Leading in the age of transparency

An interview with Rod Cartwright, Partner at Ketchum, and Kieran Colville, Director at Ketchum Change.


Why is this the ‘age of transparency’ and what does that mean?

Rod: When we use the term transparency we are referring to the blurred line between the internal operations of a business and the external world of consumers, stakeholders and the media.  The line has been blurred mainly through the rise in digital and social media, which sees free-flowing information and content seized on and shared instantly.  This has changed the game for leaders because if the idea that they could “control” their organisation’s corporate culture and reputation was ever a reality, it most certainly isn’t now.

Kieran: I agree Rod, the game has changed.  You don’t need to look very far to find examples of employee communications that were “leaked”, got picked up by the media, and went viral, forcing leaders to respond and take action.  Those stories may have happened 20 years ago but today they spread so much faster and wider.

Can you tell us more about what the wider implications could be if an organisation fail to react?

Kieran: There are several.  Potential employees may be turned off; current employees may become disengaged; and ultimately consumers may question whether they would want to continue purchasing from this company. This is the crucial point.  Now more than ever, how engaged employees are, and therefore how much they promote and recommend the organisation, has a much larger impact on consumer confidence and loyalty than it used to because of this increased “transparency.”

Rod:  Indeed! And this has been one of the key findings of our global Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor (KLCM) study, which we’ve been running for five years now. The research with consumers across five continents sets out to answer two simple questions: “What does the world think of its leaders?” and “What can those leaders do to restore confidence?”  We have found that poor corporate leadership prompts one in two respondents to stop purchasing or to purchase less.

Kieran: To make it simple: leadership drives employee engagement, which drives consumer loyalty.  In 2014, “employees we know” came in at No.3 on the list of determinants of consumers’ purchasing behaviour, with the CEO coming in at No. 10 and other senior management at No. 13.  Leaders cannot ignore the importance of creating the right culture and engaging employees in the right way, as they are the brand ambassadors in today’s world.

This makes sense.  So how bad is the current state of affairs?

Rod: At no point in five years of running KLCM have more than 25 percent of respondents said leaders are leading well.  So consumer confidence is consistently poor, with demonstrable commercial consequences.

Kieran: What Rod said.  It is that stark.

Yes, that is glaring data.  It sounds like something the CEO should care about personally.

Rod: Absolutely.  However, in 2015 we highlighted the rise of the title-less leader, with respondents overwhelmingly favouring leadership provided by the entire organisation and everyone within it, rather than just from the CEO or senior management.

Kieran: From the study, respondents look strongly to leaders at all levels who seek collaborative solutions rather than doing it alone; are open and honest about the nature and scale of the challenges ahead; and have a clear overall vision for how their organisation can survive and thrive.  At Ketchum Change we have developed a practical model for helping leaders build capabilities in these areas: our approach is called Liquid Change Leadership to reflect the need to be readily adaptable in today’s volatile and complex environment.

Sounds very relevant.  How can leaders apply this Liquid Change Leadership model?

Kieran: It is very practical and actionable.  It has four capability areas: Transparent, Dialled-In, Pioneering and Agile, each with a positive level to do more of and a negative level to eliminate.  We will be covering this at our event on 20 October so you’ll have to come to find out more.

Rod: At the event we will also dive into the study in more detail.  The latest results point to leadership communication that needs to be more “feminine” and diverse, and we will discuss what this means.

Sounds intriguing, I will definitely be there.  Thank you both for your time today.

Kieran: Thank you, this is a critical area for leaders at a critical time, so we appreciate the opportunity to discuss it.

Rod: Thank you.  See you on 20 October.

Interview by James Murphy EEA

Kieran and Rod will be speaking at our next event on October 20th – Leading in the age of transparency



Lesson 1. Working Out Loud: Sales Team in a global healthcare company

by guest blogger 


Gloria Lombardi interviewed me … Lessons on Working Out loud from GSK.

One of my personal favourite working out loud Yammer success stories is by a sales team launching a new pharmaceutical product.

