Downsizing Damages Cultures and Communities


Part One

Companies continue to use downsizing as a strategy even with the potential for negative outcomes based on the belief that with the decrease in employee payroll, an increase in production and performance will take place due to getting leaner. When looked at over the short-term, or over the long-term, downsizing has been shown to be ineffective and has created conflict that extends beyond the internal workplace to impact customer attitudes, and community psychology. Even with extensive data that demonstrates the negative implications of this strategy, organizations continue to implement downsizing as ‘the’ response to lost business.

There are three possible ways that company downsizing impacts customers and potentially sets the stage for increased conflict, they include the transference of emotions, positive or negative to the customer via the employee, described as “emotional contagion.” Secondly, the loss of labor force, and therefore the increased workload assumed by the remaining employees, at any level, technical, manufacturing, or most importantly at the service level, has a direct impact on customer relations due to reduction of quality engagement. Lastly, organizational contagion, and subpar employee performance can combine to create situations that exaggerate the stress and strain caused by downsizing, and transfer this issue onto relationships between company personnel and their customers resulting in worsening relationships or even total disengagement or “customer defection”.

Stressed and strained workers create dysfunctional conflict, defined by Bobot, (2011) as those actions that limit accessibility, create obstacles, and damage relationships. This conflict is actually transferred from and initiated by the employee to the customer due to the employee’s own lack of trust with their own organization due to having survived the reduction in personnel and yet still fearful of what might happen in the future. The customer, sensing the strain of the employee, and potentially receiving poorer service due to the strain, also can lose trust in their relationship, thus each party has lost confidence in the other creating a foundation for emotional reactions, and conflict. Work overload, emotional exhaustion, and interpersonal conflict encountered by employees that have been through downsizing can combine to cause chaos, and conflict with important external stakeholders such as customers, not the sort of outcome that leads to sustainable performance.

Downsizing leaves a negative imprint on the social community and the company is seen by the community as breaking a social contract, an unethical act in the eyes of potential and past customers and employees.  The external community that lives nearby the company, has relatives at the organization, or knows someone that does business with them can then become an area of conflict between the organization and the public.

Regardless of the financial responsibility and possible savings as a result of downsizing, the long-term damage to the reputation of the organization can cost the company more than they saved by reducing labor, and their now tarnished reputation can end up negatively influencing the firm’s ability to attract and retain talent, a significant factor, if the firm is to remain competitive.

Mike Watson

Bobot, L. (2011). Functional and dysfunctional conflicts in retailer-supplier relationships. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 39(1), 25-50. doi:10.1108/09590551111104468

Future Post: Part Two- Managing the Conflict Downsizing Creates

Be Authentic Be Powerful


Heart-centric leadership believes in the power of engagement to reshape perspectives and lead others in alignment with vision. A key part of this strategy relates to understanding how to have conversations with peers or employees that maybe you do not want to have. Following is a 5-step process composed of words, perspectives, and strategies I have learned, gratefully borrowed from others, and interjected with my own philosophy, that led me to stand at my fullest height as a leader.

1. Be Direct, Be Kind

Be direct, and before you enter into the conversation, or even the room for that matter, predispose yourself to having a heart that is wide-open with compassion and kindness, but not weakness. Then offer direct feedback as a way of creating opportunity for growth and as an incentive for the other person to be more of who they are. Stay on topic, even when they do not want to, and always provide examples, so your feedback is not perceived as opinion.

2. Listen to Learn

Listening provides a safe space in which people can feel respected. The purpose of authentic and direct feedback is to generate win-win outcomes—both individuals must understand the situation together in order to make positive change. Unless people feel heard there is no lasting change. This style of active listening is different then listening to compromise, where people are only partially heard. Purposeful listening by no means suggests that you have to be in agreement, just honestly heard.

3. Don’t Make it Personal

Again, this is where predisposing our intentions silently before we enter into the conversation sets us up to project the correct non-verbal energy and helps us stay aligned with our purpose. So don’t allow your imagination to create issues, and do not take things personally during a direct feedback conversation. However, honestly acknowledging the emotions being felt will offer the recipient a relief valve for any stress they might experience.

4. Show Up, Be Present

Show up, be fully present—and don’t rush off after having a tough conversation. Be brave enough to allow moments of silence to come into the conversation. Follow up afterward so that afterthoughts don’t create imagined distance and hurt feelings.

