Each week GGC Principal Gail Golden lets us take a look at her open tabs to see what’s going on in the world of workplace psychology. Here are her insights on the week’s news….

You run a business in an industry where competition for top talent is gruesome. Not only that, but your industry is being disrupted from several directions. How do you attract and retain the best people so you can innovate quickly? According to Weber Shandwick CEO Andy Polansky, the key is to listen – to your employees and to your clients. It sounds simple, but his article shows how demanding it really is. It means getting out of your office to engage with employees at all levels of the company. It means road trips to spend time with key clients. And it means keeping an open mind to others’ priorities and perspectives. GGC is proud to have partnered with Weber Shandwick through the past decade of turbulence, and we applaud Polansky’s vision and his emphasis on creating the right culture to make magic happen.

Sometimes though, it’s not enough to listen to employees and clients. You also have to be able to listen to yourself. The field of behavioral economics has given us great insights into some of the unconscious biases that affect executive decision-making, including those that come from our family backgrounds and sexual relationships. At a workshop I presented last week at the Illinois Psychological Association​ on “Understanding Sexual and Family Dynamics in the C-Suite,” a group of psychologists talked about how we see unconscious emotional patterns playing out in our business consulting work. For example, why do female executives and their female assistants so often have stressful relationships? Perhaps it’s because their working relationships tap into patterns of mother-adolescent daughter interaction. Understanding these dynamics can help business leaders better navigate workplace relationships and nurture talent instead of falling into combative patterns.

One interesting parallel for how to focus your approach to growing talent is found in the world of education. The same way a store manager is key to the success of a retail location, principals can have the greatest impact on schools. In both cases, the key player is the onsite leader. These “middle managers” are often undervalued — they are not the bigshots at head office nor are they the front-line employees interfacing with customers. What they do have, though, is clear lines of sight both up and down, and direct accountability. Large organizations would do well to pay close attention to retaining and nurturing the “principals” in their organizations, as they can be crucial business leaders.

For last week’s workplace news roundup, featuring corporate social responsibility, please see Gail’s post on LinkedIn.

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