White Papers
How to Make Successful Decisions The Dark Side of Personality Inclusion in the Board Room Mindfulness and Decision Making Assessing Talent Winning Attitude Inspirational Leadership HR and Talent Future of Talent Management Resilient Organisations A Psychologically Safe Environment
How to Make Successful Decisions
How can you enhance your decision-making ability?
How decisive we are has the most profound impact on our personal, professional, and commercial success. But what does it mean to be decisive? Each of us approach decisions in a different way, depending on our preferences.
Having worked extensively with leaders and executives, we have seen them increasingly looking for ways to collaborate with their teams and create a sense of ownership for the challenges and changes that they are facing. This research was consequently conducted to help people in business understand how the way they make decisions as a leader or colleague can influence their team, their success, and their impact.
Our intention was to find a simple way of defining and describing people’s decision-making preferences. We achieved this by researching, designing, and validating a model of decision making that is assessed using the BeTalent Decision Styles Questionnaire, which was verified by the British Psychological Society in 2022. We hope you find this white paper, our research, and the BeTalent Decision Styles Questionnaire useful to enable greater strategies for accountability, psychological safety, decision-making, and success within your organisation.
The Dark Side of Personality
What is the dark triad of personality?
For many of us, our time is often spent pursuing strong, healthy interpersonal relationships. Research in Psychology is met with an optimistic outlook, describing human behaviour using broad models (or taxonomies) that categorise human nature by their ‘bright’ elements.
Traditionally, personality is often described within a constellation of 5 independent, yet interrelated, socially desirable constructs. This model, otherwise known as the ‘Big 5’ is comprised of: Emotional Stability, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.
Some other positive attributes are also regularly included such as high self-esteem, core self-evaluations, and proactivity. At work, these traits are often linked to successful leadership, strong job performance, creativity, as well as emotional resilience in dealing with stressful working environments.
A major problem with such an optimistic outlook on personality and interpersonal relationships is that for many of us, and for much of the time, relationships are one of life’s biggest frustrations. Workplace quarrels, conflicts, disputes, and arguments are all too common, as is workplace incivility, exploitation, manipulation, and selfish intentions.
These are just some of the difficulties that affect us on a regular basis and are unfortunately all too familiar. In order to paint an accurate picture of real human behaviour, we must venture into the ‘dark side’ of personality. This white paper summarises the dark triad of personality and the 11 aspects of leadership failure associated with overused strengths and preferences at work.
Inclusion in the Board Room
How Inclusive are global organisations for female talent?
Gender diversity, or rather the lack of it, at the top of organisational hierarchies is a hotly debated topic, with only 20% of global corporate board members being women. Although there was a target to reach 33% female board representation by 2020, this will still not be met by some FTSE 300 corporations until 2027.
This is despite the clear benefits gender diversity brings, such as the significant positive relationship between the percentage of women on an organisation’s board, and the company value (Carter, Simkins & Simpson, 2003). This lack of women at board level, despite the benefits of having a diverse boardroom, provided the backdrop to our research into what women bring to the boardroom.
We interviewed 44 high potential women, who worked at CEO to CEO-2 level, to consider what propelled them to the top, as well as considering any obstacles they faced to help in future. Every female leader interviewed raised challenges which they faced to progress up the organisational hierarchy, with 60% identifying significant challenges that they had overcome in order to get to their current position whilst maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
By understanding the challenges faced and educating organisations on the importance of inclusion, we can educate and implement strategies to help future female leaders to achieve their full potential.
Mindfulness and Decision Making
How does mindfulness contribute to successful decision-making?
Effective and high-quality decision-making is critical for commercial, team and business success. The level of quality in decision-making impacts the success and failure of any business. The role of the leader is of great interest when it comes to researching decision-making. For effective, clear and concise decision-making, we need to understand how and why decisions are made.
