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Communicating the big picture

September 29th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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There Communicating the bigger pictureis an old story about a man who sees three workers laying stones.  Curious, he approaches the workers to inquire about their labour.  The first worker barely acknowledges the man, only reproaches him:  “Are you blind?  Any fool can see I am laying stones.”  The second worker scarcely pauses, replying curtly, “I’m building a wall.  Don’t get in my way.”  But the third worker puts down his tools and takes a step back.  He proudly surveys his work and announces, “I’m part of the team building a great cathedral.”

Many strategy-makers assume that everyone in the organisation will instantly understand and execute the strategies they define, however research indicates that less than 5 percent of a typical employee group does.   It therefore becomes important to ensure every employee understands and is involved in implementing the organisation’s strategy.  You can only ensure others’ understanding and involvement if you yourself first make sense of the strategy, identify where and how your team’s work links to and supports it, and then communicate it in meaningful and operational terms so that everyone can conduct their daily business in a way that contributes to the overall success.

The key to effectively communicating the big picture is not necessarily being a great orator.  It requires constructing a message that is credible and that engages employees and increases their ability to take action. Constructing such a message may seem a daunting task – it requires generating enthusiasm about and movement toward implementing a strategy that is complex and perhaps only partially understood.

A few guidelines can help to craft a more effective message:

  1. Simplify the Communication
    Organisations and our role in them are complex enough.  Provide enough detail in the message to draw a full and accurate picture for listeners, but not so much detail to overwhelm them.  Include the reasons for the change as well as a description of the change.  Where it is possible, describe what is new in relation to what is familiar, being sure to clarify what is the same and what is different.  The goal is to create a sense of meaning and shared understanding.
  1. Create a Coherent Picture
    There are a number of ways to ensure your message is coherent and integrated.  Think for example about keeping the theme – in this case, the strategic focus – more prominent than the details.  Begin with the strategic focus, making it an organising framework for the rest of the communication.  Instead of just listing or describing strategic elements, explain how they relate to the strategic focus, and make sure the linkages among the elements are clear.
  1. Communicate Relevance
    Information that is too abstract or conceptual often feels disconnected from the day-to-day realities of employees.  To create relevance, use simple, concrete language.  Examples and stories can also be powerful tools for ensuring that abstract or disconnected information is translated into situational information listeners can identify with.

Accountability and the Little Things that Count

August 26th, 2015 by Russ Becker
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Sepp Blatter has been working under a dark cloud in the wake of a major personal and organizational challenge, the launch of a federal investigation into the corruption within the world’s soccer governing body that has ultimately led to his resignation immediately following the U.S. Justice Department’s 47-count indictment against 14 FIFA officials.

Black and white leather soccer ball on green grass

Although he was once known as one of the most powerful people in sports, the federal investigation and timing of this scandal has caused Blatter to end his 40-year FIFA tenure rather than step further into his role and face accountability. Summertime lends itself to FIFA being in the spotlight, as the Women’s World Cup Final took place earlier this month, but Blatter was absent from both the game and the attention to the scandal while the US took over news headlines with their 5-2 victory.

Blatter ended his month-long silence after stepping down as president by facing the media on July 20, where he was put on display unexpectedly by a press conference crasher, British comedian Simon Brodkin. The mockery concluded with Blatter announcing an election for a new president in February 2016, the ultimate consequence of his lack of accountability and ownership of the corruption that has since tainted the reputation of this global organization.

Unfortunately, this is something many organizations struggle to master. So what lessons can companies learn from the scandal? According to Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager, a meager 18 percent of current leaders have the high talent required of their role, while the other 82 percent falls short of guiding their teams, and organizations, effectively.

The need for accountability is clearly evident during leadership-testing moments, such as FIFA’s, but can often go unnoticed when it comes to smaller, everyday activities and behaviors. Yet if left unchecked, can lead to larger organizational issues. A lack of accountability could have a serious impact on operations, making it important to spot the signs and address these issues strategically and quickly.

So how do you know if your organization has a culture of accountability? Here are some warning signs indicating the need to improve:

  • Giving excuses
  • Blaming others
  • Putting off important things
  • Doing the minimum
  • Acting confused and playing helpless

All of these actions can lead to missed deadlines, scapegoating, overruns which severely impact productivity, processes and even staff turnover.

