Webinar Replay: Operating in the New Normal

There are many variations of passages of Lorem Ipsum available, but the majority have suffered alteration in some form, by injected humour, or randomised words which don’t look even slightly believable.

56 min

Watch the webinar replay for insights on what leaders should do and how they can prepare for operating successfully in a post-crisis world. Slides from the webinar are available here.

Learn more about how Altimeter and Prophet can help you and your organization. Our offerings include:

Interested in a conversation with Charlene or someone from Altimeter? Please get in touch today.

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Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation

Organizations that have an adaptive culture can out-innovate competitors, finding new ways to thrive.

COVID-19 has forced the biggest acceleration in digital transformation. With organizations now grappling with the challenge to build pandemic-proof models and cultures across industries and regions to ensure better resilience, many are unsure where to start – or, if transformation is already underway, where to go next.

Our latest research with business leaders from around the world offers an actionable playbook for driving cultural change, helping organizations to focus their efforts and ensure culture is fully aligned to support transformation. Organizations that have the necessary adaptive culture will not only survive and innovate in these unprecedented times but will find opportunities to turn to their advantage and thrive.

In this report you will learn:

  • Why culture – and taking a human-centered approach – remains a key element in any successful transformation
  • How to determine key cultural levers on which to focus, based on your organization’s greatest needs for cultural change
  • The critical characteristics for leaders to embody in bringing their organizations along on the transformation journey
  • Best practices and stories of how other companies are moving forward

Download the report now.

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Your Complete Guide to Culture Transformation

Our research shows that companies must address what they are made of–body, mind and soul–or face disruption.

What is cultural transformation?

Cultural transformation is about the accelerated changes made by companies that focus on growing their businesses from the inside out – empowering people and the way they work through a human-centered approach. It has become more relevant than ever as organizations build the resilience required to serve their stakeholders in the midst of world-altering shifts. Prophet’s 2020 global research report: “Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation” intends to help organizations determine how and where to focus their efforts to continue powering their transformations from the inside out and ultimately emerge even stronger.

This report builds on our 2019 research, in which we first identified the cultural levers of transformation. A strong slate of global leaders contributed to these findings via in-depth interviews and we’re fortunate that many of these individuals have once again participated in our 2020 research to share progress and lessons learned, in addition to the stories and examples gathered from other leaders to demonstrate the power of cultural transformation in action.

Why is cultural transformation important? 

The future is here. Companies no longer have discretion when it comes to transformation for the Digital Age; it is their only option. Deferred digital decisions – which previously may have shown up as small chinks in a company’s armor – have now exposed significant vulnerabilities in organizational cultures across industries and regions, shattering any reason to hold onto historical behaviors, skillsets, organizational designs and operating models.

Our research shows there is a need to address culture as a part of an effective transformation.

Though the context for companies’ transformations has dramatically changed, the core methods have not. Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model acknowledges that just like the humans that comprise them, organizations have DNA and a Mind, Body and Soul and successful transformation depends on these elements working in sync to drive sustained cultural change.

“Focusing on levers that help create safe spaces and meaningful mechanisms for employees to adapt to the change are critical.”

The application of these cultural levers invites its own set of questions and challenges. We’ve observed that organizations are often unsure where to start or where to go next in terms of which levers to pull. Our research report identifies four pathways of cultural change that are intended to help organizations focus their efforts and make sustained progress toward cultural transformation. These pathways are not intended to be prescriptive but rather a helpful aid for how organizations might navigate transformation based on overcoming primary roadblocks. The report also provides best practices and stories of how other companies are moving forward in making progress against these cultural levers.

Four Pathways of Cultural Transformation

We’ve identified the following four pathways of cultural change. These pathways align to our Human-Centered Transformation Model and can be viewed as either entry points into the model or ways to move through the model, i.e., where to focus next:

Defining the Transformation

Consider this pathway to be the “control tower” for all other pathways. This is where a company solidifies its DNA: its business and brand strategy; purpose and values and employee value proposition. Once established, DNA serves to continually direct the ongoing change. In order to successfully define the transformation, organizations must set a powerful, actionable ambition and clarify the leaders who will lead the cultural transformation.

Directing the Transformation

Directing the cultural transformation requires focusing on cultural levers related to the Body of the organization. This focus ensures organizations are taking a holistic view of the governance, processes, roles, systems and tools needed to enable an operating model that makes transformation real. Many organizations have made progress on a clear roadmap and KPIs, though other key levers, such as pushing decision rights downward have proven more challenging. Our research provides examples from organizations that are successfully overcoming these hurdles. Furthermore, a powerful story emerged in the data where organizations with an empowered transformation management office (TMO) are experiencing more positive impact and transformation success.

Enabling the Transformation

Enabling the cultural transformation requires focusing on the Mind within our Human-Centered Transformation Model. The Mind is where organizations identify, source and build the capabilities required for employees to thrive and for organizations to succeed in the Digital Age. These organizations will benefit from a focus on levers related to upskilling their employee bases and upgrading the ways they identify, recruit and retain talent – resulting in a supercharged workforce that is prepared to take ownership of operating in new ways.

Motivating the Transformation

Organizations that are motivating cultural transformation must focus on the organization’s Soul. In our Human-Centered Transformation Model, the Soul is where leaders are equipped to both talk and “walk the talk” around the transformation journey to create trust among employees to adopt and evangelize new ways of working. Stories, rituals and symbols help build belief among employees and connect their day-to-day work to where the organization is heading. Focusing on levers that help create safe spaces and meaningful mechanisms for employees to adapt to the change are critical, as is recognizing progress being made along the way and sharing these stories of both successes and lessons learned.


Download Prophet’s 2020 global research report: “Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation” or watch our webinar.

If you would like to learn more about how you might shape your culture to thrive on change and accelerate transformation then contact us today.


Equipping Your Team for the Future Way of Working

Building relationships and managing meetings remotely require some new skills–and new ways of communicating.

