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?

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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 

Onto higher grounds – Holacracy at BSL after the initial 9 months of birthing

Our all-team meeting carried an entirely different energy than our initial meeting in late August last year. While at the start, everybody in the team was politely and cautiously positive, well, politically correct might be a better term, we now have a team with members that no longer hesitate to express their personal sentiments about their insights and learnings about where we are. That may sound simple but represents a huge shift in how far we have come as a team and what collective and individual work it took to break down the proper facades of polite, superficial engagement with the truth of the deeper struggles, resistances, blind spots and shadows, but also the deep personal learning, the enthusiasm, unlikely transformations and breakthrough. The team has gained in color, flavor, diversity of opinion, in authenticity and in honest relationships.

I am not sure to be able to identify the individual elements that brought us here, but I can try sharing my perspective. To me, Holacracy has been a weekly if not daily reminder of my personal shortcomings and challenges, of where there is room to improve, opportunity to let go, to investigate uninvestigated convictions and beliefs. All of which have triggered a journey of personal development of an intensity that I have been missing in recent years. I had forgotten what it means to work on myself and within myself. The shared journey we have been at together with the BSL team has brought this notion back into the center of my life and I feel much more connected to myself than I have felt in a while.

I had the chance to shed light into my shadows and I have jumped on the opportunity to use a coaching method to work with the most urgent thing I wanted to personally improve: my tendency to express frustration and impatience in an aggressive email. Six weeks later and rich in learning, I have understood that my deeply ingrained values have stood in my way causing this tension in me: one set of my values had to do with wanting to change the world – at all cost, including over-committing myself; another set of values related to me honoring my inner space and seeking deep connections with other. Looking at my shadow I saw how these two sets of values could end up cancelling each other out – creating distance with those I wanted and needed to work with in an attempt of changing the world, destroying exactly what I had wanted most: a deep connection. Sharing such learnings may surprise but by now I am entirely at ease of sharing this with my colleagues and with you. Holacracy opened up that space. This does not mean that everybody does or must share what is going on within themselves. There is full freedom to also share nothing, and some of us are happy with that, too.

9 months into our collective transformative journey, it feels a bit like the initial birthing process is completed. We have had at our last full day work session with Christiane, our Holacracy coach, and five members of our team are currently spending four days in Vienna taking part in a Holacracy practitioner training. We haven’t invested anything like this into our team and our development and I am sure both the coaching and the four team days as well as the training have done much to change our understanding of who we are together as a team.

A few months ago, some members have talked about lost trust and about the team spirit having gone away. We have very much struggled with the separation of work roles and personal soul space. It felt so artificial, so sterile, in the beginning. We didn’t know anymore what to do with our relationships, our culture, our ways of relating. It took months and months for us to slowly experience to what degree we have been mixing work and personal relationships, how we use relationships to get work done and how work issues stand in the way of seeing each other as persons. Some work issues didn’t get addressed because of personal relationships, some personal relationships suffered as a result of tensions related to work issues. I struggled so much with the projections of others, and I still don’t always feel that I am seen as just the person I am when I am having a cup of coffee or lunch with a colleague. Positions and titles and old hierarchy habits do still creep in. What I say still counts as more than it should and sometimes I think I need to go away for this to really dissolve. I had tried to shut up for three months and have since learned to frame what I say as “just an opinion” or “just a pitch” when I am not speaking from any role I am energizing. Yet, it takes more than me to change all of that. We all are required to bring so much courage and openness and vulnerability to work and we are maybe just now ready to start understanding what it takes in terms of safe spaces where we can expose our weaknesses and problems in the spirit of learning and developing forward. One step at a time.

To me, that one step at a time is clearly the best thing Holacracy brought to me. Rather than masterminding re-organization or strategy, or solving any complex issues, my biggest learning right now relates to trusting that one step at a time is all that is needed and the very likely best way to solve any complex issue. Steps in Holacracy are tensions and tensions are positive. That is learned by now and acquired. Yet, there is so much that lies still ahead of us. One of the future challenges is how to bring in our faculty and our students into a more self-organizing, power distributed organizations. Deliberately developmental company (DDC) is what they call places like ours; and we want to share such experiences with our students who come to BSL to learn about how to be responsible leaders in a fast evolving world. Organizing around purpose is one important element of that and it has brought a dynamic of innovation at BSL that was entirely unimaginable just 9 months ago. We have come a long way on our journey from static individual performers to an inter-connected agile organization in just 9 months. I am so grateful to my colleagues for this journey, after many lonely years, I feel that I have partners and peers again I can truly work, share, play and co-create with. And this is just the beginning!

Katrin Muff, PhD

Active in thought leadership, consulting & applied research in sustainability & responsibility, and directing the DAS & DBA programs

 

The body does not lie

Develop your body’s non-verbal communication by using archetypal movements to transmit a message, and use your communication style to overcome challenges that habitually set introverts and extroverts apart.

Our BSL Professor Vanya Loroch and his colleague, Anthony Hughes, teach an approach to understanding effective vocal and non-verbal communication with two objectives in mind: to make us aware of different body movements and sounds of the voice that transmit specific real messages, and to show that by deconstructing these movements, we can learn to apply the archetypes to communicate more effectively the way what we want. How does this work?

