Category Archives: Business

Values-Based Leadership

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Values-Based Leadership

Professor Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr. of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management says a values-based leader aims to motivate and inspire others to pursue the greater good – “the positive change that can be effected within a team, department, division, or organization, or even on a global level” (Kraemer, 2011a, p. 3).

In a Forbes article, professor Kraemer states, “becoming the best kind of leader isn’t about emulating a role model or a historic figure. Rather, your leadership must be rooted in who you are and what matters most to you. When you truly know yourself and what you stand for, it is much easier to know what to do in any situation. It always comes down to doing the right thing and doing the best you can” (Kraemer, 2011b).

Our values are “internalized attitudes about what’s right and wrong, ethical and unethical, moral and immoral” (Yukl, 2010, 191). Some examples of values in a leader include fairness, honesty, equality, humanitarianism, loyalty, progress, pragmatism, excellence, and cooperation.

In his book From Values to Action, Kraemer describes four principles of values-based leadership:

  1. Self-Reflection – Take time to step back and see the big picture. Reflect on what’s important to you and the reason why it’s important.
  2. Balance – Be able to consider and understand all sides of an issue. Look at things in a holistic manner.
  3. True Self-Confidence – Recognize what you know as well as what you do not know. Be OK with yourself, accept your strengths and weaknesses and strive to improve.
  4. Genuine Humility – Never forget where you came from and how you got to where you’re at now. Understand that “you are neither better nor worse than anyone else [and] that you ought to respect everyone equally and not treat anyone differently just because of a job title” (Kraemer, 2011a, p. 6).

Martin Luther King, Jr. – A Values-Based Leader

Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only a transformational leader, he was also a values-based leader. Dr. King taught his followers to rise above the daily mistreatments, discriminations, and hardships that people faced and to work toward a greater good. He was an example of equality, humanitarianism, progress, pragmatism, excellence, and cooperation. Dr. King personified the qualities of a transformational leader: (1) He inspired others by his ability to frame his messages in meaningful ways, (2) He connected his vision of equality and justice with his followers’ personal struggles, (3) He showed people that he cared about them and that he valued them, and (4) He emphasized high moral and ethical values while displaying personal commitment and self-sacrifice (McGuire & Hutchings, 2007). Above all, through his firmly grounded values-based leadership — of using nonviolent demonstrations to protest racial inequality — he became the symbol for the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Should Business School Teach Values-Based Leadership?

As a result of the general public’s growing distrust of business leaders and what it perceives as a lack of values and principles in the business world (revealed through corporate scandals and corruptions), there has been an interest in revamping how business leaders are educated. In a June 2009 article in the Harvard Business Review, Podolny (2009b) asserts that business schools need to reinvent themselves to regain the trust of the public. He argues that the way to do this is by teaching and emphasizing values in business schools. He contends that a focus on values-based leadership and ethics has not been central in the education of MBAs and that even when business schools teach leadership, they tend to emphasize that CEOs should focus on the big picture and not “sweat the details (because that’s their subordinates’ job)” (p. 64).

Podolny (2009b) said that business schools need to stop competing for students by advertising the school’s ranking because this reinforces the idea that the only goal is to teach them how to make a lot of money. He insists that business schools need to create codes of conduct for MBAs and should withdraw degrees from those who break them.

“Business schools teach leadership as a soft, big picture–oriented course, distinct from the details on which hard, quantitative courses focus. Leadership, they imply, is about setting the vision and framing an agenda, but it isn’t about focusing on details. Because of this distinction, students are convinced that nitty-gritty work can be done without consciously considering factors such as values and ethics.” – Joel M. Podolny (2009a)

“In order to reduce people’s distrust, business schools need to show that they value what society values. They need to teach that principles, ethics, and attention to detail are essential components of leadership, and they need to place a greater emphasis on leadership’s responsibilities – not just its rewards.” – Joel M. Podolny (2009b)

“Today there is widespread lack of confidence in leadership, in business, government, education and elsewhere. Every leader needs to regain and maintain trust. Values-based leadership may not be a cure for everything that ails us, but it’s definitely a good place to start.” -Harry M. Jansen Kraemer, Jr.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.

