Mastering Authenticity: Refining Your Speaking Skills for Effective Leadership in Business.

In the world of business, where connections shape results and success is crucial, authenticity is a cornerstone trait. It’s a key to building meaningful relationships, establishing trust, and developing as a leader. For executives, authenticity is essential in every interaction, and of course a powerful and genuine speaking voice is a key element to this. We often forget to develop this skill, but it makes a difference to every interaction, whether it’s a phone call, a chat, or a presentation. But how can you put genuine emotions, purpose, and sincerity into your voice?

Unveiling the Potential of Your Speaking Voice

In the realm of effective business communication, a commanding speaking voice is more than just the manipulation of tone and volume; there is an array of essential factors that contribute to a successful speech, regardless of whether a microphone is in use.

The Role of Spontaneity

Spontaneity injects vitality into your speech. Embracing your genuine self and speaking confidently from that foundation fosters authenticity, engaging your audience and forging more profound connections.

Navigating Nuance: The Value of Tone Variation

The skill of modulating tones introduces layers of emotional depth and sophistication to your messaging. These nuanced variations reflect the intricate nature of your thoughts and emotions, enhancing your narrative’s impact when combined with authenticity.

Precision through Pacing: Strategic Tempo and Pauses

Employing well-calibrated pacing and strategically timed pauses establishes a rhythmic pattern that demands attention. This rhythm captures your audience’s focus and lends gravitas to your message. The integration of genuine emotions and authenticity ensures this rhythm resonates effectively.

Controlled Breathing: Mastering Vocal Delivery

Controlled breathing is a testament to vocal mastery. An authentic voice, shaped by the cadence of your natural breath, conveys your intentions precisely, weaving a seamless connection between your thoughts and spoken expression.

Listening as You Speak: Finding the Right Balance

For an executive, speaking needs to transcend the monologue. Authenticity is not just about sharing your thoughts but also about listening to and understanding your audience, even as they are silent. Intuitively reacting to their responses guides your communication, allowing for change, emphasis, or further exploration. True authenticity strikes a balance between speaking and listening, making your voice a soundboard for understanding.

Beyond the microphone

In the pursuit of impactful business communication, it’s essential to recognise that the microphone is merely a tool – the true resonance resides within the fundamental quality of your voice. By blending spontaneity, nuanced tones, strategic pacing, and controlled breathing, you create a powerful communication that transcends the need for a microphone. This approach empowers you to forge meaningful connections and make a lasting impression in various business settings, transforming routine speaking moments into remarkable opportunities.

Creating Authenticity: Practising and Learning

Having an authentic speaking voice isn’t just something you’re born with; it’s a skill you develop through practice and guidance. Just like leadership skills, the art of sincere communication develops over time.

Practising in different situations, refining your tone, and embracing vulnerability are important for authenticity. Having a coach’s guidance can be invaluable. A skilled coach can notice the subtleties of what to improve, give objective feedback, and assist you in bringing your authentic self into your speaking style.

The Heart of Communication: a Call to Leadership

In a world full of digital connections, business jargon, and information overload, authenticity is a rare and prized quality. If you can find a way of making your words and your delivery reflect your true self, then your meaning will resonate. Embrace your voice, nurture it, and let it shape your journey as a genuine and forward-thinking leader.

Challenges and Strategies

In today's fast-paced and competitive world, the significance of mental health in the workplace cannot be overstated. We all know that the well-being of employees not only affects their individual lives but also has a profound impact on organizational success. Addressing mental health concerns within the workplace is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity. Based on my talks with various firms, let me explore the challenges associated with mental health in the workplace and discuss effective strategies for promoting a mentally healthy work environment.

As I see, one of the major challenges concerning mental health in the workplace is the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues. This stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help, as they fear negative repercussions on their careers or reputations. Consequently, mental health problems might go unnoticed and untreated, leading to more severe issues down the line.

Moreover, the nature of modern work, characterized by high demands, tight deadlines, home office environment and long working hours, can contribute to stress and burnout. These conditions, if left unaddressed, can lead to decreased job satisfaction, increased absenteeism, and reduced overall productivity. Additionally, the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life due to technological advancements can make it challenging for employees to disconnect, exacerbating stress levels.

