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Tag: Jocelyn Berard

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The C in C-Suite Stands for Courage

Are Canadian corporations and their CEO’s cowardly?  This is the question I heard Michael Enright ask in an October broadcast of The Sunday Edition. Two items spurred this inquiry:

In 2012, while Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mr. Carney admonished corporate Canada for “not putting money to work”, essentially for hoarding cash reserves which he referred to as dead money.  Mr. Carney characterized this level of caution by Canadian CEOs as excessive.  You might be interested to know that the dead money figure as of Q2 2016 is $488,758,000,000.

This summer Deloitte published a study that identifies Canadian corporations as lacking courage, specifically the “…need to get over our fear of risk to succeed”.

Let’s think about this for a moment.  Have we actually arrived at a time and place in history where business leaders, leaders in the current Canadian economy, no longer know how to make a loonie – no longer know how to lead?

If Canadian corporations don’t know what intrepid leadership looks like then my colleagues and I would like to help map this out.  We know that this talent profile exists in the people employed in businesses throughout Canada.  Here’s what we’re looking for.

The Profile of Courageous Leaders

According to our research bold, innovative and courageous leadership is characterized by 8 competencies:

  • Drives Achievement – Demonstrates an outstanding need to achieve exceptional challenges under competitive scenarios and is prepared to make lifestyle sacrifices for the sake of career advancement.
  • Sustains Profitability – Uses financial profitability, personal wealth and market share growth as the fundamental factors to judge one’s own and others performance on the basis of measured return-on-investment/cost-benefit analysis.
  • Seeks Innovation – Thinks expansively and combines novel ideas in unique ways to generate innovative solutions.
  • Embraces Change – Demonstrates the ability and willingness to adapt, contribute and support rapid change in response to different problem scenarios or objectives.
  • Initiates Independently – Demonstrates a preference for taking action, pursuing high risks and initiating projects independently of prior approval or requests.
  • Promotes Compelling Vision – Takes a longer-term and a purposeful approach to finding solutions, in order to actualize a more meaningful or worthwhile strategic goal.
  • Maintains Accountability – Demonstrates an attitude that is defined by taking responsibilities and loyalties very seriously. Assumes a sense of personal accountability for one’s direct results as well as co-workers’ actions, without seeking to blame or provide excuses for failures.
  • Builds Consensus – Enjoys working as part of a team. Emphasis is on appropriate compromise, demonstrating tact, maintaining emotional control and interpersonal tolerance rather than making demands.

Yes, the market brings uncertainty. Yes, the market impact of the recent election in U.S. is unknown. But when will we have times of complete certainty? Probably not soon! Canadian leaders need to demonstrate courage now.

Start by taking a good look at yourself and your leadership profile.  Be honest in determining which competencies are effortless and effortful, based on the profile listed above. Once you know that, you can work on your growth plan and identify who needs to surround you to complement your profile.  You and your team will both know and value the critical elements of courageous leadership.

These specific actions can support leaders in demonstrating courage to resuscitate the dead money and generate returns for the Canadian economy, the organizations, the employees and for themselves.

Case in point: Royal Canadian Mint

Ironically in an era where electronic fund transfers are dominant, the organization which literally makes loonies has reinvented itself by tapping new markets for new profitability.  The RCM services and products not only span international currency consulting and provision, they crowd source designs, craft collectables on themes including Star Wars, sell direct to consumers online, and yes, you can download the app. In 2015 the Government of Canada received $53 million in dividends.  Not bad for a Crown Corporation!

 

Red Pencil Standing Out From Crowd

You’ll Never Survive Working for a Narcissistic Leader – Here’s Why

Last month I took issue with the Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog post entitled “How to Work for a Narcissist”. This month I look for perspectives and insights from colleagues here at Optimum Talent to address this issue. In this post you’ll hear from:

When speaking to Larry, Carlos and Jocelyn they all began with the same question. ‘Are we truly talking about a Narcissist, which means a person with a mental disorder? Or are we talking about a self-centred person?’ Terms are important because they define the approach to the issue under discussion.

Larry who has over 40 years of experience in clinical psychology as well as coaching offers the following insights.

Narcissism is a clinical diagnosis. This means the narcissist is dysfunctional and that their behaviour is dysfunctional in a significant way.

