Category Archives: Attitudes & Emotions

Failure is Failing to Try

I love Half Price Books. You can pick up a $25 book for less than $7.00 and there’s even an educator’s discount. Earlier today, I picked up a book called “Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing Your Self” by Alan M. Webber. Webber is the cofounding editor of Fast Company and was the managing editor and editorial director of the Harvard Business Review.

I think I decided to get the book because on the book jacket flap Webber said that one of the high points of his life was being told he looked like Bruce Willis when he visited Japan. For the record, I don’t think he does and I’m Asian. Hey, I like an author with a sense of humor.

Webber’s Rule #45 caught my eye. It says: Failure isn’t failing. Failure is failing to try. Webber recounts the time, while working at the Harvard Business Review (HBR), that he felt that needed to “take shot at starting my own magazine (Fast Company)” (p. 225). He had been mulling over the idea of leaving HBR and starting Fast Company.

The decision wasn’t easy because the advice from his colleagues was to stay and use his position to further his career or stick with the job and he would be rewarded with a better one later on. It was hard to ignore the obvious advantages of the Harvard Business Review (prestige, security, and money). But Webber was determined to answer his inner calling of starting his own magazine.

As he said: “The question wasn’t whether it was a good idea. The question wasn’t even whether it would work. The question was, would I have the courage to try?

What was the worst thing that he could tell himself, that he tried to start a magazine and failed or that he failed to try at all?

This story of yearning to follow your heart resonates with me because in 2004, I left my life and home in Dallas, Texas to live and work on a tiny island in the North Pacific Ocean called Saipan.

That life-changing decision was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I had been living my life vicariously, dreaming about great things but not having the courage to try them. In the end, the heart won out and I could no longer ignore the yearning of living abroad.

It’s hard to describe how fulfilled I felt when I came to Saipan. Within the first week or so, I knew that I had made the right decision. No one told me that I had made the right choice. No self-help or personal development book answered my deep longings. Rather, it was simply a feeling I felt in my heart. It just felt right.

I think Alan Webber felt the same thing when he left what was comfortable to start his own magazine.

“Ten years from now, what will you regret never having tried?” -Alan Webber

Reference

Webber, A. M. (2009). Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business without Losing Your Self. New York: HarperCollins.

The 4 Character Strengths of a Leader

My wife often tells me about her late father. Because he passed away long before I ever met her, I never had the honor to meet or know him. The stories she shares about her memories of him are priceless and each one of her stories has left an indelible mark on my heart and mind.

The other evening, she told me of an employee who came to work for her dad. My wife’s father was both an electronic engineering professor in Japan and president of his own electrical systems design company. He hired a young man who came to Tokyo right after junior high. Without much education under this young man’s belt, the professor took the boy under his wings and began teaching and mentoring him about the electrical systems design business.

Far from the perfect employee, the young lad accidentally burned a customer’s house and an entire floor of a new building in the same year! While the young man was panic-stricken, the professor was a patient teacher who modeled self-control in crisis situations. He took the employee aside and calmly talked to him. He then, as president of the company [formally called “daihyo-torishimariyaku” or 代表取締役 or informally called “shacyou” or 社長], would apologize to the customer and pay for the cost of the repairs. If this had happened today, the employee would have been fired or sued or both.

He knew that even though this young boy didn’t have the highest level of education, he was a hard worker and because the company president valued hard work, he paid this young man (who had no high school or college education) a salary higher than that of someone with a college degree! The company president went above and beyond his role as boss and even helped pay for a portion of this young man’s new house. Some might think this foolish to be so generous and place such trust in someone so inexperienced and uneducated. But, I believe the professor and shacyou had the character strengths that allowed him to nurture this boy’s growth and development, as an employee and a human being.

When my wife’s father died, the employee shared that his heart was broken. Many loyal students and employees attended the funeral. To this day, many years after the professor’s death and about 40 years from when he was hired as a 15 year old boy, this employee still works for the family business. Now that’s loyalty.

In “Leading with Character,” John J. Sosik talks about the character strengths that leaders must develop in themselves and others to create and sustain organizational growth and performance. Sosik mentions the 23 character strengths (grouped under six virtues) that are foundational to good character: wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence.

The president of the company [“daihyo-torishimariyaku” or 代表取締役 or “shacyou” or 社長] exemplified FOUR character strengths that modeled leadership and created employee loyalty at its finest:

Humility: Most people never knew about all of the professor’s awards and recognitions until they visited his home, only to be pleasantly surprised by the numerous accolades under his name.