Managing and improving mental health in the workplace requires a comprehensive and honest approach that involves both employers and employees. Obviously there are many effective strategies to consider, including:

Raise Awareness and Reduce Stigma

Employers can take the lead in creating a culture of open conversation around mental health. This involves destigmatizing mental health issues by providing information, resources, and training to employees and managers. Encouraging honest discussions about mental health can help create an atmosphere where seeking help is seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness.

Workplace Design and Flexibility

Employers should strive to design jobs that consider the mental well-being of employees. This includes manageable workloads, reasonable deadlines, control of work and the autonomy to make decisions. Furthermore, offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, can help employees manage their work-life balance more effectively.

Mental Health Support Programs

Many organisations established already Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or provided access to mental health professionals can offer employees a confidential outlet for discussing their concerns and receiving guidance. These programs can play a crucial role in early intervention and prevention.

Promote Work-Life Balance

We must encourage employees to take breaks, use vacation time, and disconnect from work outside of working hours to help prevent burnout. This can be reinforced through company policies that prioritize employee well-being.

Training and Education

Providing training to managers and employees on recognizing the signs of mental health issues and how to provide appropriate support can contribute to a more compassionate and understanding work environment.

Regular Check-ins

Managers can conduct regular one-on-one check-ins with their team members to discuss their workload, challenges, and well-being. This not only helps address potential issues but also shows that the organization values its employees' mental health.

If you are not confident dealing with this topic as a business leader, CXO or a senior HR person, you may ask for help or advise from a professional. The gains are incredible. This can make your company a healthier, happier, and more productive firm.

The full-scale war in Ukraine became a real test of viability not only for all of us, but also for the Executive Search market. 

The war meant that many companies significantly reduced hiring volumes in Ukraine, or closed, or left the Ukrainian market; most had to stop, postpone or curtail non-critical projects. 

However, Ukrainian business is finding strength for recovery and a steady movement forward - business is gradually adapting. Many organizations have become more mobile or even global overnight because the war forced them to either transfer production to the western regions of Ukraine, or to enter new markets outside the state, and in a very short time. 

Even in the most difficult conditions, Ukrainians continue to look ahead with optimism and are already planning the future for economic development.

It is admirable that, despite the war and all the challenges associated with it, organizations are rebuilding production facilities and opening vacancies for talented specialists, and every week the number of offers on job portals is increasing. 

The war is a huge shock for any country, but despite everything, people in Ukraine continue to go to work, look for work, and reorganize their businesses.

Ukrainians are proving that optimism is a truly invaluable phenomenon. 

We all crave good experiences.

We all hate bad experiences.

This increasing trend towards experience is so strong that in 2023 we are seeing Chief Experience Officers (CXO) being appointed to ensure that it is made a foundational element of business strategy.

A recent PwC report noted that it is what every company strives for. Yet so many fall short of expectations – perfectly reasonable expectations.

“Call it an experience disconnect: companies tout the latest technology or snappy design, but haven’t focused on, or invested in, the most meaningful aspects of customer experience”.

What truly makes for good Customer Experience?

Communication. Consistency. Convenience. Speed. Friendliness - and of course the human touch.

As well as Customer Experience, businesses increasingly need to think about Employee Experience as competition for the most talented and skilled workers grows more intense.

Over the past year, we have seen huge movements of talented people, referred to as the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting, as workers reassessed the impact of work and what they want to get out of their lives.

We often see companies try to retain their key employees by offering financial incentives. However, in our experience, many of those employees would have stayed put anyway and others have concerns that money alone can’t address.

Praise from leadership, frequent promotion, the flexibility of hybrid work, a positive company culture and opportunities to lead projects are often more effective in terms of retention than simply cash. Effective leadership-development programs designed to retain key employees identified as being at risk of departure are also hugely effective.

Customer and Employee experience is a critical component of loyalty and, as a result, revenue.

Árpád Németh is named amongst the leading Human Resource professionals in Hungary.

