Monday, May 24, 2021

Good morning. Is the U.S. suffering from a labor shortage? If so, capitalism has an answer

Written by David Leonhardt

A McDonald’s in Pennsylvania offering a hiring bonus.Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

The baguette solution

The chief executive of Domino’s Pizza has complained that the company can’t hire enough drivers. Lyft and Uber claim to have a similar problem. A McDonald’s franchise in Florida offered $50 to anybody willing to show up for an interview. And some fast-food outlets have hung signs in their windows saying, “No one wants to work anymore.”

The idea that the United States suffers from a labor shortage is fast becoming conventional wisdom. But before you accept the idea, it’s worth taking a few minutes to think it through.

Once you do, you may realize that the labor shortage is more myth than reality.

Econ 101

Let’s start with some basic economics. The U.S. is a capitalist country, and one of the beauties of capitalism is its mechanism for dealing with shortages. In a communist system, people must wait in long lines when there is more demand than supply for an item. That’s an actual shortage. In a capitalist economy, however, there is a ready solution.

The company or person providing the item raises its price. Doing so causes other providers to see an opportunity for profit and enter the market, increasing supply. To take a hypothetical example, a shortage of baguettes in a town will lead to higher prices, which will in turn cause more local bakeries to begin making their own baguettes (and also cause some families to choose other forms of starch). Suddenly, the baguette shortage is no more.

Human labor is not the same thing as a baguette, but the fundamental idea is similar: In a market economy, both labor and baguettes are products with fluctuating prices.

When a company is struggling to find enough labor, it can solve the problem by offering to pay a higher price for that labor — also known as higher wages. More workers will then enter the labor market. Suddenly, the labor shortage will be no more.

A job fair in Orlando, Fla., this month.Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket, via Getty Images

One of the few ways to have a true labor shortage in a capitalist economy is for workers to be demanding wages so high that businesses cannot stay afloat while paying those wages. But there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the U.S. economy does not suffer from that problem.

If anything, wages today are historically low. They have been growing slowly for decades for every income group other than the affluent. As a share of gross domestic product, worker compensation is lower than at any point in the second half of the 20th century. Two main causes are corporate consolidation and shrinking labor unions, which together have given employers more workplace power and employees less of it.

Just as telling as the wage data, the share of working-age Americans who are in fact working has declined in recent decades. The country now has the equivalent of a large group of bakeries that are not making baguettes but would do so if it were more lucrative — a pool of would-be workers, sitting on the sidelines of the labor market.

Corporate profits, on the other hand, have been rising rapidly and now make up a larger share of G.D.P. than in previous decades. As a result, most companies can afford to respond to a growing economy by raising wages and continuing to make profits, albeit perhaps not the unusually generous profits they have been enjoying.

By The New York Times | Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Sure enough, some companies have responded to the alleged labor shortage by doing exactly this. Bank of America announced Tuesday that it would raise its minimum hourly wage to $25 and insist that contractors pay at least $15 an hour. Other companies that have recently announced pay increases include Amazon, Chipotle, Costco, McDonald’s, Walmart, J.P. Morgan Chase and Sheetz convenience stores.

Low wages seem normal

Why the continuing complaints about a labor shortage, then?

They are not totally misguided. For one thing, some Americans appear to have temporarily dropped out of the labor force because of Covid-19. Some high-skill industries may also be suffering from a true lack of qualified workers, and some small businesses may not be able to absorb higher wages. Finally, there is a rollicking partisan debate about whether expanded jobless benefits during the pandemic have caused workers to opt out.

For now, some combination of these forces — together with a rebounding economy — has created the impression of labor shortages. But companies have an easy way to solve the problem: Pay more.

That so many are complaining about the situation is not a sign that something is wrong with the American economy. It is a sign that corporate executives have grown so accustomed to a low-wage economy that many believe anything else is unnatural.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Here Are 5 Financial Reports You Should Be Running

Written by: Mary Ellen Biery
Former Contributor
Sageworks Stats
Contributor Group

Anyone who has ever had or been around a child for several years has experienced that “When did this child get so grown up?” feeling. Days filled with changing diapers, feeding, clothing and carting around children can make it easy to miss the major changes they’re slowly undergoing. Before you know it, you’re looking at a photo and saying, “Wow, that’s no longer a baby/toddler/little boy or girl/adolescent.”

It’s one reason school pictures and well-child checkups are still important rites of passage for many families. They give much-needed perspective on the child’s overall growth and development.

