Authentic leadership
By Corporate Class Inc.

I recently returned from an energizing vacation in Europe full of culture, history, amazing food and time for reflection. Meeting and getting to know people from different parts of the world is one of my favorite pursuits while traveling. Their stories and experiences bring important lessons, inspiration, “aha” moments, understanding and gratitude.

This trip was particularly enlightening for me. As I listened to many stories, I began to realize that regardless of where people are from, or what their professional background is, they share a similar goal: to simplify their lives and honor those things most important to them – family, friends, community and personal health. From lawyers, to engineers, to bankers and business owners – the demands and pressure of being constantly connected and working long hours are universal concerns. “How are you doing it?” – I would ask, curiously. Response after response, highlighted people were making “different choices.”

As I reflected on their experiences, insights and some of the new choices they were making, it became clear to me that striving for simplicity starts with choosing to live authentically. “Authenticity creates Simplicity”. 

I describe authenticity as staying true to yourself – your values, preferences and abilities. That being said, it also means having respect for other people and their values. Pioneering psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant is recognized as one of the world’s ten most influential management thinkers. His NYT bestseller Give and Take, where he examines why helping others drives our success was widely acclaimed by senior leaders from diverse brands including Google, McKinsey and Nike. Dr. Grant captures the essence of this need to show continuous respect when he recently wrote: “Authenticity without boundaries is careless. Be true to your values but show regard for others’ values.”

Creating an authentic life requires focus on 4 key areas:

1. Live Intentionally
Ever wonder, “How did I get here?” – or, “Is this all there is?”
It’s easy to loose our sense of self as we travel through life. We may become distracted by endless deadlines and commitments. We may find ourselves going through the motions to conform to what society expects of us. Time passes until one day we discover that success and fulfilment are not equal. To be fulfilled is to live with intention and purpose. Fulfillment shows up in ways that are consistent with our values, preferences and abilities. Fulfillment demands prioritizing time to feed our passions.

Exploring what’s important, setting intentions, identifying trade-offs, following-through – all contribute to our personal journey of self-discovery.

2. Honor Values
Our values are the foundation of our well-being. They are the underlying and driving force behind what really matters to us. When our actions are inconsistent with our values, our emotional and mental wellness are affected.  Purposefully aligning actions to values helps maintain balance.

Take time to write down your top values. Identify the actions aligned to those values.
For example, when people miss important moments in the lives of friends, children and family members there’s no replay button. Daily reflection often triggers better choices – the next time around.

3. Manage Energy and Attention
Energy is our most important life currency. Be mindful of where it’s spent. Try conducting an energy and attention audit. Begin by building stop signs during the day to pause, notice and recharge:

  • Distinguish between what’s providing – and what’s robbing – your energy.
  • Consider both who and where your attention is focused.
  • How is this serving you?
  • What changes could you make? Start by committing to small changes throughout the day to help recharge.

4. Choose Courage
Fear and judgment create unnecessary barriers and boundaries around how we live.
When people place greater importance on who they want to be and what others think about them, versus what they need or want for themselves, they begin to feel stuck, unfulfilled, stressed and unhappy.

Our days are full of choices. Choices give us the capacity:

  • To create change
  • To be in control

Choose courage and allow yourself to feel fear. Feeling fear is how people grow, stretch and evolve. There is power in authenticity. The power is yours – stay true to it.

Building a culture of Well-Being to sustain high performance:
Corporate Well-being for Leaders and teams. Learn more >>

Carrot and stick blog
By Diane Craig,
President and Founder,
Corporate Class Inc.
Have you ever attempted to implement change with your team – and faced real resistance?
Do you recall being asked to make a change that you struggled with – and openly resisted?

Change is challenging
Even when people recognize the repercussions of not adapting to change, they are routinely resistant. Consider, for example, that too much sugar and unhealthy fats lead to obesity, diabetes and high-cholesterol – three potentially life-shortening consequences. Although the benefits of a healthy diet are widely known, all too often, people refuse to alter their eating habits.

Change also creates fear. When people think the familiar status quo is at risk, they feel threatened. Better the devil they know than the devil they don’t. It is this sense of trepidation that significantly builds resistance.

