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Radical Adaptability: Pandemic-Era Innovations Are Reinventing The Future Of Work

Keith Ferrazzi on the Walker Webcast.

When millions of Americans left the office for what was supposed to be a two-week quarantine in March 2020, no one could have imagined how different the workplace landscape would look more than two years later. Today, virtual meetings and online collaboration continue to be the norm across several industries, even as CEOs push for a return to the office. 

Bestselling author and entrepreneur Keith Ferrazzi has been called a leader in the relational and collaborative sciences. Ferrazzi is the chairman of Ferrazzi Greenlight, where he works to identify behaviors that block global organizations from reaching their goals and to transform them by coaching them in new behaviors that increase growth and shareholder value. 

On this week’s Walker Webcast, he told Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker his advice for companies that are struggling to adapt to the new reality of work: reinvent the practices of work, not the policies.

In his latest book,  Competing in the New World of Work, Ferrazzi lays out how leaders can use the innovations brought about by the pandemic to ensure that they are fostering creativity and collaboration within their workplace and setting their employees up for success.

At the heart of Ferrazzi's concepts is the idea of creating co-elevating relationships that involve people being their authentic, vulnerable and intimate selves with one another. Along with that, he calls for generosity, candor and “radical accountability.” 

“That ecosystem of intimacy, generosity, candor and accountability — that's what we coach executive teams to do who do not have a proactive approach to building those kinds of co-elevating relationships,” Ferrazzi said. “As a result, CEOs are spending way too much time running around playing whack-a-mole in their business when the ecosystem of the team — the team itself — should be owning each other's success.”

He warned that when organizations are not candid and too polite to respectfully challenge one another, those issues will come out in passive-aggressive statements and shadow conversations. 

Ferrazzi holds regular “intimacy dinners” with the people he will be coaching before he begins his process with a company. At these dinners, he sets them up for the radical accountability he will call on them to have during coaching by encouraging them to be vulnerable with one another, whether it's through discussing some “sweet and sour” aspects of their lives right now or by going even deeper. 

He added that companies can and should be doing these exercises in a virtual environment as well to increase the intimacy levels of their team. He recommended companies perform an “energy check” during virtual meetings, going around the chat and having everyone say what their energy level is on a scale of one to five, and why they feel that way. 

Ferrazzi bundles many of his concepts under the umbrella of “radical adaptability,” including being able to adapt to being more vulnerable, which he believes breeds creativity. In his work, he cites researcher Brené Brown who said that trauma kills vulnerability, and he said this is particularly important to remember when it comes to diversity. Many people of color experience trauma from prejudice that can hold them back in the workplace, which is why it is so important to create psychologically safe environments for these individuals where they can be vulnerable.

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker on the Walker Webcast.

Ferrazzi said companies that are overly focused on in-office versus remote work need to remember that almost all organizations are hybrid or remote, whether they have multiple offices across the country or people are spread out on multiple floors.

“We need to be overemphasizing how we can work in an asynchronous and hybrid world, how we can stop working in meetings as the primary form of collaboration, and how to collaborate outside of meetings so even more people can be involved,” he said. 

Ferrazzi said he believes he can better improve the innovation of a company through a virtual or hybrid environment than a purely in-office one. He encouraged the utilization of breakout rooms in Zoom, and he explained how creating smaller environments can give people the trust and confidence they need to speak up. 

He asked Walker how long his typical staff meeting is and how many people usually show up, to which Walker responded, “55 minutes, and eight.” Ferrazzi recommended he switch to a two-hour format, and along with those eight key executives, bring in 25 additional employees, separate them into breakout rooms throughout the meeting, and conduct important emotional check-ins like the “sweet and sour” or “energy checks” that can bring people closer and help them feel heard. 

He also encouraged Walker to call on one employee to do a five-minute “agile update” where they give an update on what they’re working on, what they have achieved and what their challenges are. Then, employees can break off into separate breakout rooms and lay out strategies in a shared document for how they would help that person overcome their challenges through new innovations and ideas. 

“In the average meeting of 12 people, only four people think that they were heard,” Ferrazzi said. “In this case, everyone's heard, and everyone's input and the tapestry of their input is right there.”

In the end, this is about moving away from asynchronous and toward synchronous collaboration, where companies can have broad inclusiveness, more innovation and more ideas, he said. 

Next week, Walker will host Charles Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association. Register here

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Walker & Dunlop. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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