The Top HR Business Executives in Hungary magazine is a special annual publication of the Budapest Business Journal. It focuses on outstanding achievements and how the Hungarian HR market is developing. It looks at leading HR organizations, the challenges of a tight labour market and the trends shaping the market in Hungary today. The selection is unashamedly subjective, having been made by the editorial team of the Book of Lists and the BBJ, and draws on a 30-year-history of providing unparalleled business news and analysis. The readership of Top HR Business Executives mirrors much of that of the BBJ, including many of the country’s leading business executives, diplomats, and decision-makers.

Read Árpád's full interview in the BBJ:

Árpád Németh interview in BBJ Top50 HR ExecutivesDownload

How important is industry experience in a recruitment process?

In the Executive Search industry, it is important to have a delicate balance between supporting and challenging one's clients.

As an Executive Search company, you are tasked with finding the best possible candidates for a given position and presenting them to the client. But how do you find the right balance between meeting the client's requirements and challenging their view of what the ideal candidate is?

One of the factors that often plays an important role is industry experience. Clients often have a strong opinion about the profile they are looking for and may be inclined to look for candidates with direct experience in their industry. As Executive Search consultants, it is our job to understand our clients' needs while broadening their horizons and introducing them to potential candidates who may not have direct industry experience.

While industry experience can be an advantage, it is important to have a broader approach to the recruitment process. By only looking for candidates with direct industry experience, you risk overlooking candidates who have transferable skills and competencies from other industries that can be transferred and benefit the client. It is our job to understand what skills and attributes are critical to the position and find candidates who match those requirements, regardless of whether they have direct industry experience or not.

It is also important to remember that industry experience does not necessarily guarantee success. Candidates with lots of industry experience may still have weaknesses and limitations, and it's important to find the best candidate for the job, regardless of their previous experience. As Executive Search consultants, it is our job to evaluate the candidates on a wide range of factors, including their skills, personality and potential, to find the best match for the client.

In the end, it's about having the right balance between supporting and challenging the client. As Executive Search consultants, it is our responsibility to understand our clients' needs and present them with candidates who can meet those needs. But we also have an obligation to challenge their views and expand their horizons so they can find the best possible candidate for their organization, whether they have direct industry experience or not.

Peter Krogsgaard, SVP Commercial at Copenhagen Airport, has the following considerations, "I myself have made several industry changes from Retail, to Telecom, over the IT industry to my position today, as responsible for the commercial part of running Copenhagen Airport. I have focused on hiring talented managers, regardless of whether the management experience is from the same industry or a different industry. I have focused on two overall competencies: The intellectual capacity – the ability to understand the value creation and the ecosystem in a new industry, as well as the candidate's personality, drive, motivation, etc. Together, it often quickly provides direction, structure and momentum.”

We have outlined the most important properties in the 4 points below. Some of the most common transferable skills and competencies that can be transferred from one industry to another include:

But what about you?

Have you tried a change of industry or have you yourself hired someone who had no industry experience? And what is your experience with this?

We will get back to you within a week - at the latest!

Like everyone else, as candidates we experienced the post-interview limbo - waiting for the outcome that might, or might not, change our future.

Today, in our role as intermediaries, we find ourselves in the position of having to accommodate the (often excessively long) timelines of the client selection process, while being all too conscious of our candidates' state of limbo.

It is an uncomfortable position.

Both client and candidate should, and must, be looked after.

Why we create a roadmap

In our opinion, the only solution is to agree a roadmap of the entire selection process, which must be respected by the entities involved.

We understand that communication with our client is vital and when a remit changes we know an agile approach is imperative to ensure the process does not stall.

At the same time, we make sure that our candidates never feel isolated. We guide them through every step of the selection process, offering answers and suggestions, preparing them for interviews and establishing long term relationships.

A timeline

Perhaps a week may be too short a time to give answers and manage what is certainly a complex process, but we think that within two months may be the right time to 'close the circle' and go from presenting candidates to hiring the best one.

Let’s bring up culture again

Great brands, great experiences, great organizations.

Declining brands, woeful experiences and toxic organizations.

