Five Reasons Working Abroad Will Make You A Stronger Leader

If I’ve learned anything over the course of my 20-plus year corporate career, it is that the willingness to take risks and the ability to connect the dots are inextricably intertwined. Playing it safe may have been the way when people stayed at the same company for 30 years, but in an age where the median tenure is less than five years, you have a fairly finite period of time to make enough of an impression to propel your career.

I am not advocating risk in a way that is maverick or irreverent, but instead in a way that focuses on capitalizing on opportunities that may not always seem to be the most obvious. This is where connecting the dots comes into play.

For the entirety of my corporate life, I worked in multinational companies with huge global footprints. When I looked at the most successful leaders in my organizations, they all had one thing in common aside from the core competencies required of all senior leaders: They all had experience living and working outside of their country of origin. Sure, there were some leaders who hadn’t, and working abroad wasn’t the only pattern, but I found that it was a pretty key differentiator in businesses that needed leaders who were at the very least bi-culturally competent.

In the global economy, one size doesn’t fit all. What applies in the U.S. doesn’t always apply in the U.K. or Brazil or Hong Kong. Getting the best from teams and forming strong client relationships isn’t always about the age-old formulas that work in your home country. It is about understanding cultural nuances that you can’t always get on a business trip.

My real “aha” moment came when I connected the dots between leadership and international experience. In hindsight, it seems obvious given the mission and footprint of the businesses that I worked in. And while this particular piece is about the benefit of working abroad, I encourage you to take a step back and connect the dots in your business. What is it that the leaders of your company have in common and what kind of risk does it involve?

I have now lived and worked in the U.S., Asia and Europe. My ascent to global C-suite executive in a Fortune 100 company is absolutely attributable to my experience abroad. In addition to adding jet fuel to my ascent, I landed in very senior roles at a relatively young age given the value attributed to my multi-country experience. Here are five things that I’ve learned about leadership and working abroad:

1. It is okay to make a lateral career move when going abroad. Moving abroad for work is exciting at first, but most people experience a range of emotions. The first days and months are a period of significant personal change. It isn’t the worst thing to be able to do your day job with your eyes closed. It will give you time to settle in without having to worry about keeping up with the responsibilities of an even bigger job.

2. Keep an open mind about where you are assigned. There are certainly things to consider when moving abroad. Schools, distance from your home country and ease of access will likely top your list, but keep an open mind. Working somewhere that may not seem the most obvious could catapult your career. Remember that this is about differentiation. At a time when being an expat is becoming more and more common, there may be places you can go which solve a problem for your employer — a real opportunity for you. Many assignments are for two years or so. Believe me, two years can fly by. The career capital this will buy you will be worth it.

3. Get to know the culture in the country you choose while you are there. I know that living in the expat community is comfortable and connects you to home, but your objective should be to get to know the local culture. You may as well be in your home city if you simply surround yourself with your fellow country-people without any cultural assimilation while abroad. If you must live in an expat area, make sure that you spend focused time on learning as much as possible about your host country from the indigenous people there.

4. If you move to a country that doesn’t speak your first language, take lessons. Many two- to three-year expats don’t gain total fluency during their assignment if their primary language at work is their native language. Considering this, take an immersion class or regular language lessons in your host country. Know enough to get around, and don’t be afraid to try to speak the local language. This will buy you huge amounts goodwill with the local community and provide the keys to unlock experiences that you won’t gain otherwise.

5. Your world will expand in ways you hadn’t imagined. The expat community is a club. Expats have a special appreciation for others who understand what it is like to take the brave step to go and live in another country. You will come back with a worldview that is much different. Doors will open at home and abroad, and you will develop a network that you will use often over the course of your business life.

Don’t be afraid to take the risk. Open up your world. Focus on connecting the dots. Look for the interesting assignments that are outside of your comfort zone that challenge you — because that’s what great leaders are made of.


Give kudos where it is due

If you sense there is little appreciation going around in your organisation, it’s time to get down to work and create a culture of appreciation.

We are introducing this subject now to ensure you are ready with a plan on March 2, which is “Employee Appreciation Day”.

Organisations in the United States and Canada observe it (on the first Friday of March); and there is no reason why those here shouldn’t.

Building a culture of appreciation is a necessity for any organisation. But it is hard, everyday work.

A recent report by O.C. Tanner, which offers employee rewards and recognition solutions, says employees look for six things in their work and workplace. One of them is appreciation. As you must be curious about the other five, here they are: purpose, opportunity, success, wellbeing and leadership.