References

Kraemer Jr., H. M. (2011a). From values to action: The four principles of values-based leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kraemer Jr., H. M. (2011b, April 26). The Only True Leadership Is Values-Based Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2011/04/26/values-based-leadership.html

McGuire, D. & Hutchings, K. (2007). Portrait of a transformational leader: The legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 28(2), 154-166.

Podolny, J.M. (2009a). Are Business Schools to Blame? Harvard Business Review, 87(6), 107.

Podolny, J.M. (2009b). The buck stops (and starts) at business school. Harvard Business Review, 87(6), 62-67.

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Developing Your Leadership Presence – The Role of Physical Movement

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We hear a great deal about leadership and the qualities of being a leader. One thing I have personally noticed and practiced is something called command presence. It’s the ability to “own the room” or command the attention of others. The beauty is that it doesn’t matter if you’re tall or short, or big or small. Size is not as important as the ability to command a room — to show confidence and authority.

For training and development, in terms of having a physical leadership presence, there’s a book called Own the Room (Booth, Shames, & Desberg, 2010). Although much of it is about business presentations, it also touches on what the authors call command presence (having an air of authority and physical movement; displaying confidence and authority). They also describe something they call “physical grammar” (akin to using commas, periods, and pauses when speaking). The idea is that you attract attention as you move, and when done purposefully, it can be very effective.

Another thing regarding physical movement (particularly when presenting to an audience) is that it enlarges a speaker’s presence because it allows him/her to control the space rather than being confined by it (like being behind a podium). I have seen very capable professionals fail to “own the room” because they did not understand the importance of having a command presence.

I have personally experienced the dramatic difference between owning and not owning the room when presenting. When I’m free to move about a room or space, I not only develop my own command presence but I’m also more effective in engaging the audience due to my physical movement (the physical grammar I mentioned earlier). However, when I’m confined to a very tight space/room and my physical movements are limited or restricted, I notice that I often fail to capture the audience’s attention.

For leaders and CEOs who are small in stature, developing a leadership presence is crucial. This excerpt from a 2007 USA Today article illustrates how having a command presence helped one short CEO remain in control:

Maigread Eichten, the 5-foot-4 former CEO of beverage company New Sun Nutrition, recalled a confrontation with a 6-foot, 200-pound-plus senior executive.

“He spoke loudly and in quite colorful language. I couldn’t get a word in between his four-letter words. Imagine his surprise when this small blonde marched up, stared him down, commanded his attention, spoke clearly and loudly and ended with a smile. He was sold and charmed,” Eichten said.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.

References

Booth, D., Shames, D., & Desberg, P. (2010). Own the room: Business presentations that persuade, engage, and get results. New York: McGraw-Hill.

USA Today – Does height equal power? Some CEOs say yes. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2007-07-17-ceo-dominant-behavior_N.htm

Can Apple Remain Innovative Without Their Visionary Leader?

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In January 2009, Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times wrote:

“No American CEO is more intimately identified with his company’s success. Jobs is deeply involved in every facet of Apple development and design, and he’s justly admired for his instinct for the human-factor engineering of Apple products.”

There has been much talk about Apple and its struggle to continue to be innovative after Steve Jobs’ untimely death in October 2011. For instance, after the most recent Apple event introducing the newest iPhone models (iPhone 5S and 5C), analysts and pundits were unimpressed. “Underwhelmed” wrote CNN.

A Wired article said the “much-hyped iPhone announcements from the tech giant did little to stop its year-long descent into stagnation. . . . Though the faster, sleeker, more powerful phone is unarguably cool, the steps forward are still incremental. And incremental isn’t what the world expects from Apple. Steve Jobs’ death wasn’t an event of worldwide significance because he could craft better spec sheets. Apple’s brand is synonymous with vision, a corporate identity that was once its greatest asset. Now that asset has become a liability.”

In November 2010, I wrote a blog post titled, “The Dangers of Charismatic Leaders.” One of the points I made was that the dependence on a charismatic leader, like Steve Jobs, inhibited development of competent successors. Indeed, as Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison said Jobs was a visionary and his creativity far exceeded his executives.

