If your email is not time-critical, consider waiting to send. That way your recipients can deal with urgent matters first.
you are worried about forgetting to send, draft the email and use the delay
Have I buried the lead?
a brief pause to think about the high-level takeaway from your email – it
should be a very brief sentence. Put this information up front, right after
your greeting. Some people only read what can be seen in the preview
screen of Outlook, so make sure your message is clear.
Then clearly state what you want, why you want it, and when you need a response. Think of this as an “executive summary” for your reader.
Does my subject line help the reader?
subject lines make you stand out from the hundreds of emails people
receive. You come across as smart, organized, and professional.
Is there a project name or other
What is the email about?
Do you need a response by a certain
Is it just an informational update?
Consider if you need to send it now.
Can I group content to avoid sending multiple emails?
you are reviewing materials or brainstorming a problem, consider putting all
your comments and ideas into one email. It is sometimes tempting to get
information to the team quickly in separate emails, but sending one email
containing all your points makes it easier for people to action them, and
prevents something from slipping through the cracks.
Personally, I don’t like working from home. If I can choose, I go into the office. I just get more done. Unfortunately, to protect my family and my employees, going to the office is no longer the best option. For some of you, it’s not an option at all.
For those who have not worked from home full-time before now, you’ll want to prepare by doing the following:
1. Take inventory (literally) of what you need to effectively do your job
At first, it’s easy to think that if you’ve got your laptop, you’re all set. Before making this assumption, take a moment to really think about how you work and the important tasks you need to get done. What files do you need to access? Do you need to print physical copies or ship things overnight? What else do you use to perform your job well and independently?
If your job requires you to collaborate with others often, figure out how you might replicate those work channels. Will you use Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Zoom, Slack, or other platforms? And, keep in mind that this isn’t your decision alone. You may need to decide as a team which platform works best for everyone.
2. Ensure you have a strong virtual presence
Just like you wouldn’t show up to work disheveled, make sure your virtual presence is equally put together. Does your home workspace reflect how you want people to see you? What, exactly, do people experience when they watch you “through the lens”? Here are some questions to consider: Are you dressed appropriately? Is your sound quality strong? Is your camera lighting and set up effective? Is there a risk of annoying or unexpected background noise?
If you are working in your personal space, control the frame that people see. Perhaps you’ll want to move your laundry basket out of the frame. How about that wine bottle you keep on the counter behind you? Remove anything you’d rather others not see. If you can eliminate or reduce excess background noise, try to do so. If you can’t, address it upfront so the other person isn’t left wondering what’s happening. Since it’s a best practice to turn on your camera, the excuse that your webcam is not working will only last for so long.
3. Create an environment that is easy to work in
Most of us separate our work lives from our home lives and our environments reflects that. If you’re not used to working from home, your home may be filled with distractions. To ensure your own effectiveness, find ways to create a workspace that blocks out those distractions.
Since NYC just closed schools, I have two young kids running around the house. If you can get help from a relative or a babysitter to watch them during key work hours, great! If you and your spouse are both working from home, consider staggering work call times with your spouse in case you need to take turns keeping the kids busy. If you are alone, manage the expectations of your clients and colleagues as you figure out a longer-term solution.
Another practical tip from my colleagues who work 100% remote is to structure your day so you can settle into a regular routine. Decide specific times when your workday starts and ends. Schedule breaks throughout the day since it’ll be unlikely your colleagues will drop by your desk to give you a “natural” break. For some of you with chatty colleagues, this might be a perk.
4. Stay close and connected
When you work from home, you are increasing the distance on three dimensions – physical, operational, relational. Your goal is to understand how those distances impact you and how you can best minimize them. My colleague, Neha Ratnakar, shares 6 ways to reduce these distances in this article.
If you manage people, proactively connect with your team regularly. Schedule one-on-ones and periodic check-ins. This is especially important if you typically check in with your team by just dropping by their offices. You may find yourself less able to catch physical cues when someone is not feeling their best. When we’re in the same office and we see someone feeling down, we ask, “Is everything ok?” This is so much harder to pick up on when we’re virtual. Remember to include small talk in your virtual meetings so you stay connected at all levels with your teammates.
5. Be clear about expectations
Although technology has come a long way to help us effectively engage in remote settings, our productivity is still dependent on the nature of our work and our own comfort level using these technologies. Since it’s easy to assume that we can quickly convert our in-person productivity to virtual, you’ll want to take a step back and ask yourself whether that’s true.
