How CEOs Should Handle Criticism

Corporate leaders have always been targets of criticism, both from inside and outside the firms they lead.

But these days leaders are getting it from an increasing number of sources, thanks to a bevvy of internet platforms designed to bring more transparency to work, as well as a social media ecosystem capable of spreading word rapidly. 

“The opportunities for negative comments about CEOs to emerge are through the roof,” said Brian Kropp, of CEB, a research firm based in Stamford, Connecticut.

Just ask Oscar Munoz. The boss of United Airlines is the latest example of the perils of CEO critique. Not only did Munoz feel the heat when a video in April emerged on social media showing a United passenger being dragged off a flight by authorities after refusing to give up his seat to make room for United crew members needing to get to a job in another city, but his leaked internal response to his employees regarding the incident quickly drew ire from company review websites, social media and cable news.

While United’s incident is extreme, it shows just how important it is for leaders to be prepared to face such circumstances. Whether it’s a full-blown national scandal or an internal spat about direct reports, CEOs would be wise to develop the skills necessary to take criticism constructively.     

First and foremost, CEOs need to take any criticism thrown their way head on, Kropp said. In most cases, leaders who try to ignore or deflect negative feedback are likely digging themselves a deeper hole, one that could potentially come with serious consequences for the companies they lead.  

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Stress – A Quick Guide

It is well recognised that stress reduces employee well-being and that excessive or sustained work pressure can lead to stress.

Occupational stress poses a risk to most businesses and compensation payments for stress-related injuries are rising. It is important to meet the challenge by dealing with excessive and long-term causes of stress. This quick guide gives introductory guidance only.


Working at Amazon: Their Story

It takes just a few minutes for three words to take centre stage when HRmagazine catches up with Tina Oakley, HR director of Amazon UK Operations. These are associates, peak and… fun.

First up: ‘associates’, the term Amazon uses to describe the 24,000 individuals working across the UK business, including the thousands Oakley oversees in her role leading HR for Amazon’s 16 British fulfilment centres.

It’s clear from pretty much everything Oakley shares just why the firm steers away from more traditional, hierarchical descriptors. This is a business where the ‘associate’ experience is king, and where everyone is empowered to speak up with suggestions.

Which brings us to the next of Oakley’s favourite words: peak. “I’ve been here three years now but it just goes so quickly,” she muses as we sit down to chat at Amazon’s shiny new headquarters in Principal Place, Shoreditch (complete with the exposed brickwork and modern furniture you’d expect of such an East London locale).

“Here we measure in how many peaks you’ve done. So I’ve just completed my third peak, which was by far my best from an HR perspective,” says Oakley, whose previous roles include senior HR positions at British Airways (BA) and HR director at Premier Foods, P&O Ferries and Gatwick Airport.Continue reading

Learning Point: Understanding The Dos and Don’ts of Difficult Conversations

Although they may be daunting, difficult conversations are part and parcel of any manager or leader's job.

While these conversations never necessarily stop being difficult, you can take steps to make them easier.



The following basic principles may help.

  • Choose a suitable time and place. Whatever the nature of your difficult conversation, you should book a private room where you won't be interrupted, and ensure you allow sufficient time to explore both sides of the story.
  • State your intent up front. Use your opening sentences to outline what exactly you want to talk about; including why the conversation has to happen and what you would like to see as an outcome (if appropriate). This should help focus the conversation, and allow you to steer it back on track if need be.
  • Gather evidence and stick to the facts. When conducting a difficult conversation, you should always rely on factual information and direct observations, and use these as specific examples to back up what you are saying whenever possible.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your team members informally at first, giving them an opportunity to explain things and state their side of the story.
  • Practise active listening. Don't assume that everyone thinks like you: ensure you give the other person time to share their views without interruption, and really listen to what they are saying. Pay particular attention to non-verbal signals and body language.
  • Be clear about next steps. In your conversation, state clearly what will happen next, including likely consequences if things don't improve (if your difficult conversation is about problem behaviour).

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What Leaders Need to Know About The Future of Teams

Team leaders will need the ability to create teams, get them performing effectively and then disband them on a positive note

Teams are set to play a critical role in the organisations of the future.The hierarchical structures of the past are giving way to agile teams that can respond quickly to new challenges and innovate at speed. Our recent research shows that 69% of managers now work with five or more teams and that 88% were responsible for at least one team.

The emergence of working cultures where teams are increasingly virtual and are formed and disbanded as priorities change, poses many challenges for team leaders, particularly those who have been used to working in more conventional environments. So how do managers need to respond to the changing nature of teams – and what can HR do to help
equip them for the future?

The March of the Millennials: Generation Y employees will play a big part in the teams of the future, so it’s important for team leaders to understand how to get the best out of them. Our research shows that Millennials want challenging and interesting work, flexible working patterns and frequent praise.

They want informal, friendly relationships with their managers, and for their bosses to share their knowledge and experience with them. They are digital natives who have grown up with technology, and expect to be able to use it to its fullest extent in the workplace. Much of this is alien to team leaders, who have grown up against a more hierarchical, slow-moving backdrop. HR needs to help line managers understand how they can maximise the potential of this key group of employees while at the same time integrating them successfully with the rest of the workforce.Continue reading

The Secret To Dealing With Difficult People: It’s About You

Do you have someone at work who consistently triggers you? Doesn't listen? Takes credit for work you've done? Wastes your time with trivial issues? Acts like a know-it-all? Can only talk about himself? Constantly criticises?

Our core emotional need is to feel valued and valuable. When we don't, it's deeply unsettling, a challenge to our sense of equilibrium, security, and well-being. At the most primal level, it can feel like a threat to our very survival.

This is especially true when the person you're struggling with is your boss. The problem is that being in charge of other people rarely brings out the best in us.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton said way back in 1887. “There is no worse heresy than the office that sanctifies the holder of it.”

The easy default when we feel devalued is to the role of victim, and it's a seductive pull. Blaming others for how we're feeling is a form of self-protection. Whatever is going wrong isn't our fault. By off loading responsibility, we feel better in the short-term.

The problem with being a victim is that you cede the power to influence your circumstances. The painful truth when it comes to the people who trigger you is this: You're not going to change them. The only person you have the possibility of changing is yourself.

Each of us has a default lens through which we see the world. We call it reality, but in fact it's a selective filter. We have the power, to view the world through other lenses. There are three worth trying on when you find yourself defaulting to negative emotions.

The Lens of Realistic Optimism: Using this lens requires asking yourself two simple questions when you feel you're being treated badly or unfairly. The first one is "What are the facts in this situation?" The second is, "What's the story I'm telling myself about those facts?"Continue reading