HBS professor Tsedal Neeley specializes in how companies can scale, go global, and achieve digital transformation. She published a very timely book last year, Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere, and is co-author of the forthcoming The Digital Mindset: What It Really Takes to Thrive in the Age of Data, Algorithms, and AI.
HBR editor in chief Adi Ignatius sat down with Neeley in this episode of our video series “The New World of Work” to talk about:
- Thinking of the office as a tool, and identifying what that tool is good for
- How some companies have successfully achieved digital transformation, and what awaits those that can’t or won’t
- We’re not going back to the “old normal,” and employees’ expectations of work have changed, probably forever.
Neeley thinks the future of work is not going to be a choice between in-person, remote, or hybrid. You need to “be fabulous in all of them and learn how to connect with people and work well with people” in order to achieve your goals, she says.
“The New World of Work” explores how top-tier executives see the future and how their companies are trying to set themselves up for success. Each week, Ignatius interviews a top leader on LinkedIn Live — previous interviews included Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooryi.
ADI IGNATIUS: Tsedal, welcome.
TSEDAL NEELEY: Thank you so much for having me, Adi. I’m thrilled to be with you.
ADI IGNATIUS: Well, I love our conversations and I can’t think of anyone who’s better positioned than you to talk about the future of work. Let’s start with the topic that we’re all trying to figure out, and that’s the “Great Resignation” or the “Great Reshuffle”, whatever you want to call it. We’re all feeling the impact. How is all of this affecting the way we work and how will it affect us going forward?
TSEDAL NEELEY: It’s interesting because the “Great Resignation” captures the great recognition that people have had, that they want more from their work. They want better work arrangements. They want better wages and salaries. They want better managers. If you’re a mediocre or poor manager, watch out, people are leaving.
We are in the middle of a global cataclysmic pandemic that is continuing. We’re on our way to two full years of this, and so people are looking at their lives and their priorities and they’ve experienced different ways of working. The “Great Resignation” is, as a former marketing manager put it, a great repudiation of suboptimal work arrangements. And so companies are being forced to be better as cultures, as places for people to go to. That’s what the “Great Resignation” is about.
ADI IGNATIUS: Implicit in that is that power has shifted in some ways from the employer to the worker. Is that a temporary phenomenon linked to the pandemic and linked to the way we’ve handled the economy and incentives? Or do you think everything has changed permanently?
TSEDAL NEELEY: I actually think that the pendulum does swing over time, and we don’t know how long this will last. But you are so right that we are both seeing the fiercest labor market of our lifetime and employees making demands in terms of how they want to work, where they want to work. So they do hold the power today.
By the way, after World War I, after World War II, you saw similar worker unrest. People begin to introspect and ask for more. This one is very different. It’s extremely global. And of course, with the presence of social media and other fast-reaching mechanisms, it’s spreading very quickly. So workers, I truly believe, do have the power. We don’t know for how long, but in order for companies to be able to deliver on their products and services and even their growth goals, they have to think very deeply about what to do.
We saw, Adi, how many in the banking industry started to pivot from, “This is an aberration. It will never change. We want butts in seats in the offices,” to, “Actually, we’re postponing yet again.” So we’re seeing a shift, a major shift, even from those who’ve resisted the most.
ADI IGNATIUS: Let’s stick on this topic of talent. You mentioned that after the war, that was another period where workers had relative power. Back then, we were probably still thinking of management as a top-down exercise. We’re in a different place where we’ve defined good management means being empathetic and taking stakeholders’ perspectives, including your employees’ perspective, far more seriously. To what extent should employees have a voice, have agency, be able to decide how they work, when they work, where they work?
TSEDAL NEELEY: I actually think it’s something that needs to be co-created. Employees on their own can’t have full agency, but they can have some, articulating what are their preferences and interests.
I’ve had a chance to work with so many companies in the last couple of years. The first thing that companies have been doing, and rightly so, is surveying their workforce, to truly understand. And you have to do this anonymously by the way, because you don’t want people to tell you what you want to hear. You want to know the truth. And understanding what people’s preferences are, and it has to be balanced with the work of the organization. What do we need to do really well? How do we need to make sure we’re serving our stakeholders? And once you understand that, you have to come up with a policy that works for the work, as well as employees.
The agency can truly come when it comes to work arrangements. Whenever you look at surveys, across companies, across industries, around work arrangements (and I love the title of this series, “The New World of Work”), it is consistently this way. You have about 15 to 20% who want to be in the office. They want in-person work, and we need to make sure we’re paying attention to this. Young people, people who are early in their careers, they want to be in the office. You have about 30% who often want remote-only work, and this is typically aligned with certain demographic groups, but remote-only and remote-first is the manner that they want to move forward with. And then you have all the rest who want hybrid work, which is kind of the mix between the in-person and the remote.
And so the question is, what will you do in your organization to be able to accommodate some of these preferences? And even [be] open for talent purposes, [to how] looking outside of your typical spaces or even localities can get you excellent talent in ways that you haven’t discovered. Diverse talent in the US, global talent outside of your country.
So you have to rethink, reset the way that you’ve attracted talent and retained.
ADI IGNATIUS: So we used to think that the key to building and sustaining a culture was physical interaction and it wasn’t just the planned meetings but those serendipitous unplanned meetings that created spark. None of that is provable. All of that is plausible. We certainly believed in it and many of us still do. Where do you come down? I mean, there isn’t data exactly to prove or disprove, but you’ve been studying truly global companies that don’t have a single headquarters and have many, many people who are working remotely, and yet I’m sure they would say there is a culture, there is a defining ethos. For those of us who think it’s either everybody in the office or somehow we’ve lost the magic, help us out. There’s obviously a middle ground.
TSEDAL NEELEY: Yes. What you will hear over and over again is that some kind of in-person interaction with the serendipitous—or some people call it the water cooler conversation or the cappuccino conversation or the tea-kettle conversation—is a way in which to build connection, to build relationships, and to advance work goals. But the reality that this pandemic has uncovered for many people is that the in-person culture is not a panacea. When you look at the Future Forum’s data (this is Slack’s think tank), looking at Black and brown professionals, the in-person culture was actually very difficult. In fact inclusion was a problem. The sense of belonging was a problem for many people. Remote work has kind of shifted and changed [things], because people were taking these psychological commutes in order to be able to fit into their organizations. So the in-person is not always a panacea and it’s not always working for everyone. It’s really important to understand.
But on the other hand, when you have these micro in-person moments with people, it is true that you have the opportunity to deepen your relationship, and in the end it shapes work. So when you’re in this remote environment, it all happens very differently. When you’re in a hybrid environment, it all happens differently.
