Supportive cultures encourage the growth of ‘tall poppies’.

 Oct 24, 2018 9:15 AM

It seems unbelievable that workplaces today are still dealing with the age-old topic of jealousy, despite efforts to be inclusive. Recent Tallest Poppy research, which focused on women, found that more than 40% of 1,500 survey respondents witnessed co-workers being attacked or 'cut down'. Behaviours by perpetrators (equally split between women and men) included dismissals of achievement, cyber-bullying, taking credit for others' work, leaving out or ignoring successful coworkers, or downplaying achievements.

If you Google 'Tallest Poppy' syndrome, you'll find it comes from ancient legends with symbolism related to 'cutting down' people who were challenging to the success of others. Some of these metaphors include: in the days of Aristotle, leveling a corn-field by plucking off the ears that stood out above the rest; in the 7th century BC, rulers pre-empting challenges to their rule by 'cutting off all of the best and tallest ears of wheat'; and in the 1700s, 'striking off the heads of tall poppies' to stop their growth.

In the workplace, the tall poppy syndrome is the desire to pull down or down-play a high-performing, successful colleague. It could be that this scenario is closer to home than you think. There may be signs that your organization has a culture where the 'tall poppies' are afraid of coming across as 'smarter' than their bosses, feel bullied by peers, or are disengaged because they are not given opportunities to excel. Reflect for a moment on the culture of your workplace and ask yourself:

1: Does the culture feel collaborative or competitive?

2: Are 'stand-out' employees recognized or are their achievements downplayed?

3: Do employees speak positively about their co-workers or does 'water cooler' talk revolve around criticizing and cutting down others?

4: Do high-potential employees see a path for their careers or have high performers (the ones who are hard to replace) exited your organization because they weren't given opportunities to flourish and grow?

Last month, our blog focused on Red-flag behaviours that contribute to a toxic culture. And behaviours such as devaluing the contribution of others was #1 on our list. This may sound 'corny', but to go along with the ancient garden metaphor, building a culture where everyone is valued is about cultivating and ensuring the growth of your entire 'garden', from short marigolds to tall poppies!

At the Centre for Character Leadership, we help organizations build Character Cultures and Character Values where:

  • No one feels lessened because someone else succeeds;
  • People provide generous positive feedback and tell others how their work is valued;
  • Everyone contributes to an enjoyable workplace where they feel safe, engaged, and valued;
  • Everyone celebrates the progress and success of others; and
  • People work together to achieve goals.

Would you like help in building a culture where people celebrate others' success rather than cut others down? There are many ways to get started in building a character culture, and the solutions will vary depending on your current culture. For example, if you have had high performers move on to careers in other organizations, a good place to start may be to conduct exit interviews to find out why your 'tall poppies' left.

If you suspect that there is an issue in your organization, contact me and we'll get started in diagnosing the situation and then building an action plan. The end result should be a safe and supportive environment where all employees feel valued and want to build long-term careers.


Kathleen Redmond, MA, MCC

Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.

Red-flag behaviours that contribute to a toxic culture

 Sep 20, 2018 9:00 AM

There are many reasons employees leave their places of employment, but organizations should be highly concerned when employees leave because of poor relationships or a lack of respect. According to a recent study by Randstad, 38% of workers want to leave their jobs due to a toxic work culture or one where they feel they don’t fit in. An even larger group (58%) have left jobs, or are considering leaving, because of negative office politics. And 60% have left jobs, or are considering leaving, because they don't like their direct supervisors.

Signs of a toxic work culture range from dishonesty, to competition amongst employees, to rampant gossip. But if there are any red-flag behaviours from leaders (including senior leaders, managers, directors, and supervisors) – organizations must act quickly. Left unattended, a toxic culture will be harder and harder to shift and will have a direct impact on the bottom line or affect an organization’s ability to deliver on their promises to stakeholders.

A positive work culture starts at the top. Last month, our blog focused on how to create a ‘safe’ culture and reinforced the need for leaders to be role models for respectful behaviour. Here are some examples of behaviours that are red-flags and should be addressed swiftly:

1: Devaluing (or ignoring) the contribution of others

2: Telling others what to do or ordering people around

3: Making others feel stupid or unintelligent

4: Blaming others for mistakes

5: Yelling; being emotionally volatile and unpredictable

6: Complaining about employees

7: Talking about others behind their backs, rather than speaking to people directly

8: Bullying

It takes courage and commitment to begin to change a toxic culture, including addressing red-flag behaviours. If you would like help in building a plan to shift your organization’s culture, please reach out to me.