Vibha Batra, advertisement consultant and author, offers suggestions on how employees could be appreciated. “Have a Wall of Fame or Hollywood star in office. And up goes your picture/name on it. Like the ‘Secret Santa’ concept, choose one employee every Friday and everyone writes a one-line, appreciative, anonymous handwritten note on it. Give ‘Leave for home early’ coupon for employees when they do something exceptional. Offer a ‘Warrior of the Week’ certificate. Or have an ‘applause meter’ placed on the employee’s desk and it applauds and reaches the maximum level.”

Siju John Kuttikat, who heads a shipping and logistic start-up in Visakhapatnam, says for appreciation to be effective, it has to be spontaneous and immediate. “When employees go the extra mile on a project, tell them straightaway how much you appreciate their efforts. Give spot awards,” he says. Of course, when it comes to rewarding employees, cash is king.

“Whenever an employee does work that impacts the bottomline positively, we reward him immediately through a special bonus. We give bonus three to four times a year rather than keeping it for the festival,” says Kuttikat who runs Devi Freightage.


Leadership Is Not The Same As Telling Other People What To Do

Marcelino Elosua left his job as CEO of Spanish olive oil producer Carbonell to set up LID Publishing in 1993. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the business book publisher has produced titles with over 2,500 authors and employs 75 staff in seven different countries. Here Elosua shares his thoughts on the past, present and future of leadership.

1. How has the thinking around leadership changed in the past 25 years?

“I believe that leadership has changed with society. There used to be a top-down approach where the leader was always right. Now it’s more of a team approach where the leader empowers others. Also, companies don’t just rely on employees anymore; they increasingly use freelancers and partners as well. So leaders have to make sure that all these different parties are pulling together. Ultimately, I think it’s up to each of us, at our own level, to manage the situations for which we are responsible, which is not the same as telling others what to do.”

2. Do you think leaders are more or less influential today compared with 25 years ago?

“Before there were fewer organizations so there were fewer leaders. Since there were only a few of them, they had loud voices and they could issue orders, but they had less ability to influence because they could only access a few communication channels. Today there are many more leaders because there are more organizations and leaders at all levels within them. Leaders also have a greater ability to influence through their personal and social networks.”

3. How have you personally changed as a leader over that time?

“My emotional intelligence has really developed. My business is not really about books; it is about authors. You have to be able to manage their egos and help them to turn their dreams into reality.”

4. What’s the most important leadership lesson that you’ve learned?

“I’ve learned the importance of building long-term relationships with authors. Choosing the authors, keeping them, and helping them to develop their ideas, requires long-term corporate and personal investment.”

5. I edit Edge, the magazine of the Institute of Leadership & Management, which is published by LID so I am familiar with many of your authors. Who is your favorite leadership author and why?

“I can’t name one because I have enjoyed working with many people. When you are trying to develop original ideas that bring value to readers, you need to have many points of view. It’s like a painting where you introduce lots of different colors.”

6. What do you think about people who sneer at leadership books and say leadership can’t be taught?

“They are right and they are wrong. They are right in the sense that it is difficult to teach leadership. You have to learn it and practice it in many different situations. They are wrong in that leadership books give people ideas. More, importantly, leadership books build people’s willingness to try out those ideas and to know which ideas to apply to become a better leader.

“Where books differ from articles, seminars and videos is that they establish communication with the reader over a long period of time – at least two or three hours. Good authors give readers practical tips and examples of success and the readers really learn throughout that process.

“If you read an article, listen to a speaker or watch a video, you may think you have understood what you have to do, but that knowledge will not be deeply embedded. Suddenly you will be in a situation where you won’t remember what you need to do because you haven’t gone through the process of having the information repeated over and over, but with the use of different words.”

7. Which leadership trends do you expect to see in future?

“We need leaders and we will have leaders. But as the rate of change is going to get even faster, it’s going to be very difficult to be the best leader for an organization over an extended period of time unless you change yourself. We need different leaders for different situations. We cannot rely on a ‘big leader’ who knows everything. That would be more of a threat than an opportunity.”

8. What’s the best piece of leadership advice you’ve ever been given?

“My uncle, a missionary in Thailand, helped me to understand the need to keep calm. He taught me that it is important to be able to assess a situation, know yourself and understand what you can and can’t do, and what each person in your team can and can’t do, before you decide on a course of action.”