Steve Jobs was a larger-than-life CEO at Apple. Setting aside his temper and authoritarian style of management, he had two qualities that will be very difficult for Apple to replicate: an uncanny ability to sense consumer demands (relying on his intuition, without doing any market research) and the ability to passionately and unequivocally sell his vision (and in the process reinvented entire industries).

Yukl (2010) said charisma is temporary when it is dependent on a leader who is viewed as extraordinary. When that charismatic leader leaves or dies, it can create a succession crisis. Although the crisis in leadership succession did not occur at Apple, what seemed to have occurred is a crisis in creativity and innovation. There are three things charismatic leaders can do to leave their mark on the company.

One approach is to transfer charisma to a successor. That certainly did not happen because the personalities of Steve Jobs (an extrovert) and Tim Cook (an introvert) are very different. A second approach is to develop a structure that will continue to carry out the leader’s vision. The problem is that the enthusiasm is sometimes greatly diminished when a charismatic leader is no longer around, thus reducing the effectiveness of the overall organization. The third approach to continue the leader’s vision is to “embed it in the culture of the organization by influencing followers to internalize it and empowering them to implement it” (Yukl, 2010, p. 271).

Can Apple Still Innovate Without Jobs?

NO: Hartmut Esslinger, a designer who began collaborating with Steve Jobs in 1982 “to carry Apple’s products to international prominence” says the Apple today is very different and not the innovative company he experienced during his time working with Jobs. Esslinger has a unique insight since he personally worked with Steve Jobs to create a “design language” that was used on the Macintosh line of computers for over a decade. According to Esslinger, a design language is “about forming a visual brand DNA that expresses a company’s true potential, as well as the founders’ unique values and (hopefully) visionary goals.” Esslinger believes that the Apple of today is more like the Sony of the 1980s — the visionary founder is replaced by leaders who do not think about innovating, only about refining the product line and increasing profits.

YES, but: Salesforce’s CEO Marc Benioff, who interned at Apple in 1984 and was mentored by Steve Jobs, had some interesting things to say about Apple’s current state (see the YouTube video below). At the TechCrunch Disrupt 2013 conference, Benioff said Apple’s executives need to find themselves and be who they are, not try to imitate Steve Jobs. He said they should respect the past, but project the future. Marc Benioff’s advice aligns nicely with the third approach (that followers internalize the leader’s vision and be empowered to implement that vision).

The challenge now for Apple (it’s been almost 2 years since Steve Jobs’ death) is how to retain their innovative DNA — keep Steve Jobs’ vision, but remain who they are without him. There’s no doubt that Jobs’ vision and creative genius far exceeded those of other executives at Apple. But one can argue that Apple still has enough talent and creativity on its leadership team to press onward.

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.

References

Disrupt SF 2013 – Apple Needs To ‘Find Themselves’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbTuHpMy5CY

Esslinger, H. (Sept 2013). Snow White, Steve Jobs and Apple’s Awakening as a Global Design Leader. Retrieved from http://designmind.frogdesign.com/blog/snow-white-steve-jobs-and-apples-awakening-as-a-global-design-leader.html

Gross, D. (Sept 2013). Internet, Wall Street unimpressed by new iPhones. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/11/tech/innovation/apple-iphone-innovation-debate/index.html

Hall, B. (Sept 2013). Apple Has Fallen and It Can’t Get Up. Retrieved from http://www.thestreet.com/story/12033865/1/apple-has-fallen-and-it-cant-get-up.html

Hiltzik, M. (Jan 2009). Apple’s condition linked to Steve Jobs’ health. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/05/business/fi-hiltzik5

McCracken, H. (Oct 2011). Steve Jobs, 1955–2011: Mourning Technology’s Great Reinventor. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,2096251,00.html

Mims, C. (Sept 2013). Apple is no longer an innovative company, says the man who helped Steve Jobs design the Mac. Retrieved from http://qz.com/123388/hartmut-esslinger-says-apple-no-longer-innovative-helped-steve-jobs-design-the-mac/

Mui, C. (Oct 2011). Five Dangerous Lessons to Learn From Steve Jobs. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2011/10/17/five-dangerous-lessons-to-learn-from-steve-jobs/

Nguyen, S. (Nov 2010). The Dangers of Charismatic Leaders. Retrieved from https://workplacepsychology.net/2010/11/26/the-dangers-of-charismatic-leaders/

Salesforce.com CEO: Apple Execs Need To Stop Imitating Steve Jobs
http://readwrite.com/2013/09/10/salesforce-ceo-marc-benioff-steve-jobs

Wohlsen, M. (Sept 2013). Apple’s Reputation for Innovation Is Now Its Greatest Liability. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/business/2013/09/apple-annoucements/

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Why Leadership Is Important and Why People Want to Be Followers

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I posted this recently in a leadership MOOC course. The question was, “Why do you think leadership is important?”

