The three ideas in my 2023 Forbes articles with the biggest impact have been:

  1. The importance of navigating remote vs. in-person challenges – especially as an executive onboarding into a new role.
  2. Aligning core focus and values – especially in mergers and acquisitions.
  3. Making the current best thinking approach personal – especially when it comes to your own career development.

Navigate remote vs. in-person challenges as an executive onboarding into a new role

I inadvertently waded into the emotionally complex debate over in-person versus remote work. My various articles on the subject, starting with Why Those Working Remotely are Heading for the Tragedy of the Commons, generated over 1,000,000 views this year and hundreds of comments – almost all blisteringly negative.

In any case, it’s clear that remote work is here to stay and that managers need to be deliberate about how they engage with individuals working live AND remotely and how they evolve their cultures.

This is true for leaders already in their roles and especially for executives onboarding into new roles. Much like assuming nothing will change as you drive across the border from Ethiopia into Kenya, don’t imagine that your new organization is going to treat remote work – or anything else – like your old organization. Just like you must switch sides of the road as you cross the Ethiopia/Kenya border, you must adapt to your new organization’s ways of working to avoid head-on collisions there.

Meet your new colleagues where they are first. Converge into their ways of working as you focus on building relationships in your early days:

Make your virtual meetings work better with more deliberate and detailed content, meeting flows, and technology planning, preparation and rehearsals (like the difference between jazz and classical music.)

Utilize more pre-reads to share information and context (like the flipped classroom model.)

Avoid blending meetings, having all in the same room or all virtual – and the closer to one-on-one, the better. And, if you must have a blended meeting, make sure those in the same room consciously and deliberately bring those attending virtually into the discussions.

Align core focus and values in mergers and acquisitions

All organizations design, produce, sell, deliver, and service. The most successful over time understand their core focus and align everything around it. The highest value-creating investment cases in mergers & acquisitions start with that core focus and then layer on growth drivers and operational improvements to create new value, all enabled by leadership and infrastructure.

A fundamental building-block in building and strengthening a leadership team is shared values. When it comes to values, integrity and respect are always foundational. All the individuals on a high-performing team must act with honesty, transparency and ethical conduct in all aspects of their work. And those individuals must treat each other with mutual respect.

The third value for a high-performing organization will depend on the organization’s core focus.

  • For design-focused organizations: it’s likely innovation
  • For production-focused: accountability
  • For delivery-focused: collaboration
  • For service-focused: customer-centricity

Make the current best thinking approach personal.

Just as every organization is perfectly designed to deliver the results it’s currently delivering, each of us has a set of talents, knowledge, skills, experience and, for some, the craft-level caring and sensibilities that makes us be who we currently are and do what we currently do. Own it. Follow UCLA coach John Wooden’s advice and give “the best effort of which you are (currently) capable.”

And then, continually ratchet up the current best you in pursuit of mastery. This can be done only by fusing a healthy appreciation of and self-confidence in that current best you with the balancing humility and vulnerability required to be open to others’ helping you get ever better.

This proposition is derived from a combination of Roger Neill’s “current best thinking” approach and Hitendra Wadhwa’s “Inner Mastery, Outer Impact” book. One critical application is executive onboarding because, as we learned from Amy Edmondson, Intelligent Failures Are Essential To Executive Onboarding Success – and personal success in 2024 and beyond.

Whether it’s remote or in person, ground yourself and your team in the right values and continually ratchet up the current best you so that whether you’re third-string conductor Leonard Bernstein in 1943 or third-string quarterback Tommy DeVito in 2023, you’re ready when your moment comes.

Click here for a categorized list of my Forbes articles