Have a conversation about what is the expected output now that you’re working from home. If you manage others, discuss your expectations and make sure they are realistic. You might also want to leverage email more to make things clear. Consider following up after meetings with a quick email summary of the conversation and confirm your understanding of Who does What by When. For right now, you may also want to add How, at least until we all have a better sense of how to work effectively in this new normal.
There is a lot to think about and this transition can be stress-inducing. You may find that you are less active working from home than you were in the office. Keep up your exercise routine and if you can’t go to the gym because of social distancing, then take a walk or go for a run. On the positive side, if you have a tiring commute or hectic morning routine, you may find that working from home gives you more flexibility and time with family. If you become adept at working remotely, you may also be broadening your career opportunities.
As more employees work remotely, how do you and your team maintain proximity?
Reducing the feeling of distance is a key strategy to create effective virtual teams. Three distance types to consider when working remotely are physical, operational, and affinity*. Our Learning Consultant, Neha Ratnakar, who has worked extensively with remote teams, shares these tips to help reduce the feeling of distance.
6 Tips to Help You Reduce Distance for Remote Teams
Reduce Physical Distance
Tip 1: Always Use A Camera
Seeing your colleagues during everyday interactions helps to create a level of connection and rapport that is impossible to replicate through chat or phone. This affinity is worth dressing up for… So put a nice shirt on top of your pajama bottoms and learn how to use the background blurring function. You can thank us later!
Tip 2: Keep your “Door” Open
You don’t have to lose the open-door policy just because there is no door. Consider this great technique from Henk Campher, VP of Corporate Marketing and Head of Impact at Hootsuite:
“One of my favorite hacks as a leader working remotely is having ‘open door’ time slots for team members… meant to be like ‘swing by my desk’ for a quick chat or to ask a burning question, no appointment needed – just as you would in a physical office.”
Reduce Operational Distance
Tip 3: Bridge Language Gaps
Virtual teams allow us to tap into talent anywhere in the world. It’s especially important to be mindful of your colleagues for whom English is not their first language. Virtual settings can make it easy to miss the non-verbal cues that we often use for context. Create a detailed agenda before meetings and use simple language without idioms or cultural references to express ideas.
Tip 4: Overlap Team Schedules
Life starts filling the gaps between work assignments for remote workers. Work-life harmony is one of the biggest perks of working remotely. Just make sure you schedule a few hours where the entire team stays online together to foster collaboration.
Reduce Affinity Distance
Tip 5: Proactively Build Trust
Try to avoid situations where a remote team member and their manager are in the same room during a team call. Such hybrid calls can quickly make other people feel excluded. Having everyone join all calls using their own devices, even when co-located, is a quick way to avoid this situation.
Tip 6: Don’t Forget the Cake!
Just because you and your team are in different cities, doesn’t mean the celebrations need to stop. There are services like Pizzatime that provide shared experiences like team lunches with pizzas delivered even to far-flung employees. It also makes sense to meet at least once a year to spend some time together. And yes, don’t forget the birthday cake!
Make remote work work for your team. Contact us to learn more about virtual instructor-led programs!
“Although you can find hundreds of resources teaching you how to give feedback effectively, there are very few that will tell you how to receive it well.” Neha Ratnakar, Exec-Comm Learning Consultant, shares her top 3 tips for how to graciously handle even the toughest feedback:
Recently, 140 professionals, mostly strangers, set aside an entire day to get uncomfortable with each other. We had frank and revealing conversations. I found myself sharing a few personal stories that I had never shared in a work setting before with a man I’d just met. It wasn’t always comfortable, but it was honest, open and helpful.
We were participants at The Better Man Conference, hosted at
Unilever in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. A series of speakers, including
psychologists, researchers, authors and business professionals, led us through
exercises to help us understand how men can be more helpful allies for their
women colleagues. The audience was 80% male, 20% female. The women in the
audience provided as much helpful perspective as the speakers did.
While the focus of the discussion was on how men,
specifically straight, white men, can help facilitate equality in the workplace
for women, the conversation addressed broader issues of how we can all avoid
behaviors that demean, antagonize and marginalize others. In short, we spent eight
hours learning how to be better people to those around us.
The day was divided into four broad topics, each with a
clear learning point.