Forgiveness & Self-Control: He possessed forgiveness and self-control by not going ballistic when the employee destroyed an entire floor of a brand new building (the second incident within a year).

Kindness: The professor and company president demonstrated, through his kindness, that his employees matter much more than the tasks that he asked of them. This was evident in the respectful way he treated the employee who burned down a customer’s house.

We often read or hear about leaders who are mavericks, with personalities and egos to match. But how many business owners or leaders do you know who display the character strengths of humility, forgiveness, self-control, and kindness?

“Do not trust all men, but trust men of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.” -Democritus, 460-370 BC, Greek philosopher

Reference

Sosik, J.J. (2006). Leading with character: Stories of valor and virtue and the principles they teach. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

There Are Simple Answers

Ronald Reagan was known for his communication skills. In fact, his nickname was the “Great Communicator.” I came across part of the quote below in Weiss’ (2006) book and really like what former President Reagan said about simple answers.

“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.” -Ronald Reagan

As a consultant and trainer with experience in education, mental health, crisis management, and training & development, I have encountered difficult and complex situations. But, no matter how confusing or overwhelming the problems may sometimes seem, I have always believed that the answers were not. NASA astronauts and brain surgeons have jobs that are complex. Most jobs, however, are not. You either do it or you don’t. You move ahead or stand still. You make a decision or don’t. And yet, people tend to add an unnecessary layer of complications to sometimes uncomplicated problems or issues.

From my experience, I think many of us already know what we need to do (at home and in the workplace). It is the FEAR that keeps us from following through with actions. For instance, I have talked to people who were unhappy about certain aspects of their lives. Some, for example, lament how unhappy they were to be where they’re at in life. They complained that they hate this or that, and yet as much as they complained they never actually did anything to change their circumstances.

In our microwave mentality, we sometimes want it and want it now. We turn to self-help or leadership books and read blogs (like this one) for answers. The bottom line is that the “answers” are sometimes quite simple. The toughest part is not figuring out the “answers,” but rather, mustering up the courage to act.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

Reference

Weiss, J. (2006). The quotable manager: Inspiration for business and life. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith.

Motivating Your Employees

How do you motivate your employees? Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange offers some nice tips:

  • Make pay fair and competitive. Your incentive system should align your organization’s desired performance with the rewards that employees value.
  • Demonstrate trust in your employees. Remove some controls. For instance, ask employees to create their own plans or schedules. Or put an employee in charge of something you would normally handle. By trusting employees to do their jobs well, you inspire them to meet your expectations.
  • Introduce challenges. People often can handle tasks that are more complex and demanding than their job descriptions require—and than you expect. When presented with tougher assignments, employees usually rise to the challenge.
  • Encourage some people to become experts in subjects that interest them and that provide real value to the organization.
  • Eliminate fear from the workplace. Encourage open communication and information sharing.
  • Preserve employees’ dignity. A little respect and forthright communication go a long way. For instance, handle critiques of employees’ performances with tact; avoid humiliating them at all costs.
  • Reform or remove slackers. Disgruntled or otherwise disengaged people can put a damper on the enthusiasm and creativity that every company and every team needs to improve performance. Give them coaching, move them into more suitable positions, or dismiss them.
  • Empower people and avoid micromanaging. Give employees what they need to succeed and don’t get involved unless necessary.

Reference

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book chapter Motivation: The Not-So-Secret Ingredient of High Performance, Harvard Business Press

Leadership, Southwest Airlines, and Malice in Dallas

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

This is a hilarious video (watch his aerobic workouts) produced by Southwest Airlines for its Employees about “Malice in Dallas,” the legendary charity arm wrestling match between “Smokin'” (he was literally smoking and curling Wild Turkey liquor) Herb Kelleher and Stevens Aviation’s “Kurtsey” or “Killer” Kurt Herwald to settle a dispute over Southwest’s “Just Plane Smart” slogan. The match was held on March 20, 1992 at the now-demolished Dallas Sportatorium. In this video, Herb’s and Herwald’s training regimens are detailed.

This classic video and the “Malice in Dallas” story epitomize leadership that is genuine and personal. The video’s humor mirrors the same zany quality of Herb himself and, in my opinion, is what made him such a magnetic leader. I could not stop laughing watching his workouts.