9. Who is your real-life leadership inspiration and why?

“It was my father, until he died when I was 29 years old. Now I’m really impressed by my mother. She’s 83, but she’s great at leading the family. The way she manages expectations and information is incredible – I’m thinking about writing a book about her leadership style at that age when I retire!”

10. People say that the world is having a leadership crisis right now. How can we manage that crisis?

“I don’t believe that it is a leadership crisis. Rather, it is the anxiety derived from two different forces – one is the ageing population and the other is the fast pace of change, especially technological change. There is a problem with people living longer but giving up earlier, partly because they feel daunted by technology.

“The solution to this issue, in my view, is life-long learning, especially collaborative learning. Our leaders need to bring hope to people and give them training so that they can stay useful in terms of intellectual output over many more years. I’m devoting my life to this endeavor.”


Do You Value People?

Are you a leader who values people? Or are you from the old guard who thinks that you do not have to value people — that they are just there to get the work done? Are you in a work environment where you don’t feel valued as a person? When people do not feel valued, it can create an environment where they are unable to thrive, grow and succeed.

My mentor, John Maxwell, says the prevailing attribute of a leader is the ability to value people. In my opinion, this is one thing that differentiates a leader from a manager. Managers are more concerned about processes. They know that a certain amount of work needs to get done, and they deploy people to make sure it happens. On the other hand, leaders care about the people. Leaders influence the people in their charge. Leaders need to value their people.

Does every leader value their people? The sad truth is that they do not. Some leaders still prescribe to the notion that it is below them or unnecessary to get to know the people they are leading. What does it mean to value your people? The answer likely varies from leader to leader, but I would like to share some things I have done to show that I value the people I was trusted to lead.

Listen more than speak.

People want to feel valued, and they have great ideas. It is important to remember the right way or the best way is not always your way. You need to trust the people who are on the grind every day getting the work done. If they are telling you that there is a better way to get it done, implement their ideas. If they are complaining about something, listen. They may have some valuable insight that you need to hear. This is an incredible way to show you value them.

Show your gratitude.

Do you ever say thank you to your employees? Do you celebrate their success? Do you let them know you appreciate them and believe in them? Now, I am not talking about saying thank you to the people who show up on time to work or giving an award for doing their job. We always have people who will go above and beyond — they want to shine, and they want you to notice their extra effort. Do not let this type of dedication go unnoticed.

Empower them to lead.

Many leaders fail to empower their people, not because their people are incapable but because they are afraid of losing the control or they lack the ability to trust. Evaluate yourself. Is one of these barriers preventing you from empowering your people? Give them a chance to shine. Be available for them to come back to you if they are stuck or need clarification. You are never going to know if they can do it if you do not let them try. More importantly, they will never gain the confidence to do new things if they are never given the opportunity to do so.

Get to know them as people, not just employees.

This may be more powerful than anything else. Do not look at your people as just their roles within the organization. They are people with hurts and hopes and dreams — just like you. Do you know about their families? Do you know their goals for the future? Do you know what makes them tick? Can you motivate them to be the best they can be? Are you setting them up for success in the future? It is crucial for leaders to get to know your people at a deeper level than just the functions of their jobs. When you connect with people at this level, it will increase their trust, affect their loyalty and make them feel valued.

Spend more time focusing on what they can do, rather than what they cannot do.

We are often wired to focus on the negative. It is important to understand everyone is not good at everything. This is the power of a team. When you know what people’s strengths and weaknesses are, you can adjust accordingly and build a high-performing team. If you have someone who is great at putting together visual presentations, allow them to do that whenever possible. If they are not strong in another area, allow someone who is strong to complement their weakness. We are all good at something, and when we are in our sweet spots, incredible things happen. Stop focusing on the inability and shine the light on the ability.

I have heard many leaders talk about not having enough time to do all the things I mentioned above. Caring about people and valuing them as individuals does not take extra time. If you begin to focus on valuing people, it will become a habit for you rather than a burden. Do everything from a place of valuing people. It is especially important to put in the extra effort to value those who challenge you the most. When you can shift your mindset toward valuing people, you will see the results: increased productivity, positive morale boosts and better teamwork, just to mention a few.


Rise of New Consumer-Like Technologies Shakes Up Corporate Learning Market

Corporate learning technologies have been buffeted by change. Employees, frustrated with internal learning options, were looking outside their organizations for new learning resources, forcing employers to reconsider whether legacy technology platforms were meeting workforce needs. This profound shift in learning preferences and need for content better tailored to rapidly changing business environments has fueled the rise of a bevy of new vendor systems that are more consumer-like, user-friendly and personalized to employee needs.