It’s easy to know where you’re reading this blog: at home. In fact, you haven’t been to an office in many months now because the COVID-19 crisis launched the largest volume ever of workers into the world of remote work and virtual collaboration.

An Option Becomes a Necessity

The advent of remote working technologies 20 years ago didn’t have a widespread effect on how most people work. From Fortune 500 companies to digital natives, it has been common to find remote work happening in only one isolated part of the business or not at all. In fact, remember when Yahoo! famously banned remote work? Or IBM?  So, it was not a surprise at the outset of the COVID crisis to see waves of announcements about “testing the technology”.

That “test”, of course, is still ongoing. It is only now in this unprecedented moment that a deep and unavoidable business need and the existing technology have come together. Suddenly, what was once largely implemented as a lifestyle choice for most companies is a universal necessity. From companies extending work from home policies through the end of the year to Twitter’s recent announcement that it’s employees will be allowed to work from home forever, it’s looking likely that our working lives may never be the same again.

The Technical Foundation is in Place

Whether or not we’re individually skilled at remote work, collectively most corporations are dominated by those who have relatively little experience navigating the new world into which they have been unwillingly thrust. This is evidenced by the many articles about the perils of back-to-back video conferencing on Zoom.

“Suddenly, what was once largely implemented as a lifestyle choice for most companies is a universal necessity.”

As a result, every employer now realizes that their workforce needs both proper equipment and real skills to work effectively remotely and that they, as a culture, had better get good at remote collaboration or they will be outpaced by those companies that already can.

Core Skills for Remote Working

This moment offers the opportunity to take a hard look at how you might best equip your workforce for a future way of working that is arriving precipitously fast. How might you begin preparations now to be able to dominate your competition in this brave new world?

There are well-known needs for skills around goal setting and time management for each individual when working from home. However, as many people are now discovering, working remotely with distributed teams requires new application of existing skills; and also, some skills which might be entirely new. At Prophet, we’ve identified three core skills for remote teamwork that need support and reinforcement:

  1. Clear Communication: Working in offices offers the opportunity for what architects and workspace designers call “unprogrammed interactions”, by which they mean casual run-ins in the kitchen, rest room or on an open plan floor. It’s not until you’re remote full-time that you realize how often you depend on bumping into someone in the office pantry and using it as an opportunity to quickly clarify your intentions, needs and objectives. Working remotely requires colleagues to communicate more clearly on the first go, often using new tools. Knowing when it’s best to use messaging (e.g., Text, Teams, Slack) versus video chat or email is important, as is being able to articulate your information and expectations clearly in that format.
  2. Virtual Meeting Design and Facilitation: Working remotely, most of your meeting participants are going to be easily distracted, whether by virtue of the fact that their meeting attendance tool is also their tool for messaging and email; or because a partner, child, or dog demands their attention. We probably do not spend nearly enough time on meeting design in the normal course of events. Working virtually, however, makes ‘magic meetings’ with little or no design even more problematic. Knowing how to design virtual meetings, meaning how long a conversation or other activity should take, how to orchestrate different types of productive conversation and which specific tools will keep participants focused are all critical for making a virtual meeting successful. Equally important is knowing how to facilitate across the distance—which sometimes means separating the process role of facilitation from being in a participant role.
  3. Remote Relationship Building: Anyone who has been on a great team knows that success is not just driven solely through processes and roles, but that team culture is part of the secret sauce that distinguishes exceptional output from the merely mediocre. With a pandemic that has separated us all physically, it’s more critical than before to be able to lean into soft skills and drive connection across the gap. Team leaders must be able to create a safe space where individuals can freely share ideas, get advice and balance workload in a way that respects their personal lives. This is how creative solutions to pressing challenges will be found and how teams will come through the crisis intact.

A trained eye observing a successful virtual team will see all three of these skills in action. Individuals will interact with clarity and purpose. Meetings will have a clear structure and focused, engaged participants. And teams will bond in the ways great teams do – each person connected to one another’s passions, talents and needs – enabling effective working harmony.


We’re still at a moment of change that necessitates rapid upskilling simply to achieve parity to the kinds of working methods we’d once enjoyed. But we’re now keenly aware that the skills our teams will need tomorrow will resemble none of the ones we’d prepared for today. Companies that are going to succeed through COVID and in a post-COVID world are those that will be preparing their workforce to work and collaborate in fundamentally different ways.

Interested to learn more about how to keep your employees inspired and engaged? Get in touch


A Guide to Leading with Values

In crises, translating purpose and values into actions isn’t just good PR. It reinforces what companies stand for.

The world is upside down (for you and all your employees) and it’s difficult to know which way to go. Here, we outline those companies whose values have successfully helped them to navigate this crisis, and how they are informing their approach to long-term decision making and working to galvanize the workforce.  

Values under pressure 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the world and how it operates. First and foremost, it is a human and social crisis, affecting millions of people and upending lives. It has also had a significant and ever-growing impact on businesses and the global economy.

We have seen businesses respond to the crisis in several ways – which can have lasting implications for their company. For example, CVS Health provided bonuses to employees who were required to be at CVS facilities to assist patients and customers, as well as helping employees with child and elder care needs. They also plan to hire an additional 50,000 full-time, part-time and temporary employees, filling many of the roles with existing CVS Health clients who have had to furlough workers, including Hilton and Marriott. Recognizing their employees’ commitment, as well as proactively supporting their needs, helped employees to feel acknowledged and respected during these uncertain times.

Amazon, on the other hand, has squelched efforts by employees to seek rights and benefits that protect them and their customers and has been secretive about existing cases – diminishing trust and creating dissonance with employees and customers.