My position has always been—after about 20 years immersed in virtual work, global work, remote work—that these things happen differently and we need to learn how to do them. The serendipitous, you can’t get it in a remote environment, but you have to create it. I call this structuring unstructured time, for example. We need to be awesome when we’re in person, we need to be awesome when we are remote, we need to be awesome when we are in hybrid mode. We have to be multimodal workers. And this is what our new reality is about. It’s not this or that. It’s all of it and well. Does that make sense to you?
ADI IGNATIUS: It makes total sense. We need to take it all seriously and need to be awesome and every expression of interaction and be very purposeful about what we’re doing in these various environments. Are there examples of companies who you think are getting the hybrid experience right?
TSEDAL NEELEY: There are. And it’s interesting what you learn from the companies that are doing it well. And I will tell you, people will say all or nothing is easy, in-between or hybrid is the toughest one. So we have to acknowledge that it will require work, it will require a culture change.
What have we learned? One thing that we’ve learned is you have to get the technology right. I’m sure there are people on this watching and listening to us today who’ve been on hybrid calls where you could barely see the people in the room, you could barely hear what’s going on, you feel a bit disconnected because the technology is suboptimal. If we want hybrid, we’ve got to start there first, and we need to invest in the right technologies to capture people, and then we have to make sure that we have the right practices.
For example, a best practice for a hybrid meeting is that everyone shows up with their laptops and they open their laptops so that people can see all the chats that are coming in and they can see you, you can see them. People feel more connected as opposed to being set aside on a screen somewhere. The other best practice is you have to make sure that you articulate the rules of engagement in these conversations. How will we communicate and how will we make sure that everyone has a chance to contribute to a conversation? You have to explicitly have these conversations, and then of course managers and leaders who are running this meeting need to make sure that everyone gets to participate and not the dominant people or the people that are in the room. Everyone needs to be able to come in.
You need the tool sets, you need the skill sets, and you need the mindsets for these to work really well. And some companies are far ahead in this area because they embraced it long ago. The other thing that we’re seeing is many companies, many organizations, many groups are kind of in this wait-and-see mode, “We’ll wait until this thing goes away and we’ll go back to normal.” When you do that, you never prepare and you never develop the skills necessary to do this well.
ADI IGNATIUS: And implicit in that is that we’re not going back to the old normal.
TSEDAL NEELEY: I don’t think we’re going back to the old normal. Work has been disrupted. Workers have been saying that they’ve changed and they’ve experienced a completely different way of operating and productivity has not only remained high, but it’s gone up for many, many organizations. So I think we need to accept the fact that the world turned upside down and introduced a different way of working, and if we don’t embrace and accept and adapt, we are going to be not only behind today.
You mentioned our upcoming book, The Digital Mindset. We are right around the corner from an even bigger disruption to work where data and technology and other things will completely change how we operate. So if we think that it’s about in-person versus not, I don’t think we completely get the fundamental shift that’s taking place, not only in work, but how work is unfolding. And soon, we are going to have data and other technological devices and mechanisms that will further change work. So doing some adaptation today is actually preparing us for what’s down the road in the next three to five years.
ADI IGNATIUS: That’s well said. I’m going to start turning to some audience questions and there are a lot of good ones coming in. This is from Ontario, Canada, asking about employee engagement. And you’ve touched on this, some, but what are the best companies doing to keep a staff that previously was in office, but’s is now remote, to keep them engaged? And how are they connecting with employees who were maybe hired during this pandemic period and haven’t even physically met their employees in person?
TSEDAL NEELEY: That’s such a great question. When I talk to companies, next to worrying about, “Our culture, our culture, what about our culture?”, employee engagement is probably right there as what people worry about. So we have to make sure that we decouple the notion that employee engagement only happens when we are in person. That is absolutely not true. Employee engagement is about having a great manager who’s creating the conditions for people to develop cohesion as groups and work. So you need the frequency of contact. You need the informal contact, like the virtual experiences with others that are important. You need to make sure that people have terrific jobs that they’re proud of, that they’re connecting to, including higher purposes.
The point that you make though, Adi, and the numbers that I’m seeing across the board is about 18% to 20% of new employees in many companies, especially large companies, have been hired in the last couple of years in the middle of this pandemic with very little in-person contact. I call these people remote natives. So remote natives need not only to be engaged, but they need to be onboarded really well. And so this is where leaders, managers, human capital leaders and organizations have to ensure that remote natives have the opportunity to develop relationships with people. They can’t walk around. So you’ve got to give them a list. You have to make sure that you’re onboarding by giving people onboarding buddies so that they’re never alone, so that at the end, they can do work, but also feel like they have a real grasp of the context and you have to create that very deliberately. It won’t happen otherwise.
ADI IGNATIUS: Let’s say 10 years from now, if we’re looking back on this period in the workplace, are we going to say, “Yeah, we had no idea what we were doing and were just stumbling along,” or do you think we’ll say, “Yeah, that was the moment where we really began to figure out the new paradigm for collaborating effectively together?”
TSEDAL NEELEY: 10 years from now, I think that we will have two groups. One group will be the group where people have adapted. They have looked around, they’ve understood that they have to be more digital, that they have to develop new skills to connect and to work, that they have to understand that they need to develop a little bit of technical skills in order to participate in a digital economy that’s only been accelerated by this pandemic.
The other group [is] those who will lag behind, will be dragged. Hopefully some will be dragged and survive, but I am worried that those who are not adapting will actually lose or even disappear. I’ll give you an example, Adi. If I look at the last couple of years, and look at the companies and the organizations that have been thriving compared to those who’ve not, some that even have died, you see that the companies that have adapted have been experimenting with technology, experimenting with e-commerce, changing their narrative, changing their business model, being very flexible in terms of how they’re building their workforce and really infusing the digital mindset throughout their organization. Those who haven’t, you see in the narrative of their top CEOs: “This is an insurmountable thing, this is too difficult for us.” They’ve been struggling with digital and technology and you can see them falling behind or even going bankrupt. So I think 10 years from now, either you adapt or you die.
ADI IGNATIUS: I feel like we should just linger on that. That’s intense. That begs the question, and I’m going to ask a question from Victor from Rhode Island in the US, which is an interesting follow for what you just said. What are the implications then for higher education institutions, and I would include business schools here, as we prepare students for this new reality?
TSEDAL NEELEY: I think the implication is that we need to make sure that we are helping people meet the moment. Remote learning, for example, is just an example of the type of learning that’s going to move forward, synchronous, asynchronous. There’s no room to resist. We’re also going to be in a space where we’re going to see scale in ways that we never have before. So the use of video, the use of all sorts of technologies, synchronous and asynchronous, the reach is going to be large.
