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THIS MONTH'S GUEST ARTICLE
Across a wide range of business and engineering topics, these articles are presented with the intent of sharing knowledge and provoking thought, possibly even serving as a catalyst for action. Send us your topic suggestions and abstracts. We are always in search of engaging professional content. Contact us at news@vaeng.com for details.

Change Your Mindset or Suffer the Consequences
April 2019

5 Steps to Thrive in Our Unstable World
By: Brad Wolff

We live in a world of unpredictable and uncontrollable change. How can we survive and even thrive when our environment turns against us?

Bill Evans was the CEO of Shifting Rocks Corporation, the dominant regional player in providing rocks for road construction. After 30 great years, they suddenly dropped behind two competitors. Due to a combination of unforeseen changes, sales plunged from $50mm to $25mm. They went from $5mm profit to a loss of $2mm in only two years. Bill hired a firm that helps companies thrive in a changing environment. After one year of working together, Shifting Rocks reached break-even. In two years, they climbed to a $6 million profit. Their engagement levels are now higher than the “good years,” and Bill enjoys his job more than ever.

Become a Flexible, Adaptive, Learning Organization
The turning point was when Bill’s mindset changed with the realization that what led to success in the past often doesn’t work today. The primary characteristics needed to thrive now are:

1. Flexibility – The willingness to change or compromise.
2. Adaptability – The ability to utilize flexibility to meet the demands of new conditions.
3. Learnability – The ability to quickly learn new knowledge and skills that are required to meet the demands of new conditions.

When you implement these traits, you become a Flexible, Adaptive, Learning Organization (FALO). A FALO provides a unique competitive edge in an unstable environment. A key element is the mindset shift to focusing on the things that lie in your area of control rather than constantly reacting to things out of your control. Instead of things getting easier, you get better!

How do you develop a FALO?

Below is a five-step process to creating a FALO:

1. Shift your mindset from solving problems via processes and technologies to solving people problems first. All business problems (including process and technology problems) are people problems at their root since people select, develop, operate and manage your processes and technologies. The perfect processes and technologies with the wrong people or with people who are not using them properly will never work. A process and technology focus is a convenient distraction away from the more challenging arena of human beings. However, starting with processes and technologies is treating the symptoms, not the cause. Your solutions will always be suboptimal with this approach.

Step 2: Create a personal development mindset as an organizational strategy
The key to your professional growth is your personal growth and development. We take ourselves with us everywhere we go, and your self-awareness, skills and character traits are your only tools. It’s critical to realize that these elements of personal growth are developed not inborn. Certainly, you have inborn gifts. However, none are very useful until they’ve been developed over time.

History’s most successful CEOs such as Jack Welch of GE, Lou Gerstner of IBM and Ray Dalio of Bridgewater shared a common philosophy. They recognized that as people work on their personal development, they contribute far more productivity, collaboration, and positive energy/engagement as benefits. Each of these benefits enhances the others to create a multiplier effect throughout the organization. As people develop, they also adapt much better to ongoing life challenges. The organization’s knowledge and skills (learning) increase while becoming more flexible and adaptive.

Step 3: Develop a culture that supports ongoing personal development
Developing a strategy of personal growth requires that you develop a culture that supports this strategy. Organizations frequently fail to execute their strategies due to lacking a culture that supports these strategies. Peter Drucker said that “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Google provides one of many examples of an organization that focuses on culture as a key driver of its success. Here are their “three principles for a top-notch culture”:

1. Mission that matters – A clear mission and vision statement to motivate and unify employees.
2. Transparency of Leaders – A crucial element to build safety, trust and collaboration that requires openness and vulnerability.
3. Giving everyone a voice – A perspective that values everyone’s opinion and point of view.

Do these principles apply to other companies? Yes, in fact, it’s more difficult to apply these principles in large organizations like Google due to increased layers of complexity.

Step 4: Starting with upper management, take an open, honest inventory of weaknesses
A weakness is any habitual behavior that impairs your effectiveness, which prevents you from becoming who you want to be. Having weaknesses is an unavoidable part of being human. The key is to deliberately identify and acknowledge these habits rather than trying to hide or cover-up. Your weaknesses are obvious to others anyway, so attempting to deny or hide them impairs our growth and relationships.

