Sunday, 29 November 2015

Digital Health - How 24 Care uses technology to connect with patients

Healthcare is undergoing a major transformation led by digital technology. Patients are increasingly using tele-monitoring tools to collect vital data on their conditions in the comfort of their homes. Rather than pay a visit to the hospital once every few months, their results can be automatically transmitted to the care team who can keep track of those conditions 24 hours per day seven days per week.
 
In order to embrace these changes however, healthcare organisations need to offer a system to enable real-time communications and interactions between caregivers and patients.
 
That is what 24 Care Group, an international mHealth company based in Netherlands, wanted to provide through their Jive-based social collaboration platform. Called Empower, the tool was launched three years ago to "self-empower chronic heart failure patients to take the lead in their treatment," says Joop Wallenburg, Advisor to the Board at 24 Care Group.
 
Together with Cardiologist Dr. Asselbergs from the University Medical Hospital in Utrecht, he tested Jive initially with a small number of users from three different hospitals. "The platform met all our requirements. Plus, it was very flexible. We could easily integrate it with our healthcare system, with sensor-enabled medical devices and with other tools such as Vidyo to allow video-consultancy."
 
In fact, it didn't take time for the network to grow. "More and more patients were connecting everyday to interact with caregivers such as dieticians and sports therapists."
 
 
Self-empowerment
 
Empower allows people to have tele-consultancy on a one-to-one basis about the results that they are measuring at home. They have online conversations and make appointments with their doctors at anytime from anywhere. This level of activity makes it possible for them to stay compliant to a balanced and healthy lifestyle "preventing them getting that much ill."
 
"In the past, chronic heart failure patients used to visit the hospital every three months. In between there was no contact unless they got very ill. Having an interactive platform enables self-empowerment. It creates a partnership between patients and caregivers, for which patients are in control over their health," says Wallenburg.
 
 
The impact on doctor's work
 
But, not only is the social tool transforming patients' life, it is also improving doctors' efficiency. "They now have a platform to work much more effectively. They have 24/7 insights into their patients’ data, see the escalation of people's health, receive real-time messages, and know earlier if something is going wrong," says IN12's Henni Bakel, a Jive partner who has been supporting the project from the beginning.
 
A research conducted by Dr. Asselbergs during the implementation of the tool confirms this. Thanks to Empower doctors were able to treat more patients in a shorter period of time that it would normally take. The same applied to costs, which were largely reduced.
 
This is a big achievement; in the Netherlands, 30% of the population has this type of disease and healthcare costs are increasing every year. "Self-empowerment becomes a necessity to ensure that solutions can be provided to everyone in an effective way," points out Bakel. "If people are well enough informed to comply with their treatments, then financial resources can be saved. Individuals will need less care from hospitals while living a healthier life."
 
Reach a large group of patients
 
The additional benefit of having a social network is the ability to share important medical advice with the larger community of patients. "Communicating easily with everyone rather than reaching out to each person individually was not possible in the past," says Bakel.
 
Doctors are busy people. Empower allows them to save a lot of time while ensuring medical advice is properly given. For example, "patients are often told not to drink too much in the summer. This can be a challenge with the hot weather of the season. When conditions allow it, doctors can now post a message on the wider feed to inform all the people concerned that they can have a few more drinks at certain times."
 
 
The power of communities
 
Another important goal of the community is to have patients sharing their experiences and motivating each other as much as possible.
 
"Patients with such chronic diseases can have a big motivational issue. They can lose enthusiasm and interest," explains Bakel. "Sometimes they would not take their medicines at all. But, compliance to their treatments is crucial for them to live a better quality of life.”
 
The community lets them communicate and support one another with their health treatments. "For example, if I speak with someone who is suffering the same illness as mine, and who is following a particular cure, I may feel more encouraged to do the same."
 
"However", adds Wallenburg "we cannot have patients providing each other with medical advice. As soon as that happens, we alarm a caregiver to look at it and correct whatever has been shared."
 