To overcome these obstacles companies should emphasize the need for increased focus on training, development and coaching, with the end goal of increasing accountability. On a day-to-day basis, leaders can improve employee and organizational accountability and create a climate of accountability if they:

  • Set clear goals, linking back to organizational imperatives, for all employees
  • Build alignment on how goals will be achieved
  • Ensure employees get the resources and skills needed for success
  • Admit mistakes to advance problem solving while preserving credibility
  • Develop capabilities to effectively provide positive and constructive feedback
  • Increase employees’ comfort with handling conflict and providing feedback
  • Resolve dilemmas so employees understand what actions to take
  • Coach accountable action and lead by example

And for leaders to ensure that individual staff are acting accountably, they themselves must also display accountable behaviors by:

  • Keeping their promises
  • Modeling accountability, leading by example
  • Providing clear goals linked to organizational objectives and offering feedback on progress toward their achievements
  • Ensuring needed resources and abilities are available
  • Providing regular feedback—both constructive and positive
  • Being solution oriented and including diverse thinking when problems arise

In addition, linking accountability to personal and organizational performance is also important in keeping it in-check. Two thirds of our survey respondents indicated that setting clear expectations with others, getting alignment on goals and admitting mistakes are most related to personal performance.

Similarly, clarity as well as agility are integral to keeping strategic initiatives on track to ensure that mission-critical targets are met.

Looking back, it’s arguable that all of the warning signs of Blatter’s lack of accountability were present along the way. During his long career, Blatter often found himself defending the integrity of FIFA, whether on counts of corruption in marketing and broadcast agreements, or alleged bribing of voting officials in the World Cup hosting rights. As FIFA faces an uncertain future while under public scrutiny, it further emphasizes the need for organization heads to lead by example. Responsibility demonstrated from the top will, in return, help foster a culture of accountability across the whole organization to drive solutions rather than impede them when faced with business challenges.

Leadership skills that England can deploy to help win The Ashes 2015

July 28th, 2015 by Simon Brown
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Ashes 2015The most historic battle in cricket, The Ashes, is just about to see England and Australia head to the third Test match with the series currently tied at 1-1. After the convincing success of the English team in the first Test match in Cardiff, the England team were heavily defeated by 405 runs at Lord’s as Australia levelled the five match Ashes series. Prior to the series, the England team has seen a number of important changes from a leadership and team perspective which boosted the climate and had a significant impact on the team’s performance (the ‘brand’ of cricket that England was suddenly playing was seen by many as upbeat and positive) – at least up until the new found confidence was lost again during the second Test match.

Naturally, when your confidence is crushed, it is critical to discover some mental toughness (resilience) to bounce back and adapt to the new circumstances – which is clearly what the Australian team demonstrated after their initial defeat in the first match. As you improve, your competitors do too. So what improvements can the England camp make to regain the optimism and focus which led them to do so well in the first Test match and sustain winning ways?


Clarity comes from effective communication and enables the team to confidently answer the question “Where are we going and why?” The fresh approach installed by England’s new management team, including former captain and now Director of Cricket, Andrew Strauss, and new Coach, Trevor Bayliss (ironically, an Australian) has presumably brought a new sense of clarity to the team. My sense is that this messaging has not been lost. Perhaps it just needs to be reinforced after one poor performance. The strategy adopted during the first Test match to be positive and take the game to the Australians. England executed the strategy well, outplaying Australia in every department of the game. Strauss, Bayliss and the captain, Alistair Cook, need to bring this back to the front of every player’s mind.


Unity means that once the team knows where they are headed, they agree wholeheartedly on the merits of that direction and the need to work together and move ahead. In both business and sport, collaboration is the main driver of unity. When leaders foster a culture of collaboration, spell out a common cause and ensure that everyone is equipped with the technical and soft skills to make their contributions, projects and strategies hold together. Lack of collaboration and a resulting lack of unity is a chief reason for teams and initiatives sinking and staying below the noise-value line. Since Kevin Pietersen’s departure from the team (a sign of strong leadership from Strauss and Captain Cook), disruptions in team spirit have been removed, enabling much greater unity.


