Retain, Double Down, No-Not Yet, Think Time & Other Great Conference Insights

Written by: Jayson Morris

  A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation conference for their social entrepreneurs. It is an extraordinary event bringing together some of the world’s top minds for several days of inspiration and sharing.

 Having spent several days listening to the young entrepreneurs themselves, to organizations that have successfully scaled to the $50 million level, and to other experts in the room,  I found a few themes repeated over and over, that not only benefit young social entrepreneurs                                                                                     but also can be applied to nearly everyone:

Hire —> retain —> develop  – Turnover in all companies is costly, so the most successful organizations take time hiring – fire quickly if needed, and then invest a tremendous amount of time and energy to retain and develop their staff. This may require prioritizing training and mentoring above other challenges, and at times it can seem to be expensive. However the cost of replacing talent is far more expensive. Make focus on people a daily mantra.

Double Down on Your Best People – Along the same lines, successful organizations give their best people the key stretch opportunities that are critical for the organization’s success. These people have demonstrated high capability and are invested in and given room to grow, which translates to bigger ROI for the organization. So be sure to spend 80% of your time on your best employees and 20% on the rest, not vice versa.

Know what you do and the “no, not yets" – You have to say no to some things, even if they are interesting, even if someone really wants you to do it. Otherwise, you end up never having the time to really say yes. To get better at this, I recommend reading the book Essentialism and take steps to enacting it day to day. It can definitely be a bit socially awkward to say no at first, but the returns are worth it. 

Culture is there whether its intentional or not  – My old boss used to say, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” If you don’t intentionally set the culture you want, it will create itself. Leaders need to figure out what kind of culture they want, what values they have, and the steps they can take to promote each of these. For example, if you want a more casual and relaxed culture, allow more flexibility for when and where work gets done. If you want a harder working, more accountable culture, make sure everyone has SMART goals and train managers on how to oversee their teams more effectively. Regardless, leadership should hold itself accountable for determining the culture it wants, lay out steps for achieving it, and then reflect on whether it was achieved (and repeat over and over, as needed).

 Cultural competence — Great leaders understand the problem that the end-beneficiary faces. They apprentice with the problem – often for years – before trying to come up with solutions. The greatest leaders refresh their understanding regularly.

 Think Time – Across all industries and professions, quiet unplanned time scheduled on a recurring basis is key to creativity and the ability to strategically plan. Some people block off one morning per month, others an entire meeting-free day. Some plan personal reflection retreats throughout the year, others simply make a point to work from home. The common theme is trusting that unplanned time is a great investment, taking the initiative to set up quiet reflection time, and having the courage to treat this time as sacred as you would a meeting with the most important person you know.

Thoughts? Comments? Other ideas?