For students, unless people become multimodal in the way that I described, the in-person, the remote, the hybrid, not saying, “I love this, I hate this, this and that.” Be fabulous in all of them and learn how to connect with people and work well with people and advance your goals with people, whether you’re in-person, hybrid or remote, because ultimately, we are going to see the scaling of education and more and more people will participate in this development that I’m discussing. And either we are awesome or we’re going to be left behind. This is what I truly believe.
ADI IGNATIUS: In everything you’re saying, you’re talking about how we work remotely more effectively, how we do hybrid more effectively, but you’re not saying that we get rid of the office. Let’s talk about the office. Daniel from Toronto asks, “What role should the office play today?” What did we learn in particular in the last couple years? How do we make the office experience the best it can be for when we’re in the office?
TSEDAL NEELEY: I love that. Yes, I think the office is very important, but if we think about what we’ve learned from the early experiments with hybrid work and remote work with Cisco 1993, later on Sun Microsystems in ’97, acquired by Oracle, IBM and others, they’ve been experimenting with hybrid work and remote work for a very, very long time. And you do see massive shrinkage in their real estate over time. In fact, Sun Microsystems saved half a billion dollars in 10 years.
We should expect that office spaces might get smaller. And offices are tools. We need to think of offices as tools as we would any digital tools that will enable us to do remote work. And if we think of offices as tools, we think of them as tools for collaboration purposes and innovation purposes, we go there when we were about to do some ideation or some creative work, not just to do the things that we would do normally from home. To go into the office to stare at a screen all day the way that you would at home is not helpful. In fact, people resent that. The office is for connecting with one another, for innovative work, during certain phases, for onboarding people, you want people to come in more when you’re onboarding them if that’s possible. To treat the office as a tool and not a destination is a mindset shift that’s going to be really helpful in using the space in a way that’s productive for all.
ADI IGNATIUS: I like the idea that we should be purposeful about what the office is for. What do you think about the regularity of being in the office? Should we all be in one or two days a week together? Should employees decide when they come in, if at all? Workers, I think we all agree, should have more agency, more autonomy, but should we try to have people together with some regularity?
TSEDAL NEELEY: If possible, yes. And people have approached this in different ways. So what you want to make sure you do is you have what’s called anchor days, or days where everyone comes in, because you don’t want to mandate for people to come back to the office and the schedules are so spread they never see anyone. You have to make sure that you have certain days where everyone can come in. For some companies, actually, this has been five days a month, we want you to come in. For others, we’ll come in for two weeks or a week out of the month and the rest will work remotely. It depends how you do this. You can get agreement on this with your employees given the work that you need to do and the rhythm that you have to achieve. For some other companies, by the way, startups or smaller companies, they get together once a quarter and spend two or three days away from the office, actually offsite working on their bonding, relationship, their purpose, and making sure that they’re all aligned. They do it once a quarter, so there’s no regular “come in the office X amount of days”, but we get together quarterly. So there is no straight answer, but your point about bringing people together in some kind of cadence could be very helpful depending on the needs of the group.
ADI IGNATIUS: Talk some more about why we might do that. I mean you were saying, “All right. If you’re going to bring people in the office, they should be sort of special moments. You’re working on a project. It’s an offsite situation.” Are there examples of companies that you’re seeing that are bringing people together and then doing spectacular things? I think a lot of us are struggling with, “Yeah, we want to make it great, but we’re not exactly sure how to make coming into the office—what we used to do routinely—how to make that a great experience now.”
TSEDAL NEELEY: If you think of the office as a tool, as I mentioned earlier, then you would decide, “When do we need to use this tool?” To say to people just come in three days a week just to be around, that’s less helpful. But to actually say, “We’ll come in the office to do these particular tasks, to work on these problems,” or, “Once a month, we’ll spend four, five hours together to do this.” You just have to be thoughtful about what you want to do when you bring people in. It could be the whiteboard shoulder-to-shoulder work that you might want to do. That’s the thing, Adi, you just need to think about the occasions that will bring people in and ask your team members. They will know. They will know.
This should not be something that managers and leaders go in a corner and think up, and show up and impose. You’ll get great ideas from people, and you’ll learn that a lot of young people want to be in the office more than others. And then you have to make sure that when the young people do come in the office, the others are around. By the way, when I say young I don’t mean just the youth. But those who are earlier in their career, they want more contact with others. But to have them come in when no one else is there to help them learn vicariously or shadow, it’s futile. So there’s some coordination that needs to take place there. Does that make sense?
ADI IGNATIUS: That makes sense. You talked a little bit about technology in the office. I don’t think any of us is satisfied with the technological resources we have now, particularly as we try to do a hybrid thing. It’s not delivering. Are you seeing technologies, and maybe some employers are using technologies that are bridging this gap, that are maybe in all of our futures once we have access to them?
TSEDAL NEELEY: It’s interesting because these are all existing technologies, but you have to make sure that they fit the room that you’re in. You’ve heard me say this many times before, Adi, to you and beyond, that remote work is not new, hybrid work is absolutely not new, global work is not new. There’ve been so many meetings where some people are coming in through video conferencing in global work environments. So there’s a lot of knowledge that we do have. In terms of technology, they are all existing technologies but they need to be used.
What I see is that people are not getting them. They’re not buying them. They’re not buying screens that are big enough. They’re not walking into their conference rooms with their laptops. They’re relying only on cameras. You need more cameras, you need more screens, you need more laptops. And most importantly, you need a clearly articulated process that everyone follows. If I show up with my laptop in order to participate in a hybrid meeting and five people aren’t, it’s not working. You just need to make sure that you have the right process in place for these hybrid meetings to work.
ADI IGNATIUS: The last question I’m going to ask, and we’ve been talking about this a lot in recent episodes, is about the metaverse. You know, on the one hand it’s a punchline. On the other, it is about using technologies. Using AR, VR, holograms, whatever, to interact more effectively, mostly when we’re not in the same room. Is that on your radar at this point?
TSEDAL NEELEY: I am curiously watching. You know, it’s interesting. And I don’t know if it feels this way to you and to the many people who are with us: that we are kind of at this pivotal space, cryptocurrency, the metaverse, the remote work revolution. There’s so much happening and so much changing. So I am paying a lot of attention. I’m very curious. We are already seeing augmented reality getting used in training and learning modes. We’re seeing a lot of things entering various sectors. And eventually it could be possible that the metaverse might be something much more salient. Probably not immediately, but over time.
There are two phenomena I’ll mention very quickly. One is the fact that people aren’t able to travel the way that they used to. Virtual touring of sites and spaces of manufacturing for example are becoming much more important. So are there ways to get those types of experiences for people using some of these emerging technologies, is an important question.
