Satya Nadella’s Microsoft Just Became the Most Valued Company in the World. And It’s Thanks to Psychology, Not Tech

Growth mindset and empathy are the reason why Microsoft is back on top.

On a not so ordinary Friday, Microsoft reclaimed its throne as the most valuable publicly traded company. This seismic shift in the tech landscape isn’t rooted in advanced algorithms or cutting-edge hardware; it’s a tale of psychological transformation, spearheaded by CEO Satya Nadella over the past decade.

In 2014, Nadella took the helm of a company mired in a ‘know-it-all’ culture. He swiftly pivoted towards a ‘learn-it-all’ mentality, embedding the principles of a growth mindset into the very fabric of Microsoft’s ethos. This was more than a corporate strategy; it was a psychological revolution within the workplace.

Growing with the right mindset

The concept of a growth mindset, popularized by psychologist Carol Dweck, posits that abilities and intelligence can be developed. It’s a stark contrast to the fixed mindset, where abilities are viewed as static. Nadella’s embrace of this philosophy transformed Microsoft from an organization resting on its laurels to one fervently pursuing learning and growth.

Under Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft employees were encouraged to view challenges as opportunities for growth, failures as lessons, and feedback as a pathway to improvement. This culture shift had profound implications for individuals, teams, and the organizational culture at large. Team collaboration soared, innovation became a daily norm, and employees were empowered to take calculated risks without the fear of failure.

Connecting with empathy

Alongside fostering a growth mindset, Nadella emphasized empathy, recognizing it as a key driver of innovation and customer connection. He often cited the influence of the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, which underscores empathy’s role in effective communication and relationship-building. This push for empathy wasn’t just about better understanding customers’ needs; it was about creating a more inclusive and understanding workplace where diverse ideas could flourish and people felt safe to take risks.

Rory Sutherland, behavioral scientist and author, said recently, “The next revolution is not technological, it’s psychological.” Microsoft’s resurgence is a testament to this. By leveraging psychological insights, Nadella steered the company towards understanding and meeting the evolving needs of its customers and employees.

This psychological approach has broad implications for business success. Technology alone is not a panacea. Understanding human behavior, motivations, and the power of mindset can lead to more sustainable and profound success. It’s the humans behind the tech that matter most. Microsoft’s story under Nadella’s leadership is a clarion call for integrating psychology into business strategies. As Microsoft continues to evolve under this psychological paradigm, it sets a new benchmark for what companies can achieve when they focus on the human element.

Original Source

The Executive Culture Paradox: When Company Culture Fixes Don’t Work

A senior leadership team at a medical device company received results from an annual company culture survey and the feedback was disappointing. Employee comments highlighted a lack of trust in senior leadership, frustration with heavy workloads and shrinking resources, and a desire for streamlined processes and less complexity. Understandably, senior leaders were concerned, so a plan of action to close gaps was implemented, including town halls, focus groups, new workstreams designed to address survey themes, and feedback loops to assess progress. The problem? It didn’t work. A year later, employees were surveyed again, with few improvements noted.

You might think that measures like improved communications or new workstreams would prove to be effective in addressing culture gaps, but here’s what else we know: Administering a culture survey and putting a series of actions into place to address challenges is the easy part. The much harder part? Taking the right steps that will actually work for your particular organization. When it comes to culture, precision counts, and while there is no silver bullet, consider these elements to make lasting improvements:

The executive culture paradox. Executives are in an interesting spot when it comes to culture survey feedback: They are largely responsible for the current culture while also expected to improve it. At the same time, they are as much a part of the culture as any other employee, and have their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences within it. The problem is that too often this multidimensional role the senior leader plays in the culture conversation gets overlooked or underdiscussed. The result is that executives may find themselves creating plans to close organizational culture gaps that they don’t fully buy into themselves or have blind spots about how they may be unintentionally contributing to the current environment.

Create a safe space for senior leaders to reflect. Before addressing culture, engage in the right level of dialogue with senior leadership that addresses the multidimensionality of their role in culture. Don’t stop there: Provide them with a safe forum to candidly reflect on their own challenges, blind spots, or frustrations with the culture. Provide the opportunity for executives to uniquely recognize how they add to – or detract from – the current culture.

Right solution, wrong problem. The renowned engineer Paul MacCready once said: “The problem is we don’t understand the problem.” He was discussing human-powered flight, but he could have just as easily been discussing the challenges that come with improving culture. Consider the technology company that received low ratings in the areas of leader communication through a recent employee survey. In response, executives tackled the issue across multiple fronts: They established new channels to improve the flow of information, they provided new and different vehicles to make access to information easier, investing considerable company time and resources in the process.

Validate your assumptions. To say executives were frustrated when they were met with the same negative feedback about communications several months later would be an understatement, but it forced them to stop and consider what went wrong: “It’s easy to see now that we assumed we knew what employees were saying in the feedback. What we didn’t do was validate those assumptions deeply enough to get to the truth,” said the CEO.

To get to the truth, get creative. Good companies recognize the limitations that come with employee and culture surveys, because employees may not be candid, according to research. It explains why addressing culture gaps can feel like an exercise of many failed attempts, as one financial services company learned while holding focus groups with senior women in response to survey feedback reporting gender microaggressions. “We asked women to elaborate on their views, so we understood the issues, but in focus groups, they told us, ‘I’m fine, there isn’t a problem,’” shared the CHRO. The company tried other measures to deepen their understanding of the issues, from holding town halls to forming ‘culture committees,’ but it wasn’t until the CEO met individually with key women employees that details behind the initial culture survey feedback emerged.

