Saturday, April 12, 2014

Empathy In Business Leadership - Traits of A Great Leader

Daniel Goleman first introduced the concept of emotional intelligence to the business landscape after his international best seller, Emotional Intelligence, was a great success.  This new book was aptly named Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Goleman takes the position that every good leader's task is to prime a good feeling in those that they lead. That good feeling occurs when a good leader has the ability to create resonance - source of positiveness that unleashes the best in people. Further he emphasizes that the primal job of leadership is emotional.  To learn why emotionally intelligent leadership drives resonance, and thus performance, and how to tap into its power for the individual leader, teams, or entire organizations, I highly recommend reading Daniel Goleman's Primal Leadership - Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence.

The four fundamental domains of emotional intelligence are:
1) self-awareness
2) self-management
3) social awareness, and
4) relationship building

These four domains are closely related and in order to be successful, a great leader must understand their relationship.  A leader who is not aware of his or her emotions cannot manage them well due to lack of self-awareness.  Their emotions are out of control and as a result relationships will suffer. In this post, I shall just focus on the relationship aspect of emotional intelligence and how empathy plays an important role in leadership. Dealing with emotions in the workplace is an skillful leadership trait and is easier said or written than practiced. Relationship management is not just about being a friendly person, it is about being genuine and authentic. For a leader, it becomes a powerful catalyst for resonance, once they are tuned in to the emotions of their teams they lead to fuel richer, more meaningful interactions.

Empathy You Me We Graphic

Empathy is the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people and it is also an artful skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. It fuels deep connections. Business leaders who are empathetic are great active listeners. They are not just paying attention to what is being said  verbally, but also tuned into the non-verbal cues from their audience. They are able to probe deeper, understand purpose, and most importantly, summarize back key points of agreement and build rapport effectively with meaning.

Hence, to be a great leader, it is important to make the connection with the people you lead- genuinely at an emotional level - in order to foster strong relationships.  This in return builds rapport and becomes a powerful catalyst for resonance in bringing out the best in people.  In conclusion, I am sharing this short video clip on The Power of Empathy - A RSA Short by Dr. Brennie Brown. Dr.Brown is a research storyteller & professor at the University of Houston, TX. In this clip she demonstrates the key differences between empathy and sympathy and how one drives connection while the latter drives disconnection.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Are you breeding a cancerous middle management culture that is silently killing your organization's reputation?

What prompted me to write an article on this topic today? Well, it was this video on on the French Telecom company, Orange that was on the news recently for a recent rise in suicides among its employees. Let me take a step back to provide a short background for this article. 

In 2012, the former Chief Executive Officer - Didier Lombard was indicted by a court in Paris and bailed over allegations that he led a corporate culture of bullying and harassment that resulted in the suicide of at least 30 employees. He served in this position from 2005-2010.  Critics allege that it was some of his brutal management principles and 'bullying culture' that contributed to these suicides.  Also, in particular scrutiny was his so-called “NExT” (New Experience in Telecommunications) program, an effort to drive efficiency and increase customer value, resulted in a restructure that cut more than 22,000 jobs over a short period of time. In addition it also forced managers to change jobs every three years. This program was soon terminated by his successor. 

 In 2013, once again Orange restructures its organization in an effort to simplify its innovation structure to improve efficiency and tightens its executive committee.  Vivek Badrinath was appointed as the Deputy Chief Executive Officer to lead the Group’s innovation, technology and customer experience resources. Mr. Badrinath, who was 43 with a strong technical background held a few short leadership positions prior to his appointment with Orange.  Most recently this year in 2014, Vivek Badrinath, left Orange to join Accor, a hotel group.  His void was filled by appointing Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière to lead the innovation, marketing and technologies division as reported in a press release dated March 14 by Orange.

Large corporations such as Orange, previously French Telecom, present many challenges to their leadership.  Corporate culture and organizational identity are just two of  the many important challenges that senior leadership must pay attention to be successful in the long run.  In  September 2004 French Telecom sold a part of its shareholding and it was no longer a major shareholder as a result of the 1997 Asian Financial crisis. Hence, it became a private company after 115 years in a post-nationalization era of the telephone system!

 This organization went through a major transformation, while its top executives maintained their focus on advancing its winning global marketplace position further without establishing a solid transition strategy.  This is evident from its executive turnover history.  While executive management was focused on being a global leader in telecommunication services, perhaps it had given birth to a silent killer - a cancerous middle management culture that was developing operational tactics to support its executive management's corporate strategic vision. This new sub-culture was far different from the organization's corporate culture. Evidence of this is known from employee survey data that was conducted during the suicide investigations.
Image Courtesy: BBC UK News Health

Often middle-management is a layer between two layers of management in an organization. They are a step above a non-managerial role and a step below senior management. Some may report to a C-level executive directly, while others may just report to a non C-level executive in the organizational hierarchy. Often, this depends on the size, industry, and sector of the organization.  It is imperative for C-level executives to be proactively monitoring the performance its middle-level management on a regular basis and its cultural health.

