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Inspiration for Action
The Newsletter / Edition 022
From Sylvain Labs, this is Progress Report.
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This weekly newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

In today's newsletter...
  1. Seeing the creativity for the trees from Jillian Rosen-Filz
  2. Prioritizing the many forms of talent from Osei Kwakye
  3. Reworking how we brief leadership from Joey Camire
And this time, our illustrations from Nora Mestrich.
From the Field

01 / The End of "Yes Wo(Men)"

From Jillian Rosen-Filz
When Sherwin-Williams fired famous paint-mixing TikToker Tony Piloseno for creating video content using its paints while on the clock, they drew a clear line in the sand. As Andrew Cross, senior VP of public relations at Walker Sands so accurately puts it, "They sent a signal, as loud as it was unintentional, that employees who do what they're told are more valuable than employees who think outside the box. They've intentionally stifled employee ingenuity."
Why It Matters
In the workplace today, particularly as Gen Z takes its place as the dominant force, the corporate mentality of conformist, "Yes Man" culture is steadily losing its hold. When it comes to the creativity of your employees, trying to suppress or shape it to fit in within traditional company policy is not only going to hurt your business - it's going to kill your reputation.

More importantly, Sherwin Williams' swift reaction to an employee's mild rule breaking is a missed opportunity. It failed to realize that Piloseno's popularity on TikTok could be leveraged as a gateway to greater brand recognition with a generation that doesn't traditionally interact with them. And as the cherry on top, less than one week after the news broke, he was hired by competitor Florida Paints to come on board full-time and develop his own line. Florida Paints will benefit from their progressive stance on openly embracing someone that thought differently.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Empower employees to reward constructive nonconformity.
Someone in SW's executive strategy department or PR leadership might have snapped up this opportunity in an instant. The trouble is, especially with larger, more unwieldy organizations, identifying opportunistic nonconformity is hard and encouraging it on the ground is even harder. But leaders clearly have a competitive obligation to welcome nonconformity indirectly: that starts with giving employees as much freedom as possible to make those kinds of creative calls.

02 / Don't Bite the Talent that Feeds You

From Osei Kwakye
Comedian Dave Chappelle made headlines recently after posting a video encouraging his fans to boycott his acclaimed sketch comedy show "Chappelle Show" as he was not being compensated for it due to a breach of contract. He went onto laud Netflix for their swift response in removing the show from their platform after he expressed his ire to them. While Netflix obtained the rights to stream the content legally, they opted to honor Chappelle's request to avoid souring their ongoing working relationship.
Why It Matters
Netflix recognized that Chappelle was so much more than content. Rather, he was the talent that contributed to the platform's success during a pandemic that left millions at home with little to do but stream. But as we approach 2021, that growth is slowing down, leaving some wondering if the platform can continue to give its subscribers enough fresh and engaging content amidst slowed production. Keeping Chappelle happy will make him more likely to help Netflix continue growing. In an increasingly crowded streaming market, this means that none of the platforms can afford to fall out of favor with their talent: they are what fuels the business.

This situation isn't that different from what we're beginning to witness in the knowledge economy. As workers begin to expect remote work as an option, the companies that fail to or refuse to adopt it will risk losing them to their competition. The pandemic has effectively created a "war for talent" as workers are decreasingly limited by geography in their job searches.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Take stock of what will make your talent happy as you reimagine your business's future.
Your talent is one of your business's most important stakeholders. As you make plans for the future, it is critical that you have a keen understanding of what it is they will need to remain happy working for you. Even if it does go against the grain and results in short-term losses, it might be worth acquiescing if it means retaining good talent for the long-term.

03 / Part-Time Leader, Full-Time Human

From Joey Camire
In a recent article in HBR, Grant T. Harris, a former White House staffer, discusses the approaches to briefing senior leaders-and more importantly how it's as much an art as it is a science.
Why It Matters
It's easy to fall into the trap of forgetting that senior leaders in any organization are also unique individuals. There is a tendency to let the work lead and to lose sight of an individual's unique processing style, engagement style, and approach to conflict. But "the rubric" (or any template for that matter) is going to be your enemy. Success in these moments is inherently about designing and personalizing your approach to achieve your desired outcomes.

In distributed work, this is more important than ever. Leaders are being pushed into the same upheaval in working dynamics and stylistic conflicts that we all are contending with. Not conforming to your own or others expectations for how a meeting should run, and embracing an air of experimentation and trial and error, will allow you to find a new sense of equilibrium with leaders.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Build a new, individualized playbook for leadership buy-in.
We're not in the room anymore, the game has changed, so our playbook for getting leaders onboard needs to be rebuilt as well. Take a step back, outline what you know about the person you need to brief or get sign-off from; how were you most successful in the past? When is this person most responsive? How do they like to consume information? Whose opinions matter most? If you haven't presented or briefed this person before, do a round of recon.

Now take that information, and fit it into a Zoom window. This may mean directly asking them what has or hasn't been working for them, coalition building with their confidants, or completely upending the format. Go wide, break expectations. Conforming to the old ways isn't going to build success in the new frontier.

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