NextMapping Future of Work Blog

Cheryl Cran

Welcome to the Future of Work blog – this is where you will find posts on all things related to the future of work.

We have guest bloggers that include CIO’s, Behavioral Scientists, CEO’s, Data Scientists including posts by our founder Cheryl Cran.

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The Future is Shared

February 11, 2020

Jason Campbell of MindValley interviews Cheryl Cran on the ‘self-leadership’ needed to create a shared future.

To listen to the full audio of this interview go here.

Jason: I have Cheryl Cran here, which, Oh my gosh, we’re going to have such a treat talking about the future of work and that the future is shared. I mean she was recognized as the number one influencer by Onalytica. When it comes to talking about this topic, what is the future of work look like? She’s been a leader speaking in organizations around the world. Has written eight books with our ninth one coming up and what we’re going to talk about a lot right now is really what is happening, what are these changes that we are seeing in the workplace now? What does the future look like and what can we do about it to stay extraordinarily productive and keep making an incredible impact. Cheryl, thank you so much for being on the show and welcome.

Jason: I wanted to hear what was your journey into getting into this niche of helping people go through change and how have you been able to navigate that field and really help companies understand what needs to be done?

Cheryl: So my journey is a little bit unorthodox in that I didn’t go to university or college. Which is very much the current trend!

I started my career right out of high school and I went into banking. I was very achievement-oriented. I was taught to work hard, do hard and I got promoted to a leadership position very young, 23 years of age.

My unique style as a leader was to set the vision and motivate and inspire people to come along with change. That was my wiring from the very beginning and I took that skill all the way through till I left the bank and went and got headhunted and went to insurance, headed up a very successful insurance arm, did a lot of professional speaking for developers and realtors and other groups. So speaking professionally was always part of my career trajectory as well.

I wrote my first book, “Say What You Mean – Mean What You Say” in 2001 and that book was all about how do we navigate a really uncertain future and what’s the communication we need to do that.

And then eight books later, and I have been in private practice with our consulting firm for over 20 years. I wrote the book “NextMapping – Anticipate, Navigate and Create The Future of Work” two years ago and prior to that “The Art of Change Leadership- Driving Transformation In a Fast-Paced World”. My personal ability to be very agile in turbulent change is something that I have been able to transfer to the clients we work with in workable strategies but also in our team and with the people that we coach and consult with as well.

Jason:  Are changes moving faster at a faster pace? Is technology changing the way we work? Why is change so hard?

Cheryl: Well, I think it’s a combination of all the above. Peter Diamandis, the co-founder of singularity university talks about exponential change and the exponential speed of change. And that’s what we’re living now. So we’ve been talking about change for decades, but up until the two thousands the change was manageable. For instance, let’s talk about ATM machines. That change was a convenient change that everybody adapted to very, very quickly. But then when you have the two thousands and now you’ve got exponential innovation happening on a monthly basis that is connected to both technology change as well as societal change. People’s minds are opening to a variety of different things. Societaly I mean we are now talking openly about things that would never have been discussed a decade ago and really looking at how do we improve the world through change. But you’re right, psychologically change is the most difficult thing for people to do. We are moving from a ‘me to we’ mindset which is required to create a future that is shared.

Technology is fairly easy. You talk about CRM and platforms, that part’s easy. You can say, well, this problem can be solved by technology. It’s the people that are the challenge.

We underestimate the importance of getting individuals to buy into the future to see the merit of change, to connect the change to their personal meaning and to connect the change to what the impact is going to be on them. Personally. I firmly and strongly and passionately believe that unless we have a change leadership approach to technology innovation, we will continue to get pushback from people because psychologically don’t trust the change unless we can connect it to the meaning and I think that’s the crossroads that we’re at right now.

Jason: Wow. I’d love to actually explore that even more because I’m very familiar with times that I’ve tried to push technology innovation within a company and I’ve seen how everybody resisted against me and a lot of what you talk about when you speak about anticipating that future of work is this element of human behavior. What do you mean about this idea of meaning? I feel like a lot of times people are just, and even myself, I’m skeptical that the change or the technology or whatever’s coming is really going to make my life easier. Is this really where the gap is happening?

