With the pandemic altering the fundamental structure of work, many employers have been wading through several stages of grief as they realize there is no “returning to normal” and remote/hybrid working models are here to stay. As we venture into a new year – three years after the pandemic began – employers appear to be entering the final stage of grief: acceptance. And this ‘acceptance’ can help organizations thrive with the introducing of a Chief Remote Officer (CRO).

According to the State of Remote Work Report 2022, 60% of employers in the US require staff to work remotely or in a hybrid capacity.  Now is the time for employers to embed remote work into their foundations and use it as an organizational tool. Employers who are intentional about remote working strategies will be able to build, innovate, and leverage their benefits, and this means clearly establishing how remote work will fit into your company and its culture.

This is where a CRO proves incredibly valuable; having an executive leader dedicated to optimizing remote and hybrid workers ensures a business can create and accelerate opportunity. The CRO finds ways of leveraging remote work in a healthy, productive, and profitable way for employers and employees alike.

They also design policies and programs that remove an individual’s work location as a critical factor for success. With McKinsey finding over 90 million American workers now working remotely or in a hybrid setting, the need for a specialized executive to coordinate and care for this aspect of work has become even more necessary.

Many more responsibilities fall under a CRO – establishing the most effective communication protocols, exchanging and gaining access to shared data, maintaining the organization’s culture, and repurposing the workplace to meet today’s business and workforce needs. Expanding the C-suite to include this new role reflects how many companies’ dynamics have evolved since COVID. Employee needs have changed – people value their time, recognize its importance, and are largely in favor of a remote working lifestyle.

Establishing a role like the CRO allows an organization to move away from being constantly reactive to remote and hybrid work. It is a proactive approach to meeting today’s business and workforce needs. Now is the time to begin looking at how you can best leverage this organizational tool – whether that be from an economic perspective, a people strategy perspective, or to further your environmental, social, and governance agenda. To discuss this topic further, please get in touch with me at amanda@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

by Gary Payne, Robert Satterwhite, and Ann Wheeler

How do you motivate a middle manager?

Middle managers need to be sold on the culture and vision of your organization. When your middle managers are going to model organizational behaviors and values, it’s critical to win over their hearts and minds, and keep them motivated. 

To do so, your company should:

Provide purpose

People are motivated by purpose, particularly the younger generation. In a 2021 Deloitte survey, out of 8,273 Gen Z respondents, 49% said they chose their careers and employment based on their personal ethics.

Motivation is not solely about career advancement; people want to feel like they are adding value, meaning, and purpose within the company and beyond. They want to feel proud of their work.

Your company communications, both internal and external, need to be consistent and highlight the impact your organization is making.

Identify individual drives and goals

Motivation is different for each individual.

Some might be driven by a promotion, while others want to avoid boredom; they fear growing stale in their career. They want to be innovators as opposed to overseers. 

Take opportunities during scheduled check-ins, quarterly assessments, and year-end reviews to ask your middle managers about the vision for their careers and how that vision fits within both their current roles and potential future roles.

Whether they are striving for career advancement, or they want to expand their skillset, help them define what drives their passions and their individual goals, so your organization can create opportunities and projects to keep them interested and engaged in their work.

Develop multiple mentor relationships

Many organizations see the value in dedicated mentorship programs, but it’s important to remember that people can have many mentors who will help them with various aspects of their career.

Encourage your middle managers to establish and build different relationships and get multiple sources of input.

How do you progress your middle management?

Helping middle managers progress their career path involves three key factors:

Early identification

As you are working with middle management and attempting to identify those who could grow into even greater leadership roles, it’s important to establish your criteria and competency model.

A common challenge for organizations is identifying leadership potential early enough in an individual’s career path. Often by the time they have been identified, it’s too late to ensure they get enough diverse experience to fulfill those leadership qualifications.

Thorough assessment

Assessment still needs to be viewed as an internal employee investment. The hiring rigor of qualifications needs to be applied equally to all promotions. If you want to retain the majority of your employees, it goes without saying that you need to treat people fairly and consistently.

When you are assessing internal employees for a role, make sure to communicate that you are using the exact same standards as you would for external employees. Give every internal candidate feedback throughout the process, especially if they aren’t chosen for the position.

Use the assessment process as an additional development tool, so you can build upon that feedback and provide the resources or a coach to help your internal hire candidates continue to develop.

Continued training and leadership development

When internal hires are promoted, they are already embedded within the organization’s DNA. There tends to be an expectation they will hit the ground running when you might give more leeway to an external hire. But as we noted earlier, that can be a weird mirage of success; it becomes very easy to fail under the burden of presupposed expectations. What made an internal hire successful in their previous role will be different from the KPIs of their new role.