Change management is part of leadership
To help manage and understand people’s emotional reaction to change in the workplace, Dr. David Rock of the NeuroLeadership Institute developed the SCARF Model. Its function is to facilitate behavioral change. Its strategic technique is to improve interaction by minimizing threats while maximizing rewards across the essential elements of human social experience. The five domains that comprise the SCARF model are: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relationship and Fairness.

Let’s examine how people’s fear is manifested across these domains:

Status: “Other staff members are better, more senior.”
Certainty: “There’s no clear path; what will the outcome be?”
Autonomy: “I feel helpless and as though I’ve lost control.”
Relationship: “I don’t feel safe. I’m no longer part of the in-group.”
Fairness: “This situation isn’t fair”

Leaders need to find external motivators to propel change
Implementing change frequently tends to rely on the carrot and stick approach.Take for example, frustrated parents who are desperate to persuade a child to read more by promising payment for every book read. Their goal is to turn a non-reader to an avid reader. They soon discover, however, that as soon as payment stops – so does reading. What’s called for is motivation that makes the child want to read.

To sustain change within the workplace, leaders need to establish an emotional connection to motivating factors. The SCARF model is a modern leadership tool designed to meet the challenges of change management by improving collaboration and influencing people’s behavior.

Commitment is key
Let’s say you just introduced a new template for proposals. Some team members immediately adopted the new model. Some did not. They continued to submit proposals to you using the old template simply because it was in their comfort zone. You were disappointed but busy – so you let things slide. You said nothing. People resisted change because they could!

Penalizing the people who failed to utilize your new template wasn’t the solution. The implementation process lacked powerful motivators and didn’t address the fears of some team members, clearly exhibited by their resistance.

When leaders follow the SCARF model by using its techniques to minimize threats and maximize rewards, they advance the insights vital to facilitate behavioral change. The SCARF model equips leaders to plan interactions that will motivate people and accelerate change.

Recommended blog post
Dr. Josh Davis is the Director of Research and Lead Professor for the NeuroLeadership Institute.

Here’s a link to his HBR blog post: How Much Can Your Employees Get Away With?


The Science of Insight

How to create conditions in the brain to gain insight

By Diane Craig,
President and Founder, Corporate Class Inc.

Legend tells us that Archimedes, the Classical Greek scholar, leapt out of his bath shouting Eureka! Eureka!” – meaning, I’ve found it; I’ve found it!”

In a split second, by simply stepping into the bath and displacing water he had grasped the law of buoyancy. This was Archimedes’ aha moment – his sudden comprehension of what had been a baffling problem.

During our workshops, I often ask participants how they problem-solve. Typically, people say solutions come to them just as they’re falling asleep, or showering, or walking the dog – anywhere and everywhere but when they’re at work, consciously focused on a problem.

Triggering a eureka moment
Dr. David Rock is the Director of the Neuroleadership Institute, a global initiative where neuroscientists and leadership experts are working together to understand and enhance leadership development.

According to Dr. Rock’s research, people can actually create environments for increasing the possibility of triggering an aha moment. This is not to say they can control their insights but they can increase the likelihood of producing insight by up to 500 percent! There are four simple techniques:

1. Quiet the mind
We live in a world that has so many distractions people are often overwhelmed to the point of stress. When a computer has too many programs running at the same time, its ability to process is diminished. This is precisely what happens in the “working memory” area of the brain. When people have too much on their mind, they don’t think clearly. The ability to answer questions or solve problems decreases.

2. Inward-looking
According to Dr. Rock, “insights are more likely when you can look inside yourself and not focus on the outside world. When you feel safe enough to reflect’ on deeper thoughts and not worry about what’s going on around you for a moment.”

3. Sense of happiness
Dr. Rock points to research conducted by Mark Beeman of Northwestern University that indicates people in a positive mood have greater success solving problems.

Professor Beeman’s research demonstrates that when people are even slightly happy, versus slightly anxious, they are more open-minded and therefore able to problem-solve.

4. Let go of the problem
When people concentrate on a problem, they create a state of chaos in the brain that leads to anxiety. To reduce this chaos or brain-noise – it’s critical to switch-off, to put the problem to rest. The expression “sleep on it” is often precisely what’s needed to bring deeper thoughts to the surface.