Cheryl: In my book, “The Art of Change Leadership”, I talk about the change cycle and how we all behave with change exactly the same way. It doesn’t matter how evolved any of us are, when change happens, there’s an initial pushback reaction, a defense reaction, and that reaction is I don’t trust the change. I’m not convinced it will be better than how it’s been and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to leverage it to where I need to leverage it in order to be more impactful. That phase is a necessary phase. It’s actually a critical thinking phase. However many people get stuck in that phase because they get mired in the what’s going to not work or how is it going to be wrong? So they want to poke fingers and holes at the technology and up the future versus moving to the next stage, which is what I call creative solution, where you start to look at, well, what if, so if I were engaging you Jason and change, rather than come to you and get all excited and say we’re going to change, we’ve got this new CRM, it’s awesome.

It’s going to make everything so much easier for you. Your initial reaction is going to be skepticism. You’re going to think I’m selling you a whole big load of you know what? You’re not going to trust me or the technology because I’m trying to sell it to you. And so when I talk about meaning, it’s about connecting it to what does it mean for Jason and his job. To look at it through the lens that the future is shared. So instead, if I come to you and say, we’ve been exploring multiple CRMs, we actually would like your input on them. You tell us how is it going to make a difference in your daily work? What are the questions that come up for you when you see these potential technologies and what do you envision making your work in life easier if you were to use any of these new CRM programs? At NextMapping we talk about the PREDICT model. And one of the key elements of making all of this change work is crowdsourcing. And I’m not talking about just the typical employee surveys or customer surveys, I’m talking about one to one anecdotal meaningful conversations with people, with human beings, human to human saying, what does this mean to you? How can you see it working and how can we creatively brainstorm ways to elevate this so that it works for you and for everyone else at the highest level possible.

Jason: Cheryl, we should’ve been having conversations way earlier in my career! Now as you’re saying this, I’m thinking of all those times I beat the drum into doing exactly that and how much resistance, how much I had to fight an uphill battle as I was trying to bring these innovations, these tools because I got so excited about it. And guess what? I’m known as the sales guy at mind Valley and so everyone always comes with an air of skepticism.

So I’d love to expand a little more on this PREDICT model to allow us to be better at bringing innovations and new technologies and to just being more productive in the workplace. And a lot of these things are around AI, which we’ll talk a bit later, but first, let’s break down this PREDICT model to help us out or just help me out at this point.

Cheryl: The PREDICT model is a tool to help predict the future and first we look for patterns, which is the P of the PREDICT model. The model has seven elements. I’ll only talk about the first two cause we could literally do a two-hour podcast on just the PREDICT model itself. We’ll just talk about the P and the R, the P is for patterns.

The R’s for recognition. If we ourselves as business owners or anybody listening as an individual, if you want to get a grip on the future, you have to look at patterns, you have to look at patterns from a variety of perspectives. One of the future of work skills that we all need to develop at a higher level is the ability to have multiple perspectives.

 So you’re looking at all these multiple perspectives and then you’re looking at the patterns that emerged from all those perspectives. So for example, if we were to look at a company that’s very sales driven, obviously we’d gather that data from that sales perspective, but we would then look for the patterns that link up with operations, accounting, and customers. And that’s where the gold is because that’s what points us to the future because now we can go, Oh wait a second. So sales are saying that people want to do more self-serve. Online operations are saying we don’t have the technology to allow people to self serve to the level that sales say we need to and accounting saying that costs a lot of money to do that. So whatever those perspectives are, we bring them all together and we find the common ground through pattern recognition. And that common ground might be we can save money for accounting if we implement this in a certain way, we can help marketing do a better job because now we know exactly what the customer wants for self-serve. We can help operations to select the right technology solution given those patterns that we’ve recognized.

Jason: I want to talk about more of these trends that we’re seeing. Let’s start with the technology front because I think technology is a really exciting thing for people to want to get their hands around. So what are these big trends? You mentioned open sourcing. We’ve talked a lot and obviously being in a sales background, I got excited when you talk about systems and CRM. What are these big things that we’re about to see that could impact us as individuals in the workplace?