5. Inspire Greatness

Communicate the belief in the potential for brilliance in the recipient and the aspiration for who they can become. Respectful, direct feedback restores the individual and the team to sanity. It costs absolutely nothing except an emotional investment of honesty, taking the risk of receiving a bad reaction…and temporarily being uncomfortable.

In the absence of authenticity we become less powerful.

And you are powerful, so do not give that power away, stay true to who you are, while assertive in what is required and right.


Why Care About ‘Being’ at Work


Many of us have experienced that joyous moment that occurs when we are fully immersed in doing something we love, that moment feels devoid of time, in that moment you can experience an almost weightlessness in your physical and mental state, and your ability to create, decide, and construct solutions flows effortlessly.

I define these moments as presence, that special time when you are truly present in the now, devoid of the distractions that normally monopolize our thinking and doing.

This presence is full of energy, of concentrated, and intentional doing that is both efficient and effective, and the results are often highly innovative while practically appropriate.

This is how you would want your teams to operate, in this presence, innovating, creating, and intentionally doing things that elevate their performance and the brand of the organization. If this culture existed within the organization then engagement would go up, effort would go up, happiness would go up, and profits would go up. So then why do we not lead, create and operate in this way? Because we fail to see half of the equation that makes us present in the moment. We talk about doing, doing, doing, but forget about being. The reason these “now” moments exist is due to the integration of both doing (purposefully) and being (intentionally). The doing creates or completes things, can accomplish tasks, or take action to solve problems, but the being keeps you in the moment, in the joy of doing. When your attention is deeply, and solely focused in and on what you are doing, then there is joy in the doing; the action is joyous because the moment is intentionally purposeful (in being). People talk about work/life balance, like it is a scale to be calibrated and once balanced, fixed in place, but this will never work, life is constant, chaotic, and changing, therefore the balance you should seek is between doing and being. If you are self-aware you can recognize when you are doing too much, and consciously choose to get back to being in the moment, so that your doing becomes, effective, efficient, and joyous.

Leaders can create this culture by being heart-centric, by engaging the heart and the mind, by being authentic, transparent, vulnerable, empathetic, and ethically assertive.

Mike Watson

#heartcentric #leadership #heartCEO

Want to Innovate? Blink


When I enter a room full of expectant freshman college students, or workshop participants they immediately begin to assess and decide if I am worthy of their attention.  You might think you have 10 maybe even 60 seconds to engage them and thus begin to show your competence, but the reality is, based on recent research by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, you in fact have 1/10 of a second, yep, you literally have a blink of an eye to initially establish your competence.

In this 10th of a second people tend to zero in on your face, and based on the data they receive assumptions are made about a number of things including intelligence, confidence, attractiveness, and trustworthiness. Out of all of these, Willis and Todorov state that trustworthiness is the characteristic assessed the most quickly, and is the least likely to change even after prolonged exposure to the person, reinforcing the oft repeated statement that you never get a second chance at a first impression.

When we become self-aware that we are being assessed and more importantly that we also do the assessing, we can use this information to gain insight and learn to innovate by remaining self-aware. The correlation between snap judgments and innovation is in recognizing that when we rely on first impressions we not only narrow our focus, we reinforce our initial reaction, and therefore the potential for innovation is immediately diminished. Innovation needs space, and room to breath, but first impressions collapse possibilities in their haste to formulate answers, and first impressions are a result of past repeated observations and experiences and by default eliminate alternatives and cloud imagination.  So if you want to innovate you must first remain aware, second you need to widen your perspective, and third you need to change the context or language in which you are addressing the issue or problem. This intentional shift to consider possibilities that are in direct contrast to what is known, or to ask questions that seek to expand and not contract understanding, create the necessary space needed for new thoughts, ideas, and concepts to enter. When, for instance, you ask, “in what ways might I…..?” you create a scenario that invites in options, previously not considered. Now the context has shifted, the potential answers have increased, and you are training yourself to be self-aware so as to be innovative, and more organizationally aware. By changing the language and the context, you have redefined the moment to include brilliance, instead of past solutions, that provide the comfort of the known, but little else. If all you do is what you’ve done, then all you’ll create is what you know, which is never innovative.

