BANE OF TOXIC LEADERS
By TA News Bureau:
As an educator, CEO, HR executive, management consultant and leadership trainer, Vancouver (Canada)-based Ray Williams brings over 35 years of leadership experience to coach and mentor management professionals to excel in their fields. He had seen and experienced as a child extreme adversity when he was born in a Prisoner of War Camp of the Japanese in World War II in Hong Kong. This had a great influence on him and his understanding of what it takes to persevere, survive, be successful and be happy. Today, he brings over his diverse experience to training and guiding CEOs and executives. In a wide-ranging interview to Tyre Asia he speaks about workplace civility, hiring talent, developing mindful leadership to run successful enterprises and key issues to run dynamic organisations
Vancouver (Canada)-based Ray Williams, who runs a management consulting firm for the past 23 years, is known as a person who has successfully coached several corporate leaders to run their enterprises in highly competitive business environment. As an international bestselling and award-winning author, he has brought changes to the boardrooms. His forte is blending psychology, coaching strategies and brain research into result-based performance and work-life balance.
He is the founder CEO of Ray Williams Associates, which is providing services to Fortune 500 companies, besides entrepreneurs and small business owners and professionals. His training has brought to the workplace positive transformation by building cohesive dynamic teams who are able to accomplish goals and also achieve inner sense of peace and calm. He trains them to live more mindfully and increase their emotional intelligence.
It is a fact that in a highly competitive business environment, workplace tension and anger continue to negatively impact employee morale and productivity. Many companies are caught in the vortex of crisis due to this ‘toxic’ situation. This is dangerous as such toxic leaders can make workers exhibit toxic behaviour. This he has explained in detail in his book Eye of the Storm: How Mindful Leaders Can Transform Chaotic Workplaces.
Quoting from the book Williams highlights that the relentless demands, extreme pressure and brutal ruthlessness are all trademarks of a toxic company, as is a twisted disconnect between what a firm says it does for employees and what it actually is doing.
“People are looked at as costs, rather than assets. On its books, a company might have progressive policies regarding work-life issues, but in fact employs part-time workers, who are struggling to balance career and family. Fear and paranoia, and anxiety to the point of panic, are other characteristics of a toxic workplace.”
In an interview to Tyre Asia he says it is important that CEOs take “concrete steps to create a workplace culture of civility, which includes recruitment and promotion practices that ensure successful candidates exhibit emotional intelligence skills and attitudes, and incorporating policies that ensure workplace civility and enforcement of consequences for harassment and abuse.”
There are no doubts that toxic workplaces are proliferating mainly due to mega-mergers and globalisation. This has resulted in some companies becoming impersonal amid recurring waves of job cuts pushing employees to take up workloads greater than is reasonably feasible over the long haul. Instead of rewarding long-term planning, expediency is demanded, he comments.
In such situation one could notice heightened stress in the workplace that leads to low employee moral, negative productivity and healthcare issues. What is threatening such corporate entities is the grip of creeping bureaucracy. It results in the disappearance of the human touch and tolerance that are needed to keep employees happy and productive. Williams, therefore, suggests the need to take steps to bring a new work culture.
When asked how CEOs could be trained and prepared to effectively bring to the workplace harmony and positive interaction among employees and strengthen loyalty and job satisfaction, he stressed the importance of emotional intelligence training. “Emotional intelligence training for existing employees and criteria for new hires should be considered. Instituting policies of transparency, openness and fairness should be followed.”
Commenting on the key findings of his decades of research on leadership and mindfulness that he brought to his consulting work to enhance corporate competitiveness, he asserted the importance of moulding mindful leaders.
“Mindful leaders have higher levels of self-awareness, more fully developed capacity for self-regulation of emotions (particularly negative) and exhibit non-reactivity to stress and difficult situations. Such leaders are compassionate, open-minded and generous in accepting of others.”
Referring to the challenges in transforming CEOs into charismatic leaders who can successfully strategise corporate policies that improve workplace harmony and boost company bottom lines, Williams feels that such leaders must take care not to let their leadership degenerate into a cult of personality, where the entire focus is on them. “Having many talented people share the limelight that reflects the organisations’ successes will do this.” He says ‘think Google’.
With globalisation, CEOs should take note of the importance of recognising the influence of multiculturalism. The leadership should be culture-sensitive in a multinational environment. CEOs should ensure that there is a structure and recruitment/promotion policies that enshrine diversity and inclusiveness, as well as a respect for other cultures.
His suggestions need to be taken note by corporate entities at a time when the impact of toxic leaders on public confidence and shareholders are acutely visible. This situation is getting worse as reflected in reports that showed that CEO tenure has declined since 2000 and almost half of the number of corporate leaders surveyed was found to be ineffective and incompetent.
In the past few decades, 30 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs have lasted less than three years. The failure has nothing to do with competence, or knowledge, or experience. Most CEOs fail due to ego and a lack of emotional intelligence. It shows that there’s a clear symbiotic relationship between toxic workplaces and the toxic leaders who inhabit them.
It is important to realise that there is a corporate leadership crisis as CEOs turn authoritarian, controlling, narcissistic and toxic. What is shocking are research findings that one out of every five leaders is toxic. It is important to hire and promote individuals who not only pass the test of technical competence, but can clearly demonstrate their emotional intelligence, Williams says.