Another thing that I’m seeing is this do-it-yourself phenomenon. People want more control of the tools that they’re using, not only from a purchasing standpoint, and implementing standpoint, but they want to use their own portals. They don’t want to rely on third parties or other experts in-house. Do-it-yourself is another area that some of these emerging technologies may eventually support. I don’t see immediate changes, but I am paying attention with both eyes wide open and a lot of curiosity.
ADI IGNATIUS: Amazing. Tsedal, I want to thank you for being on the show. I can’t imagine anyone with whom I could have a better conversation about all these topics, so thank you again.
TSEDAL NEELEY: Thank you.
How the Best Teams Keep Good Ideas Alive
Leaders face rising pressure to include more voices in day-to-day decision making. Soliciting diverse perspectives across the organizational hierarchy makes good business sense: It’s been shown to improve innovation and help employees feel valued and avoid burnout. But have these pressures resulted in more ideas reaching fruition for the average team? Not really.
In our work as researchers, consultants, and teachers, we’ve seen that “good intentions” aren’t enough when it comes to implementing employees’ ideas. Leaders have plenty of stories and tactics to encourage people to share their ideas — and as many reasons for rejecting them. Research shows that asking people to speak up without listening to what they say can be counterproductive. Energetic star employees can become discouraged and even quit when they’re invited to share ideas that don’t go anywhere compared to when they’re not invited at all.
Many leaders feel stuck. They know that employee perspectives are crucial for retention and innovation, but they struggle to single-handedly create a culture where employees are empowered both to speak up with ideas and to see them through — where it’s the good idea that matters, rather than the role or status of the person who initially raises it. Based on our research on “voice cultivation,” we’ve identified several tactics leaders and their teams can use to help ensure good ideas make it to implementation.
Voice cultivation can overcome initial rejection
To understand how good ideas come to fruition or die on the vine, we spent two years in a health care organization tracking instances of “upward voice” — that is, employees’ constructive ideas for improving organizational or team functioning. We witnessed many rejections, but we also found that around a quarter of the hundreds of ideas we followed were ultimately implemented.
The ideas that made it shared a process we came to call “voice cultivation”: the collective, social process through which employees help lower-power team members’ voiced ideas reach implementation. There were five specific tactics we saw team members engage in to resuscitate initially rejected ideas and then keep them alive over time: amplifying, developing, legitimizing, exemplifying, and issue raising. Team members in most work settings can adapt and apply these tactics strategically.
Publicly repeating someone else’s good idea, especially at later times and through multiple communication channels, can help push an idea forward. This is particularly true for those trying to influence authority figures. In the clinic, we observed many instances of this. For example, a nurse shared how overwhelmed she was with clinic calls that limited her in-clinic nursing work and proposed different strategies for handling calls. The doctor thanked her but rejected her idea because the problem was huge and “[couldn’t] be fixed.” However, the idea lingered, and other team members brought up the nurse’s idea again even while she was out on maternity leave. By the time she returned, the team was experimenting with different call-routing strategies.
Similar amplification tactics were evident among women staffers in the Obama administration. According to the Washington Post, “When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.” And during a recent conversation at NYU Law, Justice Sonia Sotomayor described how she and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg overcame constant interruptions and appropriation of their ideas by amplifying each other’s ideas. In our latest executive workshop at Harvard, Dr. April Camilla Roslani, a surgeon and university dean, shared that she encouraged her team “to repeat or echo good ideas in the event that they are missed or not valued and to recognize the person who brought them up originally.” Amplifying allows anyone who hears a good idea to ensure that it’s not lost.
Sometimes giving an idea the benefit of the doubt is sufficient. We saw team members keep rejected ideas alive by asking clarifying questions that helped them and others better understand them. This strategy is particularly helpful in interdisciplinary teams, where people from different professions and genders often speak past each other, using different jargon and linguistic patterns. The difficulties and opportunities posed by an idea that are salient to some team members may be invisible to others. Developing one another’s ideas helps make them legible across the team.
Vouching for ideas that you believe in is critical for their success. We saw team members keep ideas alive by sharing examples of a similar personal experience or of how a similar idea worked at a competitor or admired peer institution, or by describing how the idea could be beneficial and doable at their organization. It prevented ideas from lower-power members from being dismissed.
We’ve seen the importance of this tactic even outside organizations. For example, La Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, an organization of farmworker women, wrote an open letter in which they legitimized the workplace sexual harassment experiences of their “sisters” in Hollywood, helping prompt the creation of the Time’s Up legal defense fund.
Researchers who study innovation and conflict highlight the importance of discussing ideas that are tangible rather than amorphous. Finding a way to show preliminary evidence that a previously rejected idea is feasible and important can help revive it. In keeping with the saying that it is sometimes better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, if you’re lower in the organizational hierarchy, taking the initiative to demonstrate in small ways how an idea can actually work in practice or to collect data as part of your day-to-day work can prompt discussions that help keep an idea alive.
Allies can exemplify, but the idea holder can also engage in this work. For example, we observed a receptionist propose that staff should have a seat in leadership team meetings — an idea that was rejected when the team leader explained that a similar proposal didn’t receive enough support a few years back. Though the idea was rejected several more times, the receptionist volunteered to liaise between the team and leadership, making herself indispensable to both and earning a seat at the leadership table.
Supporting an idea does not mean unconditional support. Publicly calling out the weaknesses associated with an idea can keep it alive by providing allies the chance to openly generate solutions and address concerns directly. In fact, we found the best way to “kill” an idea was to not raise issues or name specific weaknesses, preventing allies from having an opening to address concerns. Acknowledging all the barriers an idea would face helped the idea holder prepare and helped allies engage in joint problem solving. Issue-raising is not about silencing but rather acknowledging that it might take time and work for an idea to find its footing.
Promoting voice cultivation
To make sure their employees’ good ideas get a better chance at implementation, leaders should train their teams to engage in voice cultivation. By introducing voice cultivation to their teams, leaders:
- Set the tone that team members can build each other up or at minimum grant each other the benefit of the doubt
- Promote teamwork rather than competition by rewarding team members for developing others’ good ideas
- Provide practical behaviors the team can engage in and recognize
- Create accountability structures outside of the leaders’ own good intentions
That last point can be tricky for leaders since they’re setting up conditions through which their team can wield some collective power in pushing ideas through to implementation — ideas the leader may not always support. However, they might find longer-term benefits in employee morale by modeling voice cultivation in their teams, and they might also find it useful in meetings where they’re the lower-power team member.
Here are two tools leaders can use to promote voice cultivation on their teams.
