Employers have been calling the shots in the US workforce for five years running.
They've been dictating the terms of compensation. Framing the conversation relating to employee relocation. Downsizing when and where necessary. And they've been getting more out of more people, especially at the executive level.
Yet there will come a time — one that's especially hard to predict in this historically challenging business climate — when more power will shift into the hands of the most talented business leaders, and when they will have far more leverage in terms of career opportunities, salary expectations and options than they do today.
The stresses of some jobs just have a way of sucking the enthusiasm and morale right out of you. Whether related directly to the work, the boss and/or the overall environment, sometimes all the wrong elements can combine to land you in the middle of an executive career maelstrom.
Now, it seems, there's hard medical evidence that suggests work-related stress can do significant damage to the most stressed executives' hearts, according to the research findings of a study from Tel Aviv University and published in the journal, Psychosomatic Medicine
What kind of leader are you? Do you empower your team to make their own decisions or do you micromanage? Is there ever a reason to micromanage? That's an active discussion in one of ExecuNet's community Roundtable groups.
"From my perspective, micromanagement is never necessary," said an ExecuNet member, the CEO of an Internet company. "In my career, I have seen the need for so-called micromanagement and disagree with the uses… One of the most successful organizations that handles every scenario mentioned without micromanaging that I had the pleasure of working with straight from college is Toyota."
There was a time when employees were assumed to be all the same. When there was no particular interest in diversifying the workforce, nor recognizing any differences among the people whom it comprised. That was the time when some people simply didn't fit because of who they were. Prejudice in those days was institutional as well as personal.
Recent news headlines have raised the question of whether working from home or working from a corporate office is the best way to get workers to reach their full potential and productivity.
Those who argue that working from home is best overlook the fact that critical workplace intelligence is routinely shared by colleagues who work in the same physical environment.
Those who believe working from a corporate office is the best course likewise fail to recognize all the drains on productivity (and energy) when one is forced to commute to and from the office and provide 'face time' when so often it goes unnoticed and isn't necessary every day.
How can enterprise expectations for better performance continue to escalate when the resources required to achieve it continue to dry up?
That's the question many ExecuNet members are asking as they log incredibly long hours and seize on gains in efficiency only to feel that their own work levels are simply unsustainable. Welcome to the 'What have you done for me lately?' economy.
"If you think family business is just business, try firing your mother-in-law and then go to Thanksgiving dinner." Or, worse, try being an outsider in a family business and firing the well-liked, but underperforming, golden child. Those are some of the situations that arise when working in a family business.
In a conversation with ExecuNet's Senior Contributing Editor Joseph Daniel McCool, and ExecuNet members, organizational development and change management expert Nancy Di Dia discussed her career journey and views on workplace culture. Here is an excerpt from that teleconference.
I was actually not born into being a diversity practitioner. At the time when I was going to school, they didn't have this as an area of study, nor was it anything when I was growing up as a Baby Boomer that corporations looked at. I spent the majority of my career at a major financial services organization in a variety of business management positions on the retail side of the house. In that time, I lived through some really remarkable managers and some pretty unremarkable leaders and managers. The unremarkable ones are primarily the reason why I'm doing this work.
What I mean by that is I began to see, early in my career, a lot of marginalization, unconscious bias occurring, micro-inequities. Although we didn't know what that term was until the mid 90s.
Happy February! How are your New Year's resolutions holding up? If managing work/life balance and reducing stress were among them, I hope you have been effective because heavy workloads have challenged executives, and will consequently create problems for companies.
More than half (57 percent) of the executive recruiters surveyed by ExecuNet rated workloads very high, and an additional 25 percent say they're the highest they've ever seen. The survey also found that 53 percent believe executives' current workloads are unsustainable and that employers will feel significant repercussions because they've stretched management leaders too thin for too long.
I have no clue how many surveys have been run in the just the past five to 10 years on the subject of what happens as the employment market turns from one favoring the buyers vs. one where the sellers have the leverage. While we are not there yet, "barring injury" as they say, overall we seem slowly to be headed in that direction. I know that could change by dinnertime, but I still prefer to think of it in positive terms.
As this happens, organizations might want to dust off some of those surveys and remind themselves that after bucks and benefits, what matters, especially to the GenXers (and indeed) lots of Boomers as well.
As the business world continues to globalize and a projected five billion people become socially and professionally interconnected over the next 10 years, London School of Business professor Lynda Gratton sees many possibilities for the future of work.