Two sides of a cultural stick perhaps.

In the old days, structure told us how things were supposed to work – the designed organization. Something was also telling us that structure may not work as intended – the lived organization. We’ve moved a long way to appreciate the organization today as a place of living and expression as much as a place of processes, roles or corporate outcomes (if not more). Ultimately, culture plays a big part in corporate success, and failure.

Culture was a really trendy topic some thirty years ago, before we realized some challenges with validation and organization effectiveness. Maybe more cult than culture! There are more opportunities today to evaluate this critical feature of corporate and working life; more tried and tested methods. So, let’s use them.

The challenge with culture is what we are measuring and why. Is there ‘good’ and ‘bad’ culture? How do we decide on factors to assess values, beliefs and assumptions? And assuming we can identify dimensions of meaningful insights, how does it relate to effectiveness, individuals, groups, leaders, stakeholders and customers? Or, to change and adaptation? Good cultural insights need tailoring. But don’t wait for the crisis. Culture creeps silently, for better and for worse, surviving the quarter perhaps, but eventually…

There are so many issues from culture it seems impossible to ignore. Talent management, succession, retention, collaboration, communications, structure, risk, resilience, innovation, strategic planning…and yes, even profit. Leadership matters because of the ability to be attuned to culture, the intangible yet very tangible force behind success as well as ruination. However, culture can now be a little more visible and a little less reliant on someone’s intuition, speculation or the occasional away day. Cultural diagnosis may be somewhat science and somewhat art. But now there’s more science, which can help with the art of leadership!

Virtually all aspects of strategy, organization development and effectiveness take something from cultural insights. We meet leaders every day and see the situations they encounter – organization culture is definitely one of them. At Friisberg & Partners we are very well positioned to support incoming and existing leadership with rigorous methodologies and tools for cultural diagnosis and change.

How can we help you?

Old but Gold: Why hire Older Workers?

As people become more health-conscious and with better healthcare and medical advances, a higher life expectancy is a new reality, globally.

Companies need to understand what this means for them and come to accept and value of an older worker.

They need to rethink their HR policies and put in place systems and processes to leverage the strengths and potential of an older workforce.

But, who are our 'Older Workers'?

Did you know that from an economic perspective, an older worker is a person with more than 15 years of experience, regardless of age?

According to a recent study conduced by the French Association “A Compétence Egale” (which fights against discrimination in companies) an employee is considered to be an older worker from the age of 49.6.

Despite this numbers, it is important to note that the definition can vary depending on the company, the sector, the country and the position of the Recruiter or Candidate –perhaps we can be more generous with an average of 52.7 years.

What about the senior’s employment prospects in European countries?

While France’s employment rate for the seniors has been steadily increasing, it remains low compared to other European countries, particularly in the over 60 age group.



For a European average of 60.5% at the beginning of 2023, the employment rates of older people vary from 43.8% in Romania to almost 77% in Sweden. France is in 16th place out of 27, with an employment rate for older workers of around 56%.

Broadly speaking, we can observe the culture of "regulation by the labour market" in Western countries, guided by the economic situation, the "culture of duty to work and to remain in employment", which is found particularly in Japan, or the "culture of the right to work at any age" in the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, whereas France seems to be more sensitive to a "culture of early exit".

In a particularly tight labour market, this is a major issue linked to demographic change, as people in their fifties represent the main pool of available labour. This raises the question of the respective roles of the different generations in our societies, their place in the production of wealth, the transmission of knowledge, as well as the new forms of solidarity that can unite them.

A topical political issue in France

While the French government is working on new pension reforms, it’s relevant to understand how the situation is evolving, nationally.

In 2021, the rate was 5.8 points lower than the European Union, with a gap that widens to 12 points for the 60–64-year-old age group.

During the 1970s, employment policies encouraged the withdrawal of older people from the employment market in order to favour access to work for younger people. The retirement age was reduced from 65 to 60 years with early retirement schemes, this largely led to a reduction in the employment rate of older people.

