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.
In one way or another we all vie for attention—whether pitching an idea or trying to be recognized for the good work we do. In his new book, Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention, recently profiled in Business Insider, author and investor Ben Parr summarized research on top attention-getting triggers.
We agree with Parr when he concludes that the greatest “masters of attention” create a sense of community with their audience.
We have seen over and over again how establishing common ground with others and recognizing them for their accomplishments predisposes them to listen attentively and respectfully to what you have to say.
We want to hear: How do you capture people’s attention and what do others do to capture yours? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Does a young person in your life have a “mindless” summer job right now? Harvard professor Jennifer Finney Boylan, writing in The New York Times, reminisced about the “so-called stupid jobs” she had as a teenager and young adult – including selling hot dogs and mowing lawns, working as an office temp and messenger, and hawking T-shirts at Grateful Dead concerts. “These jobs,” she wrote, “made me aware of class privilege in a way that my hours in Econ 101 surely did not.”
We agree that gaining some understanding of many different social realities can be one benefit of students’ summer jobs, but there are many more. Unless you are a lighthouse keeper, virtually every job entails communication skills, and many present opportunities for teamwork and collaboration. Learning to deal with a cross-section of customers and a spectrum of management styles, whether working at a retail store, in a restaurant, or on a construction crew, can provide invaluable experience for later positions.
In the theater, there is a saying: “There are no small parts.” Likewise, there are no small jobs. Taking pride in every job we do, staying engaged in the work, navigating conflict if it arises—even making and recovering from rookie mistakes—all prepare young people for the challenges ahead.
We want to hear: What valuable lessons did you learn from a summer job? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
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.