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.
There are seven words you cannot say on network TV (and, no, we are not going to name them!). Likewise, there are some words and phrases that should not be said at work -- or perhaps anywhere. One phrase that stands out to us, among the seven nominated by Ilya Pozin, CEO of Open Me and columnist for Forbes, Inc. and Linked In, is:
“It’s not my fault.”
Trying to shift blame to work colleagues, or even to surrounding circumstances, is not constructive
communication. On the other hand, those who calmly and non-defensively address mistakes are respected for their character. They signal they are willing to shift course after missteps and that they have more at stake than their egos. Please let us know your thoughts: When has owning up to a mistake served you well and enhanced your credibility?
Laszio Block, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google (a.k.a. the head hiring guy) has said that apart from cognitive ability—by which he means the ability to learn—the most important thing his extraordinarily innovative company looks for in a potential employee is “emergent leadership.”
Emergent leadership, says Block, means that when you are a member of a team faced with a problem you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. Just as critical, believes Black, is the ability to step back and relinquish leadership to someone else.
We applaud Block’s philosophy. Effective leadership is about enabling collaboration, not hoarding power. Strong leaders have the strength — as Block puts it — “to step back and embrace the better ideas of others.”
Please let us know your thoughts: What leadership qualities do you look for in potential employees and work colleagues? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our Community of Practice Forum.
Known as America's "winningest coach,” and dubbed Coach of the Century by ESPN, John Wooden brought the UCLA Bruins an unparalleled ten NCAA basketball championships. Most notable in his formula for success: It's not about going for the win—it's about the details: not only concerning basketball moves but also more “invisible” details, like how to put on socks and shoes! Wooden is positive that it is the details that bring achievement. In the process of getting the details right, the wins come.
We couldn’t agree more. The latest research on “grit,” which we have referred to in recent weeks, is showing that focusing on the “how” of what we do—and reinforcing in others the drive to work on process and perseverance—will yield lasting rewards. In the words of John Wooden, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
We want to hear: Can you share an example of how getting the details right resulted in success? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our Community of Practice Forum.
We recently posted about the benefits of constructively praising children by acknowledging their effort rather than blanketing them with gratuitous comments like: “You’re smart” “You’re good at that” and “Good job!” Po Bronson, author of Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children, presents fascinating evidence for this approach here.
As grandparents, we too are rethinking the ways in which we praise. A recent weekend began with our grandson becoming frustrated when he was unable to complete tasks easily (from building a train track to shooting a basketball). His refrain of despair in such situations: "I can't do it!" So as a family, we committed to reinforcing effort vs. results: “It makes sense that you can’t do it yet—you only practiced a few times.” Or: “I noticed that when you were having trouble putting the track together you kept trying to figure it out and then you realized you just needed to turn that one piece around.” By the end of the weekend, after six missed basketball shots in a row, he said: "I just haven't practiced enough to get it right so I need to keep trying." Pretty amazing!
We want to hear: Are you rethinking the ways in which you praise your kids/grandkids—or perhaps youngsters that you teach or coach? What kinds of results are you having? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
The most effective leaders are talented at skills that require empathy, such as persuading, motivating, and fostering collaboration. But in his book FOCUS: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman identifies a danger for leaders: As people rise in power positions, research shows that they tend to pay less attention to those whose social status is not as high. Empathy can be a casualty of this dynamic.
Some antidotes for the potentially out-of-touch leader: create a group of colleagues who will be candid with you (inside or outside your organization) and keep in regular touch with them; wander around the office and spend informal time getting to know employees; and create a workplace atmosphere where people feel safe “speaking truth to power.”
Leaders, we want to hear: What are some of your strategies for staying in touch with the needs and goals of the people who report to you? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
Last night we heard NPR's report on toxic leaders. In a study that looked at eight suicide victims in the army, all had toxic commanders who made the soldiers' lives miserable with no let up. "When you're ridden mercilessly, there's just no letup, a lot of folks begin to fold," the study's author concluded. He went on to describe toxic leaders as "abusive and self-aggrandizing, arrogant and petty, and ‘unconcerned about, or oblivious to, staff or troop morale.’" The researcher also described toxic leaders as "good at snowing their superiors — so they kept getting promoted." The report suggests that the impact of destructive leadership goes beyond the military. A key question posed: Are we tolerating this kind of leadership?
We applaud the army's initiation of an evaluation system where officers get anonymous feedback from those who report to them. We believe in the power of such information. Please let us know: Have you experienced the impact of 360° feedback? What happened when such a system was introduced in your organization? Share your responses to this weekly discussion question on our Community of Practice Forum.