Performance is often a result of self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who think they are capable of succeeding are often empowered to do so. Here’s some fascinating recent research on this topic:
Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, gave a group of low-achieving seventh graders a seminar on how the brain works and put the students at random into two groups. The experimental group was told that learning changes the brain and that students are in charge of this process. The control group received a lesson on memory, but was not instructed to think of intelligence as malleable.
At the end of eight weeks, students who had been encouraged to view their intelligence as changeable scored significantly better (85 percent) than controls (54 percent) on a test of the material they learned in the seminar.
This is a breathtaking example of self-fulfilling prophecy and the “as if” principle in action. And there are many more. As we point out in our book Be Quiet, Be Heard, many studies have demonstrated that leaders’ expectations of employees have an impact on organizational effectiveness. Those who are treated as if they are capable of doing well, often do.
We want to hear. Do you perform better when you believe you are regarded as smart and capable? What do you do to make others feel this way? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.
In a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 89 percent of cellphone owners said they had used their phones during the last social gathering they attended. But they weren’t proud of it; 82 percent of adults felt that the way they used their phones in social settings hurt their conversations.
Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and author of the new book, Reclaiming Conversation, has been studying the impact of online connectivity on face-to-face conversation for the last five years. In a recent New York Times Op Ed, she noted that the benefits of dropping in and out of conversation to be online—such as never being bored, staying connected with work, and always being heard somewhere—are offset by a sense of loss.
Studies of conversation both in the lab and natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in their visual periphery changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they experience. People keep the conversation lighter, on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted., and they don’t feel as invested in each other. “Even silent phones disconnect us,” writes Turkle.
What to do? Turkle says we face a choice. “It is not about giving up our phones but about using them with greater intention. Conversation is there for us to reclaim. For the failing connections of our digital world, it is the talking cure.”
We want to hear. How do you react when people use their phones while talking to you? Do you use your phone this way? How does it affect the quality of your conversation? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Would you like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication? Check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.
Do you think you're more likely to have a misunderstanding or miscommunication with a close friend or partner or with a perfect stranger? If you’re like most of us, you probably assume you communicate most clearly with those closest to you. But that is often not the case.
Kenneth Savitsky of Williams College recently conducted an experiment that found people greatly overestimate the degree to which they imagine they are on the same page as close friends and partners.
As described on NPR, Savitsky and colleagues brought a group of couples into their lab: Some were married; some were strangers. People invariably predicted there would be less miscommunication with partners. In reality, people understood strangers about the same. But they anticipated they would have significantly better communication with those close to them—so there's actually a greater risk in communicating with loved ones because we assume we're going to understand what they mean and what they want. When it comes to strangers, we're much more likely to put effort into understanding what's happening in another person's mind.
The lesson: Even if you know someone really well, it is dangerous to ever make assumptions about what that person is thinking, feeling or wanting. So when in doubt – ask!
We want to hear. Have you ever gotten into a sticky situation by misreading what someone close to you has said? What would you do differently? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Are you reluctant to seek out advice for fear that doing so will make you seem incapable? In fact, people who ask for advice in academic and work settings are perceived as smarter and more competent than those who do not, according to a recent paper by Alison Wood Brooks and Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, and Maurice E. Schweitzer of Wharton.
“Information sharing is very important in organizations,” said Professor Brooks in The New York Times.“If everyone sat in their separate silos and never interacted with each other, they wouldn’t learn anything from each other. By not seeking advice, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to learn from your co-workers.”
Researchers came to this conclusion by analyzing the responses of working adults and college students who were asked to give their impressions of people (a computer-simulated partner, in this case) who sought their advice on various written tasks and tests.
In another upside to advice-seeking, those who are asked for advice feel recognized. So by asking for input you may not only gain wisdom but also forge a stronger relationship with a potential mentor and colleague.
We want to hear. When was the last time you asked for advice? What do you feel you gained? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Showing appreciation for a colleague at work (or even your boss!) is extremely powerful. A new report by TINYpulse--an app that sends weekly one-question surveys to employees--shows that frequent recognition increases the “fun” of work, and reduces turnover.
Drawing on survey results from over 500 clients, TINYpulse found that employees who reported getting lots of appreciation at work were the most likely to score highly on the question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how enthusiastic would you be about reapplying for your job? The report also revealed a strong correlation between recognition and workers describing work as “fun.” Additionally, workers were more likely to rate their bosses favorably if they got recognition when it was deserved.
Beyond all this, we want to point out another powerful benefit to praising others at work. As we write in our book, BE QUIET BE HEARD, tell people you like what they’re doing, and they’ll repeat it! Offering praise not only gets people to engage in the same behaviors again, but also to look for ways of improving them.
Give thanks for a little and you will get a lot!
