(and how covid-19 has further shaped them)
By Thom Dennis, CEO at Serenity in Leadership
Wearing a mask has never been more important and is saving lives globally, but in business, at home and socially we already wear a number of masks according to the multiple roles that we play in modern day life, from lawyer to mother to wife to cleaner to runner. Positive future leadership calls for much greater levels of self-awareness. Exploration and understanding of the masks we wear in different circumstances offers many helpful insights.
Thom Dennis, CEO at Serenity in Leadership, explains why we always have worn a mask at work and how Covid-19 has changed our masks and us.
Why we all wear a mask at work and always have
- Our language demonstrates how subliminally we acknowledge this. We often use phrases such as ‘saving, or losing face’ or ‘making a face’, or ‘putting on a brave face’. You can ‘set your face against’ someone or something and we ‘face up’ to challenges, or we ‘face them down’. Some women ‘put on their face’ before leaving the house.
- We wear a mask to conform…rather than recognise and celebrate our differences particularly in a very corporate environment such as in law. The importance of diversity and equality can easily be forgotten if we are all trying to wear the same clothes, behave in the same way and wear the same mask.
- We wear masks to get ahead at work…Having to fit in to get promotion and not be judged fully on our work is frustrating at best and soul destroying at worst. In particular many successful women who have got to the top of their profession will more than likely have had to hide some of their true character, identity, femininity and circumstances.
- We wear masks to avoid rejection…Some of us switch between masks to gain approval and minimise rejection from the group or other individuals. It is when the line between who we really are and the roles we play is blurred, or we are forced to play a role we don’t want to, that problems may occur.
- We wear masks when being challenged or in times of adversity so that we feel stronger and achieve our goals. The more difficult the circumstances, the more likely we will grin and bear it rather than checking in with our feelings. Over a longer period, this requires a lot of energy and will sometimes force us to supress who we are and can have a poor effect on mental health.
- Masks make us seem one-dimensional… Sometimes we see colleagues as simply the ‘accountant’, ‘IT geek’, ‘maintenance man’, or ‘MD’. Typecasting makes us see others as merely a label, ignoring entirely the substance and dimensions of the individual.
- Looking through our own lens … Making a quick judgement about someone at work may lead to poor snap decisions about who they really are. This is particularly destructive when we are talking about people who don’t look or act like us. Rather than treat someone as you would wish to be treated, we should treat that person how they want to be treated. Challenge yourself to think deeper and remain open to getting to know them.
- Temporary masks can become permanent… The more we wear a mask, the more they can permanently shape us. On the one hand this can mean we lose our sense of real self but conversely taking on a role that requires us to push ourselves a bit out of our comfort zone can sometimes be character and career building.
- In our research we have found that people who are given a mask to wear and have been told the character of the mask, find it quite easy to act that character. The 1994 film “The Mask” is a graphic depiction in which timid bank clerk, Stanley Ipkiss played by Jim Carrey is
too gentle, and is unable to handle confrontations in his life. He finds a mask which depicts Loki, the Norse god of mischief and when he puts it on, he becomes his inner cartoon self. Masks do have this effect of releasing people to act out a different, more authentic self.
How COVID has shaped our masks
We are protecting one another’s lives by wearing a face covering mask. Some of us are choosing to show our personalities through our masks, but many aren’t expressing themselves in this way and are wearing black or surgical masks. Feelings of constraint, concealment and claustrophobia are common complaints. For some, wearing masks can evoke feelings of anxiety and panic. People may feel trapped by the mask or feel more self-conscious. Whilst ultimately wearing a face mask saves lives, it is important to recognise these and other difficulties to encourage compliance with wearing masks.
- Communication problems… Only being able to see each other’s eyes builds an additional social barrier and limits personal cues and facial expressions. We rely almost entirely on sound and eye communication, requiring us to speak louder. This affects tonality in the workplace with loud speech sometimes being received as unintentionally aggressive or rude. This is all in addition to the fact that we can’t touch people or get too close to them.
- So what happens when we meet someone now? What unconscious decisions are we making as we try to make sense of what we are seeing. Our brains are constantly trying to understand by relating the information we receive in the moment with previous experiences. It’s difficult to relate to someone when there nothing to relate them to.
- Working from home means blurred lines… The majority of business workers used to wake up and go into work every morning. Now some of us work in a back room, kitchen or home study. Switching into our work role at home can be tricky because we are likely to need to multitask more, such as help with the children, and we’ve lost the gap in which we used to switch between our roles – now we simply walk from one room to another. Blurred lines often increase stress levels.