Don’t try to avoid first impressions, they have their place and purpose, just not in a space that wants growth, innovation and brilliance. Blink

Mike Watson

Heart-centric leader, founder of

Your heart speaks, your mind listens, your spirit acts.

Grow with Failure in Mind

Grow with Failure in Mind


We spend a lot of time and energy trying to predict when something will succeed or fail, and we exert a lot of effort constructing relationships, and things that are built to succeed, only to watch in horror as they crumble, piece by piece, due to seemingly unconnected circumstances, and issues. What I have found is that predicting things is difficult at best, what I know to be true is that failure is a constant. So instead of trying to outsmart what we know we should build to grow with failure in mind. A growth mindset developed with failure as a component part of the equation reduces risk, without eliminating the innovation that comes from taking risk. If we look to grow and at the same time reduce exposure to catastrophic failure then what we can effectively construct is an environment or culture in which growth, and success can be sustained even when failure occurs. All of us are capable of combating, controlling, or even adapting to failure, as long as it does not overwhelm us. The solution is in the construction of the thing, the relationship or your mindset. The solution must build in the absolute notion that failure of some part, thing, or decision will take place at some point, and therefore you should build to reduce exposure. Build so that when failure occurs in some aspect of your world, career or relationship it does not systematically corrupt and or damage the other parts that you spent time crafting in support of success. In this way you manage and, you welcome the lessons accompanying failure, instead of trying to avoid or predict the exact moment when failure will occur. Failure has the ability to illuminate opportunities otherwise missed, failure can recalibrate your sense of direction and realign you with purpose, failure can highlight areas of weaknesses, and allow for insight, and failure can utterly destroy your sense of self and all you worked for if you do not intentionally grow with failure in mind.

Mike Watson @emcmike

#heartful #heartcentric #leadership

Closing the Gap

Rays of light through the open white door on orange wall

Closing the Gap: Why Going Quiet Speeds up Decision-Making

The concept of the feedback loop is common in systems-driven organizations, in which information about the past or the present influences the same phenomenon in the present or future1. The goal for many in business is to close the gap that exists between making the decision and taking action, what is forgotten regarding this process is the need to consistently analyze the information, and the outcomes of the action so as to modify and make future decisions that are both better and quicker.

The emphasis for a majority of leaders is on the “making” of the decision, due to time constraints and pressure to perform, this worry about time impacts their decision-making process resulting in many of their over 100 decisions being made every day in less than 9 minutes. Quickly analyzing relevant information and being decisive is a positive leadership characteristic, making decisions due to worry and without being fully present is a negative trait that causes feedback loops to actually widen instead of shrink as a result of failure to follow up, and due to lack of awareness about outcomes.

Without awareness we remain lost in reaction.

When we slow down our minds, through meditation, prayer, journaling, or intentionally listening to another, we give our bodies and our minds permission to receive new, innovative ideas that otherwise, when busy “making” we never would have heard or considered.

Seemingly counterintuitive, pausing to reflect or meditate actually speeds up good decision-making because you focus on what is necessary and meaningful versus what is distracting and seemingly important. As Bill George states, leaders that pay attention to being mindful “are better at focusing and are more effective at delegating work with closed-loop follow-up. As a result, people follow their mindful approach, and their organizations outperform others over the long-run.”2

Closing the gap in the feedback loop is important in business and is critical in your own body. When you intentionally become calm, your mind quiets and your heart can be heard. The heart actually communicates up to the brain through the largest nerve in the body, the vagus nerve, and the brain sends messages back down to the body through electrical currents via the spinal cord. Most individuals, including leadership willingly ignore the internal feedback system present in all of us, relishing instead to stay in their mind, thinking, and making, which effectively widens the feedback gap, leaving them to make important decisions while not utilizing all their available resources.

We happily state “listen to your heart,” knowing it is sound advice, but as leaders we ignore this wisdom deeming the heart to be weak and foolish, when just the opposite is true. Your heart will not overthink itself, or rationalize away thoughts, it will consistently tell you what is right and true when allowed to speak. If you want to lead others than use your mind to listen to your heart, and allow it to guide your spirit to act in purposeful alignment with vision. This manner of being is not emotional, but practical, and leads to higher performance, while serving a purpose greater than the self. This heart-centric leadership style is powerful and purposeful, and intuitively brilliant, and absolutely critical for today’s organizations.

