Speaker Contest 2023

Key Takeaways & Learnings from Speaker Contest 2023 Semifinal 2

Yesterday afternoon we had our second semifinal session of the Speaker Contest. After seeing six wonderful keynotes on sustainability, leadership, and innovation, we felt inspired! Now we want to share the main takeaways from each speech with you.

Melina Shannon-DiPietro – Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work (With Lessons From the World’s Best Restaurant)

To Shannon-DiPietro’s parents, dining out usually means getting 10-dollar burritos. So when they visited her in Copenhagen, and she asked to take them out to Noma – one of the best restaurants in the world -, they were quite reluctant. They finally agreed (after having said no four times), and Shannon-DiPietro booked a table.

On their arrival, Shannon Di-Pietro’s parents were visibly nervous. This was not something they were used to, and they felt out of place. But as soon as the restaurant door opened and the whole staff of Noma were at the door greeting them with a big “Welcome!” their hospitality instantly made the Di-Pietro family feel at home. Their waiter was in no rush to listen to Shannon DiPietro’s father’s mushroom foraging stories and even look at some photos of his best picks. The mood relaxed, and they ended up having a great evening. 

Watching her parents having the night of their lives, regardless of their initial apprehension, got Shannon-DiPietro thinking – what was Noma’s secret? Could the same hospitality principles be applied to leadership to make teams feel valued and allow every individual to be their best self? She cracked the code and found four hospitality principles that can be applied to leadership.

The four principles of hospitality that leaders can adopt:

  1. Start by setting the energy – First impressions matter, and restaurants know this. The mood and expectations are set before anything is even put on the plate. Set the energy, and you are already ahead of the game.
  2. Create a dialogue – While conversing with a customer may slow the service down, it’s worth it to make the customer feel seen and valued. Fostering conversation is a fundamental part of making a safe workspace for your team. 
  3. Go above and beyond – How you serve matters just as much as what you serve. When you overdeliver on expectations, you are building unbeatable loyalty.
  4. Notice what matters – and act – Hospitality notices and acts before anything goes sideways. Learn to read the room for cues and bring attention to even the tiniest signals – act on them. 

When you put these principles to use with your team and create a culture of hospitality, you inspire your team to use them with customers. As our host, André from MySpeaker put it: what delicious insights!

Watch Melina’s Speech

Karina Ochis – Be the Leader Maker – Transform Your Employees into Leaders and Lead Disruptive Change

At the beginning of her speech, Ochis quoted Charles Darwin; “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change.” As we are living in unprecedented times, leaders must be ready to adapt to change.  “The way you adapt is the way you succeed.”

Ochis introduced us to the Strategic Inflection Point – the crossroads, where leaders need to make crucial decisions that will ultimately lead to either business success or decline. We are all living on a Strategic Inflection Point, with the polycrises going on in the world.

While this crossroads is a tough spot to be in, it also creates an opportunity to create a new strategy, and a new way of doing things. In this new world, one leader who holds all the reigns is not enough anymore – we need leaders at every level. “You probably have enough managers, what you need now is more leaders.” In order for your company to succeed, you need to become a leader maker.

Here are Ochis’s 5 steps for turning employees into leaders

  1. Create a vision for a better future – “Everybody wants to be a part of something great.”
  2. Eliminate the safety net – Cut the safety net that keeps your employees clinging on to the old ways.
  3. Designate a change team – The team will lead the change and keep each other accountable.
  4. Use urgent language – Control the narrative and use language that triggers action.
  5. Create or fake early wins – Cheer your team on by celebrating even the smallest wins – or coming up with some.

“On top of these steps, you should remember to give meaning to your leadership. People desire to find meaning in what they do, says Ochis, so you need to communicate how your new leader’s roles align with the company’s vision.

Watch Karina’s Speech

Lena Lid Falkman – Become Your Own Boss – Self-Leadership Strategies for Sustainability

“The globe has gotten smaller, thanks to technology.” Ever since the pandemic, it has been clear that hybrid work is here to stay. But how do we do it in an optimal way? Sustainable hybrid work requires us to develop self-leadership skills we may not have needed before. How do we become our own bosses? 

In her speech, Falkman gave us four tips for becoming your own boss.

  • Set goals – Setting clear goals decreases cognitive stress and increases work performance. Mentally picturing your goal or saying it out loud enhances performance even further. And don’t forget about life goals!
  • Live like a tiger – Run short and fast, and then rest. Just like a tiger would. Working hard is not dangerous, but working hard without resting in between, even for one day, is unhealthy. In addition to all the meetings in your calendar, make sure to book recovery time as well.
  • Psychological need = physical need – We don’t put off going to the toilet, but often we put off our psychological needs. We need to prioritize psychological needs, such as taking care of relationships, just like we prioritize physiological needs.
  • The cozy pants/lipstick method – Find a strategy for separating your work time from your free time that works for you. For Falkman, it’s putting on lipstick when it’s time to work, and cozy pants for when it’s time to relax.

With these tips, you can make working from home sustainable, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and even increase your performance at the same time! 