Cultural shifts only happen when leaders accept that culture can be changed, and that changing it is their responsibility. That commitment is essential, but it won’t be enough without an accurate understanding of what’s behind those gaps in the first place. That takes time and effort, but it’s no comparison to the billions of dollars lost due to toxic cultures, or the low ROI companies get back on culture investments that miss the mark.

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it,” Albert Einstein once said. It’s a good reminder for organizations who want to move beyond persistent culture challenges and resolve them, once and for all.

This article first appeared in Forbes.

Coach John Wooden A Winning Character

John Wooden’s classmates looked up the definition too. They wrote at length about wealth and power, fame and glory, filling their papers with examples of championships won, records broken, and money earned.

Wooden didn’t agree with their definition.

As a sophomore in high school, he had trouble understanding why. He didn’t know how to articulate the problems with the definition we all go by, a definition we read in Mr. Webster’s dictionary and take for granted, a given our friends, family, co-workers, boss and society share with us and expect everyone to live up to.

Leadership Book List

Leadership Book list

We suggest the following books to be used for exploring in more depth topics that we touched upon in the culture shaping process. The title of the book links to an on-line store for purchasing. 

On the Brain: 

How the Brain Works 

Penguin Random House, New York, 2021 

Beautifully illustrated account of the brain and all its complexities simplified to a few hundred pages. This is where I cite that 95% of our decisions are made unconsciously. This book is a work of art. 

Whole Brain Living 

Hay House, Inc., New York, 2021  

Jill Bolte Taylor’s follow-up book to My Stroke of Insight; this neuroanatomist shares her journey and experience highlighting the left and right side of the brain function. This book also reinforces the notion of “voices” in our heads and that is normal. Her voices and our thinking styles exercise have some connection. 

Unleash the Power of the Feminine Brain 

Daniel G. Amen, M.D. Harmony Books, New York, 2013. 

Did you know that all human beings start out as female? Why is it that most male leaders are trying to improve their leadership through better practice of listening, empathy, and relationship building? Some would consider these feminine leadership strengths. The Chinese say Yin and Yang, the French give a masculine and feminine prefix to everything, might there be something to embracing the leadership whole in place of a part? 

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
Daniel G. Amen, M.D., Three Rivers Press, New York, 1998.
How is your ANT population? (Automatic Negative Thoughts)
“Your thoughts really matter. They can either help or hurt your deep limbic system.” Daniel Amen, M.D.
This is only one of the gems from this book written for those trying to understand anxiety and depression… but, what about your healthy high performing leadership mind? Control the ANTS!
For some exercises on optimizing brain function, check out pages 301-305 for Do’s and Don’ts… 

On Intelligence
Jeff Hawkins, Times Books, New York, 2004.
Hawkins, the creator of the Palm Pilot, is after Artificial Intelligence and focuses on the cortex of the brain as the center of intelligence. This sheathing (about the thickness of 4 or 5 playing cards) surrounds the brain. It creates the mind, a notion that Francis Crick espoused in his work, The Incredible Hypothesis. 

First, Break All The Rules
Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1999.
Lots of data and conclusions on what effective managers do… the brain research starts on page 79 and includes the world’s great managers mantra: “People don’t change that much. Do not waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough.”
Not sure if I totally agree with their conclusions, but a fascinating read. 

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci
Michael Gelb, Bantam Dell, New York, 1998.
Seven steps to genius every day. This book builds on the work of Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind and his challenge that intelligence is more than just math and language ability. Inspiring read. 

Mind Gym
Gary Mack, Contemporary Books, McGraw Hill, New York, 2001.
A sport’s psychologist’s look at the “inner game” of the athlete and the need to exercise your mind as well as your body to achieve optimum performance. 

On Leadership and Culture by Design©: 

The Winning Mindset for Leadership:
Unlocking Your Potential in Business, Sports, and Life
Dennis Alimena, iUniverse, 2008.
What makes people successful in life? Contrary to widespread belief, it is not having the right connections or the right amount of money in the bank account. Instead, it depends upon a winning mindset. 

Good to Great
Jim Collins, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2001.
The best business book written in decades. New and fresh insights on effectively leading large complex organizations. Among them – the Hedgehog Principle, Stockdale Paradox, Humility and Iron Will… do not only read this but digest it and connect it to your own leadership journey… see jimcollins.com for free resources and feel free to call us if you need some help! 

Blink
Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown, and Company, New York, 2005.
The power of thinking without thinking is a great subtitle to this book that relates to the power of our “gut reactions” to our world. This is a great barometer for leaders and do not forget to read to the end of the book where we are reminded of how wrong our “gut reaction” can be as well. Wisdom is knowing when to trust the gut and when not to… 

The Power of Full Engagement
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, Free Press, New York, 2003.
Managing energy, not time, is the key to healthy high performance. This is the message of this book on treating the business executive as a world-class athlete and training to take on the tasks of the busy executive. Some people feel stressed, but this book has you break down your world into chunks where you may see that you are under-stressed in some areas and over-stressed in others. Helpful reminders and good research and anecdotes. 