Choose the right tactics
A vital feature of leadership is to name and give meaning to vital issues that others intuit but may lack the language to articulate or feel they have the permission to address. This is absolutely the case for voice cultivation. By sharing the concept of voice cultivation with their teams and helping team members reflect on opportunities to implement cultivation tactics, leaders can set the stage for active voice cultivation. Doing so may offer leaders the secondary benefit of setting a tone of psychological safety and inclusiveness on their teams, by emphasizing that they believe everyone has important contributions to make in both raising ideas and seeing them through.
To assist leaders in bringing voice cultivation to their teams, the following table presents an overview of the cultivation tactics and offers example reflection questions to help team members reflect on opportunities to implement these tactics in their own work. Leaders can share this information to spark a discussion as part of a launch for a new team or as part of a “relaunch” for a team seeking to reset its norms and work processes. Other teams that are ongoing may already be using voice cultivation tactics, and leaders can further advance progress by recognizing, naming, and encouraging their continued use.
Consider the environment
Voice cultivating tactics are most powerful when they’re responsive to why an idea was initially rejected. For example, if those with the power to greenlight an idea don’t think the idea is important or possible, amplifying is the wrong tactic, but legitimizing it could provide the support needed to push it forward. This is particularly true of ideas that ask those in power to give up or change something that’s important to them. In those instances, engaging in issue-selling is critical to fostering the opportunity for joint problem raising and joint problem solving. In the following table, we suggest some groupings of tactics — allyship, co-crafting, problematizing, and persistence — that can be responsive to specific forms of resistance.
From our work with leaders across industries, we’ve seen that many are embracing new behaviors to create more inclusive and participative work environments. Voice cultivation can be a helpful addition to their repertoire.
3 Strategies for Managing an Understaffed Team
Thanks to continuing resignations, many employees’ workloads have increased to untenable levels. There are a few common solutions for staffing shortages: redistributing work, hiring replacement employees and outsourcing lower-level tasks. But amid the Great Resignation’s persistent talent shortage, many managers are finding that their usual go-to solutions aren’t enough. The author presents three strategies for managers struggling with understaffed teams.
With job resignations still up 23% above pre-pandemic levels, many organizations are short-staffed. When just a few employees resign, their workloads can usually be redistributed among the remaining employees. Indeed, resources abound to help managers fairly divide workload and to help employees manage the increased workload. However, as departments of 50 become departments of 35 and teams of 10 become teams of seven, workload redistribution is an untenable long-term solution.
In addition to redistributing work, there are a couple common solutions for staffing shortages: hiring replacement employees and outsourcing lower-level tasks. But amid the Great Resignation’s persistent talent shortage, many managers are finding that their usual go-to solutions aren’t enough. Here are three strategies for managers struggling with understaffed teams.
Rethink Project Calendars
One of the fastest ways to turn high performers into low performers is to allocate their time to so many different projects that they don’t have time to think deeply. For example, in my work with a global insurance company, as the number of treasury managers dwindled, one historically high-performing treasury manager found herself spending 10% of her time on each of 10 major project teams — with no time to spare for her individual job responsibilities. The result was weekly calendars full of double-booked meetings, multiple frustrated teams, and poor results.
It’s critical to prioritize projects and defer what you can. For example, does there really need to be a system upgrade every year, or is every other year actually fine? What you can’t defer needs to be implemented more strategically and scheduled more carefully — preferably sequentially. If the treasury manager had four weeks allocated for each project, with a slack week in between for overages or previous project revisions, each of the 10 projects could have been accomplished within the year, and with two weeks to spare for some well-deserved PTO. Although it can be tempting to fight over scarce resources and demand your projects are the priority, as a manager, it’s more important to get employees’ focused effort rather than clock time. Stated differently, don’t just grab for whatever you can get — help employees be their best.
Prioritize Core Client Needs
Traditional business teaching emphasizes the importance of having a diverse portfolio of clients and products to minimize risk and make your business stronger. Indeed, focusing on only a few big clients is potentially precarious. However, when you’re in a situation where you can’t manage your entire client base well, giving everyone a little may prompt important unsatisfied clients to move on.
It’s a reoccurring theme across industries (e.g., investments, insurance, and health care) that the number of policies, customers, or patients that an employee is expected to manage has significantly increased — sometimes even doubling or tripling. For example, an asset manager I worked with at a multinational financial services company who two years ago was expected to call about 60 clients per week now has a client load of 246 per week. That comes out to fewer than 10 minutes per client with no time allocated for anything else, like meeting with new clients or conducting market research. No client was getting great service and the employee was working long hours and constantly under tremendous pressure. Unsurprisingly, they just accepted a new job.
Sometimes prioritizing clients involves firing clients, but there are less-drastic measures to try. For example, does every client really need a personal phone call every week, or might some be satisfied with a call every quarter accompanied by automated weekly emails or monthly newsletters? Also consider whether algorithms or even simple group sorting/filtering in Excel could be introduced to determine which client should be a priority on a given week — for example, those whose investments are currently experiencing market volatility. Ideally, a mid-range solution will be effective at reducing employee workload while maintaining your client base. But if not, you may need to prioritize your core clients over having a large portfolio of clients.
Find Quick Interventions
Look for interventions that can substantively improve employees’ daily work and be mastered in less than a week. For example, are there ways to automate data entry, such as converting paper forms into electronic forms that clients enter themselves? Could teaching employees a few formulas in Excel or creating report templates save hours of manual computations? Could three levels of approval be reduced to one, or could the dollar amount requiring approval be increased? Could a shared document repository be used to save the project lead hours of integrating feedback from 10 people’s emails?
Alternatively, if it’s the less-frequent tasks — for example, monthly financial or operational reports — that are the bane of your employees’ existence, try to make any process improvement interventions even shorter (ideally, a day or less). If you can, bring in external consultants or human resources to manage much of the design and rollout of the interventions to avoid further overwhelming an already overstretched workforce. Although investing in process improvement may be expensive, it’s likely much cheaper than recruiting, training, and managing a revolving door of employees who are all frustrated by broken processes.
. . .
Thanks to staffing shortages, many employees’ workloads have increased to untenable levels. For the workplaces running on a skeleton crew, now is the time to implement process improvement interventions, prioritize your core clients and products, and assign your employees to fewer concurrent projects — not more.
Cirque du Soleil’s Daniel Lamarre on How to Put Creativity at the Center of Your Strategy
Daniel Lamarre is the executive vice chairman of Cirque du Soleil, a position he took after serving for nearly two decades as the circus and entertainment company’s president and CEO. He is the author of, Balancing Acts: Unleashing the Power of Creativity in Your Life and Work, which describes how others can unleash Cirque’s creative management techniques, even if they’re not in the business of clowns and acrobats.