Today, more and more articles appear questioning the relevance of open-office, collaborative space. Last week I visited an office with several rooms dedicated to mindfulness, prayers and reflection. The person showing me around shared that every day, she spends 20 minutes in one of these hidden gems…

Diane Craig is certified in Neuroleadership Foundations and a certified Brain-based coach by the Neuroleadership Institute. To learn more about Diane’s Executive Coaching please contact Inna Labounskaia:

Sandra Corelli Quote

It’s Not Always Clear What Constitutes Sexual Harassment.

Acclaimed author, leadership expert and educator Kathleen Kelley Reardon contacted Sandra Corelli, Vice President at CCI, to discuss one of the most complex workplace issues today – sexual harassment.

She was compiling research for her forthcoming HBR article. Entitled, It’s Not Always Clear What Constitutes Sexual Harassment. Use This Tool to Navigate the Gray Areas., the article was published June 18, 2018.

Dr. Reardon requested Sandra’s feedback on her workplace tool, the Spectrum of Sexual Misconduct at Work (SSMW). She developed the spectrum to help people define and differentiate among types of gender-based offences. Created as a blueprint for organizations, the spectrum tool assesses damages that could derail work relationships.

It helps people determine when and how to respond. As a workplace tool, SSMW opens the door to conversations about what exactly constitutes sexual harassment by categorizing remarks, actions, and behaviors within the scope of numerous offences.

Gray area

Despite all the energy and press surrounding the #MeToo movement, discussing harassment at work still remains a gray area where retaliation is sometimes feared. Sandra explains; “Not all women feel they can come forward and the reasons vary. For example, ‘In this small company is anyone going to listen, or believe me?’ ‘Will I lose my job?’ Or sometimes there’s shame, ‘Did I bring this on myself?’ – is a frequent deterrent.”

Sometimes, men’s inadvertent remarks meant as a compliment carry the power to make women feel uncomfortable.

“A single comment or gesture may mean little, but a string of them can turn into a sentence perhaps with unintended offensive meaning.”
—Sandra Corelli, It’s Not Always Clear What Constitutes Sexual Harassment, HBR, June 18, 2018.

The consequences of ignoring sexual harassment are serious, cautions Diane Craig, President and Founder of Corporate Class Inc. “Leaders need to think internally. When people perceive their organization has turned a blind eye to an offence, this may not align with what they believed the company’s values were –and that has the potential to create a decline in morale, loyalty or even productivity.”

Sandra acknowledges that every conversation about sexual misconduct, even when it’s accidental, is a difficult one that requires courage. She praises Dr. Reardon’s spectrum tool; “Anyone who comes forward feels heard and seen.”

At CCI, Leadership Skills Workshops provide dedicated training on how to deal with many levels and types of difficult conversations. “Yes, #MeToo made more people aware of bringing this very difficult subject forward,” Sandra says. “Today, everyone needs to pay attention to the particular challenges of sexual misconduct. The key is educating people about what constitutes harassment – and how to respond. No organization is immune from its impact. When leaders understand the importance of developing and nurturing a psychologically safe workplace, they are better able to establish a culture where difficult conversations can take place – and be effectively resolved.”

To learn more about how Leadership Skills and Executive Presence Workshops may be customized for your organization, contact Inna Labounskaia:

Personal Brand

The connection between ever-present office politics and personal branding may appear to be something of a stretch. Closer examination reveals their interdependence.

Dr. Kathleen Kelly Reardon is an expert on navigating office politics. In her book, The Secret Handshake – Mastering The Politics of the Business Inner Circle, Dr. Reardon’s research validates the importance of personal branding.

She writes about a young woman who declined her mentor’s advice regarding the importance of attending a company picnic where senior executives would mingle, play baseball and get to know new people. The young woman outright refused to attend – she didn’t see the value.

Although her abilities were never in question, when the next cycle of promotions came around, much to her surprise this young woman didn’t move up. She was competent, but not connected. No one knew her. It was a tough lesson to learn. Corporate social events represent an excellent venue for building relationships.