Agility is less a matter of adapting one’s direction continuously and more a matter of being open to different ways to achieve the direction you have set for yourself. In other words, real agility is not about heading north one day and east the next; that’s vacillation. Agility is about consistently heading north, but being willing to use sails one day and the on-board motor the next, as conditions demand – it is the willingness to turn and adapt quickly while keeping strategic goals in mind. The England team need a dose of agility through showing some mettle. One heavy defeat does not turn a team, after such a convincing win in the first match, into a bad team. A bit of old fashioned British bulldog fighting spirit is required. Learn from the Australian’s, who have demonstrated how to fight back from a set-back. To stay ahead of the competition, you need agility and the England team can do that by gritting their teeth and re-discovering the form from the first Test. These England players have not suddenly lost their skill levels. They need to all act like business leaders and execute on the original strategy.

Come on England! Adapt to change by showing some clarity, unity and agility! A positive result in the third Test match will set up a very exciting series against our old rivals.

Investing in Employee Retention to Drive Business Growth

July 15th, 2015 by Petra Urhofer
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Retaining staInvesting in Employee Retentionff is getting harder for employers as the economy has improved and the jobs market picks up.  Pay will always be a main decision driver when it comes to people switching or staying in their job but it is rarely the prime reason for moving on.  Research has long shown that people are more likely to remain with a company that invests in their career development, through training, coaching and mentoring and great leadership. But even if money is a person’s top reason for switching jobs, people still need to feel that they are progressing, if only because career development often leads to a pay rise.

From Forum’s experience, those that switch jobs purely because of salary will be seeking to move on again in 6 months time if that job becomes stagnant again. Retaining people is all about opportunity, development, the potential to grow – these are the key drivers to motivating people, and motivation leads to better engagement which leads to improved performance and retention rates.


Different factors such as generation differences can influence staff retention. Global research by PwC (2013, A Global Generation Study) showed that while the same basic drivers of retention exist for both Millennials and non-Millennials, their relative importance varies. Millennials place a greater emphasis on being supported and appreciated and to be part of a cohesive team.  Non-millennials on the other hand, are more likely to leave a job if they’re not paid competitively and put a greater emphasis on development opportunities.

Whatever motivates, it’s about knowing what inspires that individual and working out ways together to respond to their personal engagement. It’s about leaders having regular conversations with their people to set out a clear career path, how this will be achieved and how this links to the wider goals of the business. This in turn helps people to feel secure and valued in their role which is vital to retaining great talent.


Great leaders with highly motivated teams are ones that have conversations regularly, often daily, with their team and coach often.  This in turn drives performance and retention. The reason for this is because coaching and conversation helps people to feel secure and valued in their role which is vital to retaining great talent. Done properly, it’s a chance for leaders to agree on a clear career path, how this will be achieved and how this links to the wider goals of the business. People are then reminded of the investment the company is making into their future which in turn, leaves them feeling highly valued and appreciative, and assured knowing how their career is progressing.

Coaching and regular conversations are also an opportunity to spot when motivation is lacking which could be the first sign of someone thinking of leaving. People often don’t want the hassle and risk of findings another job, nor do they necessarily think the grass is greener. It’s only when they feel that the business has lost interest in them, they feel forced to look elsewhere. Coaching and regular conversations are not only a chance to highlight how the business values them but an opportunity to  address any problems early and iron them out before it’s too late. It does not always need to be a formal affair. It can be a quick chat by the desk as well as part of a regular personal development meeting. The important thing is to engage regularly so people can see that the business is investing in their future.

Research after research has shown that the more engaged your workforce, the happier they are, the more likely they will stay and the more productive they become. Last year our global research showed that companies cited coaching as the biggest driver of performance because it motivates and engages their people. By investing in creating a coaching culture that engages trains and develops their staff, companies can improve their performance pace and improve their retention rates whilst cutting the cost of having to having to find new recruits.


High Performing Teams: Lessons from The Ryder Cup

June 29th, 2015 by Simon Brown
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Ryder Cup Leadership LessonsWith all the hype surrounding the possibility of Jordan Speith pulling off a Grand Slam of major wins, my mind turns to the comparisons of individual sporting success versus competing as a team. Keen golf enthusiasts will remember the last Ryder Cup in 2014, when, for the sixth time in seven competitions, the United States lost to Europe. This is a significant turnaround for the European team, which, between 1935 and 1985, only won the Ryder Cup once. Additionally, the aftermath of the latest Ryder Cup battle has seen the European captain Paul McGinley being praised whilst the US captain Tom Watson received a lot of criticism even from his own players.