Here’s my response:

I believe leadership is important because if we examine history, no significant changes or advancement have occurred without some type of leadership. In the U.S., we can see how leaders have mobilized followers to accomplish amazing things.

George Washington → American Revolution
Martin Luther King, Jr. → Civil Rights Movement
Steve Jobs → Apple Computers (iPhone, iPad, iPod)

I like this definition of leadership as I believe it nicely explains WHY leadership is important:

“Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (Northouse, 2013, p. 5).

To me, there can be no leader if there are no followers, and people will not follow you if you lack the ability to influence them to work toward a goal.

That said, I also like and agree with what Bass (1990) said, that there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are individuals who have tried to define this concept.

One person in the MOOC class said that he did not believe people want to be led by others (i.e., they want to be leaders, not followers). I responded with this post:

I respectfully disagree with the notion that people do not want to be followers. I contend three things (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012):

  1. Almost everyone is a follower in some capacity (supervisors report to managers, managers report to VPs, even CEOs have to report to the board of directors),
  2. The role of followers is just as important as leaders (although it is often overlooked), and
  3. Being a follower has benefits (that is, the benefits to being a follower sometimes outweigh the benefits of trying to be the leader).

Social Change: In the U.S., the Civil Rights movement serves as a good example of what can happen when followers take action to change the status quo (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012).

Military: We talk about great military leaders but the real wars and battles are fought by the best soldiers and armies (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012).

Sports: Yes, the Chicago Bulls had a great coach (leader) in Phil Jackson (who led them to 6 titles), but they also had Michael Jordan (who was both follower and leader) and Jordan had great teammates (Scottie Pippen, etc.) who followed and helped him.

Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.

References

Bass, B. M. (1990). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research & managerial applications (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.

Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (2012). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Workplace Bullying: It’s Not Employee Dissatisfaction and Why It’s Different from Schoolyard Bullying

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This post is in response to an article titled “Thou Shalt Not Bully” that was posted on HCOnline, Australia’s online magazine for senior human resource professionals and corporate decision-makers.

In the article, the author said:

“[D]espite the best intentions of the [anti-bullying] legislation [in Australia], employers are faced with the prospect of an avalanche of complaints based on perceptions. Bullying has become the catch-all term for employee dissatisfaction.”

The author then proceeded to offer a case to illustrate why a dissatisfied employee led to the incorrect labeling of a manager as a “bully.”

“When we met with the employee, one of the first things he said when explaining the situation was ‘bullying is a too strong a word.’ He (the employee) went on to recount a conflict scenario that involved differing views about a project recommendation he had made, and described feeling intimidated and threatened. His complaint referred to the situation as bullying. When we met with his manager, she was distressed and felt pressured by the allegation. She was confused as to why she had been accused. She felt she had supported the employee, who she perceived him as being ‘difficult’ and requiring her intervention. The experience demonstrates the dangers of bullying becoming a catchall term for interpersonal issues.”

First, labeling someone in the workplace as a bully can have significant consequences (for both the instigator and the victim) so it is prudent to exercise care and caution before initiating claims of bullying.

Second, it should not matter if an employee uses the word(s) “bully” or “bullying” or not. As the author acknowledged, the employee, when recounting what happened, indicated that he felt “intimidated and threatened.” In others words, he felt that he was not able to defend/protect himself. Put it another way, people in positions of power may not realize or care that their higher/greater power within the company can engender bullying behaviors.