Below is a short article I wrote two months ago. I wrote it because I was curious about Southwest Airlines and about Herb Kelleher. I also wanted to research and write about Southwest Airlines because its headquarter is in Dallas, Texas and I’m from Dallas. Most of all, it gave me a sense of pride to learn more about a well-respected company in my own hometown.

Overview: Leadership at Southwest Airlines

The co-founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher (now Chairman Emeritus), led Southwest Airlines to success. Beneath his fun-loving persona is a hard-working, empathetic and determined leader.

Significance

Southwest Airlines is remarkable because it is the only airline to maintain a profit every year for 31 years. In “The Southwest Airlines Way,” Jody Gittell says this record is unparalleled in the airline industry.

Leadership Style

Kelleher’s hands-on leadership style earned him the respect and admiration of employees, according to the book “Essentials of Management.” He made people feel important by remembering their names and sending out birthday cards. In “Lasting Leadership,” Peter Cappelli, a management professor, says that Kelleher was great at boosting employee morale, an ability that’s rare in a top executive.

Misconceptions

Although known for his crazy antics, like appearing in public dressed as Elvis and the Easter Bunny, Kelleher is “as regimented and determined as an army general,” one who is competitive and “deadly serious about success,” states “Essentials of Management.”

Fun Fact

The authors of “Entrepreneurs, Managers, and Leaders” tell an amusing story about 63-year-old Kelleher arm-wrestling with 38-year-old Kurt Herwald (in the “Malice in Dallas” arm-wrestling match), the weightlifting CEO of an aircraft maintenance company. They were battling for the rights to use the slogan, “Plane Smart.” After his defeat, Kelleher joked that had it not been for his wrist fracture, cold and athlete’s feet, he would have won.

[“NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success,” by Drs. Kevin & Jackie Freiberg, has a detailed account of the arm-wrestling match. You can also read the “Malice in Dallas” story on the Freibergs’ website.]

Expert Insight

In “Lasting Leadership,” Mukul Pandya and Robbie Shell attribute Southwest Airlines’ success to Kelleher and his belief that, “employees come first [and] that a company with happy and productive workers will have happy, paying customers.” As Kelleher said, “You can buy an airplane and a terminal, but you can’t buy the spirit of the people.”

References

  • “Entrepreneurs, Managers, and Leaders: What the Airline Industry Can Teach Us about Leadership”; Anthony J. Mayo, Nitin Nohria and Mark Rennella; 2009
  • “Essentials of Management: An International Perspective”; Harold Koontz and Heinz Weihrich; 2008
  • “Lasting Leadership: What You Can Learn from the 25 Most Influential Business People of Our Times”; Mukul Pandya and Robbie Shell; 2005
  • “Fortune” magazine: “Is Herb Kelleher America’s Best CEO? Behind his Clowning is a People-wise Manager Who Wins Where Others Can’t”; Kenneth Labich and Ani Hadjian; May 2, 1994
  • “The Southwest Airlines Way: Using the Power of Relationships to Achieve High Performance”; Jody H. Gittell; 2003
  • “NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success”; Drs. Kevin & Jackie Freiberg; 1996

Leadership and Life Lessons from John Wooden

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.” -John Wooden (Wooden & Jamison, 2007, p. 33)

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

John R. Wooden, a well-respected, much beloved basketball coach, died June 4, 2010. He was 99 years old. His record ten NCAA national championships in 12 years while at UCLA is unparalleled by any other college basketball coach. Perhaps more than being remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time (not only just in basketball) he was remembered as a great person. One thing he says he wanted to be remembered for is someone who is considerate of others.

This post showcases two great videos featuring coach John Wooden. The first video (at top), highlights Wooden and his life as a devoted husband and man of strong convictions.

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

In this second video (above) with Dr. Mick Ukleja of LeadershipTraQ.com, coach John Wooden shares his views on life and leadership. Recounting the lessons from his dad, he shares the important life and leadership lessons he’s learned over the years.

Referring to coaching as “teaching,” he says a coach is a teacher. “You’re teaching more things than just the subject matter.”

Coach Wooden says one of the most important things he learned at a young age was to never try to be better than someone else, but always try to be the best you can be.

  • Focus on those things you have control.
  • Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal.
  • No whining, no complaining, don’t make excuses.