HBR editor in chief Adi Ignatius sat down with Lamarre in this episode of our video series “The New World of Work” to talk about:
- Reviving the company after a disastrous Covid-inflicted shutdown of Cirque’s operations and painful layoffs.
- His decision to leave a comfortable position as TV network CEO to “run away” and join the circus, and what it taught him about being true to his own values and ambitions.
- The surprisingly analytical side of Cirque, which relentlessly tweaks and perfects its show formulas based on continuous audience feedback.
“The New World of Work” explores how top-tier executives see the future and how their companies are trying to set themselves up for success. Each week, Ignatius interviews a top leader on LinkedIn Live — previous interviews included Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. He also shares an inside look at these conversations —and solicits questions for future discussions — in a newsletter just for HBR subscribers. If you’re a subscriber, you can sign up here.
ADI IGNATIUS: Daniel, welcome to the show.
DANIEL LAMARRE: I’m so happy and honored to meet you today. And it’s a great, great time to talk about creativity and how we’re going to innovate. So I’m blessed to have the opportunity to talk with you today.
ADI IGNATIUS: Well, thank you. We feel the same way. Just to set context, could you talk a little bit about Cirque du Soleil’s mission and maybe how you came to the company?
DANIEL LAMARRE: This company started with a bunch of street performers begging at the corner of the street and, move forward 10 years later, I had the opportunity to join the company when I thought the brand was ready to explode globally. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last two decades.
ADI IGNATIUS: You come to Cirque du Soleil, it has a mission, it has some initial success, but as you said, you’re trying to develop it, to scale it, to blow it up globally. Talk about that, the challenge of taking something that people love, because it is unique and maybe they love because it’s small, taking that brand and making it big.
DANIEL LAMARRE: And two famous teachers from your school, from Harvard, have described it in their Blue Ocean Strategy as we have developed a new category of show and I truly believe that’s what happened and that’s how we’ve been successful. Because if you try to describe a Cirque show, it’s very difficult. You will probably start by saying, it’s not a circus show. It’s not dense, it’s not theatrical. And I would say that it’s a blend of all of that and at the end of the day became a very unique global brand called Cirque du Soleil.
ADI IGNATIUS: We were talking before the show, and I said that my family fell in love with Cirque du Soleil, we were living in Hong Kong and we saw a couple of shows, and couldn’t believe them. This would’ve been in the 1990s. It was, as you say, such a departure. You mentioned that the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne had highlighted Cirque du Soleil as an example of an innovative company. And their whole idea is that you find a blue ocean, an undeveloped market that’s brand new, you create a whole new category. So do you have any advice for people who aren’t in the circus business, how to find an open space that’s not being addressed already by business?
DANIEL LAMARRE: And really, the motivation for me to write a book was that I was motivated to promote creativity because that’s what I’ve learned. I had the opportunity through all those years to observe amazing creators, such as our founder, Guy Laliberté, but also international people like James Cameron and the Beatles, and watching them work has changed my personal and my professional life and really made creativity the forefront of everything I do. And today that’s what I want to do. I want to promote creativity because I take a very radical stand, which is that without creativity, there’s no company, there’s no organization. And I truly believe that.
ADI IGNATIUS: How do you manage creativity?
DANIEL LAMARRE: First and foremost I think it’s very important that you create an environment that nurtures creativity. You have to have your core business central in everything you do, and in your environment. In our case, the founder hired me a clown called Madame Zazou, and Madam Zazou became a symbol of what we are. And internally every day I used her to remind our employees what our core business is. I’m not suggesting that everybody is hiring a clown. I’m suggesting that everybody find the right symbol to bring out the core of what they do, a reminder of the purpose they have in life as an organization.
ADI IGNATIUS: So Ed Catmull, who was the very successful creative leader at Pixar for years, he was similar to you trying to unleash extraordinary innovation and creativity with each movie. But at the end of it, he almost wanted to kind of wipe everybody’s brains clear so that with the next project, they didn’t fall back into, “Well, this is how this company does things.” That there was a freshness with every project. Is that something that you think about as you’re creating new shows?
DANIEL LAMARRE: First and foremost, I don’t think of Cirque du Soleil as a hierarchy organization, and that’s why every time we produce a new show, I will create a cell with all of our creators and artists. I will say to all the administrative staff to stay away from them. I don’t want them to think about some HR policy or some financial issues. I want them to really breathe and sleep and eat, just thinking about making our next show very innovative, very entertaining. And that is very, very important that every show create an entertainment breakthrough. And that’s the challenge I give to the team every time we start a new show
ADI IGNATIUS: And you’ve had an amazing record of success. There are probably some shows that were not a success. Are there one or two examples you could talk about that didn’t work and maybe what you learned from that?
DANIEL LAMARRE: I think it’s very, very important that you understand that you take risk and sometimes you fail. And in our case, I remember we wanted to reinvent Vaudeville as we did with circus. And unfortunately using the brand of Cirque du Soleil was a big mistake because people were expecting to see an acrobatic show. And there was some learnings from that. And we took the time to do the postmortem and to evaluate why it didn’t work. To make my long story short, the reasons why it didn’t work is that we couldn’t bring the brand of Cirque du Soleil on a Vaudeville show. That was counterproductive. And that’s something that we’ve learned and we will always remember, you cannot put your brand on any type of shelves or in some situation or any type of product or services. So be very, very respectful of your brand.
ADI IGNATIUS: You can stretch your brand, but you don’t want to stretch it so far that it’s not who you are.
So you’re talking about creativity, encouraging creativity, sustaining it. I’m sure there are people watching this who say, “Yeah, okay, fine. This is a circus company. I work for nothing that exciting.” How is your message relevant to the large number of viewers we have who don’t happen to be in the circus business?
DANIEL LAMARRE: We are blessed because Cirque du Soleil is a creative powerhouse. But my point is more fundamental than that. My point is, it doesn’t matter for what company or what organization you are working. You cannot use an excuse that you’re not creative enough. If you’re not creative enough, it’s because you are not putting that priority in the forefront.
I can challenge anybody in any type of organization. You can be creative in your employees’ communication. You can be creative in your marketing. Most importantly, you can be creative in redesigning and innovating the way you are shaping your new products or your new services.
There is no excuse. Creativity has to be at the forefront, because if you don’t do that, then one day you will wake up and you will discover that your competitors have an edge on you and then you’re in trouble. So don’t wait for that. Just make sure that you are nurturing your creativity within the organization to keep your edge, to keep your leadership in whatever sector you are.
ADI IGNATIUS: You’re drumming up all that creativity within and trying to bring it out and celebrate it. How do you bring in the voice of the customer, of the consumer, as you’re in this creative mindset?