Give your internal hires the same grace period you would extend to external hires:

  • Provide formal onboarding. A deliberate onboarding process formalizes the need for new behaviors; too often, it’s perceived as training that’s only necessary for external hires. Remember your internal hires need it as well.
  • Undergo the exercise of stakeholder mapping, so they understand their potential impact and influence. Don’t assume they will already know based off their previous position.
  • Conduct a formal listening tour, even if they are already familiar with stakeholders and staff. This gives everyone a chance to get to know them in their new position and allows more freedom to ask questions and collect data.
  • Check on their calendar. Make sure they have set up regular meetings with peers and quarterly meetings with stakeholders.
  • Ask what they need and what leadership could be doing better.

Leadership also has to ensure the proper amount of focus is being put on strategic change and initiatives. If you want to create a coaching culture where there’s mutual team accountability, you need to create processes to support that philosophy.

Next Steps

Below are some questions to consider as you reexamine your current leadership development program:

Early Identification of Leaders

  • Do you know what “good” looks like at your organization?
  • Do you have a clear idea of what your leadership pipeline looks like?
  • Have you communicated that back to your managers so they can reflect on feedback?
  • Are you looking at how results are achieved and paying attention to cross-functional aspects of the role?
  • How do managers treat not only their own, but other teams, sections, and divisions within the organization?

Assessing Their Success

  • Are your middle managers as dedicated to positive reinforcement as they are to constructive feedback?
  • Are they instituting an internal coaching culture?
  • How do your middle managers show up in team meetings? Do they speak 80% of the time, when they should be speaking 10%?

Development & Progress

  • Are you utilizing talent mapping to forecast hiring needs?
  • Have you defined clear paths to career development and growth?
  • Do the company’s growth goals support all employees?
  • How are you creating opportunities for current employees who didn’t receive a promotion?
  • Are you providing formal onboarding processes for internal hires?
  • Should you use onboarding coaches to enhance and build employee capabilities as they move into new positions?
  • Are you emphasizing the importance of strategic initiatives and creating time and space for your leaders to focus on those goals?

At the end of the day, retaining your employees through leadership development is good risk management. You want to develop a deep bench of leaders that your organization can use to propel its growth and ultimately plot its succession plan. If you have any questions about retaining and promoting middle management or leadership development, please do not hesitate to reach out to us here.  

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

by Gary Payne, Robert Satterwhite, and Ann Wheeler

Employee retention is a hot topic for 2023.

As economic instability continues, organizations will need to lean on leaders across all levels to maintain stability, profitability, and institutional knowledge.

In a Fall 2022 report from Slack’s Future Forum, 10,677 survey respondents from the global workforce reported an increase in burnout; it rose 8% from May to August 2022. Among US workers, the numbers were quite drastic – burnout rose to 47%.

Two of every five US respondents said they were burnt out, and the highest number of those respondents were middle managers.

These numbers should provide a wake-up call because, as you will see below, middle managers play a vital role in any organization.

Why is it important to develop and retain middle managers?

Middle managers are your connecting leaders.

They often serve as:

  • Liaisons between supervised employees and leadership overseeing the flow of ideas, strategy, and progress within and across an organization
  • Change agents who drive employee initiatives and build organizational culture
  • Team builders also heavily involved in the hiring process
  • Keepers of detail-oriented, institutional knowledge

Middle managers know what motivates their team. They help people answer, “Why do I matter to the company?” and help them see how their role fits within the overall vision.

A very savvy manager is the one who knows your employees best and has the most impact over their experience with the company. You often hear the saying, “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers,” but the inverse is also true. When a strong middle manager leaves an organization, some of their direct employees tend to follow, and your talent losses increase even further.

Why is middle management so stressful?

Middle management often operates on the front lines of organizational change, which demands a taxing balance of rigor and flexibility. They are the ones who are tasked with handling more of the honest, direct conversations that happen in work environments.

For example, during COVID-19, middle managers were responsible for helping others adjust to remote work environments. And when companies chose to institute return-to-office policies, it was middle managers who had to work through the details of employees’ schedules.

In a recent survey conducted by Odgers Berndtson US, out of the 606 survey respondents, 41% wanted to retain the option of a hybrid work environment as opposed to fully remote work or in-office. Imagine you are a middle manager who knows hybrid work is popular among employees, but leadership has decided it wants everyone in-office full time, and now you must deliver the news.

Middle managers are the ones who implement policies, even if those policies are unpopular with employees, while they continue to remain the primary motivators for their teams.

To add an additional level of pressure, while middle managers are often the ones you call upon during a crisis, they still have to think about new strategic initiatives and big picture perspectives—even if there’s not enough time to do so.