This is not to suggest that failure to attend a single corporate social event can play havoc with career aspirations. The point is that actively circulating and networking to showcase your personal brand by building your reputation is part of corporate life. This is especially true for women.

Marketing strategist Dorie Clark makes this very clear in her recent HBR article, How Women Can Develop – and Promote – Their Personal Brand. She presents three distinct strategies to ensure women engage in targeted self-promotion:

a) Network outside your organization, not just inside: many women place too much emphasis on internal relationships with women who are like them. It’s far wiser to cultivate a broader network that increases your options.
b) Map out a clear “elevator pitch” that condenses your experience and value to shape people’s perceptions about you: don’t expect people to interpret your personal brand on their own.
c) Publicize your ideas to a wide audience.

These three strategies apply, as well, to many men. There is a fine line between shameless self-promotion and personal branding that comes down to Executive Presence. Braggarts and limelight-grabbers fall into the first category, ambitious professionals who consistently reflect their expertise and value, the second,

Dr. Reardon makes the point that it’s critical to develop important relationships with people who can best reward your intelligence and creativity. When a decision that could impact your career is on the horizon, it’s important to ask yourself three things:

a) Are there people I can speak to who will help me get promoted
b) When and how should the idea of my being promoted be advanced?
c) Whose toes should I avoid stepping on?

Clearly, directing these questions to the right people requires solid connections – relationships that have been nurtured and built around your personal brand.

Read Dorie Clark’s article here

stage presence

A fact of corporate life is that presentations are extremely important. A popular myth of corporate life is that leaders are inherently endowed with presentation skills. And yet, nothing could be further from the truth!

Even seasoned leaders struggle with presentation anxiety. They may attempt to conceal their apprehension through false bravado but the underlying fear is there.
The absolute finest presenters, in our experience, have faced these fears courageously. This is not an overstatement when you understand that courage is the ability to do something that frightens you, or as Ernest Hemingway aptly defined it, “courage is grace under pressure.”

Presentations, as some experts say, are pressure cookers – a highly stressful situation. The first step to overcoming presentation anxiety is accepting that it’s normal. Actors admit to stage fright – a fear of forgetting their lines, turning out a less than stellar performance, of letting down their peers, directors and even fans.

For corporate presenters, the actual physical act of presenting is complicated on a different level than that of the actor. The content will be scrutinized and evaluated – in the moment. In other words, the presenter is effectively “on trial” to convince and make the point efficiently.

A very unique component of successful presentations

For many new professionals, a full-scale presentation with slides and handouts is as daunting as a ski-jumping competition, an unimaginable event for a novice. The most immediate solution would seem to be preparation and practice to build courage. Yes, both are absolutely essential but there is one very unique component that has nothing in common with “performance arts.”

The Pyramid Principle

Decades ago, Harvard MBA Barbara Minto came up with a clear and simple strategy to structure presentations that she called the Pyramid Principle. In a nutshell, its premise is to begin at the end!

Given the presentation-fatigued mindset of many business professionals, weary of lackluster speeches and PowerPoints, the opening must start the momentum rolling. Grasping the audience’s attention in the first few minutes is crucial.

State the conclusion first

Get straight to the point. Tell the audience precisely what they are about to hear. Whether it’s an idea, proposition, proposal or claim, the end is the beginning. Call it the bottom line, key takeaway or crux of the issue, this is what the audience wants to know. Presentations are not the place for twists, turns and surprise endings.

A strong start both informs an audience about the subject matter and establishes authority. This sends a clear signal the speaker is on point and not a time-waster – particularly important when addressing seasoned executives. The goal is to “win” the audience right out of the starting gate.

There may be no greater opportunity to demonstrate Executive Presence than when making a presentation. Today, it’s critical to be able to persuade, to convince, to win people over – and all require powerful communication skills.
The good news is that compelling presenters are not born, but made. Like every
component of Executive Presence training, standing out when you speak is a “learned” skill.

Join us for our public Presentation Skills Workshop, March 7-8, in Toronto
Learn More >

Abstract brain illustration representing insight and cognition

The powerful concept of growth mindset that drives high performance continues to gain traction within the corporate world. Introduced by world-renowned psychologist Carol Dweck, following decades of research on achievement and success, growth mindset is what drives people to achieve goals.