- Working from home has left those whose mask has provided some protection at work such as a uniform like a suit or a doctor’s white coat, feeling vulnerable. Wearing pyjama bottoms whilst attending a Zoom meeting can change a mindset significantly.
- Agility…One exciting development is a lot of businesses have risen to the challenges, shifted quickly, made the best out of the situation and focused well on their priorities. This includes seeing what their people’s strengths (and weaknesses) are and being more understanding of their personal circumstances and life roles.
How can we benefit from mandated e-invoicing?
By Mark Stephens, the CEO of Blackstar Capital
Electronic invoicing is at a tipping point. On the one hand, only a small minority of invoices that are sent globally are e-invoices. It is estimated that 75% of the world invoices are still transacted on paper, and those that rely on email instead experience similar inefficiencies. On the other, a recent trend of B2G mandates from governments around the world could potentially serve as a catalyst for a new wave of public and private sector e-invoicing adoption.
In India, for example, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs has regulated that e-invoicing will be mandatorily adopted by all companies with a turnover exceeding INR 500 crore. The decision follows many countries in Latin America, most notably Brazil and Mexico, where electronic invoices have been mandated as the only acceptable standard for all significant public and private commercial transactions.
In Latin America, these systems are largely being used as a tool to improve the government’s fiscal control and recapture lost tax revenue from economies with high rates of cash transactions. Brazil, Chile and Mexico have all adopted a ‘clearance model,’ where before invoices are sent, they are cleared by a government portal. Documents are therefore tax-compliant in real-time, reducing delays and fines, while significantly reducing tax leakage. India’s model is broadly similar to this, and the EU is also looking towards adopting something similar to the clearance model.
In 2019, all VAT-registered businesses in Italy started issuing invoices electronically using the country’s online exchange system. The decision in Italy, like many others, was again driven by tax efficiency. While these mandated government decisions can help achieve this, experts say the benefits of e-invoicing actually go well beyond this and it is time the arguments for mandating e-invoicing include the benefits for small, medium and global businesses too. The EU has been clear: mandated e-invoicing has the potential to not only save government processing costs, but also provide the stimulus for private sector adoption that can drive the environmental, cost, and efficiency benefits.
For businesses, the potential benefits are huge. Companies on average able to save between 50-70% of processing costs and 65% of invoice processing time. E-invoicing reduces errors, fraud and human intervention. A Wax Digital study found about 25% of time handling paper invoices is spent on resolving problems related to data entry and processing. As there are roughly 16 billion B2B invoices processed each year in Europe alone, Deutsche Bank projected that full adoption could lead to an annual saving of at least €260 billion. Organisations already using e-invoicing have been motivated to do so because of this huge cost efficiency aspect.
In the most recent Spring Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer described late payments as a ‘scourge’ and according to Siemens Financial Services, SMEs in the UK are missing out on over £250bn of working capital cash flow due to late payments. Xero found that businesses which use online tools get paid 33% faster than those which use paper invoices. Faster approval cycles result in better cash flow, which can be passed down the supply chain in cost and time savings. Finally, a mandated move from paper to paperless could have a huge impact on the global carbon footprint.
In addition to the impact that the reduction of late payments can have on the working capital of businesses globally, e-invoicing can provide a more efficient avenue for the funding of invoices. Invoice financing is not new, but the level of transparency and depth of data accessible via modern e-invoicing platforms enable direct access for financiers to provide faster, efficient, de-risked, and innovative funding solutions in relation to the financing of such invoices. There is a growing belief that this will have a fundamental, evolutionary impact on the invoice financing space.
Public sector mandated e-invoicing therefore can be expected to drive private sector e-invoicing adoption and provide the gateway for the digitisation of many business processes. The blueprint for adoption was Denmark’s pioneering 2005 legislation that allowed vendors to submit invoices online, free of charge, using a SaaS service. The Danish were focused on the economic benefits of e-invoicing and decided the best way to influence behaviour would be to keep the barriers to entry as low as possible. By offering a free and open service, Denmark was able to voluntarily achieve the long-term commercial adoption of B2B e-invoicing in the private sector after mandating public sector B2G e-invoicing.
Now with the challenges of Covid-19, global governments will be more focused than ever on cost efficiencies and the need to guarantee tax revenues. Mandating e-invoicing, however, can also have huge knock-on benefits for the wider B2B business market. With a higher adoption rate across the private sector, mandating e-invoicing will provide huge cost and efficiency savings for businesses at a time when public and private finances are under significant pressure.
