Tag Archives: culture

Let’s talk talent … people matter!

2016.03.01_talent analytics
I believe the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can be very often traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.”
— Thomas J. Watson, Jr.
A Business and its Beliefs (1963)

It’s hard to imagine that the son of former IBM Chairman and CEO, Thomas J. Watson Sr., published this insight over 50 years ago now, and yet, to this day, effective talent management is a process that alludes far too many organizations around the world. Too often organizations assume they have a handle on their talent pipeline. They rely on gut-feel to identify the leaders of tomorrow, or worse, they rely on tenure and seniority with the assumption that technical proficiency, or longevity within the organization, will translate into success in a leadership role down the line.

But, of course, it doesn’t work that way – as far too many companies have learned the hard way.

Data matters! The concept of applying metrics and data to “people” might seem cold and contradictory, but the reality is it works. Data-driven talent management systems can and do improve the robustness and health of the talent pipeline and, in turn, enhance organizational performance.

As the Forbes article below points out, however, the organization must have a culture that supports the use of data in order for talent management initiatives to be truly successful. The author also provides a great overview of the history of data analytics (it’s not a new tool by any means), as well as his views on why it is important, and where he sees it going from here.

Read more here

If you aren’t using data to measure your talent, or aren’t doing so effectively, I would welcome the chance to talk to you about how our approach to talent management enhances your ability to identify, as well as foster and enhance, the performance of your organizational talent.

do you know what the future holds?

Neither do we – but we do have some thoughts about three emerging trends you would be wise to keep an eye on as we enter 2016.

1. The gap between the truly great, the merely good and the boringly average will widen further.

Differences in the level of both organizational and individual ambition, competence and capability will become even more pronounced. This will make it impossible for the unprepared and the complacent to just hang on. Simple survival won’t cut it. The ramifications will be obvious, the consequences predictable and the costs inevitable.

2. The leadership talent you will need to remain relevant in the future will become even harder to locate and attract.

The very best organizations will quickly come to appreciate that the mindsets, skill sets and competencies of the future are very different from those of the past. Retooling leadership, at all levels, will not be an option – it will be a necessity. Sadly, far too many organizations will ignore the signals and fall victim to the natural consequences of the talent scarcity gap.

3. Organizational culture will matter more to your success than ever before.

Dysfunctional cultures punish the guilty by placing a harsh, hidden “tax” on organizational performance. The cost of that “tax” will go up even further in 2016. To boost overall effectiveness, you must lower the tax rate. You do that by creating a culture which boosts the level of discretionary investment by your people by removing the man-made barriers to collaboration, innovation and accountability.

The new year will bring new challenges – it always does. It will generously layer them on top of those you are already facing. Some will find that burden too overwhelming, but others will be wise enough to get ahead of the curve. They will adjust to the signals the future is already sending our way.

It is a choice. There are solid options and better alternatives.

Are you set?

CEOS with daughters run more socially responsibly firms

As a father of 3 daughters (I know, I know… and 3 sons!), this HBR article caught my eye, partially for business reasons, but even more so because it piqued my personal interest. Could it actually be true, as the title states, that the gender of our children impacts us as business people and as CEOS? The answer appears to be a resounding yes.
The article reports on interviews with researchers from the University of Miami and CEIBS, who analyzed information on the offspring of S&P 500 Company CEOs, and the differences between those companies in terms of social responsibility ratings and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) investments. The researchers found that firms led by a CEO with at least one daughter, scored an average of 11.9% higher on CSR metrics, and spent 13.4% more of their net income on CSR than the median, thus indicating a definite correlation between executives having female children and increased investment in socially responsible activities.
As with any finding, this conclusion led to other questions such as; is the impact different on female CEOS than male? (Short answer: being a woman has a far greater impact, in and of itself, than just having a daughter) and, does having a son impact different business factors? (Short answer: an interesting question for additional research). The researchers also answer questions regarding the impact of the daughters’ ages, whether having multiple daughters magnifies the effect, and whether wives and sisters have any impact at all, as well as cultural differences.
As CEOS and business people, we like to view ourselves as objective creatures who make decisions based squarely on impartiality and logic. I found this article to be a valuable reminder of how (often for good) all of our decisions are unconsciously shaped by our personal experiences and life circumstances. This certainly doesn’t make us irresponsible leaders or decision makers. It makes us human.

read here

thoughts on thinking

I’ve been thinking a fair amount about thinking lately. How much time do I spend doing it? How much time do other people spend doing it? How much of a given day, week, or month should be dedicated to the simple process of reflection and/or thought?

In an era of pushing productivity to the limit, where more is better, and engaging in a constant state of being “over busy” seems to be valued above all else, thinking may be deemed to be a rather unproductive activity … but is it? The assumption is that you need to have a tangible output in order to be productive, as if producing thoughts or ideas isn’t as valuable as producing widgets. On the other hand, we can obviously all recognize the tremendous value of that great idea that allows you to double the number of widgets you produce, or cut in half the amount of time it takes to produce them. So why the ambivalence over setting aside time to think?