First, we covered how to identify, acknowledge and
appreciate our own privilege in society without apology and without blinders on
the advantage that might have bestowed on us. Self-reflection does not need to
be self-critical. I can admit I have received an advantage because of my race,
gender, national origin, income level or other attributes without feeling
guilty about it. I not only didn’t earn any of those categories, I didn’t cause
any of the societal and institutional advantages they bestowed upon me. However,
pretending certain attributes don’t give me an advantage is dishonest and
increases inequality rather than lessens it.
One of the speakers, Karen Brown, turned the notion of
privilege on its head. Brown recounted how growing up poor in Jamaica was a
life of struggle that required frequent moves and a sense of dislocation, but
she identified that need to be resilient as a privilege that others don’t have
a chance to develop. Being able to identify those privileges that make our
lives easier and those that are borne from adversity provided a helpful
framework for the small-group discussions we then had with other attendees.
Second, we discussed the difference between intent and impact. While my heart may be in the right place as I offer
assistance, guide a conversation or provide feedback, if I am not aware of the
other person’s needs in the moment, I’m not only not helpful, I am undermining
my good intent. It reminded me of a coffee mug I once saw that read, “I’m not
bossy. I’m helpful.”
One way to help bring intent and impact closer together is
to ask the person you’re speaking with for feedback on your comments. Preface
your comment with, “Would it be helpful if I shared a few thoughts on that?” That
slows the conversation and gives the other person a “heads up” that you’re
about to offer your perspective. It also highlights for both you and the other
person your intent with the information – to be helpful. Reminding yourself of your intent will help you be more aware of
your language choice and content. Highlighting that intent for your audience
will buy you some good will and benefit of the doubt regarding how the message
Sometimes, regardless of any preface, your comment will be
taken in an unintended way. That’s when it’s time to simply listen well to the
other person so you can understand their perspective. In short, it’s best to consider
why you are sharing a particular
comment, what tone you are using,
whether you have asked permission
from the person to share your comment and how easy it will be for the person to
implement your advice.
Third, we learned how to listen so intently that we not only heard the speaker’s content but understood and appreciated the underlying emotions. Responding to someone with platitudes is just going through the motions of listening. Responding with patience, additional questions, quiet acknowledgement and empathy builds a relationship and helps the other person feel heard. It’s the difference between surface and substance.
Finally, we learned to commit to action. The day provided
enough concrete tips and techniques that everyone in the room, male and female
alike, was able to identify what steps they could take to be better allies for
those who need them. For me, I committed to finding an ally at work who will
flag for me instances where I’ve said or done something that was harmful, or
could have been more helpful. It’s a small step in the right direction.
Here are three key takeaways you can put into action right away.
1. Reflect on your own situation – what attributes do you possess that you benefit from but didn’t have to earn? Acknowledge them as privileges – no shame, no guilt, just your starting point for self-awareness.
2. Avoid assumptions by asking how you can be helpful, instead of assuming your first instinct on what to share will be a big value-add to those around you.
3. Listen to learn and relate to the other person rather than as a necessary, perfunctory step before you can speak.
Everyone talks about the culture of their business. Sometimes they tout the strengths of that culture as the key to their success. Sometimes they’re in the press defending how they’re finally going to address cultural issues that have landed them in hot water. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, we all know it’s hard to build and sustain a company’s culture, particularly as it undergoes major changes.
“Culture” suggests a uniform way a group of people think
about themselves and act in relation to each other and their community. In the
case of a corporate culture, that “community” involves colleagues, customers
and the broader business community. As a company matures, the culture evolves,
and long-term employees are already on board with the core ethos of the
business. But what if the company grows through acquisition? How do you bring
an entire team of new colleagues into the mix when they come from a culture
that may differ from yours?
Convergint Technologies, LLC., is dedicated to keeping people safe. With, 4,700 people in 116 locations across the globe, they manage the security, fire and broad safety processes and equipment at major manufacturing and industrial sites. CEO Ken Lochiatto has led the billion-dollar company through 29 acquisitions in the last five and a half years. That’s a new acquisition every two months. He has clear ideas on how to bring new teams into the family and make it work.
1. The head of the company owns culture as a job function.
Lochiatto joined Convergint in January of 2014. Although his
title is CEO, he feels he was hired to be “Chief Culture Officer.” “Culture
isn’t something you delegate to HR or someone else at the firm. The CEO is the
primary person responsible for maintaining culture,” he says.
