episode 201 – defining the future of leadership

Maureen Metcalf |  Innovative Leadership | Ohio Business Podcast

Maureen Metcalf, founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.  She has captured her thirty years of experience and success in an award-winning series of books which are used by public, private and academic organizations to align company-wide strategy, systems and culture with innovative leadership techniques.  She is also a regularly featured author for forbes.com.


how much change is coming?

Businesses continue to adapt to an increasingly digital marketplace, which means jobs (and the skills people need to do these jobs) are changing.

Maureen Metcalf, founder, CEO, and board chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute, says in order to prepare for transformation in the workplace we need to be aware of the changes  that are coming down the pike while simultaneously working to update our mindsets and behaviors.

On this episode of unsuitable on Rea Radio, Maureen talks about the changes taking place, the new skills needed to embrace these changes, and the training that is needed to help navigate these changes.

Fifty percent of jobs will change in the next four years – and they will change, on average, by 30%. This means that people will need to learn new skills, businesses will need to effectively leverage their investments, and processes will need to be updated. Basically, organizations need to build change and innovation into their DNA.

If you want to remain relevant and competitive in the coming years, listen to this episode to learn:

  • What digital transformation is.
  • How leaders can prepare for digital transformation.
  • About “microlearning,” and how leaders and employees can be trained to better navigate the changes that will occur in the workplace.

Sign up for our weekly podcast newsletter to learn about new episodes!

watch the video

read the transcript

Doug Houser: From Rea & Associates, this is unsuitable, a management and financial services podcast for entrepreneurs, tenured business leaders, and others who are ready to look beyond the suit and tie culture for meaningful, measurable results. I’m Doug Houser.

Businesses continue to adapt to an increasingly digital marketplace, which means jobs and the skills people need to do those jobs are changing. Maureen Metcalf, founder, CEO, and board chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute says the rate of change is accelerating. In order to prepare for transformation and ultimately take action, we need to be aware of the changes coming down the pike while simultaneously working to update our mindsets and behaviors. On today’s show, Maureen will talk about the changes taking place, the new skills and cultures needed to embrace these changes, and the training that she says is needed to help navigate these changes.

Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen: Thank you. This is a lot to talk about in 22 minutes.

Doug: It is. Glad to have you here. You are episode 201, so thank you. Hopefully, that’s your lucky number.

Maureen: It is.

Doug: Good.

Maureen: I’ve been waiting for something to be 201 in my life.

Doug: There you go. Now you can go play the pick three tonight and maybe a win. And share with all of us please.

Maureen: I certainly will share if I win.

Doug: Thank you. Talk to us about digital transformation. Boy, that can mean a lot of things. So what’s going on in the world of jobs that we’re all subject to digital transformation these days?

Maureen: So digital covers obviously a broad range, everything from ERP to Siri to robotic process automation and beyond that. So if we think about the amount of work that humans used to do that is being replaced with a machine, so it is not necessarily that the Terminator has come to town and will be in your office, but it is that all of us are using some kind of devices, or most of us, to change in theory make easier the work we do. Everything from I program my Nest on my phone, and I have the Ring doorbell, so I can see what’s going on in my neighborhood, to everything in the world seems to run through Google, so I get notifications and my travel stuff shows up on my calendar. That’s the basic stuff.

But when we think about robotic process automation or bots, machines can be programmed to do tasks. So thinking about in the past, this has automated pharmacy picking and moving things through a hospital on robots. In warehouses, again, picking, packing, that kind of thing is done more by robots. What is unique is now this robotic process automation is going to take over some of the more routine tasks that professionals do.

And then we add in machine learning. A colleague, I’m on the board of an organization that does fraud detection using AI, so we find fraudsters. The machine learns what to look for and continues to learn and get better but at a rate quicker than humans because it digests information more quickly. So thinking about the rate that these machines can learn changes your profession, my profession, the legal profession-

Doug: Everything.

Maureen: … the medical profession, right? We want our doctors to stay as current as possible. Some of this will allow them to diagnose and come back with information when they’re partnering with the machine in a different way than they have in the past.

Doug: So easier to look for anomalies, easier to, as you said, digest more information rather than sort of one brain or a couple of brains trying to look for what the issue is. You’ve got literally an almost infinite amount of brains in essence.

Maureen: Exactly. And think about if you are a patient with a rare disease, you don’t want one doctor, and you certainly, if you’re living in a rural area, don’t want a doctor who doesn’t know what you’re talking about, right? You want the smartest people in the world coming together. And that’s what some of this automation enables in a way that allows patients to get better treatment. So at the end of the day, many people will be much better off.

