04/30 2011

Watch Your Leadership Image!

According to a recent article by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), the following “mistakes” can negatively impact an executive’s leadership image:

  1. Too Much Seriousness:  Leaders who are overly reserved appear to be rigid, inflexible, and uncaring — effective leaders need to convey graciousness, warmth, and passion
  2. Poor Speaking Skills:  Flat or monotone speaking styles, inappropriate volume,  and poor enunciation are the key offenders here
  3. Lack of Clarity:  If a message is unclear and/or non-specific, the audience will tune out
  4. Self-Absorption:  Leaders need to be bigger than themselves — and frequently using the words “I”, “Me”, or “My” will disengage the audience
  5. Lack of Interest:  Leaders need to show energy, enthusiasm, and interest in the topics that they are speaking about
  6. Obvious Discomfort:  Leaders who are uncomfortable in front of crowds — or who are awkward in conversations — are not seen as effective leaders
  7. Inconsistency — Inconsistencies in thoughts and behaviors will result in a leader being seen as flaky, insincere, or dishonest
  8. Defensiveness — An unwillingness to to consider other views, reacting in a knee-jerk fashion, and being unable to seek and understand feedback from others will undermine perceptions of leadership effectiveness

More information can be found in the recent CCL Guidebook “Building an Authentic Leadership Image” ( .

04/29 2011

Is it OK to Cry at Work?

Is it OK to cry at work?   A recent article in TIME (April 4) suggests that the answer is a qualified “yes” — with both men and women seeing some emotional displays as being perfectly acceptable in the workplace…

Interestingly, men (48%) feel that it is more acceptable to cry at work than do women (41%).   Men are also less likely to consider those who have cried at work to be unstable (32% of men felt that criers were unstable, vs. 43% of women).

When it comes to actually shedding tears in the workplace, women have the advantage — 41% of the women surveyed had cried at work in the past year, while only 9% of men indicated that theyhad cried in the workplace.

The above research findings — adapted from author Anne Kreamer’s recent volume “It’s Always Personal” — also provide other interesting tidbits about emotions in the workplace.  For example, both men and women report that “Stress spilling over from home into work” was the most common reason behind tears on the job.   Women tend to judge others who have shed tears more harshly than men do.  And some recent studies have suggested that emotions can have as much impact on job performance as do cognitive brain functions.

With the boundaries between personal life and work life becoming less well-defined, perhaps it is natura to expect more displays of emotion in the workplace.   Author Kreamer points out that 69% of survey respondents report that when they see someone get emotional at work, it results in the person being see as “more human”.  In addition, 88% of all respondents feel that being sensitive to other’s emotions at work in an asset for leaders to possess.

Still, showing emotion in the workplace can carry some baggage.   For example, some recent studies show that women are judged more harshly than men when they express anger, and these same studies also show that men are more likely to be seen as “justified” when they do express anger —  with women being seen as having a personality flaw when they do display anger.

04/24 2011

CEO Top Priorities? Talent Management is #2

When CEO’s were recently asked to rank their top ten priorities, “Business Growth” understandably received the top rating.  What occupied the second spot?   This was reserved for “Talent Management” activities.

In a survey of 704 CEO’s conducted by The Conference Board in late 2010 and early 2011, “Talent Management” was rated as an overall higher priority than such business-worthy topics as Cost Optimization, Innovation, and Customer Relationships.

Why the focus on Talent Management?  Cost-cutting efforts have curtailed bringing in outside talent for many organizations, turning the focus on development towards internal staff members.  In addition, many leaders are recognizing that their internal staff — like incumbents in other organizations — may be biding time in their current roles until the job market rebounds.  Once this rebound occurs, a massive churning of the workforce could occur — and actively developing internal staff members can be an effective tool to aid employee retention.

The Conference Board survey included CEO’s from a variety of industries.  While Talent Management concerns were not rated as the second highest priority by all industries, talent management was rated as a top 4 priority by CEO’s of all industries, and received a #2 rating overall.

03/17 2011

Key Insights from Global Chief HR Officers

What future challenges do global Chief HR Officers see as being most pressing?  Is it talent retention?   Leadership Development?  Increased productivity or efficiency?   Actually, the key issues identified by these leaders may come as bit of a surprise..

As revealed in a recent study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, none of the above issues were mentioned specifically as pressing needs.  Instead, in a far-reaching survey effort (600 face-to-face interviews with Chief HR Officers from around the globe),  the following issues were seen as being of the greatest importance for the next 3-5 years:

  • A Shortage of Creative Leaders — organizations need to identify, develop, and empower effective & agile leaders, as leadership candidates will not only have to have solid empirical decision-making skills, but will also need to have the capacity to develop creative solutions to problems.
  • Rapid Development of of Workforce Skills and Capabilities — this is not formal training and development activities in the classic sense, but instead involves properly identifying the skills and abilities of new and emergent leaders, on-boarding these new leaders as they begin their careers, and then properly deploying these individuals within the organization.   Most of the Chief HR Officers interviewed said that these areas received very little attention within their organization, although they see them as being vitally important.
  • Ineffective Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing — applying collective knowledge and experience is seen as critical to building an agile organization, but organizations lack the structure and the resources to facilitate knowledge-sharing.   Departmental silo-building and political turf wars are seen as exacerbating this problem.

The IBM report, officially titled “Working Beyond Borders”, also details some of the challenges expected to increase in importance as work is done across cultures, geographies, and time zones.   The areas of highest expected growth in headcount?   China at 40% growth, followed by India at 29% and Latin America at 26%.   North America is expected to see headcount growth of 17% .

To read or download the entire research report, go to  .

03/2 2011

Why Diversity Can Backfire in Corporate Boards

A recent research study by Drs. Jean-Francois Manzone, Paul Strebel, and Jean-Louis Barboux proposes that when it comes to diversity and corporate boards, it is possible to end-up with too much of a good thing.

In a Wall Street Journal article summarizing their work, the authors concede that the many benefits of diversity – having people from different background and perspectives collaborating on problems, bringing unique knowledge to bear to a problem, and creating unique solutions does hold broad appeal.

However, the authors propose that most corporate boards never see such desired benefits.  Some of this is attributed to simple human nature – while diversity is prized, people can feel baffled or threatened by persons with different views and backgrounds. As such, some of the board members with the most unique perspectives find themselves isolated or marginalized, and ultimately frustrated.

The researchers suggest the following steps for minimizing conflict in among Board members:

  • Choose new members carefully (think about their personality, in addition to their perspective)
  • Assist newcomers (make sure they are introduced properly, and take steps to ensure that the have the opportunity to make a positive first impression)
  • Don’t give in to get along (make sure disagreements and conflict are dealt with in a positive manner)
  • Encourage initial dissenters (make it easy for newcomers to express initial concerns, even when vague)
  • Members should share the role of being a “Devil’s Advocate” (share this responsibility with different members of the Board)
  • Review the role of the Chairman or leader (diversity needs to be managed by this person)
Of course, most of the above advice is also applicable to any corporate group setting, not just corporate boards – for example, any work group could benefit from paying attention to the above, particularly when they are assimilating new group members.