The only reason for hiring a narcissist is because the hiring manager believes they need this specific person in the role, typically for a high stakes initiative or project. The hiring manager is dependent on the narcissist to achieve something she/he cannot.  Narcissists, who are extremely talented individuals, are the means to this end. The hiring manager will tolerate the narcissist as long as possible in order to achieve a goal. The cost will be that the most competent people will begin to leave the organization.

In reality narcissists are very unhappy people. In fact, they are incapable of being happy, have no self-respect and think they are losers because no one can stick with them for long. Yet, everyone experiences the narcissist as arrogant, intimidating and a person keen to make others feel incompetent and inadequate.

When coaching a person reporting to a narcissist Larry offers three possible outcomes:  leave, get fired, stay and become ill. Do you really need this particular job?  The best course of action for employees is to stand up for themselves. The narcissist will either fire you or respect you enough to tolerate you.  The employee is taking a 50/50 chance. If the narcissist needs the employee then there will be no leadership as the relationship will be one of indifference.   Essentially the employee will be ignored and will have to get on with the job the best they can.  In Larry’s experience narcissists don’t remain in their roles for more than a couple of years as the organizational cost is too high.

Symbol Of A Narcissist Without Head And With Pawns In The Hands

Carlos
, whose first career was as a medical doctor and is now following developments in neuroscience, reinforces Larry’s perspective with insights for the employee.

The advice in the HBC post is too simplistic and therefore not realistic. This is a bandage solution and any bandage is fragile. It doesn’t fix the problem, just covers it.

The psychological impact of a narcissists is profound. The narcissist garners results from an organizational point of view, so why change what works? A person who works for a narcissist must have a very strongly developed personality. People need validation for what they think. The narcissist gets this from others who benefit from them and want to be like them. No one can work for a narcissist without damage to their self-esteem.  A narcissist will never provide any validating feedback and the employee will be psychologically affected.

In order to cope the employee needs supporters within the organization, including HR.  We are always checking ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) through others. The problem is that a healthy person will be in a power relationship with a narcissist, creating a Catch 22 situation for the employee.  If the employee stays then they will be damaged or their career will be damaged.  In either case their life is no longer a reflection of reality.  If they leave then they often feel like a failure because narcissists can deceive many people.

A person needs to be mentally healthy enough to say that, while the boss is a high performer the boss is also a narcissist, therefore the only positive outcome in this situation is for one of us to leave. Ultimately an employee must be mentally healthy enough to self-validate their decision to leave.


Jocelyn offers a different perspective. As a narcissist is incapable of being coached, his advice is based on an individual with narcissistic characteristics.

The HBR post is missing a big component regarding the role of leadership and HR in the organization.

Some senior leaders can also report to leaders with narcissistic tendencies, we all report to someone – but where is this person’s leader and where is HR in this scenario? A person with narcissist tendencies is a personality derailer. What can appear to be strengths or attractive ‘high performance’ qualities can be too much of a good thing. It’s essential that HR and leadership recognize that this person needs help.  HBR has forgotten that someone has to intervene because this behaviour results in negative consequences.

What needs to be done to address narcissistic tendencies?

A problem can only be fixed if it is recognized as such. Narcissistic personality traits have an impact on others. While people recognize this person’s positive characteristics, it can’t be all about “Joe”.  There are other people who need to be recognized too.  Derailers in this case can lead to attention-seeking and it’s their self-awareness that needs to be increased in relation to the resulting negative consequences. A method of raising self-awareness is with a powerful/rigorous psychometric assessment, paired with feed-back from others, such as a 360 assessment.  The goal is to ensure that perceptions and consequences are clearly understood and articulated.

What can we do?

This is about changing a person’s behaviour and that’s not easy.  The person needs to do things differently.  In this case examples of behavioural change might include:

  • Not speaking first in meetings, letting others talk
  • Including others by praising them, highlighting their contributions and accomplishments
  • Asking more questions, getting input, thoughts, etc.

This feedback and coaching must be limited to a few key behaviours so that the person isn’t overwhelmed or becomes frustrated.  This has to be achievable.

This person needs constant and consistent encouragement and feedback in order for this program to work.  It also requires ongoing recognition of derailing behaviours and their consequences in order to reinforce good behaviours.

Can you work for a Narcissist? No you can’t. No one can and remain healthy.

Team Pulling Up An Arrow

Team Effectiveness…Yeah Sure, We’ve Heard it all!

