Do corporate values really mean anything?

Posted June 30th, 2013 in Blogs by admin

Most companies have explicit and often espoused corporate values, usually containing notions of strong positive cultures. These are often formalized into mission statements, tag lines, and branding and marketing promotions. The problem is that most of so-called corporate values are not values at all. They are little more than a compilation of platitudes and slogans.

A study by Edwin Giblin and Linda Amuso of California State University, and published in Business Forum, concluded that values have to be internalized by employees in organizations to be real, and that rarely happens.

The idea of establishing and communicating corporate values was popularized by management gurus Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, and thousands of management consultants have created a healthy business working with leaders developing corporate values.

Corporate values are often used interchangeably with the concept of corporate culture. The problem is that corporate goals–predominantly stated in financial terms–bear no resemblance to articulated corporate culture and values. In fact, more often than not, they are in conflict.

In this context, corporate values, usually chosen by senior executives, are adopted to prevailing business circumstances and are not rooted in fundamental philosophical convictions, morality or ethics. In this sense, corporate values are often selected as a strategy to “rally the troops,” and therefore, manipulative in nature.

Values, in a true sense, are basic, fundamental, enduring and meant to be acted upon. In contrast, slogans, platitudes and tag lines are ephemeral, transitory and relative, and often not meant to be taken seriously.  For example, if a company’s prime goal is short-term profits for shareholders, how can it espouse a corporate value of “people are our greatest asset?”

The biggest problem, Giblin and Amuso argue, is how public language is used. Manager’s language is provisional, tentative, euphemistic, full of vagaries, and contradictions and yet often presented with force and charisma. Any trained NLP coach can see the distortions, deletions, generalizations and other linguistic blocks used by many executives to manipulate and distort true intentions. Further, much of executive language associated with values or goals have little true meaning. For example, a company that says they put the customer first is rarely held accountable for that statement when the company is in financial trouble.

So, what role should corporate values play? To play a meaningful role in creating an enduring organization, corporate values must be, Giblin and Amuso argue, “first-order values.” Such values are not mere rankings of preference couched in operational phrases such as “getting close to the customer,” but are derived from fundamental philosophy about what constitutes the good for people inside and outside the organization. James Collins and Jerry Pouras showed that visionary companies that succeeded for decades were guided by core ideologies that included a sense of purpose beyond making money.

First order values can’t be altered in an economic downturn or used to confront an immediate problem. They exist to see the organization through good and bad times. They are in essence a constitutional framework for corporate governance and the moral rationale for the existence of corporations in our society.

Many so-called corporate values statements go into great detail about the importance of their employees, including the rights of employees with respect to pay and benefits and empowerment, challenge and work conditions. This represents a clear misunderstanding of the purpose of corporate values. Employees do not have rights in the sense of The Bill of Rights or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While management should provide them, they are derived from economic success of the company. It would be more meaningful to proclaim the obligations of employees from the CEO down, including the obligation to contribute to the success of the organization and the community at large. Finally, there must be reciprocity of obligation between the business owners and management and their employees. This builds positive corporate culture.

Morality and ethics too are central to the issue of meaning in corporate values. Too often, corporate executives justify a breach of ethics and morality on the basis of financial profit. While profits are the fuel that feeds the economic engine, it is not the sole essence of the corporation. Profits are at other times sacrificed for new product or production innovation. It is a choice, not an imperative.

Finally, values do not drive the business, they drive the people within the business. Values must be internalized by the people in the organization to have meaning. It’s time to stop playing around with cute slogans and tag lines masquerading as corporate values.

Mindfulness in Infographic format

Posted June 30th, 2013 in Articles, Blogs by admin

For those visual people, here’s a beautiful representation of what constitutes mindfulness

Sleep your way to higher productivity

Posted June 17th, 2013 in Articles, Blogs by admin

What can make you smarter in 30 minutes–or less–costs nothing, and you can do it with your eyes closed? A nap, or as some experts refer to it, a biphasic sleep schedule. This conclusion has been advanced by a number of scientists based on solid research.