So what are the implications — and potential — for high performing individuals and teams? And what will organizations expect of executive leaders that they aren't now providing?
As a founding partner of Insigniam, an international consulting firm dedicated to driving transformation and catalyzing breakthrough results, Nathan Rosenberg has gotten a front-row seat on the kinds of change initiatives that can lead to phenomenal growth.
Rosenberg says there are four steps any innovation-minded company must take in order to embark on the kind of change initiative that could reap significant new results, and he outlines them in this exclusive ExecuNet interview shot behind-the-scenes at the 2012 World Business Forum.
There is something highly revealing (and also far more predictive of executive performance) in the language executives use to describe what they've done, where they've been and why it mattered to their previous employers. It is their use of the word 'I'; in describing how their organizations overcame adversity, beat the competition or turned things around. And it may exhibit a startling lack of self-awareness and humility for those interested in vetting the kind of leader required by today's enterprises.
Most business people have heard, "There's no I in team;" however, when you are the leader, the team can ultimately be a reflection of you. Highly effective teams are typically managed well, while long-term underperforming teams can often have poor leadership at the helm.
Even though Patrick Lencioni asserts that "all teams are potentially dysfunctional," largely because they are comprised of fallible, imperfect human beings. It is up to the leader to ensure that trust is maintained despite difficulties, disagreements and debate. The methods used to manage through the trouble times are as individual as you are.
Nearly half (49%) of the executive recruiters surveyed by ExecuNet revealed that executives with proven innovation skills were hard to find, compared to other skills, and 31 percent said companies were willing to pay a premium for innovative talent — even in today's job market.
With product lifecycles declining rapidly, increased global competition and pressure from changing customer needs, executives who have demonstrated they can challenge business assumptions and find the areas of opportunities in current business models are in demand. We counsel executives every day that they have to do more than claim they were "innovative" on their résumés. They need to show a quantifiable history of innovating and its impact on their previous organizations.
At what point does an incredibly talented or richly experienced member of your team become a liability?
This is the paramount question that several organizations — from college sports teams, government agencies and companies — have had to confront in recent weeks and months as their organizations' credibility was questioned in the wake of scandals involving coaches, federal employees and senior business executives.
The economy is already a destabilizing external force, but many employees have added uncertainty when their own companies merge or acquire other businesses, or get sold. What used to be so familiar becomes unknown, and even worse, job security can disappear. When two companies become one, redundant headcount is often reduced; reorganizations occur; leadership can change; and cultures shift.
An ExecuNet member shared the difficulties his organization encountered in assimilating employees after purchasing several smaller businesses, and called upon his peer General Mangers for suggestions about how they coped in similar situations.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has a simple mission: Delivering Happiness. Not only to shoe customers, but to those who buy anything from the company's growing product line, as well as Zappos' employees.
But why stop there? Hsieh wants anyone who has any experience with Zappos to be happy. Even more ambitiously, he wants to create a happiness-inspiring corporate culture that every company will want to model.
I recently went to a reception announcing the release of Breaking Away, a new book on "how great leaders create innovation that drives sustainable growth — and why others fail." There are many books on innovation, but this one is a keeper. It was written by the Jane Stevenson, Chairman, Board and CEO Services at Korn/Ferry International and Bilal Kaafarani, who has been a "serial" innovator at P&G, Kraft, Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
Stevenson's and Kaafarani's main purpose is to clarify what innovation is and how companies can consistently succeed in making the breakthroughs in innovation that lead to transformational change, revolutionizing an industry, a market or a company itself — the payoff being activating profitable and sustainable growth.
While organizations should expect an estimated 45 percent of their workforce to participate in March Madness office pools and as many as 8.4 million hours watching the tournament unfold during working hours, senior executives won't be draining productivity, neglecting responsibilities or missing deadlines.
Senior-level corporate leaders have become accustomed, particularly as they've had to stretch resources during the recession, to blurring the distinction between home time and work time. In ExecuNet's forthcoming 19th annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report, "work/life balance" dropped out of the top five reasons executives stay with their employers and slipped a notch for the factors in accepting a new job.
Can someone who pushed teams to great achievements through a demanding leadership style reform and get the same high-quality results? Filmmaker James Cameron confessed to delegates at the 2010 World Business Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported, he had to adapt his leadership style from dictatorial to one that was more respectful and empowering. "I don't think I was always a good leader where I worked with people to get the best out of them," said the creator of Avatar, adding that these skills weren't innate for him, and he had to be open to learning so he wouldn't seem phony.