Community management
 
Managing a community of this kind is no easy task. "It is more than a communication platform: it is a core part of the entire treatment," says Bakel.
 
Once a patient connects to Empower the company installs self-monitoring devices in their homes, giving them plenty of training on how to use them in conjunction with the platform. People get certified to adopt the system. After this initial process, further interactive education is provided through instructional videos.
 
Information stored on Empower is meant to promote well-being. Patients can access plenty of personal and social contextual resources on how to conduct a healthy lifestyle. And, to facilitate the achievement of their health goals, the company provides coaching through gamification activities.
 
 
Planning the future of social healthcare
 
Empower has been around for three years and its benefits to chronic heart failure patients proved. Wallenburg is now looking at rolling it out to other communities of patients.
 
He is also undergoing some major developments with pharmacies. The idea is to create a more efficient system for giving people with multiple diseases, such as heart failure and diabetes, a full picture of all the medicines they have to use. "At present we cannot feed that information."
 
Future plans also include making Empower available in multiple languages and enhancing gamification programs.
 
Who would have foreseen in the early days of digital communications the collaborative effects of such social tools? Self-empowerment through connected devices seems to have become the way to go if we want to realise the full benefits of social enterprise. The result in the case of 24Care: a much healthier organisation both operationally and in terms of the personal wellbeing of their patients.
 
---------------------------------------------
This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The benefits of video interviewing in the digital age

New research from job site Foosle explores our attitudes towards searching for jobs: "Majority of Brits claim to be tech-savvy but cling to old-fashioned job hunting habits." Yet, digital practices such as video interviewing are making their way.
 
Three in four (78%) Brits describe themselves as ‘tech-savvy’– adopters and users of all things digital.[i] However, this tech-enthusiasm has not crossed into the world of job-seeking, with just 15% in the UK claiming to have used digital tools to apply for a new role[ii].
 
To bridge this technology-adoption gap, Foosle has launched a fresh approach to encouraging candidates to use video interviewing. The guide uses behavioural science principles like social norms, reciprocity, messenger and more to help employers and recruiters support candidates to embrace video interviewing as a new part of the job application process. The guide will be sent to employers using video interviewing tools and is freely available for anyone to download from the company website. 
 
Foosle’s research revealed that younger generations are not as tech-forward as expected when it comes to applying for jobs, even in comparison to older generations. Nine in ten (89%) millennials[iii] describe themselves as tech-savvy. However, a very small proportion of these jobseekers have used digital-video methods to apply for jobs.
 
Fewer than one in ten (8%) millennials have recorded a video interview or participated in a live job interview via Skype.
 
Meanwhile, 7% of an older generation (45-55 year olds) can claim the same, dispelling myths that millennials are more digitally resourceful on the job hunt.
 
A higher proportion of these jobseekers are still using more traditional means to apply for jobs. CVs and covering letters are used by three in four (74%) millennials and 40% use networking to seek out job opportunities.
 
Yet, despite the slow adoption of digital job applications, millennial candidates are keen to reap the benefits they offer. Two in five (43%) think that an opportunity to show off their personality or demonstrate the ability to think on the spot (44%) would help them land the job. Both of these benefits can be achieved with video interviewing, a tool just 2% of millennials have used.
 
Alistair Rennie, Managing Director of Foosle, says:
 
“Employers and recruiters have told us that while they value the time and money saving benefits of video interviews, often candidates drop out of the job application process when it comes to the phase of recording a video interview. So while employers are ready to capitalise on this innovation, one of their key challenges is getting jobseekers to do the same.
 
"Video interviewing is a new and different experience for jobseekers, so naturally there is some hesitation. Despite being a self-confessed digital nation, people do take time to adopt and embrace new technology. This explains why the majority (64%) of jobseekers are sticking to what they know when applying for jobs – CVs and covering letters."
 
Foosle is supporting the tech savvy employers who already recognise the value of video in recruitment, by giving them the tools they need to support jobseekers and help shake-up old habits.
 
