Search This Blog

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Effects of Layoffs on Surviving Employees

This series of blog posts is on leadership in the downturn. In fact, great leadership is always about what you do when things are tough, not when you’re hitting on all cylinders. Great leadership is also about what you do when no one’s looking. By that, I mean doing the right thing, even when it’s tough: Not trimming back on customer quality and services and doing what’s best for employees, as well. This series will try to capture some good strategies for business leaders.

Survivor Syndrome: In an article that appeared in the Washington Business Journal (January 23-29, 2008, p. 34-35) author Jennifer Nycz-Commer outlines quite well the effects of layoffs—now as common as hi-tech stock options were at the height of the tech boom (remember that roller coaster ride in the 90’s). Here’s a quote by Mark Murphy of Leadership IQ, the company which conducted the study on which the stats are based. Murphy’s quote: “There is a great myth that following a layoff the surviving employees will be so grateful that they still have a job that they’ll work harder and be more productive.”
Not so according to the following stats from Murphy's study cited in the Journal article by Nycz-Commer(p.35):

Life after layoffs
Employers may not realize that while they’re saving money on salaries, layoffs often ripple unforeseen repercussions through their staffs. In its study of 4,172 workplace survivors, Leadership IQ found:
• 87% say they are less likely to recommend their organization as a good place to work.
• 64% say the productivity of their colleagues has declined
• 81% say the service customers receive has declined
• 77% say they see more errors and mistakes being made
• 61% say they believe their company’s future prospects are worse

So, if you're thinking about laying off employees--always any CEO's most gut-wrenching task--consider the full impact.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Final Observation from an Executive Coach

Fifth and final observation....

5. Listen and be inclusive: “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”
Listen to your detractors with the same vigor as those who would hail you as chief.

Remember to appoint a “devil’s advocate” to offer counter arguments in every major discussion you have. Do this especially when you generate a new idea yourself or whenever it’s an idea proposed by someone who thinks just like you do. No one needs to remind you about the power of diversity.

Finally, let me end with my very best wishes as you begin your journey as president.

“Yes We Can!”

PS...Be sure to listen to perhaps your best sounding board: Michelle!

[Dr. Steve Gladis is the author of The Executive Coach in the Corporate Forest and serves as an executive coach in the greater Northern Virginia/Washington Metro Area. He may be contacted at 703-424-3780 or at]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For President Obama from an Executive Coach

Fourth in a series of observations....

4.Lead with trust: “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists—to protect them and to promote their common welfare –all else is lost.”

You get what you give, so give trust to get it back from the American public. Be honest, competent, and caring, and trust will always follow you—you won’t ever have to seek it. With trust the government will move quickly, effectively, and efficiently. Without trust, progress will be lethargic, bureaucratic, and frustrating. Consider making the word “transparent” the hallmark of your administration. If people can see what they’re getting and get what they’re seeing, trust will happen and so will rapid progress.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Executive Coach to President Obama

Third in a series of observations....

3. Lead with your incredibly even-handed personality: “It’s really true that I am even tempered. I do get angry, but it’s a controlled anger. I don’t blow up at people….”

Avoid overreacting to the success and failure that will inevitably happen—they’re both imposters. Leaders, especially presidents, always speak with “worldwide megaphones.” Whatever you say will be heard as coming from on high. As such, leaders in general and world leaders specifically don’t simply have opinions; rather, their opinions are heard by others as commandments. Speak softly and remain even handed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Executive Coach's Observations for President Obama

Second in a series of observations...

2. Lead with Abundance, not Scarcity: “In the end ... that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?"

People are scared by the economy because they don’t understand it and can’t control what appears to them as a runaway train. When that kind of fear happens, people retract and become beings of scarcity. Hopeful people, like you, approach life as an abundant person—one willing to share and who subscribes to the philosophy of “To whom much is given, much is expected.” In short, keep hope and optimism the focus of your administration—never fear or pessimism. We’ve already seen what that produces. Racecar drivers who focus on the wall rather than the track, will probably hit the wall. In short, you will get what you focus on, so focus on optimism and abundance.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Observations for President Obama from an Executive Coach

First in a series of observations....