The trend has been reversed 20 years later.  As a result of the ageing of the population, the increase in life expectancy and therefore the growing cost of financing pensions, the authorities have had to adapt their policy and work to maintain the employment of older people. Many reforms have followed with the effect of increasing the employment rate of older people by more than 8 points in 10 years.

However, in the same period, the unemployment rate of this population has risen sharply, with temporary contracts. Several measures have been implemented, such as the Senior CDD, the employment skills pathway, the cumulative employment – retirement scheme and government subsidies.

In March 2023, a vote was taken to create a new type of contract, an "End-of-Career" contract to promote the recruitment of 60+ employees.

Beyond the flexibility of commitment and financial advantages, what value do older workers bring to the workplace?

Five reasons why older workers are an asset to organizations:

  1. Cost/benefit ratio: The question of the cost of a senior employee is often still a barrier to hiring them, but the subject should be approached in its entirety; it is important to think in terms of cost/benefit ratio and not only in financial cost.
  2. Experience and network are an asset: Their experience is a great benefit. They can leverage this to solve all kinds of problems. They’ve most likely seen similar situations before and can deal with crisis better. Given their years of work, they generally have great contacts and business relationships in place that they can leverage.
  3. They are loyal and display a greater level of professionalism: They are also better communicators. Given their vast experience, they are used dealing with all types of people, which makes them good at customer service.
  4. They are great mentors: They have good transferable skills with the patience to teach and the willingness to do so. It makes them happy and fulfilled knowing that they can impart their knowledge to someone else. The senior member of a team encourages intergenerational cooperation.
  5. They have an open mindset: They are passionate about being a valuable team member and enjoy being part of a group of diverse people, in an environment where respect is key. Workplaces that hire older people are generally more harmonious, which leads to higher productivity.

Mature workers reduce turnover and absence costs. Research consistently indicates that older employees, with their loyalty and commitment, reduce turnover and absenteeism costs in their organisation.

So, what are you waiting for? Believe in yourself! Employers, make the most of this fabulous resource!


Understanding Leadership in the post-pandemic era is a new challenge for senior executives. 

We see policies becoming increasingly important as things like “work-life-balance” take on new meaning. In the post-pandemic era, companies must grapple with different policies necessary to drive behavior. Work policies (e.g., all remote, hybrid remote/on-site, four-day work week) will vary by industry, economic conditions, geography, products or services offered, etc.

As we look to the ever-evolving workplace, we see where leadership style has meaning and much of that “style” will impact how companies fair post-COVID. The manner in which executives lead through this change will impact how their businesses operate moving forward.

Some considerations:

Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested in June of 2022 that the shift to more remote work is the "mother of all experiments”. During the outset of the pandemic, Mr Cook suggested he was impressed employee’s ability to work remotely. His style was inclusive and allowed for experimentation and an evolving approach, but he often suggested a move back to in-office model. In April of 2022, Apple policy set out to drive a hybrid workplace suggesting a three-day-a-week in office policy.

Siemens was way ahead of the curve – in June of 2020 (6 months into the pandemic), Siemens established policies that supported “mobile working as core component of the new normal”.  Interesting note in the press release suggesting the “model based on transformation of leadership and corporate culture”. This leadership initiative set aside the uncertainty of remote work and recognized the change of corporate culture.

Elon Musk was faced with two different businesses with very different requirements (and ability) to work remote. His message to Tesla was direct – “if you don’t show up for work we’ll assume you resigned”. In January of this year, Musk sent a different message to his Twitter organization suggesting remote work made sense. Mr. Musk knew he had to adapt to each business circumstance, and he delivered forceful policies to support his position.

CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz offered his policy to reinvigorate “collaboration and camaraderie”. While Mr. Schultz openly states he’s annoyed with the fact that employees are not returning to the corporate office, he is aware of the larger social shift and is willing to build policy to support the growth of the business. Starbucks issued a policy that enabled the workforce to participate in the hybrid work model decision.

There’s one theme that we hear consistently in this post-pandemic era – the workforce is changing and it's increasingly important for leaders to listen more carefully to this shift in social behavior. Well thought out strategies and related policies may lead to increased employee productivity, retention, and longevity. It also impacts ability to recruit employees to the business.

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