Why Trust Matters in Leadership Communication

Why Trust Matters in Leadership Communication

Cachet Prescott

Cachet Prescott

Client Director, People Experience

On any given day, leaders find themselves communicating with others in a variety of ways (verbally, nonverbally, body language, written, etc.). Communication lines flow between them and the receivers of their messages on a multitude of topics ranging from everyday communication to feedback to managing conflict to communicating change, and each connection provides an opportunity to either build up or chip away at the trust between all involved in the conversation.

Trust and communication have a reciprocal relationship. Your ability to communicate with others relies on how much they trust you (and vice versa), and how you communicate also impacts that trust. Trust bridges the gap between the words being said and how one perceives and receives your message. It makes the difference between simply hearing what is being expressed vs. finding the intended meaning in your words.

Trust in communication enables leaders to:

  • Build bridges and relationships
  • Establish rapport
  • Build consensus
  • Create feelings of belonging
  • Find common ground
  • Navigate conflict
  • Achieve goals
  • Gain buy-in
  • Inspire loyalty

The Impact of Trust (and Mistrust)

Some leaders believe that people will simply listen to, follow, or buy into an idea because of one’s title or level of seniority. But above and beyond who you are, people need to believe in what you say, and trust plays a vital, non-negotiable role in creating that understanding.

Without trust, what you communicate may be dismissed and ignored, creating a culture of mistrust, disconnection, disloyalty, exclusion, division and even fear.

Each instance of communication provides the opportunity for the person (or people) on the receiving end to determine how much they believe what you say as they mentally assess the answers for following questions for themselves:

Can I trust:

  • You as a person?
  • Your intentions?
  • That you will do what you say you will do?
  • That my thoughts matter in this conversation?
  • That how this conversation might impact me matters?

Measuring Trust

Take a moment to think about the leaders that you trust. Why do you trust them? What is about them that makes them trustworthy in your mind?

Many of the questions above are explored in the book, The Trusted Advisor where readers learn about the Trust Equation (which measures how much someone trusts you) and the four vital elements that contribute to one’s level of trustworthiness:

  • Credibility: How much someone trusts who you are (including your credentials) and what you say
  • Reliability: How consistent are you with your actions and words
  • Intimacy: How safe and secure does one feel with you
  • Self-Orientation: How selfless or selfish you are in the relationship

Think about and consider where you stand with your trustworthiness with those around you, and keep in mind that where you stand with one person may not be where you stand with another (and thus, equating to differing levels of trust in each of those relationships).

For the relationships that you feel you’ve developed a firm level of trust, ask yourself: what were the contributing factors to building trust with this person and how might I be able to apply them in other relationships to build and nurture trust?

Those relationships, however, where there may be weaker levels of trustworthiness present an opportunity to build that trust and ultimately, strengthen the communication bonds.

Communicating with Trust

When you think about your future conversations, consider how you can plant and water the seeds of trust each time you communicate with others.

Each interaction provides the space to proactively think through (and address as needed) the following questions:

  • Have I established the proper rapport with this person?
  • In what ways have I built trust with this person?
  • How can I continue to build and nurture trust with this person?
  • What does this person need from me to see me as trustworthy?

 You can also fortify your trust goodwill through:

  • Active listening
  • Clarity, transparency, and empathy in your messaging
  • Flexing your communication style to your audience
  • Showing interest in your audience and asking open-ended questions

Your Challenge: Choose one stakeholder that you communicate with and assess where you stand in terms of trustworthiness with that person and how that has impacted (positively or negatively) your relationship. Look for ways to either continuing growing or cultivate the trust between you.


Laundry, L. (14 Nov 2019). 8 Essential Leadership Communication Skills. Harvard Business School Online. Retrieved from https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/leadership-communication

Maister, D.H., Green, C.H. & Galford, R.M. (2 Feb 2021). The Trusted Advisor: 20th Anniversary Edition. Free Press

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Future Leaders

Future Leaders

Vivian Tam

Vivian Tam

Principal Consultant

Last week, Arcadia held our third and final session in our current webinar series. Mark Albas and Matt Lyon discussed how to identify and boost the development of key performers and high potential talent.

When we speak with our clients, we often find that there is a gap between current leaders and the next generation, and that whilst clients want to empower the next generation, they feel that they may not be quite ready yet. Arcadia will therefore discuss some key themes which will help companies upskill the next generation of leaders.

New Leadership Personas

The new generation of leaders emerging embody the new economy and are digitally savvy and innovative, but are perceived to complain too much and often unsupportive of ideas with which they are not engaged.

The best way to develop this individual is to embrace them and try to connect their personal purpose with their corporate purpose. As they are often a “first follower” they can become an important culture carrier within the business. Making them feel part of a project moves them from questioning and complaining to advocate. Importantly they also bring other colleagues into line with the company vision too.

How Do We Identify Talent?

To identify high potential, CEB highlight three key factors:

Aspiration – ability to rise to senior roles

Engagement – the ability to commit to the organisation and remain in challenging roles

Ability – to be more effective in more responsible and senior roles

At Arcadia we take a strengths-based approach to developing future leaders, using Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leader and Extraordinary Performer assessment tools. These tools start with result first, including engagement and profitability, and then works back to identify competencies. As a result, Zenger Folkman have recognised which leadership competencies have the greatest and best correlations to business outcomes. There are 19 competencies in total across five main groups – personal capability, leading change, interpersonal skills, character and focus on results. However, one of the differences about this tool is that it identifies what people are great at, rather than finding out what the average leader is.

The concept is that an organisation is defined by its exceptional people rather than its average people, so it seeks to find out who has extraordinary competencies. Therefore, by identifying what people are extraordinary at and similarly what makes them so successful, we can help build these key competencies further. On the flip side, the tools also surface where your fatal flaws so these too can be addressed.