Here is a summary of their approach with the full Guide to Candidate Behaviour Change available here:
 
Social Norms

We tend to be influenced by what others do – this behaviour is known as ‘social norms’. It means we often take cues from the way other people act without necessarily realising it.  Video interviewing is a relatively new technology which, for many, wouldn’t be considered as a social norm. So employers and recruiters need to position it as a burgeoning, trend to make sure it fits in with people’s existing social norms about technology.
 
Messenger

When it comes to receiving information or finding out new things, the messenger can sometimes be more influential than the message. If you’ve used video interviewing before with success, make use of this principle by delivering your message and call to-action, using successful candidate case studies, which will embody the principle of ‘someone like me.’

 

Actor


When it comes to presenting ourselves to other people, we tend to act in ways that make us feel the most positive and is consistent with how we already behave and think of ourselves. Look at the language you’re using to communicate with candidates prior to their job interview and seize the opportunity make video interviewing line-up with their existing beliefs and behaviours.
 
Risks and incentives
 
Naturally, we respond to risks and incentives but the way these are framed influence the nature of our response. In most situations, we feel more compelled to do something if it means we will be losing out or if we can easily realise the rewards. Communicate with candidates in a way that clearly conveys these gains and losses. Whether a candidate will get the job they have applied for is uncertain, yet there is only one viable outcome from not attempting the application at all.
 
Reciprocity
 
We are hardwired to over respond to both positive and negative actions of others and feel obliged to give back to others the type of behaviour we have received from them. The most effective way to use reciprocity is to be the first to give and do so in a personalised way. Try inviting candidates to take a video interview by sending them one of you having that same experience.

What's your experience with video interviewing? Does Foosle's study resonate with your own practice? Feel free to share your thoughts and contribute to the conversation.
 
-------------------------------------------------
 
[i] Foosle commissioned Tech-Savvy research with OnePoll who surveyed a GB representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ between 14th a- 16th October 2015.
[ii] Digital tools for job application refers to social media (7%), video CV (2%), skype interviews (4%) and video interviews (2%)
[iii] Generation Y or Millennials refers to as anyone who took this survey ages 25-43 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Communicating employees benefits in the digital age

Capita's Employee Insight Report 2015 shows that the way an organisation communicates affects employees' appreciation of workplace benefits.

"Relevance - the desire to be treated as an individual, with all the stresses and strains that are personal to me, is moving from the world of Facebook and Twitter (instant gratification and appreciation of who I am and what I think) to people's perceptions of their needs in the workplace."

Alex Tullett, Head of Benefits Strategy, emphasises one of the key findings from Capita's Employee Insight Report 2015: the search for individuality. The survey, which was conducted among over 3,000 UK employees between February and March, explores the complex nature of benefits programmes in the workplace.

From the study a consistent trend turns out: people have less appreciation of the benefits being offered by their employers.

It turns out that communication, whether in terms of content, media and timing, has a strong impact on the overall benefits strategy. "Symptomatic perhaps of the immense velocity of technology and how it shapes the way employees expect their employers to communicate with them. We're seeing the employee/employer relationship taking on the shape and characteristics more associated with that of a consumer relationship when it comes to benefits," says Louise Harris, Head of Client Communications at Capita.

Employees as consumers

Today's revolution in technology is fundamentally changing all areas of our lives. The expectation of flexibility and choice that people have in their home life when making purchases and decisions, is becoming the case with being able to choose benefits.

We are used to online retailers such as Amazon or Ebay, which can be accessed via a number of channels, whether it is from the laptop, smartphone or tablet, all day, every day. The same should apply at work. As the report puts it: "Different people want different ways of accessing information; people want to do things at different times."

Needless to say, benefits themselves should not remain static or based solely on previous demand. An employee who becomes a parent, for example, may shift their priorities accordingly.

Mixing online, offline and in-person

The research found that all employees of all age groups, gender and salary bands like all of the following communication approaches: online (such as email, intranet and benefits portal), offline (such as leaflets, posters and guides) and in-person (one-to-one meetings and group presentations).

