The Speak-up Series

Scandals like Volkswagen or Fells Fargo made it clear again: Before a scandal erupts, many, many people in the company knew about the ongoing ethics problems for quite a long time. But, why did they not speak up? Bettina Palazzo will explore in this series:

  1. How leaders discourage that their team members address uncomfortable truths and what they can do about it.
  2. How leaders need to conduct speak conversations that make it safe and worthwhile for employees to speak up.
  3. Why employees do not speak up and who the courageous people are that do dare to speak up.
  4. How employees can prepare am effective speak-up conversation and how they can conduct this difficult talk with courage and confidence.

#1 Speak-up : The Role of Leadership is crucial

Speaking up on topics of ethics and compliance is hard to do. Already speaking up when you disagree or have bad news can be difficult in organizations.

But speaking-up is important because companies need to know about ethical problems early, before they become a major scandal. Research shows that before a corporate scandal is revealed, people in the company knew about the problem for at least a year.

In order to encourage speaking-up, you need a climate of trust, where coworkers can speak up in a safe environment knowing that their opinion counts and that they do not have to fear negative effects for themselves and their careers.

Very often, though, leaders discourage speaking-up without even noticing :

  • Leaders are bad role models and do not speak up to their superiors themselves. Coworkers will always model their behavior to how their superiors behave. An example: Regular hand-washing is very important to prevent infections in hospitals. The most important factor in increasing hand-washing is when senior doctors act as role models and frequently wash their hands.
  • Leaders have an authoritarian leadership style that is based on command and control. Clearly this is unfavorable for the creation of a relationship between managers and coworkers that allows to speak up easily. An authoritarian leader presumes he/she knows best and does not empower coworkers to freely share their own, dissenting opinion. When coworkers disagree, they use the force of their authority to get their will.
  • Leaders do not listen to their coworkers.
  • They do not actively ask for their coworkers’ opinion.
  • They are not open to feedback.
  • They do not give constructive feedback themselves to coworkers.

We can see, if leaders want their team members to speak up, they need to work on a more participatory leadership style and create a climate where giving and receiving constructive feedback is normal. Only if this open and safe culture is well established, employees will speak up.

The importance of the leader’s role in speaking up cannot be over-estimated. This quote from the book « Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement » by Peter T. Coleman and Robert Ferguson sums it up so nicely:

People with low power who are not convinced their honest perspective is really valued instinctively withhold their ideas. A leader has to do much more than say things like «My door is always open» or «I really want to know what you think” to get the goods from subordinates. The leader has to prove again and again through statements and actions that honesty is valued and that constructive disagreement goes unpunished.

So how can leaders create a speaking-up culture?

They have to do seemingly simply things like listening to their team members. Easier said than done. We are often hard-wired to respond instead of taking the ideas of others in. Especially leaders are tempted to jump too quickly to conclusions and offer solutions. Understandably so, after all a manager’s job is to solve problems…sometimes they are so eager to solve the problem, that they do not take the time necessary to really understand what is going on by using tools like active listing and asking the right questions. Leaders should never underestimate the small problems their team members might address. You never know, they might be the beginning of bigger problems or the tip of an iceberg.

Furthermore, leaders need to sharpen their senses and watch out if coworkers fall into silence over a topic. If everybody is chronically of the same opinion in team meetings and nobody ever offers a dissenting opinion, it is time to take a trusted team member a side and ask some open questions.

Finally, leaders need to make speaking up normal:

  • They should explain to all of their team members form their first day of working together, that sharing their open opinion with him or her, is vital and that they will be receptive to constructive feedback and always say “thank you”.
  • Leaders can integrate speaking-up into their team meeting routines. Of course, they will need to role-model this first.
  • Leaders need to prove that their followers can trust them and that speaking-up will be safe and worthwhile.

So we see, speaking up is first and foremost a communication and relationship problem. If you have good communications and a good relationship with your coworkers, if they trust you, if you do share responsibilities with them, speaking up is much easier.

Stay tuned and watch for the next episode of the speak-up series!
Prof.-Bettina-PalazzoAuthor: Dr. Bettina Palazzo
Professor at BSL

Competencies that count: Where are Responsible Leadership and Sustainability proficiency listed in the job descriptions?

Recently, and through different announcements, a number of large global corporations have made public their intention to remove University Degree requirements from (some of) their job descriptions and requirements. They argue that the correlation between holding a degree and being good for certain jobs is weak and too many good candidates are discarded because of this wrong filter. They plan to use new and innovative online tests that will do a better filter job according to them.