In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Dweck distinguishes between people with a growth mindset, who recognize that abilities and talents can be developed, from people with a fixed mindset, who believe that abilities are set.

In the introduction to her book, Dr. Dweck writes:
“In this book, you’ll learn how a simple belief about yourself –
a belief we discovered in our research guides a large part
of your life. In fact, it permeates every part of your life.
Much of what you think of as your personality actually grows
out of your ‘mindset.’ Much of what may be preventing you
from fulfilling your potential grows out of it.”

Numerous publications, including Forbes and HBR continue to follow Dr. Dweck’s research. One of her greatest advocates is Dr. David Rock, founder of the Neuroleadership Institute*, the global initiative that brings neuroscientists and leadership experts together to build a new science for leadership.

Dr. Rock explains that very few people have a growth mindset about everything and gives the example of an engineer who unconsciously is very confident about
learning new code and new software programs. This same person may have a fixed mindset and not even realize it, about giving presentations, for example.

With his growth mindset, the engineer assumes he can learn anything related to technology. The fixed mindset, on the other hand, convinces him that, “I am the way I am, and I can’t get any better.” He has closed his mind to the possibility of improving his presentations. He may even believe that some people are just naturally good at things – reinforced by his supreme ease with technology – while others are not, which justifies his inept presentations.

According to Dr. Dweck’s research, people with a growth mindset perform better. They put forth a greater effort, ask for feedback more often, process feedback differently in the brain, take more risks and experiment more. They even set better goals and more stretch goals.

When organizations enable managers to develop a growth mindset, through dedicated, professional development, they are helping them to encourage this same concept in their direct reports. Dr. Rock maintains that rigid employee assessment processes foster a fixed mindset by forcing people to “prove” their worthiness, rather than “improve.” When people have a fixed mindset, they believe they are not in control of their abilities that skills are born, not built.

Exactly one year ago, an article in HBR explained how Dr. Dweck’s research impacts organizations:

“When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation. In contrast, people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more of only one thing: cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race.”
*Corporate Class Inc. provides professional development training that explores Neuroleadership and how the prefrontal cortex (the so-called executive brain) is responsible for primary Executive functions.

Our facilitation method helps to dramatically improve people’s thinking and performance by leveraging cutting-edge coaching models that draw from the hard science of Neuroleadership and how the brain works.

Four women in a meeting

Recently I attended the Leading High Growth Businesses at Harvard University. The workshop was part of a pilot program designed by Harvard for women leaders of fast-growth companies who wanted to strategically super-charge their corporate plan. 58 companies were represented from all over the world.

After the weeklong workshop, 19 plus pages of notes and three sleepless nights (as I was so inspired from the day’s learning), I’ve distilled six important takeaways that can be applied to any corporate team.

Link Strategy to Sales

Ever wonder why your strategic planning session sounds and feels the same from one year to the next and those strategic goals are never achieved? The missing link is sales. You need to link every corporate strategic goal to sales. What’s the goal and what’s the role your sales team will have in achieving that goal?

When strategy and sales are linked, and executed on, this action is 20 times more effective than any advertising or social media efforts. This means that from the very beginning, you need to be setting goals for the company that sales is compensated on correctly to achieve. Sales targets can no longer be set in a silo; they need to directly support the goals of the business.

Corporate Goals

Goals and goal setting, both company-wide and personally are standard practice for many motivated people and high growth companies. If one goal is good, many are better, right?
Wrong. Our professor, Frank Cespedes, showed research that proved any more than five goals were counterproductive and went so far as to state that “any more than five goals is a list, not a set of goals. A list that would never get done.”

The lesson here for us high-achievers is to understand and accept that focus trumps breadth, and to have the discipline to know when to stop – when we’re planning for our next achievements.

Multiple Lines of Businesses

Money managers would attest to the importance of having multiple income streams for maximum wealth building. Harvard is recommending businesses apply the same principle. Multiple business models are an effective means of adding value to the overall worth of the company.

This is not a recommendation to lose focus; this is a recommendation to apply more than one business model to your company.