Cheryl: I’m glad that we started the interview talking about people first because at NextMapping that is the key here is we have to be looking at, obviously, we all get excited about technology because it impacts our daily life. We’re all using Siri and Alexa, we’re all using voice activation, we’re all using touch technology. We’re all using facial recognition, so we do get excited, but I feel really passionately that we have to look at technology with the people first lens. We have to start with questions like:

How is it affecting the customer experience? How is it affecting the employee experience? How is it helping humanity as a whole? And I think if we have those questions at the forefront, then we’re going to be okay with all of the technological innovation that we’re facing. It’s available for download on our website called the top 20 trends for 2020

We are seeing a number of things. Number one, the integration of five G five G is going to become ubiquitous and that means now we’re going to have even higher adoption of voice activation, of facial recognition. Of all of these technologies that we’re just starting to be on. The fringe of AI is going to continue to increase and shift things for the future and increase the reality that the future is shared. AI is going to actually continue to shift how we do business, so it’s not going to take jobs. It’s going to take on the tasks people do on a repetitive level. So when we look at AI’s continued trend, the other trends we’re seeing is automation, robotics organizations that are heavy into manufacturing, more cobots, more care bots in the healthcare industry, more exoskeletons to help humans lift things at 10 times the strength of a male. There’s so much innovation. In fact, I get excited about, we literally are on the periphery of many of human current illnesses being solved in the next few years through technology. We are on the edge of solving things like mental illness through cognitive VR therapy. Virtual reality therapy is such an exciting time to be alive and so these technologies are going to transform the planet.

We have 8 billion people on the planet. Half of them are connected to WIFI. Right now in the next three years, 75% of the planet will have connectivity to WIFI. So if you think we’ve had innovation now increase that by 30% of the population. Now adding to open source, adding to the databases, adding to the collective wisdom that we’re gathering through technology. You can either have two thoughts about the future.

The number one reaction is to be very scared. Or number two, you get super excited and superabundant and you look at the possibilities of how we can literally transform the planet. And I don’t say that from an idealistic standpoint. I say that it is very real for us to create the planet. They’re solving environmental challenges. You know, we have Greta Thunberg talking about the environment. There are solutions. There are products right now that had been created that with a drop of a liquid, plastics can be brought down to a 10th of its original size. There is so much innovation that we hear all the negative stuff in the media. We’re not hearing about the innovation that’s going to make a lot of our current challenges, a thing of the past and so it’s a very exciting time to be alive.

Jason: Cheryl, I love that you were able to share a bit of an idea of what’s coming up. It’s super exciting and I love how positive you are about it, I really want people to be feeling comfortable knowing that this future is coming and what does it mean for them and their role because there’s this idea of like my significance, like, wow, all this change is happening. What part do I play? How do I stay relevant in this sea of change? Like even in my case, I’m already just struggling with simple things such as innovation in simple automation technology, but what you just talked about is way beyond what most people can get their minds around. So how do we step into this abundance and how do we play our part?

Cheryl: This is where my faith in humanity is very high. I have very high faith that we are going to solve a lot of the challenges. As I said previously, there’s a lot of questions I ask in the workbook “NextMapping” around, do you have a fearful mindset or do you have an abundant mindset about the future? But I think just from a very, what’s next perspective, it’s really looking at where are you now. So if you are feeling afraid of technology for example, or you’re feeling afraid of a direction that society is going in, I think it’s an existential opportunity for us to really evolve at its very core. I believe we’re on an evolutionary opportunity here and so when you look at change, you can look at it as I’m afraid, I don’t know what it means.Or you can look at as exciting and that the future is shared.

It’s okay to go there. That’s the first of making change is the awareness of I’m afraid and I don’t know what it means, but the second step is acknowledging that and then saying, what can I do so I can change my mind? For example, if society is moving towards a more democratic all-inclusive society we then have an opportunity to say: why not?

Have I been holding onto a power position? Is my ego trapping me and believing that as long as I hold power, I’m winning?

The future is shared, the future is collaborative, the future is collective. And the only way to be ready for that future is to look at change as a signal for us to evolve. And there’s much more depth there as you know at MindValley cause that’s what you’re all about. There’s so much depth there about anytime a change happens or anytime a disruption happens, it’s a call for us, an opportunity for us to go, how can I look at this creatively?