Leadership Development

Arcadia has identified four critical development needs in high potential / future leaders. By focusing our development programs around these four areas, we ensure that participants develop the right mindsets, skills, knowledge and agency to be seen as future leaders.

1. Mindset

We want to move people away from a “fixed mindset” where individuals have a fixed amount of knowledge and their abilities have plateaued. We move them instead towards a “growth mindset” where the individual believes that they can continually increase their abilities and improve at anything they want to. This can be manifest in challenges, obstacles, effort, skills, criticism or success of others. Ultimately our goal here is to move people out their comfort zones and challenge them.

2. Visibility 

Often people think that when it comes to creating an impression as a future leader, that you take all of your competencies and you promote how good you are at all of these things as part of your personal brand. However, research from our partner Zenger Folkman has shown that this is not the case. Instead, individuals should focus on what is known as the “halo effect”, here you really capitalize on an “F Trait”, which is one where you are very proficient in one certain area. If you are able to do this, then you create a really positive halo effect which will help you develop your brand, enabling those around you to see you as a potential future leader.

3. Organisational IQ 

There are two parts to this. Firstly: how well do you know the organisation? Do you know all the different departments, do know what all the products and services are, and do you know where all your offices are etc. The second part is do you know someone who you can reach out to and connect with in each of these areas. You don’t have to know everyone, but you need to know someone who can connect you to a key person. Over time as we have focused on this subject, we have found that the concept of organisational IQ has expanded and now we find there is an extra element. It’s not only what you know and who you can connect to, but who would connect with you? Who would put you in their organisational IQ? How many people would think of you when they want to connect with someone in your area.

4. Purposeful Leadership

One of the key trends in purposeful leadership is increasing people’s cultural intelligence. Cultural intelligence is the capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts whether these be national, ethnic, organizational, generational, gender, race or sexual orientation. Indeed, a survey by the Economist found that over 92% of leaders found that their biggest challenge was finding enough leaders with the CQ to navigate multinational firms. As such, the ability to be able to flex your value system, create psychological safety and demonstrate cultural intelligence in your actions is a huge driver for making people feel connected to the values that an organisation proposes.


We see future leaders coming from many different backgrounds – local talent, female talent, professional and specialized talent or just straight up high potentials. However, all these future leaders can benefit from development of their mindset, their visibility, their organizational IQ and their overall connection and sense of purpose to the firm. By developing these critical areas they are able to positively contribute to their future and the success of the organization.

If you would be interested in attending future events or would like further information on this topic please get in touch with Vivian Tam at vivian.tam@arcadiaconsulting.com.

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EmPOWERment in a Hybrid World

EmPOWERment in a Hybrid World

Steve Ellis

Steve Ellis

Senior Consultant

Dictionary Definition - Empower

To give someone official or legal authority, or the freedom or confidence to do something:

  • to encourage and support the ability to do something
  • to empower is also to give legal authority for something

Some useful synonyms for us to explore:

control, authority, influence, command, ability, capacity, faculty, property, resources, authority, right, licence, privilege 

When do you feel you have the power to act? What conditions create the confidence for you to take action, move forward, make decisions?

Flatter structures demand more decision making without seniority or hierarchical based authority. Hybrid working has resulted in increased independent work patterns (notwithstanding the demand for collaboration) that in turn means more independent risk taking, decision making and action taking.

What can leaders and organisations do to ensure that increased independent accountability/ responsibility is matched with empowerment?  After all accountability without empowerment is simply abdication or worse.

5 Strategies to Empowerment:

  1. Information
  2. Capability
  3. Authority
  4. Feedback
  5. Relationships

1. Information

Many commentators are now talking about ‘Truth to Power’. Leaders will need to share as much truth as they can within parameters of risk and not status or ego. The absence of information and feeling ‘in the dark’ reduces the confidence to act. Be transparent with vision, strategy, data, finances, implications, risks. Leaders cannot always be around to share the information especially in a hybrid environment, so it is important to do this systematically and at scale. Create information sharing and knowledge sharing environments and management systems.

As Louise Hay stated: ‘People are doing the best with what they know’ and ‘if they knew better, they’d do better’.

2. Capability

People are confident to take action when they trust themselves and their own knowledge, skills and process for execution. In a hybrid world where social learning, learning from colleagues sitting next to you and where waiting for the next training course is not always an option, the Learning and Development team and business leaders will need to provide the necessary knowledge and skills on an on-demand, asynchronous and in a personalised way. Organisations will need a coaching culture where leaders are proactive and agile in their support and responsiveness to the capability needs of the team. Being on the receiving end of great coaching will also teach employees to be great coaches too.

3. Authority

What are the rules? What is legal? Am I allowed to do this/ that? Permission to act needs to be very visible and overt. Bureaucracy, red tape, inconsistency and excessively complex processes of decision making is only made more challenging when the team of people are across multiple sites. Providing the team with clear descriptions of the Legal and risk framework will go some considerable way to reducing the fear. Adopting an agile and adaptive approach where people take action and apologise / learn later will further reduce that fear of failure and reprisals, Authority is real and perceived. Perception is a cultural thing.

4. Feedback

Feedback is the food of champions! It is also the food for empowerment. The more data I have about myself, my actions, behaviours, direct and indirect outcomes the more choices I have. Awareness drives understanding, choice, control and performance.

The things I am aware of I can control. The things I am unaware of control me.

Leaders would be well served to institutionalise a ‘Win, learn, Change’ culture where colleagues reflect on ‘what is working well’, what is not working that we can learn from’ and ‘what can we change’. Continued affirmation of the wins drives confidence whilst focusing on the learns and the changes drives proactivity, accountability, awareness, insight and ownership of issues. Leaders need to focus on coaching + feedback rather than being directive.  Being directive increases dependence.  Coaching drives independence. Once established the culture of feedback can and arguably must work both ways with juniors providing feedback to seniors.

