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Digitally Irresistible

Oct 12, 2021

Charlene Li is renowned as a strategic thinker. She helps leaders and organizations thrive with disruption as an Author, Speaker, Advisor and Board Member. She has worked with dozens of companies such as IBM, Oracle, 3M, Adobe, Cisco, Dell, Intel, and Microsoft, just to name a few. She has authored six books, the most recent titled: The Disruption Mindset – Why Some Organizations Transform, While Others Fail She is prolific at sharing content through her LinkedIn live streams, as well as on Twitter and Clubhouse sharing her thought leadership on the disruption mindset.  

On this episode, Charlene discusses disruption in business, starting with what it is, why it is important for leaders to embrace it and her recommendations to creating stronger employee relationships within the disruption model.  

What is Disruption and Why it Matters

Charlene grew up in Detroit where she was the only person of color in her early school years. Her presence alone was a disruption which prepared her mindset to look at mainstream principles through a different lens. She looks at the rapid evolution of technology as an opportunity for companies to thrive. In other words, she helps business leaders look at change and disruption as great opportunities for growth.  

Charlene’s first book is the critically acclaimed Groundswell which published in 2008 when social media was in its early days. In this book, Charlene and her co-author Josh Bernoff encouraged business leaders to embrace the disruption of social media as an opportunity to engage and communicate with their audience. She was frequently asked by leaders why do some companies thrive in disruption and others fail? So, she set out to conduct research to learn what’s different about those companies who thrive in disruption over and over again.  

The Disruption Mindset

For a company to thrive in disruption, there must be a vision for what the future looks like. It begins with leadership, but the employees must catch the vision and trust leadership in the company’s commitment and ability to embrace the disruption to thrive. Disruption will take people out of their comfort zone. Employees must trust their leaders to thrive in the midst of disruption. Leaders must have a plan to bring employees with them willingly on the disruption journey to a new future.  

What it Takes to Create Stronger Employee Relationships. 

Charlene identifies three strategies for creating strong employee relationships to enable the disruption mindset to thrive across the organization. They are: 

-       Integrity

-       Agency

-       Openness 


Leaders who do what they say they’re going to do with consistency between action and messaging operate with integrity. Employees know the difference between empty promises and actions that live out the company’s values. Leaders should communicate the reason for a different future, how the company needs to get there and how each employee is integral to getting there along with why it’s valuable to the employee. Beyond communication, leaders must live it every day to be recognized for integrity. The three strategies for building long term, sustained employee relationships start with integrity, which leads to trust.  


Agency means that employees believe in the mission and work hard to achieve the strategies defined by leadership. When agency is present, employees behave like owners in the business with accountability for their actions because they genuinely care. They are bought into the vision.    


This is the simple concept that nothing is hidden. That everything that isn’t considered company confidential is out in the open and available for discussion. No question is off the table.  

Charlene points out that these three strategies are intermixed together to define the relationship between leaders and employees in the disruption mindset. 

How to Implement Integrity, Agency, Openness

Charlene points out that leaders must be committed to building relationships with employees starting with defining what the relationship looks like. Leaders should document the attributes of their desired relationship with their teams as the starting point in this process. 

At iQor, we deploy a weekly Mood-o-Meter survey to our contact center agents to measure their current mood. Anyone who scores low for more than one week in a row gets contacted by a skip-level manager to set up a meeting. These meetings allow the employee to discuss what’s on their mind. The relationship and trust built in these skip-level meetings are an example of our attempt at integrity, agency and openness.    

Borrow Best Practices from the Marketing Department

Your marketing team is adept at listening and communicating with customers. Employers should adapt some of these marketing practices to likewise listen and engage with employees in relationship building, treating them with the same care as customers are treated.

A Long Term View of the Employee Relationship

In the digital age, the lines are blurred between an employee’s life outside of work and at work. Employers should embrace the employee’s whole self, including their passion and dreams. By providing a work environment that allows employees to thrive as a person, working toward their long-term dreams with the support of their employer, the relationship between employer and employee is strengthened.  

Infusing Integrity, Agency and Openness into Employee Relationships

Imagine speaking with an employee about their last day at your company on their first day at your company. Strong relationships are built if we talk openly with employees about their aspirations and offer support to help them achieve their dreams. In return, the employee is more likely to have a strong relationship with their employer while they work there. Additionally, we can ask and receive cooperation to provide more than two weeks’ notice and help in hiring and training a replacement. This level of relationship lives beyond current employment and breeds agency among employees. 

What Charlene Does for Fun

Charlene has a cat named Cosmo. She has trained him to do tricks, which he is motivated to do with treats. She says he performs about a dozen tricks such as jump through hoops and playing with cups and balls. Charlene loves dogs but with her busy travel schedule, a cat is purrfect for her lifestyle.  

Learn more about Charlene’s book and other resources at her website.  

Learn more about iQor digital customer experience capabilities. 

Read the blog post here.

Watch the video here.