Lochiatto started his career at GE, another company with a
strong culture and long history of success. He knew the power of the message
when it came from the firm’s leaders. Lochiatto has brought that same approach
to Convergint. “All of the businesses we acquire are local. My job is to help them appreciate that they’re now part of a
global company with access to global markets and resources they didn’t have
before.” Since he’s the most consistent face they see and voice they hear from
the company’s leadership, he knows it’s his responsibility to keep the
discussion of the company’s values front and center for all. “Just showing up
is a big part of the message,” he says.
But you can’t be everywhere. You have to bring in leadership that is attracted to a values-based company who want to be part of that culture. “Then, you have to develop processes that allow you to communicate that culture,” Lochiatto says.
2. Talk about culture all the time.
At Convergint, every internal meeting starts with comments
on the firm’s values and culture. It’s not belabored; it’s simply imbued in how
they interact with each other.
“When I meet for the first time with a new team at an
acquisition, almost the entire conversation is about our firm’s culture and how
we work together deal with each other. It’s far more important than numbers or
roles or new processes. It’s how you get to know each other,” Lochiatto says.
According to Lochiatto, giving people time to get
comfortable with the change is important during a merger. “You walk around and
talk to people and understand how they feel about the values, what the values
mean to them and how they would see those values expressed in their work
“Once the shock wave of being under a new company wears off,
the employees see the upside. They know they can perform better because of the
scale and resources a larger company provides,” he says.
He even starts conversations with clients with a discussion
of Convergint’s culture. “They need to know that we’re going to put our values
to work for them and be true to our values throughout our relationship with
them,” he added.
But you can’t just talk about the culture; you have to live it. One of the company’s acquisitions in the last few years had a benefits plan that didn’t match the value of Convergint’s. It was a small company with 50 employees and EBITDA of roughly $1 million. Transitioning all the employees to Convergint’s plan immediately would cost $300,000, lowering the value of the deal by 30% in the short term. Switching them to the better plan immediately was more in line with the firm’s culture and was simply the right thing to do. The increased value to the new colleagues was tremendous. The increased value to the company is the long-term benefit of having everyone understand and appreciate the company’s commitment to doing the right thing.
Lochiatto says, “When you face a challenge of how to deal
with an issue and you’re unsure of the direction to go, if you view the issue
through the prism of your values, the right solution usually surfaces.”
3. Keep listening – to learn and to leverage.
Culture is organic. It comes from how the team has developed
over the years. Your job as a leader is to listen to it, foster it and allow it
to thrive. “You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. You need to
know who the smartest person is and act on their ideas,” says Lochiatto.
A few years ago, Convergint suffered a huge loss when Ken
LaChance, a regional leader, died suddenly from a stroke at 53. After his
passing, it became apparent through the stories shared about him that he was
incredibly generous to his colleagues when they needed help, providing small
loans or gifts as needed. The firm started the “Ken LaChance Colleague Emergency
Fund” that employees can contribute to from their own paychecks through
automatic withdrawals. Although the company makes a small contribution, most
comes from employees. An employee in a crisis can apply for a grant of up to
$4,000. At this point, nearly $700,000 has been donated to the fund. Companies
don’t create that kind of generosity, people who feel part of a community do.
The company’s leaders are responsible for listening to that spirit and enabling
“If you listen to your customers, colleagues and
shareholders, you’ll succeed,” says Lochiatto.
So, in sum, to allow your culture to drive your success,
particularly during a merger:
With all the negativity, nastiness and name-calling in public discourse these days, it’s refreshing to see so many people focusing on how we can truly understand one another better and come closer to appreciating each other’s experiences. Companies are working hard to help their people relate, and where they can’t truly identify with someone else’s experience, at least acknowledge those differences with respect.
In 1993, Yale professor Stephen Carter, in his book, The Culture of Disbelief, wrote, “I want
to live in a country that doesn’t just tolerate my faith, but respects it.” Twenty-six
years later, that theme is being applied not just to faith, but to all aspects
of our humanity. Most of our institutions, particularly in the corporate world,
seek not just for diversity, but for inclusion. Diversity is about numbers;
inclusion is about understanding.
Madhumita “Mita” Mallick and Glenn Racioppi are a “gender
partnership” at Unilever. A “gender partnership” isn’t a new form of marriage.