Why the difference? It comes down to how leadership translates their values into action. It’s often in times of crisis – when companies are forced to make difficult decisions – that their true priorities are shown. COVID-19 has provided an intense microscope into organizations’ values and how they guide their actions. Some have struggled, keeping their values as words on a page and leaving their people in the dark. While others have thrived – bringing their values to life as they manage the short-term needs of their employees with the long-term commitments of various stakeholders. This balance requires bringing stakeholders into the decision-making, being transparent in how decisions are made, and proving commitment through new skills, processes and rituals. Organizations are a macrocosm of people, and to truly lead with values across the organization, we must align how employees are equipped, governed, and engaged.

Translating your values for a crisis

Values should guide leaders through decisions, particularly difficult ones, that can determine the future of the organization. Getting them right can galvanize the workforce around what is really important (e.g., working together, being human, adapting), and can be pivotal in a company’s survival and growth over the long term.

Times of turbulence provide a unique opportunity for leaders to evaluate how their values actually show up. Understanding what the values need to do versus what they actually do can help leadership translate them into more meaningful guides for employees. What do themes like ‘transparency’ mean during a period of extreme change? How do themes like ‘caring’ show up when thousands of workers may need to be furloughed or endure extreme work conditions?

“It’s often in times of crisis – when companies are forced to make difficult decisions – that their true priorities are shown.”

We’ve seen companies use their values to guide positive actions. With a significant impact on the food and beverage industry due to the coronavirus, Starbuck’s CEO Kevin Johnson led with their values, “creating a culture of warmth and belonging” and “acting with courage” in an open letter to US employees. First, the company committed to pay all employees for 30 days, whether they chose to come to work or not. Second, the company recognized that re-opening stores would look different across the country, and empowered local leaders to make the decision of when to reopen, with the support of tools and resources.

Ensuring employees are equipped with skills and behaviors to live the values

In times of crisis, situations can change daily, if not hourly. Employees need to feel they are equipped with the right skills and behaviors to deliver on the values as circumstances change, and where new skills might be needed. For example, if an organization prioritizes innovation, are new skills needed to collaborate virtually? For companies that prioritize community and impact, are new skills needed to deliver that impact during the crisis? For behaviors, companies should be as specific as possible about how values should translate in different settings and situations to make sure they’re clear what’s allowed in times of crisis and what’s expected of them to provide better service.

Kering Group, a multinational luxury group, translated their skills in production from runway looks to face masks, while ensuring strict measures to protect staffs’ health. Shifting their capabilities to provide supplies needed by healthcare workers to combat the growing number of coronavirus cases demonstrated Kering’s value around caring more than a poster ever could.

Of course, these skills and resources need to be balanced with the reality of your business, but when runway looks aren’t needed and there is employee capacity, turning to values can have an important impact on many.

Creating processes that reflect your values

To ensure employees can deliver on values without fear or friction, the proper processes and governance need to be in place. Consistency is key here as processes should be applied consistently and at all levels. Where there are inconsistencies, it’s important to be transparent about why those choices are being made.

During times of crisis, existing processes may need to be adapted. Employee evaluations and competencies may need to be rethought to align with how the nature of an organization’s work has changed. Some organizations may find they need to inject new processes, such as implementing new customer support guidelines, to empower employees to make decisions aligned with their values. Others may find that some processes might need to be paused to help remove the red tape or bureaucratic procedures that typically slow organizations down and prevent employees from making values-led decisions quickly. Making changes like eliminating unnecessary layers of approval can actually turn times of crisis into catalysts for change.

For example, the biopharmaceutical company Gilead, has put its values of integrity and accountability first. They have worked with regulatory authorities, adapting processes to establish additional expanded access programs for remdesivir, their investigational medicine for COVID-19. Gilead adapted their approach to ensure they could help accelerate the process of providing remdesivir to severely ill patients, who could potentially benefit from the treatment. By leading with their values, Gilead has been able to balance the need for urgent action to save lives with the responsibility to do so safely.

Helping employees feel the values through rituals

During times of crisis, employees often feel confused and overwhelmed so it should be a priority of the leadership to communicate just how valued they truly are. This can be brought to life in meaningful and human ways by reinforcing values through stories, new rituals, or shifts in incentives. Even small changes like reminding employees to stretch, take lunch breaks, or meditate can help employees feel the values with themes like teamwork, selflessness, and respect.

It is important to maintain existing rituals, where possible, to show continuity. New rituals may also be needed to deliver on values in new ways. At Prophet, we have transitioned our office happy hours, pulse checks, and even office-wide events to virtual platforms. Continuing these rituals and providing a platform for employees to share personal stories has brought Prophet’s values of “Fearlessly Human, Unexpectedly Irreverent” and “Enjoying the Ride” to life – demonstrating humanity and empowering employees to bring their whole selves to the table. Positive behaviors and rituals such as these are productive changes that can be good to maintain, even after normalcy returns.


Now, more than ever, it is critical for leaders to be true to their values and work harder to enable the organization to live those values by aligning skills, processes, and rituals. Doing so will empower employees to take values-led actions. Here are some steps to take:

  1. Take a hard look at your values. Ask yourself what your organization really values. And how that manifests itself in difficult situations. Are you comfortable with the answer?
  2. Consider how your values come to life throughout your culture. What skills, processes, and rituals need to evolve to ensure you’re living your values?
  3. Deliver consistently – not just every time, but at all levels and in all situations. Living your values “only sometimes” diminishes all your values.

Interested to learn more about how to keep your employees inspired and engaged during challenging times? Get in touch.


4 Ways Financial Services Companies are Supporting Customers Through COVID-19

Look for new and empathetic ways to offer guidance and provide relief.

COVID-19 is undeniably reshaping how we live and work. 

Financial services companies may be better positioned than some other industries to weather this storm, but they – and the customers they serve – are nonetheless grappling with a variety of major shifts. 