I look at this with interest as I have never been convinced that current degrees, and business degrees in particular, are representative of the important skills our future leaders need (and by leaders I mean leader in whatever position they hold, not only senior management). Among the many important skills future and current leaders need are responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency. Or not?

dr-katrin-muff-at-recol_fixed

My feeling is that if you ask the question directly to a hiring manager, they will certainly answer yes. At the same time, have you ever seen these two competencies in any job description? I am trying hard but, unless I come across some very specific job related to sustainability, I have seen no trace of the demand for these two important competencies. I am embarrassed by this. At Business School Lausanne, we have made a clear commitment to facilitate learning around sustainability and responsible leadership all across our program and courses. We design innovative pedagogy around these crucial competencies as we believe that there is no way the world will progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals unless new practices are embedded within any single next decision that business people are required to make. What is the next ingredient you will source for your product? Will you ship it by train, track, plane, boat? Will you ask for a local production? How much money will you allocate budget for personal development of your team? Will you invest in a social venture? Will you close an eye on your current polluting factory? Will you ask for innovation toward sustainable practices? Will you engage with all relevant stakeholder when making impactful decisions? And the list can go on and on forever. Almost every single decision business people are asked to make, presents a choice to go for more or less responsible and sustainable solution. Do you want your employees to be conscious of that option? Do you want them to be fluent with the consequences wrong decisions can lead to (and clearly not only financial)? This is a call for every job seeker to add where they stand with their responsible leadership and sustainability proficiency on their CV. This is a call for all hiring manager to make sure they make it clear they demand such competencies.

Let a new purposeful market grow around jobs and competencies that count and will make the world a better place!

Author: Carlo GiardinettiActive in Program Development, Holacracy and directing the BBA, Masters and E/MBA programs Business 

A learning agenda designed to Boost Diversity & Inclusion – May 10 at BSL, it’s a full house

Unless you have been stuck in a Swiss nuclear bunker for the last 5 years, you will have at some point during your daily social media fix, come across the term Gender Bias. Whether you’re a man who craves more family time with his children (but your boss raises an eye brow when you want to work from home because your kid is sick) or a woman who has her eye on the next VP role but your tendency to under value yourself gets in the way of applying – the power of gender bias (commonly known as stereotypes) is a root cause that prevents men and women from being able to bring their full and true selves to work.

Gender stereotyping can influence perceptions of leadership competencies and most talent management systems can reinforce and perpetuate bias that favors men over women. There are many stakeholders involved in talent management systems, from HR to senior leadership teams, and a Catalyst study carried out in 2009 showed that there are three key compounding effects:

  1. Imperfect execution. When talent management practices and programs interact, gaps between the design and execution can introduce gender bias, even to systems already sensitive to the problem.
  2. Checks and balances. Few companies employ effective checks and balances that mitigate gender bias in talent management and decrease gender gaps in senior leadership.
  3. Perpetual loops. The cyclical structure of talent management appears to reward attributes based on bias inherent in the system, creating a perpetual cycle in which men dominate senior leadership positions.

Even though this study was published nearly a decade ago, these effects are still very much alive and kicking.

We believe effective talent management strategies which boost diversity and inclusion in the workplace, power performance and generate competitive advantage.  This builds reputation for being a great place to work and ultimately, a healthier bottom line.

On May 10 2016, I will be helping facilitate a conversation on empowering inclusion in business at Business School Lausanne with 30 business and diversity thought leaders living and working in Switzerland.  This collective intelligence session will be the first step in crafting programs which unravel the challenges we all face in the workplace daily and empower inclusive business within organizations.

 

Author: Natalie Wilkins,  BSL Professor

What do Sustainability, Inclusion and Organisational Transformation have to do with Leadership?

Hint:

BSL professors have taken a long hard look at leadership and sustainability and have a strong vision of what is needed to make transformative organizational change a real buzz and not just a string of jargon. We know it won’t be easy, it involves mindset, culture and habits. We know that even when all these important elements are taken into consideration the hurdle of willingness and the resilience to push through the discomfort of uncertainty in order to sustain the change, remains.

There are courageous leaders working throughout industry to make this happen and BSL is looking to bring a selection of these people together to dialogue, share insights and learn how we each are contributing to make this happen. May 10th 2016, we’ve invited 30 companies to bring their know-how to the table. BSL brings its own secret sauces; our grass roots expertise, millennials’ insights and a fervent desire to convene a conversation that honors those who are willing to create change.

If you are running a team, a department or company and would like to receive information on the outcomes or reserve a place at the table on a second courageous leadership conversations in June contact: Mary.Mayenfisch@bsl-lausanne.ch.

Author: Nadene Canning, BSL Professor

Nadene Canning

How can we create fast, effective and reliable processes of inspiring leadership and team spirit?