On Self-Leadership: 

The Four Agreements
Don Miguel Ruiz, Amber-Allen Publishing, San Rafael, CA. 1997.
Toltec wisdom for everyday success. A trained Western physician gets an insight into what his true calling is… sharing the wisdom of his ancestors:
1. Be Impeccable with your word
2. Do not take anything personally, people project…
3. Do not make assumptions, ask questions…
4. Always do your best, in sickness and in health… 

Fierce Conversations
Susan Scott, Viking Penguin, 2002
Much needed work around having honest and passionate conversations in the workplace. Success, one conversation at a time, is a wonderful place to start for healthy high performance. Also, these conversations need to take place during times of change to better align effort and resources. 

Egonomics 

Ego can be our greatest asset or liability; early warning signs and the role of humility are researched; curiosity plays a significant role in off-setting ego damage.re
By Graced Store offered through Amazon. 

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1416533230/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_3SDGAYKBQ8QD8CZ46RP0 

Presence: bringing Your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges 

Amy Cuddy, Little, Brown and Co., New York 2015 

https://www.amazon.com/Presence-Amy-Cuddy-audiobook/dp/B01944W6L8/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Presence+by+Amy+Cuddy&qid=1639076129&sr=8-115 

On Energy:

The Energy Bus
Jon Gordon 

The Way We Are Working Isn’t Working
Tony Schwartz 

On Philosophy, Leadership Thinking:  

The Art of Leadership Second Edition
Dr. George Manning and Kent Curtis, McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2007
A good literature search on the broad topics and history of leadership. 

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Patrick Lencioni, Josey-Bass, 2002
A fable of a new leader and a high-tech team that needs to progress through all dysfunctions to find high performance. 

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader
John C. Maxwell, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999 

The Power of Full Engagement
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, Free Press, New York, 2003. 

Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future
Peter Senge, Joseph Jaworski, C. Otto Scharmer, and Betty Sue Flowers, The Society for Organizational Learning, 2004. 

The Power of Focus
Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt, Health Communications, Inc. Deerfield Beach, Florida, 2000. 

On Becoming a Leader
Warren Bennis, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. 1989. 

The Forgotten Half of Change
Luc de Brabandere, Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005. 

Management of the Absurd
Richard Farson, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1998. 

The Empowered Manager
Peter Block, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1987. 

Freakonomics
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Harper Collins, 2005. 

Resources > Links 

Harvard Business Review 

The Energy Project
TED 

Contact

The Winning Mindset by Dennis Alimena 

Available for purchase at iUniverse
Click here download the table of contents and introduction to the book 

It’s (past) time to get strategic about DEI

It’s (past) time to get strategic about DEI

Companies have committed to being more diverse, inclusive, and equitable, but many struggle to make significant progress in these areas. Here’s how they can meet DEI ambitions—now and in the longer term.

Many organizations have long been engaged in efforts to make their workforces and communities more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, companies ramped up those efforts, and the world saw an unprecedented explosion of corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) commitments.1

Since then, however, the pace of commitments has slowed, and business leaders, employees, and other stakeholders have expressed frustration with the lack of significant progress that well-intentioned leaders are making on their DEI pledges.2 For instance, there is still a lack of gender parity when it comes to workplace advancement. McKinsey’s 2022 Women in the Workplace research, conducted with LeanIn.Org, showed that for every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted. The same body of research also revealed that women leaders, particularly women of color,3 leave companies at a much higher rate than White men.4

What accounts for the shortfall in progress?

Our work with hundreds of companies seeking to launch or transform DEI strategies points to several common failure modes that organizations and leaders tend to fall into—particularly regarding initiatives aimed at improving DEI internally.5 Some launch DEI initiatives without establishing a clear baseline: Where has the company been, where is it going, what resources does it need to create DEI impact, and how will it know that its DEI strategy has succeeded? Some companies take an incremental approach to change, which can end up wasting teams’ and individuals’ already scarce time and energy. Others are inconsistent about measuring outcomes from their DEI initiatives, often missing opportunities to build on what is working or to change course when initiatives aren’t faring well.

By contrast, the companies that have begun to fulfill their internal DEI commitments take a systematic approach to establishing their DEI strategies. They set a bold but achievable DEI aspiration linked to the company’s overall mission and strategy. They use quantitative and qualitative analytics to establish a baseline and determine what DEI interventions are most needed. They develop a plan for which DEI-related initiatives will be rolled out and when, based on the company’s overarching strategic objectives. These organizations mobilize the resources and capability building that’s required to deliver on DEI initiatives. And they establish routines for monitoring progress over time; in this way, leaders can hold people accountable for desired outcomes while scaling and sustaining momentum on DEI initiatives that are working.

In our experience, these five steps, taken together, are critical for setting and achieving a robust internal DEI strategy.

Five steps are critical for setting and achieving successful DEI strategies.

  1. Aspire. Align on the vision.
  2. Assess. Build the fact base.
  3. Architect. Develop the plan.
  4. Act. Mobilize capabilities and resources.
  5. Advance. Measure progress to scale and sustain momentum.

By no means do they constitute a simple recipe for success, nor can they ensure that change will happen overnight. Getting these steps right will require collaboration among leaders across business units and functions, as well as frequent communication with employees, board members, and other important stakeholders.

But the leaders and companies that adopt a systematic approach to DEI strategy development will be better able to create near-term improvements in employees’ everyday experiences at work while making steady progress on longer-term DEI objectives.