We want to hear! Have you praised or been praised in the workplace recently? What effect did it have? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
The goal of feedback is to improve performance by increasing people’s self-awareness and understanding about how their actions affect others and how others perceive them. So feedback can provide a much-needed reality check.
But if the feedback you give seems to have little impact on behavior, maybe it’s because it’s not being given in the most effective way. Writing in The Harvard Business Review Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, offers ideas about what might be going wrong. Among them:
Finally, feedback shouldn’t begin and end with a performance review. As Chamorro-Premuzic says, “That’s just the beginning of the actual coaching, which requires follow through…”
We want to hear: How do you offer feedback and how do you like to receive it? Do you feel the feedback you have received has altered your behavior? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
In last week’s Capsule we wrote about the costs of Incivility to workers. But there is yet another group for whom incivility has a negative impact: customers.
Studies conducted by Georgetown business professor Christine Porath with marketing professors Deborah MacInnis and Valerie S. Folkes at USC found that people were less likely to patronize a business that has an employee they perceived as rude--whether the rudeness was directed at them or at other employees. “Witnessing a short negative interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization and even the brand,” writes Porath.
Why is respect, or disrespect, such a powerful motivator? Because even brief interactions affect our view of how others see us, which in turn can shape how we define ourselves. A smile, an acknowledgment, the sense that we are being heard can uplift us, while rude, dismissive behavior can leave us feeling devalued.
Sadly, Porath’s research shows incivility has soared over the past two decades: 25 percent of those surveyed in 1998 reported being treated rudely at work at least once a week. That rose to nearly 50 percent in 2005, and over 50 percent in 2011. Imagine how much lost employee and customer goodwill that adds up to! It’s time to reverse the trend, starting with identifying small moments when a slight change in demeanor can raise people up instead of bringing them down.
We want to hear! Have you ever stopped patronizing a business because workers there were rude to you or to one another? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Incivility at work costs. Christine Porath, associate professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, has researched the results of insensitive interactions for 20 years across 17 industries. Writing in The New York Times, Porath cites studies showing that incivility “hijacks workplace focus”—even contributing to patient deaths in hospital settings—and causes people to “miss information that is right in front of them.” People who feel belittled at work, she notes, also have fewer creative ideas.
Bosses demoralize workers by doing things like walking away or answering cell phones mid-conversation, pointing out flaws in front of others, and taking credit for wins while finger-pointing over losses. But Porath notes that incivility often grows out of ignorance, not malice. When asked why they behaved badly, most leaders told her they were overloaded and had no time to be nice.
Porath argues—and we whole-heartedly agree—”respect doesn’t necessarily require extra time.” Being conscious of how we communicate, not only with words, but also with tone, gestures, and facial expressions can go a long way toward creating a more civil and more creative and productive workplace.
We want to hear! Have you ever felt too rushed to be civil at work, or have you been the recipient of uncivil behavior? How would you make civility more the norm at work? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Have you been with people who talk on and on about themselves? While it may feel tiresome, there is no better way to make a good impression and come across as a great listener and communicator than to let another person self-disclose.
According to Harvard research published in Scientific American, revealing personal information to others produces a high level of activation in neural regions associated with motivation and reward. In short, it feels good. You can always prime the pump by asking people questions about their experiences, interests, and accomplishments.
In addition to making your conversation partner feel good and making you look good, there are other benefits to this kind of dialogue. Disclosing personal information to others increases social bonding and interpersonal liking. And sharing information gained through personal experiences can lead to performance advantages by facilitating teamwork.
We want to hear: How do you encourage others to talk about themselves, and what advantages do you think you gain from doing so? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
How should a manager react when an employee makes a mistake or underperforms? Some managers reprimand; others show curiosity (how did this happen?) and compassion (how can I help you through this?). Research cited by Emma Seppala, PhD, a Stanford University research psychologist writing in the Harvard Business Review, shows the compassionate response yields more positive outcomes.
In particular, a study by Jonathan Haidt of NYU shows that the more employees look up to their leaders and are affected by their kindness and compassion (a state he calls elevation), the more loyal they become. And the results magnify: When compassionate behavior is shown toward one employee, anyone who has witnessed that behavior may also experience elevation and feel more devoted.
It’s not always easy to show compassion when we are frustrated and under pressure ourselves, but we agree with Dr. Seppala, who recommends taking a moment to step back, detach, and then imagine what the other person might be experiencing. The resulting empathy can help you resolve the problem constructively.
We want to hear: How do you handle it when someone makes a mistake? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Decades of research have shown EQ (Emotional Intelligence) to be a critical differentiator for leaders. EQ affects how we manage our own behavior and how we interact with others. In a recent Inc. article, Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, recounted the chief characteristics of people with high EQs and we were struck, once again, by how many of them are related to communication.