Each of our principal emotional patterns – love, fear, anger, sadness, indifference, curiosity, joy and confidence – are recognizable in archetypes of body movements as we speak.  The body cannot lie, even if in words we do not say what we really feel or know to be true. When we talk to someone, the way our body moves can be deconstructed to six archetypes of basic attitudes of movement.  These were first described by a German-Swiss therapist, Silvia Ostertag, in the 1990s as:

  1. The directional bow and arrow where a gesture or arm movement imitates a thought or intention going towards its goal;
  2. The receptive and welcoming flower most obviously shown when someone opens their arms to greet a friend or accept something;
  3. The wall where hands flattened out indicate that a limit has been reached, or where we set norms or abide by regulations;
  4. The void which is either silence and listening to others, or “wait and see” before taking action;
  5. The pulling back-and-forth of the rope between hesitation or eagerness, or between curiosity and fear, or courage and prudence;
  6. And finally, “being present”, expressed either in the form of ego-driven ambition, arrogance or willful self-imposition on one extreme side, or quiet self-confidence on one side.

When we talk, give a presentation to an audience or argue our point of view to a friend, we automatically move our hands, head and body in ways that reflect one or more of these attitudinal positions and movements. To a great extent, of course, the way we move our hands when we talk is a result of our individual socio-cultural learning, but all human beings have ways to express their feelings and emotions, and even in the most dry academic talk by a lecturer in front of a large audience of students, he or she will automatically use hand gestures or different tones of voice to express or emphasize his or her message. Each of the body movements can be related to the communication styles already studied and taught the world over, and which range from introvert to extrovert on one axis, and from goal-oriented to extreme process-oriented on the other axis. All our actions and our communication are thus composed of a style we adopt and the accompanying body language we show.

Learning to recognize how these six archetypes of basic communication movements overlap with emotive expressions was the most useful part of this workshop as it offered an innovative look at tools we can learn to use to communicate effectively and see (as well as hear) better what others say to us.

Author: Olivier Brenninkmeijer PhDOlivier Brenninkmeijer PhD
Associate Dean, BSL

 

Knowledge Café – insights discovery

Peter Jacsman and I attended Gurteen’s Knowledge Café master class in Bern last year and had some great insights.

Many people have pointed to the power of conversations and the importance of being present in the moment. Gurteen’s perspective is very similar. It is about the conversations that take place and not the harvesting of conversations, nor the outcomes that may be written down. It is what the conversations spark in people and leave with them to take forward; whether today, tomorrow or in six months. Like me, many participants were focused on what to do after the conversations.

V.S blog

What Gurteen emphasized is precisely not that. Gurteen asks us to stay away from writing what it is that we are talking about because it takes away from the moment. This brought me back to the concept of presencing which is found in in Presence by Senge, Jaworsky, Flowers, and Otto Scharmer, best known for the Theory U and U Lab.

Lessons learned

It’s about:

  • The Journey – the process over the product
  • Connection before content
  • Listening – learning from silence
  • Developing and building trust; building relationships
  • Creative destruction of structure: breaking down structure
  • Democratisation of group conversation
  • Bringing out the Potential in people
  • Avoiding distractions such as pen and paper to write or take notes
  • Conversations that are personal and social, that come with emotions, behaviours and so much more
  • What works best with a group that gets together to discuss common interests, which comes together voluntarily as a stand-alone “tool”

In an organisational environment the knowledge cafe is one tool amongst many and could be used in a problem-solving or decision-making process.

More information: David Gurteen 

Author: Véronique Sikora, Professor at BSL

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

 

 

How to grow your professional network in 7 days

There is no doubt that having a strong professional network is a great foundation for career progression, but it’s sometimes easier said than done. It takes time to cultivate a valuable network of professional contacts and a lot of people struggle to get started.

That is why we have put this ‘how-to’ article together. We will help you kick-start your professional network and begin to expand your contacts in just 7 days. All you need to do is invest in 30-60 minutes each day – that’s it. If you follow our advice over the week you will have made some real headway into building your network and if you’re looking for a new job, have a solid foundation to accessing the hidden job market .
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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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Retrospect – Make your Impact as a Creative Leader Event

When I think of unleashed creativity, I think of the great artists and savants who have changed the world, and I tend to place them in the category of “superhuman”. At the “Make your Impact as a Creative Leader” event, we were all challenged to think otherwise. Creative leadership is attainable, but unlocking that potential requires us to go through the path less travelled – the path into ourselves. We are so busy looking outside for the right circumstances that we ignore the internal barriers that sabotage our potential. “Break your own rules” was the first lesson Elaine Frances taught us that afternoon. Break the rules inside your head and the rules in your life by listening carefully to thoughts that tell you “cannot”, “should not”, “must not”. The path of the creative leader starts with self-compassion, because there will be many opportunities to fail. With self-compassion, we can always learn, grow and see our failures as progress. Therefore, be kind to yourself, and set a framework where there are no bad ideas and all perspectives are valuable.
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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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