5. Relationships

Everyone should feel empowered to make decisions for the good of the business, its employees, customers and society.  Why would you not want that? It’s difficult to provide that value living in splendid isolation.  Relationships are key and broker the development of interdependence fostered through individual empowerment and collaboration.

Underpinning relationships is:

  • Trust
  • Psychological safety
  • Respect for diversity

When this is achieved, we witness the behaviours of:

  • Collaboration
  • Networking
  • Ideation and creativity

Collective Empowerment

Strategies 1-4 create independence. It is the building of relationships, connections and belonging that builds interdependence – collective empowerment.

Empowerment is a cultural outcome. It depends on a particular leadership style adopted by the organisation from sales and marketing, operations, supply chain, manufacturing HR, IT and Finance.  Any business area that is disempowered by controlling directive leaders will create a bottle neck of decision making and action taking that will affect the rest of the organisation, it’s agility and delivery to customers. The C-Suite must explicitly align and communicate the empowerment leadership model to the team and role model the behaviours themselves. This needs to be met with a ‘ready’ workforce – ready to act, be entrepreneurial and innovative and needs to be reflected on recruitment, onboarding, KPI’s/ measurement, rewards and recognition.

Empowerment isn’t a sentence “you are empowered” but rather a culture borne from a leadership model and leadership capabilities.

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with Steve at steve.ellis@arcadiaconsulting.co.uk.

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2021 Trends in Learning and Development

2021 Trends in Learning and Development

Vincent Romano

Vincent Romano

Senior Consultant

Learning and development, like all other corporate functions, has experienced enormous upheaval since the pandemic struck. This has required a complete rethink, not only regarding the topics that organisations need delivered, but how these programs are structured, how they are delivered and how the role of the company’s leadership team in learning and development is viewed.

With all this disruption taking place it can be difficult to make sense of what is happening, especially as the pace of change has increased dramatically since the pandemic began with organisations consistently evolving and implementing new solutions to manage the change. Therefore, to establish what the latest trends and best practice in Learning, Arcadia surveyed a sample of our clients and our network of Associates, as well as conducting our own research and receiving input from our Partners and Consultants across our Global offices. Here is what we found –

The Role of the Business Leader

The role of the business leader is becoming increasingly important in all learning and development activities. We are used to leaders being involved as program champions to help kick off or close out longer, over arching programs by providing business insights, setting goals, and motivating the program participants. However, learning and development is receiving a much higher profile during the pandemic, particularly as it is often seen as a vehicle to help bring employees together and supporting entrenchment of the organisation’s culture.

As a result, business leaders are increasingly looked upon to role model capability and help embed a culture of continuous improvement. It is expected that leaders demonstrate that they are open and share how they too are evolving in their personal leadership style. Central to this, is the expectation that leaders should show their human sides, by sharing personal anecdotes that their teams can understand, empathise, and relate to.

Structure of Learning Programs

With increased focus on learning and development, there comes more scrutiny on the structure of programs to ensure they are a success. Learning programs cannot simply be a tick box exercise to ensure that organisations can be seen to be developing staff. Instead, learning programs must be structured to help create and support a culture of learning. They need to be more customised to the individual learner’s capabilities and they must provide practical opportunities to implement the skills learned – this is particularly important to younger generations of employees who are looking for hands-on opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities. We are also seeing learning outcomes being tied to tangible improvements in performance such as revenue growth and quality improvement or to employee satisfaction scores.

Meanwhile, there is a definite trend for learning to become more bite sized and modular based so that learners can consume the content anytime, anywhere. Typically, we are seeing learning programs being structured so that initially the learner reads and watches content or completes an assessment before moving into an instructor led program containing individual or group-based exercises, receives coaching and/or mentoring and then applies the skills learned with work based projects, simulations or case studies.

The Purpose of Training

Not only are leaders at the top expected to champion learning programs, but the purpose of the learning program also starts at the top. Increasingly we are seeing training programs being linked directly to the mission or the purpose of the organisation itself. Also, programs are expected to embody company values and will relate to the development of the core competencies identified by the organisation to achieve success. Specifically, we are seeing a focus on the development of digital competencies.

Meanwhile there is an increasing emphasis on learning outcomes that will increase productivity, particularly where there has been cost cutting measures implemented or budget freezes.

While learning programs are frequently quoted as one of the principal “use cases” for returning to the office, the pandemic has also led to a general renewed commitment to upskill or reskill employees. Learning is also being used as engagement tool, either to excite or indeed retain employees, which is a particular issue in the current climate as organisations battle “The Great Resign” where resignations are blighting attempts by companies to revive their businesses.

The Impact of Technology

The current pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on learning and how this is delivered. Technology has been central to this and has accelerated the use and impact of technology accordingly. Clearly technology has been an enabler of remote learning, but it has also enabled micro learning – where learning is delivered daily in modular, bite sized chunks.

Indeed, research has shown that microlearning has 17% more efficient knowledge transfer by focusing on the bare minimum learning. Even with Arcadia we have found technology indispensable as we quickly pivoted our programs to digital formats which has been typical across all training organisations converting traditional instructor led learning into online accessible modules.

Technology has also supported the gamification of training and interestingly, studies have shown that 100% of employees will undertake take the microlearning if there is a game involved. Meanwhile, other technological developments in learning include virtual or augmented reality to immerse the learner and adaptive learning, where the curricula unfolds differently depending on how the participant performs.