It’s simply a pairing of people of different genders who can talk to each other
openly about issues of gender inequality at work. Their respective paths and
collective efforts provide lessons for all of us.
Mallick has been leading Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) efforts at Unilever North America for more than three years. Her goal is to make sure all voices are heard or represented – no small task in a company with 155,000 employees across the globe.
For seven years, Racioppi has been a brand manager for the company. He crossed paths with Mallick a few years ago when he started Unilever’s “Men as Allies” (UMAA) group. After participating in a D&I training, he and other men at Unilever were intrigued by the increased awareness it created for them and wanted to extend the learning and the dialogue. They wanted a training event that would promote an on-going pattern of growth. He found senior leadership welcoming of the idea and had no shortage of senior executives willing to sponsor UMAA events and discussions.
“Our UMAA meetings give men a safe place to discuss gender
issues, ask questions, admit blind spots, learn how to identify inequality in
the workplace and be more supportive of the women we work with,” Racioppi says.
In conversations with Mallick, he quickly determined that UMAA should be a
sub-group within her Women’s Business Resource Group, which goes by the name
“Galvanize.” Since then, Mallick and Racioppi have worked together to help
Unilever foster understanding, openness and, ultimately, responsibility.
Mallick focuses on getting Unilever employees to stand up
for each other when they see issues of inequality. Although the focus is borne
from a discussion of gender inequality, the heightened awareness helps people
recognize many types of inequality.
“Let’s say you’re in a meeting and you hear someone make a
comment that you think puts someone else at a disadvantage because of their
race, gender or any attribute unrelated to their ability or experience,”
Mallick says. “You should feel comfortable speaking out in the moment or
pulling the offending person aside afterward and addressing the issue.” She
added, “Most of the time, people don’t intend to offend or discriminate.
Helping others see the difference between their intent and their impact
broadens the learning for the entire organization.”
Here’s a simple example. You’re in a meeting discussing
candidates for a new role that will require travel or, possibly, relocating. Someone
mentions “Jesse” as an option. “Dana” says, “Jesse just had another kid. I
don’t think they’d be interested.” And the conversation moves on. Jesse is no
longer considered for the opportunity based on Dana’s assumption of Jesse’s position.
Not giving Jesse the option to weigh the pros and cons of the new role is
simply bad management. The inequality
arises when Dana’s reaction would differ based on whether Jesse is a man or a
woman. Unilever wants others at the table to feel comfortable asking Dana, in
the moment, “What’s that assessment based on?” or “Why don’t we ask Jesse before
making that assumption?” Asking questions that challenge assumptions in the
moment can help us all acknowledge and start to minimize our blind spots.
“You can’t effectively address inequality in the workplace just through your Human Resources department,” Mallick says. “HR can’t always be the cops. By the time an incident is reported to HR, it might be too late.” Unilever wants each employee to feel responsible for standing up for others when they see a lack of fairness.
“I experienced this first-hand
early in my career, long before I got to Unilever,” Mallick said. “I was very
junior in my role, and one of few people of color working in my group. My
manager couldn’t pronounce ‘Madhumita.’ Even when I offered that he could just
call me ‘Mita’ he deferred. He thought it would be cute to just call me
‘Mohammed,’ which he did consistently throughout my time at that company, both
when we spoke one-on-one and in group settings. Starting as early as grade
school, I had asked people to just call me ‘Mita’ instead of my full name. I
felt that was enough of a sacrifice. Being called by a wholly different name
was demeaning, whether he had chosen ‘Mohammed,’ ‘Mahatma’ or ‘Murphy.’ I
wanted to respond, ‘Not my name!’ every time, but didn’t because of my youth
and position in the company. But more striking to me was that no one else in
the company stepped up and highlighted for the manager that his decision to
call me by a nickname of his own choosing was inappropriate.”
Mallick hopes to use Galvanized to promote a culture where
that doesn’t happen. In a strong statement of support for the work of
Galvanized and UMAA, this fall, Unilever is sponsoring the Better Man
Conference (BMC). Started a few years ago by Ray Arata, a noted author and
speaker on gender inequality issues, the BMC brings together speakers and
leaders for day-long events that are part workshop, part discussion forum, part
community building. Although the focus is for white men to understand the paths
and perspectives of women and of men of color, everyone is welcome to the
“By sponsoring this event in our offices, we’ll make it easy
for our team and professionals at nearby companies to participate,” Mallick
said. “It’s a great opportunity to engage in a discussion, and they take care
to foster openness. The BMC team does an excellent job making sure the tone
isn’t preachy or scolding. It’s all about understanding.”