E-learning courses and classroom training now seem dated or cumbersome given the vast amount of content now available to employees through YouTube; social media networks; learning platforms like, Coursera and Udacity; blogs; and external podcasts. Industry vendors seeking to bring these more modern learning approaches into organizations have unveiled new digital platforms featuring micro-learning content, systems designed to aggregate and curate content from external and internal sources, tools that allow employees to author their own content, and artificial intelligence that can recommend learning experiences based on past preferences or career stage.

These technology disruptions have many chief learning officers (CLOs) and training directors rethinking how learning and development should look in their companies.

Requiem for the Legacy LMS

Technology innovations have pushed legacy platforms like learning management systems (LMSs) to the background while more learner-friendly, content-rich systems assume center stage. While the LMS will continue to have value for purposes like tracking mandatory compliance training, many organizations have new content and usability needs that surpass what traditional LMS technology can provide.

“The traditional LMS is no longer the centerpiece of corporate learning technology the way it was five years ago,” said David Mallon, head of research for Bersin by Deloitte, an HR research and consulting firm in New York City. “In most larger organizations, it is now just one part of an ecosystem of learning technologies, used primarily for tracking formal e-learning and classroom training.” Because those two forms of education have assumed a lower ranking in the learning hierarchy, Mallon said it’s not surprising the LMS has followed suit.

Vendors like Workday, CornerstoneOnDemand and Oracle that have worked to reinvent their traditional LMSs by adding new content-creation tools or user-friendly interfaces “would probably love to throw away the LMS term entirely, but it’s the term HR buyers and procurement professionals have come to know and a better name hasn’t emerged,” Mallon said.

Recent industry surveys reflect changing needs around learning technologies. Sierra-Cedar’s 2016-2017 HR Systems Survey found that 24 percent of respondents were re-evaluating their current LMS. “That’s a higher percentage than any other area in the study in terms of rethinking the value of an existing talent management technology,” said Stacey Harris, vice president of research and analytics for Sierra-Cedar. Thirty percent of those planning to replace their LMS were looking for an improved user experience and another 35 percent were seeking improved functionality, Harris said. “That tells me that many of today’s LMS platforms don’t have the features or functionality required for a changing learning market,” she said.

According to a 2017 survey of the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board, 44 percent of learning executives now see technology as either an “essential” or “high” investment priority. That ranked just behind CLOs’ top priority, which was strategy. The board consists of 1,500 professionals across industries in the learning and development industry.

New Vendors Emerge

When the Sierra-Cedar survey asked organizations which additional vendors beyond their LMS played a key role in rounding out a learning environment, content providers topped the list, Harris said.

“With content needs changing, today’s LMS has to be able to support a wider variety of more learner-friendly formats,” said Brian Sommer, founder of TechVentive, a technology consulting firm in Batavia, Ill. “Just providing proprietary content won’t cut it anymore.”

A dearth of learning content built for time-starved employees and fast-moving business environments has led to the rise of new vendors offering services that amplify LMS functions. That includes companies delivering micro-learning solutions, like Axonify and Grovo, and others focused on “longer-form” immersion learning, like Udacity, Coursera and Udemy. A third category of new vendors focuses on aggregating and curating learning content from internal and external sources, offering user-friendly interfaces that allow employees to quickly find learning content at the moment of need. Examples of these companies are Edcast, Pathgather and Degreed.

“Organizations have become more sophisticated in recognizing that learning is about more than taking formal courses and classes and are aligning themselves with these new technology platforms,” Mallon said. “These vendors have reinvented the learning experience and are providing things that the traditional LMS simply can’t.”

A maturing technology called Experience API, also known as xAPI, allows organizations to better track and manage this new constellation of learning activities and options. Experience API represents an evolution of predecessor SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), since it’s not limited to managing e-learning courses or learning management systems and can track and document a wider range of learning experiences.

“It’s a means by which companies can capture data from learning activities across the enterprise to place them into a bigger picture for employees and say, ‘Here are all the things you’ve done and could do to grow yourself professionally,’ ” Mallon said. xAPI can capture data like stretch assignments, coaching sessions, articles read and courses completed, and then create a record of all online and offline learning experiences.