COVID-19 is not only impacting the way consumers and businesses interact with their financial services providers, but it is also impacting what they need from their financial services providers. For instance:

  • More businesses are seeking small business loans in response to the stimulus package. 
  • More consumers need mobile banking solutions for items they previously would have visited for in-branch.
  • Increasingly, employers need to find the best way to keep their employees updated about potentially changing benefits. 

As the effects of the COVID-19 crisis continue to unfold, we’re seeing four themes emerge.

Here’s how financial services and insurance companies are responding to the crisis today:

1. Providing an empathetic approach to addressing customers’ rapidly evolving needs, even “from a distance” 

Banks, credit card companies, and insurance providers are working to provide easy access to information in a time of high uncertainty. 

Banks that have previously been leaders in offering online banking – like Capital One and PNC – have been encouraging customers now more than ever to service their banking needs online with digital tools and services by reminding them how to check balances, pay bills, and transfer money online. They have also been expanding systems to ensure that they are able to handle an increase in inbound digital servicing. And, where possible, companies are deploying additional digital tools, including options to request payment deferrals and online chat services to enable customers to avoid longer than usual hold times at call centers.

“Companies are deploying additional digital tools, including options to request payment deferrals and online chat services to enable customers to avoid longer than usual hold times at call centers.”

Financial services and insurance companies are also empowering call service representatives to take action and address customers’ concerns directly without additional approvals. To deploy these new working norms, companies are launching additional training for customer service representatives who are bombarded by anxious customers. The trainings are focused on leading with empathy while being empowered to offer additional forms of financial relief.

2. Finding new ways to guide customers through a time of crisis

Some financial services companies are helping customers address their evolving financial situations through either an increase in available information or planning tools that enable customers to better navigate their financial picture given the uncertainty of the crisis. Examples of this response include Vanguard holding live webcasts and using a dedicated section of their website to educate customers on how to navigate market volatility, and HSBC is using its financial expertise to help customers manage their emergency finances with access to an Emergency Savings Fund Calculator tool.

3. Providing direct financial relief to customers or easing the pressure of monthly payments

Financial institutions including American Express, Chase, Discover, and many others have reported offering financial assistance or deferring payments in order to address the evolving financial situation caused by COVID-19. Furthermore, most companies are offering additional forms of relief that may be made available to customers who reach out and explain how COVID-19 has personally affected their personal financial situation or has caused hardship for their business. Depending on the provider, forms of relief include:

  • Waiving interest fees, late fees, or minimum payments for a period of time.
  • Not reporting payment deferrals such as late payments to credit bureaus.
  • Delaying due dates for some borrowers on cards, auto loans and mortgages.
  • Increasing spending limits for certain cardholders on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to providing payment deferral options, the top ten sellers of personal car insurance have pledged to give back more than $7 billion in reduced premiums through programs like Allstate’s ‘Shelter-in-Place Payback’ and Statefarm’s ‘Good Neighbor Relief Program.’

4. Giving philanthropic donations to support organizations that are providing direct aid to addressing the crisis

Many financial services and insurance companies have also already provided philanthropic donations focused on addressing issues of hunger and food insecurity, or to provide direct relief to community development organizations where the majority of their employees are located. Beyond giving donations to local communities and to support basic needs, some financial services companies have also provided additional donations to support broader communities including Bank of America’s pledge to support an initiative with Khan Academy to offer free online learning for Pre-K – Grade 12 students throughout this crisis. While USAA has committed that a portion of its donations will be designated to non-profits focused specifically on helping members of the military.


In the medium-term, we expect to see financial services and insurance companies begin to launch preliminary, near-term strategic responses. Given the continuously evolving nature of this ongoing situation, longer-term strategies will emerge as the pandemic slows and economies emerge with a clearer view of the new current state.

For many companies, the near-term and long-term strategies will require an accelerated digital transformation in order to meet changing customer needs and experience expectations. Companies will need to build smarter, faster and more flexible organizations to create new business models that operate at the pace of ever-changing markets in order to build and sustain crucial brand relevance.

If you need help figuring out what path to take now, in the next 6-8 months, or beyond, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to have a conversation. Also, if you have any questions you’d like answered by our experts, drop them into the comments below or reach out directly here.


Chick-fil-A VP Mark Miller on Leading in Times of Crisis

Its most effective leaders have a boundless belief in their personal ability to affect positive change.

In just a few weeks, businesses and societies have been upended by COVID-19.  This is a defining moment for leaders to steward their organizations, themselves and their families through a crisis of this magnitude and come out stronger on the other side. For nearly a decade, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Mark Miller, Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A – working on projects like NEXT (their annual company event), Leadership Development and Customer Experience projects. Mark is a best-selling author of books including Chess not Checkers, Win the Heart, and The Secret. I recently caught up with Mark (virtually) and he shared some timely advice for leaders.

How is Chick-fil-A’s business doing, and in particular, the Operators and team members in the restaurants?

I’ll speak to what will probably become a theme throughout this piece: We have a lot to be thankful for. Obviously, it is a very challenging time for our Operators and their team members with closed dining rooms and mall restaurants; but overall, we are thankful we can continue to serve our customers.

You have about 2,500 restaurants around the country.  What are the leadership demands being placed on the Operators of those restaurants right now?

The demands are multi-faceted. We want to do everything we can to protect our team members who continue to serve customers. We don’t want to do anything to spread the virus. As it relates to Operators, they are trying to serve our customers under these challenging circumstances.

What are the pitfalls facing leaders right now in the middle of this crisis?  What should they avoid?

Self-care or the lack thereof is a big concern at any time, but especially now. Rest is important; so is exercise. Connection with others is also vital – even if virtual. Call a friend, text a colleague, schedule a Zoom call. Stay rested, connected and fit to lead. Regarding what to avoid, my encouragement is to avoid dwelling on what is out of your control. Don’t deny it – just don’t dwell on it. I would suggest leaders focus their time, energy and best thinking on things you can control (or at least influence). There’s too much to do to waste effort on things that are out of your control.