What an exciting day we all had this week as president Obama was sworn in. For me personally, it was a day for great celebration. That said, I considered the enormous task ahead for our new president and the country.

I’m typically called in to organizations to work with senior executives—more frequently these days to help new executives avoid costly missteps. A recent study revealed that senior executives transitioning into a new company fail at the rate of 40-50% and cost the company: $2.7 million. Imagine the cost to a country if a president missteps!

As an executive coach,I ask probing questions about client goals and objectives, provide a reliable sounding board for them, and then hold them and myself accountable to reasonable progress. Offering my personal observations happens either when the client asks, or when I believe such observations are relevant, and then only after the client is asked if he or she wants to hear the observation. Because my coaching engagement with president Obama isn’t likely to happen anytime soon—though I hope that in the future the president-elect does consider getting a coach outside the administration—I would like to put a few observations out there for Mr. Obama to think about based on what he’s already said in public:

1. Lead with your original theme of change: “Yes We Can.”
This won’t be easy, despite the power of its emotional appeal. Hardly anyone likes change. Pareto’s 80/20 rule applies here—80% of the people won’t want change. Fighting the strong magnetic draw of the status quo will be much harder than you could ever think. People are concerned about change because they’re more afraid about what they’d lose than excited about what they’d gain.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Five Strategies for Keeping Your Bucket Full

Here's the last post in this series:
Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton (authors of In How Full is Your Bucket?, offer Five Strategies for keeping your internal bucket full and yourself happy and productive. I suggest you read their book for the details. What follows is just a dusting of those five strategies:
1. Prevent Bucket-Dipping People taking energy from you usually because of their negativity.
2. Shine a Light on What’s Right—try to catch people doing well rather than the usual tactic of catching them making mistakes.
3.Make Best Friends—as mentioned in a previous post, having a best friend at work does all kinds of great things for the person and the organization.
4.Give Unexpectedly—People like surprise gifts (fills their buckets). So, send a note, buy a cup of coffee, or thank someone. Small unexpected gifts work.
5. Reverse the Golden Rule—Give people what they want and need. Each person fills their bucket differently. Learn what it takes and give it to them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reconition and Employee Satisfaction/Retention

In How Full is your Bucket? here are just a few things you learn:
• The number one reason people leave their jobs: They don’t feel appreciated.
• A bad boss can increase your risk of stroke by 33%
• Percentage of Americans who got NO recognition at work last year: 65%!
• People with a best friend at work are highly productive and have better customer satisfaction ratings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Effect of Praise and Recognition at Work

The latest research of 10,000 business units in 30 industries conducted by Gallup as reported in How Full is Your Bucket? reveals that people who receive regular praise and recognition have increased productivity, engagement in their companies, a greater chance of staying with the company or organization, are liked and seen as loyal by their customers, and even have higher safety records than others on the job.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How Full is Your Bucket?

A Review of How Full is Your Bucket (Written by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton)

Two confessions up front in this four-part review series:
1.First, I’m a big fan of the research that the Gallup folks have done over the years (published in their best sellers, Now, Discover Your Strengths and First, Break All the Rules).
2.Second, I like short books with useful information in them, such that the ROI (return on investment) of both buying and more importantly, reading it is high.
Tom Rath's and Donald Clifton's book, How Full is Your Bucket?, fits both my needs. Based on research over the years, the book has a strong foundation that allows it to say what might be obvious but now we know how important: People either fill us up or drain us of useful positive energy that reinforces our relationships, longevity, productivity and more. The series of posts over this week will look at some of the more key findings of this book—which I’d recommend especially to leaders, who want to have significant impact on their followers and ultimately the health and productivity of their organizations.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

From HBR-January: "What Can Coaches do for You?"

Diane Coutu and Carol Kauffman’s article “What Can Coaches do for You?” discusses how leaders today are increasingly turning to executive coaches for several reasons: To develop high potentials or facilitate transition, to act as a sounding board, or to address derailing behaviors. The authors discuss the ingredients of a successful coaching relationship: client motivation, chemistry between coach and client, and a strong commitment form upper management to the process. The authors discuss these and other important issues when choosing a coach. Worth the read.