Artificial Intelligence Gains Traction

Learning technology vendors also have added artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities to their platforms. These tools can recommend learning activities based on employees’ past preferences or where they are on a career path. “There is intelligence built into some of these systems now that can identify content that’s appropriate at a specific point in an employee’s career or based on learning experiences they did or didn’t like in the past,” Sommer said.

For example, vendor EdCast uses AI that learns about a work team and makes continuous learning recommendations to help improve individual and team performance. Micro-learning provider Axonify has algorithms that can tailor a learning path specific to each employee.

Sommer said the ability of learning platforms to integrate with other talent management systems can make AI more effective. If an LMS can’t easily access performance management evaluations, for example, the learning platform won’t be able to correctly recommend the kind of learning opportunities employees should pursue based on information in those evaluations, Sommer said.

“Integrations between learning platforms, human resource management systems and other talent platforms need to be extraordinarily tight for those recommendation purposes,” Sommer said.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.


Performance Management is Not a Contest

The management of employee performance is not a contest to select the fastest or the prettiest. For better or worse, our society places a lot of emphasis on competitive situations and on winning. My Philadelphia Eagles just proved they are the best among the 32 NFL teams. Philadelphia went crazy. Soon March Madness will be here and there will be a lot of betting on which college wins. We have beauty contests, spelling bees, dog shows and all those TV shows where someone wins. We love to celebrate winning.

Business is about winning. The rewards can be significant. Companies celebrate their successes. But within a company, individual competition is limited to the salesforce. Today, teamwork and collaboration are emphasized, and they are reinforced with incentives. Small ‘spot’ awards of a few hundred dollars are the only individual awards.

In contrast, the Trump administration’s budget proposal includes a $1 billion workforce fund that will heighten the competition for financial rewards. That’s roughly $500 per employee (assuming all two million employees are eligible) or if 20 percent earn awards, the average would be $2,500. If awards go to 10 percent, the typical award is still not enough to retain a high performer with an attractive job offer. To have the intended impact the fund should be considerably larger.

The administration’s budget fact sheet states the money is to be used for “targeted pay incentives to reward and retain high performers and those with the most essential skills.” So the awards will be limited. The message to those not granted an award is “You’re not a valued contributor.”

When the number of recipients is limited, it is effectively a contest. There are winners and losers. Just ask anyone who had a colleague selected for an award when they were ignored. The losers have a reason to be dissatisfied—or angry when the decisions are subjective.

Today, far more than 20 percent of federal employees are rated as high performers. It’s broadly understood that the ratings are not credible. Robert Tobias, the distinguished practitioner in residence at American University’s Department of Public Administration and Policy and a former president of the National Treasury Employees Union, summarized the problem: “A pay-for-performance system has to have an evaluation system that is perceived as fair and accurate. But agencies have talked for years and years and years about creating fair and objective evaluation systems, and they don’t have it.”

Surprisingly, at least to me, the 2018 Federal Workforce Priorities Report released this month by the Office of Personnel Management fails to list performance management as a priority. The report states “agencies are establishing plans to maximize employee performance, including a specific set of required actions designed to help address conduct issues and poor performance.” Performance management is also not included as one of the “promising agency practices.” If those plans are being developed, it’s a well kept secret.

Developing the policy governing the designation of high performers or those with essential skills will not be a straightforward problem. High performance involves different accomplishments in each field. It’s very possible that a notable accomplishment in one agency does not warrant recognition in other agencies. Important accomplishments typically involve several employees. It would be similarly difficult to develop a consensus on what to designate as essential skills.

In the context of the administration’s plans to reduce the workforce, freeze salaries and slow down step increases, the prospect of cash awards is unlikely to make federal employment attractive for top performers or those with high demand skills. They can command fully competitive salaries and the promise of a positive work experience. And the awards are certainly not going to help with recruiting top talent.

If the goal is “maximizing employee performance,” as stated in the workforce section of the budget documents, focusing on already highly valuable employees or the small number of poor performers is not the best strategy. That implicitly ignores what might be three quarters or more of the workforce. Further, selecting only a few for special awards—especially if the selections appear to be biased or discriminatory—could backfire and adversely impact performance.

No other employer would even consider a similar strategy. Of course no other employer is constrained by policies and practices that are a century old.

It would be far more productive to invest in the executives and managers responsible for day to day operations. They are the keys to improved performance. They need the skills to engage and challenge their people. They also need to be accountable and rewarded for achieving or exceeding planned results.