  1. Source: Boundless. “Closing the Feedback Loop.” Boundless Business. Boundless, 21 Jul. 2015. Retrieved from
  2. Source: Resilience Through Mindful Leadership. Huff Post, The Third Metric, 05/31/2013. Retrieved from


The Time has Come for Heart-Centric Leadership


“Ethical values, leadership, and trust are key issues confronting executives attempting to effectively respond to the emerging and exponentially accelerating force for global, societal, and organizational change” (Fry & Slocum Jr., 2008)

“Rare are the leaders of organizations who will tell you that their people don’t matter. However, there is a big difference between understanding the value of the people inside an organization and actually making decisions that consider their needs. It’s like saying, my kids are my priority, but always putting work first.” (Chapman & Sisodia, 2015).

Within these two quotes rests insight into how leadership needs to right the shareholder only ship and steer companies and more importantly leaders, back on course. Capitalism got off course early when the system quickly embraced and was hijacked by leadership that celebrated self-serving agendas, mainly personal wealth at the expense of everyone else.

Capitalism is not bad, money is not bad, shareholder value, is.. not.. bad, and profit definitely is not bad, however, people, namely titled individuals that lead companies, but were never truly leaders, created dislike, and distaste for a system that in reality has lifted millions across the globe out of poverty, which is not bad at all. So the system is not to be blamed, nor any of the financial elements attached to capitalism, the blame rests solely on individuals that knowingly, and intentionally used a system that has the potential to elevate the many, into a machine that serves the few. It is not a matter of, as many proponents state, people being lazy that capitalism fails to help more people fairly (not equally), it is that the system is rigged against most people regardless of how hard they work. If working hard was the criteria for financial independence, then there should be a multitude of millionaire police officers, researchers, construction workers, and teachers.

The answer to transformation is in the leader. I use “in” very intentionally as nothing will change unless two things happen, one, those in current leadership positions need to self-reflect instead of self-reward, and two, individuals without titles need to realize they too are leaders. In both instances the key is internal reflection and self-awareness that reveals what is possible for humanity, versus remaining comfortable in the self-delusion of what I serve is myself. By default when you lead, you also serve others, and a purpose. For too long that purpose has been narrowly defined as creating shareholder value. When the only goal is wealth generation for a specific group, then the only decisions made are ones that serve the few. So then laws are passed that support the decisions to serve the few, companies are created and people promoted that fit the model of the few, and so communities are created that work to create financial wealth for the few. This is where we find ourselves; this is the world of Enron, Adelphia Communications Corp., Arthur Andersen, Tyco International and WorldCom Inc., of banking failures that devastate lives but spare (and often still reward) the few.

Again, to transform this reality means transforming ourselves; which means working hard on our own hearts, so they are cleared to lead others, instead of rewarding soiled minds that command others.

Our hearts continuously communicate with our minds, the majority of all information in our body goes upwards into our mind from our heart, and not from our mind to our body. Yet we discount the messages, the constant reminders from our heart of what could be, but if we would just pause to reflect and listen to our hearts, and then decide our course of action, we would generate emotional, and physical wellbeing, as well as financial worth. Why would this work, because leadership that considers their heart considers their core values, when values are known they can guide decisions that remain in alignment with serving a greater purpose than the self, thus they intentionally step into brilliance, and create cultures in which others can also find their power, their hearts. When we pay attention to both our heart and our mind we stay aware and move towards coherence, and harmony. When we as individuals are in harmony we create organizations that are harmonious, and profits that are in harmony with the purpose of the company. As Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia stated in the forward of their book, Everybody Matters, “when we say our people matter but we don’t actually care for them, it can shatter trust and create a culture of paranoia, cynicism, and self-interest.” By seeking to “know thyself” we can break the cycle of self-service, which has caused not only company failures, and employee pain, but has also created collateral damage due to toxic environments, and leaders that send anxious and stressed moms, dads, sisters and brothers home to their families, thus infecting generations with cynicism, self-doubt, or even worse, the belief that the only way to succeed is to beat others down.

The world is changing, it always will, and what I love about all the financial disasters, failed leadership, and greed-based organizations are that their own actions, and their love of money over people, are the very things that are bringing them down, causing people to see another way, allowing space for the emergence of heart-centric leadership that serves a purpose greater than the “self”.

Mike Watson, always connecting the unconnected