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Next time you defend your blunt candor as something noble, consider what you might be covering up and what it’s costing you in terms of trust, authenticity and integrity.

Is it just me, or have you seen a surge in the popularity of “telling it like it is?” Whether it’s a brash, in your face CEO — many of whom boast about their direct, no-nonsense, unvarnished telling of the truth — many leaders wear it like a badge of honor.

But when people learn more about their personalities, their communication preferences and their distress patterns, they progressively back off on their bluster about telling it like is. Why? Because they gain insight into some important, and sometimes uncomfortable, truths.

  • You can be direct without being honest.
  • Telling it like it is often reveals more about our own distress than anything else.
  • An “in-your-face” approach to leadership undermines effectiveness in the long run.
  • Being blunt often reveals lack of skill to use a more effective approach.
  • Healthy conflict with another person is a learned skill that few people acquire naturally.

So, where’s the confusion? The problem comes from failing to distinguish authentic emotions from cover-up emotions.

When people are in distress, they mask their authentic feelings with cover-up emotions. For instance, emotional displays can be deceptive and cunning, appearing legitimate, but they’re often just diverting attention from the real issue. Four cover-up emotions are closely associated with an attitude of telling it like it is.

Righteous Arrogance: Righteous arrogance is often expressed through opinionated, judgmental pushing of beliefs. These people believe it’s okay to tell others what’s right and wrong, and push their pious beliefs. Statements like, “You should know better,” or “Clearly you lack the moral character to be a leader” cover up their own fear of not being up to the task. If these people were truly honest, they’d share their fear that they might not always be right and might not be able to perfectly live up to their responsibilities. This fear keeps them up at night wondering if they are worthy. Instead of owning it, they question everyone else’s worthiness, claiming they are just telling it like it is.

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Aiming to become a customer-centric organisation is never easy, and it may require a multi-year journey.

In order for an organisation to sustain a change agenda over that span of time, the senior management team needs to actively lead the effort.

What does that mean for those leaders?

The most effective leaders demonstrate three key characteristics:

Communicate "Why" The only way to get people to truly buy-in to change is for them to understand why it's happening. Most executives tend to under-communicate. And when they do communicate, they often focus on "what" the company will be doing and "how" it will get done.

Here are some ways that executives can improve their communications: (more…)




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Employee engagement is generally defined as the emotional attachment an employee has to his or her organisation and its goals. 

The concept has been around for more than three decades, but currently a chief concern for businesses both big and small.  In a 2014 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study, 78% of business leaders rated retention and engagement as either urgent or important.  Additionally, a 2013 Gallup survey found that 87% of the global workforce is disengaged with their organizations.  These findings, together with more recent studies, beg the question, how does an organization meaningfully enhance engagement?

The Case for Active Employee Engagement: Josh Bersin, is the Founder and Principal at Bersin by Deloitte, a leading provider of research based membership programs in the areas human resources, talent, and learning.  In 2014, he wrote in Forbes about the importance of improving employee engagement.  In part, he emphasized the need to move beyond reactionary and responsive approaches such as the traditional engagement survey.

More specifically, he noted that it is important to proactively build “…an organization that is exciting, fulfilling, meaningful, and fun by redesigning jobs, changing work environments, adding new benefits, continuously developing managers, and investing in people.”  He went on to comment that such organizations “…make sure people are screened for culture and job fit (the wrong person cannot be ‘engaged’ regardless of what HR does).”

Improving Employee Engagement Using Assessment Tools: So how does one select the right person engagement-wise?  One viable option is by utilizing pre-employment testing.  Over the past decade, assessment specialists have witnessed a growing trend in which employers not only want a reliable analysis of a candidate’s job fit, but accurate predictions of culture fit including shared values. (more…)




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It’s an inescapable fact: We all have to make decisions. Wouldn’t it be great if we could systemically make better ones?

We all grow up to be decision-makers. Yet somehow there’s no well-established way to make high-stakes decisions well. That’s a problem since throughout life we’re faced with many of them — decisions that will have a long-term impact on our lives, but where the outcome is unknown, and the price for making the wrong decision could be costly.