After the defeat in 2014, when asked “what had worked in 2008 (when Paul Azinger captained the USA team) and what hasn’t worked since?”, USA team member, Phil Mickelson, openly criticised Watson’s leadership skills by praising the last winning Captain, saying that “Azinger got everybody invested in the process: who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod. He had a real game plan; how we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well: we had a real game plan. We use that same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”

Golf is usually an individual affair and playing in a team sees completely different dynamics on the course – players are no longer in competition, but playing together towards a team victory. The same applies to successful business leaders who have their individual agenda, however when coming together with their peers in the boardroom they unite to deliver joint results. The characteristics of high performance team-working apply to the C-suite as well as Ryder Cup teams. As has been well documented, the parallels are endless. A good Ryder Cup team can be transformed into high performing team by adopting these following leadership characteristics:

1. Discussing and building commitment to a common vision and purpose

There is a significant difference between a close-knit team that drives towards a clear vision or purpose and a group of individuals that happen to play together. By the very nature of the tournament, the teams who play in the Ryder Cup consist of individuals who are ranked as top performers and being part of the Ryder Cup team represents a pinnacle of their individual golfing careers. It is then the Captain’s role to shift their mindset from individual to team performers with a common vision.

2. Establish clearly defined goals and review expectations

The goal is clear – to win. As with business, in order to achieve the goal it is essential to review progress throughout the process. As the Ryder Cup lasts for three days, expectations need to be reviewed based on daily results and acted up on accordingly. For example, if at the end of day one the score line is 6-2, the losing team may need to revise their strategy for the next day to recover the situation.

3. Share information in ways that directly adds value to the team effort

Team members learn about the competitive environment and conditions by experiencing them. After each match, the Captain needs to involve each individual, asking them to share their feedback on how they are feeling about their own performance. Sharing their experience and knowledge openly results in expanding views and revealing new facts which can have direct impact on other players. In 2004, exhausted after the first day and having lost in the morning of day two, Europe’s star performer, Colin Montgomerie, famously asked his Captain, Bernhard Langer, to leave him out that afternoon for the overall good of the team. In doing so he ended his own personal record of successive appearances in Ryder Cup matches. Self-sacrifice was made to benefit the team. Sharing information about how they are feeling and what support they require allows the Captain to react and adjust the game strategy accordingly.

4. Set high standards of performance for themselves and follow through

The Ryder Cup is a prestigious event and high standards of performance are essential throughout the tournament. In any given Ryder Cup, players and Captains look back at historical results and strive to take their team’s performance to the next level. With the quality of performance so high in years gone by, the competition presents a new level of challenge, providing the opportunity for players to inspire themselves as well as their team members. This is the highlight of their careers and they are naturally driven to perform at a level that will make their mark in the history books.

5. Review complimentary skills and utilise them effectively as well as understand their weaknesses and how to minimise their impact on team performance

Team performance is obviously strongly dependent on the playing form of its individual team members on that given day. Knowing how to utilise your strengths and minimise weaknesses provides a competitive advantage in the game. For the first 2 days of the Ryder Cup competition, players are paired so they complement each other’s skills in an attempt to maximise the overall effectiveness of the broader team. If a key team member’s form is poor, the Captain may need to adjust his strategy to ensure that the overall team is not impacted.

6. Hold themselves mutually accountable for the successes and failures of the team against agreed goals

When playing as an individual, one poor shot can negatively impact the performance on that hole and even the entire round. This is exacerbated during the Foursomes part of the Ryder Cup, when teammates share one ball and take alternate shots. Success or failure of one player directly impacts the other player. Therefore it is crucial to embed a culture of mutual accountability with a no-blame mindset and to adapt quickly. Being mutually accountable and able to recover quickly even under pressure helps the team to correct their thinking and return to a positive mentality. It is one for all and all for one when it comes to teamwork – sharing success and failure (instead of a culture of blame of other team members…or even the Captain, as demonstrated by Mickelson) is the attitude that creates a culture of engagement and drives performance.

