Three Things We Learned from Workday Rising 2017

As we look ahead to Workday Rising in October, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on some of the takeaways from last year’s event. We had a great slate of speakers who informed and inspired attendees on topics as diverse as leadership, innovation, and the importance of staying agile during times of change.

Here are three things we learned from Workday Rising:

Great Leadership and Great Teams Go Hand-in-Hand

In the kickoff keynote, Peyton and Archie Manning talked about leadership and teamwork. Peyton, a two-time Super Bowl champion, relayed the importance of a successful team being built on chemistry, urging the selection of “players that fit into the culture.” He also stressed the importance of humility and teamwork as a leader, recollecting that “the most valuable player is the one that makes the most players valuable.”

Walter Isaacson, author and outgoing president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, shared common leadership traits he observed as a biographer of innovators including Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, and Leonardo da Vinci. “Almost every great discovery and innovation came from teams. Great leaders put together great teams, and a leader’s ability to draw from people of different backgrounds and different interests tends to be the thing that sparks creativity.”

Soft Skills Translate into Hard Business Benefits

Several speakers stressed the importance of behaviors and soft skills that aren’t always seen as essential to business success, but are ever-more critical in a hypercompetitive, fast-changing world.

The source of competitive advantage has shifted to behavior.

New York Times bestselling author Shawn Achor has spent more than 10 years researching happiness and how it correlates to high performance. Achor’s recent book, “Big Potential,” looks at how working together and directing positive energy towards others raises levels of individual happiness, while also increasing human potential. He relates that as people, “We’re not designed to create success and happiness in isolation.”

Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, told attendees that the source of competitive advantage has shifted to behavior. “In the twenty-first century, principled behavior is the surest path to success and significance in business and in life,” he writes in his book, “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.” Seidman told an audience of executives, “Trust is a catalyst that enhances performance, binds people together, and shapes the way they relate to each other. Competitors may be able to copy what you do, but they can’t copy how you do it—elevating behavior to the level of competitive advantage.”

Agility and Flexibility in Times of Change

A number of sessions and speakers touched on the need to embrace agility and to become comfortable with change. Mike McNamara, CEO of Flex, a $25 billion business operating across a broad range of industries, exhorted Workday Rising attendees to learn how to thrive in change.

McNamara said, “The slope and rate of change of disruption are so much greater now . . . If you can’t embrace change and pivot your business model as the world pivots around you, you won’t succeed.” He also spoke of the value of cultivating a “culture of agility” to bridge strategy and execution.

And Robynne Sisco, Co-President and CFO of Workday, reminded leaders that they have a critical role in carrying the culture of their organizations. “If senior leadership doesn’t model the culture, the behavior you want will absolutely not stick.”

We look forward to more insightful sessions and speakers at Workday Rising later this year.