Business owners, too, can be so busy running their “baby” – securing customers for the business, filling orders, hiring and handling day-to-day crises – that major changes can sneak up on them if they’re not careful. Fast-growing companies, for example, can be growing sales at profitable margins, but if customers aren’t paying on time, the firm can run into a cash crunch and fail. “Even though that seems super obvious, I’ve seen really intelligent, great business people fall into that trap,” says Brian Hamilton, chairman and founder of Sageworks, a financial information company.

Here are five key financial reports that can give business owners valuable perspective on the growth and development of their businesses. Owners should run and review these reports periodically – perhaps with their accountant, who can offer advice on improving financials. The first three reports – collectively known as financial statements -- are critical to seeing the big picture of your business, Hamilton notes. “As a business owner, at a basic level you want to know what the cash is going to be in the business, what the profit is, what the revenue’s going to be, can you pay your bills and can you expand, and the only way to do that is to look at your financial statements,” he says.

P&L – The income statement, also known as the profit and loss statement, or P&L, shows revenues generated during a specific period, the costs incurred to generate those revenues and the profits or losses that result. These numbers will influence your marketing efforts, your pricing and your expense management.

Balance Sheet – The balance sheet shows a financial picture of a business as of a specific date. It runs down the assets (what the company owns), its liabilities (what it owes) and the difference between those two, or the company’s equity. Some key line items on the balance sheet include: cash, accounts receivable, inventory, accounts payable and (if you have debt) the portion of long-term debt that is due this year and the balance of any short-term loans (usually secured by accounts receivable and inventory). 

Statement of Cash Flows – This financial statement blends information from both the income statement and the balance sheet to give a picture of how cash is going into and out of a business. For a business owner, the “cash flow from operations” line is one of the most important across all financial statements. It shows over the period listed the net difference of cash that came in and cash that went out on an operating level. “In my experience working with companies in banking and consulting, I find that most business owners typically struggle to get a strong handle on their cash flow,” Hamilton says. “You don’t want to be worrying about paying the next bill. You want to be focused on growing the business.” Looking regularly at cash flow from operations gives better perspective on the health of the business, allowing owners to concentrate on how to improve results.

Net Profit Margin over Time – Tracking net profit margin over several quarters and years can help owners manage pricing, expenses and sales efforts. It shows how many cents in profit are generated by every dollar of sales, and it can vary from season to season and from industry to industry. As a result, it’s most useful to compare a business’s margin to that of industry peers or to itself over several periods. For example, new car dealers have much thinner net profit margins (1.8 percent in 2016 and 1.6 percent in 2017, based on a preliminary estimate from Sageworks) than those of management consultants (12.3 percent in 2016 and 12.4 percent in 2017, based on a preliminary estimate).

AR Days vs. AP DaysAccounts Receivable Days (AR Days) is the number of days until a company gets paid for its goods or services. (The ratio can be calculated by dividing the period-ending balance of accounts receivable by revenue for that period, then multiplying the result by the number of days in the period). Looking at that ratio over several periods can indicate whether receivables are piling up faster than sales or faster than the company’s ability to collect. You can also compare that ratio to Accounts Payable Days (calculated by dividing the period-ending balance of accounts payable by the period’s cost of goods sold, multiplied by the number of days in the period). AP Days indicates how long it’s taking the business to pay suppliers, so like AR Days, it has a major influence on the company’s cash situation. Like other financial ratios, both AR Days and AP Days can vary widely by industry. For example, management consultants’ average AR Days for 2016 was 43.6, while it was 10.4 for new car dealers. As a result, looking at the ratios over time and comparing them to peers is most useful.

At best, running these reports will confirm that everything is running smoothly in your business, just as a well visit to the doctor may confirm that a child's on the right growth trajectory. At worst, compiling the reports will allow you to identify significant challenges before it's too late to turn the business around.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Research: Adding Women to the C-Suite Changes How Companies Think

Writte by:  

Research has shown that firms with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences — among many other benefits. And of course, there is a clear moral argument for increasing diversity among top management teams (TMTs). But when it comes to explaining why having more female executives is associated with better business outcomes, and what specific mechanisms cause those positive changes, existing research is much more limited.

We set out to explore these questions by examining exactly how firms changed their strategic approach to innovation after appointing female executives. We tracked appointments of male and female executives and analyzed R&D expenses, merger and acquisition (M&A) rates, and the content of letters to shareholders for 163 multinational companies over 13 years to determine how these firms’ long-term strategies shifted after women joined their TMTs.