A Few of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success

  • Self-Control – keeping your emotions under control so you can execute whatever it is that you’re doing.
  • Poise – being yourself
  • Adaptability – realizing that situations change and you must change accordingly
  • Intentness – keeping focus on your objectives
  • Cooperation – being considerate of others and know you’re not alone in anything and that there are others with you
  • Skill – Being able to execute properly and quickly
  • Alertness – observing the things around you and knowing the things to do and not do.

“The greatest responsibility is to teach those under me the value of an education. Sport is meaningful for only a short part of your life.”

Coach John R. Wooden was a humbled man and a consummate coach and teacher of life.

“[M]y success comes not from championships, but from the knowledge that I did everything possible to be the best teacher, coach, and leader I was capable of being. The quality of that effort is where I found—and continue to find—success. Those championships were a ‘by-product.’” – John Wooden (Wooden & Jamison, 2005, p. 57)

Reference

Wooden, J. & Jamison, S. (2005). Wooden on leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Wooden, J. & Jamison, S. (2007). The essential Wooden: A lifetime of lessons on leaders and leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

I want to thank WorkplacePsychology.Net reader Chris Webb for sending me a link to this video about Dan Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

What’s so impressive are the visual illustrations done by the artist (also called a “graphic facilitator”) at Cognitive Media to visually capture what the author is trying to verbally communicate about motivation.

The video is a great complement to two earlier posts, 3 Primary Goals of People at Work and What Really Motivates Employees.

If you are like me, someone who loves to “think visually,” you’ll love this video. Thanks again Chris!

Do All Employees Want a Challenging Job?

In their classic text, Organizational Behavior, Robbins & Judge (2009) posed and answered an interesting question about employee motivation. The professors asked in a blurb titled, “Myth or Science: ‘Everyone Wants a Challenging Job?’”

In response to this question, Robbins & Judge (2009) say the answer is FALSE! While many employees do seek and desire challenging, engaging work, some employees do not. It might surprise some to read this because it certainly sounds contrary to what we often hear from the media and even some academics. Instead, Robbins & Judge (2009) contend that “some people prosper in simple, routinized work” (p. 219).

But what exactly is it that explains those who prefer challenging work and those who prefer simple, routinized work? Robbins & Judge (2009) maintain that the “strength of an individual’s higher-order needs” is the key. They assert that “[i]ndividuals with high growth needs are more responsive to challenging work” (p. 219).

No current data exist but an older study from the 1970s estimate roughly 15% of employees seek higher-order need satisfaction (i.e. challenging, engaging work). “Even after adjusting for technological and economic changes in the nature of work, it seems unlikely that the number today exceeds 40 percent” (p. 219).

“Many employees relish challenging work. But this desire has been overgeneralized to all workers. Organizations increasingly have pushed extra responsibilities onto workers, often without knowing whether this is desired or how an employee will handle the increased responsibilities” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 219).

Reference

Robbins, S.P. & Judge, T.A. (2009). Organizational Behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

3 Primary Goals of People at Work

In “The Enthusiastic Employee” authors Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer (2005), working under Sirota Consulting, surveyed 2.5 million employees in 237 organizations in 89 countries about what they want from their jobs.

Contrary to wide and unsubstantiated claims made about worker attitudes, the authors found through their research that the overall satisfaction of workers with their work is strong and consistent across a wide variety of industries, occupations, and cultures. Furthermore, these researchers maintain that there is no evidence that younger workers are any more or less disenchanted than older workers.

The majority of the responses fall into three factors. The authors call this the Three Factor Theory of Human Motivation in the Workplace. They are: equity, achievement and camaraderie.

  1. Equity: To be treated justly in relation to the basic conditions of employment. These basic conditions include physiological (e.g., safe work environment), economic (e.g., job security, fair pay), and psychological (e.g., treated respectfully & fairly).
  2. Achievement: Employees are enthusiastic working for organizations that provide them with a clear, credible and inspiring organizational purpose – “reason for being here.” There are four sources of employee pride. In essence they reflect the idea of excellence:
    • Excellence in the organization’s financial performance.
    • Excellence in the efficiency with which the work of the organization gets done.
    • Excellence in the characteristics of the organization’s products such as their usefulness, distinctness and quality.
    • Excellence in the organization’s moral character.
  3. Camaraderie: Employees want to work collaboratively. They get the greatest satisfaction from being a member of and working on a team to achieve a common goal. In fact, the authors assert that cooperation, and not job descriptions or organizational charts, is the unifying force holding the various parts of an organization together.

Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer (2005) say that one key to overcome conflict and encourage cooperation is to build partnerships. The parties involved do this by collaborating to work toward common goals.

However, they caution that in order to build partnerships within and throughout the organization,

“[A]ction must begin with, and be sustained by, senior management” (p. 283).

It is only when senior leadership has the foresight to see what can be, not just what is, along with the perseverance and hard work to translate philosophy into concrete daily policies will partnership organizations emerge. Above all, it requires “seeing and treating employees as genuine allies in achieving change” (Sirota, Mischkind, & Meltzer, 2005, p. 301).

Reference

Sirota, D., Mischkind, L.A., & Meltzer, M.I. (2005). The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.

5 Reasons Why Employees Stay

Earlier in 2010, the Conference Board surveyed 5,000 U.S. households and found that only 45 percent of those surveyed say they’re satisfied with their jobs. It notes that this number is down from 61.1 percent in 1987.

According to Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board, “[w]hile one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy.”

John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board, believes that challenging and meaningful work is important to engaging workers and that “[w]idespread job dissatisfaction negatively affects employee behavior and retention, which can impact enterprise-level success.”

These findings offer valid concerns and serve as a wake-up call to organizations of employee discontent and why they ultimately leave.

Ok, so we know why employees leave. But, why do they stay?

I’m sure there are lots of good reasons, but I like what the editors of Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange (a forum to ask questions, get answers, and engage with other business professionals) say about why employees stay.

5 REASONS WHY EMPLOYEES STAY:

  1. Pride in the organization. People want to work for well-managed companies.
  2. Compatible supervisor. People may stay just to work for a particular individual who is supportive of them.
  3. Compensation. People want to work for companies that offer fair compensation, including competitive wages and benefits as well as opportunities to learn and achieve.
  4. Affiliation. People want to continue working with colleagues they respect and like.
  5. Meaningful work. People want to work for companies that let them do work that appeals to their deepest, most passionate interests.

References

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Harvard Business Essentials: Guide to Hiring and Keeping the Best People, Harvard Business Press

I Can’t Get No…Job Satisfaction, That Is: America’s Unhappy Workers. Research Report #1459-09-RR. The Conference Board.

April 30 The Fall of Saigon

Photo: 
A North Vietnamese tank crashes through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon, Vietnam on April 30, 1975. The taking of the palace marked the fall of the U.S.-backed south during the Vietnam War and the end to two decades of fighting.

[NOTE: This post was updated October 2017]

To many in the U.S., April 30th isn’t a day of significance. It’s not a holiday nor is it the birth or death of anyone famous. But to me, my family, and millions of Vietnamese around the world, April 30th will forever hold a special place in our hearts and minds. Today, April 30th marks the anniversary of the ending of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City) to Communism. It is a day that dramatically changed the course of my life, and which ultimately brought me to America.

Photo: An American punches a Vietnamese man in the face as he tries to close the doorway of an airplane overloaded with refugees seeking to flee Nha Trang, which was being taken over by Communist troops in April 1975.

On April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese government surrendered to the North Vietnamese Communist forces ending a two-decade long civil war (1954-1975) known as the Vietnam War. Besides the political consequences, there were the emotional, social, and cultural effects that resulted from the fall of Saigon.

Had it not been for that fateful day of April 30, 1975, my family and I along with millions of other Vietnamese “boat people” refugees might have never left our country.

“In the spring of 1975, 130,000 refugees escaped Vietnam. Tiny boats full of South Vietnamese soldiers and their families set off down the Mekong River in the hopes of surviving the 600-mile journey to the Malaysian coast. They were the first wave of Vietnamese boat people. But they were not the last.”

All totaled, roughly 1.5 million “boat people” left Vietnam after the fall of Saigon to Communism between the mid-1970’s through the 1990’s.

Photo: 
Vietnamese boat people.

I am in awe of how my life has turned out because of April 30th. If the fall of Saigon to Communism on April 30, 1975 had never occurred, I would most likely still be living in Vietnam with my family. I would be fluent in Vietnamese, unlike my current state of stumbling over words. I would be thinking and composing this blog entry in Vietnamese.

