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


Three Examples of Brands That Are Winning with Values

How USAA, Disney and Chick-fil-A transform purpose into growth.

Every time consumers open their wallets, they show their preference for the brands they trust.  A key driver of relevance is the values brands stand for and the way they bring those values to life in the customer experience.

The 2019 Prophet Brand Relevance Index® gives us a unique view into how brands today stay relevant to consumers. To determine relevance, Prophet surveyed 13,500 U.S. consumers about more than 225 brands across 27 industries. It measured four brand principles: customer obsession, ruthless pragmatism, pervasive innovation and distinctive inspiration. Within these principles, we measured how customers rated brands on a set of values and beliefs that align with their own.

The study reinforced a strong correlation between relevance and values (R2=0.55), suggesting that brands that effectively demonstrate strong values externally have greater relevance with the consumers they are engaging.  Said another way, consumers place greater weight on how brands demonstrate and live their values rather than the specific values themselves. We can look to brands that perform highly on “has a set of values and beliefs that align with my own” to learn how to help drive greater relevance in the market.

 The Importance of Brand Values

To have a lasting impact, brand values need to be more than words on a wall – they need to come to life across touchpoints, internally and externally. Internally, values can engage, empower and equip. They form the foundation of a company’s culture, defining behavioral standards, unifying employees, boosting morale and helping employees work towards a shared vision. When employees enthusiastically live the company’s values, those values radiate externally and can be felt by customers.

Brands that turn their commitment to values inside out create deeper relationships with consumers who share those values and believe in the brand’s bigger purpose. Brands with weaker values – or those that don’t live up to their values – can have negative impacts on customers’ perceptions of the brand. To see the impact values can have on brand perceptions, we studied brands that are winning with customers and employees around a shared set of beliefs and values.

1. USAA – Values That Build Empathy

USAA, #46 in the BRI overall, brings their values to life for employees, empowering them and transforming how they engage with customers. The company starts by reinforcing its values internally, providing employees with a USAA membership and conducting extensive training. Through USAA’s “Surround Sound” approach, trainees read deployment letters from soldiers and even practice carrying a 65-lb backpack. These values-driven experiences enable employees to see their work through the customers’ eyes, creating a connection between the employee and the needs of the customer. As a result, customers feel that USAA employees truly understand their needs, which are rooted in their personal beliefs and values.

“When employees enthusiastically live the company’s values, those values radiate externally and can be felt by customers.”

2. Disney – Values Motivate at Every Touchpoint

Disney, #5 in the BRI overall, has beliefs that are continuously reinforced throughout the organization – through how leaders communicate, to how performance is measured, to how employees are recognized and rewarded. Disney’s professional development team, Disney Institute, showcases the “business behind the magic” as a resource for companies across industries. One feature, “Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement,” explains the company’s commitment to selecting the right people and retaining them. A key aspect of this commitment? Reiterating the brand’s core purposeto create happiness – and empowering each employee from the start to provide outstanding service to guests with this purpose in mind. This constant reinforcement and clear communication of expectations create an intentional culture where decisions are rooted in those beliefs. And customers feel the values as the magic of Disney is brought to life across channels and touchpoints.

3. Chick-fil-A – Values Drive Consistent, Quality Experiences

Chick-fil-A, #27 in the BRI overall, has values that are an integral part of their company, with each team member – from corporate leaders to frontline employees – living them every day. Unlike the rest of the QSR industry which largely takes a transactional approach to customers and employees, Chick-fil-A has constructed an intentional culture rooted in family values with a “servant leadership” mindset. This is nurtured in the culture across every touchpoint, from how they recruit talent (e.g., observing how potential hires interact with employees) to how they engage with customers (e.g., closed on Sundays and saying “it’s my pleasure” when serving customers), and ensures employees truly live the culture and values every day.

Chick-fil-A’s values are so deeply engrained in employees’ lives, that they permeate into customers’ experiences. The chain has established a high bar for what customers will experience at any of their restaurants in the country, and with values that are instilled on the individual level, the brand consistently delivers.


From our analysis and best practice examples, we believe that brands who get credit for their values do the following:

  1. Define shared behavior-driven values: Customers can tell when an employee understands who they are and what’s important to them. Creating values that employees and customers share builds a platform for authentic relationships and better service.
  2. Motivate at every touchpoint: Consumers can see values come to life across touchpoints along the entire customer journey and even beyond it.
  3. Make your values known: Of course, values need to be felt before heard, but brands should take a stand to communicate their values in order to help customers understand what they are and why they matter.