You have heard it and most likely you have experienced it too. Team building, team effectiveness training, and catchy slogans like “TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More” and “There is no I in team.” But I have seen so many challenging situations, not to say horror stories, in which I think the acronym TEAM could instead mean, “Tearing Everyone Apart Mostly!” You’ve also probably heard about the four stages of team: forming, storming, norming, and performing. However, for many teams the reality is more like storming, somewhat norming, and storming again! I think this is nicely expressed with Muse’s lyrics from their song Starlight, “High hopes and expectations, black holes and revelations.”

Teamwork Placing Final Piece In Puzzle

Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly factors that lead to more effective team work and I recognize and value them. Having clear objectives, strong commitment, and building trust are critical, but some factors are easier to deal with than others. The establishment of business objectives is typically the easiest (not necessary the simplest) and most natural for leaders. While confronting the way team members handle different point of views, debate and conflict is often seen as more delicate. However, as much as it may be difficult, tackling these issues is essential in creating an effective team.

An interesting literature review done by industrial psychology Ph.D. students, including Mathieu Forget from SuccessFinder, indicated that cognitive conflicts are positively correlated with organizational performance. In other words, healthy and fact-based debates are beneficial for both the team and organization. The review also indicated that affective conflicts are negatively correlated with organizational performance. In other words, unhealthy team relationships involving negative emotions lead to poor business performance. But here is where it gets interesting: cognitive and affective conflicts are correlated at .57, which means that when there is a healthy debate, the odds are that a negative and emotionally charged discussion will erupt. How teams deal with these discussions and maintain effective working relationships will play a major role in their success.

Team members need to learn how to abandon negative emotions and have debates that leave both the sender and receiver of the message feeling respected, involved, and valued. The more team members trust each other, the stronger the team will be. Trust is built through behaviours such as following through on commitments, acting in the best interests of the team, and believing in each other to be competent and capable in your respective roles, including the team lead.

Working in teams is not going away anytime soon and facilitating slogan driven team effectiveness interventions will not have the impact you are looking for. Conversely, working with your team to learn how to have healthy debates and build trust will make a huge difference in your success. I hope this helps you hone in on your team effectiveness efforts and I’ll leave you with this quote from another Muse song, “Don’t waste your time or time will waste you!”.

Two Businessmen Sitting Indoors With Coffee Laptop And Folder

Stop Paying Lip Service to the 70:20:10

The 70:20:10 approach to development is fairly well known by HR professionals and many line managers.  It is commonly recognized that about 70% of what adults learn comes from experience (learning by doing), 20% comes from others (working with a good leader or coach and receiving feedback), and 10% comes from formal learning (taking a classroom or e-Learning course, for example).

Though easy to understand, there is a difference between knowing a concept and applying it effectively. Unfortunately, it seems that many organizations are paying lip service to the concept; especially the 70. Development plans created for leaders are too often weak on the 70% and contain vague recommendations. Proportionally, the concept looks more like this in its application 70:20:10!

Learning while working on real business issues or assignments is very powerful. The “prescription”—the development plan—must be specific about the types of situations to which the leader must be exposed. The challenging or stretch assignment is by far the most common way organizations will grow their leaders by experience. But there are a limited amount of leaders who can be involved in stretch assignments. This view of the 70 is too limited.

There are multiple other ways to grow leaders by leveraging the 70, such as:

  • Being a member of a committee responsible for a new product implementation
  • Attending a strategic negotiation meeting with your leader
  • Leading a cross functional initiative such as Six Sigma aiming at improving organizational effectiveness
  • Collaborating with a university on a research project
  • Training peers and other employees on a new sales management and reporting system
  • Leading a charitable initiative in your community, etc.

Many examples of learning-by-doing do not require the leader to leave their current job. The experience can be short or long, in-depth or light, internal or external to the organization. 

Business presentation on corporate meeting.

In order to support the line managers to truly leverage the 70, an in-house customized repertoire of high added value experience can be created. This allows the leadership to “see” the number of ways leaders can learn by experience. Because in fact, the 70:20:10 can’t be managed and directed like the formal learning; you can only support it, facilitate it and help make it happen.

It is often said that the 70:20:10 allows leaders to learn at the speed of business; the amalgamation of the multiple ways to learn and grow makes it more real and applicable to today’s work environment.

What is critical to retain from the model is not the % allocated to each component of the model, but that leaders will maximize their growth and chances to progress in their career if they leverage multiple ways of learning and learn constantly, no matter how it is being categorized!

Jocelyn Bérard is the author of book  “Accelerating Leadership Development.” He can be reached at jberard@optimumtalent.com