Arianna Huffington, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog contends “we’re experiencing a transition with regard to well-being. An increasing number of employers and employees alike are acknowledging that the current model of success isn’t working, and is in fact leading to burnout, stress, decreased productivity, and—an epidemic especially resonance to me.” She refers to the issue of sleep, or lack of it. Huffington cites the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine’s Corporate Leadership Summit recently, where representatives from prominent American companies including Wal-Mart, Procter and Gamble, and Eli Lilly discuses how business can partner with sleep experts and organizations to meet the health challenges associated with sleep problems. An estimated one quarter of large U.S. businesses now offer employees some type of stress reduction programs, such as meditation, yoga or napping.

Sara Mednick, and Mark Ehrman, authors of the book Take a Nap! Change Your Life: The Scientific Plan To Make You Smarter, Healthier, More Productive, have developed a program that helps fight the fatigue epidemic which afflicts an estimated 50 million Americans. Their program explains the five stages of the sleep cycle, how to assess your tiredness and set up a personal sleep profile, including optimum napping times and durations. Mednick’s research with colleagues Ken Nakayma and Robert Stickgold, published in Nature Neuroscience, concluded “from the perspective of behavioral improvement, a nap is as good as a night of sleep for learning.”

Matthew Edlund, a physician, writing in Psychology Today, argues “napping is one of the most natural acts a human being can engage in. And recent research argues naps markedly improve performance and health.” Edlund contends that rest is how the body revives, renews and rebuilds, and cites research by NASA of pilots taking a 26 minute nap improving performance by 34% and alertness by 54%. Edlund’s perspective is supported by the research by Matthew Walker and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that the major function of sleep is to clear away all the clutter stored in the hippocampus in the brain to make room for new information. So sleep is critical for learning, and a short mid-day nap is good because it gets you into a particularly beneficial part of the sleep cycle by refreshing your memory.

James Maas, a sleep expert and Cornell social psychologist, recommends employees take a 15 minute nap when they feel sluggish to restore memory and vitality. Maas consults on workplace productivity and the benefits of napping for Harvard University, IBM, and Goldman Sachs, arguing that naps can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, and diabetes, contending that studies have shown that chronic drowsiness during the workday can cause slower reaction times, an inability to concentrate and remember information over long term.

Tony Schwartz, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, and New York Times, argues that companies should insist that their employees take a nap, arguing, “If encouraging employees to take a half hour nap means they can be two or three times as productive over the subsequent three hours late in the day—and far more emotionally resilient—the value is crystal clear.”

Michael J. Breus, a Clinical Psychologist and Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, and author of Beauty Sleep., argues “sleeping at night and then taking a siesta in the afternoon—is an ideal way to keep your brain sharp, prepared to learn new things and feel refreshed.” Breus cites the examples of famous people such as Einstein, Edison, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and Da Vinci as having a nap as a regular part of their day. Breaus suggests you incorporate these practices as part of your napping routine: Aim to take a nap 8 hours after you wake up, and no later than 3:30 p.m; target 30 minutes for a nap, allowing for 10 minutes to fall asleep and a 20 minute nap; take a reclining position; block out the light with an eye mask; and be comfortable and warm (a blanket is ideal).

The problem is that most corporate cultures remain addicted to the draining ethic of more, bigger, faster, says Schwartz, and rest by this paradigm, is for slackers. “Best practice” and smart companies such as Google recognize that napping increases productivity and have moved to create napping rooms for employees. When will other organizations recognize that this practice is a low-cost, high-return investment?

Does Facebook and other social media encourage narcissism?

Posted June 13th, 2013 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Does Facebook enhance your self-esteem or does the popular method of connecting with people and “making friends,” actually detract from a strong sense of self and promote narcissistic behavior? There appears to be conflicting perceptions and evidence regarding this question.

Facebook has more than 750 million users worldwide. It facilitates people keeping in touch online with a network of “friends” and the size of these networks varies from a handful to hundreds of thousands. One of the things that has not been clear is whether there is any relationship between the number of friends a person has and the number of their real-life friends. Some experts have observed anecdotally that social network friends are very different than real-life friends.

To provide a more scientific perspective, researcher Geraint Rees, and his colleagues at the University College of London examined the fMRI brain scans of 125 frequent Facebook users. After the scans, the number of online and offline friends were recorded. The researchers reported that the typical subject had on average, 300 friends on Facebook. They concluded that having more friends online did not significantly make particular regions of the brain larger or more active. However, the researchers concluded there was a positive correlation between the number of friends the subjects had online with the number of friends they had offline.

