Category Archives: Ethics

The One Skill That Most Managers Lack

Did you know that current research indicates that the No. 1 leadership skill most managers lack is communication with empathy?

The need to “create a communication-friendly environment” was the first choice listed on the top 10 skills and qualities of leaders by Officevibe, a fast-growing web-based tool for human resource and business leaders. And in 2015, an Interact/Harris Poll of approximately 1,000 U.S. workers illustrated the importance of opening those communication lines with empathy. In the poll, 91% of employees reported that communication is an area where executives need to improve, and a closer look at the results reveals a striking need for more empathy in the workplace. A failure to recognize employee achievements was cited by 63% of respondents, topping the list of specific communication issues. That list also included refusing to talk to subordinates (51%) and taking credit for others’ ideas (47%). Some in the survey even complained of bullying by management.  

All employees are entitled to a respectful work environment, but communication with empathy can impact more than that. As it raises team morale, it also can improve the bottom line.

According to Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager, disengaged employees cost up to $500 billion in lost productivity per year – with poor managers responsible for at least 70% of that employee disengagement. Liz Ryan, HR professional and author of the book Reinvention Roadmap, says the No. 1 skill these managers need is what she calls “perspective-taking.” In her column on that subject for, Ryan spells out a “working” definition of communication with empathy. “The more often you consciously step out of your own perspective to take someone else’s view, the more powerful you will become,” Ryan says.

So if you are trying to narrow the focus of any leadership training and development efforts you may be considering in the near term, this is one you may want to prioritize for anyone who manages people.

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Learning Dynamics offers training, organization development and coaching services that can help your organization grow and excel. Contact us today, call 203.265.7499 or email

Leaders Listen

A recent Learning Dynamics training workshop with managers of a healthcare organization served as a reminder of the importance of listening at every level of the organization. The program, Leadership Communication, includes a discussion and exercise on active listening, and it was one of the most productive parts of the day’s effort.

Nearly everyone has heard the term “active listening,” but how many of us use the skill regularly? In Leadership Communication and other communication-themed programs, we highlight the value of asking questions, listening without interrupting, paraphrasing, and confirming understanding. We know that many people don’t use active listening techniques often; rather, they frequently are just waiting for their turn to talk.

On this day, we asked the participants to pair off and ask a simple question: “What can I do to help you be more successful in your job?” These were not people who reported to each other. They were managers who lead their respective work centers, so this is not a question they frequently present to each other. The results were thought-provoking.

Within minutes, one of the participants said, “This is great! We never have a chance to speak like this.” After several minutes of productive conversation using intelligent questions and active listening skills, all came away with ideas to help each other move the organization forward. The total invested time was ten minutes.

So, what can leaders take from this exercise? Here are some ideas:

Encourage idea-sharing vertically and horizontally within the organization. Schedule some high-value business partnership time to allow for activities like that described above.

Ask questions at all levels. Then listen. Employees in customer-facing and production roles likely have ideas to share. After all, they are the ones executing on management’s direction. What might they teach leaders who are willing to listen?

Managers don’t always have the best answers. Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, we hire smart people, so shouldn’t we listen to them?

Finally, employees become more engaged when they feel heard. A key engagement question concerns one’s ideas and opinions carrying weight. What better way to show an employee that her opinions count than by asking questions and actively listening?

It is not always easy to just listen. The potential benefits – new ideas, better team work, and more committed employees, to name a few – make it worth the effort. Be a better leader and listen.

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Learning Dynamics offers several instructor-led, webinar-based, and digitally-delivered learning and development solutions to help your team members become better communicators. Contact us today to discuss your priorities.

CompassLearning Dynamics hosted its Integrity at Work(R) showcase session this morning, and the conversation among the business leaders who attended was energetic and engaged. As we worked through video case studies and discussed the situations, the diversity of opinions illustrated just how valuable this training can be.

While there was much agreement on many of the issues discussed, there were some differences. Also, because different companies operating in different industries were represented, the stories of challenges faced were compelling. We recognized a handful of themes that are worth sharing.

First, does your organization have a published ethics policy? Many large organizations have stringent guidelines, chief ethics and/or compliance officers, and other tools to help guide employees. If yours is a smaller organization, it is worth the effort to have a policy and provide training. Even one bad decision can cost your company a lot, making education and prevention worthwhile.

Second, is ethical decision making part of the office buzz? Do you and your leaders talk about it? Do you take opportunities – teachable moments – to illustrate how policy and sound critical thinking about ethical issues have come into play in a particular situation? There is nothing like a real-world, this-happened-here example to help make your point.

Finally, do your senior leaders set the example? Leaders set the tone and create the culture. Your personal behavior and decision making, your commitment to doing the right thing, are very valuable to less senior employees. They will often do what they see their leaders doing.

Sometimes knowing what to do is difficult. Learning and using a tool to guide decision making can make it easier and results more consistent. Now, as much as at any time in the past, ethics grounded in personal integrity and bolstered by a clear thought strategy are needed in all organizational life.


Learning Dynamics offers customized learning and development solutions for many workplace issues and skills. Integrity at Work ™ is one of them. Contact Learning Dynamics today to help plan your ethics training strategy.

Cloudy Ethics: Do You Have a Snowden?

Ethics and integrity are constant concerns of our Learning Dynamics clients. We hear about it in consultations, at our preview showcases and during our training sessions. Recent headlines give organizations cause for concern. More and more, employers are choosing to be more purposeful in their ethics and integrity training. Here are three reasons why.

One poor ethical decision can cost much more than money. Edward Snowden made a decision to leak government secrets. Part of his decision was based on an ethical system that was different than that of his employer and, as the government has made clear, the law. The public relations damage to his employer is monumental.

Ethics and integrity cannot be assumed. You can avoid a lot of trouble by taking the proactive step of explaining organizational standards and expectations. Once the damage is done, it is too late. An investment in training that eliminates confusion and answers questions before they are asked can make all the difference.

Keep good people out of trouble. Ethical missteps are often non-negotiable and career-ending issues. You will not have a choice but to end the employment relationship. An otherwise high-quality and high-potential employee could be working for your competitor because of an avoidable poor decision. Training and development in this area are as important as any other.

Most ethical lapses don’t lead the evening news for days at a time, but they can hurt. Take action to keep your company out of the news for the wrong reasons.


Learning Dynamics’s award-winning Integrity at Work ® training program features interactive exercises and instruction to help your employees make the right decisions. Our “Guidelines for Ethical Decision Making” job aid will focus decision-makers on the important considerations to protect themselves and your brand. Visit Learning Dynamics for more information about this and all of our training programs and additional services.