For example, if your revenue comes from large annual projects, where could you add a monthly subscription-based offering as an additional line of business – and additional source of recurring revenue?

Develop Market Value Not Book Value

Buyers are looking for future potential. While book value still matters, set your sights on the potential for your company. We were introduced to Blue Mercury who sold to Macy’s for $210M+. Guess what? They sold on the market value of their creation, not on the book value.

The creators of Blue Mercury only achieved the success and the growth in their company when they looked to develop the possibilities of what could be.

What could the company become? This is the question they asked, instead of looking at where they were (book value) and simply adding on a percentage increase they wanted to achieve the next year.

By starting to work on developing market value this led to the sale of their company and a lucrative deal with Macy’s: A transaction that never would have been possible by only looking at where they were.

Critical Failure Factors

Another concept to turn on its head: You are well familiar with key success factors. After reading this article, I’d suggest you banish those from your mind. You already know what you need to do to be successful, listing them only makes you feel good. Let’s talk about the scary things that cannot happen to your business and then do everything we can to ensure they do not come to light.

This is not about thinking negatively, this is about getting crystal clear on what could derail the efforts of your company and then working to be sure those do not happen. While key success factors for companies tend to be similar (make a profit, retain key staff etc.) it is too easy for you to fall into taking on someone else’s key success factor, which sets up a blind spot for yourself in your own company.

Critical failure factors, on the other had will be particular to your group’s situation, market, industry and success. This helps you zero on your corporate goals and truly aligning them to what you need to do (or not do) to succeed.

No More Work/Life Balance

Many are tired of the work/life balance talk. It feels defeating as sometimes work requires us to pour on the effort for an extended period of time.

And when it is time to refuel, often people feel guilty about doing so and end up vocally justifying that they are finally getting their work life balance right. That is no way to start any kind of relaxing holiday.

Linda Applegate at Harvard emphasized work/life integration. Is it a fancy new term? No. The thinking is that we can’t totally shut off from work particularly if we lead the company or team. As well, we can’t totally shut off from our life of family, friends, travel, hobbies when were deep into a work session. We need to see ourselves, and our people as whole.

We bring our whole self to work. We bring our whole self to our personal life. When companies start to acknowledge, respect and make room for the whole person including their personal goals, achievements and challenges, we see a different type of engagement.

Employees feel like the company “gets” and respects them as a whole. This makes them feel cherished, respected and understood. In return we see these employees’ performance and contribution back to the company actually increase. It is as if this understanding has fulfilled a need in the employee and they are returning the favour ten-fold. Beyond what Leading High Growth Businesses at Harvard taught us on this topic, we’re seeing it happen with past My Big Idea clients.

Your Turn
I’d encourage you to pick one or two of these points and make a plan to bring them into your company. Your company’s future success depends on the different thinking you start doing today.

Next Steps
Ready to take your company or department to the next level of growth with all employees in the same boat rowing the same way? Contact My Big Idea™ for more information about our effective goal-setting workshops specifically designed for corporate clients.

Michele Bailey is president and CEO of Blazing THE Agency and My Big Idea™. These two lines of business work congruently to support her clients’ success.

next generation business leaders

Earlier this year, McKinsey and Company, the prestigious worldwide management-consulting firm published its findings on searching for the next generation of business leaders. Entitled “Finding hidden leaders,” the article appeared in McKinsey Quarterly* and identified the quest for talent as “one of the biggest headaches for any organization.

Its focus is that companies need to dig deeper to identify promising candidates – to mine the gold – that lies within. This echoes our objectives. At Corporate Class, we recognize that Executive Presence training is a valuable tool for both evaluating prospective, undeveloped candidates and cultivating their potential as future leaders.

The high cost of hiring and developing people

The article describes external recruitment – to fill key roles – as both costly and risky because of the potential for hiring cultural misfits. Today, this perspective is widely shared, as the cost of recruiting, interviewing, and orienting new hires jumps with every step up the corporate ladder.