Have you tried Working Out Loud in a Network #wolan? A four-part change management approach:

1. #wolan model. Combines Working Out Loud with enterprise business tools e.g. Enterprise Social Networks. Purpose is to nurture conversations to help fix business problems, support business strategy alignment, encourage knowledge networking and demonstrate the right behaviours and values.

2. Decrease email dependency. Diminishing a lateral two-dimensional command and control structure; providing depth breadth width of a company with need to know, interesting, actionable real-time information from the authentic source point. Email will still be necessary for alerts, confidentiality, 1:1 discussion.

3. Business intelligent #hashtags. Hashtags are user-generated labels on social tools like Twitter that makes it easier to find and amplify a message with a specific theme. Purpose of a “business intelligent hashtag”, virally generated by employees is to amplify WHAT YOU DO & HOW YOU DO IT and in turn, creating internal digital DNA!

4. Qualitative questions. Demonstrate the business value of your network in the early stages, and again at tipping point. Share stories/insights not just about the size of your network but the quality within!

Here’s a top quality Enterprise Social Network business value improvement story for a product launch by a sales team in a global healthcare company that used the #wolan approach.


Working Out Loud in A Network decreases email dependency by removing the limits of a typical lateral, two-dimensional command and control structure.
Download the #wolan approach to learn more!


Group purpose: Public group for a UK sales force to share field ideas, challenges, and successes and support colleagues. c. 300 members.

Which company strategy did your group align to? Bringing the highest quality pharmaceutical products to market safely, efficiently and effectively.

Did your group demonstrate our culture? Yes! It shouted out what we do and why we’re doing it with personal accountability, continuous improvement, voice of the customer, “go and see” feedback from healthcare practitioner (HCP) visits (no PII), and shared problem solving and stakeholder engagement.

What were the problems that needed to be fixed: We needed to find a way for our field based teams to raise questions, give feedback, share learnings, celebrate success thought out the launch phase of a new pharmaceutical product and be visible to the brand teams, their colleagues and the UK management teams.

How would you have fixed it in the past without an Enterprise Social Network? We didn’t really have a fix in the past. Issues could be escalated through the sales line but this would not allow any input from anywhere else. We may have used a phone for team queries and results would probably have been saved up until team meetings. Plus of course plenty of random emailing!

What did the Enterprise Social Network help you do, that wasn’t possible before? In short, collaborate! Teams from across the country were able to share tips, advice and support in a timely manner. Equally, the fact that this group was open (public in the enterprise) ensured that our head office teams were also fully in the loop and this enabled them to keep a finger on the pulse throughout the launch and post-launch. The management team had a screen with the group feed installed near their team table so that everyone had continuous visibility. This group acted as a catalyst for the other product launch teams in Europe and Australia to emulate the Enterprise Social Network approach with their product launches, of which they’re actively doing.

What were the benefits of this to the people involved, and to our company? For our field teams, having Enterprise Social Network accessible via their mobile devices has meant that they can stay in touch with their teams and the business wherever they are. We can share key business info via this group and invite comments and discussion where and when appropriate. It gives us insight into what is happening around the business (especially in the sales field) and gives everyone the opportunity to collaborate, work across boundaries and share sales successes.

“Yammer really helped us throughout the product launch – enabling us to build engagement and providing a space where the whole business could collaborate. We were able to share the voice of the customer, patient experiences and our own insights in real time, which added real value to our conversations”. Product Launch VP, global healthcare company

This is the first in a series of success stories we’ll be sharing here over the coming weeks on how Enterprise Social Network demonstrated business value in: R&D, manufacturing, support services, fundraising, induction and communities of practice private groups – end to end enterprise ways of working! All stories include senior leader quotes plus tips and tactics you can steal with pride.

These stories were posted on the company intranet under people strategy as the stories are also about the hard work of the group managers (champions) who brought the groups to life. They were encouraged to use the stories in their year-end appraisals.

Working Out Loud in a Network #wolan, four-part change management approach is endorsed by a German Works Council in a global healthcare company, Warwick Business School/Digital Workplace Group and Microsoft Yammer.

