, the shipping company would leave headboard outside the building. The caller also mentioned that it weighed 1,800 pounds.

I panicked. I can barely lift myself out of bed in the morning; I couldn’t imagine lugging nearly a ton of oak in from the sidewalk. I asked our handyman what to do. He promised to help, as long as the delivery came before his shift ended at 4 pm.

The truck arrived at 4:30. When I stepped into the lobby, I saw the driver unloading the shipment across the street. “Wait!” I shouted, running toward him as the electric loading ramp descended. Could he at least drive the shipment up to the door closest to the elevator? As he pressed the button to lift the ramp back up, the headboard tipped toward me, and my death flashed before my eyes. But he managed to control the monster and steer it to the correct entrance with his electric dolly.

As it turned out, the headboard did not weigh 1,800 pounds – maybe a third of that, which still didn’t put it in the featherweight class. And the dolly did not fit inside the door to the building. The porter on duty offered us a smaller dolly, and with all my strength, I helped the driver lift one end of the box onto the dolly. My pelvis hurt for a week.

He pushed the box while I guided the dolly inside, and together we maneuvered it into the basement maintenance room. Then the handyman explained with a pained smile that the headboard was too long to fit in the elevator. And there was no way that behemoth was going up the stairs. Over the next 30 seconds, I passed through the five stages of grief and agreed that we had to return it.

Here’s the rub: We can’t find a delivery company willing to move something so heavy; the shipper that brought it refused to take it back. For the foreseeable future, the monster bed must remain in the maintenance room. At least I’m sure no one will steal it. I dare anyone to try.

I feel profoundly guilty for leaving it there, making it harder for the staff to work, but as a testament to their patience and good nature, all have tolerated the blockade. The whole ordeal has put a fine point on what I knew already – that we are lucky to be cared for by this unparalleled team of professionals, deserving of our deepest gratitude. And, of course, generous tips.

Jonathan Vatner is the author of “Carnegie Hill,” a novel about the members of an Upper East Side co-op board. “The Bridesmaids Union,” his new novel about an online support group for bridesmaids, will be published in 2022.

3 Habits That Will Separate Real Leaders From Mere Dreamers

BY MARCEL SCHWANTES, FOUNDER AND CHIEF HUMAN OFFICER, LEADERSHIP FROM THE CORE@MARCELSCHWANTES For Inc.

It’s become grudgingly accepted that roughly two-thirds of organizational change initiatives fail. Whether it’s strategic planning, acquisitions, technology implementations, or any other initiative, the results are discouragingly alike.

Despite grand pronouncements and bursts of activity, the reality is that most companies struggle with execution.

According to strategy and execution consultant Michael Canic, there are three things a leader must do to consistently execute: Develop the right focus, create the right environment, and build the right team.

Develop the right focus.

What differentiates the right focus from the wrong focus? As Canic explains in his new book, Ruthless Consistency: How Committed Leaders Execute Strategy, Implement Change, and Build Organizations That Win, the right focus has to be sustained. If it’s here today, gone tomorrow, then you haven’t truly established a focus. He recommends three practices for creating a consistent focus.

1. Strategic management, not strategic planning.

As Canic recently told me on the Love in Action podcast, many organizations treat strategy as an event instead of a process. Once they’ve created a strategic plan, the focus reverts back to the demands of the day-to-day. Canic recommends that leaders commit to strategic management, an ongoing process through which the plan is translated into time-linked milestones and actions that are tracked, measured, and managed, with clear responsibilities and accountabilities.

2. Articulate the pain of failure.

While it’s important to have a vision of what success looks like, it’s equally important to document the pain of not fulfilling the vision. Is it lost market share, the threat of going out of business, or simply squandering a major opportunity? Contrasting the consequences of success and failure creates a more intense and more enduring focus.

3. Do less.

Ambitious leaders typically take on too many initiatives. When they do, resources get diluted, people get stretched too thin, and instead of everything being a priority, nothing is. Do less. Focus on the very few, must-do initiatives, and concentrate your efforts to ensure execution.

Create the right environment

“In the right environment,” Canic says, “every organizational touchpoint is consistently aligned with your focus. It results in a culture of both engagement and performance.” There are five things a leader can do to create the right environment.

1. Connect the dots.

To engage people, they need to be instilled with a sense of purpose. Yet purpose alone isn’t enough. It’s also critical to translate that purpose into organizational goals and individual expectations. That makes purpose real and actionable.

2. Equip people to succeed.

Without the necessary resources, people get frustrated. Without the required skills, they feel helpless. Without sufficient authority, they feel they aren’t trusted. Leaders need to equip their people to succeed, not set them up to fail. That means providing at least sufficient knowledge, skills, resources, and authority.

3. Coach, don’t just manage.

Coaches ask, What do I need to do to help each team member perform at their best? Coaches regularly provide feedback and guidance about performance. They reinforce the right actions and outcomes, and hold team members constructively accountable when expectations aren’t met.

4. Design your organization to execute.

Few things irritate people more than when they want to do a good job but cumbersome processes, restrictive policies, or inadequate equipment keep them from doing so. Organizations that consistently execute are organizations that are designed to execute.

5. Connect with the heart and the head will follow.

When you demonstrate that you respect people, trust them, and care about them as individuals, you get discretionary effort — the above-and-beyond initiative-taking that enhances your organization’s ability to execute.

Build the right team.

The right focus and right environment won’t matter unless you’ve built the right team. Canic believes there is one critical element organizations often overlook that keeps them from building the right team.

“Experience,” he explains, “tells you what a job candidate has done. Skills tell you what they can do. But traits tell you what they are most likely to do.” Leaders should assess a job candidate’s traits — such as competitiveness, conscientiousness, and curiosity — as rigorously as their experience and skills.

What does it take to consistently execute? The right focus, the right environment, and the right team. “What drives all of it,” Canic says, “is leaders who have the right commitment to make it happen.”