Watch Lena’s Speech

Anne Raudaskoski – What’s After Sustainability?

“Who wants to run a business that aims to end life on Earth?”, asked Raudaskoski at the beginning of her speech. And who wants to run a business that, in 50 years time, your children can be proud of and that creates value not just for shareholders but for society and our planet? The answer is easy in theory but complex in practice.

“We used to see ourselves as a part of nature”, says Raudaskoski. But around 500 years ago, we started seeing nature as something separate from us. Something we can exploit and control. We started looking at nature “like a giant factory the size of a planet.”

The reason why sustainability matters for businesses: “How you run your business and measure success depends entirely on how you see the world.”

Corporate social responsibility in the 1970s stated that businesses need to have a license to operate. This was the first time it was acknowledged that businesses have broader responsibilities to the society, not just to its stakeholders. Fast forward a few decades, and CSR was upgraded to sustainability, which has been the main approach for the past 20 or so years. But has sustainability been enough? Has it been sufficient? If so, why are we hitting the world overshoot day earlier and earlier every year, asks Raudaskoski. 

“Every single company is dependent on nature”, and therefore it is in the interest of every company to ensure we are taking good care of our environment. Clearly, our sustainability initiatives and strategies have not been enough. It’s time for an upgrade.

What could be after sustainability? What could be the next approach? Raudaskoski suggests regenerative business. “In a nutshell, it means that as a company, you focus on not just minimizing your negative impact, but maximizing your positive impact.” This can be done through your whole business strategy and product service portfolio.

Three steps to getting started with a regenerative business model

  1. Challenge your research and development teams. What if instead of designing products that are a little less harmful, you were designing products that can be kept in circulation and reused for years
  2. Revise your vision and strategic goals. If you already know how to reach your 2030 goals, you need more ambitious goals. The USA didn’t know how they were going to get to the moon when they announced their goal – and they made it.
  3. Remember, you are always designing futures, not just organizing operations. Will those futures merely enable us to survive, or will they enable future generations to thrive? That is up to you.

“Be brave. It’s impossible only until someone goes and does it.” 

Watch Anne’s Speech

David Freeman – Four Leadership Mistakes to Avoid

What do you do, if you want to study leadership and become a better leader? Read the 20 leadership books picked by Adam Grant? But wait, what about this list of 25 must read books on leadership? And then there is the “33 Best Leadership Books You Haven’t Read Yet” list. There have been over 15,000 books written on leadership, but none of them is the book Freeman wanted to read: “How to be a bad leader.” And so that is what he did in his speech – he gave us four of his best tips on being a bad leader.

Lead by example – Freeman states he has been a part of several companies where the leader thought they could do everyone’s jobs better. What happened to those companies? They went under. Is that the example we should be following? Everyone has strengths and flaws, and you wouldn’t want the people under you to copy all of your flaws. “Don’t lead by example, lead by values.”

Tell the truth – Freeman recalls a time his boss was angry with his team, and Freeman had said “Why are you yelling at me, that woman over there is the one who’s responsible.” The woman left the meeting in tears. Next time, Freeman took full responsibility for his teams decision, and his team was more loyal to him than ever. So yes, be honest to an extent, but not so honest that you throw a team member under the bus.

Lead with purpose – Freeman says Exxon made billions of dollars by exploiting the Ukraine crisis – they had a purpose, just not a good one. Also the thousands of layoffs this year so far don’t really encourage people to buy into a company’s purpose. People’s purpose may be their family or traveling – you need to take into account that not everyone is motivated by the same purpose.

Facilitate productive teams – It’s not necessarily team players that have the best ideas. It seems that the best ideas are come up with by individuals, not teams. The guy who invented 3D movies was not a team player, but he was a visionary. If you focus too much on facilitating productive teams, you may miss out on facilitating productive individuals.

While he gives this advice humorously, he says there is also some truth to each principle. In Freeman’s experience, these principles do work 60-85% of the time – that’s why we have so many books on them. But everyone is an individual. What works for someone might not work for someone else. It takes experience, wisdom, and knowledge to understand when to apply them. If you want to be a bad leader, you always apply these principles without considering individuality and context. 

Watch David’s Speech

And finally, the winner of semifinal 2..

Thijs Launspach – What We Get Wrong About Stress

Launspach started his keynote with a personal story of his friend who experienced burnout and had to take five months off to recover. Launspach himself has experienced some stressful times and confesses he has been on the brink of burnout. But now he talks to people about stress and mental health for a living. 

During his career, Launspach has heard numerous stories from people experiencing burnout, and in his speech, he told us the key things he has learned – such as what it is we get wrong about stress. And what is that, you may ask? Well, you will just have to wait until the Speaker Contest Final on the 10th of May. We will be broadcasting the whole final on a live stream, and you can watch Launspach and the other finalists’ speeches to learn more! 

Thanks again to all the contestants, and thanks to our partner MySpeaker for hosting the semifinals at their studio with André Noël Chaker! MySpeaker has also offered their innovative Rhetorich coaching to all of our semifinalists to help them on their speaker journey.


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