Step 1: Set a bold but achievable DEI aspiration

While DEI continues to be a controversial, often-politicized topic, there is increasing evidence that when organizations are diverse, inclusive, and equitable, everyone benefits. One study, for instance, showed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were more likely than less-diverse peers to have above-average profitability.6

But even when individuals and teams agree on the importance of DEI efforts, they may struggle to balance DEI-related activities with other day-to-day priorities. What they need is a bold but achievable DEI aspiration that inspires, offers clear direction, and demonstrates that DEI isn’t an isolated priority. As one pharmaceutical leader told us, “DEI is the right thing to do, but it also enables us to achieve our broader mission to serve more patients and their communities. We should always talk about DEI as it links to our ability to achieve our vision for patient outcomes.”

The DEI aspiration might be a sentence, a list of commitments, a diagram, or a few paragraphs. The format matters less than the message it conveys—that moving the needle on diversity, equity, and inclusion will positively affect the organization’s mission and stakeholders. The DEI aspiration should highlight the outcomes the organization wants to achieve, not just the activities it will take to get there. The pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb, for example, set the following DEI aspiration: “Through a culture of inclusion, we create an agile and responsive work environment where the diverse experiences and perspectives of all our employees help to drive innovation and transformative business results.”

The DEI aspiration should also be linked to objectives that are specific, measurable, forward looking (think several years out), and grounded in data. One agricultural company, for instance, sought to create gender parity in the organization by 2030. Leaders conducted a comprehensive analysis of retention and advancement trends and realized that to meet this bold ambition, 80 percent of the company’s new hires over the next few years would need to be women. Given existing and projected demographics in the industry, leaders realized such a goal would be tough to meet, so they revised the aspiration to be more realistic—although still a stretch goal.

A diverse set of stakeholders should be involved in creating and pressure testing the DEI aspiration. One healthcare company solicited input from business and functional leaders and employee resource groups about its DEI aspiration. The feedback from these stakeholders helped to shape the language of the statement. Their input also ended up influencing how the company implemented the DEI initiatives that followed, as these conversations unearthed important nuances in the rollout and several potential pitfalls.

Step 2: Build a quantitative and qualitative DEI baseline

Many companies launch DEI initiatives without a clear view of the problems they are trying to solve, the interventions that might work best, or how they will measure success. One consumer-packaged-goods company, for instance, celebrated the fact that 85 percent of its employees said they felt “a strong sense of belonging” at the organization. But when leaders were asked about perceptions and needs among specific groups of employees—for instance, Black women, neurodiverse employees, and veterans—the leaders admitted, “We have no way of knowing.”

To gain more clarity on where the organization stands and where it’s going with its DEI-related objectives, leaders must take time to establish a quantitative and qualitative DEI baseline.

Quantitative analysis

Companies can use internal people data to understand how diverse their pipelines are. They can then benchmark those results against industry data, as well as local talent-market data, to identify the biggest areas of difference.7 Does the representation of employees within a specific demographic meaningfully drop off from one level to the next? Such an analysis should capture talent inflows and outflows—for instance, historical trends in hiring, retention, and advancement for each demographic group (exhibit).

Indhira Arrington, chief DEI officer at private equity firm Ares Management, suggests keeping things simple: “For me, it’s a + b – c: recruiting plus promotions minus departures. Cut that by a diversity dimension and by job title, and you can clearly see at any point what your representation looks like. It’s a nice way to start mapping out which people you need to spend time with and which processes to evaluate to understand how we got to where we are.”8

Qualitative insights

Through focus groups, interviews, and free-text responses on anonymous surveys, organizations can surface additional insights that can complement their quantitative analyses. If there is enough psychological safety in an organization, employees’ animated stories and open sharing can bring the quantitative data to life for senior leaders. At one investment bank, for instance, leaders conducted a series of focus groups and interviews with Black, Hispanic, and Latino employees to better understand how to meet the needs of these demographic groups. The company had made progress on gender representation, but through these discussions, it learned that Black, Hispanic, and Latino employees needed different support—specifically, more explicit allyship, stronger accountability, and more equitable performance management.

Step 3: Set a plan for how and when DEI initiatives will be rolled out

Once they have set a clear aspiration (with associated objectives) and built a comprehensive baseline, organizations and leaders will be better equipped to architect a strategic plan for DEI. Having such a plan in place is critical—yet, in their haste to show impact, many organizations act first and assess later. A 2022 survey of HR and DEI practitioners, for instance, found that less than half of respondents had a strategic plan for DEI in place.9

The planning starts with leaders building a list of initiatives that will support the bold DEI aspiration and that will address any challenges raised during the baseline analysis. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing this list. Leaders can take inspiration from others,10 but ultimately the list must be grounded in the company’s unique goals and starting point.

In our experience, it is best to target a few large, mutually reinforcing DEI initiatives rather than pursue many smaller, stand-alone initiatives that will compete for resources and leaders’ attention. Leaders in larger, more global organizations should also think about designing their DEI initiatives so that they can be tailored for different cultures and for local business and social contexts; such initiatives may resonate differently for employees in different parts of the world. Leaders should consider this and other factors when drawing up their DEI road map (see sidebar, “Charting a course for DEI initiatives”).

Leaders at the gaming company Activision Blizzard (AB) did just this, identifying the initiatives required to fill critical talent gaps and boost diversity at the company (and in the industry). There can be up to 50,000 open positions globally in the gaming industry, yet women still make up only about one-quarter of the industry workforce11 and Black employees just 5 percent.12

Leaders at AB used advanced analytics and employee interviews to identify the most critical roles, skills, and experiences necessary to address their recruiting needs. They found 14 skills commonly cited in engineering role specifications that weren’t broadly predictive of success. These data have significant implications for the gaming industry: companies that use these criteria could erroneously screen out otherwise qualified candidates or even deter those candidates from applying altogether. The company also looked at the findings through a different lens: What does matter but most limits the company’s potential labor market? Leaders at AB saw that while game development experience was critical to success, it constrained the talent pool by 99 percent, excluding nearly four million potential workers who had all the other technical expertise needed to succeed at AB.