This empowered working out loud story helped make life better and employees closer to the patient. And, for Corporate Communicator’s a license to work across silos and get right to the heart of the business. To authentically report on the business value of working out loud supporting business strategy, demonstrating company culture, strategic transformation and imparting internal DNA. No PII shared.

I was not the owner of the sales team Yammer group. Merely co-created and shared the story. It inspired me to go on a road trip to develop Working Out Loud in A Network#wolan approach whilst undertaking in-house lean sigma training. I learned many helpful project management skills from the training, and the reality that…

email is a wasteful way of working andcollaborating by working out loud is the future of work that delivers business value!

More stories soon, but in the meantime get your free copy of the #wolan approach today!

Lesley will be speaking at our next event – Using Enterprise Social Networks to nurture employee engagement and advocacy

Your Culture Is About How You Treat People

cultureArticlev21600x900 (1)

by guest blogger Deb Lavoy

Over the last few months we’ve been sharing what we learned when we asked 320 people about their level of engagement at work, along with a bunch of other things, such as how employees view executives, and how executives view employees. We published a white paper with Brian Solis on what he called the “Engagement Gap” – the difference between employee and executive views of engagement. Since then, we’ve published discussions on the three of four things that we found most impact employee engagement: respect for leadership, work that matters, and pride in company. Now we’re looking at another major predictor of high employee engagement – a positive view of the corporate culture.

Interestingly, a positive view of culture is the least powerful of the four employee engagement predictors. This could very well be, however, because of the fact that “culture” is not a very well understood idea.

Ask someone in the field what organizational culture is, and they’ll say something like “a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations.” But what does that actually mean? How do you build a positive culture?

You’ve heard the expression that life is what happens while you’re doing something else? Well, so is culture. A company’s culture is a behavioral experience, but it’s also an emotional one. To get that positive culture – the one that makes employees feel engaged and committed, you want that to be a positive emotional experience. Why?

Whether or not you believe the recent New York Times story on the culture at Amazon, you can be certain that parts of it are true. You’ve probably been in situations that echo that nastiness. It’s what I call “management by fear.” It makes you sick, it dulls your creativity, it makes work 99% anxiety and tricks people into stretching themselves far too thin in order to prove something. This is clearly a toxic environment. Did Amazon set out to create a toxic environment? Not likely.

A recent Harvard Business Review article “Why organizations don’t learn” cites a gap similar to the Engagement Gap. They cite the gap between the fact that nearly all companies believe innovation and learning are essential to success, and how few companies are consistently successful in doing that. The learning gap is not about intelligence but about fear of failure and the need to sustain the status quo. This fear begins with the CEO, who passes it down through the ranks. It would seem that fear is the most common barrier to a good culture. It prevents us from treating one another with the respect and compassion that great collaboration and great culture demands.

Why so scared?

We fear failure, we fear our own vulnerabilities. We fear the scorn of others. The classic hierarchical organization is a perfect environment for fear to flourish and grow. It’s a rare and remarkable leader who can overcome these fears and create an environment of learning, listening, common aspirations, and trust.

Can you set out to create a positive culture?

You can set out to create a positive learning environment. You can commit to a set of values that you believe in. You can model the behavior you want to see. You can hire people who share your attitudes and values – as long as you balance that with the need for diversity that is clearly required for real innovation.

But first, you need to be clear-eyed and honest about your intentions. Is it your intention to invest in people because they will drive profitability? Or is it your intention to pursue profitability at the expense of people? Be honest with yourself. The former requires a significant act of faith – that people can and will do great things in the right environment.

Several recent research articles attribute hiring, training, and promotion practices as key drivers of culture. This makes some sense, as it looks to “attitudes and behaviours” which are about people interacting with people. Healthy, Mexican fast food chain, Chipotle, has been hiring for the values they think will make them successful. That is, they don’t hire for skills, they hire for values and attitudes. Then they train. A lot.