Questions such as: are our employees generally happy? What is our employee turnover ratio? What is the annual employee survey data telling us? etc. are helpful in gaining valuable insights on your organization's culture health.  Instead of adding more middle-management, have you considered a shift toward abolishing middle management all together in your organization? In today's social world, rebuilding corporate reputation can be a very expensive process. Hence organizations must develop proactive measures to safeguard against any threats to its reputation. 

 A cancerous middle management culture can be defined as a sub-culture that threatens your organizational identity and is far different from your organization's core values and traditions. It has a negative impact on employee morale & productivity.  In organizations that are not process mature, it can give birth to ad-hoc processes that help it thrive and sustain.  It sometimes can ruthlessly eliminate a workforce or talent that it perceives as a threat to its existence.  As it thrives in silence and spreads like cancer, it is critical for executive management to diagnose early-on and treat it swiftly as it can be detrimental to an organizational overall reputation, its identity and the workforce's well-being when left ignored. 

I would like to conclude this article by asking you this thought provoking question: Are you breeding a cancerous middle management culture that is silently killing your organization's reputation? Please share your thoughts and comments !
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

CIO Skills: 5 Essential Competencies- A Must Have for Today's CIO

There are several articles published on the topic of leadership competencies that today's CIO must possess in order to be perceived as successful by the business. I have compiled a list of 5 Essential Competencies - A Must Have for Today's CIO in this article.  Today, as  IT is increasingly viewed by the business as a key contributing enabler to expand its competitive edge and drive market share,  it is creating a fundamental shift in paradigm on the CIO's role from a traditional - technical - digital role to that of a strategic business partner in the organization. To be successful during this transformation, a CIO must conscientiously develop an innovative mindset  combined with new capabilities that will help drive the business value and reshape the way IT does business.

Below are 5 Essential Competencies that are must have for today's CIO:

1) Strategic Aligner: A powerful strategist thoroughly understands and has the know-how to use available knowledge with the right dose of tact and influence to make things happen with the highest outcome for success.  Not everyone can be a powerful strategist, but it certainly can be a learned competency that can be perfected over a period of time. A strategic aligner is an individual that links the goals of business to it strategy to achieve measurable outcomes.

CIO Skills 5 Essential Competencies for CIO image - Strategy Execution Success
2) Diverse Technology know-how: Some CIO's are either experts in a particular technology domain and tend to be biased in their decision making, some CIO's are hired for their strong leadership expertise with a generalist technology background, some others have been promoted within the ranks and as a result may or may not be exposed to the newest technology trends or product offerings to make effective decisions. Hence, it is important that no matter what the case, it is important for today's CIO to have not only a diverse technology know-how, but also, to understand how to align with the business's overall strategic vision. Sometimes the lack of this competency can be fulfilled by hiring a trusted technology adviser or by developing an internal emerging center of excellence practice within the organization.

3) Trailblazer: A trailblazer is someone that sets foot first on something new and that has not been done before. As leaders, they pave the way for exploring new markets, while taking calculated risks and transforming organizations. An organization cannot continue to remain sustainable in business with outdated processes and technologies.  There maybe some of you that would disagree with this, but I think this is an important skill for any CIO to have. As a trailblazer, you are not just putting the business first and technology second, but you are also focused on delivering value to your customer through continuous improvement.

4) Relationship Builder & Ambassador: An important skill to have for any individual, and not just for a CIO. But, it is a critical skill required for every CIO! In today's modern corporate ecosystems, if your CIO is not perceived by your business leaders as someone who can effortless build bridges, foster new relationships and strengthen  existing ones, his or her success within that organization can be challenging.  Relationship building needs to occur at every level in the organization. A competent CIO should be effortless able to deliver on a balanced matrix of tangible, intangible, organizational and personal aspects of value customized to their specific business customer–to build an authentic and trusted partnership.

5) Corporate Finance know-how: Strong basic to intermediate knowledge of corporate finance is essential for any CIO. It is important that you know how to interpret the data accurately to help make sound decisions. Relying solely on the sources supplying you the data, can be hazardous.  Understanding and speaking the same language that your business and financial partners speak is very helpful.

I hope that found this blog article on the topic of 5 Essential Competencies for today's CIO helpful. Do you have any suggestions to add to this list? Please leave your comments below!

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