Consistently bring your brand values to life helps to shape customer’s perceptions and set expectations. By defining who you are and what you believe in, you can attract customers who share those same beliefs and foster deeper, sustained loyalty.


Organization and Culture: Looking into 2020 Trends

Ease hiring struggles with an improved employee experience–and plans to build young workers into your future.

It’s the time of year when organizational leaders are publishing their 2020 plans, hoping they are effectively responding to the disruptive forces and opportunities of the digital age.

We’ve similarly been reflecting within our Organization & Culture practice here at Prophet. Our views come from not just our ongoing research, but also from helping our clients around the world lead transformations of all shapes and sizes. We’ve distilled that experience into the three factors we believe will be critical to organizational transformations in 2020.

In setting out these opportunity areas for focus, we are not saying these are the only big-ticket items that should occupy your attention. But it is our belief that the ones we have selected are going to become points of differentiation in accelerating successful organizational transformation.

1. Connecting Purpose and Ambition

We’ve written previously about the arrival of “purpose” as a critical component in transformation; bringing a sense of meaning and direction by answering why an organization has its place in the world. We have helped many clients arrive at their north star and to think beyond words about what needs to happen daily for them to infuse true purpose into their organizations and thereby align behaviors and accelerate decision-making across the business.

But having a purpose alone is not enough to help people through the dizzying world of change we are in. What our 2019 research revealed is needed, and what we are now seeing more of in successful transformations, is codifying purpose through a clear, measurable and time-bound ambition. For some organizations, this is as narrow as painting a comprehensive picture of what a digital transformation will look like in their own firm and for their customers. For others, it means creating a more tangible set of future outcomes that cater to the complete stakeholder ecosystem, both in and outside of the organization.

2. Incorporating the Next Generation of Workforce Planning into Your Talent Strategy

We see organizations realizing more starkly than ever before that they were designed for a different era. New operating models are no longer a consideration – they are becoming a necessity with significant implications for an organizational redesign. Tinkering at the edges of this problem is no longer viable.

Workforce planning is a key strategic imperative, but it has moved firmly beyond predicting talent needs to a synthesis of three formerly separate disciplines: functional and enterprise visioning, business architecture, and powerful people analytics. All three of these disciplines impact how you organize talent to deliver on your business ambition. Prior approaches were frequently focused on cost-cutting and demotivating, decoupled from growth strategy, and executed with the thinnest veneer of quantitative insights to support them. We’re toe-to-toe with this issue with several clients right now and we’ve found that the next generation of workforce planning is different from past approaches because it’s:

  • Linked to vision and ambition
  • Driven by business architecture and not existing organization charts, it’s more tightly coupled to longer-term business strategy
  • Facilitating more strategic decision-making as quantitative tools help SaaS people data platforms really come into their own

On top of this, the reskilling component of workforce planning has now ballooned as a result of years of declining learning and development investment and the use of often ineffective, low-cost alternatives. The future is already here for some leading companies making multi-billion-dollar investments in reskilling in order to remain competitive.


Employee experience (EX) has long been talked about as the acid test of any employer brand – the reality of expectations met or otherwise. But in a world where consumer brands have shifted to build their worth through experience first and foremost – suddenly the connective tissue between EX and Customer Experience (CX) is a growing area of focus and can easily hit the headlines when it clearly falls short – notably recently at the direct-to-customer luggage brand, Away.

This is made even more complex through the interplay between technology and humanity – and the challenge that EX has lagged light-years behind CX in terms of technological enablement. The sad truth is that so many “employee tools” are actually designed to cut costs and make the lives of Finance, HR and Operations teams easier – rather than deliver a customer-grade employee experience. As a result, we see HR leaders looking to approach EX differently and learn from CX innovation. And there are also CX leaders taking a more holistic view of the organization and looking at how EX can really drive differentiation for their goals. Ultimately, there is a big prize: EX is powerful and makes work easier for employees, thereby delivering both direct and indirect benefits to the end customer and reinforcing the value proposition for employees to join a firm and thrive – win, win, win.

“Our views come from not just our ongoing research, but also from helping our clients around the world lead transformations of all shapes and sizes.”


One final point. There is one theme we have not yet called out but, in our view, it flows through our identified focus areas and that is humanity. As symbolized by our Human Centered Transformation model, the organization is a macrocosm of people. Too often leaders continue to mistake the pursuit of digital innovation as separate from the people agenda, which inevitably fails to drive the outcomes they seek. The value created by any organization is rooted in human contribution. Its transformation therefore needs to be viewed in that way.