Costco has a similar approach. They hire well, pay well, and train, train, train. And, as compared with Walmart, they are vastly more efficient and profitable. This recent Bloomberg article cites Costco’s average hourly wage as $20.89 vs Walmart’s $12.67. They also note some (radical) differences in their stock performance. The pay differential is only one of many differences in the two approaches to employees. The level of training and commitment to those employees is fundamental to building that culture of treating each other well.

Why does training matter? The more capable your people are, and the more deeply they understand the business, the more you can trust their judgment. If you can trust someone’s character (because that’s why you hired them) and trust someone’s judgment (because you’ve given them all the training they need) you can let them use their discretion. You no longer need to micromanage them. You can allow them to think, to serve to commit. You can allow them to do good. Importantly, this also allows you to do good. It’s an act of courage. It’s an act of humility that recognizes the value and potential contribution of others. It’s a mindset that believes you are not the only smart person in the room.

Even more so, all this training and compassion allows employees to treat one another with respect, trust, and compassion. They are confident in one another’s skills. They are respectful, confident, and humble in balance. Training and values can do that.

It would appear that these different approaches also have a very noticeable impact on performance and momentum.







So how can we invest in a positive culture?

  1. Commit to a set of principles or values that drive your decision making after examining the truth and depth of your commitment to them.
  2. Hire and train people in accordance with those values.
  3. Encourage everyone to treat one another well, by treating them well.
  4. Ensure that those people and those values inform every decision.
  5. Fight your fear with courage and humility, and help everyone else do the same.

So the real secret to a great culture is to treat one another well. The secret to treating people well is to think about what your values are and commit to them. The Scylla and Charybdis of positive culture are hypocrisy and fear. They will constantly try to undermine your efforts. It takes ongoing courage, humility, and compassion to help yourself and your team past them.

There are companies whose management will berate and bully people. But there are also companies that have the courage to invest in people and build trust in them and vice versa. We’re delighted to see that the good guys are winning with employees, customers, and the stock market.

Bridging the Engagement Gap: an ebook

by guest blogger Bev Attfield


At Jostle we know that employee engagement is one of the key factors involved in creating happy, healthy workplaces. We also know that there are many questions surrounding the topic of employee engagement. What instigates it? What impacts it? What can we do in the workplace to promote, achieve, and celebrate it?

To answer some of these questions, we worked with Brian Solis, a known author and analyst in the field. We got more than 300 executives and employees to tell us about their employee engagement experiences. Our investigation uncovered some really interesting findings that we published in a white paper.

Turns out, employee engagement is something that can be quantified and measured. It also turns out there’s a pretty huge gap, an Engagement Gap, in many workplaces. The Engagement Gap is the massive discrepancy between how executives feel about employee engagement and how employees feel about it.

Our research also uncovered four key factors highly correlated with employee engagement:

  • Respect for leadership
  • Pride in working for your company
  • A positive company culture
  • Belief that your work matters

In order to make these findings as useful to you as possible, we’ve consolidated the material into a handy ebook called Bridging the Engagement Gap. Here we take a closer look at these four factors, and offer practical advice on how to close the gap. The ebook has simple, actionable strategies to build engagement and take the right actions to create a healthy and happy workplace culture. We hope this resource will help you think about the issue of employee engagement more clearly, and make your workplace better today.

Close the Engagement Gap today! Download The ebook

Breaking Through Barriers to Great Leadership: A KLCM Five Year Worldview

by guest blogger 


Five years ago, we set out–through our annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor (KLCM) Study–to answer two simple questions: “What does the world think of its leaders?” and “What can those leaders, and the organizations they steer, do to restore confidence? (click to tweet)” Issues that lie at the heart of what we do to help organizations, and those at their helm, establish and maintain leadership advantage.

Fast-forward to today as we unveil the fifth edition of KLCM–less than a week after last Thursday’s UK’s Brexit vote sent shock waves around the world’s financial markets and corridors of power. We could not have imagined that our exploration of this critical area could be quite so relevant.

