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Oct 1, 2011

WEadership: We Are All Leaders Now

This post, authored by Kristin Wolff and Vinz Koller, was originally published on the Monitor Insitute's WorkingWikily blog, September 20, 2011.
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“As of 2008, the war for good jobs has trumped all other
leadership activities […] The lack of good jobs will become the root
cause of almost all world problems that America and other countries will
face.”

Jim Clifton, Gallup Management Journal (September 2011)
_____________

“Jobs Wanted.” While the jobs bill (America’s Jobs Act) commands the attention of elected officials in our nation’s capitol, state and local leaders have struggled with employment issues for decades. They know there is no single solution because there is no single problem.

Most communities face some combination of the following:

  • Too few jobs (especially those offering health insurance and family-sustaining wages)
  • Skills gaps among applicants competing for good jobs that do exist and those in emerging industries
  • Young workers having difficulty making the leap from job to career (or from school to job)
  • Older experienced workers who cannot afford to retire or simply want to remain engaged but in different roles than they play today
  • Labor markets that lack transparency (e.g., applicants submit hundreds of resumes into “black holes“)
  • Persistent poverty, especially among communities of color, which limits access to job
    opportunities and to the social networks that help people advance
  • Overcrowded and underfunded public schools and institutions of higher education struggle to cultivate the talents of all of their students
  • Ongoing economic shocks—not just unanticipated layoffs, but also natural and weather-related disasters of which there have been 83 in 2011 (a record high in any calendar year)

No one challenge, no one solution. These challenges are not for the faint of heart, and cannot be solved by a single leader,organization or sector. But they are among the defining challenges of our day. And courageous leaders in public, private, non-profit, and civic sectors all over the country are quietly stepping forward to tackle them—increasingly, in partnership with one another.

Adopting more collaborative, open-minded, and entrepreneurial approaches than in years past, these leaders prioritize the goal—community well being and prosperity—above the means, be it program, funding, agency precedent, or political jurisdiction. We call this new approach WEadership in a nod to its collaborative nature.

Collaboration required. One of the most important opportunities this collaborative approach offers is the potential for shared learning and experimentation in ways that spread the risk and share the benefits. Here are three examples:

Volunteer-run services. In one California community, the need for workforce services had so overwhelmed a strapped public agency that staff began encouraging clients (job-seekers) to run their own activities. To their surprise, many job seekers jumped at the chance. Staff trained a small number of clients to use some basic organizing tools and allowed them to use the agency offices and equipment to run job search clinics, industry meetings, and other activities. As a result, volunteer organizers learned new skills, grew their networks, and were engaged in ways that made them feel valued—some secured jobs as a direct result. In addition, more job seekers could access a wider range of services (including those offered in the native languages of the organizers) at no additional cost. And other community leaders noticed. They valued the agency’s flexibility and creativity.

  • Returnships. In communities whose key industries are shifting, public, private, and non-profit leaders are working together to provide adult internships (sometimes called “returnships“) for individuals who are returning to the workforce after caring for children or families or who are transitioning from one industry or field of practice to another. These experiences can help job seekers gain tacit knowledge and build networks that enable them to secure longer-term employment or launch their own ventures. Because adults demand specific learning and development opportunities, these internships tend to be carefully structured, not just provide an introduction to the workplace as many youth-oriented internships do. This focus can build the capacity of host firms and organizations to provide higher-quality internships and development opportunities for younger interns and existing workers, as well as returners.
  • Social innovation. In grassroots communities everywhere, social innovators in state and local governments, tribal nations, and nonprofit and
    private sectors are organizing their communities in ways that enhance economic opportunity. From helping aspiring entrepreneurs crowdfund small ventures on Kickstarter to organizing off-line peer learning communities around on-line learning and professional development platforms like P2PU and Skillshare, to promoting bartering on NeighborhoodGoods or “gigging” on Taskrabbit, social innovators are increasing access to work and learning, even if
    not in traditional ways. These experiments can even complement or incent changes in programs and services offered tradition institutions

Many small steps. Workforce leaders (who can come from any level, sector, or jurisdiction) are innovating in ways that can be hard to recognize because their innovations comprise many small iterations, rather than one headline-grabbing breakthrough. And often, they are disconnected. But these small steps matter. And leaders who take them are demonstrating ways in which can all play important roles in solving our most significant problems.

We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.

Kristin Wolff and Vinz Koller, of Social Policy Research Associates, authored the WEadership Guide (August 2011), the result of a one-year US Department of Labor study of leadership in the field of public policy concerned with work and learning. The entire project is documented at EnhacingWorkforceLeadership.org. Follow it at @WFLeadership.
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Photo credit: Senator Mark Warner on Flickr.