Third, something that was not mentioned in the article but is critically important to point out is that there is an important difference between schoolyard bullying and workplace bullying. While both forms involve victimizing another person and using power to do so, school bullies (sometimes cheered on by other students) do not have the support of teachers and school administrators. In contrast, workplace bullies, who often hold positions of authority, do have the support of peers, HR, and even upper management (Namie & Namie, 2009).

When targets (who participated in the 2003 Workplace Bullying Institute survey) were asked if they reported the bullying behaviors to others at work and what happened after that, here are the results (Namie & Namie, 2009, p. 93):

The results below summarize who knew about the bullying and what they did in terms of helping or hurting.

WBI 2003 survey

“It is clear that workplace “insiders”—co-workers, the bully’s boss, and HR—were destructive, not supportive” (Namie & Namie, 2009, p. 93).

Namie and Namie (2009) said it well: “[T]he child Target must have the help and support of third-party adults to reverse the conflict. Bullied adults have the primary responsibility for righting the wrong themselves, for engineering a solution” (p. 15).

Fourth, I strongly disagree with the author that “The proliferation of anti-bullying awareness campaigns has led to workplace conflicts too readily being labeled as bullying” or that “Bullying has become the catch-all term for employee dissatisfaction.” These statements are a disservice to people who have been or are currently victims of workplace bullying. And, these types of statements continue to perpetuate the myth that victims of bullying are too soft, complain too much, or just don’t have the backbone to stand up. This, in my opinion, minimizes the seriousness of workplace bullying.

I do not agree that “anti-bullying awareness campaigns [have] led to workplace conflicts being labelled as bullying.” In fact, the two constructs (“workplace conflicts” and “workplace bullying”) sometimes get confused (as is the case in the author’s HCOnline article).

Conflicts – perceived differences between one person and another about interests, beliefs or values that matter to them (De Dreu, Van Dierendonck, & De Best-Waldhober, 2003).

Bullying – “situations where a worker or supervisor is systematically mistreated and victimized by fellow workers or supervisors through repeated negative acts like insulting remarks and ridicule, verbal abuse, offensive teasing, isolation, and social exclusion, or the constant degrading of one’s work and efforts” (Einarsen, Raknes, & Matthiesen, 1994, p. 381).

Results from the 2007 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey indicated that,

“37 percent of American workers have been bullied at work—13 percent said it was either happening now or had happened within a year of the polling, and 24 percent said they were not now being bullied but had been bullied in the past. Adding the 12 percent who witnessed bullying but never experienced it directly, nearly half (49 percent) of adult Americans are affected by it” (Namie & Namie, 2009, p. 4).

A follow-up 2010 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey revealed,

“35% of the U.S. workforce (an est. 53.5 million Americans) report being bullied at work; an additional 15% witness it. Half of all Americans have directly experienced it.”

Thus, when we step back and examine these statistics on workplace bullying and the difference between the concept of conflict and bullying, as defined above, we can see that bullying is not just “employee dissatisfaction” as the author suggested.

Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.

References

De Dreu, C. K. W., Van Dierendonck, D., & De Best-Waldhober, M. (2003). Conflict at work and individual well-being. In M. J. Schabracq, J. A. M. Winnubst, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), The handbook of work and health psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 495-515). West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons.

Einarsen, S., Raknes, B. I., & Matthiesen, S. B. (1994). Bullying and harassment at work and their relationships to work environment quality: An exploratory study. European Work and Organizational Psychologist, 4(4), 381-401.

Namie, G., & Namie, R. (2009). The bully at work: what you can do to stop the hurt and reclaim your dignity on the job. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc.

Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s Identity Crisis and How to Fix It

[NOTE: This post was updated March 2017]

Recently, I’ve been struck by how stuck people and even organizations are in defining who they are and determining where they’re going. In particular, I have been very interested in following the struggles of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), to define and distinguish itself in an ever-crowded space.

I examined four I-O psychology textbooks hoping to find a simple, clear definition of what exactly industrial and organizational psychology is:

Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is “the branch of psychology that is concerned with the study of behavior in work settings and the application of psychology principles to change work behavior” (Riggio, 2013, p. 2).

Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is “the application of psychological principles, theory, and research to the work setting” (Landy & Conte, 2013, p. 7).

Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is “the application of psychological principles and theories to the workplace” (Levy, 2010, p. 2).