In reality, any good leader, anyone in charge of organizational strategy, or anyone responsible for any kind of business development or growth must learn to value and make time for reflection and thought on a regular basis. If they don’t, they might be in trouble when competitors move forward and their business is left behind, or when they miss out on that big opportunity because they were too busy being busy to see it come up. Execution of an effective strategy may indeed be the key to organizational success, but without reflection and thought, how do leaders create strategy? Furthermore, how do they continually reassess to ensure that the strategy remains effective as the external environment continually shifts and changes?

In the following HBR article, Freek Vermeulen, an Associate Professor of Strategy at the London Business School, cites a number of the most successful business leaders of our time who have understood and promoted the value of thought and taking time to think. He then tackles the five strategic questions he believes you should be using your “think time” to answer on a regular basis. In his own words “strategy, by definition, is about making complex decisions under uncertainty, with substantive, long-term consequences. Therefore, it requires substantial periods of careful, undisturbed reflection and consideration. Don’t just accept the situation and business constellation you have arrived at. Leadership is not just about doing things, it is also about thinking. Make time for it.”

read here

the secret to reducing employee productivity

Have you ever seen a child put their hands over both ears and say “blah blah blah” while someone else is speaking so as not to hear them? Have you ever seen a CEO doing the exact same thing, minus the hands on the ears and the “blah blah blah”?

You know what I’m talking about – right? The team member is allowed, perhaps even encouraged, to speak. No one interrupts them. Perhaps there is a small delay to ensure they are finished making their point. And then the CEO / Manager / Team Leader politely thanks them for their contribution, but disagrees, goes back to what they were originally saying, or possibly even takes the conversation in a different direction completely.

When this type of behaviour becomes part of the culture, employees simply stop disagreeing or speaking up, because they have come to feel it is pointless.

The following article brilliantly taps into a couple of the fastest and most effective routes to ensuring employee unproductivity:

1. Having employees that nod and agree with everything you say may feel like “alignment” but, in reality, mandating an “all on the same page” culture, at best stifles autonomous thinking, creativity, innovation and, at worst, sets you up for avoidable mistakes to be made, because employees know that pointing out drawbacks and risks will fall on deaf ears.

2. You may feel, as a leader, that having rigid, well-defined policies will result in a “tidy, well-functioning, and highly productive organization”, however, when the policies you impose on employees are too strict and inflexible, human nature is to retaliate by holding you accountable to the same strict “rule” adherence. For example, don’t expect your unwillingness to allow employees the discretion to leave before 5 “as required”, to be rewarded by having employees who are willing to work past 5 on other days “as required”. At best, this kind of rigidity results in employees who are unwilling to go over and above for you and, at worst, it sets you up for a culture where skirting the rules and lying becomes a common practice to bypass the stifling inflexibility of regulations.
This is not to say that organizations can or should be run without rules, or that every employee idea can or should be incorporated. But, by finding a way to truly value individuals and their contribution to the organization, as well as acknowledging their needs for autonomy and flexibility, according to this author at least, you will have the opportunity to tap into the “90% of each person that is what can make him or her a great employee, partner, team member: the initiative, the questions, the passion, the concerns, the hope, all the quirkiness and joy and excellence that people will bring to their work if you invite them to do so”.
read here



In the days leading up to their 20th Anniversary extravaganza sale, “Prime Day”, Amazon hyped an event that they declared would have “more deals than Black Friday”. They teased about major savings on electronics, home appliances and baby products. By all accounts this event would be huge!

Just hours into the sale, however, Prime Day was being widely condemned by consumers. By midday the hashtag #PrimeDayFail was trending on Twitter and the sale offerings, which included such items as a 55 gallon tub of water-based lubricant and 5-pack of brass knuckles, were being mocked across various media platforms.

So how did Amazon respond to their public flogging, given the age-old mantra “the customer is always right”? Well, apparently, the customer was not right in Amazon’s eyes and, in a surprisingly defensive move, the online giant began to publically counter consumer sentiments throughout the event, declaring it to be a runaway success before the sale was even close to being over.

So what really happened?!?!

Well, understandably, Amazon was reporting vastly greater sales than a regular July week day, but that’s hardly impressive. They also declared more units sold than Black Friday, which again makes sense if customers were right and all that was available were lots of random small items, rather than the promised and promoted big-ticket electronics and home appliances. So let’s be realistic. I’m sure that Amazon did make gobs of money during their inaugural Prime Day Sale, however, their attitude towards customer satisfaction left a sour taste in many mouths, including mine, which is something they might want to reconsider prior to marketing their next big celebratory sale.
read it here

a few words on the passing of Satoru Iwata

2015.07.16_a few words on the passing of Satoru Iwata

Many of us come into this world with the luxury of choice. In a sense, we control our own destinies, or at least a good portion of us actively try to, by choosing our investments in education, the jobs we take, the places we live, the people we include (or exclude) from our lives, how we spend our time and resources. We consume and acquire each day, steered by the numerous personal and professional decisions we make.