Indeed, a diverse range of employees with a diverse range of preferences put pressure on the internal communicator who needs to consider a variety of channels. However, with the challenge comes the opportunity to really differentiate themselves.

Asking people what they want is the first crucial step. This is also the essence of Capita's study: "it is about listening to what people are saying, to look at their current attitudes and consider what this means." Today, organisations have also the opportunity to combine data analytics to measure the actual decisions with the preferences that employees indicate they would value.

By the same token, the act of asking alone can send a positive message to staff - it shows the organisation's interest in harnessing people's views. But by doing so, action on the given feedback needs to follow.


The 'benefits' of social media?

Generally speaking, while the technology may be ready, people are not. Only 11% of employees would be happy to access benefits via social media. Interestingly, this is a fall from the previous year where 20.8% of people said they wanted to be communicated that way. 

The research shows that 30% of employees want to keep their social life and work life completely separate; 28.5% feel that this type of information should be kept private; 23.3% don't want their employer "snooping into their private lives." Privacy is a concern for 22.6% of respondents.

And, if you think that it is a generational thing, think again - the study found that just 18.5% of 16-24 year olds and 15.5% of 25-34 year olds would like to access employee benefits through social media.

A non-invasive solution

However, "a non-invasive social media platform can work," notices the report. Instead of adopting a social platform that staff would associate with their personal life such as Facebook, the alternative would be a new purpose-built tool: "An additional channel for employers to recognise and reward employees on a regular basis could be the way forward."

A good example of such an implementation comes from Capita's itself. The Employee Benefits division have their own benefits portal called 'Orbit' where staff can select benefits from a range. According to the report, individuals are very active when they access to the online benefits platform - over the last year they saw around 1 million log-ins.

"We saw 57,370 employees going online to either review their benefits or make active changes to their benefits via Orbit. Each decision translated to an individual benefit decision - that is 57,370 people making 57,370 benefit choices online," reads the paper. "We also saw 33,445 employees sign-up to regular fund updates on their pension fund; this can be via emails or SMS texts. Although these employees may not be able to keep up-to-date with how their pension is doing, in a format that suits them."

Terminology

The language that is used to describe benefits can also cause problems. 50% of employees find pension-related terminology to be complicated and confusing, and 39% don't understand the 'jargon'. "It's no surprise, therefore, that many people felt disconnected and unengaged with the pension and benefits their employer provided," claims the paper.

In short, unclear guidelines and explanations put employees off. It would be natural to respond to this finding by providing staff with simple information, focusing less on the scheme itself and more on who the organisation is talking to.

Audience of one

Another interesting highlight is around the notion of the 'audience of one.' Online retailers such us Amazon recommend products to users based on previous purchases, as well as items that people rate and put into their virtual shopping cart.

Capita notes that the same technology exists in the world of employee benefits. Their own Orbit benefits portal has been customised for the 'audience of one' experience. "Behind-the-scenes intelligence ensures the user experience is relevant, based on who the person is and how they are accessing the site. The technology enables employees to get a more relevant experience to them. This in turn can help the overall perception and increase understanding."

So, each employee is presented with information and choices that are personal, which is more likely to make their benefit's journey relevant, simpler, and engaging.

The health of business

Capita's work is able to make workplace benefits an interesting subject to explore. The study is a reminder that we live in a complex yet fascinating world, where social, economic and technological factors constantly shape how we live and work. "Be aware that something new is just under the corner."

Wearable technology like Fitbit, wellbeing apps for mobile, or developments such as Babylon can already provide people with novel means of tracking their health at work. As Alex Tullett puts it: "It is time to think differently about the health of business."

The paper hits the nail on the head when it reports that "technology is part of our lives, in almost everything we do. And technology will continue to be part of our lives, in ways we have yet to dream of.

"People will always have ideas. Perhaps the things that really hold technology back are the public's perception (do we really want this?) and economics (is this affordable?) and, of course, our own imaginations."