Raising self-awareness around how an individual makes decisions and how to improve their decision-making is key to developing an individual's performance and impact. But where does mindfulness come into this? After a robust assessment of key decision-makers by using the BeTalent Decision Styles tool, decision-making styles of those with established daily mindfulness practice were compared to those without. Results suggested those who practice mindfulness were more open-minded and agile when being faced with decision-making. An open-minded approach is more agile and considered when hearing alternate perspectives, without getting overwhelmed by the multiple views and opinions.
Identifying personal decision styles and attitudes toward perceived risks will allow for enabling an open-minded approach. Practicing mindfulness and developing an open-minded approach to decision-making will allow ambiguous situations and multiple alternatives to be much less daunting - something that is of benefit in the volatile, uncertain world that we live in.
Assessing Talent
What are the most valid assessment techniques?
Some of the most important decisions for an organisation are its ‘people’ decisions, who are at the heart of organisational success. People are the driving force of innovation and progression, and in the current market, it is more important than ever for organisations to continually develop to maintain their relevance and competitive position. Assessments help organisations to achieve this through better decisions in hiring, placing and developing talent, ensuring the alignment of talent with the business objectives and vision for the future.
In this research, we have worked to understand the advantages that assessments bring to organisations, for them to be used effectively and to facilitate the continual growth and development of organisations.
By combining our experience of working in talent and assessment for 20 years with research into best-in-practice techniques, this paper presents an objective view into the use of assessments within organisations. We looked at currently used assessment tools and techniques and conducted interviews with global organisations, to understand the benefits that organisations can leverage through assessments.
Winning Attitude
What does it take to be Successful?
This white paper examines a Winning Attitude According to Olympians, CEOs, Founder Entrepreneurs and Media Personalities.
Research suggests that there are many characteristics that contribute to an individual making it to the top of their sport or industry. Less information exists about the critical elements that make the real difference and catapult people to the dizzy heights of the Olympics, Global Business or West End success. Here, success means a person being at the top of their game, achieving significant results and being championed by others as a Winner; a success that others only aspire to achieve.
In this research, we have worked to understand the ingredients that make up a Winning Attitude. Our 20 years of working in the talent arena have shown that while many of us are talented and have strengths that help us to succeed, real success requires more than just talent.
In order to discover the key ingredients to success, we interviewed 42 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Presidents, Founder-Entrepreneurs, Sports Stars, Olympians and Media personalities including Mark Foster, Olympic Swimmer, Ruthie Henshall, Broadway Star, and Jacqueline Gold CBE, CEO of Ann Summers, who shared their mindset and motivations to overcoming adversity and becoming champions in their field. This research paper articulates the attributes of a Winning Attitude and provides real examples from our interviewees.
Inspirational Leadership
What are the defining characteristics of an ‘Inspirational Leader’?
This white paper examines what it means to be an ‘Inspirational Leader’ and how this is different to ‘Executive Presence’.
Research exploring leadership strengths and qualities suggests there are many components to ‘successful’ leadership, however little is known about what makes a leader inspirational and what it means to have Executive Presence. Although many businesses seek to promote Inspirational Leadership and Executive Presence, a degree of uncertainty remains as to what it means to have Executive Presence and what is required to be an inspirational leader. Here we recognise an inspiring leader as a role model, someone who has the necessary knowledge to create a vision.
On the other hand, Executive Presence relates to the ability to deliver ideas with conviction and confidence, whilst possessing a consistent desire to engage others. In this research, we have identified the key factors underlying Inspirational Leadership and how this differentiates from having Executive Presence.
In an attempt to further understand what constitutes Inspirational Leadership and Executive Presence, 196 in-depth interviews were conducted with leaders from a wide range of job roles including: Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Heads of Learning & Development, Business Directors, Partners, Senior Consultants and Global Business Development Managers.
Zircon’s research into Inspirational Leadership & Executive Presence articulates the qualities and attributes associated with Inspirational Leadership and Executive Presence, and provides real examples of both characteristics.
HR and Talent
What is the future for HR and Talent?