 
Post
Oct 1, 2011

WEadership Practice #1: Adopt a Wide-Angle Point of View

This post originally appeared on LeadChange. It is the second of a seven-part series summarizing the findings of a one-year study of workforce leadership in which we identified six practices next-generation leaders are using: a new model of leadership we call WEadership in a nod to its collaborative nature.
______________________________________

Practice #1: Adopt a Wide-Angle Point of View

Where do effective leaders look for new ideas?
For better ways of doing things?

boy and telescope

In short, everywhere.

We found that effective workforce leaders look for new ideas in unlikely places—in completely unrelated fields of practice and peers and neighbors alike—and find creative ways to apply their resources and expertise. They focus on community problems, not just workforce problems.

It sounds simple but this kind of ‘opening of the aperture’ has fundamentally changed what many workforce leaders do. In fact, we identified many ways leaders can broaden there vision. Here are three. 

Embrace Long-Term

First, today’s workforce leaders embrace bigger, longer-term agendas. We talked to workforce leaders about industry clusters, broadband penetration, literacy, school reform, social innovation, poverty, entrepreneurship, and dozens of other challenges that comprise their to-do lists. Traditional issues like jobs, skills, and wages still anchor their work, but today’s workforce priorities can take many forms and require action on different time horizons.

Embrace Diverse Thought

Second, and following from the first, leaders are working with more diverse partners than ever before—not just economic development and education partners, but industry and professional associations, libraries and cultural institutions, universities, incubators, even grassroots and neighborhood groups. Leaders work with these partners in different ways—not just as Board members or political constituents (or competitors), but in a myriad of roles that reflect the multiple dimensions every person and organization brings.

Embrace Diverse Methods

Third, leaders are actively seeking ideas from other professional fields—even those completely unrelated to workforce or public policy—that have the potential to impact their own performance or field of practice. Whether through organizational or community book clubs, attending conferences or events in other professional fields or disciplines, or adopting new ideation, experimentation, or learning methods within their organizations and networks, these leaders know they do not have all of the answers and are employing methods that will both introduce them to new ideas, and engage their staff, partners, and communities in solving important community problems.

One leader convenes monthly discussion around TED talks; another asks staff to convenes openspace conversations to encourage sharing among staff and partners; several take (unpaid) sabbaticals and offer them to staff; and some regularly return to the classroom (in-person or virtually).

These leaders share shift strategies as new information changes how they see the problems they are working on. They share a commitment to doing what they can over doing what they’ve always done and a willingness to let others be in charge.

They know leadership is a shared role, and not just a title.

Is your own view wide enough? Are you gaining insight from innovators in other professional fields? Your own employees?

Photo credit: achichi on Flickr

____________________________________________

Last Week: An Introduction to WEadership: Workforce Leaders Remaking Policy and Redefining What it Means to Lead

Next Week: WEadership Practice #2: Build Diverse Networks

Kristin Wolff and Vinz Koller, of Social Policy Research Associates, authored the WEadership Guide (August 2011), the result of a one-year US Department of Labor study of leadership in the field of public policy concerned with work and learning. They were thrilled at the opportunity to link their professional pursuits (public policy) with their personal commitments to positive social change and innovation, and look to increase, accelerate, and intensify these connections within the field of workforce in the coming months.
The entire project is documented at EnhacingWorkforceLeadership.org. Follow it at @WFLeadership.

Post
Sep 28, 2011

We Are All Connected

We don't advertise here, usually. But we hope you'll indulge us just this once to let you know about Tiffany Shlain's new film, Connected, out this week.

Connected explores the ways in which we are linked to one another in ways that make us interdependent, and how these linkages are fundamentally changing us.

These themes underlie the need for the new kind of leadership we explore in our own project (see WEadership).

If you click around the film's website, you'll find a collection of resources and tools for convening conversations about these themes in your homes or workplaces.

And we need these conversations.

 

 

Post
Sep 26, 2011

Un-jobs and the New New Economy

Kristin did this interview with Greg Hartle as part of the Ten-Dollars-and-a-Laptop Project in April of this year.

It just re-surfaced. Since it covers a number of the themse we have explored in the Enhacing Workforce Leadership Project, we thought we'd share.

 

Post
Sep 24, 2011

WEadership: Workforce Leaders Remaking Policy and Redefining What it Means to Lead

This post originally appeared on LeadChange. It is the first of a seven-part series summarizing the findings of a one-year study of workforce leadership in which we identified six practices next-generation leaders are using: a new model of
leadership we call WEadership in a nod to its collaborative nature.

______________________________________________

As of 2008, the war for good jobs has trumped all other leadership activities […] The lack of good jobs will become the root cause of almost all world problems that America and other countries will face. – Jim Clifton

Jobs and economic security

These are the most important issues on the minds of Americans across generations, geography, and political parties.