Now, when conflict arises, Cameron's inclination is to solve the problem, rather than make a recriminating moment out of it, he told Bloomberg anchor Betty Liu during an onstage interview. "I turn it back on myself. Did I hire the right person? Yes. Then maybe I didn't communicate it well or they didn't understand." This new leadership style lent Avatar a sense of fun, authorship and ownership in an environment where people felt like they had permission to make mistakes but were now less likely to do so.
An impressive GPA and a high IQ certainly can't hurt in today's job market, but they're no guarantee of getting an interview, much less a job. But a high CQ (cultural intelligence quotient) is an increasingly sought-after capability by many employers. In today's competitive job market, candidates who demonstrate cultural intelligence have an edge for landing a job in many businesses. Even if the job doesn't require any international travel, managers and HR departments are realizing the importance of having culturally savvy employees who can dynamically meet the challenges of serving a diverse customer base at home and abroad as well as becoming effective participants of culturally diverse teams.
Cultural intelligence is defined as the capability to function effectively across national, ethnic and organizational cultures. You've heard about IQ and EQ. CQ stems from this same body of research on the various forms of intelligence needed to be a successful in today's workforce. CQ is a set of capabilities and skills proven to give employees and their organizations a competitive edge in our shrinking world.
A young family member, three weeks into his first job after graduating college, came home exasperated that he wasn't fitting into his new position. His boss hadn't established a formal training program; the culture wasn't conducive to his learning style; and his colleagues were products of this disorganized environment and, therefore, not helpful.
His lack of career experience led him to a common mistake that even well-seasoned professionals often make: accepting a job without also interviewing the company. His eagerness to work took precedence, and he neglected to conduct research that would enable him to assess leadership, management style, culture and the workplace.
"This but not that." "Someday." These are the last five words in a recent Op Ed piece by David Brooks of the New York Times. The title of the piece was "The Paralysis of the State" and essentially deals with why government at all levels is so broken. Not something that comes as news to anyone.
What Brooks was pointing out with these last five words was simply to remind readers of the enormous price we all pay if we are part of something where there is a lack of leadership. Of the many examples cited in the article, perhaps the epidemic of unfunded public pension programs is as good as any in demonstrating what happens when the political will is not there to say this but not that.
Adrian Gostick remembers asking his father, who engineered small component parts for large aircraft engines, what motivated him to work for Rolls Royce for more than 20 years. "Every day," his father replied, "I felt praised and listened to."
For the younger Gostick, co-author of The Carrot Principal, and also co-author, with his business partner, Chester Elton, of The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform an Entire Organization, those words were both personally illuminating and professionally reinvigorating.
Business leaders create value for organizations either through obedience or risk, and one is at a surplus and no longer needed, said author and marketing expert Seth Godin at the 2010 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees.
Those who generate ideas and "work without a map" are the real high-value leaders, according to Godin, but many companies don't encourage employee innovation nor do they build a culture that fosters creative thinking for fear of failing.
But failure acts as a double-edge sword: "Doing what you're told is a sure way to failure," said Godin of obedience; however, corporate innovation is guaranteed in a culture of failure.
In baseball, if a player averages three hits every 10 chances he's good player; if he averages four hits per 10 chances he's a first ballot Hall of Famer and the stuff of legend. Many call baseball the ultimate failure activity, but the pharmaceutical industry is much more challenging where else is a 1-in-10,000 success rate is considered acceptable?
One would think it's a challenge simply to get out of bed every morning knowing more failures surely await you in the office, but not so, said Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler at the 2010 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees.
Lots of very smart people talk about the critical nature of organizational culture as an indicator of future business performance. An equal number of business leaders talk about the importance of recruiting and developing superior executive talent to gain a competitive edge.
Yet the challenge of filtering the wrong people out of an organization when they poison the cultural well, so to speak, and keeping them out of your company in the first place, is so often overlooked.
When the very name of your company is expressed as a verb, there are lofty expectations to meet and a requirement to continually innovate. For Ursula M Burns, CEO of Xerox, the nearly $17 billion company that is issued an average of 10 new patents per day, innovation is essential for business growth and meeting the ever-increasing demands of customers.
Burns, who shared her thoughts on innovating during the World Innovation Forum, says the global economic crisis forced Xerox to cut $1 billion out of its expense base to maintain its competitive edge and reposition.