Can attaining a position of power actually interfere with the ability to empathize? Sadly, research says it does.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Lou Solomon, CEO of the consultancy Interact, says this happens, “slowly, and then suddenly…with bad mini-choices, made perhaps on an unconscious level.” The powerful often become preoccupied with self-interest; simultaneously, they lose ability to read emotions and to adapt behavior to other people. In fact, power can actually change how the brain functions, according to research from neuroscientist Sukhvinder Obhi.
The good news: All of this can be mitigated with self-awareness and self-management. We agree with Solomon, who recommends that those who want to avoid such counterproductive power traps remember to ask for feedback and be willing to risk vulnerability. Invite others to share the spotlight when things go well and take your share of the blame when they don’t. In the end, generosity and humility will inspire loyalty, trust and enthusiasm in those around you.
We want to hear: Have you noticed a change in yourself or anyone else when promoted to a power position? How did you deal with it? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Ilan Zechory and Tom Lehman are not only self-described “best friends,” but also co-founders of Genius.com, a start-up that enables users to annotate song lyrics and other text available on the Internet. Like any two people in a close working relationship, they know conflict comes with the territory. They are also wise enough to know that conflict need not damage their relationship or their company.
After a recent blowup (the two entrepreneurs have opposite management styles and ways of approaching problems) they began seeing a therapist who counsels individuals, couples and some business partners. Once a week, they told The New York Times, they spend an hour articulating their differences and refining their ideas.
Their three big takeaways from the process: “Never let an opportunity pass to say something positive; walking away from a heated conversation doesn’t signal abandonment; and it is better to discuss a problem because it will surface anyway.”
We applaud these leaders, and we resoundingly agree with the lessons they have learned. The more that leaders take a productive approach to conflict, the more successful they and their organizations are bound to be.
We want to hear: Do you think people who work together should set aside time each week to creatively resolve conflict? Join the conversation by clicking "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
For most of the 20th century, business schools strived to turn out managers; now they promise to graduate leaders. According to The New York Times, the trend can be traced back to 1977 when Harvard professor Abraham Zaleznik, published a paper entitled “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?”
Many remain skeptical of goals to “educate leaders who make a difference in the world” (Harvard), develop “brave leaders who inspire growth in people, organizations, and markets” (Northwestern/Kellogg), and create “leaders of consequence” (Duke/Fuqua). They ask: Can leadership really be taught?
We believe leadership can be taught. Leaders need core communication skills to create cultures that breed both performance and engagement. The more that business schools incorporate skills like encouraging collaboration and harnessing the innate power of conflict, the more their graduates will be prepared to innovate and inspire.
We want to hear: Do you think leadership can be taught, and what specific skills should be the focus? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
With employment on the rise, turnover is once again a key concern for employers. As a preventive measure, reports The Wall Street Journal, companies like Credit Suisse are analyzing data predicting who might have an eye on the door.
What they are seeing is a multi-faceted picture of what motivates retention—or not. Factors like pay, or even workers’ relationships with their bosses, can be trumped by how connected employees feel to their teams. And, “at Credit Suisse, managers’ performance and team size turn out to be surprisingly powerful influences, with a spike in attrition among employees working on large teams with low-rated managers.”
While no single piece of data predicts retention with certainty, many of the numbers appear to highlight the power of employee engagement. When workers are bonded to their teammates and when those teams have effective leaders, the impulse is to see things through. The rewards go beyond the monetary: It is hard to put a price tag on the sense of self-worth, excitement, and accomplishment that engagement generates.
On the other hand, it is easy to put a price tag on unwanted attrition. The median cost of turnover for most jobs, says the Center for American Progress, is about 21% of an employee’s annual salary. William Wolf, Credit Suisse’s global head of talent acquisition and development, says a one-point reduction in attrition saves the bank $75 to $100 million annually.
We want to hear: Why do you stay at your job…or what has made you want to leave a job in the past? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
“Athletics teach you to maximize your strengths, while also asking you to compensate for your weaknesses by relying on the strength of others. [Sports] asks you to embrace and respect the unique skills and talents of your teammates and how what they bring to the table contributes to the overall success of the team.” So says Chris Smith, former college athlete and CEO of Athlete Network.