7. Manage team morale and create a motivational climate

Morale and motivation is a key element in team golf – often when under pressure it is not about the technical skills but the mindset of the players that determines success. For a team it is crucial to create a connection between players and it is the Captain’s role to gel the individuals into one unit. Naturally the mindset of the individual will impact the overall team morale and it is therefore essential that players receive the support and encouragement to feel and perform their best; as it is equally important to focus on developing and driving a team climate. As an extension to this thinking, a supporting network can add to this motivational environment.

The 2004 European Ryder Cup team, and its captain, Bernhard Langer, took unprecedented action to build morale and create a motivational climate. Assisted by US sensitivity to excessively patriotic behaviour, Langer instructed his players to be as friendly to the US spectators as they could. From the practice days onwards, the team talked, joked, and laughed with the fans; they presented balls, gloves and hats. In contrast, Team USA remained distant, aloof and disengaged. As a result, the gallery provided only muted support for the home team and gave unexpected support to the visitors. Through its efforts, Team Europe achieved a public relations triumph and Team USA lost the battle for popular support. This proved decisive. Instead of being put under the immense psychological pressure that results from competing on enemy territory with a partisan home crowd, the Europeans gained psychological space and emotional stability.

8. Regularly identify and discuss ways of improving the way they do things

A team’s ability to improve is determined by reflecting on past performance via a collaborative process between the players, captain and others. Coaching throughout the build-up and the tournament itself has significant impact on the entire team dynamic. Just as in the boardroom, it is essential for the captain to respond quickly to poor performance and a constantly changing competitive environment during the event. Each captain will want to out-perform his predecessors, to leave a legacy; therefore a spirit of continuous improvement is at the heart of the team effort.

9. Use opportunities to build collaborative and cooperative relationships

The team climate is determined by its leader. It is the captain’s role to build a collaborative environment between players and build cooperative relationships that drives team performance. The captain also has his own small army of non-playing advisors, comprising of vice-captains, sports psychologists and other support staff to help to build this culture whilst the individual players act as technical experts to execute the strategy – and it is the combination of the two that creates a winning team.

10. Manage inter-personal interactions within the team in appropriate ways

It only takes one bad egg to negatively impact the entire team – Tiger Woods’ brilliance over the past two decades as an individual performer has arguably not translated into positive team performance. His performances over the years in the Ryder Cup have been ‘patchy’ at best. His behaviour on the golf course has on occasion not reflected the traditional spirit of the game’s history, where etiquette is paramount. This behaviour is detected by his team-mates, creating tension. Similarly, Mickelson has been reported to have practiced on his own in preparation for a Foursomes match, rather than in a pairing. Players who are not being team players and take an individual approach will have negative impact on team performance and that’s why it’s so important to make sure that the team members get along with each other, are motivated and driven to win – not as individuals but as a team.

Business leaders should remember that a high performing team is greater than the sum of its individual players. Teams with the best individual players don’t always win. More important is to create a climate where individuals work together towards joint success, thereby having a positive impact on performance. I wish Jordan Speith all the very best for the rest of 2015, but the bigger challenge will come when the European and USA teams next meet to compete for the coveted Ryder Cup at the Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska, Minnesota in 2016.

Leadership lessons I learnt from being a dad

June 25th, 2015 by Martin Slattery
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Leadership Lessons I learnt from being a DadLast weekend was Father’s Day, a day to be thankful for the men who guided us through childhood and adulthood. A day for us fortunate to have children to be spoilt and have praise heaped upon us…for a day at least!

I love being a dad. I’m sure that fellow parents would agree that having kids is wonderful, most of the time! At its best it can be the most rewarding thing, yet it also proves an extremely tiring experience and can often be stressful. The house is never quiet, the chores are a constant and  the “mum and dad” taxi service is a job in itself. But the rewards are far greater.

In my moment of reflection, I thought how much I have learnt from my own dad about being a father and the “leadership skills” that are needed to manage your own children. And it raise a question- what is it like to be a good dad/ leader? In this moment I become increasingly aware of similarities between parenting and the essential leadership skills needed in business – engaging, supportive, motivating and providing guidance to learn and succeed.
In business as in parenting, looking at the bigger picture and takings a more strategic approach can make a significant difference and eliminate the chaos. My two kids are now at that age when they can become more actively involved and take ownership of their chores etc. Is life getting easier? A little maybe but they still need a prod and a push to get things done. As such, I find that the following leadership practices can work very effectively:

1. Investing your effort in high-value activities

Value in business terms is defined as the degree to which an activity contributes to the individual’s own goals and objectives, the business unit’s or organisation’s strategy or the team’s ability to deliver results.