Instead, as fortune would have it, my family and I survived a perilous escape in the dead of night…

In the early morning hours of spring 1979, with borrowed money and falsified documents to ensure our escape, my family and I (then 8 years old) joined countless other “boat people” and got onto a small vessel in search of a better life. Three days and four nights later, after outrunning Thai pirates and discarding a dead body, we found ourselves helpless and stranded at sea with little food and water remaining. In fact, my mom told me that many of us did not eat because we were so exhausted.

Thanks to the sheer mercy of God, we were rescued by an oil tanker and brought into a refugee camp on a tiny island called Galang (in Indonesia). After spending 11 months there, we were sponsored by my uncle to come to America.

On April 1, 1980, more than one year after we left our homeland in Southeast Asia, my family and I set foot on American soil for the very first time.

No one ever has to impress upon me the value of freedom because I still remember vividly what it was like to not have it. So while many people simply see April 30th as just another day, for me it holds great meaning. On April 30th of this year as in years past, I pause to give thanks and wonder,

“What if April 30, 1975 had never happened?”

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Advisor & Talent Development Consultant

7 Reasons Why Employees Leave

In “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave (2005),” Leigh Branham outlined seven reasons why workers quit or leave their jobs:

  • Reason #1: The Job or Workplace Was Not as Expected
  • Reason #2: The Mismatch Between Job and Person
  • Reason #3: Too Little Coaching and Feedback
  • Reason #4: Too Few Growth and Advancement Opportunities
  • Reason #5: Feeling Devalued And Unrecognized
  • Reason #6: Stress From Overwork and Work-Life Imbalance
  • Reason #7: Loss of Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders

Branham asserts that there are two distinct periods when an employee thinks about leaving. The first period is the time between his or her first thoughts of leaving and the subsequent decision to leave. The second period in which the employee considers leaving is the time between his/her decision to leave and actually leaving.

Branham shares three tips that leaders can do to avoid losing employees:

  1. Inspire confidence in a clear vision, a workable plan and the competence to achieve it.
  2. Back up words with actions.
  3. Place the leader’s trust and confidence in the work force.

Reference

Branham, L. (2005). The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. Broadway, NY: AMACOM.

Divisive Leadership and Uncivil Followership

Here at WorkplacePsychology.Net, I don’t take political sides. What I am interested in is examining effective leadership. The Center for Creative Leadership’s Bill Adams recently wrote a piece called “Crisis in Leadership: The Healthcare Bill.” It’s a well-written and balanced perspective on leadership in Washington.

The Center for Creative Leadership describes leadership using the acronym DAC, direction, alignment and commitment. Effective leaders are able to set the direction, create alignment, and secure commitment from their followers.

Back in February, I wrote about “Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance” (it is one of the most visited posts on WorkplacePsychology.Net). In that post, I shared professor John Kotter’s 8-Stage Process to Creating Major Change. I also cited Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn’s (2005) tips for overcoming resistance to change.

Like many Americans, I have been following the healthcare debate and (unfortunately) all the uncivil debates and actions (from both sides and from angry politicians and passionate Americans). Though there was much talk about gathering support, the healthcare vote became very one-sided as its passage included not one Republican vote in Congress.

From a leadership perspective, I wish leaders in Washington had followed Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn’s (2005) advice in gaining alignment and overcoming resistance. To overcome resistance to change, make sure that the following criteria are met (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005):

  1. Benefit: Whatever it is that is changing, that change should have a clear relative advantage for those being asked to change; it should be seen as “a better way.”
  2. Compatibility: The change should be as compatible as possible with the existing values and experiences of the people being asked to change.
  3. Complexity: The change should be no more complex than necessary; it must be as easy as possible for people to understand and use.
  4. Triability: The change should be something that people can try on a step-by-step basis and make adjustments as things progress.

I believe the two biggest obstacles which contributed to and exacerbated the strong disagreements and hostilities are compatibility and complexity. Somehow, I think the leaders in Washington forgot these little gems of leadership.

By strong-arming the healthcare bill through Congress using solely Democratic votes, the leaders have failed to see that this was not an effective solution in getting buy-in from the general followership. With the healthcare debate still ongoing (albeit very heated, discourteous, and even violent), the leaders decided to bypass the compatibility step in overcoming resistance.

The other piece that certainly did not help was the complexity of the healthcare bill, which totaled nearly 2000 pages. I highly doubt that anyone sat through and read it cover to cover. By the time a 2000-pages document gets translated and explained, something is bound to get lost in the translation. Politicians talk politics and sugarcoat or conveniently skip important facts and details. Special interest groups have their agendas, and so on. Throughout this maze of complexity, few have been able to (1) clearly explain what the healthcare bill is and (2) how the average American can use it (due to the many caveats).