As leaders in the European market, the firms we analyzed were all actively involved in activities associated with strategic innovation (e.g., technology-based M&A and internal R&D) during the observation period — but we found that their approaches to those initiatives varied significantly. Specifically, we were able to identify three distinct trends around shifts in firms’ strategic thinking following the appointment of female executives:

1. Firms became more open to change and less open to risk

First, we found that after women joined the C-suite, firms became both more open to change and less risk-seeking. In other words, these organizations increasingly embraced transformation while seeking to reduce the risks associated with it.

To quantify these subtle cognitive shifts, we first conducted a linguistic analysis of changes in company documents issued by the TMT. We used a standard word categorization methodology that grouped terms like “bold,” “venture,” and “chance” as likely reflecting a greater propensity for risk-taking, while terms such as “create,” “transform,” and “launch” indicated more openness to change. We found that after appointing women to the C-suite, the frequency of terms in company communications that indicated a propensity for risk-taking decreased by 14%, while the frequency of terms suggesting openness to change increased by 10%.

This suggests that adding women to the C-suite does not simply bring new perspectives to the top management team — it shifts how the TMT thinks. Our research indicates that female executives don’t just offer specific new ideas to the team; their presence actually makes the TMT collectively more open to change and less comfortable with risk-taking. And as we discuss below, this mindset shift was reflected in tangible changes to how these firms made key strategic decisions.

2. Firms shifted focus from M&A to R&D

Specifically, we observed that when TMTs added female executives, they gradually shifted from a knowledge-buying strategy focused on M&As — which could be described as a more traditionally masculine, proactive approach — towards a knowledge-building strategy focused on internal R&D, which could be described as a more traditionally feminine, collaborative approach.

Our analysis suggests that this shift was a direct result of firms’ increasing aversion to risk, as we found that when a TMT experienced a one standard deviation increase in propensity for risk-taking, the likelihood of doing an additional M&A the following year increased, on average, by 10%, while TMTs that became less open to taking risks were significantly less likely to engage in M&A activity. Conversely, we found that after women were appointed to senior positions and firms began to exhibit higher levels of both openness to change and aversion to risk, firms reported an average 1.1% increase in R&D investments — and the average total R&D investment of the companies in our sample was $6,538 million, so a 1.1% increase is substantial.

3. The impact of female appointments was greater when women were well-integrated into the TMT.

Finally, we found that the more effectively female executives were able to integrate into the TMT, the greater the impact they were likely to have on its decision-making. There are two key factors that can influence this:

  • Whether she’s the only woman: We found that adding female executives to the TMT only actually changed C-suite thinking in cases where the executive team already had at least one woman. This may be because teams that already had a woman in the C-suite were more comfortable working with and including female executives, reducing the obstacles facing new female appointees.
  • Whether she’s one of many new appointees: We also found that larger shifts in thinking occurred when the new female executives were part of a smaller cohort of new appointees. In other words, if a firm promoted 10 men and 2 women to senior roles, we would see less of an impact than if a firm promoted 5 men and 1 woman. This could be because incumbent senior managers may feel more threatened when a larger group is promoted into their midst, leading them to be less trustful and less welcoming of the newcomers, and thus limiting new executives’ ability to contribute effectively.

Importantly, we measured all of these metrics both before and a full year after female executives were appointed to the TMT. This ensured that we were actually observing the effect of adding women to the C-suite, as opposed to simply documenting trends that were already in play before the addition of the female executives. We also controlled for other factors that may have correlated with changes in C-suite makeup, such as product strategy, R&D investment levels, and female board representation, to isolate just the effects of adding women to the TMT.

Why Is Having Women in the C-Suite So Impactful?

While our study focused simply on demonstrating these causal relationships, there are a few potential hypotheses we can offer based on prior research that could start to explain the root causes behind our findings.

First, a look at many women’s paths to executive positions sheds some light on why these leaders might simultaneously court change and avoid risk. To advance to the highest corporate levels, many women need to walk a difficult tightrope: They often learn to stand out by promoting novel strategies in an effort to overcome stereotypes of timidness, but at the same time, the hyper-visibility that comes with being the only one of an underrepresented group drastically increases the professional costs of making mistakes, and so they learn to carefully weigh the benefits of their innovative proposals with the risks of potential failure. Based on this common experience, one could expect TMTs to become more focused on balancing innovation with risk mitigation as more women join their ranks.