Lack of leadership development

Internal hires often seem like a no-brainer. Your organization retains that employee’s loyalty and commitment and the knowledge about systems, process, and customers that is important to success. You have rewarded your employee and shown the rest of the company potential career paths; if people work hard and meet expectations, you will provide possibilities.

And yet, so often, internal hires who take on new roles struggle with the responsibilities then leave.

Individual contributors, particularly at the middle management level, will excel and get promoted, but their targeted skillset still remains that of an individual contributor. They need to learn to move away from the trigger response of a “fix it” mindset and learn how to delegate and promote team accountability. However, they are often not provided with the development and training they need.

When middle managers are promoted without training, they are being set up to fail, at which point your organization loses both the leadership role and the individual contributor skills you initially valued.

What makes a middle level manager successful?

Some important skills for successful middle managers are:

Resolve conflict

A middle manager needs to handle, address, and transform conflict.

They can take a conflict and translate it into a productive discussion about individual and team growth.

It’s important to note how middle managers set the tone for these types of conversations. If they remain calm and present the ideas as part of a development discussion, then the feedback generally will be received in the same way.

Embody organizational values and reinforce positive behaviors

Middle managers must possess a deep understanding of your organization’s values and choose to embody behaviors clearly linked to those values. A leader who can translate values into expected behaviors helps develop and build your organization’s culture.

Middle managers oversee the behaviors that get rewarded, so it’s important they are able to reinforce those behaviors both with their own actions and among their teams.

Agility and coaching skills

The art and science of putting together an effective team is complex. Middle managers must develop alternative options, understand, and meet metrics, and even identify new key performance indicators (KPIs) as teams change and grow.

Leadership agility is key to middle manager success.

A huge part of that flexibility is knowing how to coach and develop the team’s capabilities to bring out the best attributes and efficiency.

Keep in mind, there’s a big difference between mentors and coaches. Mentors do a lot of talking and teaching; they relay their own experiences and make suggestions. Coaching is about listening and asking questions.

In the second part of our piece, we will be discussing how employers can help motivate middle managers and grow their skills. In the meantime, if you have any burning questions, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

In discussing the current diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) agenda with thought leaders from the US and the UK, we have gained valuable insights into the way global events are shaping DEI strategy and practice in organizations.

A challenge raised in both conversations is that the scope of DEI has undeniably widened, primarily due to the massive societal strides that have been taken over the past few decades. Now, for example, financial wellbeing, mental health, and organizational culture all fall to DEI, as well as the recruitment and onboarding of people from an ever-widening mix of diversity dimensions.

This was the main subject of the discussion with our two UK DEI specialists – Sue Johnson and Therese Procter. They pointed out that failing to provide additional resources to deliver against this expanding portfolio risks the impact of DEI initiatives becoming diluted. To mitigate against this, companies need to consider employing a DEI specialist at board-level.

This aligns with Marty Belle and Conrad Woody’s conversation – which looks at DEI from a US perspective – in which they highlighted that inclusion starts with senior leaders acting as authentic role models for the required workplace behaviors.

A senior leadership team and board of directors that understand what inclusive behavior looks like will make inclusive decisions. And the best way of ensuring that the DEI dividend these decisions can bring is achieved, is by having a dedicated, senior DEI leader who can ensure inclusion remains at the top of the organization’s agenda.

With a diverse workforce comes diverse thinking, and this broader spectrum of perspectives will help when examining problems, as well as bring new ideas to the table. This can give you an advantage as an employer, as it means that the products and services you offer will more likely be accessible to a wider breadth of different types of people.

Part 1 of our series offered a solution to the widening scope of DEI for employers, and Part 2 highlighted why focusing on DEI can be beneficial for a company – both ethically and financially.

What these conversations have highlighted to us is that despite having an ocean between them, UK and US employers both recognise the importance of having an effective DEI strategy – and the performance dividend it can deliver. And by understanding their shared perspectives, we can help all organizations in implementing these strategies more effectively. So, if you are a business who would like to harness the power of DEI in your workplace, get in contact with us here.  

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

To gain insight on the role Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) currently plays for US employers, we spoke with Conrad Woody, Managing Partner of Odgers Berndston’s Washington Office, and Marty Belle, Partner at OrgShakers.

I would say in the US, the topic has always been more performative than really heartfelt,” Marty reflected. “For the majority of employers, it’s all about the bottom line… and if you’re not totally convinced that having a diverse and inclusive workplace drives profitability for you, you won’t focus on it.”

Conrad built on this, highlighting the fact that some employers are simply hiring people who look and act like their best workers because they believe this will ensure that their recruiting standards are always being met. “There is a commitment to conventional wisdom, because it’s easy to do – staying within your comfort zone is always easy!