As a result, the team implemented an approach to hiring that emphasized both skills and experience. AB established Level Up U, a three-month engineering program designed to recruit and develop a more diverse set of employees. The composition of the inaugural class was 45 percent women, 40 percent underrepresented ethnic groups, and 14 percent existing employees who were reskilled through the program.13 According to leaders at AB, the program has contributed to a 25 percent year-on-year increase in development head count, and the company plans to continue scaling up Level Up U for targeted roles across other parts of the organization.

As they architect and execute their DEI plans, leaders may identify existing initiatives that should be stopped, either because they have been ineffective or no longer match the company’s reframed DEI priorities. Leaders at one not-for-profit education organization, for instance, paused an antiracist training initiative after employees finally shared that the trainings weren’t changing behaviors or mindsets. The organization had hoped that if board members and employees attended the trainings and gained more knowledge about the systemic challenges affecting their communities, they would be better prepared to design programs and systems to serve under-resourced students. But it turned out that the organization was wasting limited resources on interventions that weren’t making an impact. No one had raised concerns about the trainings previously because they didn’t want to be perceived as objecting to the organization’s DEI efforts. Once employees spoke up, however, leaders listened. They engaged a different training partner that could facilitate the small-group discussions and community engagement that employees had requested.

Step 4: Mobilize the capabilities and resources required to deliver on DEI initiatives

To make meaningful progress on DEI initiatives, companies need to support them with the appropriate capabilities and resources.

Capabilities

In our experience, organizations need a mix of DEI experts, business leaders, and change champions who are passionate about improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplaces. Organizations often overindex on only one of these three groups. They expect leaders without DEI expertise to manage DEI initiatives on top of their full-time jobs. Or they bring in DEI experts who don’t have sufficient business context. In both cases, DEI initiatives end up stalling.

The DEI council at one manufacturing company, for example, was struggling to sustain its momentum after several years of programming designed to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion at the company. The problem? The council included plenty of business leaders who were passionate about DEI, but it lacked anyone with experience in successfully designing and implementing a DEI strategy. Additionally, the executives on the council were doing this DEI work on top of their other responsibilities, with limited capacity, so they failed to make much progress between monthly meetings.

Another company avoided this dynamic by bringing onto its DEI council several people who understood both DEI strategy and industry context. Council members were expected to provide feedback, share DEI success stories, and champion DEI initiatives within their respective business units. And the company redesigned the roles of those people responsible for delivering DEI initiatives, so they had more time for DEI work. The company also made these individuals more accountable by linking their work on DEI initiatives to their performance reviews.

Employees often spend countless hours on DEI initiatives only to be told during performance discussions that their efforts are great as a “passion project” but that they need to prioritize core business activities. This is particularly true for women, who often take on a greater share of DEI-related work without requisite rewards and recognition.14 Instead, these employees should be recognized for their leadership on DEI initiatives through the organization’s formal performance management processes and through informal rewards and public accolades.

Resources

Too often, employees and DEI leaders are tasked with delivering widespread improvements in diversity, equity, and inclusion without an adequate team or budget. The resource gap is likely unintentional; senior leaders often don’t realize the amount of investment required to help employees change their behaviors. A survey of HR and DEI practitioners, for instance, found that only 34 percent believed their organizations had sufficient resources to execute DEI initiatives.15 Again, quantitative and qualitative analyses can help leaders to understand the degree of changes they are expecting across the organization and, therefore, the resources that may be required for a successful DEI transformation.

A regional power company eager to build a more inclusive culture planned to do so through a three-part series of diversity training workshops, each lasting 60 minutes. Some data analysis and candid conversations among DEI and HR leaders revealed the limited scope of this approach.16 The company instead launched a capability-building experience with several hundred managers that included interactive workshops, small-group discussions, pre- and post-assessments, and small experiments the managers could try with their teams. The program required many more resources to implement, but it was integrated into a larger culture change program where it was seen less as “DEI training” and more as leadership development.

Through this revised framing, the program attracted a broader group of leaders, all of whom were prioritizing behavior changes that would help them to become more inclusive leaders. The program was piloted with 100 leaders, and before the pilot was over, the company began rolling it out to 300 more employees after finding that 100 percent of participants recommended it to others, and 84 percent reported already using the skills they had learned in their current role.

Step 5: Measure and monitor progress and hold people accountable for DEI outcomes

As with any other component of an organization’s strategy, progress on DEI initiatives must be tracked with clear metrics, and leaders should be held accountable for results. To facilitate accountability, some companies use DEI scorecards and set milestones for completing specific DEI goals. A European consumer brand, for instance, created a dashboard for its CEO and senior managers to track representation, hiring, promotion, attrition, and inclusion, which helped leaders stay more engaged in the work. Some organizations monitor both leading indicators (for instance, an increase in applications from underrepresented demographics) and lagging indicators (for example, an increase in diversity representation across different levels of an organization). Other organizations incorporate inclusive behaviors into their leadership models or performance management criteria.

For example, leaders at Nike set specific, measurable DEI goals for 2025 and connected them to the company’s executive compensation. In its 2021 impact report, Nike president and CEO John Donahoe called the targets “a call to action—with clear goals, strategies, and accountabilities.”