In addition, prior research suggests that female executives are likely to care less about tradition and are more open to challenging the status quo than their male counterparts. Behavioral psychology has found that these sorts of attitudes fundamentally increase others’ receptiveness to change, and so it would make sense that as more women are appointed to executive teams, it could trigger more open-mindedness in existing TMT members.

Similarly, if the individual women entering the TMT are on average more risk-averse (as studies suggest is often the case), their presence could cause the entire team to become more cautious. When an individual who seems more risk-averse enters a group, research has found that it can cause other group members to believe that the group as a whole is more risk-averse than it actually is, which can in turn lead everyone to become less open to risk.

Finally, it’s also possible that these changes are simply the direct result of increasing diversity in the TMT. Research suggests that having more diverse perspectives to weigh in on key decisions can make a group more open to change, and more likely to see change as feasible. At the same time, having a wider range of opinions to consider often slows down decision-making, decreasing the chances that the group will make rash or risky decisions.

The Power of Patterns

Of course, the trends we’ve identified are by no means a hard-and-fast rule. There are a number of famous examples of women-led companies that prioritized M&A over R&D, and certainly promoting women to the C-suite is no guarantee that a firm will invest more in R&D or avoid M&A opportunities.

But because our analysis is based on a comprehensive look at all TMT appointments (not just CEOs) across more than 150 multinational firms, we’ve been able to identify patterns that may not be obvious when thinking about singular, highly-visible female CEO appointments. While there are plenty of well-known female leaders who exemplify the patterns we found — Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Lisa Su of AMD, and Susan Wojcicki of Google and YouTube, for example, are all known for being catalysts for internal change and innovation — many of the executives in our study are not household names. The scope of our analysis allows us to refocus the conversation from the impressive achievements (or notable failures) of individual female leaders to the broader impact of gender equity in the C-suite.

Furthermore, while our study focused solely on how firms change when women join the TMT and did not include information about the impact of other forms of diversity, we would expect to see similar findings for members of other underrepresented groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities. Research suggests that the career trajectories of these executives have much in common with those of women who make it to the top, and so while it is outside the scope of our current work, we wouldn’t be surprised to see similar patterns for TMTs that add members from any underrepresented group.


Despite numerous studies linking greater representation of women in the C-suite to positive firm outcomes, the mechanisms driving those changes have largely remained unclear. Our study begins to explore those mechanisms, finding that when women are appointed to the C-suite, they catalyze fundamental shifts in the top management team’s risk tolerance, openness to change, and focus on M&As versus R&D. To be clear, we make no claim as to whether these shifts are intrinsically “better” — rather, our research aims simply to shed light on exactly how the integration of female leaders at the highest levels of an organization impacts its approach to innovation, and ultimately suggests that including more women in executive decision-making may lead firms to consider a wider variety of value creation strategies.

Corinne Post is a professor of management in Lehigh University’s College of Business (USA). Her research examines the role of diversity as enabler or impediment to group and organizational performance and the mechanisms underlying gender and racial/ethnic differences in career trajectories and outcomes.

Boris Lokshin is associate professor at the department of Organization, Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Maastricht University. His research deals with topics at the intersection of fields of strategic management, innovation and entrepreneurship and has appeared in the leading academic journals.

Christophe Boone is a professor of organization theory and behavior at the Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Antwerp (Belgium). His research focuses on the dynamics of organizational populations in local communities, the antecedents and consequences of team and organizational diversity, CEO values and cognition, and the neuroeconomics of decision making.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Top 5 Habits of Peak Performing Entrepreneurs

Written by: Farrah E Smith
Owner of Farrah Smith Coaching

Follow these tips for enhancing your performance.

The world is abundant with many accomplished entrepreneurs, but not all achieve advanced levels of achievement. So, what sets individuals who reach their professional summit apart from those who get stuck in the land of mainstream success?

When you look at professionals thriving within their enterprises, you will find certain similarities. They are the individuals with clarity, routines, boundaries and the right mindset to become the leaders we admire. They are the ones who work smarter, not harder. If you want to grow as an entrepreneur, and reach the top of your game, then here are five proven high-performance habits you can incorporate into your life.

1. Plan, prioritize and set clear boundaries

One distinct characteristic of the leaders we most admire is that they are clear on their vision and remain aligned with their core purpose and mission at all times. Before starting each morning, they reflect and understand what needs to get done and are driven by why it matters.

