Executive Development Methods

Highly skilled executives are key for organizations to continue delivering better-than-expected results. With these challenging times, executives need to keep looking to develop their competencies and skills to deliver results year-over-year.

“Those in leadership positions seek to understand what skills, competencies and behaviours will support them in carrying out these demanding roles, both for the benefit of their own aspirations and those of the organizations in which they operate.” (Claire Collins, 2012)

Executive development will continue to be one of the upmost priorities in any organization. Growing and developing leadership skills is mostly centred on learning the knowledge and skills required for current and/or future roles for the executive.

Learning and development methods, including guidance on professional development, whether short or long term, varies from self-learning, training, supervision, coaching and mentoring. This article will highlight the different methods of executive development and briefly position them for a better understanding on which method is best to use based on individual development needs.


Self-learning is any deliberate, planned action taken by the person to acquire and apply certain knowledge and/or skill without the assistance of someone else, by intentionally reading, listening, or watching someone perform an action. The effectiveness of this method is based on the ability of the person to choose what to learn, when to learn it, and on how easily the content can be understood and/or applied. The challenges of this method are about having access to relevant content; the amount and quality of time that needs to be allocated to that content; and last, and most important, it requires self-commitment, self-motivation—and a significant degree of self-discipline.


In business training, the trainer is the source of information and knowledge. Trainees receive information from the trainer through lectures and/or skill-based activities. Attendees are usually assessed through written or verbal tests and/or other assessments. This type of development method is effective and has a more positive impact on junior-level positions, where employees are in the primary stages of acquiring basic knowledge related to role and/or field.

Business Supervision

Supervision, most of the time, comes with authority and tends to be more focused on observing the person’s behaviour and their skills. Supervision usually has limited focus on self-learning and is more focused on translating knowledge into practical hands-on experience. It helps the supervised person to put their knowledge into practice.

Business Coaching

Although Business Coaching is generally for a short period of time, it is recognized as a process for developing leaders. The biggest priority for the coach is helping the coachee to be self-aware and to be able to manage themselves to improve performance related to the role. There is an increased focus on specific skills required to excel in the role as well as the skills needed for working and interacting with others, particularly on changing behavioural issues to drive improvement.

With the coaching methodology, it is necessary for the coach to be neutral, listen, and ask questions in order to develop certain skills. The coach might not need to have hands-on experience, depending on the kind of industry the coachee is engaged in, but the right coaches provide leadership knowledge and experience, to provide the coachees with a fresh perspective, and strategy to deliver results.

“Coaching is a helping relationship formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility in an organization, and a consultant, to achieve a mutually identified set of goals to improve their professional performance and personal satisfaction, and, consequently, to improve the effectiveness of the client’s organization.” (Kilburg, 2000).

Business Mentoring

Mentoring is a long-term process based on mutual trust and respect. The role of mentors evolves as the needs of their mentees change over time. In addition to what coaches do in being neutral, they listen and ask questions to develop certain skills, affording them, as mentors, to be more interactive and engaging. They develop the mentee’s skills that are not just relevant for the mentees, themselves, in their present roles, but also for their future roles and careers, in general.

Mentoring covers various aspects to guide executives in running a successful business. Mentors play a crucial role, from framing and expanding a mentee’s thinking, to building confidence and skills, to providing fresh insight, to boosting the overall performance of the mentees.

The relationship developed between the mentor and mentee allows mentors to help mentees explore their career options, and provide them support about their career trajectories and growth. Since they have faced the same challenges as their mentees, and they are more empathetic toward their needs, they are always willing to share their experience, skills and knowledge with the mentees, and serve as a professional advisor and role model.


“Increasingly, organizations are turning to individual development techniques to supplement or replace traditional training methods” (Collins, 2012).

It is dangerous and misleading for an executive to claim they know everything, especially if they were newly promoted to an executive role. It is expected they have enough information and knowledge related to the job, but it is still necessary to have support in carrying out and implementing their relevant knowledge in a skilled way, to become a top-performing executive.

For maximum efficiency and benefit, executives need to be clear on what their priorities are and what kind of support they are looking for.

Alignment between planning and execution: The leader’s role

Alignment starts at the top. It is the role of a leader to define a path forward, create movement, and align people with the organizational strategy. They are required to execute the plan toward achieving better-than-expected results. Alignment is the way to link planning to execution.

Research indicates that a significant percentage of a company’s shortfall is due to a lack of alignment. Often, ineffective alignment by leaders is at the core of their challenges.

An effective alignment is a critical tool for leaders. If the leader has an idea in mind and needs a group of people to execute it, then it is obvious they must bring clarity to their idea, and consequently, make it understood by all involved—for optimal, expected and planned-for results.

The question then becomes, “What are the key messages CEOs and their executive teams need to communicate in order to align their team and help them bridge the link between planning and execution?”

So how can we make sure, then, that these messages are clear and understood by everyone across the organization? The following elements should be considered when delivering a clear message:

A – Clarify, Plan and Define: To align the execution team, the owner of the idea should clarify it in their own heads, first. Following that, the idea can be converted into a plan—of action. When the plan is crystalized, tasks can be identified, and clear roles and responsibilities can be assigned. Once everyone knows their role and what they are required to do or achieve, the detailed expectations need to be defined and connected to a performance agreement following the individual’s commitment to do the job.

B – The Story: People are more likely to listen and retain stories—especially when they’re visual. This is the most effective way to attract and capture the attention of listeners. Employees naturally gravitate toward, and connect, with stories that have a meaningful impact on them.

To create a compelling story, ensure these 3Cs are employed:   Capture, Connect and Create.

Capture: Share the big picture – Capture the audience with a strong vision about the plan, the “why” behind it and how they are connected to it. They should be able to visualize the plan in action and the role they will play in making it a reality.

Connect: Engage with the audience through understanding their personal and business drivers, and build the story focused on these drivers.

Create: Maintain a clear focus on well-founded, well-researched, insightful and relevant content. Create simple and clear instructions that are understood by all levels of the target audience.

C – Tell: Communication, in its varied forms, is the art of influencing people to willingly go on this journey with you. Leaders who effectively employ the 3Cs, naturally find engagement by others in joining their vision, their journey, as they now see the alignment between their talents, skills, abilities, and the greater work of the organization. They see a clear vision of where the group is going, and how they will get there.

As an art, communication is a skill that can be learned through discipline, open-mindedness, and practice. It is a careful, yet delicate mix of listening and speaking, and of engaging with empathy. As leaders, when we speak, listen or are silently present, how we communicate reflects our values, builds trust, and creates confidence in others. Effective leaders can clearly articulate their vision, communicate their expectations, and convincingly convey messages—with presence, power, and a sense of authority.

Understanding the link between communication and influence requires a thorough understanding of how people engage and react. As leaders, we must be conscious of others’ interpretations, how they decide, what they expect from us, how we can support them, and guide them toward a decision that aligns with the greater good.

Two simple tools that build this awareness, are:

The Decision Cycle and The Influence Cycle.

The Decision cycle is a sequence of steps that a person takes to reach a decision. It starts by recognizing there is a decision that needs to be made—by the person himself, and to collect information on the subject matter, as accurate information can be the key to outline the ideal situation, and simply representing the end goal or target you wish to achieve through such decision.

Once the individual has acquired the necessary salient information, and outline the ideal situation, this will be used as a base to compare past experiences and outcomes.

“Information’s pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience.”

—Clarence Day (1874 – 1935), American Author.

Using the information collected, and experiences from which we can draw, we must then begin to compare options and their possible outcomes. The decision-maker naturally facilitates a “pros and cons” debate for each option. In doing so, we begin to understand the consequences of our actions—both favourable and unfavourable. Once we have weighed our options, the next step is to commit to a decision—and execute.

Finally, dealing with the outcome and potential repercussions of decisions taken. If this is the decision-making process, then how do leaders influence it? How do they help their teams navigate each stage, and provide strategic communication and advice to influence a positive outcome that aligns with the greater strategic goals of the organization?

Another key cycle to the puzzle is the influencer cycle, which closely follows and drives the decision-making cycle. First, an influencer must engage the decision-maker by targeting his personal and professional drivers. This can include corporate goals, personal values, and much more. Following the initial engagement, the influencer must fully understand the problem and current status of the decision-maker. Once they have done so, they can begin to define the ideal situation. This can be considered their target outcome or benchmark. Now that they have identified the current status, and ideal solution, they can begin to present the decision-maker with credible options and action plans to achieve the goal. The next step is to ask the decision-maker to commit to an action plan so they can begin the execution stage. And, finally, as mentioned above, they must act with empathy and address—and mitigate—any anxiety caused by the action plan. These can come in the form of the decision-maker “second-guessing” the decision.

Understanding the relationship between the alignment of people and strategy is core to the work and practice of an effective CEO to deliver better-than-expected results.

Execution in business

Peter F. Drucker said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”. Similarly, I would say that planning is doing things right, while execution is doing the right things.

Regardless if there is a good plan or a bad one, without the proper execution, the results will be lacklustre—at best! Hence the popular saying by Jeff Bridge, “Execution is everything”. It is expected that during execution people get diverted. This diversion leads to poor or improper execution, ultimately resulting in less favourable outcomes. Such diversions are most often the result of “pull” or “push” pressures that amplify during the course of execution. Oftentimes, diversion, itself, leads to more pressure on the person, and this amount of pressure determines how far the person diverted.

These days, with the COIVD – 19 pandemic and the consequences of working from home, new sources of challenges arise to increase various types of pressure on the person. These pressures include, but are not limited to, worries about getting infected by the virus itself; getting implicated with the economic situation; feeling of isolation; and fears of frustration and depression—each, or all of which, contribute to the end result.

This article will highlight the steps on how to stay focused on executing the task, which helps translate intent to reality and make for a smoother and more achievable path. It will also highlight tips on how to help people get back on track in case of diversion.

“Execution is putting your mind, your heart and your body in action”, Noura Hamade

There are prerequisites to help carry the execution successfully and avoid any execution pitfalls. These prerequisites include:

  1. Clear vision of where we need to be;
  2. Clear understanding of where we are;
  3. Clear knowledge of what options we have to reach there;
  4. Aligned individuals who have the right skills related to the required task, in addition to their ability to implement. They are aware of both the big picture and have a clear understanding of their tasks. To help motivate them, they should also know what is in it for them.

Once the above is in place, the following are the three steps to manage your execution successfully:

a) Priorities: Before carrying out the act of putting the plan into effect, the first step is to prioritize the implementation by developing phases of implementation to make it happen based on business priorities. Doing so, means listing all the actions, and prioritizing them based on the following criteria:

  1. Which action has more impact on the results?
  2. Which action brings me closer to where I need to be?
  3. Which action has priority (i.e. quick-win, relevance, urgency, etc.)

After that, it is all about just do it and the discipline in doing it.

“Just Do IT” —NIKE

b) Review: Assess the current state to recognize where you are, assessing your progress by asking the simple question, “where are we against the organization’s performance indicator”, and against the target (plan). Then define and analyze the gap with the intention to take any corrective actions and changes, as needed.

c) Improve: The improvement stage is a concept that aims to enhance performance which allows us to improve our results and deliver better-than-expected results. It is very important at this stage to recognize and understand the outcome of the review.

Based on the review outcome and the gap analysis, you should conduct corrective actions to address potential gaps. This could require more challenging courses of action, such as adjusting the initial plan. Part of building the corrective actions part, is to understand what leads to this diversion, and recognize the pressure, the source of that pressure, and whether you can control it or manage it, and how you can minimize the effects of it. All the while, being mindful of improvement: It is a process and should be weaved into the culture of all organizations. Improvement should be considered in one of the two following conditions:

  1. If the review identifies a gap between the actual and the plan


  1. If any new factors arise and could impact the plan or the execution

Finally, the trap which most executives find themselves in, after the improvement stage and the corrective actions, is directly starting the implementation without realigning the stakeholders involved in the initial plan, or the persons affected by these corrective actions. This trap will result in the failure of the process.


“For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

African proverb


The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly identified a significant gap in management across all sectors; it has revealed that we are far from our ideal standards of planning.

As organizations, we have a set of business processes or routines that we follow year after year. Many of these simply take the previous year’s results and add incremental goals for the next year, which depends on growth objectives and board-level directives and ambitions.

Management is greatly focused on growth but lacks focus on future thinking, particularly crisis management. Firms lack the necessary skills to run the organization in the event something unexpected happens, which may very well threaten the organization’s well-being.

This uncertainty has led to a discussion amongst business leaders about planning for events like this pandemic; the resilience during and after; and the relationship between both planning and resilience.

Crises often lead to diversions from original plans, and create more pressure on senior management. To strengthen resilience and improve the likelihood of success, a clear plan should be in place to follow, irrespective of the situation the firm finds itself facing—whether a pandemic or a market disruption.

While planning is, perhaps, second-nature to humans, the more important question is: Do we plan correctly?

One of the analogies recommended to ensure that planning is simple and understood, is the “GPS analogy”, which clearly defines the three components of planning as:

1) Going to? – Where do we need to be?

2) Positioned where? – Where are we?

3) Search options – What options do we have to get there?

1- Going to? – Where do we need to be? Every good plan starts with the end -point:

– Where we need to be?

– What we want to achieve?

– What is our dream?

Simply stated, we need to clearly articulate our vision.

Vision is The dream of where we need to be. Knowing what you want to achieve, seeing that end-result, and visualizing what it looks like, is essential for success.  One of the most powerful tools is to clearly detail it (i.e. write it down) where it can be seen, discussed, and ultimately realized. By visualizing the dream, it becomes part of your personal motivation, and attracts the positive result you are seeking.

2- Positioned where? – Where are we now? To execute this vision, we need to have a clear perception and knowledge of our current state and position.

– Where are we?

– What is our position?

– What is the cause for the current situation?

– What happened? Why are we in this situation? Are we aware

about the history and background?

It is critical to understand what our strengths are. What did not go as planned, and what could have been done to rectify the situation. It is also important to keep track of the impact of the results in order to build on them. This may be accomplished with a thorough analysis of successes, challenges and results.

3- Search options – What options do we have to get there?

When we know where we are now, and where we want to be, the third stage of planning is to bridge the gap. The most efficient way is by determining the options available and formulating a strategy to achieve it.

We need to determine and develop a strategic road map to provide the direction and maintain a forward focus.  This strategy is a series of measurable actions designed to close the gap, and are subject to change depending on the circumstances.

Building the necessary strategy should recognize the following key points:

  1. Options available
  2. Risk for each option, understanding or awareness of the risks/ issues that could stop you from performing the required task
  3. Key success factors for each option
  4. The human capital needed, roles and responsibilities, based on the actions needed to execute the goal
  5. Key performance indicators (KPI), to determine the progress
  6. Tools and support needed to deliver the plan

In times of uncertainty, it is clarity of purpose and vision, provided through the right plan, that will allow us to face uncertainties and steer in the right direction—for success.

Like any journey, this road map to success should be communicated in such a way that every person in the organization knows the plan; how it is actioned; and what it will ultimately achieve. These components can be brought together to create a common mission statement to explain its purpose, focus and vision for success.

Individual work, and Individuals Working Together

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to far, go together.”

—African Proverb


There are two different approaches that lead to desired outcomes: First, an idea may be created and executed by an individual. Second, a group of individuals who combine their efforts and collaborate in executing the idea—more commonly known as teamwork.

Business is ultimately about the bottom line. An idea needs to be executed and produce desired results in order to be deemed successful, whether it is executed individually or by group of individuals working together.

Realizing an idea and working toward a goal in order to achieve desired results, whether as an individual or as a group of individuals working together, has both pros and cons.

Working individually will allow the person to dig deep and really ignite one’s creativity, which allows the individual to reflect personal interests and ideas on a greater scale. It is independent work that leads to better representation of the individual’s perspective, and provides the opportunity to showcase competency and talent. When working independently, individuals often leverage the ability to expedite decision-making, which, in turn, allows for faster implementation.

However, individual work is not without challenges. Working independently may cause an individual to become more subjective and consequently, less receptive to constructive or corrective feedback. As well, they maybe more unwilling to entertain, accept or be open to other’s ideas and viewpoints. It may also cause the individual to feel overwhelmed, as the pressure is solely on them rather than dividing it among a group of people.

Teamwork is effective when all team members share a common mental model of teamwork, grounded in trust (Kirkman et al. 2019). This is not the case in most teamwork settings today. When working in a team, results are uniform across all members, regardless of an individual member’s input and participation.

Teamwork also comes with the intrinsic challenges of overcoming slow decision- making and reducing an individual’s creativity, as a result of too much control.

As well, within a team, individuals can risk creating a dysfunctional work environment where bullying, lack of individual responsibility, over-dependence on others, and unhealthy competition, create barriers to a successful outcome.

In order to mitigate possible pitfalls of team management, leaders should shift their focus from managing “team” output, to managing “individual” outputs of those within the group.

Successful organizations are the ones who manage their business based on individuals working together; not teamwork. This is because when a group of individuals work together—the result and combining of disparate parts from within; an accumulation from each individual effort—and the final product is the work of the collective group.

Working together can have many benefits ingrained in the nature of successfully bringing together different skills, practices, experiences, opinions, disciplines and approaches, which can lead to immunity toward diversion. Ideally, creative problem-solving occurs, and a diversity of thought is promoted in a safe and trust-based environment, to achieve the end result.

Working with others not only benefits the group, but allows the individual to develop their ability beyond just tolerance and avoiding judgment or stereotyping, to recognize, understand, accept and respect, diversity; and by capitalizing on individual differences and understanding that each individual is unique. An effective group maintains a blend of individual identities, and does not dilute or reduce itself into a single-team identity. They are closely familiar with each other’s competencies, talents and abilities, so they place value on this uniqueness, and capitalize on, and leverage each other, to achieve results.

The more an individual is exposed to various personalities, the more likely they will develop an ability to engage with others in their business and personal interests; build and manage expectations; and manage conflicts and improve their communication skills.

Regardless of whether the idea is being executed by one individual or a group of individuals working together, there are five key factors that contribute to the success of the job. Such factors include:

  1. A Common Goal: is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or group of people envisions, and commits to achieve. Having a common goal reduces conflict and makes it easy to align people.
  2. Intention to do: Every action starts with the intention to do or to achieve. In addition, having a solid understanding of the idea and the end-point, is crucial to developing a plan of action.
  3. The knowledge and skills to execute: The learning ability in people to perform a particular task, and do something well.
  4. Integrity: A set of behaviours that give you the feeling of confidence and the trust that everyone in the group will behave in a way that is acceptable by the others.
  5. Discipline/System/Mechanism to work: Discipline is the recipe for success, whether it is individual work or a group of individuals working together. System, are tools which can organize the relationship between all stakeholders and help define the way each organization wants to work. The mechanism to work is not as crucial for an individual, but essential for a group of individuals working together. Policies and procedures are implemented to outline and specify the mechanisms required for people to manage the relationship, and the expectations while they are working together. Establishing clear processes and frameworks to define the work, will avoid challenges and chaos.

Understand Expectations: Individuals within a group must be well aware of others’ expectations, to be able to deliver on any task or responsibility. Thus, understanding of expectations is a critical component of ensuring individual responsibility and delivery toward better cohesiveness and output of individuals within a group.

Testing your understanding and confirming other individuals’ requirements allow you to deliver successful results and mitigate disappointments and frustrations.

Understand Challenges: In a group setting, individuals will be faced with challenges, issues, and varied problems, that will require the individual to overcome them, with or without the support of others. To do this, each individual should be wary and conscious of others on an individual and personal level to successfully overcome challenges.

In the words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning, Keeping together is a progress, Working together is success”. This not only exemplifies the steps in forming a cohesive objective, and working toward it, but it also strongly defines the importance of individualistic identity and the relation of which to achieve common objectives.

Are leaders born or made?

Since the early days of human studies, many people have tried to answer the simple yet difficult question: “Are leaders born or made?” There is an abundance of conflicting thought supporting both. It’s a hot topic still asked in every business conversation, particularly when there is a discussion about company culture. In this article, I will dive into the question, “Are leaders born or made?”

To start, we should differentiate between the word “Leader” and the word “Leadership”. “Leader” refers the position of power, where the individual has the authority or the right to give an order or direction in the organization. Organizations cannot have more than one leader from a position-and-authority perspective, and known as leader-by-authority. For example, a country cannot have more than one president at a time. Similarly, when we talk about companies, the highest-titled position in the company – whether it’s the CEO, Executive Director or General Manager – is the leader, whether or not he has the skills to lead and deliver results.

Leadership is the skills and capabilities a person needs to perform these duties. It is reflected in the style, methods and practices used to manage a group of individuals, and the use of these characteristics or attributes that leader should have to deliver results.

The question is this: What leadership skills should a successful leader have? What skills does a leader need to possess in order to be able to react to various situations?

Leader needs to have the skills to create and develop a performance culture that can move the company forward, and who has the credibility to set a clear direction. Leader needs to be able to create a motivating environment, and align employees to willfully follow and execute a plan, while delivering results that pertain to the organization’s goals.

Significant research attempts to define the characteristics and attributes that are needed to help a leader’s performance excel and deliver optimum results, which are known as leadership skills.

If a leader is a position on the ladder, and leadership is a set of skills required to perform optimally, then the question should be: Is the individual born with leadership skills—inherited skills—or can the individual learn or acquire such skills?

Inherited Skills: Every individual is born with specific characteristics and inherited skills. These characteristics influence an individual’s personality, and influence how they perform certain tasks.

Some of these inherited characteristics are leadership characteristics. If an individual is born with some of those characteristics, the individual type will be labeled based on the dominated characteristic and will have an advantage when executing a task involving those particular skills that they have inherited. Examples of inherited skills are strategic, visionary, charismatic, motivator, disrupter, relationship-builder, re-builders, stress threshold, conscientiousness, etc.

As individuals, we should define our inherited skills, and further develop them. At the same time, we should understand the required skills for any job we need to engage in, and develop those required skills, accordingly. Optimally, when we find the alignment between the role and the inherited skills, there is a higher likelihood of delivering better results.

Acquired Skills: Individuals are influenced by a lot of factors throughout their lives that lead to the need to acquire additional skills, or develop existing skills, to stay current, relevant—and marketable. An individual’s leadership style is driven by the result of those acquired skills. Examples of acquired characteristics are if a person demonstrates an autocratic leadership style, which means they retain all power—in their hands. If they demonstrate a democratic leadership style, they welcome and value employees’ input. If they demonstrate a bureaucratic leadership style, such are leaders perform duties under hierarchy of authority and highly regulated environments. Finally, there is the laissez-faire style leader who delegates their responsibility, and allows employees to make decisions.

It might be, at some point, that leaders will need to demonstrate a mix of all of these leadership styles in order to adapt to the needs of different situations and frameworks which is known as situational leadership.

In summary, leading and managing organizations requires a number of leadership skills. Whether the individual is born with one or more leadership characteristics, the individual is still required to develop both the inherited and acquired skills that are needed to be able to further develop both themselves, and the organization’s strategy—and align company employees to execute the plan successfully. The leader’s key objective is to develop the required skills in order to always be a better version of themselves.

This is why A leader is born, and THE leader is made.

CEOs’ values, ethics, behaviour, and organizational outcome

This article is about the influence of CEOs’ values and behaviours on their organizations’ culture, which shapes performance outcomes and secures a long-lasting market leadership.

“Culture” has been a topic of discussion across various fields of business, sociology, history, and anthropology. In an article written by Charles Rogel (2014) he mentioned that “an organization’s culture consists of values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that employees share and use on a daily basis in their work”. The culture determines how employees describe where they work, how they understand the business, and how they see themselves as part of the organization. Culture is also a driver of decisions, actions, and ultimately the overall performance of the organization.

“Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization’s success along with vision, strategy, financials, …etc. I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game – it is the game.” (Lou Gerstner, CEO IBM 1993-2002)

Organizations are embodiments of their leaderships’ values and are a mere reflection of top-down cultural alignment. In the last decade, there have been many examples of unethical practices by CEOs or senior managers that have had a negative impact on their organizations, in some cases, leading to legal action. Therefore, understanding CEOs’ influence on culture requires a strong comprehension of the role that values, ethics, morals and behaviours play in relation to the CEO, and their impact on business.

Values are our fundamental beliefs. They are a set of personal principles we use to measure what is right, good, and important to us. They are the standards that provide guidance to distinguish between right and wrong. Culturally, we see differences as to how values are defined.

Honesty, integrity, compassion, courage, honour, responsibility, patriotism, respect and fairness, are among the most commonly heard-of and observed values. One could categorize the values formally mentioned as “personal values”, and are often considered to be values derived from a higher authority. That is a convenient way to differentiate them from what are often called “utilitarian” or “business values”, such as excellence, quality, safety and service, which define some elements of positive and negative attributes in a business context.

It should come as no surprise that organizations that endure long-term success have core values and a core purpose of which they remain fixated on, despite, at times, a period “bumpy” days. What changes, are their business strategies and practices, and these are changing endlessly to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the business world. Respected and fundamentally sound companies understand what should remain sacred. The ability to manage continuity and change is down to the consciousness of the organization.

Ethics are a set of rules, which are commonly agreed upon, known, and communicated within a group of people, and form a standard guideline for conduct. Ethics are the rules from which behaviours are measured and evaluated—for their morality. Consider ethics to be the governance instrument that steers individual accountability toward our interactions with others, ultimately influencing and permitting certain behaviours, which constitute our interactions.

Consider the word, “evaluate”: When we evaluate something, we compare it to an existing or known standard or benchmark. We determine whether it meets such standard, falls short of it, comes close, or far exceeds it. To evaluate is to determine the merit of the subject or action as compared to a standard.

A Code of Ethics, which reflects a company’s values, is the document that portrays the culture that defines what one can expect the behaviours of the company, and its employees to exhibit. They constitute and illustrate the commitment to the organization’s fundamental principles (values), ultimately shaping the organization’s interactions, outputs, and how it conducts business.

While the business strategy paves the way for achieving the organization’s mission, the Code of Ethics details the platform from which the leadership team, along with all employees, use to achieve it. To an army, a Code of Ethics is not the battle plan, but rather the marching orders with which it must be aligned—with great precision—to ensure it is exhibited and carried out internally, as well as observed externally. They are the means to the end; their related behaviours need to be clear and consistently need to be explained, interpreted and discussed. Regardless of position, role or rank, those who do not reflect the Code of Ethics should be apprehended so that those who do, are retained enough to reap the rewards.

Business ethics are the principles that guide the way a business behaves. Many subject areas are based on broad principles of integrity and fairness regarding issues such as accounting practices, product quality, customer satisfaction, employee wages and benefits, local community, environmental responsibilities, etc.

Some organizations are public about their values and Code of Ethics, while others are not. However, with today’s countless cases of major accounting frauds that have obliterated employee pension funds and investor capital, it has become increasingly more vital for organizations to publicly state and commit to their values and Code of Ethics. Companies that publicly commit to their values and Code of Ethics, tend to align themselves on the positive side of the public eye and have an obligation to stakeholders, customers, and employees to uphold their commitments to such values.  On the other hand, companies that fail to define their values may often be those that don’t have any. This lack of commitment to build and live by a set values or a code is a strong indication of a company that lacks identity, and whose elements are not grounded or known to outsiders—and quite possibly, its employees.

Morals, in brief, are a set of self-imposed standards that govern one’s relation with themself, to adhere to their values and ethical composition. Morals dictate to which extent a person can stand for, compromise, or disconnect from their values and ethics, despite influences by others—be it a superior authority, colleagues or even subordinates.

If the employees within the organization are governed by a single set of values and ethics, and they embody such values and ethics, then individual morality will be in sync with that of the organization. Whistleblowers are a great example of some of the known cases where such individual-to-organization alignments of values are not met, aside from possible legal implications. In modern times, in multinational or culturally diverse organizations, employees stem from various culturally influenced value systems that may not align with the organization’s code of ethics. This gap in alignment, a possible lack of culture-fit, can lead to a wide range of individual moral conflicts between employees; and a disconnect may be evident. Undisputedly, diversity is strength; but having the right culture-fit is a necessity that many organizations have geared their recruitment process to selectively proceed with those candidates that exhibit the appropriate culture-fit.

Behaviour is the outward expression and reflection of our morals that compose our interaction or reaction to people and circumstances we face. It is based on how others view us and how they judge us.

With no insight into peoples’ minds, one’s ethics and morals can only be evaluated through their behaviour. Therefore, when one acts in ways that are consistent with our values and ethics, we will characterize that as acting ethically. When one’s actions are not congruent with our values—our sense of right, good and just—we will view that as acting unethically.

“Organizational outcomes were a reflection of the top leader’s cognition and values”, (upper echelons theory – Hambrick and Mason, 1984)

There is a very clear link between leadership values, ethics, morals and behaviours, and the success of the business: Leaders are the ones who set the tone of the organization by influencing the culture and defining the set of ethics within which it operates. To keep leading in a dynamic and challenging environment, a leader must lead by example, maintain the discipline, commitment and responsibility, and adhere to the culture of the organization, to accomplish and deliver the task.

Strong Individuals

With work now defined by the global crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, the current focus of companies is supporting their workforces—at home. Coupled with technological and safety needs, there is still an opportunity to engage in performance development that aligns with the employee and strategic needs.

“Tough times don’t last, tough people, do.” —Robert Schuller

How do we ensure employees continue to contribute positively to the organization?  How do we develop and nurture the right talents to move our organizations forward once we return to a sense of normal work?  We need to identify the agility and strengths of employees who have been key to our sustenance during the pandemic and translate this knowledge to continued talent development, to sustain and grow organizations to achieve better-than-expected results.

We often characterize strong individuals as having the following characteristics:

  • Relevant job skills
  • Trustworthiness
  • Motivation to work

Skill is the learning ability in people to perform a particular task and do something well. Strong individuals should have the ability to understand where they need to be, where they are, and how they bridge the gap to be there. They have the ability to align others to the future picture and influence them through effective communication. They are visible with a focus to execute and deliver expected results. Good analogy organizations and individuals can follow to develop these skills, is the sports analogy: Like an athlete, employees start by acquiring the knowledge needed for that skill, then create a routine to practice with a discipline to repeat the practice. Central to skill development, is action and discipline, as one moves from novice to expert. Good skills require practice and reflection—the continuous cycle of honing one’s craft to become an expert.

Strong individuals are trustworthy. In addition to the skills required for the job, organizations want to recruit trustable candidates; people want to deal with individuals who have integrity. The ethics and values of a person influence decisions, and are reflected in their behaviors. These values of integrity and trustworthiness, ultimately reflect on performance and results. If there is a disconnect, organizational performance suffers.

Strong individuals are intentional. They put their heart, mind and body into action. For a person to focus and deliver the expected results, self-preparation needs to be there. In both business and life, the strong person needs a balance between heart, mind and body.

Heart: Strong individuals provide emotional stability, and are grounded, due to their values and ethics.

Mind: Strong individuals do not make rash decisions; they are analytical and consider multiple options that align with the beliefs and values.

Body: Strong individuals are aware their actions reflect who they are; they know their visible responses and attitudes are evaluated by others. They also recognize the power of their actions in motivating others to achieve results.

Organizations can develop the skills of their employees, and perhaps influence their actions through motivation, and modelling expected behaviours. At the core of a strong individual, are the values and ethics that are key to their intentions and performance.  It is their integrity that is the compass that defines their work and, ultimately, the performance as an organization.

In reference to a recent quote I came across: CFO says to CEO, “What if we invest money to train our employees, and then they leave?” The CEO responds, “What if we don’t invest money in training our employees, and they stay?” As you can see, proper training and development programs are key to building strong individuals—and companies. Strong individuals, therefore, equals strong companies. The elements noted above ought to be in place, for greater success and ROI. And by ROI, I mean both Return on Investment and Return on Individual.

Remote Leadership

By Bilal Hamadeh & Dr. Susan Murray

The rapid onset of the coronavirus (Covid-19), is changing the way we live and the way we work.

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic is expected to fundamentally change the way many organizations operate for the foreseeable future—and perhaps well beyond that. As governments and businesses, globally, practice social distancing, remote work becomes the new reality, to ensure the safety of employees and customers. While some businesses have ceased operations, whether due to authoritative directive, voluntarily closing, or functioning with a smaller workforce and limited hours, others have implemented work-from-home arrangements.

Not only is Covid-19 disrupting our daily lives, but it is also impacting how we manage our businesses. Traditional or typical behaviours, habits and practices have changed almost overnight, as leaders grapple with ensuring effective and efficient business continuity through remote offices or working from home. Like government leaders, business leaders have had to quickly adapt to managing the day-to-day activities of their organizations, remotely. Given this, effective management practices are now more critical than ever.

While health and social systems demand first priority, the survival and sustainability of businesses is equally paramount. With both short and longer-term impacts in mind, how do leaders continue to ensure the efficiency and productivity of employees? How does a leader ensure that delivering better-than-expected results, is not compromised?

Research shows us that in times of struggle and crises, human nature can steer us in two directions: 1) fear and helplessness, or 2) self-actualization and engagement (Gallup, 2020). If leaders provide a clear direction for a strong way forward, there is a known “rally effect” that translates to the resiliency of employees and, thus, better-than-expected results (Gallup, 2020).

This is a disconcerting time for employees. The physical team has disappeared, and they are now solo. It is this focus on the individual that is critical for managers. Each individual needs clarity surrounding their role and expectations, and the supports necessary so they can leverage their strengths while in a new-working-model situation. For individuals, it is vital for managers to clearly define how they fit into the bigger mission and purpose of the organization.

The relationship between the manager and the employee is even more critical, now. It is essential to know each employee’s individual needs and strengths, identify how their work contributes to business performance, how expectations are defined, and what accountability measures are in place.  This individualized consideration, coupled with high expectations, is central to better-than-expected results.

What does this look like?  What key managerial actions are central to creating excellence in remote performance?

