Featured in today's briefing:
- How to be effective during a crisis.
- A proposed tax incentive for a four-day workweek.
- The demise of the power lunch.
The Macro Context
- Despite news about layoffs, 75% of workers intend to look for a new job over the next year, according to a new survey of nearly 7,000 employees from the careers website The Muse. Some 63% of respondents said “economic turbulence” will not affect their job-search plans, a sentiment that was more common among older workers than younger ones.
- At the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings this week, economic leaders warned that higher interest rates in the US could have a ripple effect throughout the banking sector and the global economy, though Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the economic outlook is “certainly stronger and brighter than the last time” the organizations convened in the fall.
Focus on What the Most Effective Leaders Do During Moments of Crisis
The recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank palpably signaled for a lot of leaders that crisis and uncertainty are on the rise in business once again. Tens of thousands of people spent the weekend of SVB’s meltdown in a state of intense anxiety about the fate of their money and their businesses.
While that banking crisis has calmed, economic and business uncertainty remains a reality. What do the most effective leaders do when crisis spikes unexpectedly? We spoke with Carol Kauffman, co-author with David Noble of the recent book Real-Time Leadership. Kauffman, a leadership coach who advised executive clients during the SVB collapse, is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a senior leadership advisor at Egon Zehnder. Here are excerpts from our conversation, edited for space and clarity:
Can you explain your framework for real-time leadership?
The quote that really comes to my mind about real-time leadership is the Victor Frankl one that between every stimulus and response, there's a space. And in that space lies our freedom. That means basically when something horrific happens, we all have our natural reflexes. Some will dive in and be furious, others will run away and try to analyze it. Other people will feel, who do I need to take care of? Other people will completely tune out. So those are some of the different options, but how do you make some kind of space for yourself so you can rise above your reflex depending on what's really being demanded of you at that time?
In the thick of a crisis, what do the people who are most successful in those moments do differently?
I talked to one CEO who says, 'In situations like this, I lower my pulse.' So first of all, what can you do to deactivate your normal survival physiological responses? Because getting something like this is a complete visceral experience, and hell. It’s like, 'Am I now going to lose my company….etc., etc.?’ So how do you manage your own physiology and make space for reaction?
There's research showing that literally just taking seconds or moments to name your experience can be very helpful. One of the ways we think of to make space is to really try to access your actual core wisest self. We talk about five aspects of that which are calm, clear, curious, compassionate, and courageous. Think through when you are faced with something like this, where do you get the most disrupted? And then how can you try to help yourself? So for example, for me, calm is the big one. If I'm calm, the other things can be in place. Or if I'm not calm, they're not there. For my business partner David, if things are clear, he can do the other things.
So you can make space between that stimulus and the response by downshifting your physiological reaction and managing your cognitive reaction.
What are the steps beyond that?
First, it's how do I make space? And then there's what do I do? So for the 'what do I do?' part, there's what's called being mindfully alert. This is mindfulness and to not prejudge, try to just see what is actually happening and what my goals are. We talk about the three dimensions of leadership: What do I need to do? Who do I need to be? How do I need to relate? So the first one is, how can you get clear on what do you actually need to do right now? And it may not be the first thing that comes to your head. At least pause and say, is this really what I need to accomplish right now? Or is there really something else?
Second one, ‘Right now I am kind of blown away, but who do I want to be right now?’ Are there ways that I can tap into my character strengths, my sense of purpose, my role models, just anything to help me stay centered at this moment and have some choice over who I am? I just talked to a CEO who recently had something thrown at him and it created what we call that 'earthquake' feeling. So when you have that earthquake feeling, stabilize yourself. One way is through those five Cs. Another way is to identify what I really need to accomplish right now. Who do I need to be? And then how do I need to relate? Which includes, who do I need to get help from? How can I really be connecting with people so I'm not feeling isolated and abandoned or just betrayed and furious? How can I relate to people A) to get support, B) perhaps to find out the information that I need in order to navigate this storm?
Outside of moments of crisis, how do you train and equip yourself for crisis moments down the line to better handle them?
It's all about the reps. You have to have a commitment to your own growth that you use consistently, reliably, if not relentlessly for your own development under normal situations, under small situations. And then like weight training, go heavier and heavier and heavier. So for this one, have I really noticed when I'm under stress what kind of mistake I am going to make? Am I going to be ‘la di da’ or I'm going to be like, 'oh my God.' And also to affect change, what kind of signals do I need to send? How can I get practice sending the signals and then figuring out whether what I've said is what was heard, given that often they don't line up? If you want to be a great leader, you've got to practice.
Read a full transcript of our conversation, including discussion of how to show up publicly and focus on the right information during a crisis, and best practices for navigating layoffs.
What Else You Need to Know
The Supreme Court’s ruling on Groff v. DeJoy could give workers more room to seek religious accommodations from their employers. The case, which was argued before the court on Tuesday, was brought by a former postal worker who refused to work on Sundays due to his Christian faith. A decision is expected by late June.