It is a tough mindset to crack, but it is one that Conrad and his team take every opportunity to challenge. “What we’ve been doing in our practice is using radical honesty and authenticity to help clients understand and open up the aperture to be more inclusive in the recruiting process. And we’re also advising them on how to ensure that the environment that people arrive in is consistent with the reality they are trying to create.”

Meanwhile, for those companies that are trying to be diverse, Marty pointed out that there is another mindset ‘trap’ to be avoided: “Organizations tend to choose where they feel more comfortable ‘being different’.” In other words, they become comfortable hiring individuals from one or two underrepresented groups yet fail to achieve a broader mix of diversity dimensions.

On the other hand, Conrad pointed out, “there is also this sort of ‘everybody’s diverse’ thing that’s happening.”

I would agree, everyone is now in that conversation, because we are all unique, so that makes us diverse,” Marty offered, “But if you want to peel it back and say, 'Well, where do I get my biggest innovation and creativity?', then I would tell you that there are aspects of diversity that make the biggest difference. And that would be ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, marital status, physical ability, socio-economic status, religion, mental ability…to really drive the whole spectrum, you have to have those, what we might tend to call underrepresented groups or protected groups, in there. Otherwise, you're not going to bring as much innovation to a complex problem as you could get with all of those broader elements.”

Diversity by itself doesn’t drive you to greater productivity,” Marty continued, “but diversity with inclusion does. And this means figuring out how to get that mix of people’s best thinking incorporated into solving a customer problem.”

And Conrad believed that figuring this out “really starts with our behavior as partners to our clients. If the Partners in our own firm don’t demonstrate inclusive behaviors, how can we authentically advise our clients on it?

To truly unlock the power that diversity and inclusion can offer your company”, Conrad continued, “you have to realize that it’s about how people with those identities see you and value you, and that you make the time to go and get to know these people, because then they’ll trust you to have their best interests at heart.”         

As well as this moral imperative, there is also the reality that millennial and Gen Z employees will no longer entertain non-inclusive companies, and so investors are quickly becoming more passionate about the social issues that organizations are pursuing. In this sense, there is a strong business case alongside the moral one to really make your culture a welcoming and inclusive one. So how do employers begin to close this gap and unlock the power of inclusion their business?

I might say just have the conversation,” Marty concluded, “and be okay that you don’t understand the topic. Be willing to see what you can learn and be vulnerable.”

Conrad agreed, “getting comfortable with uncomfortable conversations is a huge step towards bridging into inclusive territory – knowing when to admit that you do not know everything simply opens up the opportunity for you to gain more knowledge and wisdom, and this is never wasted.”               

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Recently, Sue Johnson, Managing Partner for Inclusion & Diversity Consulting at Odgers Berndston, and OrgShakers’ Partner Therese Procter met to discuss the vital role diversity and inclusion (D&I) plays in helping UK workers navigate through challenging times.

I think there’s a growing unrest at work that’s just bubbling under the surface,” Therese began, going on to highlight how workers are facing both a cost-of-living crisis and the need to adapt to changing ways of working after the pandemic. And while this has brought financial and mental wellness to the top of the overall leadership agenda, responsibility for addressing these complex needs is typically falling to the individual in an organisation that leads D&I strategies.

This continues a longstanding trend in D&I – scope creep – with a growing number of People issues being added to the discipline’s remit in many organisations, including workplace culture, human rights, supply chain governance, and community engagement.

On the one hand this is a positive development, as organisations become increasingly responsive to their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. The challenge, however, is that the growing demands on D&I specialists are not being matched with the required resources.

What you’re seeing is the job being expanded…the agenda is getting broader and broader,” Sue points out. However, the person who is responsible for responding to these D&I issues “are mostly reporting at a lower level… and to really make a change you have got to be able to have a seat at the executive table”.

Also critical is that today’s D&I specialists have the right blend of D&I expertise and wider organisational experience i.e.: they understand how the business ‘ticks’. Sue reflected that all too often in the past the people appointed to D&I roles had either “limited subject matter expertise but huge business experience … or came from HR with the subject matter expertise but lacked the wider business expertise required”.

Therese added that this is why “we are at a point in time where businesses need to reflect on current issues – and reset”. A D&I ‘reset’ that requires the appointment of individuals who, as well as having subject matter expertise and organisational know how, can also make things happen at pace and scale.

You have to have such high emotional intelligence,” Sue agreed. “You need to be a good influencer, you need to be able to write strategy, and you need to be skilled in change management.

And the insights, the awareness, the training, the support, the helplines – the whole infrastructure has to be taken seriously,” Therese added. “That starts with the Board. If it’s not taken seriously and led from the top – and by the top – it will never get traction in the organisation.