DANIEL LAMARRE: People will be surprised to see how an organization like us is so analytical. Every night, every show, we are asking the customer to react. And if for whatever reason we see that there is an act that is not liked as much as the others, we’re just going to take it out and we’re just going to replace it by a better act.
So it’s very, very important that you are listening all the time. Listening to your customer in priority, but also listening to your employees. You have to send a clear signal to your employees that you are on the lookout all the time for new ideas, new suggestions. And that’s what we’re trying to do here at Cirque, is listen to our customer, but also listen to our employees and mobilize them behind the mission, mobilize them behind our new shows that we also share the credit when we have a big success.
ADI IGNATIUS: There’s a passage in your book where you talk about when Guy Laliberté, the founder of Cirque, brought you into the company and you were already very successful in the PR and events business. And I think it was your parents who thought, “What? Run away and joined the circus?” Talk about how do we make these big life-changing decisions? How did you make that decision and what can we learn from that?
DANIEL LAMARRE: Obviously my parents, even my wife at the time, were not really excited about me leaving my job. I was the CEO of a TV network, and they were very proud of that. And the one thing that triggers the change is when Guy Laliberté said, “Daniel, I read that you wanted to be international, and it won’t happen to you with this Canadian TV network. If you want to be international, you have to join a circus.” And that was the trigger for me.
So you have to be true to your value and through your ambition. And even if it was a tough decision for me to join the circus, it was an easy decision when I learned and I realized that to become international, that was the right platform. And then after that, everything became clearer for me, and obviously I never regret that because I had the opportunity with Guy to travel the world and promote this most important global brand.
And I strongly suggest that when you are in front of a new opportunity, you should think about what’s your ambition. Where do you want to be five years from now? And I guess the answer will become clearer and your decision process will be much easier.
ADI IGNATIUS: That’s great advice. Let’s fast forward. You have this period of sensational growth, expansion, and then COVID hits and live performances are not possible. Obviously the company is hit hard. You end up with a new investor structure. So can you talk about how you survived that period and where the company is now?
DANIEL LAMARRE: That was a nightmare. That was the toughest period in my life, and I know it was for a lot of people in different sectors. But in my case, within 48 hours, I came from 44 shows to zero shows, went from a billion dollars of revenues to zero revenue. And my purpose in life, I took great pride in creating jobs for artists, and then I end up in a situation where I had to let go, not only 2,000 artists, but all of our 5,000 employees. That was a disaster, and for 15 months, I was struggling to make sure that the company can remain alive.
So imagine the meeting. You’re meeting with the bankers, you have to tell them, “I have no revenues. I have no shows. And by the way, I need $375 million more to sustain the relaunch of our company.”
The only reasons why I got their support and why I’m here now so happy about the outcome is the strength of the brand. It’s the brand that saved the company, because the bankers were convinced that the brand will make this company successful after the crisis, and that’s exactly what happened.
ADI IGNATIUS: I’m going to go to some audience questions. And George, who is watching on YouTube, asks how creativity can be implemented in our own lives, in our personal lives? What personal strategies can we follow to unlock that kind of creativity that you talked about?
DANIEL LAMARRE: I think it’s important that we’re beasts of habit, and that’s what you have to fight first. You have to do things differently all the time and you have to find ways to be inspired by reading more, by visiting events, by talking to inspiring people.
People that I had the opportunity to meet, like the Beatles and James Cameron and others, have changed my life because they brought me some fresh air. They brought me some new ways of seeing lives. And kill your habits, think differently and make your life much more fun by meeting people that are inspiring, by reading more. And at the end, which is also very, very important, spend the time to reflect. We don’t spend enough time reflecting and I strongly suggest that you do. And that’s what I’ve learned and that’s why my life now is fulfilled by more creativity. But at the end of it, much more fun.
ADI IGNATIUS: We take for granted now that there is a Cirque Beatles show in Las Vegas and that it’s amazing and so many of us have seen it. Talk a little bit about the process of getting the Beatles and their representatives to agree, which was pretty difficult.
DANIEL LAMARRE: For many, many years, all the live entertainment companies were chasing the Beatles to do a show with their catalog, their music catalog, and nobody succeeded. And it took me two years of my life negotiating with them because it was not about money. It was about making sure that we will respect their brand. And after spending quite a bit of time with the four of them, including Yoko at the time, we showed them respect by working the creative process side by side with them and not positioning ourselves as the salesman of their intellectual property, but we position ourself as true creative partners. And that’s why at the end of ethe day, it ended up being an amazing adventure. Not only did we loved it, but so did they, because they understood that we were two creative power forces that could work together and make something fantastic. And that’s why I’m so proud of that achievement.
ADI IGNATIUS: In the book there’s more detail, more granular detail about that process. Two people have asked pretty much the same question. How do you filter ideas? What is the creative process to pick a show idea, to decide the theme of the next show or shows that you’re considering?
DANIEL LAMARRE: We have a very specific creative process. It starts with three people. It starts with the director of the show, the creative director and the production director. And we give them a general mandate about what we are looking for in term of the new show. The three of them come to us and present to us a first synopsis of what the show should be. And then when we agree to the general concept of the new show, then we will add to that three person team probably 17 more, like costume designer, music designer, set designer, 20 people all together, working together to define the exact content of the show.
One thing that is very, very important in that process is we have regular checkpoints to make sure that the mandate we give them at the beginning of the process is respected all along, and they’re not losing themselves with other directions than the one we’re hoping for. It’s an organic process. It takes between 18 to 24 months to come to fruition from the day you start to the day of the opening. And we’re very respectful of time because it takes time to produce a good show, as it takes time to develop a new product, a new service. And that’s our process.
ADI IGNATIUS: When Cirque du Soleil was first out there, it was so different from anything we’d seen and it was amazing. Is it harder now to impress people since you’ve already stretched the envelope so much? Do they want more, more, more? Is it harder to impress them now?
DANIEL LAMARRE: It is. It is because the expectations are much higher. That’s why we have a huge challenge to remain relevant. And the way to do that is by investing a lot in research and development. And that’s what we do. We work in collaboration with a lot of universities around the world. We work with big companies, such as Samsung and Microsoft and others. We are in the lookout all the time, not only for new ideas, but for new technologies.
Human performance will remain the core of what we do, but we will expand in new digital platforms. We will expand on new technologies that are going to enhance the human performance. But it’s an ongoing challenge and you cannot be complacent and think that the formula you have right now will last forever because it won’t. You have to reinvent yourself all the time and that’s our biggest challenge, yes.
ADI IGNATIUS: Richard in Italy has a question that really asks about what you just said about new digital platforms. Do you have any plans to perform in the metaverse?