The flip side of this is, according to the World Economic Forum, people like us are going to get retrained, right? So we’ll get smarter about using automated tools. We’ll integrate it into our lives. We’ll adjust like we do to other things. Some people will get outplaced, and their lives will not be as good. The challenge is people who aren’t getting the training are the people who already have fewer skills, so probably economically not as well off. So they don’t have the same cushion. They don’t have the same ability to go get retraining. And in many cases, their organizations aren’t investing in them. So as a society, we’re going to face some big challenges. And companies like Microsoft are looking at this and making bets that will help support the bigger community. But not everybody is. Not everybody can.

Doug: So that’s an interesting dilemma certainly. So you, in your estimation, you’ve been published in Forbes obviously, but I’ve read some of what you’ve indicated that up to 50% of all jobs will change in some fashion. And is that accurate?

Maureen: That’s a quote from the World Economic Forum report of December 2018, so it’s recent statistics. Half of jobs will change. So of the five of us sitting in the room, two and a half of us will have our jobs change. I don’t know about the other half a person. And they’ll change by a third. Now, these are obviously gross aggregations. But that means if you’re sitting in any room that may not be your office, probably half of the population will have some to a significant change in the content of their jobs. Now again for some of us, it’s not a big deal, and we welcome the labor savings, so we can do the more interesting stuff.

Doug: Yeah, we like to evolve and adapt, right, and like you said, have a little more enjoyment in what we’re doing.

Maureen: And have the routine stuff done by a something but not me. Somebody, something because I’m not very good at it.

Doug: But some people like the routine though, right?

Maureen: Well, and some people, that’s their job, so they don’t want that job to go away. So again, part of the message is as companies, we have to take advantage of it, right, because our competitors are. And if we think of some of the cyber attacks, the people perpetrating the attacks are using these bots, right? There aren’t 10,000 high school kids in Russia trying to break into your computer. There are actually cloud based applications that leverage bots to go hit millions of sites in seconds and just see who they can break into.

Doug: Where’s the weakness? Where’s the anomaly?

Maureen: So these bots are being deployed already on the dark side of the world. The question is, how do we, on the light side of the world, leverage them to better serve our customers, to create more engaged employees? There are a lot of opportunities. And there were some things we need to attend to as we take advantage of the opportunities.

Doug: Now, that’s fascinating to me. But I’m a person who likes to adapt and evolve and all that. And I think about our business in terms of audit review, tax, other things to get away, again, from the mundane part of that and focus more on the analytics. What are the real differences? How can I help a client think about their business rather than the compliance based part? But not all employees in every business want to evolve and adapt, so how do I instill a culture? If I’m a business owner, how do I get that kind of culture moving within my business so that my employees can think that way and want to embrace that change?

Maureen: So it starts with you as the leader and what you value. So you, Doug, value innovation. And if you do, you are probably continuing to update how you do things. So you walk that talk in theory where even the recording studio looks different this time than last time.

Doug: Thank you.

Maureen: So you’re using different technology and really cool microphone by the way. And the technology around the room works different. So I assume that you also bring that ethos of innovation into how you engage employees, what you read, what you talk about it, so you as a leader modeling innovation. And that’s one of the things that I think some people fail is, “You people go innovate and tell me when you’re done,” versus “I’m innovating, and I’m inviting you all to come along on this journey.”

So I saw Cameron Mitchell speak this week. And for people from the Columbus region, we know Cameron Mitchell and his restaurants.

Doug: Restauranteur, yes.

Maureen: And I’m not going to get this exactly right, but he said one of his values is we will do everything better today than we did yesterday. And every day beyond that, we will continue to improve. When the leader walks that, when he walks in and says, “Everyone in the test kitchen, how are you doing this? We had this kind of reviews. Now, we’re going to get customer feedback. So how are you building that commitment to innovation into… ” You say you value it. You’re doing it. Now, we have to look at the processes. Are the processes doing it, and are you rewarding people for it? And then the agreements we have with one another. So is the agreement in a meeting if I suggest something and you don’t feel like doing it, you find some way to kill it? Or do we have a bias toward yes? Someone comes up with a recommendation, and it’s not ridiculous, right? So let’s remove those. Seems like it’s reasonable. How do we find a way to build experimentation into our business?