There’s a lot more in this January 2009 issue. I just wanted to whet your appetite. I’m recommending it to each of my clients ASAP.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

From HBR-January: "How Not to Lose the Top Job"

Marshall Goldsmith’s “How Not to Lose the Top Job” (in the January 2009 issue of the HBR) describes how to avoid losing a CEO position, even when you have just been told by the current CEO that you’re a shoe in. Not so fast—warns Goldsmith—the country’s leading executive coach, and the guy who wrote the introduction to my latest book on executive coaching (truth in reviewing here). Marshall tells potential CEO’s (internal candidates) to be sure to tend to six critical stakeholder groups: the current CEO (even if s/he promised you the world), the successor’s peers, your own direct reports, customers (especially influential ones), analysts, shareholders, and, of course, the board of directors. Question: Could this apply any potential internal incumbent leader, not only a CEO?

Monday, January 12, 2009

From HBR-January: "The Quick Wins Paradaox"

Mark Van Buren and Todd Safferstone in their article “The Quick Wins Paradox,” discuss how many new leaders eagerly want to get early wins to boost their value and credibility to the company. However, this rush to early wins often results in failure or wins at a tremendous personal cost. The authors focus on several areas of struggling new execs: reacting negatively to criticism, intimidating others, jumping to conclusions, and micromanaging direct reports—all of which can pollute a leader’s credibility.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

HBR Leadership January 2009 Issue—Must Read

If you or your company is in any sort of a transition (and who is not these days!), I highly recommend the current (January 2009) issue of the Harvard Business Review. This week, I'll highlight several of the articles...but go out an buy a fistful of copies of this issue and hand it out to your key leaders.

Article Highlight: Michael Watkins (author of The First 90 Days—search for my review of this book in this blog) in his article—“Picking the Right Strategy” instructs leaders to first understand the kind of transition they are in before acting on it. He describes his STARS model (start up, turnaround, accelerated growth, realignment, and sustaining success). New executive failures in companies typically happen in the first two years and cost the company $2.7million—so pay attention.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Great Leaders: Good Will (Final Post of Three on Great Leaders)

The third and final characteristic of great leaders is good will. Along with good character, and good sense, great leaders must also have good will toward others. Simply put leaders should have the best intentions for those with whom they are working (colleague or client). What’s more, to have complete trust, great leaders MUST have all three: Good Character, Good Sense and Good Will. Only having one or two will not work….you MUST have all three to be a great leader.

When it comes to good will, I call upon what I call the 5 H’s, based on the word “honor.” Note that I use the word honor and not just respect…one of my favorite leadership words. I think honor implies a degree of humility in respecting another (servant leadership). And the great leaders have that in their DNA.

1.Honor yourself: Staying true to who they are (having personal integrity), is the hallmark of great leaders. They honor themselves by only doing things and making choices consistent with their values, who they authentically are as leaders. Here’s the test: Would what you’re doing make you proud or blush if it ended up on the evening news. This test is called the “red-face” test.
2.Honor others: Leaders get what they give. It’s the simple but ancient rule of reciprocity. Not only do people return what they get, but it happens for both good and bad. That’s not only how great partnerships start but also how wars start. It’s how we can have on the one hand a Martin Luther King or on the other an Adolf Hitler. Honor given first to another always begets honor back. Give before you get and see the results.
3.Honor the company: Honor given to the organization for which you work is both smart for you and the company. While companies need to do the right thing, employees who honor the mission, vision and values of a company will always have a good day at work.
4.Honor the community: We work, live and play in a community that has to be honored and supported if we’re all to be successful. Community is the social glue, just above family, that’s always critical.
5.Honor the country and the world: We are all part of a global society and need to honor both our own county and the greater world. We’re all seeing every day how the environment and the economy are interdependent. By honoring our country and the world, we not only insure our freedom and health for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren alike.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Great Leaders: Good Sense