Writing in Fast Company, Smith says the following lessons, which generate success on the field, build better leaders off it:
Success is a “we” thing – It’s a result of how seamlessly you integrate with teammates or co-workers.
A Diverse Team is Strongest -- Tackling a problem or question from a variety of viewpoints, backgrounds, and perspectives is empowering.
Nobody Wants to Work with a Brilliant Jerk -- Talent will take you places; arrogance, close-mindedness and ego won’t.
We agree. Working toward a common goal and respecting others’ skills is as necessary in business as in sports.
We want to hear! What business lessons have sports taught you? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
There’s lots of yelling at football games, but for the Oregon Ducks, that yelling is relegated to the stands. The old stereotype of coaches shouting in the faces of players to “motivate” them has given way to a kinder, gentler approach.
“It’s not about who can scream the loudest,” Mark Helfrich, the Ducks’ second-year coach told the Wall Street Journal (http://on.wsj.com/1IOCVE3). “We have excellent specialists in their field, great leaders of young men…There’s hopefully a lot more talking than yelling.”
“When you put your arm around a guy and say, ‘This is how it could be done better,’ they understand you care about them and you just want what’s best for the team,” said Marcus Mariota, Oregon’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. “Those guys already understand that they did wrong.”
The Ducks, who have embraced a more soft-spoken philosophy since implementing a “horizontal leadership structure” in 2009, are not alone in substituting constructive communication for a drill-sergeant approach. More organizations are doing likewise as their workforces are increasingly populated by Millennials, who are more comfortable being approached as collaborators.
While we are unabashed Ducks fans, that is not our only reason for endorsing the team’s use of constructive communication as a motivator. It is part of the growing wave of organizations that understand the benefits of viewing each of their members as leaders in their own way.
We want to hear: Is there a place for quieter talking and less yelling in sports? Have you known people – on or off the field -- motivated by yelling, or do you think there is always a better alternative? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
One morning in Bangalore, India, tech startup founder Archana Patchirajan, told her entire staff she had to let them go because the venture had run out of funds. Amazingly, her high-caliber engineers, who had their pick of jobs, said they would rather work for half their pay than leave her. They worked so hard that a few years later the company, Hubbl, sold for $14 million. Now Archana continues to work on startups from the US and her staff, thousands of miles away, continues to work for her.
When asked why they are so loyal, the staff mentioned their boss’s ability to be honest with them, give them time to analyze mistakes, and even share her own doubts and vulnerabilities. In short, she was authentic. http://bit.ly/1uZG5y0
Some leaders try to project an image of perfection and certainty at all times in order to be respected by others, but pretense often backfires. Our brains are wired to read cues so subtle that even when we don’t consciously register those cues, our bodies react. For example, according to research by James Gross at Stanford University, when someone is angry but hides their feelings we may not realize consciously they are angry (they don’t look angry); nevertheless, our own blood pressure will rise. On the other hand, when we are around someone who is authentic and vulnerable we perceive them as trustworthy—and that trustworthiness inspires engagement and loyalty.
We want to hear: Are you ever aware that someone is trying to project a false image, and how do you react? Are there leaders who inspire you with their willingness to appear vulnerable? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Enrique Burgos
For years we heard about Google’s infamous job interview brainteasers (“How many times a day do a clock’s hands overlap?”), but the company has declared them useless in hiring (http://bit.ly/nobrainteasers)
According to Laszlo Bock, that company’s head of people operations, pedigrees from elite colleges and even high GPAs are also not strong predictors of job performance.
Bock told The New York Times (http://bit.ly/morehumility) that Google looks instead for “the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better.” This “intellectual humility,” as Bock calls it, is fundamental to learning. It is expressed as an ability to process information on the fly and to absorb the lessons of failure. Google interviewers screen for it by asking how applicants handled tough situations.
Being intellectually humble does not mean being wishy-washy. As Bock describes it, employees who possess this quality will “fight like hell” for their position. But if a new fact is introduced, they are unafraid to say, “That changes things. You are right.”
We have long talked about the value of genuinely listening to the ideas of others. Successful teamwork and emergent leadership depend on this sort of open-mindedness and on the strength of character to trade certainty for curiosity.