If the scope of the job is broadening, Sue and Therese concluded, then its importance increases by tenfold. And this means having an in-depth and contemporary understanding of all the corners of D&I, knowing how to respond and support employees accordingly – and then being able to win the support of senior leaders and stakeholders.

And aside from an employer’s moral obligation, there is clear financial gain from appointing a D&I specialist with this rare blend of skills. A workplace that is diverse and inclusive garners a higher revenue growth, has a greater readiness to innovate, and gains access to a wider talent pool. Research conducted by Great Place to Work also found that those who believed they would be treated fairly and included were 5.4 times more likely to want to remain at their company.

Adapting to this new normal when it comes to post-pandemic work has seen many new opportunities and challenges emerge in the working world, which is why it is more important than ever to be applying a central focus to your approach to D&I.

To discuss the ways in which the expanding D&I landscape is impacting your organisation, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

To help mitigate the risks of executive derailment in the early stages of executive integration, there are four strategies we recommend.

1. PLAN YOUR LANDING

You would not send a spaceship to Mars without carefully surveying the landing zone and deciding how and where you will enter the planet’s atmosphere. Likewise, before taking on a new role, a new executive should spend their precious upfront time observing and gathering as much data as possible about the business and its people. This data collection should start early during the recruitment and selection process.

Here are some tips to accomplish this:

• Do your Homework: Seek out what you can about the organization’s performance, future ambition, and strategic plans. But, more importantly, try to find out what competitors are saying and prepare a list of questions about how the strategy and values are reflected in everyday decisions.

• Connect the Dots: Talk to current and former employees to find out what has made people successful. Ask the CHRO or HR business partner to share the organization’s talent and succession plans.

• Decode the Culture: Ask for the latest employee engagement survey and dig into the key drivers of organization culture:

a. What language are people using to describe the organization’s culture, accomplishments, and business challenges;

b. What behaviors are tolerated, encouraged, or rewarded; and

c. What processes does the organization value above others (these might become part of your early wins or biggest source of frustration).

2. BE PROACTIVE IN BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

However well-suited you might be for the role you have stepped into, be prepared for the ambiguity that comes with a new mandate and untested relationships.

Building these critical relationships does not just happen accidentally – every new executive needs a plan to identify their stakeholders across the organization, in particular the less obvious ones whose names may not stick out but whose opinion is often sought-after by those in charge.

Over-investing in relationships involves a disciplined approach:

Rehearse your story and how you want to introduce yourself, why you are here and what you are hoping to learn in these initial interactions – how you first show up will make a lasting impression

Keep track of any promises you make, information you are missing, and your observations about each person you meet

Write a fundamental question that shows you mean business. General McChrystal, the former commander of allied forces in Iraq, asked soldiers the same question: “If you couldn’t go home until this war is won, what should we do differently?”

3. DON’T WAIT FOR DIRECTION

Most executives are brought into new roles to create meaningful change. And, usually, they are greeted by a mountain of problems – some in the open and others hidden from view – that they need to tackle. Deciding which to tackle first and making a visible impact on the business is a critical early test of executive integration.

That test is doubly difficult for executives who have been promoted from an operational role and are eager to create a “to do” list rather than take in the big picture. Here, the trickiest part is giving up the temptation to work harder on operational challenges – something VPs are often good at doing – and learning to slow down.

As such, it’s not always wise to play the passive observer for the first 100 days or wait six months before laying out a change plan and making changes.

Susan Doniz, who took on the CIO role at Boeing during the Covid pandemic, has a practical roadmap for new executives: “In the first 30 days, develop your relationships and form a hypothesis. After 30 days, pick the lowest hanging fruit and fix it – fast.” She feels that the window to add value to the organization, executive team and the CEO begins to close after the first 60 days.

4. MAKE YOUR TEAM YOUR TEAM

The number one regret voiced by most executives is that they wish they acted more quickly to make changes to their team.

Making tough people decisions comes with the territory of taking on a new executive role. One CFO we interviewed acknowledged that “letting people go isn’t an easy thing to do,” and pushed off making a call on a few key individuals. “I let it linger, and it had a negative impact on my first year’s performance,” he reflected.

Most new executives need to set a hard one-year limit on getting their team in place. This removes doubt among their team and with their stakeholders. This also avoids the “drip down” effect of making waves of changes, which can create paranoia.

Tips to accelerate your people decisions as a new executive include:

Quickly sense who is “on the bus” and who is not – trust your instincts

Ask for stakeholder and peer input, and insist on candor

Do not aim for perfection in the first 60 - 100 days – seek to improve what you have

Give yourself a target date for when to have your team in place

Making it through the critical first year of an executive transition requires grit, leadership savvy and the ability to forget what made you successful in the past.