In recent years, operating as a successful HR or Talent leader has become more challenging than ever before with the increase in organisational change, promoting operational complexities and a growing level of external competition leading to greater business demands.
Despite the barriers, HR leaders and Talent leaders continue to persevere with ensuring they remain strategic in meeting business demands. In consideration of these factors, this paper works to review the primary micro and macro challenges that have confronted HR leaders and Talent managers over the last few years and the strategies they have adopted in response to these changes in the working environment.
Understanding how HR leaders of today can effectively meet future business needs and resist the impact of both internal and external challenges is critical for success. We interviewed HR and Talent leaders from national and global organisations to understand the challenges impacting HR, and the strategies they are adopting to overcome these challenges. This paper articulates and summarises the future challenges and how to start to overcome them.
Future of Talent Management
What are the optimum approaches to talent management?
Today more than ever before, keeping the business approach to ‘talent’ simple is a fundamental driver for organisations. However, research has identified that whilst many organisations have a talent strategy in place, very few organisations effectively communicate this to their business leaders. As a result, it is often that leaders feel unclear about what their organisation means by ‘talent’, let alone a ‘talent strategy’.
Here, we understand that much of this uncertainty results from poor communication across the organisation, meaning that organisations fail to embed talent into the mindset of the workforce, resulting in a lack of employee buy-in. As a result, this research seeks to develop a greater understanding of how organisations approach talent management and whether they effectively define, communicate and apply a strategy across the organisation. Arguably, it is through effective communication and application that business leaders then emphasise the importance of human capital as an asset in driving organisational aspirations.
To explore the prevalence and effectiveness of talent management strategies, leaders from 85 organisations were interviewed through online surveys and telephone interviews. This research paper summarises the resultant definition of talent and how this differs from potential. It considers the impact on assessment, and how organisations could take a more strategic approach to looking at talent.
Resilient Organisations
How can we Build Resilience and Avoid Burnout?
With the challenges of working in these unstable and uncertain times, many leaders and executives are demonstrating a higher level of stress and a greater prevalence of burnout.
This research was consequently conducted to help understand how people feel on both a good and bad day and how their emotions impact their ability to cope with stress and difficulty at work. Our intention was to understand, articulate and find a simple way of assessing people’s level of resilience so that we could identify and build better coping strategies.
Every day we experience a myriad of emotions both good and bad, depending on the situation, people, and circumstances we face. Some days, it feels as though we just need to grit our teeth and struggle through the day, battling with the demands placed upon us, refusing to spend time thinking about the impact our actions have on the way we see ourselves and the world around us. Other days, we embark upon the day almost joyfully, looking forward to each event, attending to how we are feeling and recognising the impact we are making at work and for our customers, stakeholders, or clients.
Understanding how we can help people to be more resilient is critically important with such a large proportion of our working leaders experiencing burnout in their careers. This white paper starts to articulate the model we have created to help people be more aware, build up their level of resilience, and avoid burnout.
A Psychologically Safe Environment
What is Psychological Safety?
During these uncertain times, many leaders and executives are looking for ways to create a sense of unity, stability and cohesion for their teams. Therefore, we are increasingly talking to our clients about the concept of “Psychological Safety”. Psychological Safety describes a person’s ability to be themselves without the fear of negative consequences for their brand, self-image, status or career. A person’s interpretation of their Psychological Safety is a result of the climate rather than culture, in other words, it impacts how a person feels about working for the company or within a team.
This research was conducted to help people in business understand how they can work with their teams to understand the climate in which they work and the impact this has on performance, well-being and the sense of belonging. Our intention was to understand, articulate and find a simple way of assessing people’s level of Psychological Safety so that we could identify and build ways of helping teams to change the environment in which they work. We achieved this by researching, designing, and validating a model which articulates 10 aspects of Psychological Safety.
The research summarises both the antecedents of Psychological Safety and its benefits. It also discusses how to improve the level of Psychological Safety in an organisation.

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