The Lead: Reforms in South Africa, Largest Electric Vehicle Charging Network, Geopolitical Soccer Game

Welcome to The Lead, AchieveForum’s weekly brief of leadership news and insights. This curated content will provide you with quick clarity into relevant headlines and provide straight-forward analysis for applying effective leadership tools and techniques. 

Reforms in South Africa

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has a charismatic personality that bolstered his many years spent as an activist, businessman, and politician. However, with South Africa’s wide variety of complex issues to tackle, his newest role as president will require more talent and dedication than ever before. With unemployment at 27%, its main nationalized power utility in $30 billion of debt (nearly 10% of South Africa’s GDP), large amounts of violent crime, and struggling education and health systems, Ramaphosa will need to make several reforms across major institutions and networks. His critics and supporters are watching his every move, and also the speed of his decisions and actions.

Our View: Leaders must navigate timing well to maximize their influence. Sometimes patience is paramount while other times speed is vital, and effective leaders understand the nuances of timing in a variety of situations. While there are several pithy statements about managing time, everything from “done is better than perfect” and “patience is a virtue,” finding the right rhythm for decisions and actions really depends on the details of the situation at hand. There is seldom one right answer, so don’t make decisions in a vacuum. Gather input to find out what other stakeholders are prioritizing, so your interests can align. Certain situations lend themselves well to immediacy, such as giving feedback, but there are always exceptions. For example, while immediate feedback is preferable because it makes it easier for the employee to connect the response to the right or wrong behavior, giving a lot of critical feedback is best reserved for when it can be delivered in a one-on-one conversation. Further Reading

Related AchieveForum content: Leading Complex Decisions, Making Collaborative Decisions, Giving Needs-Based Feedback, Leading in the Digital Matrix

Largest Electric Vehicle Charging Network

Ford recently announced a game changer for electric car owners: it will create the largest electric vehicle charging network in the United States.  Although Ford doesn’t currently offer any electric vehicles, they will begin to next year with an electric crossover SUV, which will be the first vehicle Ford offers that was designed, completely from concept to product, as an electric vehicle. The FordPass network will work with most other electric cars and will include chargers that can rapidly charge certain vehicles’ batteries to about 80% in just 40 minutes.

Our View: Executing wide-scale ideas requires high level leadership and a particular way of thinking to create a solid foundation for applying best practices to the project at hand. This mindset includes thinking of the large project as a business (and not as just another project), assuming full accountability for delivery and ownership of outcomes, maintaining a teamwork attitude (“we win or lose together”), embracing the leadership role, and understanding the benefits and limitations of processes. Before appointing any project leader, determine if they have the knowledge and breadth of experience to lead and build a culture that inspires trust, support, and a common vision for desired outcomes. Further Reading

Related AchieveForum content: Accelerating Strategic Initiatives, Bridging Strategy to Outcomes, Building Team Pride and Purpose, Becoming a High-Performing Team

Geopolitical Soccer Game

North Korea and South Korea recently played each other in soccer in a World Cup qualifying match that was held in front of an empty stadium. Neither journalists or fans were allowed to view the game, but global soccer authorities hope that the sport could serve as a bridge of common good for the warring neighbors.

Our View: Using sports or games to bridge differences and overcome workplace conflict are great methods to have in your leadership toolkit. Conflict damages productivity, job satisfaction, culture, and business outcomes. The best conflict resolution games demonstrate the importance of a cooperative strategy for group welfare. After a game allow for time to debrief, which is often when the real learning takes place. Further Reading

Related AchieveForum content: Resolving Conflict with your Peers, Resolving Conflicts within your Team

Risk-Taking in the Digital Economy

Chief Content Officer Dawn Ostroff is taking a risk and entering Spotify into the podcast arena in order to combat rival Apple. Already with 232 million monthly users worldwide, Spotify expanded to acquire podcast-creation app Anchor and narrative podcast producer Gimlet. Both acquisitions together cost $340 million. This is a significant portion of the entire podcast market’s ad revenue in 2018, which was $479 million. For Spotify to maintain its foothold in the highly competitive music-streaming industry, they’ll need to highlight podcasts enough to generate enough ad-revenue while keeping their core music listeners.

Our View: Leaders who are willing to step into the unknown and embrace uncertainty create ample opportunities for growth. Calculated risks may begin with listening to your intuition, but don’t let “what you think you know” guide all of your actions. Be open to input from others at all levels of your organization, and use a trial and error method to fail fast and recover. Be prepared to make mistakes and use them as learning and development launch pads. Facilitate this by actually pinpointing the direct cause of the mistake and writing in down. The simple act of writing can improve your brain’s intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information. Further Reading

Related AchieveForum content: Leading Innovation: From Concept to Customer Value

Rubik’s Cube Robotics

Many people find solving the Rubik’s Cube challenging, many people find it easy, and now, a select few have trained a robot to solve the Rubik’s Cube. Technologists trained a pair of neural networks, using the same reinforcement learning code as OpenAI Five paired with a new technique called Automatic Domain Randomization (ADR), to solve the Rubik’s Cube with a human-like robot hand. The robotic method currently solves the Rubik’s Cube 20% of the time when applying a maximally difficult scramble that requires 26 face rotations, and its success rate is 60% for scrambles that only require 15 rotations to undo.

Our View: As robotics technology advances with unprecedented speed and dexterity, leading the safety implications of robotics in the workplace becomes increasingly important. Workplace safety should already be top of mind, but new technology creates new blindspots. For robots that work collaboratively with humans, take a task-based approach. This means identify task-hazard pairs, assess the level of risk they present, and implement the relevant risk mitigation strategy. Every task has a different risk profile, so it’s important to identify and prioritize them to be effective. Further Reading

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