As political leaders across Europe strive to convey a sense of stability, and British politics comes to terms with a short-term leadership vacuum, conversations with more than 25,000 members of the public over those five years have revealed a detailed picture of people’s views of leaders around the world–across five continents and 22 industries. Revealing a low-trust, high-expectation gap as the new normal for leaders, with deep-seated leadership concerns having a direct, sizeable impact on bottom-line outcomes and political systems.

Looking at this year’s findings, while also standing back and surveying the five-year vista, a single, striking theme shines through–the critical importance of breaking through persistent barriers to great leadership.

  • In 2013, we found an inbuilt tendency of people to believe that leaders aged 35 to 49 and at the height of their powers are the most effective source of leadership.
  • In 2014, our exploration of gender and leadership revealed that while the world still looks most to male leaders, people are markedly more impressed with female leaders than their male counterparts. Suggesting that the future of leadership communication will be more “feminine” – with practical lessons for leaders of both genders
  • Last year in 2015, we highlighted the rise of the title-less leader, with respondents favoring by far leadership provided by the entire organization and everyone within it, rather than just from the CEO or senior management
  • This year, our exploration of leadership issues such as religion, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation has revealed a leadership glass ceiling stretches way beyond gender. Shockingly, for all of the social progress of recent decades, a majority of respondents globally view four of those five issues as standing in the way of equality of leadership opportunity – with almost half feeling the same for religion.

Crucially, with political leaders, laws and legislation seen as much a part of the problem as the solution, there is an unprecedented opportunity for the corporate sector to lead the way in shattering the leadership glass ceiling. With huge reputational and commercial dividends for those willing to do so in their words and actions in an environment that has seen the right of traditional politicians to lead fundamentally questioned across the globe.


For business leaders to enjoy the full benefits of grasping this particular bull by the horns, the key will be starting with a simple, honest question, “How ready are we? Here are our best practices summed up into five areas:

1.       What measures do you have in place to ensure reasonable expectation-setting and to avoid “say-do” gaps between what you do and the expectations you set through what you say (especially in a crisis)?
2.       How open are those in your organization – individually and collectively – to genuinely listening to understand your audiences’ definition of transparency?
3.       Does your approach to leadership balance a clear vision with a willingness to admit mistakes and make continuous improvements?
4.       How committed are you and your organization to enabling leadership at every level?
5.       Beyond legal and legislative requirements, how are your leaders breaking down barriers to equal leadership opportunity in areas such as gender, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, class and disability?

Let’s be clear–there is a big job to do here and the events of the past week have highlighted that fact in dramatic fashion. At no point in five years have more than 25 percent of respondents said leaders are leading well, with under one in five expecting an improvement in leadership next year. So as we continue to work with our clients in navigating a course to more effective leadership communication, we hope others will join a conversation that has never felt more relevant and critical to our collective future.

Ketchum Change, part of Ketchum, is a boutique change management and communications consultancy. We help organisations through complex and continuous change by driving growth, transformation and communication, and create breakthrough engagement strategies that inspire human behaviour change and deliver results.

Keeping up with the financial wellbeing hype

by Guest blogger Saurav Chopra CEO & Co-Founder at Perkbox & Huddlebuy,


What’s happening?

New platforms are quickly invading the employee benefits and perks marketplace, changing the way employers are helping their team to manage financial wellbeing.

But what’s all the fuss about?

Physical and mental health have long been top of the agenda when it comes to employee wellbeing. For years, employers have invested big wonga in providing their team with everything from gym discounts to employee assistance programs in a bid to keep members of their team from falling by the wayside.

However, more and more employers are now searching for that secret formula to improve what has previously been dubbed the ‘last taboo’ of the workplace: financial wellbeing.

So what is ‘financial wellbeing’?

Basically, financial wellbeing is the state of mind you’re in when you feel in control of your financial life. It coincides with financial resilience and the ability to comfortably manage your finances. More specifically, if you are able to manage your finances, you are likely to be satisfied with your ability to save, manage your cost of living, and make your salary last until the end of the month. As we all know, that’s easier said than done!

How can a lack of financial wellbeing influence employee life?

When employees devote mental resources to worrying about money, productivity at work is compromised, absenteeism (and, more worryingly, presenteeism) increase and their own personal relationships are put under strain.