How do you think about the difference between an “effective leader” and a “typical leader”?  What are the defining traits?   

Thanks to the hard work of the Prophet team, we are now forming a point of view on this topic. It has proven to be a fascinating and complex question! Most people would agree on the things leaders do: Communicate vision, build teams, drive innovation, build strong relationships, produce results, walk the talk, etc. We are trying to crack the code on what the most effective leaders do differently. The work is still underway, but I feel confident that our final conclusions will include a couple of important things. One, the best leaders appear to value and create margin more than “typical” leaders. These women and men understand it is in this space where they clarify their thinking, sort out everchanging priorities, evaluate current strategies, assess the effectiveness of current plans and re-center themselves around what matters. Without sufficient margin, we have found many leaders “stuck in action.”

You mention “creating margin.” How is that more important during a  crisis and how can leaders make time for that? 

The more complex the challenges, the more demanding the circumstances; the greater the consequences, the more margin matters. Leaders attempting to navigate in crisis need every possible resource at their disposal – beginning with the time, energy and space to think. Margin enables leaders to do their best work when it matters most.

What’s the other key trait that distinguishes “effective leaders” from “typical leaders”?

Another characteristic we’ve discovered in the most effective leaders is they believe they can! This is not an unbridled optimism, but it is a boundless belief in their personal ability to affect positive change. Our psychologist friends would call this an internal locus of control.

How might an effective leader demonstrate care to their teams during the crisis?

In my book Win the Heart, I outline four elements required for a person to feel cared for. All apply in pre- and post-COVID-19.

Connection – Stay connected. Yes, it is harder today, but never more important. I have made this part of my “shelter in place” daily routine. Who can you connect with today?

Affirmation – People want and need to feel seen and valued. Look for ways to affirm them and their value as a person. Again, you may find this difficult under our current circumstances, but this is vital. Many people are anxious about the future – their health, their loved ones, their finances, their job. Who can you affirm and encourage today?

Responsibility – Sharing real responsibility has always been a great way to demonstrate trust, but is often overlooked as a way to raise someone’s level of care for their work. What work, or better yet, what decision, can you delegate to someone today?

Environment – This is a broad category reflecting everything from physical and psychological safety to the proper tools and training required for the task at hand. In today’s world, many of our organizations are cutting expenses, as we should. However, are there any tools or resources you can provide for remote work that might prove helpful? When leaders enhance the work environment, it communicates care.

Bottom line: When leaders and organizations provide the elements of CARE, people care more.

What should leaders be doing right now to stay focused on what matters most / in the future?

A: My advice is to do what the best leaders always do: stay grounded in the things that will not change — your brand’s purpose, vision, values— and hold the rest loosely. As my friend Jim Collins popularized years ago: protect the core and stimulate progress.

What resources can leaders tap into right now?    

Please don’t overlook your own team members. We are seeing unprecedented levels of creativity and innovation within our own team. If you have a coach, use them. If you don’t and now doesn’t feel like the time to hire one, consider creating a peer learning group. I am part of a group that’s been meeting twice a month for over twenty years. Our topic for two decades? Leadership. We’ve conducted our last two meetings via Zoom. The only thing required is a few folks willing to get together with the explicit intent to help each other grow. It’s been a game-changer for me.

Read all the books you can. If reading is not your thing, use Audible. Pick an area you want to know more about and dig in.

“This is a defining moment for leaders to steward their organizations, themselves and their families through a crisis of this magnitude and come out stronger on the other side.”


Your team may have never needed your leadership more than they do right now. Yes, there is probably a lot you don’t know. However, even when you cannot provide certainty (and who can at this point?) you can always provide clarity. Be clear on what you stand for, be clear on what you believe in, be clear on what you can and cannot control, be clear on how much you really do care about your team, and finally, be clear on your intent to use this crisis to emerge stronger than you were before.

For over 40 years Mark has served Chick-fil-A, their Operators, and leaders around the world elevate their performance.  You can learn more about him and see his latest thinking on his website

Read more perspectives on leading at a time of crisis here


9 Trends for the Time after COVID-19

Clients and colleagues share positive trends emerging from this difficult time.

It’s difficult to decipher exactly when the COVID-19 storm will lift, and while many around the world stare into crystal balls looking for answers on this, I have spent some time speaking to clients, colleagues and friends to understand what the most pertinent shifts surfacing are and how they’re set to impact our future for the better, creating opportunities and – finally – some positivity. Here are my predictions:

1. Collaborating purposefully

Finally, we will understand the full power of remote working technology. Forced into a situation where we have all had to become more experienced in hosting and participating in virtual meetings, we will start to use technology in more positive ways to bring people together. Working remotely will undoubtedly continue to play a large role, but physical interactions and collaborations will become more meaningful, human and special. Ultimately, the collaboration will be less exhausting and more natural, and a boon for both our physical and mental health.

2. New innovative products & services

All companies have had to look at how they protect themselves and their employees, and as a result, many have had to update or even re-invent their business models. It’s because of this we can expect to see exciting new products and services coming out. Products and services that will be considerate and make a value-adding difference in our lives and the new environment we now live in.

3. Flexibility and agility in production

Helping us to act more swiftly and reduce time to market, the untapped potential of production facilities to go beyond their original purpose will be realized. Making us more independent from global supply chains, robots and algorithms, can not only help in crisis situations but also launch innovative new products faster and at a lower price.

“Ultimately, the collaboration will be less exhausting and more natural, and a boon for both our physical and mental health.”

4. Capitalism light

Like the 2008 crisis before, we will see governments intervene with the economy, offering support and becoming shareholders of big corporations. Eventually, society will make its peace with capitalism light and accept that it could in fact be a more sustainable solution, something that is not contrary but could even be healthy for a democratic system.