The authenticity of leaders about their weaknesses builds trust and respect and creates a culture where people feel safe to do the same. Research and experience consistently demonstrate the importance of people safe feeling safe. People won’t allow themselves to be open about their weaknesses until they feel safe from ridicule or punishment.

Step 5: Commit to a process of ongoing improvement
The key is that the leaders’ commit with both their hearts (emotions) and minds (thoughts). Developing new habits that serve you better than the old ones requires committed effort over time. Demonstrating this commitment helps develop a culture of people committed to their personal and professional growth.

It’s also important to develop a culture of constructive feedback and encouragement since you often don’t realize when you revert to old habits. Ongoing improvement is difficult without a culture that supports people making a consistent effort.

Developing a FALO is not complicated. It starts with a mindset shift from focusing on the external environment to focusing on the source of your success and power—the ongoing development of human beings. You can try to control your external environment or adapt to meet (or exceed) the demands. Which approach will you choose?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. As the managing partner for Atlanta-based PeopleMax, Brad specializes in helping companies maximize the potential and results of their people to make more money with less stress. His passion is empowering people to create the business success they desire, in a deep and lasting way. For more information on Brad Wolff, please visit: www.PeopleMaximizers.com.



Guest Articles
Below are listed the 12 most recent Guest Articles.
To see the entire list of Guest Articles, visit the Guest Article Archive.
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Change Your Mindset or Suffer the Consequences
April 2019

We live in a world of unpredictable and uncontrollable change. How can we survive and even thrive when our environment turns against us?

By: Brad Wolff

Stalled Sales?
March 2019

If you are struggling with sluggish sales, there are two critical areas you must review to address the situation.

By: Jill J. Johnson

How Human Are You?
February 2019

How human are you? At work do you care more about profits or people? In sales, are you and the company more interested in making quota than taking care of the customer?

By: John Waid

VCU is engineering for Amazon HQ2’s workforce
January 2019

As Virginians, let’s not be overly concerned with where Amazon is in Virginia. Amazon HQ2’s influence — and its needs — will be too big to be confined to Northern Virginia.

EDITORIAL:
Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D.

Connecting with Customers Through the Keyboard: Getting Your Chat Service Right
December 2018

Providing exceptional service via chat involves more than simply choosing a technology platform.

By: Kate Zabriskie

Giving Yourself Permission Slips to Succeed
November 2018

Joan was sitting at a round table when a hand descended over her right shoulder and slapped a piece of paper down on the wooden surface. A permission slip lay before her. Joan wondered, “Why do I need a permission slip?”

By: Sarah Bateman

Three Simple Training Tips to Dramatically Boost Company Performance
October 2018

Many companies view training as a “nice to have.” They think it is important to create an attractive, engaging training program for new hires …

By: Cordell Riley

Eight Elements That Comprise a High Performance Enterprise
September 2018

It’s no secret that the workforce and the nature of work itself are rapidly changing. Many organizations, particularly large ones, are like an ocean liner that can’t turn on a dime.

By: Sue Bingham

Wield the Five Keys to Leaving a Positive Leadership Legacy in Your Life
August 2018

Many successful business people have pondered their leadership legacy—how do they want to be remembered. And many of them struggle to find the answer.

By: Jeffrey W. Foley

1+1=7! Leveraging Intangibles for Business Wealth
July 2018

Every day, businesses lose money by not understanding or leveraging their investments. When one considers the financials of organizations, it is clear that a significant portion of those investments are not captured in financial statements.

By: Baldwin H. Tom

It Wasn’t Raining When Noah Built the Ark: Prepare for Family Business Quarrels Now
June 2018

There’s no such thing as a family business without conflict. If you Google “family business feud,” in less than a second, you’ll get roughly 1.2 million hits.

By: Mitzi Perdue

Monitoring Power Quality and Electrical Testing
May 2018

The demand for clean and safe power in mission critical operations is advancing overnight due to the rapid pace of technology improvements.

By: Ivan Alexander


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