People + Strategy Journal

Summer 2021

The Takeaway: A Discussion Guide

Creating an organization that provides clarity to employees on when decision-making will be democratic vs. autocratic is hard work. In creating your organization’s playbook, here’s a quick summary of crucial conversations for leadership and HR.

How do we create a speak-up culture?

Kathryn van der Merwe, ANZ Banking Group

  1. What data do we have to indicate that our people will speak up if they see a problem or an opportunity?
  2. If they’re not speaking up, what does the data say about why?
  3. Once we’ve addressed our gaps and gotten people talking, how will we embed that skill in our manager-led teams at all levels?
  4. How will our internal online and social platforms extend this spirit to the digital realm without our having to constantly police for trolls? How do we retain respect as an employee value in extended difficult discussions?

“The worst course of action is to ask for input on decisions that have already been made.” 

—Dr. Lindsey Cameron

If employees are speaking, are we listening?

Letty Cherry, Microsoft

  1. How often should we scan our environment to see what new or challenging issues are emerging from the employees’ perspective?
  2. When we as an organization engage on an issue, what specific impact are we intending to deliver? By when? Who is accountable? How and to whom will we report progress?
  3. What listening mechanisms do we have in place to understand if our message, intentions and progress are landing as intended?
  4. How will we hold ourselves to hearing the messages we receive?

“If you’re operating with a social architecture that’s so weak that it can’t be used to inform the top decisions, then you’ve got the wrong leaders running the place. ” 

—Kevin Sharer

How does a board develop agility?

Henna Inam, Engro Corporation

  1. Can each board member articulate our own individual purpose? Have we shared those with one another so that we create greater cohesion as a team?
  2. What are our assumptions—individually and collectively—about the role of employees and employee activism?
  3. As new crises arise, which types are the CEO’s purview, and which the board’s?
  4. How do our current protocols for board engagement with stakeholders support our increasingly complex stakeholder landscape?
  5. Who is responsible for the ongoing learning—and unlearning—in our board room?

“Boards have to embody a lot of emotional intelligence nowadays.” 

—Mary Bush