Making a successful transition requires taking a hard look at the leader you are, and the capabilities you need to develop to expand your leadership and succeed in your new role. Transitions can be a test of resilience, especially when you are promoted internally.

If you need coaching and guidance on how to make that transitional change into an executive role, get in touch with our team here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Shortly after starting a new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) role, preceded by an impeccable 20-year career in finance, Peter was gone. What happened?

Joining a new organization is like careening down a highway while still figuring out how the steering works. While scrambling to locate cruise control, you can suddenly find yourself driving on the opposite side of the road, making a wrong turn, or ending up in a ditch. In this two-part article, Dr. Tracy Cocivera, Eric Beaudan, and Gary Payne explore how to overcome the challenges of executive integration.

According to McKinsey and Company, between 27% and 46% of newly placed executives are seen as a failure or a disappointment within two years of joining an organization.

As you transition into a new executive role, you can learn from Peter’s failure through strategic planning, building relationships, proactive decision-making, and understanding the value in your team.

Peter was the CFO of a $1 billion technology firm with operations across three continents, and managing a team of 50 finance professionals. His professional background was impressive, including 15 years as Vice President (VP) Finance at a high-growth technology business which had grown through an aggressive global mergers and acquisition strategy. When he was recruited by a private equity-backed organization seeking a CFO to scale the business and undertake an Initial Public Offering, Peter leapt at the opportunity. Confident and excited, he moved quickly to re-organize his team and launch a finance transformation agenda.

Six months later, Peter’s agenda ran into a wall, as did his trail-blazing career. He left the firm with a generous exit package, but with a bruised ego and sense of self-doubt.

WHAT HAPPENED?

1. Weak relationships - Despite his genuine attempts, Peter failed to forge a close relationship with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and his Chief Strategy Officer, who he underestimated.

2. Trust deficit - He hardly spent time getting to know his team, and instead became quickly frustrated by their shortcomings. He took on the critical reporting tasks he had previously handled as a VP Finance and became mired in minutiae.

3. Lack of communication - He never expressed his doubts and challenges – either with the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) or an external coach – believing that would be seen as a weakness.

Peter’s experience is not unique. Adjusting to a new role, a new team, and demanding stakeholders can be a daunting challenge, even for an accomplished executive. Too often, we have found leaders like Peter are “underprepared for – and unsupported during – the transition to new roles.” (McKinsey & Co., 2018)

McKinsey reported that a successful transition can lead to a 90% likelihood that teams will meet their three-year performance goals. By contrast, unsuccessful transitions can result in a 20% drop in employee engagement and a 15% dip in team performance.

SHIFTING GEARS TO LEAD EFFECTIVELY IN A NEW ROLE

We set out on a quest to interview CEOs and senior executives in the United States, Canada, the UK, and China to better uncover the biggest struggles executives face in a new role. We found that, in many cases, executives have learned to manage culture and organizational politics using instinctive or learned behaviors that may not carry over naturally to a new environment.

The odds of success for newly appointed executives have become even more lopsided during the pandemic, as many workplaces have shifted to remote and hybrid work environments. The CHRO of a large Canadian telecommunications firm noted that remote work has doubled the time it takes for new executives to find their groove.

Combine that with the alarming tendency for both leaders and companies to overestimate their ability to fast-track the success of new executives, their teams can wind up in utter chaos. Worse, it can have a broader impact on organizational performance.

In Part 2 of our article, we will be highlighting the four main strategies we recommend to help mitigate the risks in the early stages of executive integration. In the meantime, if you would like to find out more, you can get directly in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

As an executive or leader, time is the most valuable commodity, and yet it is in a fixed supply. While it is obvious that time management is important, sometimes we can lose track of what is a priority in the rush of our daily work. Harvard Business School conducted a study on CEOs and found that 79% of them worked an average of 7.8 hours over the weekend, on top of 9.7 hours per weekday. An executive role is evidently a consuming one, and so ensuring that you have control over that ever-ticking clock is a priceless skill.

A proact/react ratio is one way to measure how effectively you are using your time. If you

find yourself constantly interrupted by phone calls, knocks on your office door, and in meetings on short notice, then you may be in react mode. There are so many things coming at you at once that all you can do is react to them as and when.

But imagine how it would it feel to be making the calls you wish, having the meetings you think are important, and initiating action? If you find that you have time to think and engage with your staff, you may be in proact mode. You have control over your time and delegate it accordingly, being proactive and doing things before they have the chance to become something you have to respond to later.