These influential trailblazers also spend most of their day producing high-quality outputs towards achieving their primary goal instead of wasting precious time on basic tasks and activities. While working on the fundamentals is OK, it won't be sufficient to penetrate your next level of success.

When you prioritize your schedule according to the return on investment for each item on your to-do list, you will see exponential growth in what you produce and how you advance. There is a finite number of hours in a day, and you want to spend them on your top priorities.

It may sound surprising, but the most prospering people in the world say "no" more than they say "yes," realizing that when you say "yes" to one thing, you are essentially saying "no" to something else. By eliminating inconsequential things from your calendar, you can invest your time in what truly matters, i.e. opportunities that serve your purpose and move you towards your professional goal.

Stopping and reflecting is also integral to entrepreneurial success, and those people who are firmly on the path to greatness always schedule a time to review their progress. At the end of each week, evaluate your productivity and assess where you could be more efficient, more effective and get better results. There is always room for improvement, even when you are a high performer.

2. Actively safeguard health and spawn energy

It's not just physical athletes that need to care for their bodies. Peak performing entrepreneurs know that you need high levels of energy for continual and optimal execution. The more stamina and vitality a person has, the more likely it is they will reach the top level of their respective field.

You can still attain a certain level of success despite running your body into the ground, eating unhealthy food, sitting stagnant at your desk for hours on end, overindulging on caffeine and grinding until you collapse. But you will never achieve sustained levels of progress, find happiness, and you definitely won't take your business to the next level.

To see the apex of achievement, like those entrepreneurs you revere, you need to adopt the same approach by treating your body and mind with the care it needs and deserves. This involves healthy food choices, staying hydrated, exercising and making time for active recovery.

Burnout is one of the top threats to your success. If you don't timetable breaks throughout your day and give yourself the fuel you need to show up as your best self, it will be challenging, if not impossible, to get to the next level of accomplishment.

One of the most impactful ways to increase your productivity is to schedule breaks every 50-90 minutes to recharge and reset. Set an alarm on your phone as a prompt to stand up, stretch, move your body, give your eyes a break from the screen, drink water and take a few deep breaths. These simple but essential actions can significantly improve focus, boost cognitive performance and rejuvenate energy levels.

Remember, before you re-engage, recall to mind your purpose and intention. It will increase your motivation and ignite your enthusiasm for your next task. All high performers master their transitions, so they not only keep up their momentum, but they also have the energy and continued zest for their personal life at the end of the day.

3. Always make an effort to grow and improve

Those people who are determined to excel professionally don't simply rely on their innate strengths. They continue to learn, develop, and cultivate new skills because they understand that proficiency in specific areas of expertise is crucial for growth and success.

Determine what critical skills you deem necessary to triumph in your career and commit to actively developing them. Starting with the most important or valuable trait, set small goals and stretch goals, complete with dates and timelines, to become more competent in your abilities. For example, if you need to develop your proficiency with public speaking, your first objective might be to join Toastmasters to become a better communicator. Your stretch goal could be to land a TED talk, and your ultimate goal to secure paid speaking opportunities.

Through raising your performance with a deliberate plan and decisive purpose, you can increase the levels of difficulty in your desired skill until you reach a point of mastery. By doing this, you can truly set yourself apart from others in your line of business and distinguish yourself from any competition.

4. Honor the struggle, embrace fear and accept uncertainty

There's no doubt about it. Uncertainty can be uncomfortable. We are wired to want control of our environment to protect ourselves from insecurity and danger. But the most successful people push themselves to venture outside of their comfort zone. The unknown is where you must go to reach new heights as an individual and uncover true victory within your enterprise.

When you foster a mindset that setbacks, failure, and criticism are part of the process and things can and will go wrong, you become incredibly resilient. Peak performers know if you aren't failing or hearing "no," you aren't pushing yourself hard enough. You can't reach your full potential or get to the next level by playing it safe, and you should never let uncertainty be the enemy of growth.

5. Take a holistic approach to success

Successful people do not think in terms of work-life balance; they think in terms of "life." Through working hard, they are also committed to living in the fullest and most enriching way possible. They dedicate time with their family and friends, and they enjoy an array of hobbies. They make it a priority to enjoy the life they work so hard for. True success is a whole and intact entity, and you aren't genuinely achieving if one or more areas of your life suffer for you to prosper professionally.