Kathleen Redmond

P.S. If you haven’t yet seen it, please have a look at our new video about the Centre for Character Leadership's approach to building a 'character' culture, which encompasses both organizational culture and personal, authentic leadership.

Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.

Take responsibility for creating a 'safe' culture.

 Aug 9, 2018 8:00 AM

My first 'real' job was a customer service representative for Bell Canada. In that workplace I learned communication fundamentals. The leaders listened without interruption and provided objective feedback (both positive and constructive). As a result, it was a civilized, respectful place to work. The workplace is, in fact, the place where many of us learn "healthy" behaviours and, ideally, they are transferred to other parts of our lives.

Unfortunately, in some workplaces, inappropriate behaviours, such as bullying and rudeness become contagious and spread out in many directions. Trevor Foulk, who researches organizational behavior at the University of Maryland, likens rudeness to the common cold -- it's contagious. "When it comes to incivility, there's often a snowballing effect. The more you see rudeness, the more likely you are to perceive it from others and the more likely you are to be rude yourself to others."

A leadership role carries responsibility for creating 'safe' cultures that are inclusive, civil and respectful. A leader who says nothing about bullying and rudeness, for example, will perpetuate these behaviours and help their spread - creating a toxic culture.

As a coach, I hear from leaders who struggle to know how to stop inappropriate behaviour in their workplaces. My coaching on this issue typically starts with each leader's own behaviour:

1: Practice the art of reflection. Ask yourself if your behaviour is reflective of what you want to see in the workplace.

2: Be a role model for respectful behaviour -- every day.

3: Ask for feedback about your behaviour. Receive it gratefully and graciously.

4: Encourage employees to offer their point of view and advocate for what they see as right in the workplace.

5: Listen when people offer suggestions or ways to improve the culture. and let them know what will be done with their suggestions.

6: Speak up when you witness disrespectful behaviour. Communicate openly and honestly about what you heard, how you felt, and why it's not okay.

7: Reinforce positive behaviour. Speak up when you witness respectful behaviour -- let others know that it's appreciated and valued.

I am pleased to share with you a new video about the Centre for Creative Leadership's approach to building a 'character' culture, which encompasses both organizational culture and personal, authentic leadership.

If you are interested in a series of coaching sessions for you or your leadership team around how to be a role model for respectful behaviour, please reach out to me.


Kathleen Redmond, MA, MCC


Tips for successful summer vacations

 Jun 6, 2018 9:30 AM

Terry and I are planning a week in Victoria and Vancouver this summer. We are excited to have precious time with our younger daughter (Cassie, my step-daughter) and attend a wedding. It is the wedding of a friend's son -- we are at that stage of life! Part of our planning, is "how do we deal with emails / work communication while we are away?"

We all deserve to have a vacation that provides us with time for rejuvenation -- when you can go away and truly 'recharge'. In this month leading up to summer vacations, while we are all planning, it's a great time to think about how everyone on the team can work together to ensure success.

Summer vacations can mean disruption in the workplace OR an opportunity to create commitment to support each other in achieving goals. How can you and others avoid being that 'indispensable' person who goes on vacation but is reachable by email every day, just in case?

Some simple tips? Keep the 5 Cs in mind: Create, Commit, Coach, Cultivate, and Collaborate as these are the pillars for creating a character culture.

1: Create Clarity: Take time to meet with your team to create clarity around the purpose, goals, progress, and results expected on projects while you or others are away. As Patrick Lencioni so aptly put it: "clarity is the antidote to anxiety".

2: Commit to Accountability: In a workplace focused on collaborative goals, we all need to share responsibility in the issue of accountability. Determine who on the team will be the 'go-to' person while you or others are away; ensure they are empowered to hold people accountable.

3: Coach for Performance: Make time to coach and support people on your team. Ensure that team members are set up for success -- listen and find out what they need before you or others go away.

4: Cultivate Collegiality: Show that you care about your team and their work effort, especially those who will be expanding their responsibilities during vacation schedules. Perhaps it's a good time for a team lunch where everyone can talk about their vacation plans and get to know each other better.

5: Collaborate for Results: Encourage all team members to put forth their creative ideas on how to make summer vacations a successful time for everyone.

We have our own little plan, and my team is on stand-by to make sure we get the most free time possible. Their efforts will be reciprocated.

Coaching teams and setting them up for success is what I've devoted my career to. Email me if you would like some support to get set up for success this summer.

I wish you all a wonderful summer!


Kathleen Redmond, MA, MCC

Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.

Disagreement can be a good thing.

 Apr 19, 2018 9:00 AM

There is tremendous value in diverse perspectives. We might learn something, have a belief challenged, or have a creative spark ignited, etc. It is to our personal advantage, and for the benefit of our organizations, to expand our perspective in order to progress.