- Current precedent, established in 1977 with Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, only provides for religious accommodations that create a “de minimis,” or very minimal, burden on businesses.
- The court seems inclined to make it slightly harder for employers to refuse accommodations. Some legal experts worry that a broad ruling could give employers license to discriminate against LGBTQ employees.
- Expanded protections could cover Muslim women wearing hijabs, Jewish workers wearing yarmulkes, employees seeking time off to attend services, and even employees refusing vaccines on religious grounds.
President Biden has signed an executive order to reduce the cost of child and elder care. The order directs federal agencies to enact new regulations and modernize existing policies to reduce costs and increase accessibility, without creating new funding streams.
- The order includes more than 50 directives, including to lower co-pays for care services and increase pay for Head Start employees.
- The move comes as child-care legislation has repeatedly stalled in Congress, even though a majority of both Republican and Democratic voters agree that the federal government should take action on child care.
Massachusetts legislators have proposed new tax credits for four-day workweeks. The bill would create new financial incentives for companies that implement a shorter workweek with the same amount of pay.
- If passed, the bill would enroll workplaces in a two-year tax credit program if they move at least 15 workers to a 32-hour workweek without reducing pay. The program would also require participating employers to report on the program’s impact on employee productivity and morale.
LinkedIn users can now build job searches around company values. The site this week unveiled a new feature that allows employers to highlight up to five “commitments” that reflect their corporate values—including diversity, equity, and inclusion, sustainability, social impact, career growth, and work-life balance—and job-seekers to filter their searches based on those commitments.
- Employer values are currently of high importance to employees: Qualtrics research last year found that slightly more than half of US workers would accept a lower salary if it meant working for a company whose values aligned more strongly with their own, and a similar number said they wouldn’t consider working for an employer whose values they didn’t support.
A majority of workers value job location over salary. Some 80% cite convenience as a more important factor than compensation, and 71% put work-life balance above pay, according to a survey of 29,000 US workers from the job-search platform Joblist.
- Nevertheless, the average “reservation wage,” or minimum salary a worker would need to switch jobs, is growing. New data from the New York Federal Reserve put it at $75,811, an increase of more than $2,000 from this past fall. When the data was segmented by gender, men’s average reservation wage was around $89,000, while women’s was roughly $63,000.
- The New York Fed’s survey also found a discrepancy between the reservation wage and the $58,710 average salary employees said they expected to receive in any upcoming job offers.
Return to workplace speed round:
- The number of job postings on ZipRecruiter that include relocation benefits doubled between 2020 and 2023. On Indeed.com, the number of postings with relocation benefits was up by 75% in February compared to the same time last year.
- Advertising holding company Omnicom, which owns BBDO, OMD, and TBWA, will reduce its real estate footprint by more than 1.6 million square feet as it implements a hybrid work plan that requires three days of in-person work per week.
- Many employers are struggling to measure the impact of their return-to-office policies. Even though a majority of organizations surveyed by Omdia reported increased productivity after adopting hybrid work schedules, just 22% had actually established metrics to quantify productivity improvements.
- After receiving commitments for millions in economic incentives from state and local governments for a second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, Amazon has delayed construction on HQ2 amid continued economic uncertainty and a sluggish return to office.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Reframe your thank-yous. Often, we express appreciation for someone’s actions by focusing on the impact they had on us—for example, thanking a colleague for planning a team-bonding session with “I had such a great time.” To more effectively communicate your gratitude, keep the focus on the other person: “You did such a great job facilitating and making it fun.”
- Use an emotional litmus test before starting hard conversations. A good way to assess if you’re in the right headspace to have a productive discussion: Ask yourself if you have all the information. If your answer is yes—because the honest answer is never really yes—then wait until you’re feeling clear-headed enough to consider the other person’s point of view.
- A/B test your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Rather than guessing if a message or program will have its desired effect, put your hypothesis to the test by launching several different versions, then evaluating which one most moved the needle on changing mindsets or getting other results.
- Use an artificial-intelligence detection tool to prevent security threats. Applications such as GPTZero that assess whether text was written by generative AI can be integrated into email systems, creating a line of defense against increasingly realistic fake and phishing emails.
The restaurant power lunch is off the menu. High-end restaurants in business districts, already contending with the rise of remote work, inflation, and competition from revamped corporate cafeterias, are facing another challenge: workers’ newfound preference for midday takeout.
- “People are kind of pounding through lunch,” one Columbus-based attorney and former frequent power luncher told the Washington Post. “I try to alternate to do end-of-the-workday or breakfast meetings to hit people at better times of their day.”
A different type of PTO. As multiple consulting firms delay start dates for their incoming classes of new graduates, Bain is offering its hires tens of thousands of dollars to travel, pursue a hobby, or pick up a new skill.
- Among the suggestions the company circulated (exclamation points Bain’s): “Go on an African safari or take a painting class!!... Write a book or become a yoga instructor!!”