If you want to be a peak performing entrepreneur, remember it's not just about the time you put in. It's also about the quality of those hours and how strategic you are with prioritizing your schedule and evaluating how you can improve. You must always start with intention and purpose, take care of your mind and body, and make time for life outside of work. It's also important to spend time with individuals who share your growth mindset and incite the flames of passion within you.

The top business leaders surround themselves with like-minded people who inspire and encourage them to expand and evolve. Entrepreneurs with big dreams and aspirations welcome being challenged and pushed to new levels of accomplishment by the very people they admire and even their so-called competition. That is the reason there are so many Masterminds on the market.

Our mindset and daily habits greatly determine our capacity to achieve. You can become the peak performing entrepreneur you aspire to be if you take the time to get clear on your values and purpose and remain strategic when it comes to your priorities and vision for the future. Anything is possible for those who dream big and master their day and, ultimately, their life.

Monday, May 3, 2021

The CEO of management consultancy Korn Ferry on how to become a 'radically human' leader


 Gary Burnison

It's been a longstanding idea in business that emotions should be kept out of the workplace. Whatever's going on in your personal life, you leave it at home so you can bring your most productive self to work.

But in a year when so many lines have become blurred — when home has become work and people are so exhausted they couldn't possibly leave their personal experiences at the door — it's clear that this old-fashioned idea can't hold up much longer.

And according to Gary Burnison, CEO of management consulting company Korn Ferry and author of "Leadership U: Accelerating Through the Crisis Curve," it's up to leaders to model a new way forward.

"I think that what the world is calling for now is radically human leadership — leadership that's based on humility, on not just showing empathy but having empathy, on being vulnerable, on being authentic," he told Insider.

While it's pretty obvious how leading this way would create a more enjoyable workplace for employees, Burnison shared that it'll also lead to higher productivity and success.

"People want to know that they're part of something bigger than themselves," he said. "They want to grow, they want to learn, they want to be loved, and they want to know what they do matters to somebody else. And our research clearly shows that companies that do those things will outperform."

Burnison has seen this play out successfully as Korn Ferry has navigated the pandemic. Despite having to make a lot of hard decisions as a company, like the layoffs that so many faced, they did it in the most humane way they could and made sure to be there for their employees along the way — and now are seeing business levels that have bounced fully back to normal.

If you're used to keeping emotions at a distance in the workplace, learning to become a radically human leader can feel foreign. Here are a few ways Burnison suggested getting started.
Begin with yourself

Being a radically human leader has to start with you.

"I don't think you can be a radically human leader unless you yourself are radically human," Burnison said. "That starts with looking in the mirror and candidly saying, 'Where are my blind spots? Where are my strengths? What are my weaknesses?'"

In particular, Burnison recommended taking a hard look at how you and your organization deal with failure. If failure is punished rather than encouraged, your employees may never feel comfortable opening up the things that are making it hard for them to do their jobs, meaning you'll never have the opportunity to support them through it.

This also means modeling the behaviors you want to see in others and not being afraid to show up with vulnerability in order to demonstrate to your team that they're free to do the same. This doesn't mean dumping all of your troubles on your team, but not feeling like you always have to plaster on a happy face when you're going through something tough.
Create space for connection

Of course, your employees aren't just going to start suddenly opening up to you about their troubles, particularly if you haven't had a culture of radically human leadership before.

Instead, start by connecting with your employees in smaller ways — asking about their weekends, their families, their hobbies. Over time, this will make them feel comfortable sharing some of the harder things going on in their life.

In today's virtual workplace, that also means being very purposeful about creating space for connection.

"If anything, I've increased the amount of time I've spent just talking to my employees," Burnison said. "When I do a Zoom call, never start out with the topic at hand — I'll try to make a connection with the people on the call first, because it would have happened if we were in person."
Show up even if you don't have the answers

As a leader, there will be many situations where there's no solution, no way to fix what's going on.

The trick is to be humble enough to recognize that and still go out of your way to reach out to your employees and make sure they know you're there for them.

Burnison experienced this firsthand this year as he's had employees who've had to quarantine for two weeks after fear of COVID-19 exposure, suddenly lost spouses, and expressed suicidal thoughts to him.

"There's no magic formula to what you say in those situations — there's not a game plan or a tactical approach that you can take," he said. "But if people can feel that they are being seen, that they're being heard, that somebody else cares for them — that's 90% of it."