Many of us were told to never discuss religion or politics in a social setting because those topics were ‘uncomfortable’ and could lead to controversy. The implication was that we should only discuss trivial things without potential for disagreement, but were we misled? Can’t civilized people disagree?

While politics and religion may not be the type of topics for discussion in the workplace, my point is that there are many valuable viewpoints / solutions, and yes, they may spark controversy and disagreement. But, understanding and appreciating others’ views opens us up to new perspectives and bigger-picture thinking.

Disagreement can be a good thing – but it requires us to listen openly with empathy! There are many definitions of empathy, but here is the one I like: The ability to understand and appreciate another person's perspective, even when that perspective is different from your own. Some describe empathy as being able to ‘put yourself in another person's shoes’ because it’s about imagining what it would be like to be in that person's situation. But it’s also about understanding the emotional elements involved. Leaders who demonstrate empathy – the ability to take perspective – have a greater ability to relate to people and ideas around them. In the workplace, empathy has been shown to lead to stronger performance and a culture of continuous learning.

Here are five tips for listening openly with empathy:

1: Make time and space to connect with people and find out what is meaningful to them. Create the ‘space’ for empathy and listening -- pay attention physically as well as mentally; put away your connected device.

2: Open your mind and your attitude - accept that you are only one person, one perspective. Keep your mind open regarding thoughts, feelings, and motives. If you are a leader -- recognize that you don’t have to know everything -- be open to continuous learning.

3: Truly listen -- don’t share a similar experience that happened to you -- just listen. Consciously put aside your own views and listen with the intent of understanding.

4: Ask open-ended questions to clarify the message and the emotion. When you sincerely acknowledge the emotion as well as the message, it reassures the person that you understand and empathize on two levels.

5: Acknowledge the other person’s reality/perspective -- don’t judge. You don’t have to ‘agree’ with it, but you need to acknowledge it and respond to the key messages. Repeat what you heard, including the emotion behind the words, to test your understanding.

Communicating in a Character Culture with Tact, Integrity, and Courage in the Workplace has a number of practical communication tools including the Listen-Acknowledge-Ask© model.

If you are interested in personal coaching around how to listen openly with empathy, or coaching for your team, please reach out to me.

Best wishes,

Kathleen Redmond, MA, MCC

Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.

Can being too ‘civil’ get in the way of honesty?

 Mar 22, 2018 7:00 AM

We often used the term ‘civil’ in my work with leaders, and in my books, to highlight the importance of treating others with courtesy and consideration. It’s about being polite and respectful.

But is there a point where being too courteous and too polite gets in the way of being truly honest? Most of us know people who are so polite that you don’t really know if they have a hidden, underlying message or something they are not telling you.

Last week, read an interesting article: Realizing the downside of being too polite which highlighted how being too polite can be harmful rather than kind.

At the Centre for Character Leadership, we believe that it’s important to tell the truth in a kind and civil manner, but also in a way that is inclusive, respectful, and supportive:

1: Convey that you care about the person and the relationship, which is why you want to be honest. Utilize the opportunity to share your honest views, but to also make the relationship even stronger and build trust.

2: Show respect for the other person by being inclusive. Rather than simply ‘telling’ your honest view, open up a two-way discussion and invite the other person to share what they are thinking and feeling. Use questioning to help you understand the other person’s perspective.

3: Offer honest views in a manner that leads to a solution - take the time needed to work with the other person to discuss the issue fully and develop solutions. In this way, honesty will support a learning environment.

Please reach out to me or one of my associates -- Patrick McCann or Michael Chadsey -- to find out more about what we can do to help your organization instill character values and build a character culture.

We provide solutions, tools, and resources to honour your current situation, goals, timelines, and budget.

Best wishes,

Kathleen Redmond, MA, MCC


Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.

Be the Change you Wish to See

 Jan 25, 2018 9:00 AM

Be the change you wish to see in the world. When it comes to building a character culture, this wonderful statement by Mahatma Gandhi is a great resolution for leaders. It's about starting, even in small ways, to demonstrate character values.

If one of your resolutions for 2018 is to instill a 'character' culture in your organization to support business success, why not just start now! And yes, it can take time to change organizational culture, and the only starting point is you. You have authentic power. Shift your mindset from one where making change happen seems like a monumental thing to do, to one where you know you can make a difference. Be conscious of your thinking, your words, and your actions -- and be the change you wish to see in your organization.