Doug: It’s interesting. I’ve been reading about this because we internally have been going through probably a more enhanced way to share client and the like information through a more enhanced CRM system. Like you would expect, we have early adopters, people who love it and say, “Oh, my gosh. I’m on board. I can’t wait to share more information with my colleagues.” And then there’s those that are more skeptical. And I read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal in fact that a similar thing happened in a large hospital system. And some of the physicians went so far in fact as to literally poison the information in the system so it would become unusable. In other words, sabotage the evolution or the moving forward with technology. I mean, is that something that you’ve heard of or see frequently with digital transformation? Do people get so they will actually sabotage these types of things, and how do you combat that?

Maureen: I haven’t seen actual sabotage. Not in the digital space. In the physical space, I’ve seen people sabotage things including products.

Doug: No kidding.

Maureen: Yeah, pharmaceutical products. That borders on criminal, if it’s not criminal. If I walked into your office and took a bat to your computer, it’s destroying your property, right? You’ve invested in that. If I sabotage your technology, it’s still sabotage, and that should be grounds for dismissal. It’s one thing to be angry and find an appropriate expression of it. It’s another to damage. I have a client who’s doing some clinical trials, and they use patient information. If that information is altered in any way, they may be approving or disapproving medical devices based on the data. It becomes a bigger issue than I said Bill Smith weighs 125 pounds versus 150. Now, I didn’t read the article, so I don’t know what… But when you’re talking about patient data, there are a ton of implications and altering it in any way can impact people’s health. That seems criminal.

Doug: It just surprised me more than anything to think of the lengths that people will go to to try to not change in other words. That was kind of the focus of the article. And I guess that, for me, is sort of a concept that’s a bit foreign, and I think, “Gosh, how do you combat that mentality?” I mean, you talk about obviously trying to instill that culture from the top, but how do you really get it to permeate through everybody so that everybody buys in?

Maureen: So we use a tool developed by a Harvard prof that looks at cultures, and one of the things he looks at is he looked at what causes people to want to be in an environment and what causes them not to. So why do you go visit your grandparents in Montana versus going to Hawaii to the beach, right? So I feel good about myself when I’m with them. I interact with them well. I feel supported. I value the relationship or the mission in an organization. I am open to try things.

And again, we value innovation, right? So when I am creative, people take my ideas, and when I try to implement those ideas, I am supported in my growth and development. So if all five of those are in place, so it starts with basic respect. I care about you, my colleague, and as a supportive colleague, my role is to understand you, appreciate you, respect you, and support you as you are growing and changing. Because as we’re implementing changes, if I don’t feel safe trying something new, I’m not going to, right?

So that’s a big part of the combination of our agreements with each other and then the supporting way we evaluate performance and deliver training. Because often these changes are not only automating a process. They’re removing someone’s identity, right? I, as a doc, have invested 16 years of school and 20 years of a professional career being an expert in this thing. Now, you’re going to automate the stuff? Really? That will never work. So my guess is for some people the resistance is not just preserving status quo but keeping the organization from doing harm. So I think some people actually are well-intended and not everyone.

Doug: But then the key is to get those that are maybe having a little more difficult time thinking in terms of adaptation to get them to focus on, all right, well, this is how things are changing, but let’s think about what you can do. Let’s talk about where you add value and where we see things really being just so much better for you going forward. So again, it comes down to that communication and all of that type of thing in your view.

Maureen: Well, so it is certainly helping people see the positive that’s coming, but it’s also understanding who they are and what they value. So if you value the impact you make as a physician on a patient, then I have to find a way for you to continue to do that thing you value so deeply using the system versus not. So let me give an example. I’m working with a cancer surgeon right now, and he’s the one doing the research on this new medical device. Right now, there are two people in the country doing this work. If the device is approved, it can be printed on 3D lasers and delivered to patients in their homes. So we no longer need to go… And again, think of rural cancer patients. And he talked about the difference when someone’s going through this treatment of just often having to stop the treatment because it’s so damaging to their tissue that they can’t continue.

Doug: Physically, yeah.

Maureen: This treatment allows them to continue the healing process and accelerates it dramatically. So he changed his perspective, right? So by understanding how the technology will drive his ability to do the clinical trials, now, he goes from, “This thing’s a pain in my neck,” to “This entirely changes what is possible in healing cancer,” right? So it’s, in some cases, a one on one conversation, and there’s a bit of exploration. He and I worked together for a while, and he’s already a forward looking person and a person who’s incredibly committed to his patient success. And the introduction of technology, we went from, “I just don’t like this stuff, and I don’t know that I want to continue doing this work,” to “This changes everything.” And what’s available to patients is game changing for hundreds of thousands of people, if not more.