Learning Topics

Undoubtedly, we are experiencing a strong demand for learning and development solutions and given the wide variety of reasons for these demands, whether COVID-19 related, transformation based, or technology related, there is also a wide variety of topics that companies are requesting. Some of the programs are a continuation of trends we saw before the pandemic while some are a direct consequence of its affects.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Programs – this has probably been the area we have seen the greatest increase in demand. Unsurprisingly, the US and then UK have been the locations where we have seen the most requests, however this is making its way to Asia and increasingly is coming under into the spotlight. There is a realisation that DEI training will not be a quick fix and will need to form part of a broader culture change project. Therefore, such DEI topics are also making their way into the themes of other learning programs such as leadership or hybrid working solutions.

Leadership Development – this is taking various forms, from general High Potential Leadership Development Programs to Asian Leadership and Woman in Leadership programs. One very particular area which is refreshing to see is the demand for Women in Leadership programs specifically for STEMs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Hybrid Working – this is another topic that is in high demand, and again we are seeing interest levels increase in the Far East. Initially demand was in US an UK given these locations returned to the office sooner, while Asia is very much in the planning stages.  This topic also references how to collaborate with organisations and includes culture and wellbeing programs.

Change Management – given that so many companies are transforming themselves, there is a high demand for change management learning looking at everything from internal processes to the employee experience and the customer experience. On a related note, companies are increasingly conducting design thinking workshops or courses on innovation.

Resilience – predominantly because of the pandemic, resilience training has been growing in demand. This can also include including adaptivity, wellbeing, and mental fortitude topics.

Communication – this has been a staple of learning curricula for a long time whether this is presentation skills, personal branding, or executive presence programs. However, one of the most popular programs at Arcadia has been for Digital Presence learning as companies quickly pivoted to Zoom meetings. Meanwhile, we have also seen an increase in data driven story training programs.

Executive Coaching – although this could be defined as coaching in general as it is no longer only senior executives who are receiving coaching sessions. Meanwhile, as organisations seek to embed learning to ensure knowledge transfer and demonstration of skills, we are seeing coaching workshops become an integral part of wider overarching leadership programs and can be conducted on a one-to-one basis or as a “coaching circle” with a small group.

Strategic Narrative – these programs involve strategic thinking, aligning leadership teams and creating high performing executive teams. Again, demand for these programs are a consequence of organisations transforming themselves as a consequence of the pandemic.


The current global pandemic hijacked the business world and exposed it to major disruption and increasing the levels of uncertainty. We all had to quickly adapt to newer and challenging ways of working, mostly from the confines of our homes!

Four key trends, technologies, and strategies for to consider include:

Learning is Culture and Culture is Learning – learning is one of the main tools organisations are using to build culture, and this is being embedded top down, with leaders championing programs and programs reinforcing the mission and purpose of the organisation

Technology – while some countries are opening up, travel is still complicated to say the least. Tech enabled programs will continue to be a necessity while organisations are embracing more sophisticated uses of technology in all facets of programs

Leadership – probably the biggest demand we see is for leadership programs – whether that be at Executive levels, for High Potentials or for Women in Leadership and Asian Leaders Programs.

Change – the other main theme for programs is change related, whether instilling Agile methods of working, supporting innovative practices or creating change mindsets

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with Vincent at vincent.romano@arcadiaconsulting.com.

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High Performing Teams

High Performing Teams

Tom Forrest

Tom Forrest

Senior Consultant

Arcadia recently held the second in our three-part Webinar series on building Purpose & Potential. The topic last week was High Performing Teams (HPT), when Mark Weston and Mark Albas discussed the mindset and behavioural changes needed to drive alignment and high performance within an intact team.

The pandemic has massively affected businesses requiring significant changes to processes, systems and controls. To survive, organisations have had to be agile and pivot to new products and services, bringing in new hires and forming new teams. In a fractured work environment, this has increased the focus on how to align them and encourage the best performance.

The High Performing Teams Model

The HPT model is built on two Fundamental Characteristics – Purpose & Direction and Trust on which we can build the four pillars (Optimising Characteristics) of Communication, Collaboration, Conflict and Accountability. If an organisation sets the foundations in place and builds the optimising Characteristics, then the Results will follow.

Fundamental Characteristics

Purpose & Direction –what sort of team they want to be, what binds them together and what do they stand for.

Trust – this means both trust in each other as individuals and also in the team itself as a whole. Credibility, reliability and intimacy and (lack of) self-interest are all important.

Trust Builders

Credibility means more than having good credentials. Credibility is derived from what you know, and how well you communicate it – to the betterment of the team. 

By contrast, reliability typically has to do with actions. Reliability is grounded in consistency, predictability, and a feeling of familiarity. 

Intimacy refers to the safety that your team feel when entrusting you with something. It also refers to the depth of understanding you have of their motivations, needs, and values.

Self-orientation is most often seen as a significant opportunity for improvement. It is all about focus, more specifically, where your focus is – you or the team? To build trust, your focus needs to be on your team, minimising self-orientation. 

Optimising Characteristics

Communication – everyone has a different style of communicating and different preferences and styles. How you communicate clearly has a massive impact on your ability to build relationships.

Collaboration – here we talk about “Reciprocity Styles”, which includes Givers, Takers and Matchers. Ideally the organisations should move to a culture of giving where individuals put the other person’s needs first.

Conflict – although this characteristic seems counter-intuitive, without healthy conflict and debate a team will not innovate.

Accountability – ultimately this is the goal for every team where every individual in the team takes collective accountability. However, it is important to distinguish between responsibility and accountability.


If teams can unite under a common purpose, and individuals can put self-interest aside then the team can come together to develop the accelerators that achieve results. Ultimately, a sign of success is when daily disciplines are practiced effectively, and where the team take collective ownership for problems and challenges. By using the HPT model you can create a simple and sustainable framework for success, addressing each theme in turn.

If you would be interested in attending future events or would like further information on this topic please get in touch with either Tom at tom.forrest@arcadiaconsulting.com or Vincent at vincent.romano@arcadiaconsulting.com.

