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Leadership & Trust 2021

"CEOs, don't wait. Take the lead. You have to change learned behavior. Now is the time to step up and speak up.” - Richard Edelman when launching the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer.

 This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, the annual worldwide trust survey polling 33,000 respondents globally, found public trust in government, non-governmental institutions and the media has reached an all-time low. However, there is a bright spot for leaders. Most people are turning to, and putting their trust in, their employers for leadership in providing accurate information. And they are looking for more from their CEOs.


Trust is the key for an inclusive workplace

While many companies have been focusing on DEI for several years, there is still room for improvement. If this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer’s results show one thing, it is that there is no doubt that the current trust dynamics create an opportunity for leaders to step up on issues that affect society such as diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Having worked in and with various industries for many years, I know that diversity doesn’t mean a thing if company’s do not offer an inclusive workplace. Diversity is the who and the what, and inclusion is the how. What makes people feel included in their organization? Many things of course. Trust is definitely a key component. And trust comes down to leaders, because what leaders say and do makes the difference on whether an individual truly feels included. Why does this matter? Because when we feel included, we speak up more, we collaborate more, and we go the extra mile making a difference to the organization’s performance. (read more on how you can become a more inclusive leader)


Negotiations and powerful soft skills -What negotiators should learn from business coaches and why that matters

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” - John F. Kennedy

You can’t overestimate soft skills in negotiations

 The stories of people who have negotiated in extreme circumstances, like hostage negotiations or international peace treaties, are big sellers. These people do have an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience to share. But most business negotiations are not about life and death. And if you care for a partnership and your reputation after signing, it’s not about conquering or crushing the other side. That’s why these thrilling stories about extreme negotiations typically don’t help a lot in a business context.


Can't touch this - Change Communications in times of COVID-19 (revisited)

At the 12 month mark of all of us continuing to live in a liminal space, we are revisiting an article that our Managing Partner, Barbara Kearney, published in March last year around communications in times of change.  In today's environment, where we are still not in charge of the crisis, strong, transparent communication remains key. If there is only one principle, leaders can take away: during times of change (or crisis) focus your communication around what will happen, what will definitely not happen and be open about what we don't know yet.


Leadership and Tears - Considerations about the power and business impact of tears at work

Two examples of tears at work

Working with the leadership teams of two different companies, I experienced a stunning contrast of tears flowing at work. Both companies, employing several thousand employees each, are growing with impressive pace. Both leadership teams consist of leading experts in their industries, bright and best educated professionals, dealing with tremendous pressure and the pains of fast growth.


Outlook 2021

Welcome to 2021!

 Last year revealed a lot about our world, our business and ourselves. One of the many things we learned in 2020 is that the world of work has been forever changed. And so has the importance of authentic, human leadership. Leadership that harnesses the human potential, that embraces vulnerability and differences while promoting resilience.  Next to these important leadership traits, what else do we think needs to be at the forefront of transforming leadership in 2021? Here is what our Managing Partners think:


2021: The Future of Work

“As leaders we tend to be an unusual group, far more resilient than the average bear. Don’t assume others have your strength. Go beyond your own experience. A bit of empathy and creating psychological safety for others goes a long, long way”
- Carol Kaufman, Assistant Professor Harvard Medical School and Founder/Executive Director of the Institute of Coaching

 In 2020, we saw the greatest shift in the way we work. Hybrid ways of working are now becoming the norm, bringing great opportunities such as flexible working models, better work-life balance and giving access to talent pools around the globe. The pandemic truly fast-forwarded the ‘future of work’ by years. There is no going back. Now we need to make hybrid working “work”.

 Part of this means, that leaders need to recognize the connection between productivity and wellbeing. While productivity was up last year, research shows that a majority of employees are experiencing severe levels of stress. This is no surprise with lines being blurred between work and personal life, lack of connection creating isolation and many of us dealing with uncertainty. It should also not come as a surprise, that wellbeing is an important factor that affects an organization’s bottom line. To drive and sustain, human potential, well-being needs to be part of work.

 2021 will be a great opportunity for leaders to move away from falling back into a pre-pandemic pattern. It will mean making the changes needed to become more aware of their team’s needs. This includes being more transparent, being compassionate (i.e. having a deep understanding of yourself and others), helping people construct meaning to their work and open channels for feedback. Psychological safety plays a key role in creating and nurturing the new culture needed for wellbeing. We all know that a team can only be highly effective if there is trust and respect. These are the two qualities that allow people to speak up, share ideas but also concerns, challenge the status quo while supporting each other.

If the pandemic has shown one thing: at the end of the day, organizations are all about people. The success and wellbeing of both, in 2021 and beyond, are closely intertwined.

 Barbara Kearney


2021: Leading into the Unknown

„In a global pandemic we don’t need leaders with experience, we need leaders with the ability to coach!“
- Anne Scoular

 No one in charge in business or government today has any experience with global pandemics. Therefore experience doesn’t help. And if management by control and demand should ever have created great results, it definitely will not in changeful times like these. In a world of radical change and perfect uncertainty leading into the unknown is more important and more challenging than ever. What do leaders need to master the challenges of the pandemic in 2021? We say it’s trust, judgement and courage.

 Trust: The bigger the challenge, the more leaders need to rely on their people. Trusting in the strengths they showed in last year’s crisis. Not telling them how to do things but what to aim for. Truly transferring responsibility, creating greatest possible freedom to make decisions … and mistakes. If leaders cannot control situations they need to rely on their people’s commitment and accountability. The basis of all this is trust and only trust will bring out the best of yourself and your people.

 Judgement: In times of crisis everything changes abruptly, knowledge is incomplete, nothing seems predictable. Thinking in scenarios, going with the dynamics of change and staying in close touch with key players are critical components of leading into the unknown. The leader’s role is not to know it all but to activate the incorporated knowledge and ability of the team. It’s not about the leader’s individual judgement, it’s about the collective judgement of the team under your leadership.

 Courage: Courage is the ability to overcome fear in dangerous situations. In a world of global risk it is the essential strength of character for leaders since the practice of all other virtues depends on it. Overcoming fear rubs off to the people around. Courage enables courage, provides orientation and creates confidence. And courage is the key component of trust in the sense of showing vulnerability. All this starts with you as a leader, requiring you to overcome fear in the face of risk.

 Trusting your people, relying on your and their judgment, overcoming fear and facilitating an atmosphere of optimism is the best starting position for both, coping with the challenges at hand and preparing for new beginnings.

 Jan Kiel


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