We want to hear: Can you describe a circumstance where a willingness to embrace another point of view led to success? Does your organization have a way of screening for this quality in prospective employees? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Image Credit: Alain Bachellier https://www.flickr.com/photos/alainbachellier/
Does your boss regularly email you a high-priority assignment or question at midnight? If so, your productivity may be negatively affected.
Jennifer Deal, a senior research scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership, surveyed white-collar workers and found most were tied to email13.5 hours a day, well into the evening -- some not even taking a break during dinner. What haunts such workers is the expectation that they are supposed to reply immediately, no matter the hour, or face dire consequences. This endless, reflexive checking comes from dread—not true engagement.
This research (http://nyti.ms/1puscUX) discovered that continual emailing often masks poor management practices. When employees face endless questions and “cc’s” to every team member about each niggling detail, they often don’t feel empowered to make decisions. In contrast, when employees are actually empowered, they make more judgment calls and start using phone and face-to-face conversations to resolve issues quickly.
Limiting workplace email is actually a trend in high-productivity Germany, where Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom have adopted policies that limit work-related email during evenings and weekends. Can it happen in the U.S.? Only if it comes from the top. We believe that leaders should assess their use of email and make sure they are not inadvertently using it as an enabler of timidity and procrastination.
We want to hear! Are you tethered to email 24/7? What changes in email policy, if any, would you like to see in your organization? Join the conversation and click "comments" below.
Image Credit: Theen Moy https://www.flickr.com/photos/theenmoy/
Do you perform better at tasks you find both interesting and meaningful? You are not alone. Recounting her research in The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/1tWZtQh) Paula A. O’Keefe, assistant professor of psychology at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, describes an experiment where she and a colleague asked a group of undergraduates to work on word puzzles. “Before they began, we had them tell us how exciting and enjoyable they thought the task would be. Then they read a statement that framed the task as either personally valuable or of neutral value.”
Those who read the first statement, and who also thought the task would be enjoyable, solved the most problems. It wasn’t simply because their interest made them want to work longer. Their engagement was more efficient because they were focused and “in the zone.” A follow-up study showed that this group was also the least “mentally exhausted”(as measured by their ability to squeeze a hand-grip after the task was done). By contrast, those who were uninterested in the task not only performed worse, but also were mentally fatigued.
The lesson: liking our work matters! Leaders of any sort (managers, teachers, parents) should do all they can to frame work in a meaningful context—not only in terms of its immediate end but also its broader impact. Why is this work significant? What part does it play in achieving a greater goal? And—because related research shows that social engagement can foster interest—whom will it help?
We want to hear. Does your performance improve when you enjoy what you do? How do you motivate others to see work as interesting and meaningful? Join the conversation: click "comments" below.
Image Credit: Sebastaan ter Burg https://www.flickr.com/photos/ter-burg/
The pernicious effects of a bullying boss can replicate like a virus, says a new study in The Journal of Social Psychology (http://bit.ly/1C1qlQh). Abusive bosses not only demoralize employees in their direct line of fire, but also demoralize the co-workers of those they mistreat.
The study, which examined 233 workers, looked at the effects of second-hand or “vicarious” abuse--the impact of simply hearing rumors about how badly a boss treated a colleague. Results revealed that both personally experienced and vicarious abuse had negative impacts. Second-hand abuse, like firsthand, lowers employees’ effectiveness as well as their opinion of the organization as a whole. “When vicarious abusive supervision is present,” the authors write, “employees realize that the organization is allowing this negative treatment to exist, even if they are not experiencing it directly.” What leaders permit, they promote.
We agree with the study’s authors, who recommend that managers take a close look at the impact of their styles and the ripple effects of those styles throughout their organizations. Toxicity starts at the top, but then—unfortunately—takes on a life of its own.
We want to hear. Have you been impacted by abusive firsthand or “second-hand” supervision? How does it affect you and your organization’s culture? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
We recently blogged about the abysmal rates of successful change initiatives in organizations (70 percent fail!), and mentioned that one reason is unwritten rules that discourage change. Another reason is that change programs are often linked to an incentive that actually doesn’t incentivize very well: Money.