Which gets us back to gender partnerships. Mallick and Racioppi
are working to create 50 pairings of Unilever professionals of different
genders who can talk openly about their work experience. The relationships need
to be organic, meaning participants will have a say regarding their partner.
The conversations will be guided and structured. Mallick and her team will
provide guidelines for how the conversations can happen safely and
productively. The goal is understanding and respect.
Here are three ways you can use what Unilever has done to promote openness and understanding in your work environment.
Leverage training events to facilitate on-going conversations.
Encourage everyone to stand up for each other – politely, appropriately and proactively.
Leverage broader initiatives like the Better Man Conference to bring the outside voice in.
All in all, use your company’s voice to add balance to the
current public debate.
Growing up in the Philippines, I was taught to be humble and accommodating, rather than outspoken or bold. We were encouraged to get along, rather than rock the boat.
My first jobs were with two of the world’s top companies,
Procter & Gamble and Hewlett-Packard. My global colleagues were extroverted
and confident – they always knew the right thing to say. I found myself too
intimidated to speak up in meetings. Not a quality that was going to fast-track
me for a leadership position.
I’m petite – 5’ flat. On top of that, I’m an Asian woman, so
I look much younger than I am. As a director of strategy and planning at a
Fortune 50, I had to learn how to boost my presence, command the room, and
engage executive audiences effectively.
So what changed that allowed me to confidently lead global
teams and work with senior executives? I took control of my presence. Coming
from a technical background, I had to learn that it’s not just about the facts
– how I say something is just as important as what I say.
Here’s how you can strengthen your presence and
instantly own the room.
1. Connect With Your Listeners
Eye contact helps you connect with your audience and show confidence. It’s a powerful connection tool, and it’s all about balance. Too little and you seem detached. Stare them down and you seem creepy. The most effortless way to relate to your audience without detracting from what you’re saying is to follow “one person, one thought.” That is, each thought gets delivered to one set of eyes.
Tip:When seated, look for ‘power positions.’ Position yourself somewhere in the room where you can see the group and make eye contact with key stakeholders.
2. Own Your Space
Gestures reinforce your message, and help you own your space. When standing, open your gestures and demonstrate a strong stance. Don’t be afraid to visually express what you’re saying, but keep it in the “gesture zone” – from about your chin to your waist, and just over shoulder width.
Tip:When seated, keep your hands on or above the table and remember to gesture naturally.
3. Take Your Time
Pace and pauses tell your audience that what you’re saying matters. Power is never rushed. When you sound confident, it’s easier for your audience to have confidence in you. If you speak too fast, you risk sounding nervous or uncomfortable, and you send one of two wrong messages:
“What I’m saying isn’t important enough to take up your time,” or,
“I don’t care if you understand, I just want to dump my info on you.”
Tip:Slow down and use pauses to command attention and emphasize key points. There’s power in the pause.
Follow these three quick suggestions and you’ll come across
as confident and credible.
Hear Ching tell her story and see her put these executive presence tips into action in this 3-minute video.
Some people cope with change, like it’s a disease. Some deal with change as if it’s a necessary evil. Some embrace change, seeing it for the possibilities it brings. And some of us, by virtue of our circumstances, actually develop a talent for ensuring that change results in evolution, taking an organization to the next step. Scott Halliday is wrapping up an almost four-year stint as the Chairman & Area Managing Partner for Japan for EY, the global audit, tax, transaction and consulting firm. A Californian by birth, Halliday’s 38-year career with the firm has landed him in leadership roles in two regions in the U.S., in the U.K., and most recently in Tokyo. In each area, his mandate wasn’t to be ready for change, but to propel it, and to do so mindful of cultural differences, the EY brand and his own personal ethos of leadership. He shared his top three strategies for leading a successful team through major changes. Each piece of advice resonates in the unique setting of a global organization, and in the broader context of our lives.
1. Surround yourself
with good people you can trust.
According to Halliday, leadership is a team activity. You’re
only as good as the people around you. Your job is to help them be the best
they can be. He has two strategic questions for those who work under him.