How fintech companies can facilitate continued growth
By Jackson Lee, VP Corporate Development from Colt Data Centre Services
The fintech industry is rapidly growing and, in the first half of 2020, fintechs have secured more than $25 billion in investment globally, despite the huge uncertainty caused by COVID-19. As fintechs and their customer base expand, it is important to recognise that the success of these companies is predicated on the ability to use data effectively in providing a personalised experience to their customers.
To ensure these companies do not become victim of their own success, they must ensure they have the ability to scale up their operations and data storage as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible, especially in these challenging times.
So what must fintech companies do if they are to facilitate this growth without bursting at the seams?
Big fish in a small pond
Fintech companies are growing exponentially, and for many, even the current uncertainty around the pandemic has not decelerated the pace of their growth. However, having started small – with only having access to limited tools at the beginning of their journey, many fintech companies can’t keep up with their own rapid growth. When it comes to data infrastructures, they are facing a real risk of becoming a big fish in a small pond.
In order to achieve widespread innovation, and to keep their advantage over traditional financial institutions, fintech companies need the necessary playground space to experiment in.
When the pandemic and its consequent disruptions started to take hold, most businesses weren’t prepared for the types of challenges that they would have to face. Although the suggestion of investing in data infrastructure might seem counter intuitive at the moment, a lifeline for fintech companies going forward will be flexibility and the ability to scale.
As the uncertainty around the pandemic continues, fintech companies, like other industries are finding it difficult to commit to long-term business plans. Despite their continued growth, fintech companies continue to be cautious to invest in expanding their operations during an unpredictable economic climate, especially when they are doing well enough as it is.
Even before the pandemic, fintech companies exhibited slower rates of the adoption of digitalisation and advanced IT infrastructures than other industries. It’s clear the future is digital and for fintechs to effectively compete in today’s volatile market, they need to be proactive and invest in the value of data and digital transformation.
One area that fintech companies must be proactive in is their IT infrastructure, especially their data storage and connectivity, in order to allow them to act faster than big, established competitors.
Due to the continuous growth of fintech companies, with no sign for it to slow down, these companies will have to continually scale their operations up to manage increased demand. Ordinarily, this would have very high costs as they would have to continually alter their IT infrastructure and solutions.
When it comes to flexibility, data is a crucial aspect for fintechs. In today’s world, companies store masses of data, and its amount is growing fast. This makes the storing of the data a juggling act, and the costs keep growing with it. In periods of economic uncertainty, such as the one we are experiencing now, this constant increase in data can quickly turn into a challenge. Therefore, fintechs must ensure that scalability is at the heart of everything they do. When it comes to scalability, however, the key factor is not just growth or the ability to scale up. A vital, but often overlooked opportunity in scalability lies in scaling down, when needed. For fintechs aiming at this level of scalability, hyperscale is the only way forward.
The answer is hyperscale
Hyperscale data centres provide businesses with a one-stop shop for all their data and capacity requirements. These centres, which are built in a campus-style design, allow companies to build out further data centres quickly within the same location, or if needed, downsize. In an environment of ever-fluctuating demand, hyperscale enables scalability of data and storage swiftly. This presents many benefits. The sheer size of these facilities allows for large-scale cloud adoption, which is more streamlined, flexible and cost-effective than ever before. This will help fintechs to get a better handle on their data and reduce costs as much as possible.
With this level of scalability, companies can operate like an elastic band, expanding or retracting when necessary and at a moment’s notice. For example, imagine this year’s Christmas. With the uncertainty of the pandemic and constantly changing restrictions, people’s online activity will be even higher than in previous years. Fintechs will have to scale up their operations to cope with the high demand of online services. Meanwhile, when demand goes down in January, it might be beneficial to scale down and reduce costs until demand increases again.
Hyperscale will also help fintech companies to future-proof their operations, which has become a key consideration as the economy looks to recover from the pandemic. By having the level of flexibility that hyperscale provides, businesses will always have the ability to lean or expand. Being able to adjust quickly within the hyperscale environment, with no added costs, makes fintechs more resilient and flexible to disruptions.
While cutting costs will continue to be a priority in today’s business environment, it is important that fintech companies look beyond this and focus on innovation and technology. The issues that the pandemic unearthed already existed and needed to be addressed by businesses. Therefore, they need to take the current situation as an opportunity to reconsider and improve their business models. Flexibility, scalability and cost efficiency must be top priorities in this new era. Hyperscale can provide this trinity of success.