In “The Inconvenient Truth About Change Management”, (http://bit.ly/1woQGIJ). McKinsey & Co.’s Scott Keller and Carolyn Aiken note that while many leaders attempt to link change programs to employee compensation, this type of motivation can be expensive, impractical, and not all that effective. More effective by far are small, unexpected rewards. For example, Gordon M. Bethune, who turned around Continental Airlines, sent a surprise $65 check to every employee when the airline made it to the top 5 for on-time flights. John McFarlane of ANZ Bank sent a bottle of champagne to every employee for Christmas with a card thanking them for their work on the company’s “Perform, Grow and Breakout” change program.
Why are small, unanticipated rewards more effective? Because employees perceive them as a “social exchange” versus a “market exchange.” A social exchange has the feel of a personal “thank you”—like bringing a bottle of wine to your dinner hosts, as opposed to a business transaction—like asking for the bill in a restaurant. In short, as we have long said, unanticipated rewards are invaluable because people work best when they feel personally recognized and appreciated!
Please share your experience. What was the last time you got an unexpected reward at work? How did it make you feel and how did it impact your performance? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
About 70% of changes in all organizations fail, says research from McKinsey and Company (http://bit.ly/1woQGIJ). Rick Maurer, author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance, cites one of the key reasons: Many organizational cultures function with two opposing sets of rules.
The “official” rules—often appearing on company websites and employee handbooks—are the ones where the organization claims to value innovation, teamwork, inclusiveness, and open communication. The “unofficial” rules—often learned the hard way by those who follow the first set and find themselves in the proverbial doghouse—are change-blockers. They reward conformity, competitiveness, even secrecy. (http://bit.ly/1BS1ijE)
We have, unfortunately, witnessed this too many times. Successful change is enabled by a climate of engagement and dialogue in which new ideas and creative collaboration are encouraged—and not just espoused. Leaders who genuinely want to facilitate change in a world where change is critical to survival must courageously assess whether counter-productive rules exist, and do all in their power to align their organization’s aspirational goals with its real ones.
We want to hear. Can you give us an example of any unwritten rules you have run up against, and how those rules had an impact on organizational change? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Women best men when it comes to effective leadership. So says the third annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor, a survey that tracks responses from more than 6,500 individuals around the world, examining perceptions of leaders in business, politics, community, non-profit, and organized labor organizations.
Specifically, female leaders around the world topped their male counterparts in four out of seven metrics of effective leadership: “leading by example,” “communicating in an open and transparent way,” “admitting mistakes,” and “bringing out the best in others.” A fifth metric—“handling controversial issues or crises calmly and confidently”—placed males and females near even.
Beyond gender distinctions, the data has important takeaways for all leaders. Those who are respectful and reinforcing, who are willing to admit mistakes, and who openly lead by example will blaze a path to the future. “It’s not about a value judgment on either gender, it’s simply saying what matters to the world now is systematically being displayed more by female leaders than male leaders,” said Rod Cartwright, director of Ketchum’s Global Corporate & Public Affairs Practice.
Please share your thoughts. Do you admire leaders (male or female) who exemplify the traits Ketchum respondents identified? Do you consider yourself such a leader? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
We all have what the Harvard Business Review calls “default behavior,” moments when we let our visceral automatic pilot usurp reason. These default reactions can lead to impulsive decisions. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that highly experienced parole judges reasoned more carefully at the start of each workday and after meal breaks, when on average they granted parole to 65 percent of applicants. But as their sessions wore on, favorable parole judgments fell to an astonishing 0% prior to each food break.
Whatever drives us toward default—be it hunger, fatigue, or a certain type of person who “rubs us the wrong way”—is not serving us. One big reason, in our opinion, is that during default moments we are listening less and cutting off the flow of new information. Lee Newman, Dean of Innovation and Behavior at Madrid’s IE Business School suggests three steps for overriding your automatic pilot response:
1) Know your default triggers.
2) Anticipate and mentally rehearse your overrides.
3) Design your days to minimize triggers at high-stress times.
We want to hear: What drives you into “default” mode and what are you doing to regain control? Are you doing anything to modify your behavior? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.