5. All-in for saving the planet

We fully acknowledge that a slower life, and a slower economy, helps to save our planet. Everyone will be more open to implementing environmentally sustainable measures in their lives – in both the private and corporate sectors. Eco-radicalists will take a back seat as the world aligns around a joint purpose to act responsibly now, and for the generations to come.

6. Healthcare becomes THE place to be

Health is wealth and it’s for that reason that healthcare will become more important than ever. Combined with the opportunities presented by cutting-edge technology, it will be the ultimate destination for investors, but there will also be a noticeable shift as society takes a more vested interest in developments. Modern healthcare will be accessible and fun – not only for a niche set of hipsters but for everyone. People will be much more willing to divulge information for individual data collection and analysis to make healthcare even better.

7. Local communities becoming our new comfort zone

Local communities support us, and we support the community in return. We will have stronger relationships with our local shops and will again enjoy the quality of their products, the people behind those businesses, and be willing to pay premium prices for their produce and products.

8. Lower social pressure

Feelings of FOMO (Fear of missing out) will be a thing of the past as appreciation for time alone and/or with few close relatives or friends increases. JOMO (Joy of missing out) will become a reality and introverts will – for the first time – have more energy than extroverts. Intimate events will see a significant increase in demand and mass tourism, which has disturbingly plagued many destinations for so long, will finally die.

9. Feeling of togetherness & need for higher love

We see it everywhere at the moment, people selflessly leaning in where they can. Considering the magnitude of this crisis, the joint helplessness of nations has also brought with it a feeling of togetherness: a united front. The need and appreciation for higher love from families, friends and businesses is sticky and staying with us.


Within all this gloom, it’s important to focus on the potential positive changes and opportunities around the corner to give us hope and determination in order to beat this crisis. I can’t wait to see what other things could become the new normal once COVID-19 relinquishes its grip.

Read more of Prophet’s perspectives on leading in a time of crisis.


10 Things to Say to Your Teams Right Now

Colleagues share the phrases that are helping their people most in these tough times.

We are all learning to adjust to a new reality: adding new skills; making new connections; uncovering new opportunities; adapting to be more present virtually – and none of it is easy.

At Prophet, our culture is stronger than ever because our teams are stronger than ever. It can be difficult to know how to keep your teams inspired and engaged at these times, so I asked the leaders at Prophet to share their secrets to success. Here is what they are saying to their teams right now:

1. You first

You can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself. Encourage your team to get the basics sorted out, take breaks and center themselves. Sometimes the best way to connect is to disconnect. Make sure they know that their well-being is paramount.

2. You are not alone

We are all in this together. Check in on everyone on a regular basis. Share online resources on new ways of working. Recognize what’s working well. Try daily stand-ups: they are a great way to actively listen, prioritize and understand what’s standing in your team’s way.

3. What we do still matters

The need for purpose does not go away, in fact, it may be more meaningful than ever. Spend some time with your team discussing your organization’s purpose. Remind each and every one of them of the key role they play in delivering on it and explore ways to refresh it in the current context.

4. Uncertainty is the new normal

Working from home is going to continue indefinitely. Be prepared for change and don’t be unnerved by it, we’re seeing a huge economic impact with revenue streams in extraordinary flux. Take the time to highlight moments where the team has successfully adapted to the unknown.

5. Patience is a virtue

Homeschooling, elderly parents, cranky roommates: you may not understand everything your teams are going through – or how much longer routine tasks take. Allow extra time to get things done. Pair teammates with similar challenges to troubleshoot.

“We are all learning to adjust to a new reality.”

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for (and give) help

Reassuring employees that they are covered on their health insurance can go a long way to reducing anxiety. Point employees to assistance programs where they can get help. And encourage teams to offer help to each other and to their community. Generosity combats anxiety.

7. Soft skills matter more than ever

We are living online, from dawn to dusk. Pierce the virtual wall by starting or finishing every conversation with something personal. How are you feeling? What’s on your mind? How can we help? Not only does this give people a sense of community, but it also teaches them new skills, which we may all be needing for a while.

8. Look for the opportunities

Your teams are close to customers. They see what competitors are doing. They have ideas on how to respond. Find the time to brainstorm on the market opportunities that are emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. It will be fun and potentially profitable.

9. Well done

Recognizing contribution and celebrating progress are essential in these tough times. We need these rays of light to shine through in what can only be classed as a less than bright period. See it as more than a pat on the back, it’s a great way to extract learnings and replicate success.

10. What do you think?

Include teams in your decision-making. If your organization needs ideas for quick wins, run a digital hackathon. If you are thinking about shifting roles and responsibilities, share a Google worksheet. If you are thinking about a workforce reduction, ask employees how they might approach it.


Some of these seem obvious. Some may be new. But they all try to answer the same question: How can we be socially connected while physically distanced? Your teams have the answer. Just ask.

Interested to learn more about how to keep your employees inspired and engaged during challenging times? Get in touch


A Perspective on Adapting to the New Normal of COVID-19

How flexibility, self-care and thinking like a first-grader are helping us find our way.

If you’ve listened to global news channels these past few days, you’ve likely heard the word “unprecedented” more than you can count. In Asia, we’ve been hearing similar language for over eight weeks as the COVID-19 outbreak took shape in our region. I fully realize that everyone’s personal and professional situations are unique, but I hope that there might be a nugget or two from my experience that will be helpful as people around the world begin to navigate this unprecedented crisis for the first time.

Here’s some advice for navigating COVID-19:

Stay connected

One of the most important things about working is the opportunity to build personal connections with like-minded individuals. Never underestimate the importance of the small casual interactions that happen in the office every day. It is not easy to fully replicate the in-person experience while working remotely; however, there are several tools and resources – Zoom, WeChat, Whatsapp—that can help you stay connected. Do not only use these tools to carry out “business as usual,” use video capabilities to check in with your colleagues on a personal level. This situation is new for everyone and everyone’s personal situation is different, so a quick call to ask, “How are you doing today?” goes a long way in someone’s day. In the end, we will get through this situation better together than on our own.