There is little point in reflecting on 2019 if it does not drive action in 2020. We suggest that you closely consider plans for the year ahead to determine if they adequately address these three transformation focal points and if not, make them your first new year resolutions.


Webinar: Lessons on Leading Business Transformation

Knowing where to start transformations is important. So is knowing how and when to course-correct.

59 min

Culture is a key lever driving transformation and unlocking uncommon growth for organizations today.

Hear first-hand from Prophet’s Chief Transformation Officer, Paul Greenall, and Senior Strategic Advisor, Bill Margaritis, as they sit down with Tyler Durham to share how they have both successfully navigated the challenges faced during business transformations within Fortune 50 companies.

Thank you for your interest in our webinar.

If you’d like help identifying a clearer path to transformation and how to best use culture as a key lever to drive that change then please get in touch today.

For further reading, be sure to take a look at our latest global research report: Catalysts: Cultural Levers of Growth in the Digital Era – referenced in the webinar, it outlines the key fundamentals you need to prioritize now in order to drive impactful change from the inside out.


Purpose Driven Brands are Relevant Brands

Why IKEA, DIsney and Lush resonate with consumers in the UK, because they know actions mean more than ads.

It is well reported that brands with purpose outperform their peers; often attracting and retaining the best talent, providing a real point of difference for consumers. Unilever announced strong results that support this notion with purpose-led brands in their portfolio growing 69% faster than the rest of the business and delivering 75% of the growth.

The results of our 2019 Prophet Brand Relevance Index® (BRI), which speaks to 12,200 consumers in the UK to understand the brands most indispensable to their lives, shows that many of the brands successfully soared up the rankings are the ones centered on clear, authentic purposes. Brands like Lush, Ikea and Disney have all seen their relevance with British consumers increase over the past 12 months and they were classified as purpose-driven brands in the U.K.

“It is well reported that brands with purpose outperform their peers; often attracting and retaining the best talent, providing a real point of difference for consumers.”

So, what do purpose-driven brands do to drive success? Purpose exists to differing degrees in organizations and even for those that are truly purposeful, there is an ongoing journey to maintain the conversation and engagement with consumers in order to stay responsive in an ever-changing world.

Here are three fundamentals to become a purpose driven brand:

1. Identify a purpose rooted in truth

A purpose cannot just be invented. It is not just a slogan or a campaign. A purpose-driven brand knows why it exists, and what it wants to achieve. It is at the core of what makes the brand relevant because it is in the DNA of the company. Ikea, for example, knows the importance of brand purpose and stays true to its guiding principle to ‘create a better every day for the many people.’ Even as Ikea continues to grow, its relentless focus on bringing design to the masses in a way that is authentic and transparent has manifested itself across the entire business model. This year, the brand jumped up 10 spots in our BRI, to sit comfortably at 18.

2. Articulate the ‘why’

A purpose should inspire its audience, acting as a rallying cry for its employees as well as a demonstrative signal to the outside world of the values and belief system behind the company. To drive impact, the purpose must resonate with hearts and minds.

A great example of this is Disney, which climbed to No. 14 in the Index with its simple and inspiring purpose: “make people happy.” Not only is this rooted in the organization’s DNA, but it inspires across all levels of the organisation and drives behaviours in the pursuit of constantly increasing happiness. This single unifying principle speaks to the heart. And when a purpose speaks to the heart it has the power to truly inspire change.

3. Activate with conviction

A purpose-driven brand doesn’t make empty, albeit appealing and cleverly executed, claims. It actually uses its brand purpose as a yardstick to measure what they do and how they do it. Brands that possess purpose have a clear conviction; they don’t just talk, they act too. Purpose drives relevance and perceptions, but to do so employees and customers need to know about it.

Lush has long been a proponent of cruelty-free and vegan products. And whilst much has been made of previous campaigns what constantly remains at the core of their actions is a real conviction. Lush doesn’t just talk about the environment, it acts on it. It is a big deal to put your conviction above profit but that’s precisely what the brand did on Friday 20th September when it closed its stores and website to lend its voice to the climate crisis. It is no wonder Lush powered into the top 10 this year, with British consumers scoring it highest on relevance measures such as ‘has a set of beliefs that align with my own’ and ‘lives up to its promise.’


Brands need to learn that it’s actions and not ads that make the difference. To build a relentlessly relevant brand, and perhaps move through next year’s Index, you must identify your organisation’s true brand purpose, articulate it well to employees and customers, and activate it for the world to see.

If your brand is ready to become a purpose driven in order to unlock uncommon growth, let’s set up a time to discuss. Our team of strategic consultants is ready to help you chart the course.

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