Category: Leadership

After #MeToo: Communicating Your Workplace Harassment Policy

In the wake of widespread media reports of sexual harassment, what is your business doing ensure a safe and accountable workplace?  Consider this: the #MeToo hashtag was shared more than 1 million times in just 48 hours after being posted to social media. The public debate continues as others are empowered to share their stories.

This is not a new issue. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 94% of U.S. companies have harassment and/or bullying policies that outline conduct that is prohibited. But if you think having a policy is enough, think again.  A 2016 EEOC study of workplace harassment revealed that policies alone do not encourage appropriate behavior. The study reported that approximately 90% of survey participants who experienced sexual harassment never file a complaint.

This is a unique, timely moment to be very clear about workplace harassment. It benefits everyone to make this a priority in your business. When employees experience a safe and welcoming workplace, they perform at their best and drive business performance.  As you review this issue internally, consider these communication best practices.

Review and update the existing Harassment Policy

Start by examining the current policy. When was the last time it was reviewed and updated?  If it’s been more than five years, it’s too old.  The policy should, at a minimum, list examples of prohibited conduct, detail the process for reporting objectionable conduct, and be signed by the current CEO. Then ensure that the policy, and the reporting process, is accessible.  Bottom line: let employees know where to go for help.

Time for leaders to speak out

Every leader must be accountable. Let employees hear directly from the C-Suite that harassment will not be tolerated. Human Resources can support this endeavor, but can’t shoulder it alone. Executives must step up and commit that when allegations are brought, they will be investigated immediately and that appropriate actions will follow.  Convey that retaliation is prohibited since many cases are unreported due to fears of job loss or reprisals.

Train. Train. Train.

Most companies provide online harassment training, but do you mandate that training is completed? Is harassment addressed in new employee orientation? Training will ensure a better understanding of the behaviors that comprise harassment. Additionally, the HR team must be prepared and ready to conduct prompt, objective and thorough investigations.

Amplify the message through internal communications

If an employee experiences sexual harassment–or witnesses it–do they know what steps to take? Make it easy for individuals to report. Use multiple channels to share the harassment policy and reporting procedure. Talk about it in town halls, blogs, create a video from the CEO and put a link to the policy on the home page of your company intranet. Make it loud so that everyone understands that harassment is unacceptable in your company culture.

Build Workplace Culture by Communicating Gratitude

This month as we focus on Thanksgiving, consider the power of gratitude in your workplace. Before your thoughts turn to friends, family and football, spend a few minutes thinking about how appreciation can make a difference to your business.

Tom Peters was so right when he noted “People don’t forget kindness.” It’s the same with gratitude.  The power of a sincere thank you cannot be overestimated. In a recent study on employee engagement, the top factor of job satisfaction was respectful treatment of employees at all levels.  Second on the list was trust between employees and management.  If you practice the first item, you achieve the second one.

It takes conscious effort to build a culture where every employee feels appreciated.  We all like to be noticed for the good things we do.  People who feel appreciated believe their work makes a difference.  They are more willing to go the extra mile because they know someone notices.

Making gratitude visible is a step you can build into your internal communications.  Here are three ideas:

Appreciation by senior leadership—Create a year-end video of the senior management team thanking team members for their service this year.  Get out of the office and film it with front line workers.  Switching the wardrobe from suits and ties to ugly Christmas sweaters and elf ears will create smiles for years to come.

Appreciation by managers—Write a thank you note.  It’s low tech, but more effective than a gift card.  Be specific about how the individual contributes to the team.  Not only will your employee appreciate the gesture, they will know that you are paying attention.

Appreciation by team members—It feels great to say thank you.  That’s why peer-to-peer recognition programs are motivating to employees.  They strengthen a culture of support, collaboration and achievement.  Peer recognition programs should tie to your company values.  Tailor the program to your business, but make the recognition defined, public and fun.

The power of gratitude is a multiplier.  When you recognize people for their contributions, they perform better, trust grows and so does your workplace culture.

Your 2017 Summer Reading List: Books and Podcasts for Leaders

You pick up many new and fascinating concepts while at college. Most lectures eventually are forgotten, but some things stay with you forever. One memorable bit of advice a professor gave me was that good ideas should be shared, studied, and reused.

