How to Listen More Effectively

The election shouting may end this week—hopefully—but the feeling that no one is listening to us is likely going to linger. And not only in the political arena but at work too.

Indeed, experts say the US presidential election season, which has lasted two years, only mirrored a growing feeling among workers that their leaders talk at them, not with them. That feeling only magnified at work when video calls and masks became routine during the pandemic. “Leaders and employees are stuck in a communication cycle of giving information and providing updates instead of really connecting,” says Dennis Baltzley, Korn Ferry’s global solutions leader for leadership development.

It doesn’t help that many people, according to years of research, aren’t great listeners in the first place. That’s particularly true when the topic involves something distressing or uncomfortable, as has been much of the conversation between employees and leaders this year.

With that in mind, Korn Ferry searched for a few ways to help managers at all levels—not to mention one colleague to another—become more effective listeners.

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The Power of Being Authentic

By Gary Burnison, originally posted to Korn Ferry Institute

Basketball practice was over. As the other kids waited outside the gym doors for their parents to pick them up, I started walking in the other direction—telling my teammates I had someplace else to be.

The truth, though, was I always asked my dad to meet me a few blocks away. It was the early 1970s, and I didn’t want anyone at school to see my dad’s car—a 1956 Buick with a rusted bumper that belched blue clouds of exhaust.

My dad had gone bankrupt a couple of years before and we had no money. I hated going to the grocery store and always tried to pick the checkout line with the fewest people so no one would see us using food stamps.

The car, though, was just as bad for a teenager trying desperately to fit in and not stand out for the wrong reasons. As I slunk low in the seat of that old Buick, my dad knew what was going on—and I knew that he knew. But we never talked about it. He just let me be.

Today, of course, I’d love to have that old Buick to restore. Even more important, I wish I could have one more chance to open that car door and sit up tall and proud beside my dad. But that was beyond what this 13-year-old could do. I was too embarrassed to know who I truly was.

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Election 2020: Counting Down the Anxiety

Originally posted on Korn Ferry Institute.

We’re familiar with the usual drill. Every four years, months of intense campaigning lead up to Election Day. Then there’s a late night that’s over by midnight, or the next morning at latest. The drama is over, and everyone can go back to work fully focused. But this is 2020: somehow, few believe the Biden–Trump battle for US president will look quite like that.

As if COVID hasn’t already stirred up one uncertainty after another, now experts say that, barring a major surprise, the country won’t be waking up next Wednesday to an agreed-upon election result. Indeed, ballot disputes and court rulings on the election—along with congressional maneuvering—could drag on for weeks, if not through year’s end.

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Putting Value in ‘Values Differences’

Originally posted to Korn Ferry Institute.

Arguably, both the COVID-19 pandemic and the current fight against racial injustice have brought into sharp focus a host of systemic inequities that have impacted employees who are racial and ethnic minorities for far too long.

From healthcare disparities to professional headwinds, these recent crises combined have underscored the ways in which many of these employees face barriers to success not experienced to nearly the same degree by most of their colleagues. Some leaders were already working to address these inequities, but others have now started to reckon with the lack of diversity and inclusion within their own organizations. Part of that work involves actively and intentionally seeking out—and empowering—greater diversity in the backgrounds and viewpoints of their talent. But with so many different organizational priorities all requiring attention, just how important is diversity and inclusion to managers and their employees?

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Why Vulnerability Is A CEO’s Secret Weapon

Why Vulnerability Is A CEO’s Secret Weapon

The 8 Behaviours of World-Class Leaders During Crisis

In a stunningly short time, demand for her firm’s multibillion-dollar product had dropped almost in half. And almost as quickly, the call for many inside the company was to act fast and preserve as much capital as possible. It was the standard reaction multiplied many times by a global pandemic—save all that is left for better times.

Yet this CEO saw things differently. Cutbacks were made, of course. But instead of purely hunkering down, she directed the teams to work on finding new efficiencies for the product, create new services for customers, and streamline operations. The goal: yes, wait for better times, but give the company an edge for when demand inevitably returns.

In today’s remarkably rough times, with the global coronavirus outbreak upending the modern world as we know it, everyone is dealing with their own challenges. And that certainly includes the world’s chief executive officers. It is these leaders who must keep their organisations afloat. It is they who must inspire people to innovate and try to preserve as many jobs as possible. And while these CEOs are balancing so many impossible dilemmas—what suppliers to pay, what factories to keep open—they must carry the burden of their own uncertainties as well as those of the thousands of workers for whom they bear responsibility.

“It’s something that nearly everyone we’re working with is wrestling with,” says Kevin Cashman, Korn Ferry’s global leader of CEO and Executive Development. “It has never been tougher.”

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The Power of Purpose Driven Leadership

Purpose-Driven Leadership and Its Impact on Long-Term Financial Results

By Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media.  Originally posted on Hunt Scanlon Media on November 15, 2019.  

Purpose doesn’t just add to an employee’s well-being; it adds to a company’s bottom line. That’s the key finding of a survey of top executives just completed by Korn Ferry. The vast majority of respondents (96 percent) said there is a long-term financial benefit to companies that make a strong commitment to purpose-driven leadership, with 77 percent agreeing “to a great extent.”

One of the reasons purpose-driven leadership may add to corporate financial gain, according to the survey, is the impact it has on employees. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they believe understanding and embracing the mission/purpose of their organization increases employee productivity.

“Without embracing the purpose of an organization – the motivating force of why it is so important that we exist – employees will become disenchanted,” said Kevin Cashman, Korn Ferry global leader, CEO and executive development. “Many will leave, or worse yet, stay and not be engaged nor offer discretionary effort for their organization.”

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The Courageous Life Podcast

Kevin was recently interviewed by Joshua Steinfeldt on his podcast, The Courageous Life, on topics ranging from the importance of purpose and authenticity, how to inspire through storytelling, Leading from the Inside Out, and why courage may be the most important trait in leadership.

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A Higher Priority

“The business of business is business.” For decades, that old saying has been a guiding light for organizations. But this week, some of the country’s top business leaders have declared that shareholder value no longer has a stronghold on corporations’ bottom line.

On Monday, the Business Roundtable, an association of major US-based companies, released a statement that redefines corporation’s purpose. Whereas maximizing profits was once the main objective of American businesses, that purpose should now be centered on delivering value to all constituencies, from customers to the world at large, the group asserts. The statement was signed by 181 of the group’s 188 member CEOs.

Though provocative, it’s not a terribly outrageous notion, experts say. More and more corporations are starting to lead with purpose, understanding that real value creation comes from serving multiple stakeholders. According to Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison, the purpose debate has even made its way into the boardroom. “The vast majority of directors are motivated by the desire to make an impact” he says.

But it’s just not enough for the Roundtable to say, publicly, that shareholder value doesn’t define a company’s purpose entirely, says Kevin Cashman, global leader of Korn Ferry’s CEO & Executive Development practice. “Purpose is not just a nice statement,” he says. “It requires developmental transformation to make it happen.”

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