First, he asks, “What are the three skills you are working
on for self-improvement?” Halliday said,
“This question helps me understand how self-aware the person is. We all have skills, approaches and attitudes we can work on. I want to be working with people who are constantly trying to improve their performance.”
Second, he asks, “What challenges have you had to overcome?”
Sometimes this means more broadly in life, and sometimes it means in the last
week or so.
“Life is short and we all have a lot to get done. I find it most helpful to work with people who have energy and enthusiasm. People who can identify challenges they have faced and how they have overcome those headwinds are the ones most likely to show up at work with a can-do spirit. When setbacks occur, which they frequently do in business and life, I want team members who can wake up in the morning with a renewed sense of energy to carry on.”
“It’s not just about getting tasks done. It’s about building relationships. If they can come at a conversation from a personal perspective, being genuine, you can build trust, which is so important no matter how large your organization. If people know you care about them, they will follow you. And you have to really care, not just go through the motions. If you’re genuine in your caring, your people will make the extra effort for you.”
2. Don’t let yourself
get down, particularly if you have a major setback.
I must admit, to me this sounds challenging. Halliday’s
advice, “Take the approach, ‘This too shall pass.’” He suggests,
“It takes humility to admit that this challenge that you’re facing isn’t a life-or-death matter; it’s just today’s business decision. Of course, your actions have real-life impact on individuals, and therefore demand your thoughtful reflection and full engagement. But the issues you’re addressing are unlikely to be new or earth changing. If we trust our judgement and treat each other with respect, we’ll make decisions that will help us ride out any storm.”
He doesn’t suggest that you come across joyous about all of the decisions you need to make. Rather, he suggests you tackle the tough issues head-on, and sleep well knowing you made your decisions with a moral compass as a guide and the values of your organization in mind.
I asked him for an example of when this was difficult for
him. He shared that when he was running the Gulf Coast area, from Texas to
Mississippi, for EY, the region was to be merged with their Southwest region.
“I had to stand up in front of my partners and say I supported the decision even though it meant I was losing my leadership role. And I did support the decision; it was the right thing for the firm. But I was 44 at the time and thought this position might have been my path to larger leadership roles. I felt torn by the situation but handled it the best I could. Sure enough, six months later I was asked to lead the U.K. operations and help the U.K. merge with Ireland, then have that joint practice join in the formation of the Europe, Middle East, India, and Africa (EMEIA) Area, a historic alignment for the profession. Completely by happenstance, I had developed an expertise in merging operations.”
A few years later, now back stateside, Halliday was tapped by
the firm to merge two Northeast coast markets to create one unified Northeast region,
combining the firm’s capabilities from Boston to Washington DC. That merger
went so well, he was again asked to tackle an intricate situation that required
diplomacy as much as leadership skills. When EY decided to merge their Japan
practice with the rest of their Asia-PAC teams, they turned to Halliday. There,
his background managing offices with different cultures and experience allowed
him to align the practice with an important market for the firm’s Japanese
Through all these challenges, he’s seen part of his job as
being the person who always stays positive. His advice,
“You can’t lose sight of the fact that your work is only one part of who you are. I exercise regularly and have hobbies outside of work. Exercise provides the right energy and endorphins. I also love saltwater fly fishing, photography and cooking. My wife, Jenny, is my muse. She keeps me grounded and gives me perspective.”
His advice, “If you let your career become all-encompassing,
you lose out on the other aspects of life, and those aspects actually help you
bring more energy and enthusiasm to your work. It’s a win-win.”
3. Never speak or act
Halliday said that, over the years, he has found himself
biting his tongue rather than speaking out.
“When I’m faced with an emotional issue at work, I back up and ask myself why someone else might have approached an issue from an angle of frustration or anger. I try to see the topic from their point of view. Even if I can’t get there, the buffer of time between the topic being raised and my needed response helps me share a perspective in a calm, professional, and dignified manner.”
He said he responds to voicemails or emails only after
calming down. Noting, if you manage the emotion in your own voice, regardless
of what you’re receiving from the other person, you’ll change the dynamic in
Whether you’re managing a team around a table, or around the
globe, your own leadership instincts will be well served by these ideas. Surround
yourself with good people. Stay positive in your outlook. Resist speaking in
anger. Great advice all around.
What do you say when you have just 30 seconds to make a lasting impression? Don’t get caught tongue-tied. Be brief, specific, and memorable. Craft an elevator pitch with these tips from Ching Valdezco: