How to Be a “Glass-Shattering” Organization

by Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg


Advancing gender equality is certainly desirable, but may not seem vital during this turbulent time — yet that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, losing sight of gender equity right now is likely to put you at a real disadvantage when the pandemic begins to recede. The benefits of gender equity are numerous, but there are 10 that tend to hold true across the board — and are particularly critical in these uncertain times.

Advancing gender equality is certainly desirable, but may not seem vital during this turbulent time — yet that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, losing sight of gender equity right now is likely to put you at a real disadvantage when the pandemic begins to recede.

The barriers women face in the workplace are already well-documented, and there’s mounting evidence that the situation is getting worse amid the pandemic. In the U.S., women made up 80% of workers who left the labor force in September 2020. Women of color are shouldering a greater share of these job losses. Many women who have held onto their jobs have found their work and parenting responsibilities all but impossible to manage, or have been penalized for caregiving. And women who are not caring for children or other dependents are by no means exempt from tougher career challenges in our newly-virtual workplaces, as we have noted previously.


How to keep your cool in high-stress situations

by Robert E. Quinn, David P. Fessell, and Stephen W. Porges

A CEO called one of us (Robert) for help. The company she was leading was on the cusp of a huge opportunity related to a new technology. But she was stymied and stuck.

One of the representatives for an investor in the project was extremely assertive and self-interested. They had intimidated several of her company’s strong board members, who were now withdrawing the financial support they had already committed. The entire endeavor was at risk.

It took 20 minutes for the CEO to describe all the complexities. As she did, Robert felt a knot in his stomach. She expected him to add value and yet he was struggling to even comprehend the issues. He worried that he wouldn’t be able to help and a part of him just wanted to end the call and distance himself from this mess. Rather than doing that, he understood that his anxiety was a signal to slow down. He began to self-regulate.

Recent research in the field of neuroscience, specifically polyvagal theory, offers insights into this process of self-regulation and how you can move from a “fight or flight” response to a higher state of openness that invites collaboration, creativity, and thriving. Studies have shown that specific tactics, which we’ll explain more below, can help us navigate our natural tendency to be defensive when confronted.


3 tips for managing long-term remote work in 2021

By: Jen Colletta

With more organizations making remote work permanent, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Remote work was one of the biggest HR stories of 2020—and it’s not looking like the headlines will be much different this year. As the pandemic rages on, many employers are keeping their workers at home for the time being, and potentially permanently, creating new priorities for HR leaders as we head into 2021.

When organizations had to quickly pivot to remote work early last year, HR leaders scrambled to ensure workers had the proper technology, revamp processes to support business operations and create new ways for employees to collaborate. Now, HR is tasked with making such strategies sustainable for the long term. As part of our look ahead to HR’s role in 2021, we recently spoke with several HR leaders about what the initial shift to remote work showed and how HR can take these lessons into this year. Here’s what they had to say:

Rely on your data. Organizations that were most successful in transitioning to remote work in 2020 were those that embarked on comprehensive data collection and analysis about their work forces, says George Penn, vice president, advisory in the Gartner HR practice. That approach enabled employers to “understand employee situations, preferences and engagement drivers to rapidly adapt their strategies in the areas of wellness, inclusion, performance and rewards.” Those organizations were then better prepared to enact “responsive and dynamic programs,” Penn says, a model that will prove vital in 2021. Read more here.

Invest in the tech to support remote processes. Modern Hire CEO Karin Borchert predicts that remote and hybrid work will likely “stick around long after the pandemic is over.” As such, now is the time, if employers haven’t, to ensure technologies are in place to support management, engagement and performance evaluation. Hiring should also be a particular focus for technology selection, she says. “Because of the success large enterprises saw with recruiting, hiring and on boarding new employees, they will likely keep their hiring processes 100% virtual post-pandemic, as technology allowed them to make smarter hiring decisions in a way that in-person interviews could not compete with.” Read more here.

Are you remote-first, or remote-friendly? Long-term remote work can only be successful if all employees are remote, as allowing some, but not all, employees to work from home could impact business efficiency, productivity and culture, says Job van der Voort, CEO and co-founder of HR tech provider Remote. So, employers need to approach 2021 with a remote-first mindset, focused on providing employees the tools, resources and support for successful remote work. Read more here.

Source: HRExecutive

To see the future more clearly, find your blind spots

by Eric J. McNulty

After being bombarded with disruption in 2020, executives can better prepare for the next crisis by considering new perspectives.

It was the year we saw it all. And 2020 was also the year we didn’t see it all coming. Wildfires. Floods. So many storms in the Atlantic that meteorologists had to resort to the Greek alphabet to name them. Global protests over racial and economic inequality. And, of course, the pandemic.

What is surprising is that we were surprised. In a recent PwC study, 69 percent of responding organizations had experienced a crisis in the past five years and 95 percent expected to face one. We all watched Australia aflame in the months before the pandemic. California, too. It was only three years ago that multiple storms rattled the Gulf Coast in the United States in rapid succession. And climate watchers had been predicting that there will be more of these severe weather events in the future.

And the pandemic? Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, H1N1 influenza in 2009–10, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), first reported in 2012, and the Ebola outbreak in 2014–16 foreshadowed that a deadly, global, infectious disease outbreak was overdue. I warned about MERS, and public health risks in general, in this publication in 2013. It was not the most shared article of that year. Not by a long shot.



As a part of our talent acquisition engagements, we ask our clients how they define “top talent” and how they would assess those traits in the interview process. Reflecting on the insightful comments we hear every day, we thought there would be great value in a new blog in which senior executives/thought leaders share their “Take on Talent.”

This is the twenty-sixth in a series of blogs/interviews with senior executives who are thought leaders in the areas of Talent Acquisition, Career Development and Leadership who will share their perspectives on this ever present question.


Esteban Herrera is the Senior Vice President and Head of B&PS Atos|Syntel North America. He is responsible for managing the $1+Billion Applications and Platforms business in North America. The organization is the fusion of Atos’ applications portfolio and the Syntel acquisition. He leads a rich portfolio of applications and platforms solutions through a variety of sales, marketing, delivery and operations functions to create secure, de-carbonized digital value for his North American clients. He is a member of the Atos North America Executive Committee. He also leads Atos|Syntel’s global Public Sector and Defense business unit.



Please share with us the top five characteristics (in priority order, first to fifth) of the most talented people you have encountered during your career, and your definition of each.

Empathy. I was taught that business isn’t about making friends, it’s about making money. As I have grown older and wiser, I’ve changed. Life is too short to spend it with jerks. Furthermore, unpleasant people weigh down the team. They tend to use fear and authority over understanding and analysis. I am happier when I work with pleasant people. I know that when I am happier, I deliver better results. This doesn’t mean rolling over anytime there is a disagreement. Differences of opinion are healthy and necessary. Empathetic people take those differences and make better decisions. They make the best leaders, because they know what makes each person tick. That knowledge helps maximize their contribution. They serve clients the best, because empaths understand why they behave how they do. They make the best colleagues, because collaboration is natural to them. Empaths are great with feedback, because they absorb the human context.

Competence at learning. Once you have the basic human behaviors down, then you need to be good at what you do. In the best of cases, talent finds a way to learn something all the time. This is a skill that takes practice! Curiosity is a prerequisite. But that means nothing unless you have techniques to turn questions into new answers. This trait is rare because it combines the curious mind of an artist with the structured approach of an engineer. I sometimes call them the “journalists” of the business world. They ask the hard questions, and then follow a path to get at the facts to make better decisions.

Passion. Another “soft” skill that is anything but soft! Passionate people love what they do and are forceful in their actions. They act with conviction but value getting it right over everything else. Their commitment to winning the right way usually shows up in the first conversation. It is one of the easier characteristics to identify. Passion cannot be faked or contained!

Commitment. Discipline to get things done is priceless. Realism about what you can do is critical to success. Commitment is about doing what you say you will do, and never agreeing to something you can’t. Defined this way, it is the rarest characteristic in the environments I work in. Managers push to get more done. Employees want to please their leaders. Deadlines get missed, careers get tanked. Leaders should push to the line of what can get done—no further. Commitment is as much about locking on to the task like a dog on a bone as it is about picking the right size bone.

Personal Transparency. “This project is so important to me; I don’t think I can help micromanaging it.” “I have no idea how to do this.” “I can’t get ‘Johnny’ on my team to do any real work.” “I am not cut out to look at spreadsheets all day.” “I have too much emotion about this decision.” “You may not know I have a deep personal curiosity about Big Data.” These are all real statements that people I work with have made. And they are a gift. They combine self-awareness with communication. I call this personal transparency. People who acknowledge their passion, strengths, limitations, blind spots are invaluable to me. I may not always be able to redirect the assignment they dread. I may not even want to, to develop them. But I am not flying blind. They’ve been forthcoming telling me they need extra help or motivation; or that they welcome a certain responsibility. They’ve shared accountability with me as a leader, appropriately. Organizations work better the more personal transparency there is.


How do you communicate these characteristics to your HR and senior management team?

Easy. I tell them to find me passionate, highly committed, eager-to-learn, transparent, self-aware empaths! In all seriousness, there is nobody who has perfected all five. We look for a balance. We look for people who are strong in a few, and not total train-wrecks in the others. I tend to conduct both the first and the last interview with senior hires to gauge their growth through the process.  Have they understood our goals and objectives better? Did they get and accept coaching along the way? Like me, our leadership needs to focus on delivering results. But that makes us no different from 99.5% of every other organization out there. With clients, there is no issue we cannot solve if we maintain a strong relationship. If we respect each other as humans, and value the ability to speak about things, good and bad, that happen, then we can solve any problem. I look for my leadership team to extend that as a core value of the organization. If we can do it with our clients, we can do it among ourselves.


How do you handle challenges to the existing culture by talent you have brought in?

It depends on context. Am I leading a turnaround? Has the organization been struggling? Then I want to embrace challenges to culture. Are we operating a sophisticated, well-oiled machine? Then any challenges to culture should be carefully tested (remember, empathy!). In this case, you have the luxury of time, because the results are there. You can experiment safely. You don’t upset an apple cart that is traveling reliably at warp speed!

Culture isn’t something you ever stop working on, regardless of the path the company is on. In our industry, it is the most reliable differentiator—sometimes the only one! So, like any competitive advantage, you must keep it healthy, current, and visible!