How can I adapt my mindset so I’m not pushing back against this change, but I’m actually seeing the potential in the change?

And again, referring back to my resources, you know, “The Art of Change Leadership” I talk about that. How do we make those changes to what’s next?

And at NextMapping we provide those models to help people make those changes.

Jason: It’s something that I think we’re all aspiring to but obviously, we sometimes face our own ego death type of battles that we have to go through and I love how a lot of the work and the things you speak about the technology is great but as you mentioned it’s really our human behavior of adapting to it and I really wanted to see if we had some more tools we could give for anybody who’s listening, who’s in a leadership position and is possibly dealing with people within their team that actually have these kinds of negative mindsets and how you actually get them to be better prepared for the changes in the workplace. Especially if it comes to things that could even bring an end to the need of particular positions in a workplace like that. It seems like something difficult to navigate. What have you seen or what are you expecting?

Cheryl: I worked with a health group in the US and they were going through a massive restructuring. So they were being bought by another entity, which meant about 10 of the leaders in the room of 30 that I was facilitating were going to be redundant. There was no guaranteed role for them. There was no clear defined future or career path or succession plan for them.

Now, for anybody listening, the good news is today, anybody who’s made redundant has an opportunity because there’s going to be a worker shortage of 85 million people in North America all the way until the year 2030 so as long as you’re agile and able to adapt, you will have work opportunities. That’s the reality right now. Back then, 15 years ago wasn’t the same.

What we did is I facilitated a discussion with those 30 leaders around the table and said, “Here’s the reality. Here’s the truth. We are in a major restructure situation. 10 people in this room will no longer be in their positions or their roles. We don’t know what that looks like and we don’t know where that’s going, but here’s what we do know is that it has to happen for the viability of the organization to continue to exist, so the truth always wins and then here’s what we’re going to help you. We’re going to give you the models, the tools, the coaching, the support, the resources that if you’re the one who stays, you’ve got the tools to resource and future, that very difficult road ahead of working with this new amalgamated acquisition reality. And for those of you that are we leaving, think of it as an opportunity. You will be leaving with a package. You’ll be able to rewrite your life. You’ll be able to recreate your life. You might even have the opportunity to come back on contract. Let’s look at how each of you individually, how we can equip you, help you, resource you, and support you to create your very best possible future. “

Now, I’m proud to tell you that as a result of doing that, the 10 people that get their leaders help them find their next opportunity. The leaders coach them, supported them, guided them, and those 10 people post events said best thing that ever happened to me. I learned how to navigate change. I learned how to deal with an uncertain future and where I’ve ended up, I’m happier than I was before anyway, so I don’t want to make trite the pain of change.

For leaders listening, you’ve got to be willing to sit down with people on a regular basis and see them as humans, eye to eye, listen to what they’re scared of. Don’t avoid the pain. Don’t point them to some random solution. Help them be resourced through the models.

Help people make the change. We use our change leadership models and say, where do you think you are in the change right now? How do we get you to create a solution?

You can’t just tell people you’re negative and you need to change. You can’t just tell people, suck it up, buttercup. We’re moving and we’re changing anyway. You can’t just tell people change or die. You have to care about people’s success and as a leader you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get down and dirty and having those very difficult, crucial conversations as truthful as you possibly can be given the knowledge that you’re allowed to share and lead people to where it’s going to benefit them, help them see how it’s helping them and you will win. Help them see that the future is shared.

Jason: I hope all the leaders listening to this really took that in. You’ve been able to take in a lot of the things that can be done to really make this as smooth as possible and I love that the whole basis is founded in the truth. I mean the truth is really what needs to come out so that you can have these honest conversations and I was even going to stretch this and as I was listening to this, I feel like this is often something you need to apply when it comes to self-leadership, like how honest are you with yourself. Could you tell us a bit more about that? On how perhaps I’m in a role and I can see the trend of where the redundancy of my own role, my own skills and my own expertise is coming? How do I have that self-leadership, that self-honesty to see where I can be retrained and is there possibly a tip as to which skills I should be looking in training more?