A Canadian study at York University, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, of Facebook users ages 18-25 reviewed the subject’s use of the Facebook as well as the content they posted on their profiles. The subjects were also evaluated using the Narcissism Personality Inventory and measured according to the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The researchers looked closely at evidence of the participants “self-promotion” on their Facebook sites. Self-promotion was defined as things such as updating their status every five minutes, frequent posting of pictures of themselves, photos of celebrity look-alikes, and quotes and mottos glorifying themselves. The researchers concluded that the people who used Facebook the most tended to have narcissistic or insecure personalities.

Christopher Carpenter of Western Illinois University conducted as study on narcissism in Facebook, published in Personal and Individual Differences. His study showed grandiose exhibitionism correlated with self-promotion and entitlement/exploitiveness correlated with anti-social behaviors on Facebook.

According to research by Amanda Forrest of the University of California and Joanne Wood at Waterloo University, published in Psychological Science, they found those with low self-esteem feel safer sharing on Facebook. However, the study also found that those with low self-esteem frequently post updates that work against them. They tend to criticize their friends with negative details of their lives, making them less likeable as “friends.”  Forrest and Wood also found that those people with high self-esteem, who usually posted more positive updates, received more positive responses.

Russell Clayton at the University of Missouri along with colleagues Alexander Nagurney at the University of Hawaii and Jessica Smith at St. Mary’s University, published their research in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, which concluded high levels of Facebook use by couples were correlated with negative relationship outcomes such as cheating, breakup and divorce.

A study by Larry Rosen at California State University, presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, showed how teens who spend too much time on Facebook are more likely to show narcissistic tendencies and display signs of other behavioral problems. Rosen said the negative effects of teens overusing social media include making them more prone to vain, aggressive and anti-social behavior and that excessive use can lead to poorer academic performance.

Dilney Goncaleves, at the IE Business School in Madrid, conducted a research study which argues that much of how we judge our success in life is by comparison with others: ” The problem is that Facebook gives us a limited view of our friends’ lives, and that view tends to be unrealistically positive.” He added that the more friends you have, the more likely you are to spend your day enviously reading about someone else’s paradise vacation, new girlfriend or job promotion.

Psychology researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh at York University in Toronto, conducted a study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking  of 100 Facebook users and measured activities such as photo sharing, wall postings and status updates and frequency and duration of use. After measuring each subject using the Narcissism Personality Inventory and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Mehdizadeh discovered that narcissists and people with lower self-esteem were more likely to spend more than a hour a day on Facebook and were more prone to post self-promotional photos and showcase themselves through status updates and wall activity.

Laura Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell, researchers from the University of Georgia, conducted research, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, which supports the Canadian study. “We found that people who are narcissistic use Facebook in a self-promoting way that can identified by others,” Buffardi reports. The researchers found that the number of Facebook friends and the way posts are made on profiles correlates with narcissism. Nearly all young  people today use Facebook and it has become a normal part of social life, says Campbell, but “narcissists are using Facebook the same way they use their other relationships—for self-promotion with an emphasis on quantity over quality.”

A University of Michigan study conducted by Elliot Panek and his associates, examined Facebook and Twitter. “Through Twitter,” Panek concludes, they’re [young people] are trying to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views,” and in the process, over evaluate the importance of their opinions. Panek concludes that “among young adult college students, we found that those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter,” whereas among middle-aged adults, narcissists posted more frequently on Facebook.”


Alex Jordan at Stanford University conducted a study, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, of 80 Facebook users, focusing on the number of positive and negative experience their peers were experiencing. He found they consistently over-estimated the fun their friends were having and underestimated their negative or unhappy experiences. He concluded that Facebook may be worsening the tendency to think everyone else is enjoying themselves more than you are. “By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles’ hell of human nature. And women may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses,” Jordon contends.

Not all the research is critical of the impact of social media nor supportive of the narcissism claim.