Within a family context, this means reviewing what is actually worth your time and energy as a parent by simply asking yourself: “Can I stop doing this?” There are two scenarios following this question, if the answer is:

• Yes – you should look at how you can you spend less effort or whether you could delegate the specific task.
• No – you should ask yourself what must happen for you to stop engaging in the activity.

Delegating tasks to your kids at first will be met with huffs and puffs but it will have a positive impact that goes just beyond taking the task off your hands. It creates a great sense of ownership and pride and if positioned correctly, they will feel they are being trusted with the task and will be motivated to do a great job. With kids, as with many colleagues, they feed off positive interaction and praise for work well done. By delegating and providing a purpose to do well, individuals are more likely to achieve. If not, you can always threaten to take away the TV.

2. Coaching

There is a fine line between coaching and criticism. Avoid this trap, as children are very sensitive to feedback that will simply criticise their actions without being able to learn any lessons and see the “so what”. Coaching is a daily parental activity and doing it right will have long term positive impact. When coaching children as well as coaching your team, first of all assess the situation and identify hidden influences such as: do they know “why is it important”, “what to do” or “how to do it”? Then identify your own assumptions and test them before identifying what must change. Express your expectations in terms of outcomes or results, linking the change to the reason why it must take place and be prepared to make adjustments during your discussion. As well as using coaching to encourage we need to use the skill to provide constructive feedback. By reflecting together on how a job was completed and areas that could be done better will prove more impactful than simply “telling” or shouting.

3. Handling disagreement

At work and at home there are always going to be disagreements. Being able to know when to walk away and when to resolve the issue is important.

My kids will often disagree with me, my wife or each other. I am sure I am not unique here but it’s important to make your positive intentions explicit – clarify your intentions without dismissing your kids’ perceptions and ask for their views. Sometimes expressing it will help them to see your argument from a different perspective and hearing their point of view also gives you information that may change your own perspective. Limit the number of questions you ask, so you do not cross-examine them and ask questions to gain information rather than to convince them that you are right. Listen carefully to what they have to say and check back with them to ensure they are clear on what is happening and if they are, agree with the outcomes. Allow your kids to be defensive, but don’t take their anger or resistance personally and allow time to play a factor. Set the tone and set the pace to get this resolved, however resist the temptation to solve the problem yourself – instead involve your children in solving it with you – if all else fails you have naughty step. You may want to try that in the office too.

4. Getting results through others

Before you start delegating tasks, make it clear to yourself what exactly is it that you are about to pass on to your kids and determine their readiness for it.

This should be teamwork.

Therefore be clear when describing the purpose and how it affects them individually as well as the family and discuss what success should look like. Don’t underestimate the power of incentives and appreciation. Make sure you acknowledge the good work they are doing and always be there to help them to improve if needed. Use every opportunity to build their confidence and competence – it will naturally increase their sense of ownership and commitment for the task. Tell them when they did a great job. And more importantly tell everyone else!

Being a Dad has a number of challenges and we are operating on a forever changing landscape, but the rewards are far greater. Enjoy the ride as the journey can take any number of diversions, by ensuring you have instilled a high level of trust and unity within the family unit it will see you through the good and bad times.

Like in business the family is the team. Team members are the kids. Leaders are the parent. Be the Daddy!

Engagement and Accountability: What Great Leaders Do [Infographic]

June 16th, 2015 by Brian Hawthorne
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While everyone is accountable for their own performance, management plays a significant role in modeling positive behaviors in the workforce, and therefore must improve their own accountability before it can increase amongst their teams. How do great leaders improve engagement and accountability within the workplace? Forum’s latest infographic based on our recent survey outlines the steps leaders can take to implement the combination in order to drive performance.