Cheryl: Self-leadership quite clearly, is keeping your ego in check. If I know my future job is redundant, the number one thing I’m going to do is react according to Maslow’s hierarchy and that is to try to protect myself.

And that’s why we see a lot of CYA in organizations and we see a lot of CYA cover your a**. And the reason we see that is that people automatically go to a fear response.

Such as, I don’t want to adopt this change because it means that I might not have a job. What I say as a coach is, so let’s go there. What if, what skills do you have? What value do you bring? How do you change people’s lives? How do you add value to the organization? Because if you are literally wired to add value and you’re always looking to help other people succeed, you have guaranteed future work stability, no question.

Self-leadership comes from self-esteem. Do you believe that you have value?

Do you believe that you’re worthy of creating value for anybody else in the future?

Do you believe that the future is shared?

And if you’ve got that self-esteem, by the way, your teams will love you more than they already do because they see that you’re not trying to protect yourself. You’re actually more focused on them and their success than you are on protecting your future viability and if you shift the perspective to that, it’s less about, Oh my gosh, I’m going to be out of work and more about what do I know to be true about what I do to add value. And that to me, for anybody listening just really embraces that concept to its next level, you will find there’s really nothing to be afraid of.

On a personal note, I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 20 plus years. Every week is uncertainty. I don’t know where the next client’s coming from. I don’t know where the next money is coming from. That’s been my reality for 20 plus years. I believe everyone needs to develop an entrepreneurial mindset rather than this mindset we’ve had for the last few decades of a guaranteed paycheck, which is a golden handcuff.

It really is. It prevents us from thinking beyond our resiliency factor and a lot of people have been programmed to believe that they’re only as good as the identity of their job that they’re in and that needs to change. Identity needs to shift to, we are more than that. We bring more value than that and if you don’t believe that, then the work that we have to do on ourselves is around developing that to its highest level possible.

Jason: Whew. You are preaching to the choir and that hits home. We’re closing off this episode, speaking about this and possibly one more thing I wanted to cover before we cut this is as I’m navigating my day to day work, how do I stay on top of seeing which trends are coming to impact me the fastest? Like how do I keep a radar on to know what should I look for next?

Cheryl:  At NextMapping we are all about -“What’s next?” That question is far more doable because we’re not creating anxiety about a far off future. So what I would say to you is navigating those trends it’s really about keeping focused on what is impacting you personally in your future and your desires and your passions and what you want to do and contribute. And then keep an eye on that. You know this is our work. So for me, I’m always tuned into other futurists. What are they saying? What are they doing? I’m tuned into technology. What are the trends in technology and how is it impacting society?

So I think having that futurist hat on while you’re in your current work is one thing that you can start to hone now rather than be afraid. A lot of people have their heads in the sand. They don’t want to know how things are changing or what’s happening. I’m saying, don’t do that. Lift your head up. Pay attention, because that’s where the opportunities are going to present themselves.

And by the way, this is where the founder of Uber and the founder of Airbnb, they lifted their heads up and saw that the future is shared and said, this is where society is going. People want cars on demand. They want to see who’s going to be driving them. They want to be able to travel the world and use somebody’s residence. So if we lift our head out of the sand, we see opportunity. There’s nothing to be afraid of. The only thing we need to fear is our own self-destruction.

We put in our own roadblocks- our own stop blocks and to me, that’s what I would want to be afraid of is where am I stopping myself? Where am I shutting down my potential? Where am I stopping the opportunities? Because if I’m not looking to the future, it means I’m just wanting to live in a bubble. I’m living in denial. I’m living in avoidance and I’ve been on the river denial many times. Jason, it’s not fun. You waste a lot of time in denial. My best question for myself is: “How can I be the best wife, the best mother, the best grandmother, the best friend, the best value offering to my clients?” I just want to be, and this is bringing tears to my eyes. I want to be the best human that I can possibly be and as long as that’s my goal, I have zero fear of the future. Zero fear.

Jason: Cheryl, thank you so much for spending this time with us and sharing all these amazing insights. I think everybody’s going to be leaving here with a completely different mindset about how to tackle this future that’s coming to us faster and faster.