Be flexible

Flexibility is obviously very relevant for us as individuals as we learn how to adapt to a remote working environment, but it is even more important in the context of working together. Understanding that everyone’s situation is a little bit different and showing a willingness to flex your own schedule to accommodate your colleagues and clients will make it easier for everyone on your team to survive, and even thrive, in this new normal situation.

“We will get through this situation better together than on our own.”

Lean into the unfamiliar 

Every day you will be faced with new challenges about how to conduct your work while needing to be physically separate. Our teams at Prophet have been able to conduct virtual whiteboarding sessions and hold fun and interactive weekly all-hands meetings and social experiences. All of this came from the team’s willingness to embrace the unfamiliar and apply our best creative thinking to designing a new way forward.

Add your home duties to your schedule 

When we are at work, we are all controlled by our meetings calendar. At home, you will need to balance multiple demands – whether it be your children at home from school closings and roommates working in close quarters. Schools in Hong Kong have been closed since the last week of January and all of us with kids have needed to juggle new home-schooling duties alongside our regular work. In my family, I was responsible for the home-schooling duties of our 6-year-old son. What worked best for me was scheduling time for my “second job” into my day. Every day from 3-5:30 p.m. I would pause my work to teach Reading, Writing and Math. Did that mean that some of my work was pushed into the evening? Yes. Did this experience bring me even closer to my son? Definitely! Do I have a newfound appreciation for Grade 1 teachers? ABSOLUTELY!

Take time to recharge yourself

There is no denying that what we are all experiencing is stressful so don’t forget to take care of your own well-being. You may even find it helpful to add some time to take care of your personal health during the day, especially if you are trying to work from home while your kids are off from school.


While working remotely and from home will feel strange and unfamiliar for a week or two, it will soon become more familiar. Business professionals around the world will come out of this situation with new skills and a new appreciation for one another.


4 Steps to Running an Effective Virtual Meeting

Build intimacy with the right use of introductions, video and interaction.

The Lay of the Land

As companies become more global, cost pressures mount, and, more recently, global risks including COVID-19 flood the news, meetings are succumbing to the need to keep attendees safe – whether that’s high-profile public events such as SXSW, or large internal meetings, such as Google’s I/O Conference.

“How do we bring people together for important meetings without having them in person?”

Organizations are being forced to ask – how do we bring people together for important meetings without having them in person? The answer goes beyond simply taking a meeting and adding a conference line or a video conference link. It requires an expanded use of tools and technologies, thoughtful preparation and reinforcement of the objectives of a session.

Our Roadmap

Important meetings, whether a brainstorming workshop, alignment session, or even global town halls are critical to build relationships and familiarity amongst attendees, enable collaboration and create meaningful experiences. Too often, these objectives can be missed in the process of going virtual – particularly for larger-scale meetings or collaborative work sessions.

Here are some best practices from our work with both virtual and in-person events:

Step 1: Prepare the agenda and content with different perspectives:

  • Take a broader view: Recognize the realities of your attendees – balancing the time zones, languages and cultural norms of where people are. While you may have more control in a live setting where everyone is together, it is important to virtually meet individuals where they are and be clear, concise and respectful of different cultures.
  • Set the stage. Ensuring participants are in the right headspace and environment can help people remain engaged. Be sensitive to more abnormal environments, while still providing clear instructions from the onset, whether it be asking people to be in a quiet space or sharing the agenda with built in bio breaks. As more and more individuals are asked to work from home and manage kids who may not be in school, you will have to think about the different types of work environments that will come with these changes.
  • Get the right tools:. Ensure all participants have access to the right tools – ask them to download to their systems and ensure they have access prior to the start time. As a backup, send materials as separate attachments in case streaming access becomes an issue. Consider what other tools your team needs to collaborate in an ongoing way, whether that be Microsoft Teams, Slack, or WeChat to enable virtual connections.

Step 2: Instill a sense of humanity by creating ways to connect:

  • Don’t forget introductions. To break through the barriers of distance, it is important to incorporate ways to build rapport amongst attendees. This can be done by allowing attendees to share names, locations, and fun facts, or providing bios beforehand. Prompts that are forward looking (what are you looking forward to this summer?) or provoke thoughtful discussion related to the topic (what was your first job?) help build deeper connections.
  • Video, Video, Video! Making sure attendees are using video establishes a human connection. Video allows you to read others’ facial expressions, encourages attendees to actively participate by holding them accountable and helps to reduce multitasking. Screensharing can also help keep people, literally, on the same page.
  • Create intimacy through other channels. In live meetings, there are often breakout groups or sidebars that provide ways for attendees to discuss topics in-depth. By using virtually run events, you can enable focused conversation by breaking participants into smaller groups via Zoom or encourage people to submit questions or comments through a shared channel, enabling participants to express thoughts or questions without disruption.

 Step 3: Facilitate interaction and collaboration:

  • Separate process and content roles. Frequently, well-run meetings have separate roles for process and participation. In other words, they have a professional facilitator. When working virtually, even in smaller group meetings, it’s best to have someone designated to focus on the process: guiding the group towards the required outcomes. The individual responsible for process should also be responsible for recapping all decisions and next steps to reduce any risk of confusion over what was agreed upon.
  • Utilize digital collaboration tools. There are many digital tools available to facilitate this collaboration—many of which make engaging with peers online even more effective than in-person. Polling tools such as Menti can allow for real-time group alignment (i.e., which of these ideas do you like best?), or brainstorming and planning tools like Mural for active, real-time co-creation when building out new concepts. These tools also enable more voices to be heard, leading to more impactful results as more ideas can be put forward and synthesized faster.
  • Consider breaking sessions into smaller parts: Extended virtual collaboration can be exhausting – consider if your meeting can be divided into smaller segments to allow for greater engagement, more time to evolve thinking between sessions and the ability to modulate for what the meeting needs.