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Trust and Integrity Fumbles in Deflate-Gate

June 11th, 2015 by Claudette Chagnon
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“Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization…

some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: the result.” –Vince Lombardi

I wonder if Vince was thinking only of the score when he uttered these words of wisdom.  Like most sports fans who are listening to the deflate-gate debate, I am focused instead on the other results, the “lessons” on trust and integrity—or lack thereof—from three leaders in the football business, Roger Goodell the NFL commissioner, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots Coach and the Patriots team captain, Tom Brady.


Deflate-Gate. NFL football deflated on the field

Trust is like a forest. It takes a long time to grow and can burn down with a just touch of carelessness.  (David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line.)

Let’s note that, prior to deflate-gate, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had already fumbled his leadership on major issues of domestic violence and player brain injuries.  So it was already hard to trust Goodell, in the wake of deflate-gate, when he said “We take seriously anything that potentially impacts integrity of the game.”

Yet, he failed to set any kind of leadership example-any fair and proper course of action– immediately following deflate-gate and before the Super Bowl started.  Was he intentionally deflating the alleged cheating scandal or intentionally ignoring the rules of the game? And then, the NFL was excruciatingly slow in reaching an investigative conclusion about whether the Patriots and their superstar, Tom Brady, cheated before they became Super Bowl champions.

Whether or not the Patriots cheated, the conspicuous failure to act and lack of leadership sent a message to the world—and importantly–to our youth, that cheating is not that important.  The “result” of the commissioner “doing his job” poorly is not only that he received widespread harsh criticism, but he lost the respect and trust of his employees and players, (not to mention the rest of us).

Lesson:  You cannot be an effective leader without trust. You can have a solid strategy, excellent interpersonal skills, and even make money for your organization, but if people don’t trust you, you will not get the results you want.


The NFL rendered a very harsh judgment against Tom Brady for using under-inflated footballs, saying the “integrity of the NFL” is at stake. Seriously?  Is this a case of the football calling the pigskin deflated?  Let’s talk about integrity.

  • For years, the NFL repeatedly denied football causes brain injuries while fully aware of the devastating effects that playing in league could have.
  • Although Coach Belichick may not have been involved in deflating footballs, the NFL, media and public became immediately suspicious of him due to his reputation as a cheater.  In 2007, he cheated and stole the New York Jets’ signals, paid the half-million-dollar fine and moved on. Former football coach, Don Shula, has called him “Beli-cheat.”
  • The New York Post called Brady the “Pretty Little Liar” among more racy headlines and more than one person has compared him to Lance Armstrong.

Is deflate-gate an example of football arrogance justified by football brilliance?   Yes. Does a certain level of success exempt certain people from integrity?  No. Although Bellichick will retire from football as a great and winning coach and Brady as one of the all-time great quarterbacks, there will be a permanent injury to each of their legacies.

Lesson:  The size of the lie does not matter.  The deflate-gate scandal started out as a little puff of illegally escaped air.

Although it might not make a difference to the outcome, or the excuse that “everyone does it”, Rule 2, Section 1 of the NFL Rule Book states that the balls must be a certain weight, length, width and even color.  In any game with authorized equipment and rules, nobody should get away with purposely changing the elements that make the game fair and square.

Leaders with integrity are authentic, transparent, and honest, and trustworthy; they speak the truth, present themselves sincerely, and take responsibility for their actions.  Whether you are a star athlete or leading a team or business, you must commit to a set of core values, standards, and even rules that you will never compromise.

Full transparency:

Claudette Chagnon lives in Massachusetts, is an occasional New England Patriots fan, and her son wears a t-shirt that says “They hate us because they ain’t us.”


Accelerating Talent in a VUCA World: Leadership in Asia Pacific

May 6th, 2015 by Grant Bosnick
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“Changes aren’t permanent, but change is.” (Neil Peart)

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami hit the coast of Japan. I was there when it happened. Now, as we’ve passed the 4th anniversary, the conditions and circumstances in the recovery became known as “The New Normal.”

And elsewhere across Asia Pacific there are not only changes, but rather there is change. And this constant change is the new normal.

With 3 of the top 5 world’s largest economies (China, India, Japan), surpassed only by US and EU; 5 of the top 10 world’s fastest growing economies; and age distribution differing radically across countries – a new generation in China, an aging population in Japan, a young one in Indonesia, and a mature one in Korea and Hong Kong, this is the landscape of Asia Pacific.

