The Lead: Facebook’s Libra Project, Nordstrom Flagship Store Opens in NYC, Rats Driving Tiny Cars

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. 

Facebook’s Libra Project

With Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency and remittance project, Mark Zuckerberg aims to make payments instant, free, and borderless. However, critics worry that the project could move money in a dangerous and destabilizing way, and they argue that Libra is not the only way to serve the underbanked, eliminate middlemen, and make remittances fast and cheap. At a recent hearing, Zuckerberg assured members of the House Financial Services Committee that Libra would comply with all relevant regulators, though many financial experts are still wary.

Our View: Solving one problem can create another one. Forward-thinking leaders manage these trade-offs by always looking for opportunities to fill in their blind spots with fresh perspectives. Seek 360 degree feedback that’s safe, confidential, and reliable. Along with overall benefits for your team and entire organization, 360 degree feedback encourages personal leadership development and opens up space for dialogue around difficult issues. Further Reading

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Nordstrom Flagship Store Opens in NYC

Nordstrom recently opened an NYC flagship store that’s supplemented by two “Nordstrom Local” concept stores, which are smaller shops where neighborhood customers can go for services like online returns and personal styling consultations. The store will have over 100 beauty brands across two floors, seven food and beverage concepts, a sneaker boutique, and a rotating series of installations, starting with a Christian Louboutin pop-up featuring items inspired by the Palais de la Porte Dorée museum near Louboutin’s childhood home in Paris. Nordstrom aims to balance novelty and convenience with this new shopping destination.

Our View: Regardless of size, retail stores depend on their leaders.The best retail leaders influence their stores’ task direction, mitigate culture risks, cater to customers and employees, and strike a balance between employee relationships and performance expectations. Employees tend to treat customers the way they are treated by leaders, so apositive workplace creates a better environment for customers. Further Reading

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Rats Driving Tiny Cars

Kelly Lambert, study author and head of the University of Richmond’s Lambert Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory, trained two groups of young rats to drive and steer their own tiny cars in exchange for food. One group was raised in an enriched environment with toys, ladders, balls, and pieces of wood designed to spark mental stimulation, and the other was reared in a standard, unexciting lab cage. The rats who were raised in the enriched environment were more adept at operating and steering the tiny car, while their unstimulated cage counterparts effectively “failed their driving test.” Hormones that improve emotional resistance were found in the rats’ feces, which has implications for mental health in humans. Lambert refers to it as “behaviorceuticals,” activities that release hormones that can ward off prolonged stress brought on by corticosterone. “Anything that reduces stress can build resilience against the onset of mental illness,” she said.

Our View: Engaging your team in meaningful tasks can help increase their sense of control, decrease their stress levels, and reduce burnout. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) reported that 80% of workers feel stress at their job, with nearly half saying the need help in managing it. Job stress often extends beyond the workplace, and AIS explained that the perception of having little control but lots of demands to fulfill at work has been associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders. Give your employees a strong sense of control to reduce job stress by collaboratively writing a workplace charter based on reciprocal agreements. Further Reading

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Pressure to Take Stances on Social Issues

Chief executives and other business leaders are increasingly pressured to take a stance on political and social issues. The CEOs of Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart spoke out following the Parkland high school shooting. Netflix’s chief executive Reed Hastings called the immigration ban “Un-American,” and co-founder of Google Sergey Brin said “I am here because I am a refugee” and joined protesters against the ban at San Francisco’s airport. “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” wrote Kenneth Frazier, chairman and CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck.

Our View: Though business leaders may want to focus all of their attention on commerce, many are finding an increasing responsibility to use their platform to advocate for others. CEO of Benenson Strategy Group Joel Benenson said “In today’s social and political environments, there is no shortage of opportunities for the CEOs of major brands to take a stance on charged issues, from racism to the environment to healthcare.” CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan addressed the concerns of speaking out by saying, “Most CEOs tend to be concerned about the risks of speaking out about a social or political issue related to their field, but as the CEO of the largest publicly-operated health plan in the country, I am more concerned about the risk of not speaking out, especially as the health care system that ensures health care for the neediest in our communities is under attack.” Speaking out on sensitive issues is an opportunity to promote dialogue, resolve conflict, and promote your organizations’ values. Further Reading

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New Tuberculosis Vaccine

Tuberculosis kills about 1.6 million people every year and is the world’s most lethal infectious disease. A new tuberculosis vaccine has protected about half of the people who received the experimental treatment. Tuberculosis can be transmitted simply by a cough on a crowded bus, but the people at the highest risk are family members of patients with active tuberculosis, their doctors and nurses, and people living or working in crowded conditions in countries where tuberculosis is common. With 10 million new cases each year of tuberculosis, even a partly effective vaccine could save lives.

Our View: An all or nothing thinking style could be holding you back at work. The best leaders are not all or nothing thinkers. This type of unhelpful thinking strategy has also been called black and white thinking, and it focuses on the extreme ends of a spectrum. Avoid thoughts that only give “either-or” options. For example, avoid thoughts like “If I’m going to help, I’ll have to take the reigns completely,” or “Defending my point of view always means I’ll need to be aggressive.” Replace these sentiments with the “yes, and” approach to promote creativity, innovation, and the ability to arrive at solutions faster. Further Reading

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