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Leadership Development for Emerging Leaders

Leadership Development for Emerging Leaders

Steve Ellis

Steve Ellis


Leadership development demands attention much earlier.

Why now?

Organisations need to move from survive to thrive. To do so they will need leaders and leadership. New hybrid working, change, productivity, global market shifts, net zero, D&I and continued technology demands strong leaders. The problem is that it seems organisations are late to the party and possibly inviting the wrong people. Despite increases in spending on corporate leadership programs in recent years, the quality, rigor, and investment for leadership efforts remain uneven across companies. High-performing companies outspend their competitors on leadership by almost four times (O’Leonard and Krider, Leadership Development Factbook 2014).

As organisations shift from a structured hierarchy to a network of teams, companies require different types of leaders with inclusion and collaboration capabilities. There is a stronger demand for people who can lead at all levels of the company. Companies in this environment are finding that they must identify potential leaders much earlier in their careers and accelerate their movement through the leadership ranks.

Flatter and more dispersed teams means companies need better strategies for developing leaders to perform both as individuals and in teams. Important to this effort is to think systematically about leadership. A portfolio approach that simply assembles a selection of offerings from different vendors is unlikely to promote consistency in leadership development or to ensure that future leaders receive the training they need to direct today’s team-focused organisations. Identifying and developing exceptional leaders require a far more disciplined process, including:

1.   The use of evidence and analytics to identify game-changers rather than relying on manager nominations.

2.   Expanding the use of 360 and psychometric tools to enable organisations to identify high-potential employees earlier in their careers and potential leaders around the world.

3.   Better use of leaders and emerging leaders to team with, mentor, reverse mentor and sponsor.

4.   End to end blended development learning solutions (on-line, face to face, assessment, on the job) that follows the career journey from recruitment, HiPo identification, succession planning, performance management.

5.   Comprehensive development of future leaders in advance of promotions rather than after them.

6.   Identification of key capabilities that are fit for the context .e.g. in 2021 – inclusive leadership, hybrid working, driving net zero, collaboration, leading change, developing confidence in others, innovation, driving digitisation, influencing skills, developing an agile learning culture.

When should future leaders be developed in leadership?

Many organisations provide individual contributors with technical or hard skills training but put off doing leadership or soft skills training until individuals are promoted into management.

Research from Zenger Folkman shows that training opportunities did not occur for many promoted into management until more than a decade after that promotion.

The Ashridge Management Index (AMI) 2012/13–1, carried out by Ashridge Business School, found that many businesses are failing to future-proof their leadership teams: 48% of managers say their organisation is not doing enough to develop the next generation of leaders.

“Talent management programmes and succession planning are essential. Without investment in developing the skills and experiences of younger managers it is hard to see how such organisations will continue to be successful. Businesses are at risk of holding back economic recovery by failing to do enough to develop the next generation of leaders.” says Viki Holton, Research Fellow at Ashridge Business School and the report’s co-author.

The assumptions behind the decision to hold off on leadership or soft skills training until people are in management positions are either that managers are in a better position to utilise and take advantage of that training or that it is not needed until then.

The difficulty is that when we promote individuals into managerial and leadership roles they can be overwhelmed by the new responsibilities and as such they lean on their individual contributor skills to get by. They can then fall into the trap of developing bad leadership habits which will only cost more time and budget to unlearn later.

The consensus amongst researchers, leaders and learners contend that the future leaders will need to balance the trends of humanity, technology and performance. The Davos Manifesto of 2020 now recognises the purpose of a company to serve not only its shareholders, but all its stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, local communities and society at large. To deliver this leadership must focus on soft skills, hard skills and technology. Those that manage this will deliver significantly more productivity and contribution than those with just soft skills or just hard skills.

What should future leaders be developed in?

Researchers and Leadership authors Zenger Folkman identified the impact of individual contributors who had both ‘hard skills’ as well as ‘soft skills’ The results below show the overall effectiveness ratings for leaders as the graph demonstrates, hard skills are more highly valued for individual contributors than soft skills. The more meaningful and much more substantial difference is between those who were in the top 25% on both skills.

Hard skills defined as:

  • technical expertise,
  • problem-solving ability,
  • drive for results,
  • and taking the initiative.

Soft skills were defined as:

  • ability to communicate,
  • relationship building,
  • coaching and supporting others,
  • development of colleagues,
  • and collaboration and teamwork.

In addition to this analysis, Zenger Folkman looked at the individual manager’s performance ranking on productivity and effort. When individual contributors were highly skilled at both, 91.6% of those individuals were given the top performance rating.


Organisations would be well served to invest in systematic leadership identification and development for high potential colleagues before they get promoted. Not only will this deliver productivity returns in their current role but reduce leadership development costs in the future and further aid in identification of the best leaders.

Using a robust 360 assessment and psychometrics will reduce bias and investing in the wrong talent or letting the best talent slip through the net.

HR and its role in the war on talent, the war on skills, wellbeing, inclusion and diversity, hybrid working, culture, organisational brand will be further enhanced by it’s reputation for developing leaders of the future.

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Leadership Alignment

Leadership Alignment

Vincent Romano

Vincent Romano

Senior Consultant

Recently, Arcadia co-hosted a Webinar with Elliott Scott HR Recruitment on the topic of Leadership Alignment featuring two of Arcadia’s Partners Mark Weston and Matt Lyon.

Given the current turmoil in the business world, leaders are facing a multitude of challenges, many of which we have never encountered before. Companies are being forced to pivot their businesses and fast forward plans to move online, while staff have had to move to a virtual way of working, turning home into office.