Imagine if we all learned decision making before turning 18. Is there anything we do more frequently that has higher stakes than making good choices? If we could master decision making, I believe the world might get along just a little bit better, and everyone would live happier lives – and work smarter.

There is a system that can help us solve complex problems, and there is a way to do it that boosts our confidence in our decision-making capabilities and enables us to have the conviction that our solution has a good likelihood of succeeding.

I created one: the AREA Method decision-making system. I initially developed it to help me do better at my work as an investigative journalist. I was searching for a way to better control and counteract my mental biases, those assumptions and judgments that help us every day when making small decisions but that doesn’t go away when we need to solve complex problems. I also wanted to better understand the incentives and motives of the other people I was dealing with. (more…)




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What is the number one characteristic you look for when identifying high-potential talent?

Eighty HR professionals answered this question during breakfast events in San Francisco and New York City hosted by  American Management Association. The events included panel discussions focused on “Navigating a Talent Development Roadmap,” during which executives from AMA, BioMarin, Pitney Bowes, Sharp, Simpson Thacher, and others shared their experiences.

At each event, attendees were asked to write down the characteristic they most often look for in high potentials (HiPos). The most common trait listed in both cities was “agility,” followed by “curiosity.” Thirty-five traits were posted and only five appeared multiple times, exposing the breadth of priorities among attendees.

Why agility?

As highlighted throughout the discussions, agility is a common trait valued by leaders across geographies. Panelists emphasized the importance of an employee's ability to adapt to and evolve with the ever-changing, fast-paced world of commerce.

However, some expressed that agility is actually a secondary trait displayed in HiPos; to be agile suggests that one must embody certain prerequisite characteristics.

Barbara Zung, Vice President of Global Talent Management at AMA, looks for curiosity, passion, and motivation when identifying HiPos. In her experience, “if someone displays curiosity, half the battle is won. Skill is important, but curiosity is much more vital. The biggest challenge is reigniting that passion and curiosity is one vessel through which it can be accomplished.” Zung suggests that motivation is intrinsic in HiPos and is the bedrock on which agility is formed. (more…)




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Organisations are constantly searching for the secret to hiring the right employees.

They want a "killer question" that will reveal the true ability of the candidate during the interview (probably questionable for validity if not legality). They use quirky problems or puzzles they think will highlight the creative and enthusiastic candidates. They can spend thousands of pounds on multiple interviews thinking that surely, somewhere during the sixth interview, the candidate's actual personality will be (inadvertently) divulged.

The problem with this approach is that it cannot provide accurate information for a couple of reasons: first, hiring managers overestimate their ability to determine a candidate's skill set based on resumes and interviews, and second, few organisations identify in advance the factors they want to evaluate and measure in the interview.

The desire to get good information from interviews is understandable since most managers have made at least one expensive hiring mistake that cost thousands of dollars to fix and led to bad outcomes for the team and clients. And because managers in virtually every organisation use interviews to help make hiring decisions (Wilk & Cappelli, 2003; Ryan, McFarland, Baron, & Page, 1999), it makes sense to explore the challenges and benefits of the interview.

In this article, we will attempt to demystify the hiring process and provide tips on making a successful hire. (more…)




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Sometimes you have to be completely silent in order to hear it. Turn off the news reporting the disaster of the moment, quiet your mind from the everyday worries and problems, tune out the negative comments of co-workers and friends, and just…listen.

Do you hear the soft knocking? Open up:  opportunity has something to show you.

Many times we can race through our lives, thinking that opportunity will smack us in the face when the time is right. We live in a time of LOUDness - loud music, loud cars, loud neighbours. Sometimes opportunity doesn't knock loudly though, and there is no smack in the face. Rather it whispers, alludes, or insinuates. It lightly knocks, instead of banging down your door. If you are too busy caught up in the chaos of life, you can miss it in a beat.

Learn to Recognise Opportunity: In order to seize an opportunity, you must first recognise it. That is difficult if you are looking for opportunity in only one shape or form. Let's say that you are trying to increase your salary, and are frustrated that the fruits of your efforts have not resulted in any extra income. Instead of being aggravated, take a step back to see what other opportunities are available to you.

Perhaps your company has professional development money sitting idle that could be used to enhance your skills sets, thus resulting in an increased salary.

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