Clearly define expectations and tasks

Maintaining a focus on organizational goals is fundamental. Each manager should create an organizational structure that can deliver the expected result, and clearly define the responsibility and the task for each individual, with a common purpose at the core.

With remote management, a manager’s skills in setting a clear task will help reduce any conflict and make it easy to align people and link the goals to what they do.

Individual KPIs

Individuals at home may get easily diverted in this new-working-model setting. The rules of engagement have changed. Managers have less control over work environments, and visibility is lacking. Thus, it is essential to create accountability measures. For each phase, set clear expectations and define Key Performance Indicators that are specific for each task and employee, recognizing their skills and competencies.


Constant, effective communication from leaders is fundamental to success. Coupled with messages of care and compassion, managers can use their remote platform to deliver and transfer information. Effective communication is a critical link between planning and successful execution.

Communication is challenging in person—and even more so, remotely. Leaders need to use simple words, a clear trustworthy tone and speak with confidence and empathy. Even more so virtually, a leader needs to connect with people. Likewise, the power of effective listening and responding is respected.  As a manager, ensure you allow employees to share their thoughts and ask questions. Provide time to make sure key messages are understood prior to the end of a meeting. In the absence of physical presence, the online medium of engagement, such as video-conferencing, allows the leader to emotionally connect with employees, provide an opportunity to share key messages, and align work toward a common purpose.

Discipline in Execution

This “new normal” for work demands a new level of execution. Discipline is required to create new daily routines and practices to deliver results. This requires a reset on the daily routines of the workplace, to adapt them to remote work, based on business priority.

For managers, part of this routine will include the virtual monitoring and assessment of the implementation, using KPIs. This frequent monitoring and gap analysis will quickly identify the need for corrective actions and changes if required. As well, it allows the manager and employee to identify and celebrate individual successes related to the goals.

As we navigate this time of global crisis, as leaders, we seek to ensure the overall well-being of our employees, our organization, our society, and ourselves. The complexities of blending work and life at home are creating new stresses. By taking care of, and supporting, individual employees through clear structures, expectations, communications, and routines, leaders create organizational stability and an opportunity to achieve better-than-expected results. It is in times such as these, that leadership is needed and valued most.

Can leaders always deliver?

Status quo is not—or should not—be an option for any organization. Organizations need people to deliver better-than-expected results, with a focus on continuous growth, over time. The demands of competition and expectations create constraints and pressures. Often, it is the subtle relationship between pressure and performance, that impacts results. The right amount of pressure can create performance needed for better-than-expected results. In contrast, performance can suffer if there is too little or too much pressure. Leaders need to seek this fine balance of pressure and support, to impact results.

What do results tell us? I suggest that the success of an employee is determined by their ability to achieve results. The diagram below shows how results may, or could, be measured.

These results are directly linked to the actions of employees, which we call performance. Performance may be defined as the way (or the how) a person does the work or activity (task), against an agreed set of measurable objectives defined in the organizational strategy. Performance links to the effectiveness and motivation of the person, and speaks to their skill level, abilities and competencies, and their stresses and level of engagement, and includes the work environment or situation. Since performance drives results, it is essential for leaders to clearly identify the link between performance and results. Likewise, it is critical to identify the challenges and gaps in performance so as to undertake the correct action to support employees, and improve performance, overall.

Since performance drives our results, the question, then, is, what are these factors which can improve our performance, to deliver the better-than- expected results?

To improve Performance, we need to answer these two questions:

  1. What do we want to do? (performance structure)
  2. How do we want to do it? (performance culture)

What is a Performance Structure?

Structure is a framework of identifiable elements which physically or functionally connect to each other and gives form and stability.

The three elements of Performance Structure are:

  1. Planning addresses how to close the gap between where we are and where we need to be by formulating a strategy for achievement. Strategy is a method or series of actions designed to achieve the goal of closing such gap.
  2. Alignment speaks to the leader’s ability to engage people to do the work, and the tool to link planning to execution.
  3. Execution is the ‘course of actions’ that are required to be taken to produce results.

What is a Performance Culture?

Culture is a common understanding of selected values or ethics, which are reflected by an expected behaviour for a group of people whether they are part of formal structure or not.  While formal processes and structures support this, central to the creation of a performance culture, is the leader.

Within a performance culture, a leader focuses on:

  1. Strong people: Those who have the intention, the ability and skills to put their heart, mind and body in action to execute the plan.
  2. Working together: Building the credibility to bring people with them, and align them to execute the plan.
  3. Understand the customer: In addition to dealing with complex issues, the people in a performance culture engage with the customer to understand their expectations and challenges in order to deliver successful results and minimize the disappointments and frustrations.

A focus on results and performance is essential to organizational growth. It is imperative for a leader to clearly identify the gaps in performance that impact results, and provide both a structure and culture to address the gaps, so as to achieve better-than-expected results. Within today’s highly competitive business environment, status quo shouldn’t be an option. The pressures of performance must be coupled with leadership that influences and supports the people in the organization—to achieve success.