OPM should take the lead in providing thought leadership and the people management policies and systems agencies and their managers need. However, the website information on performance management does not reflect best practice thinking. The tool to help agencies assess their practices, the Human Capital Framework (HCF) Diagnostic Tool, is focused on administration, not the management or improvement of performance. It includes 12 questions asking for yes or no responses. The first four, abridged slightly, are:

  1. The organization’s performance appraisal systems are effectively and efficiently designed, implemented and evaluated.
  2. Managers and supervisors are given time for and are held accountable for their exercise of supervisory responsibilities.
  3. The performance management system motivates employees to focus their work effort.
  4. Executives, managers, and supervisors receive training on appraisal and awards systems.

The questions read as if they were written a decade or more ago. Most striking is the silence on issues like the effectiveness of managers, the importance of performance planning, the use of metrics, the validity of ratings or the consequences linked to ratings.

At some point agencies need to get serious about improving performance. The management practices proven to contribute to better performance are well documented. The research is solid—well managed organizations in every sector are more successful. The only real barrier is the political commitment.

As a suggestion, OPM should take each human capital practices and decide if it reflects the best practice, and if it fails that test, decide how to upgrade it

OPM should be providing best practice advice to agencies. That includes advice on proposals that could trigger adverse consequences. The website should advocate proven best practices. Hopefully, the incoming OPM Director will use his broad knowledge of the field to initiate needed changes.


4 Rules for Keeping the Staff (You Want) on Staff

A few years back, my boyfriend came home saying he’d read an article in Men’s Health on three rules for a successful relationship. He thought it was the most sensible advice on the topic he’d seen to date. Use your imagination to work out the first two of the rules (it has buff men on the cover rather than semi-naked women but Men’s Health is still a men’s magazine at the end of the day). The third was “say thank you.”

This is a pretty good rule in all aspects of life, not least the work place.

You can read all manner of business books and articles on retaining talent. Most will tell you that the number one thing employees want is to feel valued. I am absolutely on board with that concept, except being valued means different things to different people: one person will judge their value by the size of their pay check, another by the size of their corner office. Everyone, however, likes to be told “thank you.” If we adopted that simple rule into standard business practice, the number of resignation letters being handed in would drop several percentage points overnight.

Before I dive into my other (non-men’s-magazine-prompted) thoughts on this hot topic, let me get one thing out of the way: I’m not sure I even agree with the notion we have to “retain talent.” I don’t mind receiving resignation letters. For every person going out the door, that’s one more new idea or new way of doing things coming back in. Yes, it’s a pain having to interview stacks of people, but you usually learn a few things during that process, too.

However, earlier this year, when we interviewed a whole roster of CEOs and MDs on the concerns they had about future-proofing their businesses for a WGSN white paper we were creating, nearly all mentioned retaining staff as a topic that kept them up at night. With this in mind, I’ve been thinking about the things that have kept me in roles, or conversely driven me away from an organisation.

Am I “on the bus”?
I’m not a regular bus taker — I walk everywhere — but when I first arrived at WGSN, people kept on asking me if so-and-so was “on my bus.” I was attempting to win over a team largely composed of former fashion designers who couldn’t quite work out why the ex editor-in-chief of a news and politics website was their new chief content officer. Essentially, were they on board with my ambitions? And so, the bus analogy has stuck.

As a general rule, as soon as I’m not bought into a boss’ vision, I’m out. That does not mean that leaders should aim to get everyone on their proverbial bus. (We’re human beings – by our very nature we don’t all think the same way, and we certainly don’t agree on the best way to run things.) But, it’s the job of the person running things to make sure their organization at least understands the color of the bus, the direction it’s going in and, crucially, who’s driving the damn thing. (No more vehicle-related analogies from here on in, I promise.)

Am I still learning?
Companies across the world mistake employees’ need to learn something new with their need to provide vast rosters of leadership and development programs. L&D programs should be standard. They’re not a nice-to-have for keeping good employees within a business, they are just good business practice.

I’m talking about learning a whole new job. We shouldn’t be leaving people doing roles they can do standing on their heads. That’s certainly the convenient thing to do. It keeps a business running smoothly but no one moves forward, so they leave.

From afar, I’ve watched Intel create a gold standard in this field. My brother has worked across multiple teams and multiple countries for the company, and as a consequence, never worked for anyone else. He’s got as many entries on his LinkedIn profile as I do, it’s just each one has the Intel logo next to it. You don’t need a fancy professional development program to make this work. Lust give people jobs they’re not quite ready for, and then surround them with other great people, so they learn quickly in the role.