A 2012 study by Bruce McKinney, from the University of North Carolina, published in the journal Communication Research Reports, concluded that Facebook users are not as narcissistic as once thought. He concluded that it may be time to redefine narcissism, as it may have become the social norm for young people.

A study by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., published in Cyberpsychology Behavior and Social Networking found that viewing and editing your Facebook profile could boost your self-esteem. This research is based on Objective Self-Awareness theory, as reported by Adoree Durayappah, in a Psychology Today article. The theory suggests that people the view the self as both a subject and an object, and that Facebook can be a tool to promote greater self-awareness.

Jeffrey Hancock at Cornell University has published research in the Cyberpsychology Behvior and Social Networking journal which concludes Facebook can have a positive influence on the self-esteem of college students because Facebook by and large, shows a very positive version of ourselves.

So it seems like the jury is still out about the relative impact—positive or negative—of social media such as Facebook, particularly for young people, although there is mounting evidence to show a link with narcissism.



How coaches can help leaders lead more balanced lives

Posted June 13th, 2013 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Most leadership books and training programs focus on how leaders can achieve more—do more, better, faster, with spectacular results. We’ve become obsessed with continuous improvement at increasing speed, with resulting rising stress levels to leaders and their followers and deteriorating relationships. Mindfulness as both a leadership practice and workplace culture holds the promise to bring back balance and better health. Coaches, working with leaders, can be a great catalyst for increasing their self-awareness, self-management and help bring a leadership style of calmness to the workplace.

Most contemporary management and leadership literature is a predictive recasting of 19th and 20th century institutional thinking–multitasking, bigger, better, faster; planning, analysis and problem solving. In other words, work on steroids.

While it is true that the effectiveness of leaders is determined by the results they achieve, those results are an outcome of the impact the leaders have on others. Behavior is driven by thinking and emotions. Thinking and emotions can be a result of mindfulness or mindlessness.

Neuroscience research clearly established that we act, decide and choose as a result of inner forces, often unconscious, and the brain’s reactive and protective mechanisms often rule us. Research also points to the existence of emotions being contagious and viral in the workplaces, often initiated by the emotional states of leaders.

If leaders believe they don’t have the time to work through all aspects of a problem they are inclined to be narrow in perspective and take cognitive shortcuts, and become more impulsive and reactive. Their actions, in effect become “mindless” and automatic.

Daniel Siegel, a neuroscientist and author of The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, contends that a corporate culture of cognitive shortcuts results in oversimplication, curtailed curiosity, reliance on ingrained beliefs and the development of perceptional blind spots. He argues that mindfulness practices enable individuals to jettison judgment and develop more flexible feelings toward what before may have been mental events they tried to avoid, or towards which they had intense averse reactions.

Michael Carroll, author of the Mindful Leader: Awakening Your Natural Management Skills Through Mindfulness Meditation applies the key principles of mindfulness and how they could apply to leaders of organizations. He argues that mindfulness in leaders and their organizations can heal toxic workplace cultures where anxiety and stress impede creativity and performance; cultivate courage and confidence in spite of workplace difficulties in economic downturns; and lead with wisdom and gentleness,  rather than only with ambition, relentless drive and power.

To become mindful leaders and tap into that power, they must:

  • Let go of their belief in themselves as technical and problem solving geniuses and embrace the notion of becoming mindful partners. This requires building an awareness of and becoming more open to nuance and subtlety;
  • Be open to the concept of an unknown future. What we plan for today may not work tomorrow. To succeed in an unknown future, leaders must acknowledge mistakes quickly when things are not turning out as they predicted; be flexible enough to make changes quickly without defending their territory or ego;
  • Become skilled at leading through intuitive reflection in addition to logical analysis;
  • Become more open and accepting of the world and others, and their differing points of view, rather than trying to reshape the world in the leader’s own image;
  • Become more mindful of what is going on in terms of their own thoughts, emotions and body and what is going in context. External mindfulness is being able to sense situations, being aware of the signals and cues in different contexts, and paying attention to them. Internal mindfulness is being aware of one’s body, emotions and thoughts and requires the ability and attitude to monitor one’s inner reality.

