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.
For years we’ve spoken and written about the profound impact of nonverbal communication on our ability to persuade. In a recent Ted talk, Harvard Business School professor and researcher Ann Cuddy presents evidence for a direct link between body, mind, behavior, and outcomes.
Not feeling powerful? Cuddy says “Fake it ‘til you make it—or, better yet, ‘til you become it.” Before entering a high-stress situation where others will evaluate you—like a job interview or presentation—Cuddy suggests striking a “power pose,” such as Starfish (arms up in victory pose) or Superman/Superwoman (hands on waist/chest out). Doing this for two minutes (in private:) will lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. According to Cuddy: “You’ll feel better about yourself and others will experience you as more dynamic. The end game: more success!”
We want to hear: Give power-posing a two-minute try. Does it boost your confidence and up your game? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
We recently came across a quote from a trainer of first responders:
"In emergencies, we tend not to rise to the occasion, but to fall to our level of training."
We were curious about the quote’s origin, but although we found it frequently cited in the training of firefighters and soldiers, it was always attributed to “Unknown.”
Well, our hats off to “Unknown.” The reason we teach communication as a set of observable, conscious skills is because thorough and reinforced training inoculates us against the pernicious effects of high-stress events. With proper training, we are far more likely to default to intentional, constructive communication behaviors, even when those around us may be “losing their heads.”
We want to know: Tell us about a time when you successfully used a conscious method of constructive communication when the going got toughest. Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
UCLA psychology professor Jim Stigler studies teaching and learning around the world. As a grad student he conducted a study comparing Japanese and American kids presented with an impossible math problem. American students gave up after 30 seconds; their Japanese counterparts persevered until researchers stopped them. The difference: Are we teaching our students that struggle is a predictable part of learning and a chance to demonstrate that they have what it takes to persevere? Or do we communicate that struggle is a sign they are just not smart enough?
Should we praise a child for being smart, or for working hard? Marion Forgatch and Gerry Patterson, leading authorities on parenting practices, suggest that rather than offering blanket “Good job!” kudos to kids, we reinforce their hard work by asking "Wow, how did you do that? Could you show me how to do that?"
By focusing on specific detailed actions and effort, we help children discover for themselves what the steps were that brought their success. As we do this we also instill resilience, and perseverance—the essence of grit—in the next generation.
We want to hear: How do you praise the kids in your life and how have they responded? Share your stories here.
We know how important it is to be constructive in our communication with others, so why not try being this way when we communicate with ourselves? We expend a lot of mental energy and jeopardize our peace of mind and productivity by comparing ourselves negatively to others, or by creating “stories” about other people who we feel “lack respect for us,” or “lack compassion,” or “cannot be trusted.”
We all have an inner critic and an inner cynic, and silencing these voices is not necessarily easy. But since we can’t change something until we’re aware of it, try keeping track of how often you criticize yourself or impugn others over the course of 24 hours. Noticing the pattern of our negative thoughts and feelings—about others as well as ourselves—is the first step to realizing they are manifestations of our own internal fantasy life, which can fuse us to unhappiness with no basis in truth.
We want to know: Have you tried tracking your self-judging and other-judging thoughts? What were the results? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our Community of Practice Forum.
Most Americans are suspicious of one another in everyday encounters, according to an AP-GfK poll conducted in October 2013. Only a third of Americans say most people are trustworthy. About 50 percent felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first posed the question. Now nearly two-thirds of us (a record high) say, "you can't be too careful.”
Although the results of this study might seem depressing, they are related to a cornerstone concept we have been teaching for many years: Trust is not a prerequisite for communication—it is a byproduct of communication. The implications of this are vast. Until we begin to communicate—in conscious and respectful ways—with people who have different opinions and worldviews, we are doomed to relationships fraught with mistrust and misunderstanding. It is when we begin to build communication bridges with people that we are able to create trust—even from conflict.
We want to hear: Do you recall a time when communicating with someone you did not especially trust at first ultimately led to a more trusting relationship? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
As grandparents now for almost four years, we have started to look more closely at the impact of adult communication on children. Researcher Angela Duckworth, a MacArthur Genius Award recipient who operates the Duckworth Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, caught our attention in her identification of teaching "grit" as a key to laying the groundwork for success.
