05/1 2011

Loss of Trust in the Workplace — And How to Regain It

Many organizations — and individual leaders — face a loss of trust by employees in the workplace.   Some studies indicate that nearly half of those planning a job change cite a lack of trust as a major factor in their decsion to change jobs, and 65% of executives feel that a lack of trust will significantly increase voluntary turnover in coming  years.

According to Drs. Dennis and Michelle Reina, co-authors of the book “Re-Building Trust in the Workplace”, major events (such as criminal activities by leaders) are not the only factors negatively impacting trust levels — instead, activities such as gossiping, finger-pointing, or taking credit for the work of others tend to have a more long-term, more significant influence on lower levels of trust.

The Drs. Reina suggest the following 7-step process for leaders to try and mend trust, and to re-energize and re-engaged the workforce:

  1. Observe and acknowledge what happened:  Acknowledge any specific incident(s) that have occurred, listen to employees, and demonstrate that their feelings do matter
  2. Allow feelings to surface:  Establish ongoing communication venues (focus groups, town hall meetings, and one-on-one conversations) to help ensure that employee emotions are not driven underground
  3. Get and give support:  Leaders need to share information with employees feel involved and knowledgeable about current issues — and leaders also need to find mentors and/or an executive coach to serve as a personal support network
  4. Reframe the experience:  Leaders need to help others see the big picture issues around key decisions (such as the business reasons behind decisions, and also communicate the potential benefits facing employees as a result of the decisions that were made)
  5. Take responsibility:   It is important for leaders to own-up to the decisions that they made, and they need to hold themselves (and others) accountable for future behaviors
  6. Forgive yourself and others:  It is important to acknowledge the impact of broken trust, and to let others know that you will learn from the experience and expect others to learn from the experience, as well
  7. Let go and move on:  Leaders need to “let go” (and help others let go), and help others focus on moving forward with a sense of shared responsibility

Some surveys show that 90% of employees inidicate that they see the effects of low trust daily in the workplace — and with a statistic like that, effective leaders will need to pay careful attention to trust levels within their own organizations, and will need to keep the above process steps handy for use when needed.

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  .