DANIEL LAMARRE: It’s a world obviously, it’s a universe, that we are definitely exploring as we’re going through right now. One thing I want to be clear, we will remain a live entertainment organization because that’s what we are great at doing. But on the other hand, through the crisis, we have developed a platform called Cirque Connect that has allowed us to keep our brand alive by showing different content on Cirque Connect. So now we’re going to go through metaverse and other technologies, other types of platforms that are available to us, and then we will have to define what kind of artistic content we’re going to bring there to remain very, very relevant to that new universe of technology. And yes, that’s something we are definitely going to explore.
ADI IGNATIUS: All right, we will watch this space. By the way, I love the fact that we’re getting questions from quite literally all over the world. And here’s one from Finland, from Jerry. Ultimately, how do you measure success?
DANIEL LAMARRE: First and foremost, we have the NPS, which is the net promoter scores. Say simply what we measure is, “Are you going to recommend our show to your friends and family?” And that satisfaction level is very, very important. And that’s something that we measure. So the first criteria, the most important one is the satisfaction of our customer. Then is how it impacts on the brand. Is your brand declining, or is your brand growing? And that’s something we measure on a regular basis. And obviously the financial impact is also important because you need to be profitable if you want to remain alive, but if you want to have the right financial resources to make sure that you can continue to invest in new shows. Those are the three criteria that we look the most.
ADI IGNATIUS: Jacqueline, who was watching on YouTube, notes that you said you share the credit when there’s a success. So her question is, what happens when there’s a failure or things don’t go as well? How do you process that with your teams?
DANIEL LAMARRE: At the end of the day, if you’re the CEO of the company, you are responsible for the failures. You have to tell to the group that that’s first and foremost your failure, that you accept it, but more importantly, that you’re going to learn from it. Then you invite them to learn from it as well. And that’s why it’s important you have to go to a postmortem, a good evaluation to define what we are going to learn from that failure. And you have to understand that you have to take risk all the time. You have to mitigate risk. You have to measure risk. But you cannot be afraid of taking risk because you had one failure. Yes, you have to have more success than failures if you want to remain alive, but you should take the time it takes to learn from your failure.
ADI IGNATIUS: Other than your book, are there any other good books you can suggest on this topic of creativity?
DANIEL LAMARRE: Yeah. There is a book obviously of Catmull that you talk about. I think it’s a great one, the guy from Pixar. I would also recommend to read the book from Bob Iger, from Disney. I think it’s a great book as well. Those two books put a lot of pressure on me because they were really, really great with two amazing organizations.
ADI IGNATIUS: In a similar vein, here’s a question from Julia from Boston: who inspires you?
DANIEL LAMARRE: A lot of people inspire me, obviously our founder Guy Laliberte, but also a guy like James Cameron. I was so, so rewarded to work with him on the live show that we did about Avatar. I was impressed by his intellectual curiosity. When he came to visit our creative center here in Montreal, I thought he will stay for an hour, he stayed for four hours because he wanted to know everything about our creative process. When Elon Musk went to visit our show, Kurios, in Los Angeles, he stayed three hours after the show, same attitude. He wanted to know everything about the technology we use, everything else. So the kind of people that are very, very impactful in our world, I’ve learned in watching them that the intellectual curiosity is probably something that had really inspired me to be now more focused and more curious when I have the opportunity to meet with people like that.
ADI IGNATIUS: Omar in Egypt asked how do you envision the future of entertainment, not just Cirque du Soleil, but more generally the future of entertainment in the next 10, 15, 20 years?
DANIEL LAMARRE: There are two schools of thought. One is saying, the future is only going to be through technology, new platforms and live entertainment is going to be absolute. The other school of thought is after the crisis, people understand now that it’s also important that you are going to see shows with real human beings. I personally believe that the two schools of thought are good. There will be more and more artistic content on new platforms, but I think live shows will remain a very, very popular form of entertainment, and that’s why we’re pursuing both at the same time in order to benefit from the new platforms, but remain a creative force for live artistic content.
ADI IGNATIUS: Not everyone on your team is a creative, and there’s a question from Shahid on LinkedIn, how do you balance? You’ve got the creative people and you’re always talking about them, but some of your stars are operational people working quietly to make sure things happen. How do you balance that?
DANIEL LAMARRE: Obviously, it’s a challenge today because creativity is at the forefront of who we are and we are perceived as a creative force, but the reality is we’re also logistically amazing because we tour with 150 people for each show around the world with 50 trucks of equipment, and in each city, you have to be local because we are a retail outlet in a city for two to three months. So those people are very, very important, and you are right in saying that we have to spend also the time to recognize their contribution to the success of the show, because they are integral in the success of the show. It’s more like an internal challenge than an external challenge, but we’re doing that. We’re doing that because they deserve our credit. I always say, today is the employees’ night in Montreal where we’re going to show our new show to our employees, and that’s the kind of event that we use to, again, thank our employees for their contribution to the success of the show wherever they are in our organization.
ADI IGNATIUS: We talk a lot about what the proper role of a CEO is, with a complex company, and we have a question from Sri Lanka about when you were CEO, how did you spend your time? How did you spend your day? What were your priorities?
DANIEL LAMARRE: The good news is I had a great team and because I had a great team, it allowed me to be able to focus on mobilizing our employees. I think that’s the number one responsibility of the CEO, because if the employees don’t believe in what you do, you’re bound to fail. So that was my number one priority is I love to go and walk in the building and go to the studio and meet with people, and more importantly, listen to them, because you learn a lot by listening to your employees. You go in a city where we’re presenting a show, our employees have been there for a month. They know more about what’s happening in that city than I do from my office in Montreal.
That’s something I spend a great deal of time of doing. Then after that, obviously reviewing the business model and spending a lot of time in the new business and new shows development, because this is very, very important. But again, nothing more important than mobilizing your employees behind your new priorities, behind your new objectives.
ADI IGNATIUS: Can you give us a hint about your next show?
DANIEL LAMARRE: First of all, I have to tell you that I’m very, very proud of our new show at Disney in Orlando, because we played with the intellectual property of Disney, that was a tribute to the animation of Disney, and this is a great show. We’re also working right now on two new shows. One is going to be about music. That’s going to be an arena show that is very impressive, and our new big top shows, we are going to shake up the entire environment within the tent that I hope is going to bring the customer experience to a new level.
ADI IGNATIUS: All right. So we’ve gone over time a little bit. There are a lot more questions, but I think we have to wrap this up, but Daniel Lamarre, thank you very, very much for being on the New World of Work.
DANIEL LAMARRE: Thank you to you. That was an honor to be here. Thank you very much.