Leaders have had to reassess their business environment and consider whether the culture is appropriate for the new reality. Some of these challenges can be very emotive, and leadership teams have to make critical decisions, which can often be divisive. The companies that will be successful are the ones that have a leadership team united by a shared vision which is then shared across the whole organisation.

Stories and Behaviours

Matt explained that when he sees organizations that are fully aligned there are usually four elements present, divided into ‘Stories and Behaviors’. A fully aligned organization has a story of who they are, what the journey has been and where they want to go. They also have a set of clearly identifiable values.

Each individual needs to see their own story being encapsulated in the group story so that they see their own goals or objectives form part of the goals or objectives of the group story. When those two stories connect – when individuals can see their own story forming part of the group’s story – then we obtain a huge enabler to drive those goals and objectives.

When individuals are motivated they will choose a set of behaviors that will enable them to achieve those goals. But because individuals are also motivated to fit in within a group, they will behave as others do. This results in individual’s behaviors aligning with the group’s behaviors.

Therefore, to gain leadership alignment you must also have alignment in these stories and behaviors. The problem companies are facing currently is that with all the disruption to business plans, group behaviors no longer match the individuals behaviors, or the individual’s story doesn’t match the group story. Consequently, in the case of Leadership Alignment we need to start by changing the group story, and then take it to a wider employee audience who can adjust their own goals to fit in with the new version of the story, and buy in to the new vision.

Strategic Narrative

To achieve Leadership Alignment, Matt employs the “Strategic Narrative” model shown below. By completing each section of this Strategic Narrative model, we obtain a vehicle that we can easily cascade down through the organization.

1. Pride and Purpose

Initially, the leadership team has to decide upon a statement that best summarizes the purpose and overall reason for existing. This this can often be a long and difficult process as we need to consider everything the company is doing and then chunk it down in order to end up with a statement that is very easily communicated and that connects everyone in the leadership team. The danger is that if there are some leaders who don’t agree here, then the process can be very difficult and that individual may not stay through the journey. Therefore, it is essential to gain everyone’s commitment and ownership at this stage.

6. Destination

Matt jumped ahead to the sixth part of the model – Destination. The reason was because it is important to be clear on where the organization is going. The leadership team needs to have a conversation about the opportunities that are sitting within the organization in order to drive it to where they want to go. The destination needs to be motivating and it needs to be inspiring so that the rest of the people within the organization feel the need to want to get there.

2. Current Reality

This examines where we are today and identifies what key challenges are present through the entire organization, not just at the leadership level, and figures out what is holding it back.  Again, everyone in the organization needs to be able identify with these challenges so that they can say “yes, this is my experience, this is what frustrates me”. By doing this, the individual gains belief that the leader is on the same page.

3. Opportunity

In this section Matt explained that the leadership team needs to reframe the problems and challenges as opportunities. This itself is crucial shift in perspective for the leaders, as by doing this they are taking ownership of the problems. The leaders need to take whatever the current experience is and translate that into an opportunity, then all these opportunities need to be reframed into something more achievable that has a journey.

4. Journey

The journey has to have clarity on the strategies that we are going to pursue to help us turn the reality into an opportunity. These are the “Strategic Drivers”, which are usually one of three things –

  1. Efficiency drivers – these are things we need to fix or improve
  2. People issues – activities that will enable the people within the organization to be more effective
  3. Creativity/innovation drivers – what is it that the organisation doesn’t have that we need to create or obtain

By identifying these Strategic Drivers, the leadership creates clarity, creates believability and they connect with the individuals.

5. Changes

At every level of the organisation we are expecting change – change in mindset, change in competencies and change in behaviors. People need to know what the new behaviors are and everyone needs to be accountable for these new behaviors. We need to be able to articulate what needs to change at a behavioral level and what mindsets we need to have.


Most importantly, the leadership team needs to know that it starts with them and that they are going to drive this. During the process the leaders need to have some vulnerability as they will need to be able discuss what things didn’t work, as well as sharing the successes. And by being transparent they build believability in the audience. Mark subsequently described some of the Leadership Mindsets that may be required to help enable success in the journey – Leadership Care, Growth Mindset, Wellbeing, Thriving Under Pressure, Resilience and High Performing Teams.

If you would be interested in attending future events or would like further information on this topic please get in touch with either Tom at tom.forrest@arcadiaconsulting.com or Vincent at vincent.romano@arcadiaconsulting.com.

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Executive Presence – Why is it Important?

Executive Presence – Why is it Important?

Vivian Tam

Vivian Tam

Principal Consultant

The pandemic caused a rapid shift from the office to virtual working, in some instances, overnight. The different working environment required leaders to adopt a new mindset and skillset to adapt to the technology innovation and continuous change. The last year has proven that the ability to learn, lead and navigate a team through change is essential for leaders.

We may have become comfortable with remote working but some elements of the office have been more challenging to replicate over a Zoom or Teams call, particularly communication. It can be noticeably harder to convey ideas, make an impact and build relationships over the internet. Perhaps our social fear of the virtual world is as powerful as Godzilla.

However, it is possible to do all of the above remotely and thrive amidst the uncertainties of outside restrictions. Having a strong online presence will empower you to build relationships, motivate your team, engage clients, make revenue and strengthen your business.

According to a 2017 study by Hainan Provincial Education Science Planning Project, 34.65% of students believed they lacked confidence in the workplace; 63.85% of the students thought that public speaking and eloquence training was related to confidence in the workplace. Data from more than 10,000 people showed that relationships and personal image accounted for 85% of success. Authoritative survey showed that nearly 90% of business managers have some degree of speech fear and nervousness, especially in the virtual environment.

Executive Presence is often described as having confidence and grace under fire. People with presence exert gravitas and tend to be more influential, inspiring and motivational. The difference is a strength of character built on a resourceful internal mindset. Arcadia’s “Executive Presence” programme helps attendees to harness their executive presence and step more easily into leadership roles in the virtual, hybrid and office environment.