As a leader, you are in a position to be a role model for others. Over time, you will notice that your 'character' behaviours are trickling down. People will begin speaking differently to each other and will treat others with more respect; they will also be more transparent and honest, and will respect diverse views. Role-modelling, however, is also about being authentic -- ensuring that your words and your actions match your beliefs and core values.

To take some of the mystery out of the words and actions we're talking about, following is a list of 12 Leadership Engagement Behaviours as outlined in my book: Leadership by Engagement -- Leading Through Authentic Character to Attract, Retain, and Energize:

1.  Treat people in a consistently civil manner

2.  Tell the truth

3.  Listen openly with empathy

4.  Conduct yourself in an ethical manner

5.  Create an atmosphere of camaraderie

6.  Provide autonomy to make decisions

7.  Articulate clear, measurable, achievable performance expectations

8.  Recognize contributions frequently, specifically and personally

9.  Address performance gaps in a timely, private, problem-solving manner

10.  Provide opportunities for people to find challenge and significance in their work

11.  Ensure training and learning opportunities are available

12.  Provide proper tools and resources

In the course of 2018, we will be highlighting these 12 behaviours in our monthly blog -- we hope you will stay tuned!

Click here to join our mailing list.

Contact me if you would like to learn more about how we can help your organization or department transform toward a Character Culture. We provide solutions, tools and resources to honour your current situation, goals, timelines and budget.


Kathleen Redmond, MA, MCC

Coaching for Performance -- Online Sessions Starting Soon

Coaching for Performance is an intensive two-month program for individuals who lead teams and want to develop their coaching skills. The program offers a rich resource of learning opportunities and practical tools for immediate application. Spend one hour every two weeks with Kathleen (as your facilitator and coach) and other leaders with whom you can practice your coaching skills. The first session starts Monday, February 12th, 2018 via Skype video call between 12:15 and 1:15 p.m. The program includes practice tools and homework, online practice, three of Kathleen's books, assessments to determine your own coaching strengths and opportunities, and post-session resources. Contact Kathleen Redmond for more information or contact Karen Addison to sign up.

Kathleen Redmond is a certified Executive Coach (International Coaching Federation), corporate trainer, Instructor at the University of Guelph, and author of four workplace books.

Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.

What will people think of me?

 Dec 4, 2017 9:00 AM

You may be surprised at the number of people in organizations who are afraid to speak up.

What we're hearing is that many people (at all levels) are afraid of what others will think of them.

Many mention a fear that they won't be liked or that something dire might happen if they raise difficult issues. Others feel that they will be seen as 'troublesome' or 'hard to manage'. Still others mention a fear of being judged if they advocate for personal priorities or set boundaries around work hours, etc.

it is an entry-level employee who fears speaking up to a supervisor, peers who fear the comments of colleagues, a senior leader who fears communicating with transparency to direct reports, or challenging a Board of Directors -- speaking up can be difficult.

Many workplaces promote a culture of transparency, openness, and honesty; some have put processes in place to support safety in speaking up, such as 'Speak Up' venues. But it can take a long time to change the culture and we can't ignore the personal fears that people still hold.

Last month we provided some one-on-one conversation starters for leaders to engage their direct reports in discussions about speaking up. Here are some additional, more-personal, tips:

1. You deserve respect.

Respect is an espoused value in most workplaces and an element of civilized behaviour. Chances are, people will listen when you speak your mind -- and they will respect you for your views.

2. You are not alone.

If you are afraid of speaking up, it is likely that many others feel the same way. When you confront your fears and speak your mind, you will give others the power to do the same.

3. Stay true to your values.

Put your views to the 'values' test. If what you want to say or do is important because it is aligned with your core values, then not saying it or not doing it could be detrimental to your level of workplace satisfaction. What is the value of being liked by others if you don't trust yourself to be your own advocate?

An employee engagement survey can be a great way to find out whether your organization's culture is one where employees are comfortable speaking up. The Centre for Character Leadership's

Snapshot Engagement and Cultural Survey is a simple-to-complete survey that elicits employees' views on a number of key areas related to engagement including organizational leadership and communication; employee role clarity and satisfaction; and employee support, recognition and rewards.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact me or our Assessment Administrator, Rosanne Wild.


Kathleen Redmond, MCC

Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.

Are your employees afraid to speak up?

 Nov 13, 2017 10:00 PM

Amidst the recent high-profile scandal of misconduct by a person in power, many organizations are having the conversation about creating a culture where employees feel safe in speaking up. The repercussions of not speaking up can have far-reaching impacts – systemic problems in organizations as well as long-term stress and health/mental health concerns for employees.