Am I being challenged?
I really, really hate being told I’m wrong about, well, pretty much anything. But it turns out, that isn’t the same as enjoying being told I’m right about everything. Track back to age 14, and my, in my opinion, unfairly harsh school history teacher. No matter how much time I spent on my essays, they were never quite good enough; no matter how much research I’d done, it was never quite extensive enough. I set out to prove her wrong, and, long story short, history was where I ended up with the A grades, in stark contrast to the topics where, I had it on good authority, I excelled. I might not like people pointing out my faults, or where I lack experience, but I’m far better at my job as a consequence of the criticism.

It is incorrectly believed that millennials shift jobs at a more frequent rate than their parents’ generation. As this cohort grows up, the latest research suggests they’ll stay in their current jobs just as long as the generation before. Instead of worrying about staff turnover, maybe it’s as simple as worrying about getting the most out of the employees that are staying. Treat then as you would be treated yourself. And always remember to say thank you.


Three Trends That Will Shape Leadership Development In 2018 And Why They Matter

Organizations are facing huge challenges today as they grapple with how to better prepare their leaders to steer through unprecedented and rapidly accelerating changes in the business world. The landscape of what leadership means today is changing, as leaders are required to both develop innovative, sustainable businesses for an unknown long-term future and to deliver strong results today. But there is great opportunity as well. Through my work with clients, I see three trends emerging, which, when addressed, can lead the way to success.

1. Organizational structures are being redesigned and flattened, resulting in changes in what is being asked of leaders.

According to the 2017 Mercer Global Talent Trends Report, 93% of companies interviewed rated reshaping organizational design and structure as a top priority and are planning changes. Many intend to flatten their organizations, decentralize decision making and extend authority and control.

Flatter organizations, combined with the onslaught of technological advancements and globalization of the markets they serve, means that a new breed of leaders must arise. The days of command and control are no longer effective or relevant, as there is no way leaders can be experts on the vast array of rapidly changing market factors and technology. Instead, they must focus more on inspiring, empowering and mobilizing the experts in those areas — who are often spread around the world.

Leaders are no longer the smartest people in the room who know the most about everything. To be successful, they now need to be able to surround themselves with experts in those fields who are smarter than themselves, and then they must find ways to motivate and empower those people in order to mobilize them towards a shared vision.

2. There is a scarcity of ready leaders in the pipeline.

The leadership development industry is facing a conundrum: On one hand, the sector has been seeing phenomenal growth with further growth predicted. Harvard Business’s 2016 State of Leadership report stated that over half of the organizations they surveyed planned to increase spending on these programs in the next two years.

On the other hand, worrying about how to find leaders who are strong in the new skills and abilities needed for growth and success is top of mind for many boards and CEOs. In fact, the Mercer report points to talent scarcity as one of the biggest issues facing executives today.

There is a lag between what leaders are being trained for today and what skills will be needed for tomorrow. Skills such as reflection, dialogue, connection and empathy are still finding their ways into the very fabric of corporate structure and business strategy as businesses try to move past slogans and learn how to actually “walk their talk.” Luckily, CEOs such as Microsoft’s Satya Nadella whose “learn-it-all” approach to leading (vs. the traditional “know-it-all”) is modeling and inspiring those that follow.

3. Leadership training needs to change to become more relevant and core to business strategy.

Despite all the focus on leadership programs, few business leaders consider leadership development a strategic priority because they don’t see any impact or connection to results. According to the Harvard Business report, only 19% of business leaders view leadership development programs as relevant to the issues they face today

So, how can we better design programs to make them more relevant? Organizations will need to:

• Better integrate traditional business-acumen skills with more emphasis on coaching and mentoring skills of a wide range of people with different backgrounds, expertise and needs.

• Recognize the individual growth needs for their executives and find ways of personalizing programs and learning experiences.

• Find and support explicit and sustained methods of ensuring that learning outcomes and experiences are brought back, shared and incorporated into the everyday tissue of the organization.

• Find ways to truly focus (as opposed to checking it off the box) on personal growth in areas such as self-awareness, intuition, true empathy and the ability to read a room.

When you are no longer the smartest person in the room, you need to make sure you can understand and motivate those who are, pick up and make sense of weak signals regardless of where they came from, and have the skills to mobilize the rest of the organization quickly to address the issues.