Our modern world has become unbalanced, with an excessive focus on doing and speed and multitasking, with little time for just “being” and reflection. Mindfulness can restore that balance for leaders and workplaces. Coaches who specialize in working with leaders in organizations, particularly senior leaders, can shape their coaching practice and methodologies to incorporate mindfulness successfully. The impact can be significant.



How temporary work will reshape career paths and our economy

Posted June 11th, 2013 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Career paths are being reshaped—some say permanently—partly because of the massive movement toward temporary employment. These changes will have their greatest impact on young people, who face the prospect of a lifetime of temporary or part time work, and uncertain career path, and lower standard of living with little or no payoff for their higher education.

Let’s take a look at the evidence for this rather bleak picture.

In my Financial Post article, “The Notion of Contract Workers Is Here To Stay,” I cited McKinsey & Co. which “reported that 65% of U.S. corporations have restructured their workforce and have no plans to return to pre-recession employment, but rather are opting for contingent and contract work when the need for expansion takes place.” A 2013 Gallup poll reported one of every five workers is now part-time. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 30% of all part-timers fall into the involuntary category. The New York Times reported that another rising trend is employers changing part-time workers’ schedules from week to week, with only 10% of part-timers having a set weekly schedule. One of the main arguments against part-time work is that forced part-time workers share far less than full-timers in economic prosperity. Companies invest less in their training; they get less work experience, and fewer promotions.

Steven Greenhouse, writing in the New York Times, argues “Over the past two decades many major retailers went from a quotient of 70 to 80 percent full-time to at least 70 percent part-time…[and]the retail and wholesale sector has cut a million full-time jobs since 2006, while adding more than 500,000 part-time jobs.” Susan J. Lambert, a professor of organizational theory at the University of Chicago says that the use of part-timers has escalated because of the declining power of labor unions.

And it doesn’t stop at part-time work. We’re also witnessing the growth of young people working for nothing as interns. Some would argue that by 2050, half of the workforce will be unpaid interns.

Technology firm Mavenlink’s report, “The New Independent Workforce,” shows a significant increase in the number of self-employed, independent service firms, solopreneurs and temporary workers in the U.S. The firm predicts the contingent workforce to grow by 40% by the year 2020 or 65 million people and will not work in what we know as traditional jobs where they work consistently for one employer who provides benefits and insurance.

According to a recent survey from Millennial Branding and Payscale, millennials are now most likely to be employed in service industry jobs. This reflects a report by the

Economic Policy Institute, which predicts 30% of American workers are expected to hold low-wage jobs—defined as earnings at or below the poverty line to support a family—by the year 2020.  Given that roughly 50% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed and those who do work are much more likely to hold these types of jobs, the prosperity prospects for the young are bleak.

The prospect of a generation of workers who are facing job insecurity and uncertain career growth has broader social consequences that go far beyond the critics’ view of millennials being an entitled generation. According the Pew Charitable Trusts foundation, “Americans raised at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to remain there themselves. Forty-three percent of those who start in the bottom are stuck there as adults, and 70 percent remain below the middle quintile. Only 4 percent of adults raised in the bottom make it all the way to the top, showing that the “rags-to-riches “story is more often found in Hollywood than in reality.”


Temporary work raises long-term questions for our economy. Over the past two decades, job security has become unraveled, accompanied by a deterioration in benefits, livable wages and clearly defined career pathways. We are witnessing a fundamental shift in the nature of employment, or social contract.


These trends are not isolated in the U.S. alone. A 2012 study by the OECD that looked at 10 countries including Australia, Italy, Japan and Germany found similar declines in full time employment since 1985.


The problem for young people is much more serious than for those in mid career. They will miss out on skill development, and bear the brunt of labor market fluctuations and restructuring their entire lives. And developed nations, which have aging populations, are increasingly reliant on younger workers to fund their entitlements, which require high economic growth rates, and productive young workers.


Erin Hatton, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York and author of The Temp Economy: From Kelly Girls to Permatemps in Postwar America, argues that outsourcing, insourcing, offshoring and many other hallmarks of the global economy owe is indebted to the ideas developed by the temp industry in the last few decades.


The growth of the temporary and contract labor force and disappearance of full time, career path employment will have permanent damaging effects on the economic welfare of the middle class, particularly today’s young people with aspirations to live the prosperous life of middle class success.