2021 Predictions: Operational Resilience Takes Center Stage
Breaking down barriers between Risk and Business Continuity
By Brian Molk, Fusion Risk Management
What a year! Simply put, the global shocks of 2020 were unmatched by any time in recent history. Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic reach a scale and longevity that rippled through the way organizations operate, communicate, and safeguard against future disruptions, we simultaneously experienced civil unrest, wildfires, hurricanes and more. This unprecedented time exposed weaknesses in organizations and demonstrated that historically siloed approaches to resiliency put organizations in grave danger. No one had a plan robust enough for 2020. Those that emerged from this year stronger were those that took an agile, collaborative, and, above all, data-led approach to resilience.
Driven by these changes, the industry will see several trends in 2021: operational resilience that blurs the lines between multiple disciplines, real-time decision-making based on data instead of plans, industry collaboration and product suites, a new executive buyer, often in the C-suite, and regulators taking greater interest in resilience across critical industries.
Operational Resilience Goes Multi-Disciplinary
2020 prompted volatile and unpredictable market conditions. The pandemic not only demonstrated the interdependence of multiple areas of risk, but showed organizations that they must be hyper vigilant about all disciplines simultaneously and holistically. Organizations recognized they had resources and processes siloed, and that communication and coordination cross-organization is necessary to prove resilience to leadership, regulators and stakeholders. This demonstrated that solution areas (business continuity, risk management, disaster recovery, and more) with their specific expertise and training each have a role to play – and a strength to bring – in an operational resilience strategy.
As organizations recognize the importance of multiple-discipline focus, the barriers between these practices will break down and come together under operational resilience. Operational resilience will become the overarching school of thought in the industry. As a result, products and services will evolve to serve this need.
Data Instead of Plans
If 2020 demonstrated one thing, it’s that organizations simply cannot plan for everything – and instead must be ready to resolve problems as they arise. However, those that emerged most successful from disruption were those with good data at their fingertips, ensuring that leaders can make informed decisions quickly.
Gone are the days in which meticulous planning and tabletop exercises were the best approaches to resilience. In 2021, organizations will recognize the value of identifying their data and dependencies, maintaining them in software and leaning on the technology to simulate the multitude of outcomes possible. When unplanned events do arise, organizations will depend on technology to play out the plans, understand where they will fail and propose the right changes proactively.
Industry Collaboration and Product Suites
Industry collaboration is already underway and will continue into next year. As resilience continues to become a highly visible and critical business operation, the industry will realize the benefit of products that span disciplines to better deliver on organizations’ needs. As organizations break down silos between business continuity, incident and crisis management, disaster recovery and various risk disciplines to become one broader resilience practice, industry players will consolidate their respective offerings and increasingly integrate product suites for greater collaboration – and ultimately, greater resilience.
C-Suite Involvement in Risk and Resilience
In 2021, we will see resilience become a priority at every level of an organization – especially with executive leadership. Prior to this year, many companies viewed resilience as an esoteric activity focused on placating leadership and regulators. They relied on a few employees to own all resilience programs, not intimately involving themselves or their operating executives with the details. 2020 took resilience out of the back room and placed it firmly into the boardroom.
The C-suite will be increasingly committed to knowing whether their organization is ready to tackle and recover from disruptions. This means a resilience program needs to span all the appropriate departments and disciplines, speak the language of business instead of practitioners and answer the highest-level questions of readiness in a single executive experience.
Operational Resilience in Every Critical Industry
Undoubtedly, operational resilience will begin to take center stage in all critical industries. Over the past several years, the Bank of England, the Fed, and the European Central Bank among others have begun a push for regulation not only in financial resilience but in the resilience of operations for financial services. These bodies recognized the critical impact that their industry has on the wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and the economy as a whole – and are taking seriously their role in making a more resilient economy.
Other critical industries, including energy, power, agriculture and others (possibly based on the 16 critical industries defined by the department of homeland security) are similarly positioned. We expect to see regulators taking a greater interest in the organizations in these spaces, to ensure our national and global systems are resilient enough to recover from future events.
2020 was a challenging year, and many people are likely relieved it’s over. But don’t rest on your laurels. Whether it’s climate change, political unrest or even pandemics, the world is more interdependent and more exposed than ever. Ensure your organization has learned the lessons of 2020 and is first to take advantage of these trends in 2021, before it’s too late.
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