2018 will be an exciting time, with continuous changes and disruption in the business world. It will also be filled with opportunities for great leaders to forge ahead and reshape their businesses with stellar results.


How to Ensure an Amicable Exit for an Employee

When you are running a business, it’s not just the hires that you need to take care of but also the fires. With numerous employee review sites doing the rounds, a disgruntled employee exiting the company could tarnish your image in the industry.

How you handle the exit of an employee also speaks volumes about your company culture in front of your current employees. Therefore, it is important for the founder or the HR of the company to ensure employee exits are amicable.

Entrepreneur India spoke to experts in the industry about how to handle an exit in your company.

Be Transparent

One of the most important aspects of handling an exit is to make sure that you are clear and transparent about the exit process, believes Gaurav Gupta, Founder and Director, SquareBoat-Solutions Private Limited.

While hiring an employee, it’s important to have clear policies regarding separation be it due to redundancies, disciplinary reasons or performance issues, duly signed by the employee. “Employment contract needs to be drafted and worded carefully so as to act as a cover for any such eventualities. The performance management system needs to be duly explained to all new joiners and the Goal Planning needs to be documented with SMART principled targets,” said Jaydeep Das, Director HR & Administration, ChildFund India.

Maintain a Record

For every company, it’s essential to have all processes and conversations documented. Das believes that the seriousness of any business with regards to performance is basically reflected in the ways performance conversations are documented. “Having an extendable probationary clause will come handy in case employees need to be provided buffer space to perform and perform well to secure their journey with the organisation, provided those notes are available on record,” he said. Right after hiring an employee, the art of leading difficult conversations plays a major role for the leaders, he believes.

Feedback is Crucial

When an employee is exiting the company, the founder should be aware of the discrepancies that led to the employee’s exit. As the employee has already decided to leave the company, management should be able to separate the problems and the person to ensure that the dignity of life at work is honoured, believes Das. Persuasion skill ups the success probability for an amicable separation. “Once the stage is reached wherein kind of win-win situation is created it will be time again for documentation. A graceful exit while we address the loss caused to the organisation would be preferred way out for any outgoing employee,” said Das.

An important part of the exit process is the HR feedback form which is crucial for the company. As the employee is usually honest during this process, the feedback will help the company know more about how to build a better culture or work environment, believes Gupta.

On a lighter note, Gupta added that the organisation should also look at planning a nice farewell for the employee with the whole team. The trick is here to not burn bridges with the employee. “It’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the work that the employee did during his/her tenure. It is also important to give the option to re-join the organisation as it makes the employee feel elated just in case the new job doesn’t work out for him,” said Gupta.


How tech-savvy should HR be?

CHROs need to be IT-savvy and take charge of implementing HR tech at the workplace, while leveraging the expertise of the IT team for advice during the initial purchasing stage, said McCann’s Asia Pacific chief talent officer.

Makarand Tare personally involves himself “in the game” when the company’s top leaders makes decisions on purchasing HR tech.

“I would not purchase any HR technology without an IT person sitting next to me,” Tare said. “But the final decision should be done by HR and the CEO.”

The IT representative helps to ascertain the program’s compatibility with the company’s existing platforms, server capacity, as well as data privacy, he said.

They are also in charge of the initial part of rolling out the program within the system. Once it is in the server, HR does the rollout and implementation, explained Tare.

“Nowadays companies don’t have the richness of having a dedicated IT person in HR – what we need is a dedicated IT-savvy person in the team.

“Also, the CHRO has to be IT-savvy to bring effectiveness to HR tech tools,” he said.

Tare believes that tech understanding is a must-have skill in today’s business world. He would worry if someone in HR was completely unfamiliar with handling technology.

“I believe the days are gone where HR can say that they don’t understand technology – that is more of a competency issue,” he said.

Tare advises HR professionals to continuously upgrade their knowledge and skills and be passionate when taking charge of tech projects.

As for his views on how technology will impact HR, Tare shares that it is dependent on several factors.

“It is always a concept of whether technology will make us efficient or slow us down. I think the tool and vendor you decide on using, as well as the speed of implementation will determine if it makes your work more efficient or not.”

Makarand Tare will be on the panel discussing ‘leading technology projects – building a strategic-HR-IT alliance’ at the HR Tech Summit being held at the Hilton Singapore on 28 March 2018.

The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of Makarand Tare in his/her private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of McCann Worldgroup.