Transparency can help bolster accountability: DEI and business leaders should share progress on their bold DEI aspirations often—at board meetings, in town halls, at industry association meetings, and so on—to encourage further engagement and commitment. Detailed HR data should, of course, be held in confidence; not everyone needs to know everything. But sharing ambitious objectives, progress made, and success stories can help to educate and inspire employees.

Step by step: Achieving progress on DEI initiatives

When organizations consider their DEI strategies systematically and take the five critical steps we have outlined, they can make meaningful progress against DEI objectives. Consider the evolution at one large hospitality company.

Step 1: Aspire

Leaders at the company stated their aspiration to “go big” on DEI. They committed to building a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization for employees, guests, and other community stakeholders. They set ambitious but achievable objectives that were linked to each element in their DEI plan. For instance, one commitment was to have women hold half of the positions at each management level within five years, a significant jump from their current leadership representation. Other commitments included having 50 percent of their leadership roles held by people of color, becoming a leader for disability inclusion, and hiring more veterans through a successful reskilling program.

Step 2: Assess

Leaders conducted both qualitative and quantitative assessments of the company’s talent pipeline to gauge overall representation at each level and to determine which factors were having the biggest effect on the company’s ability to develop diverse talent—for instance, external hiring and attrition at early tenures—and used this analysis as a dashboard to monitor progress.

Step 3: Architect

Based on these data, leaders at the organization drew a road map to meet their five-year objectives. The road map included a mix of enterprise-wide initiatives (for example, strengthening its analytics around diversity and standing up equity councils to increase accountability and mobilize business leaders) as well as a series of smaller pilot programs that business units could select from to best address their local challenges (among them, sessions on capability building for inclusive leadership, sponsorship, investment in employee resource groups [ERGs], and allyship for men).

Step 4: Act

The mix of initiatives proved successful. Within eight months, the hospitality company realized a greater than 5 percent improvement in the number of women across leadership levels. Additionally, more than 95 percent of the top 300 leaders reported having new tools and skills to support them in addressing unconscious bias. Three years later, the organization was on track to meet its representation goals, and leaders updated the goals so the targets were more of a stretch. Additionally, the organization was named a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion.”

Step 5: Advance

To sustain this momentum, the organization used DEI dashboards to track progress against leading and lagging metrics and linked their DEI outcomes to leadership incentives. Successful pilots launched in the first year from the “menu” of initiatives were rolled out in subsequent years to other relevant parts of the business (for example, an inclusive-leadership program was brought to more people managers through a train-the-trainer approach). The equity councils and change-management plans established in the first year helped sustain attention on DEI initiatives as competing priorities arose.


Meaningfully improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in an organization requires time; it can take companies several years to see widespread, significant progress. It also requires collaboration. Leaders must ensure that employees from a range of identities and organizational levels have opportunities to provide candid feedback—whether through ERGs, focus groups, one-on-one discussions, or employee town halls. While not all feedback will necessarily be incorporated, it is vital that employees feel—and are—a part of the process.

Above all, meaningful progress requires dedication; the DEI strategy should be continually refined as pilot projects deliver results, lessons are learned, leaders and employees develop new skills and awareness, and the business’s overarching strategy evolves. All of these are critical for achieving longer-term DEI aspirations.

Warren Buffett Says He Became Filthy Rich Because He Played by 1 Simple Rule of Life

Warren Buffett Says He Became Filthy Rich Because He Played by 1 Simple Rule of LifeWarren Buffett believes this rule is essential to building success.

Warren Buffett believes this rule is essential to building success.

Warren Buffett is widely considered one of the most successful investors ever. Yet despite his immense wealth and status, Buffett measures his success in a unique way – through his ‘inner scorecard.’

Buffett’s inner scorecard is a set of personal values and principles that guide his decision-making and behavior. Unlike many people who measure their success by external factors like money or fame, Buffett believes that true success comes from living up to your own values and principles. 

So why does Buffett place so much importance on his inner scorecard? It’s because he believes that when you measure your success based on external factors, you become more focused on what others think of you rather than what you truly value. By focusing on his values and principles, Buffett has made decisions that align with his vision of success rather than society’s.

Build your inner scorecard

For Buffett, the most important values are integrity, honesty, and generosity. He believes these values are essential to building success and are the foundation of a strong personal and professional reputation. Perhaps this is a good starting point to build your own inner scorecard. Let’s expand on each:

1. Integrity

Living and working with integrity has numerous benefits, both personally and professionally. When you work with integrity, people trust you. They know you are reliable, ethical and won’t cut corners. This can help you build stronger relationships with colleagues, clients, and customers. Also, when you work with integrity, you are more likely to have a positive reputation, which can open up new opportunities for you and help you advance in your career. Buffett once said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”

2. Honesty

When you work with honesty, you can feel good about yourself. You know that you are not deceiving or misleading others, which can give you self-respect and self-worth. You’re also more focused on your work. You’re not worried about covering up mistakes or being caught in a lie, which can help you be more productive and efficient. Finally, being honest leads to better communication. When you are honest in your interactions, you can avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. 

3. Generosity

Generosity may not directly lead to wealth, but it can contribute to overall success and financial well-being in various ways. Being perceived as generous can build goodwill, lead to new business or career opportunities, and help you build a strong network of contacts and mentors. Additionally, the concept of karma suggests that being generous can attract positive outcomes, and generosity can contribute to emotional well-being and a sense of purpose. According to one study report, people are happier when “spending money on others than on themselves, and this happiness motivates them to be generous in the future.” Other studies show that generosity can release endorphins in the brain, creating feelings of happiness and joy. Giving can also help to build and strengthen relationships. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, participants who were asked to give to others reported feeling more connected to those individuals and had more positive interactions with them.