Grit means a growth mindset where failing is never seen as a permanent condition; where setbacks do not lead to disappointment, and where pushing yourself farther than you thought possible is a life pattern that leads to finishing what we begin. So, it's not about telling our children that they are "smart" or "good at" certain things. Instead, notice their effort and acknowledge the small steps they take that add up to any specific accomplishment.
BTW, if you are interested in determining your own grit score, click here: “Get Your Grit Score.”
Please share your thoughts: Do you have suggestions for getting your children to persevere toward long term goals, even when they face setbacks? Share your responses 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.
In collaboration with neuroscience and psychology researchers, Facebook has made significant changes to the ways its users communicate. The New York Times reports that this year, “the company introduced a gentler formula for settling tension between users. Previously, someone tagged in an unfortunate Facebook photo could flag the image as offensive and hope the other person would remove it. Now, a form pops up with options like, ‘It’s embarrassing,’ ‘It’s inappropriate’ and ‘It makes me sad,’ along with a polite request to take the photo down.”
According to Facebook’s engineering director, Arturo Bejar—who came up with the idea after being inspired by meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn’s maxim that “if people fully saw one another, they could get along better”—these new opportunities to communicate have tripled the likelihood that users will send a request for the photo to be removed. And the people they ask are cooperating!
“We didn’t realize how hard it was to feel heard in electronic communications,” Mr. Bejar said. “but now there are mechanisms for being more expressive and thoughtful.”
We applaud this mindful innovation in social media communication. Feeling heard is just as important in the virtual world as it is everywhere else.
We want to know: Have you ever been embarrassed by something posted on social media? How did you try to remedy the situation and did you succeed? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
Research from NYU Stern Professor Justin Kruger shows that where email is concerned, there is frequently a wide divide between what the sender of a message intends and how the content of that message is perceived by the receiver. Says Kruger: “Overestimating the obviousness of one’s intentions can lead to insufficient allowances for ambiguities in communication—with occasionally destructive results.”
Problems arise because emails can’t convey body language, facial expressions, or vocal tone. In personal emails we might counterbalance this “flatness” with emoticons (i.e. smiley or sad faces), or acronyms like JK (just kidding). But these are often not business appropriate. Then there’s the problem of CAPITAL LETTERS, which a sender might use to suggest IMPORTANCE, but which receivers usually interpret as YELLING.
What to do? Be mindful in the workplace. Reread what you wrote before pressing send. If you think your email message might be at all ambiguous, take the time to insert a clarifying line or pick up the phone instead. Goldman Sachs and Farmers insurance are among the many companies teaching the value of pausing and paying attention when communicating at work rather than racing through the day on autopilot. This focus on conscious communication is what we have been advocating for decades.
Please share your experience: Have you ever had an email misunderstanding that could have been avoided? What happened when you reconsidered before sending your emails? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question here.
Welcome to our Community of Practice Forum, a forum dedicated to highlighting people and organizations around the world who have created best practices by applying our core communication tools and models to real life, real time situations.
The purpose of this forum is to serve as an incubator for ideas, where people share and learn from each other’s experiences. It is a place to inspire others and also be acknowledged for your cutting edge communication practices. Our goal is to create a community of people practicing together; a powerful support network with the purpose of helping each other to transform engrained communication habits into sustained, positive outcomes.
So please share any applications – big or small – that have worked for you. We look forward to joining the conversation.
Writing in the New York Times, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently admitted that he is sometimes wrong. “If you write about current affairs and you’re never wrong, you just aren’t sticking your neck out enough. Stuff happens, and sometimes it’s not the stuff you thought would happen,” he said.
Needless to say, if Nobel Prize-winners can be wrong, so can any mere mortal. But as Krugman also noted, people are reluctant to admit mistakes in a climate where critics jump on them and say, “In 1996 you said A, and now in 2014 you say B. Gotcha!”
We agree! If someone admits they have been mistaken, let’s be gracious and avoid gloating. Rather than accusing the person of “flip-flopping,” we suggest a more productive re-frame: Acknowledge that admitting a mistake does not show weakness, but rather a strength of character and a willingness to learn.
Tell us your thoughts! How do you react when someone admits a mistake? And how have people reacted to you when you have done the same? Share your responses to the weekly discussion question on our Community of Practice Forum
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.