The second characteristic of great leaders is good sense. Along with good character, great leaders must also have good sense: Knowledge. Such leaders don’t have to be the smartest people in the room but must have knowledge in a variety several specific areas. I call these areas of knowledge the 5 K’s. Thus, great leaders must:
1. Know themselves: In one of his older cowboy movies, Clint Eastwood once said, “A man [or woman] has to know his limitations.” As leaders knowing what we’re good at and what we’re challenged by is equally important. It’s sometimes startling how often leaders lack a full sense of self awareness—which often becomes a major detailer in their careers. Take time to look deep into the mirror for your strengths and challenges.
2. Know others: Understanding how others think and what their strengths and challenges are is likewise critical. In a study of what employees most wanted—to be appreciated, to be in the know what’s going on, and to be supported in their professional and personal lives—it was eye opening that managers also surveyed had identified none of those as most likely wanted by employees. Again, knowing others is critical to leaders.
3. Know stuff: Sounds easy, but leaders have to know the substance of their professions. So, if you’re managing lawyers, you have to be a competent lawyer. You don’t have to be the best litigator or probate attorney in the group, but you have to be competent or no one will respect or follow you.
4. Know how to learn: In a world that changes so rapidly, if leaders have not learned how to keep up by programming in learning time, falling behind is easy and remaining relevant difficult at best. New learning systems are developing all the time from blogs, to webinars, to online courses—and the list grows. Taking time to learn the technology is not just a luxury anymore but critical.
5. Know how to teach: One of a leader’s primary functions is to ensure a successful future for the team. That can only be done by training and mentoring others to move into, up, and even out of the organization. It’s fascinating to see how many companies have recognized and developed “alumni associations” to preserve and perpetuate knowledge.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Great Leaders: Good Character

The first, primary characteristic of a great leader, is good character. To explain this one to groups I speak to, I give examples, and we talk about the 5 C’s:
1: Complete Honesty. Telling the truth, even when it hurts, with clients and colleagues, is central to credibility. In surveys by researchers regarding commonly held values—honesty comes out #.1
2.Communication: People have to know what leaders are thinking. So, tell, write, or text them, but let them know. Without information, rumors (often-worst-case scenario type rumors) abound. With current, reliable information, a sense of being value and stability pervades. Great leaders have the capacity to keep people informed.
3.Commitment: People want to know if leaders are in for the long haul or not. Anyone can come into an organization and make a splash, touch a management base in a career development system, and move on. But the great ones focus on right where they are now, not how fast they can get to the next place.
4.Consistency: An even hand, one that plays fairly and consistently, wins the day. Colleagues just want to know that whoever shows up on day 1 is the same person on day 2 and so on. We all want reliability in an effective leader.
5.Courage: Doing the right thing is never easy. George Washington was revered as a great leader precisely because he consistently answered the call of his country and did what was best for the country. Focusing on a thing of value, something beyond ourselves and having the courage to stand for it, separates great leaders apart from the rest.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Trust: The Core of Leadership (Aristotle)

The best leadership advice I know started with the work of Aristotle in his book Rhetoric. He said that in order for speakers to be believable, they had to do three things well: Show good character, good sense, and good will. These three elements comprise: Trust. With high trust, there is no colleague or follower you can’t work with and without it none you can work with.

Good Character is all about honesty, integrity and courage to do the right thing. If a client sees that you stand for what you say…say-do, you deliver what you promise, and make things right when you don’t, there’s little they won’t do for you.

Good Sense is basic competency in your business. In short, knowing your business well. To be of value and even competitive, you must know the substance of your craft.

Good Will: Simply put, clients must believe that you have their best interest at heart—you care for them in an enduring way. Trust comes not as a one-shot deal but a sustained relationship that good colleagues and clients want.

To be trusted you need all three of these (Good Character, Good Sense and Good Will)…not one or two. Over the next few posts, I'll discuss each of these three in more depth.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Trust and Leadership: Mother Being Deployed in Iraq

I just read a piece in The Washington Post about a mother who was sent on military deployment to Iraq, She was challenged by her husband for custody of their daughter because the mother was absent due to deployment. According to the story, leaders in the military told the mother to "deal with it."

Two opinion points from me: 1) Boo on the husband; 2)Boo on the military if leaders are in fact saying "deal with it."

Talk about a lack of empathy by both the husband and the military.

Over the next few days I will be writing on how you build trust, loyalty, and retain the best employees. The above method is what you do to get the opposite result.

Good news--the mother won the case.

GMU Leadership and Coaching Certificates

Google Analytics