In conclusion, Warren Buffett’s inner scorecard is a unique measure of success. You can succeed in your career and personal life by living up to your values and principles. It’s a valuable lesson for anyone looking to find true success and fulfillment.

Curiosity Has Two Faces

Curiosity Has Two Faces

By Annelise Jolley

We’re born with an insatiable appetite for new information. This hunger, which we call curiosity, is a universal trait, though people possess it in varying degrees and express it through different behaviors. Curiosity is widely considered a virtue, being closely linked to other traits we value: creativityintellectual humility, and empathy. Curious students achieve at higher levels in school. Curious members of a group help create common ground. Recent scientific study has even linked the trait to more satisfying intimate relationships and greater perceived meaning in life. 

Yet not all curiosity is created equally, something humans have long intuited. Its potential danger has deep roots in our myths and stories. Curiosity killed the cat, as the old saying goes. Eve’s hunger for knowledge led her to eat the fateful fruit. The Roman philosopher Cicero, who defined curiosity as “our innate love of learning,” theorized that it wasn’t the Siren’s sweet voices in The Odyssey that wrecked ships but rather “their professions of knowledge …it was the passion for learning that kept men rooted to the Sirens’ rocky shores.”

Recently, a quartet of researchers confirmed the hunch that not all types of curiosity lead to virtuous behavior, along with a number of other exciting discoveries. The team is made up of Daphna Shohamy and Ran Hassin of Columbia University, Thalia Wheatley of Dartmouth, and Jonathan Schooler of University of California Santa Barbara. With funding from the John Templeton Foundation, the researchers spent the last several years investigating the role of curiosity in learning, creativity, and social connection. 

Curiosity’s two faces

“It’s important to emphasize that there are different kinds of curiosity,” says Schooler. Of these expressions, the team focused their research on two kinds: general interest curiosity and deprivation curiosity. General interest curiosity celebrates a lack of knowledge as an opportunity to gain more knowledge. People who exhibit this trait are motivated to learn for learning’s sake. 

As Schooler puts it, general interest curiosity takes “delight in the fact that we don't know everything and that there’s so much wonderful information to graze out there.”

This expression stands in awe before mystery and accepts all that we do not—and cannot—know, which means it’s closely linked to intellectual humility. 

Deprivation curiosity, on the other hand, functions in a utilitarian way. Rather than an exploratory desire to learn, it wants an answer to fill a gap in knowledge. Deprivation curiosity stems from an aversion to not knowing something; its motivation is to squelch the discomfort of uncertainty. Because deprivation curiosity clamors for information as a way to avoid unknowing, it’s linked to a lack of intellectual humility. This drive to find an answer isn’t always bad, says Schooler. “We do think it’s likely to be an important complement to general interest curiosity. You can easily imagine that when Einstein was pursuing his passion for understanding relativity he had a sense of, ‘I must get to the bottom of this—I won’t sleep until I do!’” 

Because deprivation curiosity is linked to intellectual arrogance, it predicts other negative behaviors. “When you lack intellectual humility—when you feel like you need to know everything and you realize there’s something you don’t know—that leads to an uncomfortable gap.” In order to fill this gap and minimize discomfort, people tend to look for answers without discernment. For example, “we see them accepting fake news because they don’t like the feeling of uncertainty that maybe this [news] isn’t true,” Schooler says. In a similar way, deprivation curiosity can lead people to create false memories. When we seek an answer purely to avoid not knowing, in other words, we run the risk of accepting the wrong answer.

Conversational curiosity

Cognitive scientist Thalia Wheatley studies curiosity’s role in relationships. The guiding question behind her research: Do more curious people connect in different ways than less curious people?

In a word, yes. As with intellectual humility, a person’s willingness to tolerate uncertainty plays a significant role. “What we find is that people who are stress tolerant—who have a willingness to sit with uncertainty—are exploratory in their conversations,” says Wheatley. If you were to design a map indicating where curious people travel in conversation, the map would show them ranging further, diving deeper, and covering a broader spectrum of ideas. This kind of conversational exploration and openness is not only predicted by a higher stress tolerance but also by general interest curiosity, or what Wheatley calls “joyous exploration.” 

Conversational curiosity is a critical piece of what connects us to one another. When you consider your closest relationships, this isn’t all that surprising. We feel cared for when someone listens closely, asks questions, and generally exhibits a desire to know more about us. This kind of relational curiosity fosters intimacy between people even across disagreement. “This engagement with another mind—this actual curiosity about what someone else believes and a willingness to hear an alternate interpretation or explanation—is really important for connection,” she explains. 

What is surprising is the team’s discovery that our brains actually change when we practice curiosity in social interactions. In one study, participants watched video clips while lying in a brain scanner. The short clips were played without context or sound, so viewers had to piece together what the scenes depicted. Participants then came together to talk about what they’d seen and to work out what took place in the clips. Once the group arrived at a shared understanding, they returned to the brain scanners and watched the clips again—this time through the lens of other viewers’ interpretations. Among participants who exhibited curiosity during the group conversation, the scanners showed a change in brain activity. The people who listened carefully and asked questions, who were willing to alter their perceptions based on others’ insights, later adapted their own brain activity to match that of group members. 

Curiosity helped to literally change people’s minds and align neural activity within a group.