Clinical Professor of Leadership at the Kellogg School of Management, Brooke Vuckovic, stated “Executive presence is equal to credibility plus ease, all divided by ego. What executive presence does is it measures your capacity to translate out all your creativity, all your good ideas, all of your deep expertise.”

As Architects of Change, Arcadia Consulting has developed a unique S.A.F.E Meta Model and a “Three-step” strategy to implement the Executive Presence program based on its four core services: mindset, communication, leadership, and organizational Intelligence.

S.A.F.E. Meta Model

S (State): Mastering personal expertise and learning how to maintain a professional image of one’s personality, displaying a confident and assertive personality in any environment

A (Anchor): Control the topic direction and gain the approval of senior executives through body language and word skills

F (Flex): mobilize their own emotions and enhance cross-cultural communication ability

E (Engage): Attraction, audience identity, the TED talk approach

"Three-step" Strategy

  1. First build personal style to form affinity and credibility
  2. Grow and become a confident communication
  3. Leave a good influence on customers and promote the next collaboration


The last year has proven that every business needs an online presence. How can executives empower their teams to collaborate? How can employees enhance their self-belief and become influential? Executive presence is essential to stay relevant and connected to your colleagues, team, and clients. Future-proof your business by establishing yourself online. It’ll not only help you through current changes, but it’ll also help to engage your team, your clients and build your credibility no matter if you’re meeting in person or on Zoom.

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Building your “Organisational IQ”

Building your “Organisational IQ”

Matt Lyon

Matt Lyon

Head of Consulting and Global Partner

You know that feeling when someone uses a phrase that so perfectly connects so many concepts together for you that, when you’re later asked to define it, you find yourself using the exact same words in the definition?

That phrase for me was “Organisational IQ.

12 years ago, a senior leader who had recently joined a large professional services firm said, “I’m still building my Organisational IQ” …and it instantly made perfect sense to me.

At the time they defined it using two questions:

“Do you know what we do as an organisation?”

“Who do you know that you could reach out to?”

I have later found that other people also use the phrase more holistically to mean the collective knowledge of the organisation, the formal and the informal systems and networks that connect people to the information, knowledge and wisdom contained therein. 

Why does Organisational IQ matter?

As a leader, why should you encourage people to focus on their Organisational IQ?

Individuals: For anyone looking to take the next step in their career, whether you are a high-potential contributor or an existing leader, it is important to broaden your strategic understanding outside of your silo and build your own network and visibility.

Teams: Teams with higher Organisational IQ perform better, have better information transfer between team members and collaborate more seamlessly.

Organisations: If culture is defined as “the way we do things around here,” then Organisational IQ is how we transfer those written and unwritten rules throughout the organisation. If we want to drive change effectively, we need to master the speed and connectedness of that system to our advantage.

What are the elements of Organisational IQ?

Going back to the original two questions from that senior leader, we can articulate the elements of Organisational IQ as follows:

1) What do you know about what the organisation does, outside of your area of expertise?

(e.g., do you know what the other divisions actually do, or that we have an office in Cambodia, or that there is a special product set in Malaysia, that someone recently created a proprietary solution in the London office, or New York has built a new platform that clients love, etc.?)

2) Who do you know that you could reach out to, if needed?

(e.g., do you have a relationship in New York you could call up to discuss the platform, who could connect you with someone in Malaysia, etc.? You don’t need all the details about everyone… you just need the extended intelligence built into your network.)

…or more simply put:

Organisational IQ =  What We Do  +  Who You Know

Over the years we at Arcadia we have worked with clients around their Organisational IQ and, in addition to the above two factors, we have started to include a third element:

3) Who knows you? …and what do they know you for?

For the system to work you also need to contribute to it, not just take from it.  If you think about this from the perspective of other stakeholders, you could ask: How many people would include you in their Organisational IQ? What value do you offer the wider organisation? How have you shared that with others and what would they reach out to you for?

This third element can amplify (or in its absence, negate) the previous two elements.

In other words, the “who knows you” element is a multiplier:

Organisational IQ =  (What We Do  +  Who You Know) Who Knows You

Tips to Build your own Organisational IQ:

  • Be “intellectually curious and intellectually generous” (ht: Scott Clark). Be fascinated by what other people do, don’t hesitate to take an opportunity to understand their world better – but also be generous with your own information and time, find more opportunities to give than to take.
  • Figure out what you offer the collective IQ and make sure you present your strengths back to the system. Be clear “What do you want to be known for?”
  • Work smarter not harder – find the “super-connectors” in your organisation, these are the natural networkers – it’s an impossible task to maintain relationships with everyone so choose wisely.
  • Remember relationships are like bank accounts, at the beginning we can only withdraw what we deposit, so how are you adding to your relationship balance. If you don’t make a deposit in an account for a long time it will eventually be shut down, and once shut they are much harder to open again.

As a final thought, just like IQ can be enhanced through mental practice, so too is there an opportunity to build your Organisational IQ every day.

I feel very strongly that as new people join our team across the globe, bringing their diversity of experience and backgrounds, as we solve new people problems for clients and as we seek to drive change in our own organisation and for others, I am constantly reminded to be like that senior leader I met 12 years ago and say, “I’m still building my Arcadia IQ.”

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Be the Change

Be the Change

Andy Wolfe

Andy Wolfe

Co-Founder and Global Partner

How transforming to and immersion in sustainable leadership can drive profits with purpose and positively impact our planet and our people. 