So how do you move from react to proact? One way is to trust the people you

hire. Careful delegation to skilled, caring people with whom you have a great professional relationship with can give you the hours to do high level work that perhaps only you can do, by virtue of your position. This will allow for valuable uses of your time, such as more customer interaction, time to understand the competition, and developing a clear vision of what could be coming down the road.

Another thought is to set a one-hour time slot in your schedule at some point during every week, in which you schedule nothing. Do not catch up on e-mails and allow no interruptions. George Mitchell, former US Senator and Secretary of State, used this method, asking his executive assistant only to interrupt him during his thinking hour if his wife or the President of the United States called. Emergencies happen, but if you can be intentional about giving yourself time to think, read, and assimilate market data, you are moving into the proact realm.

Additionally, journaling as an executive can prove to be extremely beneficial for time management. It is a great way of strategizing for future endeavours, as you can reflect on things that have happened and find ways to mitigate potential problems in the future. On top of this, it will simultaneously help strengthen your leadership capabilities – the founder of Impraise argues that leaders need to be able to master the five soft skills of active listening, self-compassion, empathy, vulnerability and honesty. The privacy and ability to be honest when journalling allows leaders to develop and hone these skills.

If you need further guidance on how to start tackling your time, you can get in touch with us here.

“People leave managers, not companies,” is the mantra of Marcus Buckingham’s book on leadership[1]. And if I were to simplify this message even further, it would be to this: people are more likely to remain working for leaders that are approachable and inclusive. 

In a time where workers are consistently changing jobs, retention strategies have become an integral part of many organizations. And even for those companies who have already placed a focus on retaining talent, they are now being faced with the struggle of combatting the rise of quiet quitting. The key to having an impact on both these issues lies in the hands of leaders – or, more specifically, in their ability to be approachable.

The idea of being an approachable leader has outdated connotations of being perceived as ‘weak’. Yet, Visiers study found that the second most commonly cited attribute of a bad manager was being unapproachable (47%).

The fact of the matter is that being welcoming and in a position of power will allow you to form real bonds with your team and be in tune with the culture being fostered within your company’s walls.

Achieving approachability is easier by breaking it down into three aspects:

  1. Breaking down hierarchies

A simple culturally appropriate greeting is one of the oldest and most effective ways to be perceived as a welcoming and approachable person. Leaders who recognize their team members have a 63% higher chance of retaining them, so by making that effort to authentically greet your employees every morning and speak to them, they will be much more likely to want to remain working with you.

  1. Knowing your team

Good leaders will take the time to know all the names of their team members. Great leaders will take it that one step further, and actively seek out ways to connect authentically by asking open-ended questions to learn about their interests beyond work.  You can encourage your team to open up more by being transparent yourself - discuss your interests and tell stories about your life. Research from a team at Harvard University found that asking questions about people increases the likelihood of them having a positive impression of you. By demonstrating that you are making time to know the team members who work for you, you are reinforcing that they are valued and seen as individuals.

  1. Having an open door

I remember giving an office tour to a new HR executive that I was trying to recruit, and when I walked past the CEO’s door, I noticed that it was wide open and he was in there at his desk. I gave an impromptu knock and poked my head in, and after a brief exchange I introduced him to the potential hire.  Immediately he invited the both of us in and dropped what he was doing, and the three of us sat down for a good half hour as he got to know this HR exec.

All these years later I still remember this because I was struck by how proud it made me feel that the CEO took time out of his busy schedule to greet the potential new hire authentically and to learn about his background, despite not being on his schedule. Making a point of having your door always open – literally and metaphorically – can make employees feel they are invited to speak to those higher up rather than waiting to receive permission to seek their attention.

Interacting with these three components will help inspire genuine trust in you as a manager. There is always a risk for those in higher positions to be ‘cut out of the loop’ when it comes to finding the root cause of issues in the workplace, and so by being someone who team members feel they can trust, this risk is significantly mitigated.

However, in this endeavour, striking a balance is key. If you are seen to know more about one member of the team over another, this can come across as favouritism.  Therefore, it is important to be aware of how much time you spend formally and informally with each member of your team.  Managing the extent of your relationships with each team member is crucial and needs to be consistent and inclusive, as you have a duty to coach, develop and lead team members of all backgrounds and styles.

When it comes down to it, being present and front-line-facing can go a long way. If a leader is seen to be the wizard behind the curtain, then team members will feel a lack of motivation working under them. Make a point of getting to know new team members as they are onboarded, as well as checking in periodically to show that your interest is authentic. This will help nurture an overall inclusive culture in the workplace, and boost the productivity and engagement of employees, which leads to higher client satisfaction and higher operational performance.