I used to be a military deputy-commander in a highly-influential command unit. In response to high tension demanding culture, I created an inspirational leadership process that improved significantly our ability to perform effectively under stressful conditions. Our ‘traditional-routine’ for our officers unit, would take us almost 3 days to get into high performance effective mode. At that specific situation, I invented a different process that succeeded to get everyone tuned, and in high quality performance in 3 hours. The differences were in the attitude and communication tools I introduced into our unit.

The steps were:

1) Create partnership through declaration of the mutual successes and mistakes beyond ranks and formal authorities.

2) Ask every member to bring forward honesty and openness to learn from each other mistakes and successes.

3) Define clearly the indications of success of the unit and the individuals.

4) Ask everyone to relate to what is not working in their areas of responsibility and in the coordination with others, starting from the lower ranks to the higher ranks.

5) Ask everyone to come up with suggestions for these issues. Those suggestions had to be practical and easy to apply in short term.

6) Ask everyone to relate to the processes that were working so everyone could learn and apply in all units.

7) Ask for commitment of mutual enrichment through the processes, and define event-line for next enrichments.

For applying such a process, there is a need for short and simple preparations, including the steps that are mentioned above, plus a plan on how to maintain it.

All these processes were used later in all kinds of organizations, and they appeared to be contributing to fast, effective and reliable inspiring leadership and team spirit.

In common organizations, such a process will happen only after significant troubles. The key was to create trusted safe partnership, with simple communication tools. We – the leaders, had the courage to create this different process, as we trusted ourselves and our leadership. We created safety to win with us. It demanded from us to share our mistakes as much as our successes, and thus created the wanted partnership.

For more information about my training and blog, click here.
Yiftach SagivAuthor: Yiftach Sagiv, Professor at BSL

 

 

First glimpse at Holacracy: shaking up work practices

So here is the news: we are exploring the Holacracy system with our administrative team here at Business School Lausanne. Yes, Holacracy. And yes, don’t worry if you don’t know what that means. It’s new to us too and it’s an experiment we’d like to share with you as we go about it.

The word “holacracy” comes from “holon” (a whole that is a part of a larger whole) and it thus means the connection between holons – and – the governance (-cracy) of and by the organizational holarchy.

In the context of organizational development, Holacracy is a different system for working together – one that encourages self-organization, power distribution and decision making in the best interest of the organizational purpose. The concept was invented by Brian Robertson, a 35-year-old former programmer who created Holacracy in 2007 because he had a “burning sense that there has to be a better way to work together.” (Read more in his book “Holacracy”).
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The language of leadership

BSL’s Professor Tim Connerton gave a talk on the language of leadership at the 2015 edition of TEDx Geneva.

Tim shares his experience in using key words for communicating to inspire and empower others for cooperation in daily life. He shows that leadership language can create, demonstrate and motivate organizational cultures for positive attitudes, trust, respect and accountability.

Watch the video here:

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TEDXZurichWomen 2015 – Momentum

The first TEDXZurichWomen took place in Zurich on the 29th May, 2015 – a big occasion. BSL had a dynamic presence in the event which was wonderful.  BSL people, Shaun McMillan, Vaia Sarlikioti, Gina Fiore, Karim Abib and yours truly, Mary Mayenfisch were all there.  We contributed in the areas of sponsoring, logistics and media, and the day to day running of the event with the rest of a very dedicated TED team.

Almost 200 people attended, coming from all backgrounds, interests and sectors.  Momentum was the theme- taking flight, gaining altitude and reaching destination were the routes taken by the varied group of speakers.
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A tale of complexity and connectedness – BSL goes to Nestlé

A group of BSL students from the Bachelor, Masters and MBA programs visited Nestlé today.  The aim of the visit was to try to understand the complexity of a multinational organization like Nestlé in today’s globalized, interconnected world.

For this visit we were hosted by Nicolas Lorne, the person responsible for Promoting Corporate Culture, Values & Principles internally in Nestlé.  To start off, we visited the 6th floor of the beautiful headquarters overlooking Lac Léman in Vevey where we saw an exhibition of the Nestlé products and were able to read their communications on who they are and what they believe in as an organization.   Creating Shared Value for society is very important to this company, we heard and evidence of this commitment was very present on the 6th floor.BSL visit to Nestle
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Making an Impact as Creative Leaders – Business School Lausanne 20th May, 2015

ElaineHeartfelt thanks to Elaine France, Founder of Women who move Mountains, for helping convene an amazing group of women to Business School Lausanne yesterday.   Elaine has a dream; she wants to help women to develop their resilience, their creative and innovation skills. Why? Because she truly believes (and so do I) that women can move mountains.
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