So, as long as we care to think about people first and their practical purposes, so does come the opportunity to bring about meaningful change and benefits to employees.

 

---------------------------------------------
This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Driving dynamic employee advocacy

If you want employees to actively become advocates of your company, asking them to do so is not enough. The best way to do it is to inform and engage them with the right content - branded and approved material that people can share through their social media accounts. That is the perspective Dynamic Signal shares. For the past three years, this leading social platform has dedicated itself to providing the best technology for employee advocacy. Today, they are working with large global enterprises such as IBM, Cisco, and SAP helping their staff members promote their organisation in a more authentic way.

But they recognise they have to go beyond the technology. Dynamic Signal understands the need to focus on organisational culture, people, processes and cross-functional activities.
"The organisations that have a clear digital vision and are socially forward-thinking do not see employee advocacy as an option. Rather they see it as an imperative and something that is mission critical," says Chief Marketing Officer Pavey Purewal (pictured right).

I spoke with Purewal to explore how Dynamic Signal works and what an organisation can do to improve their employee advocacy efforts.

Gloria Lombardi: What are the key elements of the Dynamic Signal platform? 

Pavey Purewal: Our platform is designed for the employee. First of all, we are a mobile application – we have this philosophy that if you cannot make it easy for staff members to share and receive content, then they will not do it. Through the Dynamic Signal mobile app, people receive notifications whenever there is anything important that is coming from the company. In two clicks people can read and digest all the content and, if they want to, share it straightway.

Most importantly, they can add their personal comments - the authenticity that comes with sharing is really important. But the actual content being shared has already been approved at the back end by a social media manager or typically someone from Marketing.

Dynamic Signal is also very strong on analytics. You can measure almost everything on the platform – all the content you sent, how it performs, all the social media channels used by your employees, and all the gamification activities that an organisation may like to create.

Also, we provide integrations with many other tools - companies can not only share out but also track all the way down to their websites and see the overall business impact. In fact, it is not just about having your employees sharing a lot of content. Ultimately, you want to understand what all of that activity means to your business.

GL: Based on your experience with large corporations, who is typically responsible for employee advocacy inside the organisation?

PP: It depends on what the company is trying to achieve. If they are looking to grow brand awareness, it might be a CMO; if they want to get their best content into the hands of all employees, it might be a Director of Comms or Internal Comms, etc. Employee advocacy is something that anybody who is in Marketing should do. They should look at it as part of their portfolio.
That is because the internal and external silos do not exist anymore. In fact, they are blurring. So, the best approach to employee advocacy is cross-functional.

Moreover, it is becoming a C-level issue. It is not just Marketing, it is not just Communications, it is not just HR; it is the entire leadership that start asking themselves, ‘What’s the role of our employees? What’s the culture in our digital transformation? Who is responsible for that?’

Worth mentioning is that usually with large deployments there is a global hub and someone centrally responsible for the initiatives. But then there are local managers at a country level who look at what is coming from the global hub and supplement that content with more local, relevant, real language pieces.

GL: You mentioned the C-suite. Could you give me a concrete example of leadership being actively involved in employee advocacy? 

PP: Agood example comes from the CEO of Lenovo, Yang Yuanqing. The way we started working with them was through a memo he sent to all the leadership team. He said that the next chapter of the company was going to be more social and if they wanted to be more social as a business the leaders themselves would become more social. When he implemented Dynamic Signal in 60+ offices around the world, he said he wanted everybody – from the top to the bottom no matter which country – to be able to share socially.

GL: What are the main challenges to employee advocacy?

PP: The main challenge is not the technology but the people and processes - from the way you are going to navigate through the organisation, to having leaders come together, figuring out the right social media policy and create the right training. All of those things can often become an issue.

Often, a big barrier is trusting employees, which is still difficult for many large organisations – sometimes they immediately worry about getting legal and compliance engaged, rather than focus on the benefit of the initiative.