Most communities face some combination of the following:

  • Too few jobs (especially those offering health insurance and family-sustaining wages)
  • Skills gaps among applicants competing for good jobs that do exist and those in emerging industries
  • Young workers having difficulty making the leap from job to career (or from school to job)
  • Older experienced workers who cannot afford to retire or simply want to remain engaged but in different roles than they play today
  • Labor markets that lack transparency (e.g., applicants submit hundreds of resumes into “black holes“)
  • Persistent poverty,
    especially among communities of color, which limits access to job
    opportunities and to the social networks that help people advance
  • Overcrowded and underfunded public schools and institutions of higher education struggle to cultivate the talents of all of their students
  • Ongoing economic shocks—not just unanticipated layoffs, but also natural and weather-related disasters of which there have been 83 in 2011 (a record high in any calendar year)

These challenges are not for the faint of heart, and cannot be solved by a
single leader, organization, or sector. But they are among the defining
challenges of our day. And courageous leaders in public, private,
non-profit, and civic sectors all over the country are quietly stepping
forward to tackle them—increasingly, in partnership with one another.

Non-traditional Leadership

During a one-year study of the field of public policy known as workforce, we found many examples of leaders—including non-traditional leaders—creating new
solutions in unexpected ways.

Adopting more collaborative, open-minded, and entrepreneurial approaches than in years past, these leaders prioritize the goal—community well being and prosperity—above the means, be it program, funding, agency precedent, political jurisdiction, or traditional role. We call this new approach WEadership in a nod to its collaborative nature. It is characterized by six practices:

  1. Adopting a Wide-Angle Point of View
  2. Building Diverse Networks
  3. Embracing Openness
  4. Encouraging Experimentation
  5. Adding Unique Value
  6. Cultivating Next Generation Leaders

These practices do not comprise a recipe or a checklist. Rather, they reflect our effort to synthesize finding from our literature review and discussions with over 500 workforce leaders in person, via phone and using social media.  Moreover, these are not independent practices: the six complement one another and point toward a future in which leadership is a collaborative endeavor.

We will cover these practices in a series of posts over the coming weeks. Meanwhile,
we’d welcome your thoughts.

What do you think about the future of the workforce? 

_______________________________________

Next Week: WEadership Practice #1: Adopt a Wide-Angle Point of View

Kristin Wolff and Vinz Koller, of Social Policy Research Associates, authored the WEadership Guide (August 2011), the result of a one-year US Department of Labor study of leadership in the field of public policy concerned with work and learning. They were thrilled at the opportunity to link their professional pursuits (public policy) with their personal commitments to positive social change and innovation, and look to increase, accelerate, and intensify these connections within the field of workforce in the coming months. The entire project is documented here (EnhancingWorkforceLeadership). Follow us at @WFLeadership.


Post
Sep 23, 2011

Three Mindshifts for Leaders: How Social Technologies are Changing the Workplace in Fundamental Ways

Lynda Gratton, author of The Shift: The Future of Work is Already Here among many other well-regarded books on work, talent, and the enterprise, challenges leaders to reimagine their organizations, their approach to innovation, and their talent management practices before it's too late.

 

Lynda Gratton: Three mindshifts for leaders

Leaders: Are you ready for:

  1. Democracy in the workplace?
  2. Employees who are people first, with lives, ventures, and businesses outside of your organization?
  3. A living, breathing approach to innovation that is embedded in your organization not just housed with all of the other non-DNA-changing initiatives?

Increasingly, your employees are.

 

Post
Aug 25, 2011

Enhancing Workforce Leadership Initiative Contributors: An Update

by: Sam McCoy


Google Map

The Enhancing Workforce Leadership Initiative Contributor Map

Since the Enhancing Workforce Leadership Initiative began, we have talked to a wide range of leaders in educational institutions, government and non-profit organizations and agencies, at local, state and regional levels throughout the country who play a role in workforce development. We engaged these leaders around some of the key challenges and opportunities they experience to better understand the changing nature of workforce leadership development, document their perspectives and find out what can be done to support it. 

This map reflects over 200 of contributors from 33 states that have contributed to the Initiative so far. We maintain this map oun our AboutUs page but thought we'd share it here, too.

To learn more about the themes and highlights that have come out of the different phases this project to date, see the following collections:

Phase I: Things we've Learned About Workforce Leadership
Phase II: On-the-Ground Insights from12 Workforce Leaders

We are analyzing data, drafting products, and editing video now, which we will also be sharing in the next month.

We're very excited about what we've learned to date and are grateful to each and every contributor reflected above and the thousands who've interacted with us using social media.

For more information about the project, see enhancingworkforceleadership.org, follow us at @WFLeadership, or contact Kristin Wolff [kwolff@thinkers-and-doers.com].

 

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