Doug: That’s amazing. So you get people to think about what they’re really impacting. How do I serve my customer or my client, or how do I finish this job or finish this project or whatever the case might be? So focus on how they can do that better and get more satisfaction and provide better service to the client ultimately.

Maureen: Well, and in each case, we have to know the individual person, right? This isn’t done by newsletter, right? Now, the CEO doesn’t need to know, but each individual’s direct supervisor needs to know them, needs to appreciate them, needs to understand how what they value and how they identify themselves in the world can connect to the success of this project. And the truth is, not everyone’s going to make it through any transformation. Some people will opt out because it is no longer aligned with who they are and what they care about. Then it’s our responsibility to help them either retrain or transition in a way that is respectful and appropriate.

Doug: Find something that is more impactful for them, so again, it’s kind of connecting, understanding that emotional connection, how do they identify, and what gives them the satisfaction in their job. And I guess for everybody, that’s a little bit different, right?

Maureen: It’s significantly different. I’ve got people on my team who their biggest objective is to work from home and be there when their kids get home, right? And the one person who is like that in my organization is one of the most valuable people I have. I will make sure she is home with her kids whenever she can be, and she is phenomenal. So it’s not the old up or out, and you have to want to get promoted. Not everyone wants to get promoted. And I am so happy that this person’s part of my team.

Doug: That’s fantastic. So that’s a great outlook. Well, you’ve been published in Forbes, and I understand you’re now part of the International Leadership Association. So tell me a little bit about that.

Maureen: So I was just invited to join the International Leadership Association as a fellow. So that is, and this is weird to talk about myself, but it is an acknowledgement of my contribution to the field of leadership and the expectation that I will continue to do that in partnership with them. So they host an annual conference. It’s done around the world, and they have hundreds of speakers. And I get to interview between 12 and 20 a year and share that knowledge with everyone like you do with your podcast, right, for free. So my commitment in the world is to elevate the quality of leadership around the world as much as I possibly can. So I’m a drop of water in the ocean, but these people are phenomenal.

So folks now get access and again, like your podcast, to brilliant information at no cost. And for lots of people, they can’t afford to buy a textbook or pay a membership fee, and yet, they’re able to listen and learn and grow and develop. So it is connected entirely. As we talk about visions and values, that’s a big commitment of me of time and investment to bring something that I so deeply think is required in a world that is growing quickly, to build the leadership that helps us move into the future we want to create versus the future that will happen if we’re unconscious.

Doug: That’s a great way to put it and great outlook, and we certainly look forward to following that as well. So it’s been great to have you on, Maureen. Really appreciate it. It’s been fantastic, and I could go on forever with this topic, so thank you very much.

Maureen: Thank you, Doug, for the opportunity and for the information you put out in the world to make all of our lives better.

Doug: Absolutely. Thank you.

If you want more tips and insight or to hear previous episodes of unsuitable, visit our podcast page at www.reacpa.com/podcast. Thanks for listening to this week’s show. You can subscribe to unsuitable on iTunes or wherever you like to get your podcasts, including YouTube. And while you’re there, please leave us a review. You can also write to us at rea.news@reacpa.com. I’m Doug Houser. Join us next week for another unsuitable interview from an industry professional.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on unsuitable on Rea Radio are our own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rea & Associates. The podcast is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the professional advice you would receive elsewhere. Consult with a trusted advisor about your unique situation so they can expertly guide you to the best solution for your specific circumstance.


additional resources

How Leaders Can Prepare Themselves For A Digital Transformation

Six Ways To Prepare Your Team For A Digital Transformation

Podcast | Greatness Is A Journey, Not A Destination

Podcast | Don’t Be A Flip Phone Leader: What Is Innovative Leadership? [PART ONE]

Podcast | Don’t Be A Flip Phone Leader: How You Can Innovate Leadership [PART TWO]

Podcast | A Resilient Resolution: If We Don’t Care For Ourselves, There’s No Way We Can Care For Others

stay engaged

If you liked this episode of unsuitable on Rea Radio, let us know by giving us a “like” or by sharing it on social media. You can also use #ReaRadio to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. This episode is also featured on the Rea & Associates YouTube channel.

Doug Houser | Maureen Metcalf | Ohio Business Podcast