In late 2016, CCI Senior Consultant Jim Olson** compiled a special report detailing the cost of hiring and developing people across three organizational levels, from entry-level university recruits and mid-level management to senior executives. In addition to charting the specific recruitment and onboarding expenses, it also provides insights into the other implications of hiring mistakes. For example, when a mid-level manager is the wrong fit:

  • Recruiter fees, interviewing expenses, relocation costs, etc., are all lost.
  • The impact on subordinates’ performance based on motivating and demotivating behavior is difficult to measure, but may be significant.
  • If it becomes necessary to replace the person, typically a six-month time frame is required to repeat the recruiting process.
  • When the employee deals with external suppliers and customers, the company’s reputation and the contribution by those constituents to the company’s performance may be negatively affected.

Executive Presence Training has a powerful impact on the bottom line

When an organization invests in professional development for employees, this sends a clear message: “We believe in you.” When people are provided with opportunities to display their latent, underlying potential, the outcome is often as much of a surprise to them as their leaders. They become more confident, eager and ambitious when shown their own self-worth. Executive Presence Training encourages people to strive for achievement and aspire for advancement, and organizations to find their own hidden leaders. This has a powerful impact on the bottom line.

*Read the article in its entirety

**Jim Olson 
Senior Consultant, Corporate Class Inc., compiled this analysis and financial estimate in late 2016. The numbers are consistent with his experience in his corporate executive career and as Chair of Maple Leaf Foods Human Resource and Compensation committee from 2011 to 2015, where Jim continues to sit on the Board of Directors. His report, Cost of Hiring and Developing People, is available as a special supplement to the White Paper: 7 Business Benefits of Executive Presence Training.

Download the White Paper and learn more about the supplementary report

ambitious woman

This past summer, during an address to Google employees, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the acclaimed expert on workplace power and influence, revealed some startling statistics. For starters, today in the US, only approximately eight percent of top earners are women. This is precisely the same number as 15 years ago.

The real bottleneck occurs just below the most senior levels, in the marzipan layer, where women comprise 34-percent. Yet, at the summit, Dr. Hewlett’s statistics indicate that women only represent:

  • 4.2% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies
  • 15.7% of board members at Fortune 500 companies

Status quo

For over 20 years, Dr. Hewlett has deeply researched how, and what it takes, to reach the corporate world’s top echelons. As the founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI),

Dr. Hewlett has spent years investigating the nuances of corporate advancement.
During her presentation, she noted that although there’s been progress at the lower and middle career rungs, CTI wanted to try to determine how people got to the top of US corporations.

What its surveys and research identified is that power is transferred through a replication process. Senior leaders seek to duplicate themselves. They favor people they are most comfortable with, in other words, people like themselves, graduates of the same schools, for example. In essence, the research showed that the long-standing status quo, with white men at the top still prevails.

Less latitude for women

There’s a very narrow window for women. Dr. Hewlett refers to this window as the “Fine Line of Executive Presence,” where women have less leeway. What CTI’s investigation made very clear is that today women are not seen as potential leaders and consequently, rarely chosen. There are four factors, or let’s say excuses, each with a contradictory point of view:

  • She’s too opinionated and too bossy
  • She’s too retiring and passive


  • She dresses too provocatively
  • She’s frumpy


  • She’s too pushy, too show-off-y
  • She’s too self-deprecating


  • She looks too young
  • She looks too old

During her Google address, Dr. Hewlett made very clear that it’s important for all ambitious people to establish specific goals. Another major benefit of setting these markers is that it sharpens the focus on potential sponsors and powerbrokers, people who can actually help to advance careers

Four ways women convey the potential for advancement

We wanted to learn more about Dr. Hewlett’s specific recommendations for women and turned to a Forbes* interview where she gives very clear direction.
Essentially, women must consistently reflect these four behaviors:

1. Focus on developing Gravitas, “the confidence and judgment you inspire in others to follow and trust your vision… it signals that you not only have depth and heft but you also have the confidence and credibility to get your point across and communicate the authority of a leader.”

2. Learn to make compelling presentations, look people in the eye and avoid getting bogged down with notes, lists and slides.

3. Good grooming is imperative at every career stage.

4. Women must make it clear they want genuine feedback and then deal with recommendations unemotionally, not take them as criticism.

*Read the Forbes article in its entirety.