It all starts from the top – if you are interested in discussing approachable leadership, I can be reached at marty@orgshakers.com


[1] Buckingham, M., 2001. First, Break All The Rules. London: Simon & Schuster Ltd.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

‘Quiet quitting’ has been a buzzword in the corporate world recently – staff members are taking back their personal lives by setting boundaries on how much extra effort they put into their work. This has sparked many conversations as to why employees felt the need to quietly quit in the first place, and one such reason may be due to the rise of ‘quiet firing’.

The second phrase to be logged in the ‘quiet –’ saga, quiet firing shifts the focus to a managerial perspective, and refers to those leaders who are assigning some members of staff menial tasks, setting unrealistic expectations, and consistently denying them time off work. Essentially, instead of communicating with these employees to help them improve, they are quietly pushing them away until they finally decide to leave of their own accord.

While some leaders may be doing this consciously, this new phenomenon does bring into question whether managers who are being inattentive are at risk of unknowingly quietly firing their staff.

Being in a leadership role means you may not have a lot of time to spare, but a crucial part of being a manager is finding a balance between being attentive to those above and below you. Members of your team may feel they are being neglected due to a lack of direct engagement with them, and this can be perceived as quiet firing and can push people towards leaving. This is reinforced by Gallup’s report which found that 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager. In other words, a manager has the largest effect on how engaged their employees are at work.

This highlights the importance of finding that time to offer clear and consistent feedback. Leaders who are essentially giving up on those workers who they deem as underperforming, instead of taking the time to tell them how to improve, are failing their staff.

Underperformance is a sign to managers that they are not being as attentive as necessary. The relationship between leader and worker needs to be nourished, and this nourishment comes from communication – through the implementation of a regular feedback session – and from clarity, as only about half of workers actually know what is expected of them.

Communication and clarity are especially important with the rise of hybrid and remote working models. Research shows that employees working from home often receive less performance feedback for their good work than those in the office, and this can be simply due to the fact that remote working removes the chance of bumping into one another. Gone are the days of grabbing someone for a quick chat or catching up by the water cooler. All these little opportunities for micro-feedback sessions are much harder to achieve through Zoom or Teams, as now, a formal effort has to be made to speak to colleagues.

Implementing ways of giving regular feedback to employees who work remotely will help mitigate the risk of quietly firing staff. On top of this, it helps enhance your culture – in the office and digitally – to be open and approachable, which can ultimately better staff engagement and improve the quality and quantity of their output.

If you need guidance on how to avoid falling into the trap of quiet firing, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

The ability to be adaptable is becoming gold amongst leaders in the contemporary corporate world. A post-pandemic perspective has seen working life in a continuous state of flux, and if leaders want to stay on top of these shifting conditions, then they need to consider adopting a new, flexible management style.

One struggle that leaders may come across is the generational differences they face with their staff. Most people in leadership positions tend to be in their midlife, with statista finding that the average age of CEOs and CFOs in America was 54.1 and 48.9. Now, with Gen Z filtering into the workforce, along with them comes a new set of values that will likely differ to those in leadership positions. The recent ‘quiet quitting’ phenomenon is a prime example of this.

In order to overcome these potential barriers, leaders should start practicing a more adaptable approach to how they manage their people. This will allow them to create a common language to communicate with their younger staff so that they can respond to the needs of these employees more effectively and optimize their talent.

The Centre for Creative Leadership outlines three components of flexibility that leaders should incorporate to help them seize every opportunity:

  1. Cognitive Flexibility

This is about using different thinking methods to be able to approach each problem from the best angle. Embedding these varying strategies and frameworks into their planning and decision-making will allow them to recognise when a change is needed. Leaders who are flexible and open with the way they think will be able to recognize new trends in the workplace and respond to them promptly.

  • Emotional Flexibility

Leaders who are empathetic towards periods of transition will be the most prepared to guide their staff through change, as well as manage their own potential feelings of angst and resistance. In this sense, those that are willing to show their own vulnerabilities can make their staff more willing to express theirs, and this leads to an open and honest culture in the workplace which allows for proper support through a transitional period.

  • Dispositional Flexibility

This concerns finding an equilibrium between being blindly positive and pessimistic. These leaders take on an optimistic perspective that is grounded in realism, and can acknowledge when a situation is bad but look ahead to how to make it better for the future. These leaders have a mindset which allows them to view change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Leaders who are using all three of these components will be able to interact with change as and when it comes. And with a workforce who have emerged from lockdown with new perspectives on what it means to work , as well as an entirely new hybrid working model, learning to respond to change swiftly and effectively will allow leaders to excel, while also propelling their people and their company forwards.

To discuss these flexible leadership strategies further, you can contact me at stephanie.rodriguez@orgshakers.com

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

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