Many aspects of EQ affect how we communicate with others. These include curiosity about other people, the ability to read others’ emotions, and a talent for neutralizing toxic people by not allowing their anger to fuel a tense situation.
Other equally important aspects of EQ, however, affect how we communicate with ourselves. Those with high EQs have what Bradberry calls “a robust emotional vocabulary”— they can identify and differentiate among many subtle states of emotion. They can joke about themselves, let go of mistakes and grudges, and “stop negative self-talk in its tracks.”
Whether your communication is internal or external, self-awareness and self-management are the keys to EQ, and to a high-impact life.
We want to hear: What communication practices do you think are measures of EQ? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, once shared a “dirty little secret” about business: A certain quality can effectively chain an organization to mediocrity if it is not developed. That quality is candor.
Likewise, Carlos Brito, CEO of InBev, says companies can never grow unless they face up to the negative truth as well as the positive. "I like people that can tell me the good and the bad with the same urgency and clarity," he says.
Hudl, a sports video software company based in Lincoln, Nebraska, has a system for honest feedback that they refer to as #RealTalk. It’s a phrase used to inspire genuine candor among the team. Hudl co-founder John Wirtz says RealTalk— one of six values read off at the start of each company retreat—has been “absolutely critical” to the company’s success.
Not every company has a culture like Hudl’s, but every organization must recognize that candor is an art. While honest feedback about performance is imperative, “brutal” honesty that picks people apart is more demoralizing than enlightening. Getting the balance right ensures that trust will grow and that conflicts can be mined for their productive value.
We want to hear: Does your workplace value candor, and how do you go about delivering honest feedback in a constructive way? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Want to create a positive new habit? Consider the language you use. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research tested the words people use when confronting temptation. One group was instructed to use the words "I can't" while the other used "I don't" when considering unhealthy food choices (“I can’t eat sugar” vs. “I don’t eat sugar”). When the study finished, subjects were offered a chocolate bar or granola bar as thanks. While 39 percent of those who used the words "I can't" chose the granola, 64 percent of those in the "I don't" group picked it over chocolate.
The study authors believe that saying "I don't" rather than "I can't" provides greater "psychological empowerment." For example, by saying, “I don’t smoke,” we reinforce our commitment by making non-smoking part of our identity.
We believe this finding can be applied to communication habits as well. Consider the power of saying “I don’t interrupt” or “I don’t use silence as a weapon.” If you want to build a positive communication style, try identifying yourself as someone who “doesn’t” engage in unproductive communication.
We want to hear: Is there a habit you want to break? How does substituting “I don’t” for “I can’t” work for you? Join the conversation by clicking "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
We have long taught that breakthroughs are most likely to occur when criticism is fully heard and the positive potential of conflict is mined. In her new book, Collective Genius, The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, Professor Linda Hill, faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative at Harvard Business School, says that leaders whose organizations innovate best are those who act as “social architects,” creating a safe collaborative space where team members can “keep pushing and challenging one another.”
The research of Hill and her co-authors suggests that successful innovation leaders have a capability they call creative abrasion: They are able to spark heated but constructive debates that amplify differences as opposed to minimizing them. “Conflict is what generates a marketplace of competitive ideas,” says Hill in an interview with strategy+business.
Generating a wealth of ideas is pointless without a second capability, creative agility, which Hill says “is about testing and refining ideas with feedback, reflection, and adjustment…The idea is to act and learn as quickly as you can, and then make necessary adjustments. When you do an experiment, it’s OK to get a negative outcome, as long as you learn from it.”
We want to hear: What do you think about the link between conflict and innovation? Can you give us an example of productive disagreement on your team? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Change can seem frightening. So it’s not uncommon for individuals—and organizations—to resist new ideas and default to justifying their current behaviors. However, a new study suggests that focusing on important values is a less threatening way to initiate new behaviors.
Researchers used brain scanning to observe how people respond when given advice about positive behavioral change (e.g. increased exercise). Before being given the advice, half the group was given a self-affirmation exercise involving thinking about a value important to them. The hope was that these kinds of thoughts would trigger activity in the part of the prefrontal cortex responsible for processing information about ourselves. Then each participant was tracked to determine whether or not they heeded the advice.
The result: Those primed with self-affirming thoughts not only displayed a lot more activity in this part of the brain, but also engaged in actual behavioral change in the following month. The control group showed no changes.
We believe priming for change with shared values can be incredibly valuable in an organization. Leaders can inspire others to embrace change by affirming the long-term goals of their organization and emphasizing the ultimate good that can be accomplished.
We want to hear: How have you been successful in initiating change—either on a personal or organizational level? What over-arching values have helped you navigate change? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.