Summer is the perfect time to read about the strategies of successful leaders. So take some time in the next few weeks–while curled up in a sleeping bag or lounging poolside—to dive into a good book like one of these to guide your communications and leadership development.

  • True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership—Bill George and Peter Sims. True leadership requires you to be true to yourself. Bill George and Peter Sims take the stories of entrepreneurs and titans of industry to show how following your internal compass can lead you to succeed and inspire.
  • O Great One!: A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition—David Novak. David Novak outlines the simple yet meaningful effect of acknowledging and appreciating the actions of one’s colleagues. This amusing, straightforward book is a must for anyone who aspires to lead.
  • The Storytellers Secret—Carmine Gallo.  Gallo is one of my personal favorites because he writes about communications. This book showcases stories and techniques from some of today’s most successful brand leaders. A fantastic resource for anyone who wants to make an effective presentation or speech.
  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action—Simon Sinek.  A tie-in with the popular TED talk of the same name, this inspiring book charts the common connections of effective leaders and influencers.

For those of you who dread reading, try a podcast.  Here are two of our favorites. The TED Radio Hour is a collection around a central theme.  Each TED Talk is a little jewel.  No matter your interests, this podcast will spark creativity and fresh thinking.

How I Built This is a kind of “my true life story” interview with the creators of some of the world’s best loved brands. The backstories and challenges are sometimes more inspiring than the success their businesses achieved.

Your 2016 Summer Reading List: Five Books for Business Leaders

May 2016 blog photo - beach

I recently attended an event recognizing the University of Georgia’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2015.  The guest speaker was Tonya Harris Cornileus, Vice President for Learning and Organizational Development at ESPN.  She made a strong impression.  Her speech centered on a book that influenced her life and her leadership, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

I’ve listened to countless luncheon speakers over the years tell stories, share insights on their personal journeys, and provide checklists for higher performance.  Using a novel as the centerpiece of the speech was an unexpected, but effective choice.  It reminded me how long it’s been since I read anything to strengthen and refocus my leadership skills.

With beach season on the horizon, consider bringing along one book that will inspire you to grow or further your communication style.  Here are five of my favorites (because none of them are long or complex):

·         Switch:  How to Change Things When Change is Hard—Chip and Dan Heath. Change is challenging, and it’s non-stop. Chip and Dan Heath talk about how difficult change is in our companies, our careers, and our lives, and how to overcome our resistance and make change happen.

·         A Short Guide to a Happy Life—Anna Quindlen.  A very quick read (think 20 minutes) about appreciating the small things that sometimes go unnoticed in our over-scheduled, bustling lives.

·         Delivering Happiness—Tony Hsieh. The Zappos story, told from the beginning, is a compelling business read because of the brand’s amazing success.  But the real takeaway is that if you get the company culture right, success follows.

·         The Storytellers Secret–Carmine Gallo.  Gallo is one of my personal favorites because he writes about communications. This book showcases stories and techniques from some of today’s most successful brand leaders. A fantastic resource for anyone who makes presentations or speeches.

·         The Five Dysfunctions of a Team—Patrick Lencioni.  This book is in a fable format. It’s easy to pick out your team’s dysfunctions and use practical steps to achieving team health. Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage.


A User Guide for 2016

snowy road

I have a tattered clipping in my wallet that I fish out each January to read instead of writing New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know where it came from or how long I’ve had it (by the looks of it, more than 20 years). It reminds me of my goals as a leader, a parent, a friend, a business partner. I hope it will inspire you as well.

A new year is a new beginning, an open road. Make the most of it.

On this day:

• Mend a quarrel
• Search out a forgotten friend
• Dismiss a suspicion and replace it with trust
• Write a note to someone you miss
• Encourage a youth who has lost his way
• Keep a promise
• Forget an old grudge
• Examine your demands on others and vow to reduce them
• Fight for a principle
• Express your gratitude
• Overcome a fear
• Consider others’ perspectives when making a decision
• Take two minutes to appreciate the beauty of nature
• Tell someone you love them

(Author Unknown)