The Lesson For All Leaders From Boris Johnson’s Bare Minimum Brexit Compliance

Last evening Boris Johnson did what the UK Parliament had legally mandated he do. He sent the EU a letter requesting a Brexit delay. This is, of course, just one step in the UK Brexit story. At the same time, it’s a classic lesson in the bare minimum compliance. Yes, he complied with the law and sent that letter. He also sent another letting telling the EU that any further delay was a bad idea. And no one knows what he’s saying behind the scenes. But we can imagine. The lesson for all leaders is that compliance may not be enough. You need contribution or commitment.
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Why Where To Play Must Be Your First Choice

We keep learning the same lesson over and over again – or not. Porter told us that strategy is choosing what not to do. Choosing not to focus is choosing to be average at everything. And average does not win. Marakon’s Neal Kissel just sent me their latest research showing yet again that “the path to superior performance is determined by management’s decisions about where to focus the firm’s strategic resources (time, people and capital).”
Pay attention to the five BRAVE questions. Answer them outside-in in order:
Where to play? (Environment – context)
What matters and why? (Values – purpose)
How to win? (Attitude – strategy)
How to connect? (Relationships – communication)
What impact? (Behaviors – implementation)
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How Nissan’s Makoto Uchida Should Channel Lyndon Johnson As He Takes Over From Carlos Ghosn

It’s not a perfect analogy. But both Makoto Uchida and Lyndon Johnson took over from leaders cut down mid-stream. Jack Kennedy was assassinated. Carlos Ghosn was arrested on charges of financial misconduct. Johnson did an amazing job in his first 100-days of calming down the country, keeping Kennedy’s cabinet intact, and re-starting critical legislation. Uchida should channel Johnson in dealing with emotional, personal and business issues – in that order.
Forbes auto-expert Greg Gardner laid out what Uchida is facing in his article on the Post-Ghosn Turnaround. Key points are that Nissan needs a financial and cultural turnaround. Nissan’s most recent profits fell 94.5% year-on-year. Culturally, the organization needs to move to more “Group leadership, where they all support each other” and are “more transparent” according to Nissan’s chairman, Yasushi Kimura.
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The Four Keys To Level Four Delegation – The Heart Of Leadership

Leadership is all about inspiring and enabling others, epitomized by level four delegation. The keys to doing that well are 1) direction, 2) resources, 3) bounded authority, and 4) accountability.
Recall the framework from my article, The Art of Delegating:
Do well yourself – Individual contributors’ main area of focus
Do yourself, but just well enough – Individual contributors
Delegate and supervise – The realm of managers
Delegate and trust – Senior leaders enabling and empowering managers
Do later – Senior leaders’ prioritization/deprioritization saving others time now
Do never – Senior leaders’ ultimate deprioritization, saving others time and attention
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How To Deal With The Patriots’ Antonio Brown Onboarding Problem – Step By Step

You’ve all faced the Patriots dilemma with Antonio Brown one way or another. How do you make sure an incoming superstar helps team performance instead of hurting it? There’s no doubt Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick is a master at doing this. There’s no doubt Brown poses a particularly big challenge. Expect Belichick to do what he’s always done, bring the new player onboard step by step.
For those of you not familiar with the NFL’s Antonio Brown, in eight seasons with the Pittsburg Steelers he delivered 11,207 receiving yards. That’s 86.2 yards per game – the third best ever by any NFL receiver on any team over their career. And, oh-by-he-way, he also ran for 2,932 yards after receiving kicks.
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Creating and Perpetuating an Ethical Workplace: The Board’s Role

What defines a “good place to work”? Employees want to be
respected. They want their ideas to be heard. They want clear expectations and
goals to meet or exceed. They want to be rewarded for their hard work and
dedication. And, perhaps most of all, they want to work for a company they can
trust. Providing these workplace components creates happy employees, encourages
good work, inspires loyalty, and ultimately leads to long-term success.

The first step to achieving all of the above? Ensuring the company’s
culture is centered on good character. Acting ethically—doing right by customers
and employees, and being clear and up front about individual and company
actions—is the most important building block in developing a positive culture
and solid reputation.

Company culture and company success are two sides of the same
coin. When employees feel supported, heard, and respected—when a good company
culture is lived and transmitted—they’re more likely to come up with creative
ideas, to care about solving problems, and to remain motivated. This leads to success
with customers, which in turn rewards employees, reinforcing the culture and creating
a virtuous, self-sustaining cycle. Culture can truly make or break a company.
Pay, benefits, and customers may draw people in, but it is the culture—the very
core of a company, what it stands for and how it operates—that will keep employees
or turn them away.

So, what role can a board play in promoting company culture?
How does a board support the adoption and enactment of ethical behavior?

First, the board must support and contribute to the creation
of strong teams. Is the board hiring the right people? How can you be sure? One
essential way is to incorporate ethics and behavioral elements into the vetting
and selection process of our teams. Be sure to ask the right questions; rather
than simply asking what someone has achieved, also ask “how?” What drove their
decision-making, and what effects did that have on outcomes? Were there any tradeoffs
or compromises made during this process? Growing a business is never easy, but
choosing leaders with good character is essential to ensuring that ethical
behavior is built into teams’ DNA and the decision framework. It all starts
from the top.

Second, the board must set expectations that employees will
be offered certain resources that teach and reinforce a culture of ethics to
and in employees. Ethics training must be mandatory but also engaging, which will
enable employees to understand the importance of ethics and good character and
then live it, not just parrot obvious responses. Interactive training, whether
it be digital or in person, should facilitate discussion and incorporate
real-life scenarios and dilemmas into its program.

An ethical workplace doesn’t stop at training. There must be
a visible system in place for team members to escalate concerns. Does the
company have an ethics hotline? Who monitors the hotline? Are management and
other relevant parties checking to make sure it’s being used? How are they
making sure that everyone knows how and when to use it? If it is never used, it
may indicate that employees are afraid to escalate issues.

The board should ensure that management  always communicates to employees that they
have access to the information they need about policies and procedures. Employees
should know what conduct is expected of their role, and also understand how the
company’s written code of conduct applies to their work life. Ensure that refresher
training is readily available and accessible, that employees are instructed to escalate
issues when necessary, and that they understand there is no threat of
retaliation if they do so.

The third step is reinforcement. Accountability must be
demanded from leadership by the board. Is there a review system in place to
make sure top executives continue to follow the code of ethics? How can the
board encourage ethical behavior? CACI established a board-level culture committee
that is assigned to oversee management’s efforts to foster and institutionalize
our culture at all levels of the company.

We also created and institutionalized our own award for
ethical behavior to acknowledge and positively reinforce actions that align
with our culture of good character. Our ethical culture is made visible in many
ways, including through our robust community volunteering program, called “CACI
Cares,” and our support of veterans through several nonprofit organizations. I
am very proud of CACI’s strong and generous presence in both our nation and our
neighborhoods through volunteerism and charitable giving.

Now, renew, repeat, reinforce. To be successful, a culture of
good character must be a priority from the top down. Everyone must put in
effort to ensure that it exists and persists. Make it a key piece of every
single business decision the board makes—where to invest, who to hire, what
policies to implement. At CACI, we expect the same ethical behavior from our
suppliers and even our customers. Turning away from doing business with
unethical organizations might cost the company in the short run, but it has
certainly paid off for us over time.

Finally, it is the board’s duty to ensure that leadership and
others in charge of decision-making not only understand but embrace the
culture. It won’t always be easy, but the board decides who remains in positions
of power—and who doesn’t. Acting ethically establishes trust, both with
employees and with customers. And if you show customers that your company can
be trusted, they will continue to give you their business. Creating an environment
where individual and organizational character is the expectation, not the
exception, will ensure long-term success.

Michael A. Daniels is
a director of CACI International. He also serves on the boards of the Northern
Virginia Technology Council, Two Six Labs, Mercury Systems, and Blackberry.

Cybersecurity: AI to the Rescue?

It’s no secret that the technology industry is prone to overhyping
the latest, greatest, shiny new thing. Sometimes technology lives up to the
hype (cloud computing), and sometimes, well, not so much (blockchain).

And then there are the technologies that are impossible to overhype. Artificial intelligence (AI) is this kind of technology. Over the next five to ten years, we’re going to see AI and machine learning penetrate virtually all aspects of business, not to mention fundamentally change the way we work and live. From medical diagnoses to contract reviews and self-driving automobiles, AI will change everything.

A Cute Puppy Will Change the World

What we see today from AI—applications like chatbots and
virtual agents for customer service—is only a hint of things to come. These
applications have launched AI into what I call its “cute puppy” phase. CEOs and
other executives think it’s cute when they see a chatbot work, but it’s worth
equating the chatbot with witnessing Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone
call—it’s pretty neat, but to the casual observer the ramifications may not be
readily apparent. Bell’s “cute” telephone wound up changing life as we know it,
acting as a catalyst eventually for the creation of the internet, smartphones,
satellite communications, and many other things in our connected world. AI will
cause a similar global transformation.

Directors need to understand this parallel to Bell and the
telephone because the effective adoption of AI will be a competitive
determinant similar to the adoption of e-commerce 20 years ago: those that
adopt the technology early and do it well will thrive, and those that don’t
will be left in the dust by a burgeoning megacompany because they didn’t adapt.
And, while virtually every functional area of the typical enterprise stands to
be transformed by AI, cybersecurity is one of the areas that stands poised to
reap enormous benefits in the near term.

How AI Transforms Cybersecurity

When we look at the critical issues in cybersecurity—the
skills shortage, the complexity of securing digital assets caused by technology
overload, the need to manage every employee (not to mention every director) as
a potential security threat, and the fact that security teams have to be
perfect while the bad guys only have to be right once—AI can potentially solve
all of them.

As a point of illustration, let’s look at how cybersecurity
teams currently manage threat detection and response. Typically, an
organization will have lots of security technologies in place that generate
alerts when they detect something suspicious. Most of these alerts are false
positives—that is, things that look suspicious but really aren’t. This approach
causes “alert overload,” where so many alerts are generated (tens of thousands
in some cases) that security teams simply cannot investigate them all, which
creates a “needle in the haystack” problem where alerts of legitimately bad threats
get lost amid the sea of false positives.

Now, imagine a world where AI manages the entire threat detection
and response process. The alert overload problem is no longer an issue, because
AI can scale to investigate and respond to every last alert within your
company’s unique architecture. Beyond that, AI learns every time it sees an
actual threat and can use that knowledge to forecast how future threats will
look. Finding the needle in the haystack is a near-impossible task for humans, but
it’s relatively trivial for AI.

This is just one simplistic example of the impact AI will
have on cybersecurity. There is a dark side to AI as well—the bad guys will use
it to create ever more sophisticated and elusive attacks. But when we look at
the lopsided “arms race” today, where the bad guys get to start the 100-meter
dash 99 meters down the track, AI will at least make it a fair race, where
everyone starts at the same line.

Living Up to the Hype

There are a number of hurdles that must be cleared before AI
can realize its potential in the cybersecurity sphere, or any other area of
business, for that matter. There are no standard AI architectures today, no
regulations (there will be), no transparency into technology vendor algorithms
so there is no way to validate how their AI is making decisions (which raises
the specter of two AI systems arguing with each other), and there are not
enough data scientists. We also haven’t really focused on securing AI itself; there
are already algorithm manipulation attacks underway, which is a problem that
must be stopped dead in its tracks.

But, as with e-commerce, the benefits of AI are so profound
that these initial hurdles will be cleared, and cleared quickly. So, when we
look at solving today’s problems with cybersecurity, will AI live up to its
hype? The vote here is a resounding yes—the technology really is that
transformative.

Greg Baker is the vice president and general manager of Cyber Digital Transformation at Optiv.

Realizing the Value of Generational Diversity on Boards

As the topic of boardroom diversity has gained prominence over the
years, considerable attention has been given to the value that women and
minority representation can bring. For the most part, however, generational
diversity hasn’t been discussed as much as other forms of diversity. This
situation has recently started to change.

The 2018 US Spencer Stuart Board Index indicated that independent directors of S&P 500 companies are 63 years old on average. It also reported that 17 percent of new directors were age 50 and younger in 2018, up slightly from 16 percent the previous year. What is driving this trend? The Index indicates that some boards may be bringing on younger directors to obtain specialty skill sets and diverse perspectives. Others may be seeking not only to obtain particular skill sets but also to gain insight into what motivates customers and employees within certain demographic groups.

New Director Differences

It’s becoming clear that introducing more generational diversity
into the boardroom is a priority, and that doing so may bring new perspectives,
unique skills, and varied backgrounds into the board’s oversight role. But, if
not managed properly, adding directors with different experiences and
perspectives may not be as successful as hoped. For some time, new directors
were automatically exposed to either their own boards or nonprofit boards
through their C-suite experience. This often gave them an intrinsic understanding
of the role of the board as well as a good sense of the information they would
need from management in order to perform their roles.

As the search aperture widens beyond the C-suite, candidates may
hold positions that are two or three layers down from the CEO or lower—or, they
may come from academia, the military, government, or other nontraditional
sources. This means they may not have had previous exposure to how corporate boards
operate. Even though less-tenured directors can bring extremely desirable
skills and capabilities, they may not be as familiar with the role of the board
in terms of governance—particularly, the nuances of oversight versus
management. Without this understanding, they can sometimes struggle to find
their voices and to deliver meaningful insights. This suggests that more
education and better onboarding may be required in order to enable new board
members to contribute effectively.

Leading Practices for Generational
Inclusivity

A first step in optimizing the contributions of directors of all
ages is simply recognizing that there may be perceptual and experiential differences
among different cohorts, and that some may be less savvy about the workings of
a board than others. Mentorship
and coaching are initial ways to bridge these differences, with more-tenured
directors offering guidance to new directors on what is expected of them in a
governance role. This includes suggesting strategies for adding value, such as how
and when to lean in and add perspective.

Targeted committee assignments are another way
of including less-tenured directors. For example, consider a new director who
is deeply experienced in technology but less so in finance. The audit
committee, which often has responsibility for overseeing technology risk, may
invite that director to take a lead role on technology
strategy or cybersecurity. This type of assignment can provide newcomers with
an opportunity not only to showcase their strengths, but also to gain valuable
insight into areas where they have less experience. There may also be
opportunities outside the boardroom to invite members to offer their
perspectives, such as meeting with employee councils or customer focus groups
to explore talent strategies, product development, or consumer trends. Offering less-tenured directors specific,
well-defined opportunities to add value within a more informal setting, such as
a committee or working group, can help them form connections and feel more
comfortable in larger meetings of the full board.

Although targeted assignments can be helpful in creating
an inclusive culture, directors should bear in mind that newcomers can feel demoralized if they perceive that they’ve been brought in to “check
a box” or if they are only valued for a specific attribute. Every director, regardless of age or experience level,
should be valued for their ability to offer broad business insights as well as
specific expertise. Accordingly, it is important
not to let conscious or unconscious biases color one’s perceptions. Directors
should be open to understanding each other’s experiences, skills and perspectives,
so they truly allow each person to provide their own unique value.

In terms of generational differences, this need for unbiased
openness goes both ways: one shouldn’t assume that an older person lacks
certain capabilities just as one shouldn’t assume that a younger person possesses
them. A classic example of this bias is the pervasive stereotype that older
people don’t understand technology while younger people inherently do.  

Be Intentional About Realizing
Potential

With boardroom diversity expanding today in all of its forms, performance and value of such diversity are increasingly about the “and”: It’s the skill set and the cultural fit. New members may need different ways of becoming effectively integrated onto the board than their more-tenured counterparts. As more boards intentionally pursue generational diversity for the value it might deliver, they should be equally intentional in creating an inclusive culture that allows this potential to be realized.

Deborah DeHaas is a vice chair and national managing partner, Center for Board Effectiveness, Deloitte LLP.

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