What is equally alarming is that people upset over the healthcare bill’s passage have taken such extreme and sometimes violent displays of dissatisfaction, while those responsible for its passage turn a blind eye.

My hope for all Americans (those for, against, and indifferent to the healthcare bill) is to honor one another even as we disagree. When members in Congress yell out “you lie” to a sitting American President and another shouting “baby killer” while a fellow Congressman is talking, we have sadly forgotten the civility & decorum that is required and expected of all adults. It is sad (at least to me) that adults need to be reminded to practice polite & courteous behaviors.

When I worked as a behavior specialist in the school system, I certainly expected discourteous and rude behaviors from children. But, when I see adults (leaders and role models) behave worse than children, it makes me ashamed to call myself a “grown-up.”

Reference

Schermerhorn, J.R., Hunt, J.G., & Osborn, R.N. (2005). Organizational Behavior (9th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Career Well-Being

In their upcoming book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements (Available May 4, 2010), Rath and Harter (2010) offer this interesting piece of information about career and its impact on our well-being.

It’s quite astonishing that people recover faster from the death of a spouse than from prolonged unemployment.

Although career well-being is discussed, it is just one of five elements covered.

The Five Essential Elements

  • Career Wellbeing
  • Social Wellbeing
  • Financial Wellbeing
  • Physical Wellbeing
  • Community Wellbeing

This is one book I’m really looking forward to reading.

Adopting a Child’s Perspective Helps Adults Regain our Inborn Talents

My niece is so adorable and creative. She can turn something as simple as a blank sheet of paper and transform it into a game of checking into a plush hotel with concierge service. Kids are amazing because they see the world not as it is but what it can be. Unlike adults, children have a natural gift of creativity and imagination.

The 1988 movie “Big” (starring Tom Hanks) is a story of a 12-year old boy named Josh who got his wish to be “big.” He wakes up the next day to find that while his physical body had grown and aged to that of a man, he was still the same 12-year old kid on the inside.

The heart-warming story follows Josh as he finds work at a toy company. Unlike the other executives and managers who conduct market research into what kids like about toys, Josh actually plays with them. In a meeting on bringing a toy robot to market, a manager stated that research with children of a certain demographic indicated that the toy robot would be successful. As the manager is showing how the robot works (it’s a robot that transforms into a house), Josh raised his hand to ask,

“What’s so fun about that?”

Imagine if we could bring the candid outlook of kids into the workplace as Tom Hanks’ character did in the movie! Instead, we conduct research and analyze things so much (e.g., SWOT analysis) that we sometimes miss the golden opportunity to act.

Arnold Lazarus, a psychologist who founded multimodal therapy, shared a story of a friend who (by profession, a dentist) was “an absolute natural when it came to understanding people and showing genuine warmth, wisdom, and empathy” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352). The dentist friend was so good that many people confided in him with their troubles.

Due to his natural talents, this dentist friend decided to pursue training in psychology and eventually obtained a Ph.D. in social and clinical psychology. Ironically, Lazarus observed that “as my friend learned more and more psychology, as he took more and more readings and courses in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, it seemed to me that his natural skills eroded” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352).

Shortly after Lazarus’ mother died, Lazarus opened his heart to this friend, someone who Lazarus had previously considered a “naturally great therapist” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352). But, instead of the natural warmth, support, and understanding that the—former dentist now psychologist—friend once exhibited, this now trained psychologist responded to Lazarus’ sorrows with psychological clichés and labels (Lazarus, 1990).

“The formal psychology and psychotherapy courses he had received were tantamount to taking a can of spray-paint to an artistic masterpiece” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352).

What happened to the dentist-turned-psychologist friend made Lazarus question, “whether formal training causes most of us to undergo a similar truncation of our helpful inborn capacities” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352).

Now don’t get me wrong, education, training, and experience are great, but…

Has “growing up” and being indoctrinated with formal knowledge and training hindered our natural-born skills of creativity, curiosity, and common sense to be a better worker or leader?

Reference

Lazarus, A. (1990). Can psychotherapists transcend the shackles of their training and superstitions? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 46(3), 351-358. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(199005)46:3<351::AID-JCLP2270460316>3.0.CO;2-V