Wheatley’s study demonstrated that people who are curious about others’ points of view are more likely to create alignment in their group. In contrast, those who tend to dominate the conversation are neurally inflexible and prevent collective agreement. “[Curiosity] really creates common ground across brains, just by virtue of having the intellectual humility to say, ‘Okay, I thought it was like this, but what do you think?’ And being willing to change your mind,” she says. 

In a time of deep polarization and cultural divides, this discovery has particularly urgent and practical implications. The U.S. is experiencing a kind of divide that researchers call “intractable conflict,” in which people’s interactions with those who hold differing opinions become increasingly charged. Curiosity offers a way to diffuse this charge, opening the possibility for deeper listening and more neural flexibility. It helps combat intellectual arrogance and discomfort with ambiguity. Of course, the goal isn’t to get everyone to think the same way. In a group, Wheatley says, “You need these highly central people who are going to create common goals and common ground. But you also need people on the fringes, the quirky, independent voices that are going to cause new ideas to emerge.” But a willingness to listen, change your mind, and incorporate new perspectives could go a long way in bridging some of the conversational divides we face today.

Getting to the heart of team culture with Pete Carroll

Getting to the heart of team culture with Pete Carroll

How do you build a team capable of winning the Super Bowl? Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll believes it comes down to strong relationships–ones that extend beyond the field and last for a lifetime. He talks with Adam about taking accountability for failures, the differences between regard and respect, and the rituals he’s developed over years on the job that have helped him create trust and communication in his team. Transcripts for ReThinking are available at go.ted.com/RWAGscripts

How People With High Emotional Intelligence Use ‘the Roy Kent Rule’ to Become Remarkably Successful “I give him love. And as for why he did what he did, that’s none of my business.”

How People With High Emotional Intelligence Use the Roy Kent Rule to Become Remarkably Successful’

I give him love. And as for why he did what he did, that’s none of my business.’

BY BILL MURPHY JR.

This is a story about Ted Lasso and emotional intelligence — especially emotional intelligence for leaders

Let’s set it all up with a question: Has anything like the following ever ever happened to you?

  • You gather your team for an exciting announcement. You’re sure it will improve their lives better and earn them more money. But your words fall flat, and you can’t figure out why.
  • You see a competitor that beat you recently for a key client. You make a joke of it — and yet, they react with bitterness and anger. Where on earth is that coming from? You have no idea.
  • You call an employee into the office for a tough but important conversation. Instead of listening or agreeing — or doing anything, really — they simply shut down. You have no idea if your message is getting through, or if they even want to work for you.

They’re all frustrating scenarios, for sure. What they have in common is that you say or do something with good intentions, and you get an emotional reaction that’s basically the opposite of what you expect.

People with high emotional intelligence understand what’s going on, and the fact that they do gives them an immense advantage.

To illustrate it, I’m going to use a story from the most recent episode of the Apple TV show, Ted Lasso, a popular comedic drama (or a dramatic comedy?) about a fictional professional soccer team in England.

You don’t need to watch the show in order for this to make sense. (Although, I recommend it.) In short, the most recent episode has two key plot points:

  • First, a star player, Isaac McAdoo, reacts to a fan’s taunting, which includes a gay slur, by charging into the stands and physically confronting the fan — and thus getting himself thrown out of the game.
  • Second, the assistant coach, a former player named Roy Kent, has to face the press afterward and answer questions about what got into McAdoo, and whether the team stands behind him for having run into the stands.

Here’s part of what Roy Kent (played by Brett Goldstein) has to say.

"What a stupid ... question. Of course we don't [condone it]. What Isaac did was awful.   ... [But], none of us knows what is going on in each other's lives. So, for Isaac to do what he did today, even though it was wrong, I give him love. And as for why he did what he did, that's none of my ... business. Next question."

Now, if you watch the show, you’ll understand that two out of the three ellipses above are about me editing out all the F-bombs that normally come up in Kent’s lines; it’s part of his charm. (Video is embedded at the end, but again: same warning.)

But, there’s a lot of wisdom in that line — and we might add, emotional intelligence for leaders. 

Here’s what it comes down to. People with high emotional intelligence understand that sometimes, your words fall flat, or your invitation doesn’t get an answer, or you wind up with a completely different emotional response than you expect–and it has absolutely nothing to do with you personally. You’re often best off just forgetting the whole thing and moving on.

But, leaders don’t get that option, unless they want to abdicate their leadership role.

You can’t simply ignore that your employees aren’t engaged, or that your competitor now seems inexplicably angry, or that your team isn’t enthused by the goals or opportunities you’ve set out. You have to react somehow.

And the way to react is the way the fictional character Roy Kent suggests: You have to find a way to give them love.

  • Maybe it means asking a few questions, figuring out what’s going on behind the scenes, and holding a second meeting with your team.
  • Maybe it means sending another note to that competitor, and making sure that there’s no other fact you’re not aware of that might have created bad blood.
  • Maybe it’s about being proactive, and finding out what’s been going on with the employee whose actions led you to think you needed a tough conversation, and seeing if there are ways you can help him or her succeed.

None of us knows what is going on in each other’s lives. It’s such a key thing to realize in emotional intelligence, and such a simple thing to remember. In honor of the TV show that has now provided us with a pithy way to remember it, we’ll call it the Roy Kent Rule. 

Because, as I write in my free ebook, 9 Smart Habits of People With Very High Emotional Intelligence, I like things that are simple–just because it’s much more likely I’ll stick with them.

Next question.