Step 4: Create meaningful experiences to drive content home:

  • Create meaningful experiences to drive content home. Inspire thoughtful experiences. During a virtual meeting, mechanisms such as a digital gallery that participants click through or pre-recorded videos can excite attendees – creating a space for them to engage in the content in meaningful ways.
  • Consider the full journey. Think about ways to excite attendees before a session with an “Inspiration Dose” to spark thinking or an “Inspiration Suitcase” with artifacts that relates to the topic. Inspiration doses can be as easy as sending a link to a video, a brief story or an article to get attendees to think in new ways. Following the meeting, virtual touchpoints such as a post-read, microsites or digital training courses can be critical to reinforcing the content.
  • Maintain the energy. Reading the room can be tough over virtual platforms, so take the extra effort to check in on how attendees are doing and build in energizers as necessary. Riddles, brain teasers and even physical challenges can raise energy levels. For example, try asking attendees to rip a piece of paper it into the shape of an elephant (or any shape) behind their back. Compare shapes and declare a winner!


While virtual events may feel mandatory during times of travel restrictions, budget cuts or other forces, preparing for virtual meetings can also allow businesses to stay nimble and connected. Like any important health-related concern, remember, organizational preparation is key!


The Secret to Transformational Leadership

Why courage–a trait long discouraged by many companies–is now an essential component of cultural change.

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”

– William Faulkner

A System of Fear

Following the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the pendulum of decision making swung firmly to conservatism and the avoidance of risk became the key focus for many industries and organizations. Many would say it was long overdue but it was a relatively binary and extreme reaction. It led to a nervousness to act and a clampdown on experimental activity in many quarters. Armies of people were hired, especially in financial institutions, to hard-wire risk avoidance into their processes and systems. This also surfaced in many other industries outside of financial services, with systemic fear not only preventing people and organizations from stepping forward and innovating but paralyzing daily progress through red tape and lack of decision making.

Fear-driven protectionism is not a modern phenomenon, in fact, it’s natural. From our prehistoric origins, we’ve relied on survival instincts, humans have barely evolved beyond their preponderance to scan their environment continually for threats. Yes, we all seek reward but we are much more motivated by loss aversion. Our brains have roughly five times the receptors for threat as we do for reward. This leads us all to constantly look for comfort and familiarity because that is more likely to lead to survival. Humans are also influenced by the group they belong to (read organization here) and the need to continue to belong to the group. Building systems of risk avoidance helps conservatism take hold and the tendency to slow down spreads at the speed of light.

We Need Courage, Not Heroes

It takes courage to break out of that cycle. You have to be brave to take a risk and swim against the organizational tide. Most definitions of leadership include a notion of being at the front, bringing others into a new reality. It’s vital to be clear on what you are doing, where you are going and why, especially if you are going to take a leap forward and risk personal and professional capital on your ‘unusual’ decisions and actions. As Nelson Mandela learned: “Courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” Unfortunately, courageous behavior often becomes riskier for leaders the more senior they get. They have more to lose. And consequently, fear rises.

Courage is not a new phenomenon in leadership but we don’t see it as a prominent focus in many organizations today – it’s seemingly lacking from many organizational values or leadership behaviors. Perhaps because we are trying to get away from the traditional, machismo image of a hero leader – so often portrayed as male – courage is not fashionable today. That’s a shame because now is the time that we need it most. Now and in the future.

Courage in leadership can be about being part of a team. It can be about backing other people to give their ideas traction – it doesn’t have to be about direct personal delivery. We often put our favorite sports teams on a pedestal because of the courage they demonstrate in fighting together to the end against their arch-rivals and being able to win as a team on the biggest stages, under unbelievable pressure.

Courage Is a Core Competency for Leaders

In 2018, research for one of our global clients into the requirements to lead their transformation journey revealed the missing link to being courageous. They knew the changes ahead would be difficult and instilling the courage in their leadership and culture was central to raising performance, increasing accountability and driving greater innovation. Equipping leaders with the techniques and permission to show bravery and listen fearlessly is playing a significant part in their turnaround story.

In today’s world of constant change and digitization, leadership is becoming even more important. Our 2019 global research examining the cultural levers for growth demonstrated that in digital transformations, leadership’s role is elevated to be even more fundamental than during a traditional transformation. In fact, building a culture of empowerment and innovation came in the top three priorities for transforming the employee experience – an increase of 65% from the previous year. The transformational levers we uncovered that related most to leadership were setting the ambition and roadmap, role modeling, aligning incentives to break down silos and pushing decision rights downwards – each requiring courage to challenge the status quo, push forward, stay the course and trust others to deliver. And all of these create very uncomfortable situations for a leader to face.

A Culture of Bold Moves

What can you do to build courage into your leadership cadre, your change leadership, and your entire organization? Most of our leadership work is in transformation leadership. There is no silver bullet. The answer lies in the specifics of your situation and ambition. However, there are three things that set the foundations for courage:

  1. Coupling purpose with ambition so that your transformation has a clear meaning and a North Star – making it easier to be brave in pursuit of it.
  2. Equipping leaders with mechanisms to be bold, for instance, developing personalized trigger plans where they focus on their style, their routine and their big decision-making moments, enabling them to prepare for and be courageous at key moments.
  3. Focus on a culture that inspires courage, where leaders and the organization make bold growth moves – creating safe experimentation spaces, valuing improvement ideas, championing customer experience and balancing purpose with profit. Courage is part of your personal character but it is also part of your corporate character, and thankfully it is possible to build it.


Courage is a very powerful and engaging force in any organization. People love to follow brave leaders. It’s difficult to take a bold step into the unknown but that is what’s required if you are to lead lasting transformation. Don’t take it all on yourself. Take a deep breath and take people with you.

Interested to learn more about honing your leadership skills for the digital age? Get in touch