The constant strain of money worries affects an employees’ mental health, impacting both their personal life and their work-life. In extreme cases, it can even affect their IQ! Barclays research shows that if employees have less than three months’ salary savings as a buffer, then they are vulnerable to financial distress.

Why should employers care about improving their employees’ financial wellbeing?

The financial wellbeing of the team is something a responsible employer should incorporate into daily engagement plans. Not only does the man in charge have a certain level of responsibility to care for the wellbeing of the team, empower employees to handle life’s financial ups and downs and to provide them with a better chance of becoming financially resilient, but it also makes business sense.

Internally, by taking that extra step to increase engagement with employees, an employer will bolster relationships with the team and foster an increased sense of loyalty. But it works externally too: a financial wellbeing solution helps to brand a business as more attractive, and can even bring down talent acquisition costs!

And it doesn’t stop there. Financial distress equates to 4% of a company’s bottom line. This is tied to: higher absenteeism, lower productivity, higher potential for fraud and theft, and associated higher staff turnover. As a by-product of ticking that corporate social responsibility box for which employers are already setting aside a budget, they are also addressing the tangible costs of financial distress.

… it really is the golden snitch for employers looking to stand apart from the pack within a given industry.

What can employers actually do to help?

Employers should first get to know what’s already out there. There are many providers trying to address financial wellbeing in different ways whether that’s with simple financial education packages or souped-up solutions that truly drive change by helping employees to tighten their grip on their money.

Employers should stay attentive to their employees needs and look out for the tell-tale signs of financial distress whether it manifests in higher staff turnover, lower productivity or higher absenteeism. Shying away from the problem is not a solution!

Factor in a financial wellbeing element to your focus groups and surveys. Financial wellbeing should not be treated as a taboo, and addressing this head-on is going to be key for any employer looking to make a difference while boosting employee engagement and brand loyalty.

Finally, employers should be progressive in the types of tools they bring in, even from a testing standpoint, to see if they can address the gaps in their workforce’s financial wellbeing needs. They need to set success criteria; ask for a trial as well as a testimonial or two. Solutions that are available should not be treated as ‘one size fits all.’

Employers are looking for tangible results and need to be able to answer questions like ‘how can you prove that my employees will become more financially resilient, and ‘is this just a one-time benefit or is this a long-term solution that really addresses my employees financial wellbeing needs?’

On Squirrel.me, a calculator will give you a quick estimate of how much financial distress is really costing your bottom line.

This piece was brought to you by Perkbox – the UK’s fastest growing employee engagement platform. Perkbox helps businesses of all sizes to boost the financial, emotional and physical wellbeing of their team by providing employees with on-the-go access to a range of perks, an online reward and recognition system and a wellness hub. Click here to find out more.

How Goosey are you and your team?

Enhancing brands through people engagement, hidden assets and business development strategies
By guest blogger Damian McAlonan

I  was invited the other week to an exciting tech start-up in the UK to discuss how they could define and improve their culture. Without going into the details they wanted to increase both trust and collaboration within their 14 teams of 8-12 individuals.

I couldn’t help but start with sharing Angeles Arrien speech on the five lessons from Geese – It’s an oldie but a goodie and still relevant for setting a behavioural framework of how an effective team should act.

Here it is.

1. As each goose flap its wings it creates an“uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common sense of direction and community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

2. When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

3. When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership, as with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skill, capabilities and unique arrangement of gifts, talents or resources.

4. The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the productivity is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

5. When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay until it dies or can fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

So, tell me how Goosey are you or your team and are you really getting and giving enough honking?


Thanks for reading my post. Remember, friends don’t let friends miss out on either interesting or helpful articles, so if you find your mouse hovering over the ‘like’ or ‘share’ button then please do just that.

I regularly express (mainly positive) views about management, people engagement and technology, so if you’d like to read my regular posts then please click ‘Follow’ at the top of this post and feel free to connect via Twitter. #boostpartner or our website at http://www.theboostpartnership.com.