Recent research reveals that 80 percent of employers name “cultural fit” as a top priority when hiring. However, a recent New York Times article suggests that when so-called fit is evaluated in snap judgments, it can result in managers hiring only people who are personally similar to them, while excluding those who are not.
Lauren Rivera, an associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management researched the hiring practices of the country’s top investment banks, management consultancies, and law firms, interviewing 120 decision makers. She concluded that interviewers commonly rely on subjective measures like personal chemistry to make hiring decisions. They were also prone to hire applicants whose “hobbies, hometowns and biographies matched their own.” The obvious downside: “It is easy to mistake rapport for skill.” Highly qualified job seekers who do not hail from the same social strata can be left out completely.
We first published our Organizational Culture Survey and research in 1988 and it has been used by researchers and practitioners around the globe to measure and manage cultures. We acknowledge the importance of fit because employees who resonate with an organization’s goals and strategies will be more productive and stay longer. But we also agree with Professor Rivera that “fit” should reflect organization values, not personal preferences.
We want to hear: How would you describe your organizational culture, and how does your organization measure organizational fit? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
When Ed Catmull, a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, addressed the Class of 2015 at Johns Hopkins University, he urged new graduates to broaden their view of creativity by accepting that mistakes and “dumb ideas” are necessary—even desirable.
Many people ask how to become more creative, Catmull said. “I think this is the wrong question. The question is: What are the cultural and interpersonal forces that block creativity and change?” Because “new ideas are fragile and often off track,” Pixar long ago vowed to protect people who were “working on something that didn’t work…while they searched for something but didn’t know what it was.”
In order to facilitate a creative dynamic, Pixar—and now Disney, which acquired Pixar—holds creative sessions called The Braintrust, where directors, animators and writers convene to help each other. Braintrust gatherings, Catmull explained, are structured as peer-to-peer dialogues, with the power structure removed from the room. Everyone gives and listens to honest notes, and everyone shares ownership of success. “Dumb ideas” are welcomed, because they often lead to good ideas.
We agree with Dr. Catmull that this kind of candor-filled, listening-oriented, respectful communication “can lead to magic.” As Catmull said, “You feel the ego disappear. All attention is on the problem.”
We want to hear: What does your organization do to foster creative collaboration? 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.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s far-flung workforce teams have a wealth of tools for sharing information around the globe. But does the virtual experience promote optimum collaboration? Writing in the Harvard Business Review Dr. Karen Sobel-Lojeski, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Technology and Society at Stony Brook University, points out that, beyond data exchange, “Genuine collaboration is achieved through ongoing meaningful exchanges between people who share a passion and respect for one another.”
Such meaning can be eroded by “virtual distance”, says Sobel-Lojeski—by which she means “physical distance, operational distance, and affinity distance.” When she and her colleagues measured virtual distance around the world they found that when it was high, innovation fell by 90%, and cooperative behaviors and trust fell by 80%.
To restore true collaboration, she says, leaders must offer shared context. Even a simple thing like making sure team members know what local time it is for everyone else can help people feel respected. Of course, virtual distance can occur even among workers on different floors of the same building. It is up to leaders to be deliberate about facilitating communication to and among team members so that bonds can be built and maintained. The power of our PRES system and our model for Collaborative Problem Solving can help create greater “presence” and interaction even in remote settings. Remember: Behind every keystroke is a human being.
We want to hear: What has your experience been with virtual distance and how could it be improved? Join the conversation and click "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.
Teams can make great decisions – or truly awful ones. What differentiates smarter teams? In two groundbreaking studies, Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Woolley, M.I.T’s Thomas Malone, and Union College’s Christopher Chabris attempted to find out.
In one study, the researchers grouped nearly 700 subjects into teams of two to five members, assigning each team a diverse array of tasks. In the next study, 68 teams were assigned tasks – the difference being that half collaborated face-to-face and half online. In both studies, the more successful teams shared certain attributes: 1) team members communicated a large amount with each other; 2) they contributed more equally to discussions, and 3) team members possessed strong emotion reading skills*.
Teams with more women tended to do better, which researchers believe is because women score higher on tests of emotion reading, such as “ReadIng the Mind in the Eyes”. But emotional intelligence played just as strong a role online. What makes teams smart, they say, is not reading facial expressions, but rather a more general ability known as “Theory of Mind,” the ability to consider what others feel, know, and believe.
We have been researching and consulting with teams for decades and are thrilled to see so much of what we teach validated here. As teams—including remote teams—become increasingly crucial, the ongoing science of teamwork can help teams form and perform at optimal levels.
We want to hear: Are you part of a smart team? What qualities does your team possess that make it successful? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
*For more on contributing effectively in team meetings, see our previous Communication Capsule.
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.
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.
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.
The Oakland Unified School District, one of California’s largest school districts, is at the forefront of a new approach to school discipline. Instead of suspending or expelling students who get into fights or act out, its restorative Justice program seeks to resolve conflicts and build school community through talking in group interactions called “circling up.”
According to a recent NPR story the district’s as-yet unpublished research shows the percentage of students suspended at schools that have fully adopted the program has dropped by half, from 34 percent in 2011-12 to just 14 percent in the following two years. Data also show that chronic absence is down dramatically and graduation rates are up at restorative justice schools. The program’s success has inspired several other urban districts—including Chicago, Minneapolis, and Denver—to try some version of the approach.
Ta-Biti Gibson, one of the Oakland schools’ restorative justice co-directors, says, "Instead of throwing a punch, [kids are] asking for a circle. They're backing off and asking to mediate…peacefully with words. And that's a great thing." We agree! We heartily endorse having a protocol in place for talking out conflicts in schools—and anywhere else where differences typically have led to unproductive behavior.
We want to hear. What do you think of the circle up approach in schools? Is there another environment where you think this approach would be beneficial? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.