One choice that alludes us, however – no matter how rich or famous we are, or how important we are to the world, or how much more we still have to offer – is how and when our life might end. Steve jobs could have told you this. And Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo, who just passed away at 55 years old, could have told you this. Cancer doesn’t care if you are a CEO. It doesn’t care if you are 40 years too young to die, or even 80 for that matter. It doesn’t care if you are an innovator, a blue ocean thinker, a transformational leader, or a good human being, and by all accounts, Mr. Iwata was all of the above.

“There are CEOs who make a difference to the lives of the people – Satoru Iwata was one of the few who did” tweeted Min-Liang Tan, the CEO of Razer Inc. This sentiment is reflected and repeated in numerous articles, tweets, and commentaries that allude to Iwata’s legacy as being not only his contribution to the success of Nintendo, but also to his character as a leader, his humility and dedication, his sense of humour, and the connections he made with both customers and employees.

I’ve included just a handful of these messages below and, as you read them, I encourage you to take a moment to consider what your legacy as a leader might be? What might be written about your character, your commitment, or your connections to customers and employees? What changes might you want to make in order to be remembered as a truly great leader?

read here

you’re never too old for fairy tales

Castle, Spain --- Image by © Reed Kaestner/Corbis

Castle, Spain — Image by © Reed Kaestner/Corbis

INSEAD is a serious institution of higher education and I often enjoy the serious and scholarly articles they share through INSEAD Knowledge. So, it was quite unexpected to find an article on fairy tales by INSEAD professor Manfred Kets de Vries.
Kets de Vries has actually written a book entitled “Telling Fairy Tales in the Boardroom: How to Make Sure Your Organisation Lives Happily Ever After” in which he forewarns executives “of the dangers they will encounter on their various quests and the fundamental issues they will confront associated with the leadership mystique”. He presents these as the five “deadly dangers” and I have listed them very briefly below:

 First danger – lack of self-knowledge
 Second danger – hubris
 Third danger – a leader’s inability to get the best out of people
 Fourth danger – a leader’s inability to create well-functioning teams
 Fifth danger – the creation of an organisational gulag

Each one of these “dangers” is worthy of serious consideration, and together they form an absolutely excellent self-reflection checklist for all leaders. It might be well worth your while to get some juice and a cookie, and tuck into this story.

To check out the article click here

rethinking brainstorming

Business people drawing plan during meeting --- Image by © Blue Images/Corbis

Business people drawing plan during meeting — Image by © Blue Images/Corbis

As a paid facilitator, it might seem risky to openly admit to the pitfalls of group brainstorming. The reality is, however, that overused and improperly executed, brainstorming sessions can be a waste of time for everyone involved. Akin to their close cousin, the improperly focused or overly frequent staff meeting, where participants dread attendance and walk away feeling stripped of productive work time, group brainstorming sessions, which have long been lauded as a linchpin of the creative process, do have some real and well-documented drawbacks. These drawbacks are, unfortunately, too often ignored in order to protect the “feel good” communal nature of the process of collaboration and working together.

In a post a few weeks ago, I mentioned Susan Cain and the TED Talk in which she spoke about creativity and independent thought. The following HBR article furthers her points, making the argument that group brainstorming has been adopted as the gold standard for creativity, with no real empirical evidence to support it, and plenty of evidence highlighting its drawbacks. Social loafing, social anxiety, regression to the mean, and production blocking, are the four main explanations provided in this article for why brainstorming isn’t always the best approach, all of the time.

So, is the message that we should stop all brainstorming, suspend all meetings, and remain isolated in our offices from 9 to 5 producing independent work? Not at all. But, being aware of the potential drawbacks of group brainstorming, as well as having an understanding of the value of independent creativity and thought, can only help to ensure that the collaboration we do engage in is effective, rather than counterproductive, for both our organizations and our teams.

read the full article here

why culture and leadership matter for disruptive innovation

Global Communications

I came across a short, but very interesting article on smartblogs.com entitled “Why culture and leadership matter for disruptive innovation”, written by James daSilva. It begins with some slightly radical, but excellent advice – daSilva suggests you should bring in “troublemakers and tinkerers”.


When talking to leaders about transformational change in their organizations, or any movement in new directions for that matter, I tell them they have to get comfortable with the concept of creative tension. I encourage them to seek out and embrace people with starkly different views, the deviants as it were, and really fan the sparks of new and creative thinking.

It all reminds me of a book I enjoyed years ago entitled “The Corporate Fool”. The author, David Firth, tells you up front that “one of the premises of this book is that sanity is tremendously limiting”. He proposes that the Fool is the perfect role model for the paradoxical and crazy thinking that is needed, and for being the person who is not afraid to speak up. Might this be the troublemaker or the tinkerer or even the deviant by another name?

click here to check out the blog