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Ensure a Positive Candidate Experience When Hiring Contingent Talent Remotely

As digitization, coupled with the global pandemic, propels contingent hiring online and with more individuals relying on employer reviewer sites to evaluate businesses, delivering a positive[...]

March 10, 2021

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How the SpaceX Blooper Reel Demonstrates Innovative Leadership

Back in June, following the tragic collision of a U.S. warship with a merchant vessel near Japan, we discussed the attributes of strong leadership. The Navy’s openness and decisive action in investigating the disaster provided a compelling example. In this hyper-socialized and visible era, leaders aren’t just the guiding voices or visionaries behind an organization, they are the brand. Maintaining trust and establishing a thriving foundation are essential to attracting customers and talent. So when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk publicly released a blooper reel of exploding rockets on September 14, many questioned why he would showcase the company’s failures. Ultimately, in doing so, Musk demonstrated transparency, accountability, and his commitment to innovation. As business leaders, this is an attitude we should also embrace.

Trial and Error Fuels Innovation

As the Los Angeles Times reported a couple of weeks ago, Elon Musk tweeted a video titled “How not to land an orbital rocket booster,” which presented a series of clips from “early SpaceX landing tries and tests, starting in September 2013.”

“In one video dated August 2014, the engine sensor on the F9R development vehicle fails, and the rocket flips upside down before exploding,” the article continued. “In the next frame, pieces of the rocket rain down on the ground. ‘Long road to reusability of Falcon 9 primary boost stage,’ Musk said in the tweet.”

A summer issue of Entrepreneur emphasized just why Musk shines even when display his missteps: “Take Elon Musk, who holds multiple CEO titles in divergent industries and is known for revolutionary concepts. His name and history of innovation in and of themselves hold value -- and have been enough to deem him successful whether his companies were or not.”

Innovative leadership directly affects engagement. Right now, the figures aren’t great. One eye-opening assessment of worker dissatisfaction came from Gallup’s landmark State of the American Workplace report. In a survey of more than 150,000 professionals, researchers discovered that barely 30 percent felt engaged in their roles. These stark figures don’t merely portray a problem with culture, they also present concerns about profitability. This disengaged career landscape costs the U.S economy $550 billion a year in lost productivity.

The most effective leaders, according to scientific meta-analysis, are individuals who are well adjusted, sociable, ambitious, and curious. They embody several key characteristics:

  • The organization’s leaders are engaged and promote a growth culture, while maintaining unshakable values about integrity, teamwork and participation.
  • Senior management focuses on excellence in communication across all levels of the enterprise, sharing vision, strategy, direction and goals. The culture enforces transparency and accountability.
  • Leadership includes the perspectives of talent in decisions about strategy, making them participants in the progress of the company.
  • Senior leaders embrace an environment conducive to learning, ongoing skills development, team orientation and mentorship.

Controlling the Message

Transparency is the cornerstone of earning trust and confidence. Writing for Entrepreneur, Jayson DeMers explained that “allowing more transparency in your style of leadership opens yourself to more meaningful relationships -- both with the team as a whole and with the individuals of that team.”

“Being completely open and honest will eventually give your employees a powerful sense of trust, which leads to a more unified team and a healthier work environment,” he added. “Furthermore, you’ll be able to assign tasks, give criticism and provide direction to your team, and employees will respect and unanimously follow you.”

Musk’s use of social media also allowed him to control the message, which is another tenet of innovative leadership.

  • Authenticity and precision are crucial. Your brand must be direct, compelling, and specific. It should be honest. Musk showed that failure is acceptable when an organization allows for it, learns from it, and uses the lessons to continuously improve.
  • Take part in the conversation; otherwise, you risk granting other voices permission to preach from your soapbox. As we all know, the loudest voices are not always those extolling your virtues. The conversation is going to take place with or without you. Lead the dialog, conduct the choir and tell your own story.
  • While you can’t prevent the occurrence of some negative input, you can counter it and preempt less favorable feedback. Encourage your colleagues, customers, and staff to contribute content that highlights positive stories, successful outcomes and important accomplishments. With more participants on your side, any criticism begins to appear underwhelming.

Failure Is Essential to Success

When the workforce is populated by followers rather than collaborators, business leaders find themselves stagnating and inert because talent may be keeping the framework for the “next big thing” hidden.

To promote collaboration over consensus, developing the safe culture is imperative. As Google’s HR pioneer Laszlo Bock proved, we need to push the boundaries beyond tolerance. The talent at Google, for example, are actually asked to fail. As Shana Lebowitz pointed out in Business Insider, Google deliberately requests workers to set goals that “they know will be ridiculously hard to achieve.”

It’s part of the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) program that Bock helped install. Basically, each Googler establishes a goal and three outcomes from attaining it. At quarter’s end, they are graded on a scale between 0 and 1. However, the expectation is not to receive a perfect 1; this would indicate that the objective was too easily reached. Google wants its talent to hit a mark somewhere between 0.6 and 0.7, which demonstrates that the workers were thinking bigger picture scenarios. That’s also the realm where the most innovative ideas take hold and flourish.

“In order to set these ambitious goals and have them be credible,” Bock said, “you also have to realize they’re not all going to be successful. We look for that 60% to 70% success rate across everything we do.”

While it may seem counterintuitive for Musk to proudly display fiery SpaceX launch issues, it’s actually one of the most genuine ways he has illustrated his dedication to innovation and perfecting the company’s solutions. Musk owned the failures rather than placing them on his teams. He showed that failure is acceptable because it leads to enhancements and improvements. He solidified trust. He employed humor to convey a sense of humanity. And he afforded himself the opportunity to better control the message. It’s an approach that every leader in this socialized, digital age should embrace.

Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley thought leader, speaker, motivator, and the visionary behind the groundbreaking Crowdstaffing ecosystem. Blending vision, technology, and business skills, he is transforming the talent acquisition landscape and the very nature of work. Prior to launching Crowdstaffing, Sunil honed his skills and experience as a business leader for companies such as IBM, EMC, and Symantec. "We need to think exponentially to mindfully architect the future of humanity, civilization, and work. When we collaborate and work together, everyone prospers."
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