In organizations that have created a ‘safe’ culture, leaders encourage people at all levels to offer their point of view courageously, provide feedback, and advocate for what they see as right or helpful. When people offer suggestions or ways to improve how things are currently being done, leaders let them know what will be done with their suggestions. In these same organizations, because leaders are role models for open communication, people feel both encouraged and safe in speaking up – although we know that it still takes courage.

A short employee engagement survey can be a cost-effective way to get a temperature check on how open your employees feel in speaking up, among other engagement indicators.  The Centre for Character Leadership’s Employee Engagement Survey is just 30 questions, takes about 10 minutes to complete, and employees are assured of anonymity.

At the Centre for Character Leadership, we also encourage leaders to have frank conversations about this topic with their direct reports during one-on-one coaching sessions.  Asking the following, or similar, questions may help to open the conversation:

How frank are you in offering your perspective?

Do you fear speaking up in this workplace?  If so, what do you fear?

What can we do to make it safer for you to speak up?

If you are interested in learning more about the Centre for Character Leadership’s Employee Engagement Survey, please contact me or our Assessment Administrator, Rosanne Wild.


Kathleen Redmond, MCC

Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.

Compelling reasons to engage and retain older workers

 Oct 10, 2017 3:00 PM

As much as we should treat all our employees equally, there are some pretty compelling reasons why we might want to place some extra effort into engaging and retaining an ‘older’ workforce. It’s not only about providing a workplace that is supportive and inclusive, it’s also about valuing older workers and recognizing what they bring to organizations – including the long-term payoff of transferring their experience, skills, knowledge, organizational history, and values to a younger workforce.

If you’re not already doing so, you may want to shift your perspective a bit and start viewing your older workers as contributors beyond their job description – to see them as Collaborators, Mentors/Coaches, Trainers, Networkers, Project Workers, Role Models, and Difference Makers!

  • Collaborators: Include your older workers on collaboration teams, think tanks, strategic planning sessions, etc., recognizing that collaboration is about seeking diverse perspectives.
  • Mentors/Coaches: Set up mentoring programs so that your older workers can share (formally or informally) their wisdom, experience, skills, knowledge, and external networks. Ensure that the difference between mentoring (helping the individual navigate the organization) and coaching (tapping the brilliance of the individual) is understood and practiced.
  • Trainers: Progressive organizations are developing their learning content internally – utilize the skills and experience of your older workers to help with the design of training programs or as trainers in your ‘corporate university’.
  • Networkers: Older workers typically have extensive networks that they have built over their careers. There may be opportunities to tap into their networks for recruiting, outreach, or special projects.
  • Project Workers: Consider making easy entry/exit for project work. Not all older workers want full-time employment, but can be an asset on specific projects, as well as in part-time and seasonal roles.
  • Role Models: Older workers can help to shape your culture by demonstrating what it means to be productive, loyal, and hard-working — and to go above-and-beyond the job description.
  • Difference Makers: As workers get closer to the end of their career, they are motivated to leave a mark – to know that they have made a difference. And they want to be challenged. Find ways, perhaps through new initiatives/programs, to harness their passion.

Many people choose to stay in the workforce past the typical retirement age because they want to work – for personal fulfillment, dignity, social inclusion and well-being. Others may need to work to help secure retirement and financial stability if they are without pension plans or adequate personal savings. Here are some of the facts and research on this topic:

  • Statistics Canada conducted a survey of older workers between 50 and 75 years of age. Among respondents who were currently working, and had never retired (approximately 78% of the sample), over half indicated they plan to continue to work on a part-time basis when they retire. The Government of Canada has some tips for Promoting Older Worker Participation.
  • Governments and businesses have a vested interest in engaging older workers and encouraging their continued contribution. According to CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons), “older workers ‘are ready to stay engaged and demonstrate their value to the economy and society, and they will ‘not sit back and accept the status quo”.
  • Half of Canadian couples between 55 and 64 have no employer pension between them, and of those, less than 20 per cent of middle-income families have saved enough to adequately supplement government benefits and the Canada/Quebec Pension Plan. [Broadbent Institute]
  • Companies are exploring how to design the organization of the future – one that is more flexible and agile – and accommodates a workforce that is becoming both older and younger. [Deloitte report on Human Capital Trends]

At the Centre for Character Leadership, we’re passionate about character cultures – ones that value and include older workers. Do you have ways that older workers have brought outstanding contributions to your workplace? Please contact me and tell me about your success stories – I would love to hear them!


Kathleen Redmond, MCC

Contact me

Kathleen Redmond

Kathleen Redmond is the Founder of the Centre for Character Leadership. She is certified Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation), an author and Adjunct Professor of the University of Guelph’s MA Leadership Program.
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