How it started…

I was on a call a few months ago with the other partners in our business when a realisation of a need to focus on more purposeful leadership started in earnest for me. My colleague Dan Spira, Managing Partner of our North America business, shared a dream to be at the solar eclipse in the Antarctic later this year in November and I realised I knew someone who could potentially help turn that dream into a reality. I contacted Petrina Dabrowski and together with Dan Spira we have developed the ‘Arcadia Journey’ idea…

The Idea

“Imagine if we could get a group of likeminded senior business leaders to join us on an expedition and sail into the Antarctic for 10 days, immersing ourselves in the topic of Sustainable Leadership while devising a plan to not just change ourselves but to influence a world of change in business. An ultimate goal of making business a force for good. How can we get the right people onto this expedition, in an unknown world of COVID-19 and brainstorm this kind of change?”

Around this time, by sheer coincidence, one of my clients and good friends Des O’Connor, CEO of Ardonagh Global Partners, a multibillion Insurance Conglomerate asked me how he could “Immerse himself in Sustainability” and enhance his already exciting and purposeful leadership style for the better. Stanley Nyoni, a colleague in our EMEA business, introduced the fact that Sustainability in retro-fit is expensive and we need influential leaders to lead the way forward. I contacted Gabriella Daroczi, a passionate vegan leader and marketing guru about her studies at The Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership and we discussed this movement to the future.

Who knows where “the journey” will take us but at least we are on our way

Profits with Purpose

Businesses today face environmental and social challenges that threaten their potential to sustain growth. Building a resilient business is more and more dependent on being prepared for the impact of nonfinancial factors, including those related to environmental, social, and governance issues.

In today’s business landscape, it’s no longer sufficient for organisations to simply acknowledge global sustainability challenges set out in the Sustainable Development Goals – they’re expected to lead the way through them!

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership points out how businesses are perfectly placed to deliver sustainability ambitions. There are three driving forces behind rewiring our economy and a few examples below show how all of these forces have already shifted towards a sustainable future – and why sustainable leadership is not optional, but crucial for business.

1. Governments STEER the economy, providing the signals and conditions necessary to adjust economic and social behaviour.

In the area of social sustainability, a great example on how businesses can influence government decisions is the inspiring story of Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. He took on Indiana’s Anti-LGBT Law by threatening to scale back his company’s investment in the state and announced plans to cancel all Salesforce programs that would require customers or employees to travel to Indiana. He also offered relocation packages to Salesforce employees in Indiana who wanted to transfer elsewhere. After a week of backlash, Indiana approved a revised version of the measure, this time explicitly banning businesses from refusing service because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This is what social sustainability is about – overcoming the systematic conditions that undermine people’s capacity to meet their needs.

2. Finance provides the economy’s FUEL, feeding capital towards economic and social activities that support the future we want, and away from activities that do not.

The world’s biggest asset manager BlackRock, worth $7 trillion, made climate change central to its investment strategy for 2021, giving a clear indication on the shift in their future investments. It is estimated that the sustainable investment (ESG) Market has more than doubled from 2012 to 2018, rising from $13.3 trillion to $30.7 trillion. By taking leadership, Blackrock help grow this market while solving some of society’s most intractable problems.

3. Business is the ENGINE of our economy. Business has a global reach, entrepreneurial dynamism, and the capacity for innovation. Business has the power to change government, employee and consumer behaviour.

Having a CSR page on a company’s website is no longer sufficient. Leaders simply cannot expect to build a business with longevity and resilience if they don’t embed sustainability in everything they do. This is now a precondition for any successful company. If organisations do not move to a more responsible, sustainable, and equitable way of doing business, consequences will make the coronavirus pandemic look like a dress rehearsal.

Fortunately, we now have plenty of success stories on businesses with leaders who demonstrate a sustainability mindset. The benefits to these organisations include reduced costs, top talent attraction and retention, access to new markets and innovation acceleration. Ultimately, a sustainable business model drives improved business performance – and these are the kinds of companies that investors and consumers’ reward.

The book Green Giants: How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability Into Billion-Dollar Businesses  lists nine different companies, such as Ikea, Natura, Tesla, and Unilever, all worth at least $1 billion, that prioritise sustainability and social responsibility. These are great examples of companies outperforming solely profit-oriented competitors while being motivated by idealistic goals.  

Sustainable leadership

At the end of the day, people will follow you or people will be energised by you if they buy into your vision or purpose. So, the most important thing is to be true to yourself. That's why I would say to be a great leader - you, first and foremost, must be a great human being.

Under Polman’s stewardship as CEO for 10 years, Unilever implemented its ambitious Sustainable Living Plan which aimed to double its growth, halve its environmental impact, and triple its social impact. The plan succeeded, with Unilever’s annual sales rising from $38 billion to more than $60 billion.

Businesses thrive when they serve all their stakeholders: citizens, employees, suppliers, partners, those who make up the extended value chain. When you make your business relevant to the needs of the communities and societies you serve, then everyone benefits, including shareholders.

Accountability for taking meaningful action must start at the top, we need authentic and caring leaders who truly believe in making this world a better place. Window-dressing or greenwashing will rightly be exposed for what it is, a PR stunt that does nothing to tackle the underlying issues. It can take 20 years to build a brand, but 5 minutes to destroy it!

Leaders of sustainable businesses have learned how to be an effective change agent, overcome barriers to change, obtain networking support and embed sustainability into their business plans.

Whilst sustainability leaders are equipped with knowledge around social and climate challenges, they also must develop key characteristics – such as innovative approach, systematic understanding, emotional intelligence, and values orientation – to be able to respond to these challenges.

In the public eye, large corporations are often viewed as being part of the climate and social problem. Successful sustainability leaders prove they are the force for good and their business is part of the solution, not the problem.

Be the catalyst for change and come immerse with us.

Be empowered and take the lead in tackling sustainability challenges and ignite your response, by joining a once-in-a-lifetime transformational journey for sustainable leadership. 

Come onboard at: https://journey.arcadiaconsulting.com/ 

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