But, the organisations that have a clear vision and are socially forward thinking do not see employee advocacy as an option. Rather they see it as an opportunity to build their brands, conduct social selling, more effectively communicate with current employees and find new ones.

GL: Do you see any trend in the type of content that employees are more likely to share?

PP: Mobile has given rise to visuals. Every single post that is put onto our platform has to have an image that accompanies the text. If you have a picture when you share on social media, people are more likely to look at it and engage.

In terms of the kind of content itself, user-generated material is becoming very important. For example, the Asian airline Cathay Pacific have created a hashtag called #lifewelltraveled where their staff share their experiences and joy of travelling. They also encourage people to submit pieces on the platform; the marketing team will read it, approve it and download it on Dynamic Signal.

IBM have the hashtag #newwaytowork to promote everything around social business. When their employees participated in the campaign last year they trended on Twitter and won an award at the 13th Annual American Business Awards for this effort.

The whole idea of user-generated content is part of authenticity and integrity as well.
Another good example is Humana. We are working with one of their most visionary leaders Jeff Ross, who is also very involved with the company enterprise social network. Humana is a healthcare insurance company. They work in a highly regulated industry and employees cannot actually talk about their product on social media; they cannot do social selling. So, they decided to use Dynamic Signal by going back to their brand values – wellness and healthy living lifestyle In fact, only 20% of the content on the platform is Humana branded content; people like to share more industry-based content. Currently, 500 Humana employees use the Dynamic Signal platform. The program is 5 months old and they are adding 100 employees per month.

GL: What final advice could we give to companies that want to maximise employee advocacy? 

PP: Our recent research conducted with Mindshare NA found that two main things are preventing employees to advocate more. First, internal communication is failing - it is still done mainly through email or through the intranet. But, employees want mobile and social media.

So, if you want your people to be advocates, first focus on making the information going to your employees, rather than asking your employees to go to the information. Secondly, have them actually read the content, which means make it very easy for them to consume it. And make it relevant.

---------------------------------------------
This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Thinking strategy - a leader’s dilemma?

"Leading a corporation sometimes requires you to sit down and just think things through."

Freek Vermeulen (pictured right) has been an Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School for the past 15 years. Mostly of what he does is to study innovation inside large companies. Vermeulen has written an article for the Harvard Business Review, '5 Strategy Questions Every Leader Should Make Time For,' that has caught my attention recently.

In the piece the Professor claims, "We don’t have much time to think and reflect." Yet, he points out, "Thinking is in fact quite an important activity when it comes to assessing and developing a strategy."

This claim made quite an impression on me: in our busy working lives, are we prioritising action over reflection? If so, what are the consequences on our business results and productivity?

I wanted to explore this topic further with Vermeulen. In this interview he shares his view on strategic thinking, leadership competencies and the role of communication. Plus, he gives his best tips on how to be more mindful and deliberate when it comes to take your time to think.

Gloria Lombardi: Today many leaders, you suggest, are giving to much attention to action over thinking, which brings several negative consequences to the business. What is causing that? 

Freek Vermeulen: There are several related reasons. The first one is that we are supposed to be always busy, especially in the corporate life. We are expected to keep ourselves occupied over time and work hard. It is almost as if the norm must be to not stay still. But, if you want to focus on long-term strategy and big picture, there are times when you must sit down, stay still, think and do nothing else. 
Yet, there is a strange, awkward and sometimes unproductive rule in many companies – you are not supposed to just sit down and think on your desk. If you do that, most probably people would think you are lazy and will tell you to go back to work and do something.

Secondly, it is also very easy - especially for people in leadership positions - to be overwhelmed by a lot of things to do, meetings to attend, contacts to keep across different geographical locations. And of course, all this everyday demand also takes over the time for thinking.

Gloria Lombardi: How can this pattern be interrupted? What can leaders do to regain control over their thinking?

FV: As a leader, you have to very deliberately make the time and say, 'I am not going to make this everyday patterns take over'. I myself learned the hard way, and I am an academic! Today, I place two consecutive days per week where I deliberately decide not to attend meetings, lectures and accept visits from students – I just sit on my desk, write and think. That is very necessary to me, and it is necessary in every corporate job too.