Moreover, it’s an interconnected region; what happens in one place affects the others, whether it’s a natural disaster, political event or product innovation.

This creates then a VUCA World, that is, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. A term first used by the United States military to discuss preparedness, the term was then popularised by Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future. It is, essentially, a world of constant change. And as Bob Johansen wrote, “The capacity for VUCA leadership in strategic and operating terms depends on a well-developed mindset for gauging the technical, social, political, market and economic realities of the environment in which people work.”

So, as leaders in Asia Pacific, what does this mean and what do we need to do to be able to do this?

To thrive and succeed in a VUCA World, we need to put into practice and develop ourselves on 3 levels of leadership simultaneously:

  1. Self
  2. People
  3. Thought

Self Leadership includes having a vision, integrity, consistency, and principled values. People Leadership is about managing change, leveraging diversity, delegating, engaging, coaching, building consensus and commitment, and inspiring others. And Thought Leadership focuses on analysis, strategy, decision making, and innovation.

Together the sum (and synergy) of these 3 levels will enable leaders to thrive in a VUCA World. As Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, the CEO of The Lego Group once said, “Leadership is what happens when you’re not there.” And in Asia Pacific, a constant VUCA world of change, developing all 3 levels will accelerate talent and enable this kind of leadership to flourish.

Understanding the Five Most Important Employee Engagement Factors

April 29th, 2015 by Russ Becker
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In the past 22 years, my career has centered around overseeing employees in various managerial roles, across different industries, and with diverse groups of people coming together as part of the workflow. Through these years, and differing environments, I’ve become aware of the one obstacle no manager likes to face: having a disengaged, unmotivated team. Unfortunately, current statistics on global employee engagement confirm that many executives are living with this challenge.

According to Gallup’s most recent 142-country State of the Global Workplace report, only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. That translates to roughly one in eight employees in the countries studied being actually committed to their jobs. Most employees, the other 87 percent, are simply not engaged, feeling unhappy and unproductive according to Gallup.

Despite these seemingly bleak statistics, leaders grappling with a disengaged team are hardly helpless. I’ve come to learn certain strategies and tactics over the years which help executives focus on key predictors of how engaged their employees will be. I’ve learned most importantly that people are social animals and their surrounding colleagues, especially their managers, usually have the most significant impact on whether an employee makes an effort at work – or simply does the bare minimum required.

Through my experience, these five important employee factors have helped improve workplace engagement that other fretful executives can, too, implement.

1. Belonging

Leaders can distinguish an engaged employee if they feel integrated with their colleagues and feel confident their job is an important part of the whole. An employee who feels significant in their workplace’s community and has an emotional connection to their organization will be more engaged at work.

2. Enjoyment

Creating a positive work environment, including stimulating and fun ways for employees to interact, will greatly impact employee engagement. Employees spend most of their time in the workplace with their colleagues, in comparison to the time they spend outside with the people and things they love. The workplace culture needs to reflect a place where people can work successfully and happily through the end of the work day, rather than counting the minutes until it ends.

3. Accomplishment

A productive employee is an engaged employee. As simple as it sounds, it is important for leaders to acknowledge their teams and their efforts which benefit a greater mission or purpose at work. Employees that feel successful will continue to seek out more ways to accomplish tasks within their job roles and the ones they aim for in the future.

4. RecognitionBusiness Finish Line

Another key component to employee engagement is employee recognition. Employees want managers to take notice of their accomplishments that provide value to the organization and its community, and ultimately want to be incentivized to keep striving for better. Leaders who fail to layer in systems for acknowledging growth and success do both their companies and employees a disservice, with sinking morale on their horizons.

5. Advancement

Offering multiple opportunities for employees to build their portfolio of skills should be a priority for leaders looking to increase engagement. Talented employees don’t want to stagnate professionally – they want to develop their skills, advance, and thrive throughout their careers.

While these five employee factors may not seem new, they can definitely become overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the everyday working environment. Maintaining high engagement in today’s workplace is essential for leaders now more than ever, as demonstrated by the numbers. Even though the job market continues to improve, restless employees usually decide to move on rather than remain at a job that doesn’t stimulate them. Making employee engagement a priority within your workplace not only advances the health of your professional teams, but also the health of your bottom line and future business.