Back in Denmark, after attending the WorldBlu The Power Question Summit in Miami and extending my stay with a short family vacation, it’s time to reflect on the summit.
The summit was centered on celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Power Question ‘What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?’ on a personal level, on an organizational level, and on a global level. The format was a mixture of short TEDx-style talks and workbook exercises, where participants were encouraged to face their own personal, organizational, and global fears and discuss them with some of the other participants.
During one of many talks, CEO and Worldblu founder Traci Fenton reminded us that The Power Question is not the same as ‘What would you do if you couldn’t fail?’ or ‘What would you do if you were really stupid and didn’t care?’. It was also very easy to sense how important The Power Question has become to Traci since being asked The Power Question for the first time years ago by a mentor.
Real Change Start at the Top
During the summit, I had a chance to talk to Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40. I asked him if it is even possible to create a freedom-centered workplace without having the CEO drive the change or at least be onboard with it. ‘It will be extremely difficult’, came the prompt answer from Garry.
Garry’s answer didn’t come as a complete shock to me, as I have seen a number of well-meant change initiatives fall short because of a lack of top leadership commitment. I would, therefore, have loved the entire summit to be about the workplace, which it allegedly was in 2015, and how we can help leaders face their own fears and create environments of trust and engagement.
You Can Only Win or Learn
Garry also talked at the summit about the power of trusting and caring for people and how you can use language to show respect for employees. Garry had come up with the term ‘learning moments’ to replace words such as ‘mistake’ or ‘failure.’ As Garry explained, people become much more risk-willing and creative when they can only ‘win or learn’ and not ‘win or lose.’
Many Employees Are Disengaged
CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, Bob Chapman, reminded us how a number of studies have repeatedly documented that less than one in four employees around the world are actively engaged.
Bob told us about a few significant moments in his career that have shaped him as a leader. As he pointed out, none of these moments occurred in business school. The first one I want to share happened on a Sunday afternoon in church, where Bob reflected on the impact the pastor had on the community by only spending one hour a week with them and how he, as a leader, was responsible for the same people forty times that every week. Bob also told us how he sees every single employee at Barry-Wehmiller as someone’s precious child. He drew the parallel to giving your daughter away in marriage and how you, as a responsible father, would want to make sure your daughter has found a kind, respectful, and loving husband. Why would you expect anything less of your daughter’s employer? She is probably spending more time at work than with her husband.
Who Says a CEO Should Look Like a CEO?
Matthew Gonnering, CEO of Widen, told us about how he had overcome his fears of not looking like a ‘real’ CEO. When he became the CEO of Widen, he tried to live up to the image he thought was expected of him as a CEO. Finally, he deiced to be himself and care less about what a ‘real’ CEO looks like.
Now, Matthew engages employees with a servant-leadership mind-set by asking them ‘Do I let you down?’ and listens to what they have to say. One employee answered, ‘No, you do not let me down, but I’m afraid you think I let you down.’ It’s easy to imagine how the following conversation created trust, alignment, and engagement at a much deeper level than if Matthew had just played the CEO part and told the employee what to do.
The summit had many great speakers, including Justin Dillon (Artist, Founder, and CEO at Made In A Free World), Henri Hyppönen (Author, Co-Founder, and Creative Director at Plus One Agency), Nathan Donaldson (CEO at Boost and Boost Agile), and Sam Chaltain (Author and Partner at WONDER), who all gave me bits and pieces to think about. I also got the chance to meet Arun Gandhi (activist and grandchild of Mahatma Gandhi) and hear his story of how it was to grow up in the Gandhi family.
Giving TEDx-style talks is a great way to focus a story and to help the speaker get to the point. However, personally, I would have loved to hear more from many of the inspirational speakers. I would happily have skipped the workbook exercises on overcoming personal and global fears to make more time for them to inspire. I would also have loved to do workshops/open space sessions with them on how their stories could translate to help improve freedom at work and engagement throughout organizations globally. Judging by the relatively few companies represented, there is no doubt that there is still a lot of work to do.
Thanks to everyone who challenged my thinking during the summit, Traci and the organizers for making it possible, and Danish delegation from Bloch&Østergaard for all the fun we had together.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts using the comments below.
For other great reviews of The Power Question Summit, please check out:
- Why we need to talk about fear in the workplace by Lisa Gill
- #WorldBluBritPack Blog 5 – The Power of Soul by Perry Timms
- The WorldBlu Summit 2016 by Erik Østergaard
Image credit: All images in this post were taken by me during the summit. The featured image is of Traci Fenton, WorldBlu CEO, and Founder.