So, my first advice is to become very conscious about it, and deliberately set some time to think. Also, you have to discipline yourself and make rules.

Many corporations do our annual strategy re-treats once per year with the senior team; they take some days out and go somewhere to think about strategy. But, research shows that those activities are much more productive when each single individual has though carefully by themselves beforehand. Those meetings with multiple people will become much more productive. So, the individual thinking activity is as important as the group meetings.

GL: What practical steps can be taken to make thinking more of a practice?

FV: There are a broad range of exercises and frameworks that can help leaders. But those tools work unless they do not become too mechanical. For example, there are the five questions that I wrote about in the HBR article, which you cannot really answer in half an hour. It is not a 'tick all the boxes' exercise; and it is pretty useless if you take it that way.

Also, worth mentioning is the work from Psychologist Daniel Kahneman who talks about several exercises that you can do such us trying to picture yourself by looking back rather than looking forward.

If you use those types of frameworks intentionally as a guide, they may help you structure your thoughts and force you to look beyond the short term, towards the bigger picture. Ultimately, that is by definition what leaders or anyone in charge of strategy is supposed to do - to think long term.

GL: Can technology help in all of this? In fact, is technology an ally or enemy (or both)? 

FV: It depends on what we mean by technology and what we do with it. We can actually take a piece of paper and think of it as a type of technology that can help us to structure our thinking. In fact, sometimes a piece of paper and a pencil can be far more effective than the latest tools. Bill Gates, for example, would not use technology for thinking – initially, he would just sit, and read and nothing else.

The online technology that promises to give us all the answers and data we need, sometimes it is almost counter-productive. It sends you some sort of results; but it actually keeps you busy again and away from thinking through deeply.

Now, of course there are many different pieces of technologies that could help you structure your thoughts. As long as the tool does not become an excuse for doing things that prevent your thinking, perhaps it can help.

GL: Some contemporary literature suggests leaders not just creating the vision alone and then communicating it to the business; but rather involving employee in setting the company strategy and co-create the future of the organisation. Can this approach marry with the solo thinking we discussed above?

FV: Let me give you a very academic answer to that: yes and no. It is very much the responsibility of the leader to set the broad strategic direction of the company. That is the starting point. I have never seen a very successful company where the leader did not have a very clear, yet broad vision in mind. In a way I think that it is a top-down process. But that does not mean detailing what everyone should do for the next five years.

I certainly see many successful companies letting other people contribute to the organisational strategy. It can take many forms depending on the particular circumstances of the business and also on which industry they are. So, top-down has to meet bottom-up. It is not an either or equation.
You have to set a clear strategic direction, but you also have to acknowledge that you cannot do it all alone. You need to create the circumstances for other people in the organisation to contribute.

GL: What other key competences and skills today leaders need to have?

FV: Relating back to setting the strategy, leaders don't have to be afraid of making choices. Sometimes, I notice that they make choices too early and too quickly. Yet, there are circumstances when you have to be patient, and just wait and see – don't force yourself to make choices that may be too premature. Posing and resting before taking an initiative is a quality, which does not always comes at easy.

Another good characteristic of a leader is to know what choices they should not make and when they should enable others to make the best possible decisions. They have to be able to see where they are not supposed to make decisions. At some levels they need the ability to say ‘I have now set the strategic boundaries; but there are certain choices which other intelligent people within the company have to make.’

GL: How do you see the role of communication when it comes to leadership to find the time to think?

FV: Communication should be part of the strategy. If you set the strategic goals, the only thing you can do to make them work is to communicate them effectively. Implementation and communication are intertwined. They are two sides of the same coin. They go hand on hand. You can have a wonderful strategy on your Power Point presentation or piece of paper, but if you are not able to communicate it well, people will not be able to make it happen. Ultimately, you have no strategy at all.

---------------------------------------------
This article originally appeared on simply-communicate