March's best leadership links
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A curated monthly digest of the best leadership links from around the web

By Amy Federman, ConantLeadership Editor in Chief & Director of Content

March 2022
In this edition of the Leadership That Works Newsletter: Battling 'brain fog,' beating burnout at the top, the 5-million-person experiment, and more.
"Age-diverse teams are valuable because they bring together people with complementary abilities, skills, information, and networks," write the authors of this Harvard Business Review piece on today's intergenerational workforce. But with tensions mounting between the five generations who are now working together for the first time, if age-diverse teams are not managed well, the whole effort can devolve into dysfunction. The core issue is "lack of trust between older and younger workers," which can lead to "a culture of competition and resentment." Thankfully, the authors propose a four-part framework of "identifying assumptions, adjusting your lens, taking advantage of differences, and embracing mutual learning," that can help you get the most out of your age-diverse team and stave off simmering conflicts. Get the full story here.
Much of the conventional advice around burnout involves reaching out to a trusted manager, but what if you're the most senior person on your team? This helpful article in Senior Executive offers tips for executives battling burnout at the top of the org chart. First, it's important to understand that burnout is not "a dislike of your work," but rather is a pervasive mental exhaustion resulting in "a lack of ability to conjure the mental and physical resources to do the work you care about." Once you've identified the burnout and reflected on what's causing it, it's helpful to create candor: "Be vulnerable with your leadership team," in order to "create community," and "normalize" this type of discussion. Talking openly, especially when you're the boss, can open up productive conversations about how to shift responsibilities and/or priorities in a way that's beneficial to the whole group. Get the full story here.

**For more on the principle of candor, explore our conversation with Amy Edmondson on psychological safety
Two years ago, the majority of salaried employees went into the office every day, often braving punishing commutes and complicated family schedules to do so. Then, Covid careened into our lives like an asteroid, upending the world of work, and leaving new insights to uncover in the rubble. Now, after a "two-year, 50-million-person experiment in changing how we work," one thing is clear: "The office was never one size fits all. It was one size fits some, with the expectation that everybody else would squeeze in," writes Emma Goldberg in this New York Times piece on what we've learned from the experiment. Now, as some brick-and-mortar offices try to beckon employees back, they must contend with the fact that many professionals don't want to return to the way things were; the old way often wasn't inclusive. Studies of over 10k office workers show that "women and people of color were more likely to see working remotely as beneficial than their white male colleagues," partially because in-person work could be fraught with in-groups, micro-aggressions, and distractions. And many don't see a reason to go back to a compulsory in-person attendance policy as productivity flourished while hybrid and remote work-models increased. Before, "the only thing holding back flexible work arrangements was a failure of imagination." Now, the sky's the limit. Get the full story here.
As we collectively emerge from what may have been the worst part of the pandemic, studies are showing that prolonged stress and uncertainty is casting a long shadow in the form of "brain fog," which can show up as "trouble staying focused, making decisions, or remembering things," according to this Greater Good Magazine article on clearing your mind. If you find your cognition is suffering, there are steps you can take to ameliorate the fuzziness, including being more discerning around your news consumption (no "doomscrolling), exercising regularly ("outside, if you can"), staying "connected to others," trying new challenges (learning is good for "neural health), and perhaps most importantlybeing kind to yourself by practicing "self-compassion." Get the full story here.
Corporate 'purpose' is a buzzword in the popular leadership conversation, but only an elite group of companies are able to fully bring its promise to life. In this Stanford Social Innovation Review excerpt from the new book, Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High Performance Companies, author Ranjay Gulati illuminates what it takes to make "meaningful strides" towards becoming a truly purpose-driven organization. Gulati finds that having "a reason for being, beyond profit, is key to supercharging financial performance while also making a positive social impact." The companies who succeed treat purpose "as an existential intention" that informs every single "decision, practice, and process." As a result of purpose being hardwired in the enterprise DNA, leaders "who go deepest on purpose," eschew convention in favor of forward-thinking behaviors, thereby positioning their companies for "innovation, agility, and growth." Read the full excerpt here.

**For more on purpose, read our recent post, "You Don't Need to Choose Between Purpose & ProfitHubert Joly and Doug Conant on Leadership in a Changing World"
The annual World Happiness Report, released this month, contained some surprising findings in troubled times, including a "surge in benevolence," in three key areas: "helping strangers, volunteering time to organizations, and donating money to charities." It's good news for leaders who are tasked with managing people amidst cascading crises. Take heart: In an era seemingly marked by division and destruction, there are some bright spots to uncover in the sweeping report. Find an overview here, the full chapter on benevolence here, and happiness rankings by country here.
As workplaces are bringing people back to the office in a shift to hybrid work, and as organizations adjust to a changing talent marketplace, the questions you're asked in your next interview might look a little different than they did pre-pandemic. "Companies have new concerns and priorities," explains this Fast Company piece that lays out how today's prospective leaders should prepare. People interviewing for leadership positions should expect to demonstrate their communications competency "across different platforms," in order to reach people working in different locations, disparate time zones, and across various technologies.  It's important to show that you are able to make everyone feel included and heard. Similarly, leaders should come prepared to "provide their thoughts on diversity, equity, and inclusion," and to be able to speak to their approach to honoring DEI principles. Candidates should also speak up about their preferences regarding flexible arrangements, remote work, and wellness to ensure all parties are "in alignment" at the outset of the relationship. Get the full story here.
If in-fighting and tension are getting in the way of your team reaching its goals, "how do you mobilize everyone to rise above petty politics to get things done?," asks this Investor's Business Daily (IBD) post. The answer lies in four essential principles for unifying people. The first piece of advice is to "Describe, Don't Prescribe." While it can be tempting to order edicts from on high and demand compliance, this approach can "trigger resentment." Instead, treat team members as "partners, not as subjects," then "describe team goals," and entrust them with figuring out how to follow throughtogether. Get all four tips in the full story here.
Insights & Resources from ConantLeadership
The BLUEPRINT Leadership Summit starts this coming Monday, April 4th!

Hosted by Doug Conant and featuring top leadership luminaries Brené Brown, Susan Cain, Steve Collis, Liz Wiseman, and more.

As part of our commitment to leaders, this landmark summit is 100% virtual and FREE to all registrants but space is limited so RSVP today.
At our most recent BLUEPRINT Leadership Summit,  Doug Conant was joined in conversation by Hubert Joly, former chairman and CEO of Best Buy, and author of the recent WSJ bestseller, The Heart of Business. Read their smart tips for leading with purpose and engaging employees in this recent blog post.
Wisdom from the Top Podcast with Guy Raz
Doug tells Guy how he turned Campbell Soup Company around using "self-taught leadership, diversity, and inclusion to energize his employees," in this fascinating conversation.
Business Storytelling Made Easy Podcast with Kelly D. Parker
Doug talks to Kelly about making it personal and how to "connect with consumers in a deeply personal way and build credibility as a leader," in this fun conversation.
February's Leadership That Works Newsletter
In last month's newsletter: Links on 'sleep leadership,' 'behavioral activation,' 'self-compassion,' and more.
Yours in leadership,

- Amy and the ConantLeadership Team

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