Industrial/organizational psychology is “a branch of psychology that applies the principles of psychology to the workplace” (Aamodt, 2013, p. 2).

On its website, SIOP originally said (as of July 2013), “Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is the scientific study of the workplace.” This is a very poor definition, one that does not align well with the definitions from the I-O psychology textbooks I shared above.

Admittedly, I do not claim to know or understanding everything about SIOP or I-O psychology so I’ll stick to sharing my perspective about how SIOP’s lack of a sense of identity has negatively impacted its present and future course of action.

In discussions and conversations on various industrial and organizational psychology LinkedIn groups, it is clear that many people, within I-O and many more outside of it, cannot define or explain, succinctly, what it is. I am amazed that a group of highly educated people have struggled for so long, and continues to struggle, to define to themselves and explain to others about their profession.

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest challenges facing the field of industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology. In fact, very early on in its history, I-O psychology was actually referred to by other names, such as economic psychology, business psychology, and employment psychology (Koppes & Pickren, 2007).

According to Koppes and Pickren (2007), the term industrial psychology was rarely used before World War I. As a matter of fact, APA’s Division 14 was called Industrial and Business Psychology when it was formed in 1945. The word business was dropped from the division name, and Industrial and Business Psychology became Industrial Psychology in 1962. In 1973, the division added organizational to the name and became known as Industrial and Organizational Psychology (Koppes & Pickren, 2007). With all these identities and changes, it’s no wonder I-O psychologists and everyone else are confused.

According to Highhouse (2007), the I-O label survived a name change vote in 2004 (but the initiative started in 2002). More recently, in late 2009, there was yet another push for a name change. But SIOP’s membership chose to keep “Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology” (SIOP) by a very narrow margin (515 ballots against the name change to 500 ballots for changing the name to The Society for Organizational Psychology). Fifteen votes difference!

Come on folks, just pick a name and stick with it! THREE name changes and TWO attempts at name changes within a 68 year span would make anyone’s head spin.

SIOP “hired a professional marketing agency to aid them in developing SIOP’s brand and making that brand known to the public” (Latham, 2009). Sadly, its history of numerous name changes and the latest, closely contested fight to again change its name are indicative of an organization and profession struggling to find itself, its brand, and its overall sense of identity.

It appears that efforts to develop SIOP’s brand have yielded dismal results, as two recent surveys [one sent to business professionals (in March 2012) and the other to HR professionals (in July 2012) asking them to indicate their familiarity with professional organizations] suggested that among the professional organizations (e.g., Academy of Management [AOM], American Society for Training and Development [ASTD], Society of Human Resources Management [SHRM], etc.), Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) ranked dead last among business professionals!

I contend that when APA Division 14 renamed itself in 1962, rather than dropping the word business, it should have instead dropped the word industrial. Thus, the field of industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology (in the United States) might be widely known today as business psychology. I believe that had this been done the field of I-O psychology would have been much better defined, to those in and those outside of the field (e.g., the general public and business community). Unfortunately, that was not the case and 68 years after it was first established as Division 14, SIOP and the larger field of I-O psychology continue to struggle with its identity.

To make my case, I point the reader to Hugo Münsterberg, one of the fathers of industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology. In his book Business Psychology, Hugo Münsterberg (1918) talked about business psychology — what it means and its relevance to the world of business. He said business psychology is about “bring[ing] together those results of modern psychological thinking which are significant for the work of the business man” (p. v).

“Business psychology means a psychology in which the chief emphasis is laid on those mental functions which are significant for business life and in which so far as possible the other aspects of psychology are omitted. If anyone were to try to present business psychology without going into the study of the foundations, principles, and laws of psychology in general, he would offer useless and misleading material. . . . Business psychology is psychology, or it is nothing at all” (Münsterberg, 1918, p. 8).

Wheeler (2013) said, “The right name is timeless, tireless, easy to say and remember; it stands for something, and facilitates brand extensions. Its sound has rhythm. It looks great in the text of an email and in the logo. A well-chosen name is an essential brand asset . . . . The wrong name for a company, product, or service can hinder marketing efforts . . . because people cannot pronounce it or remember it” (p. 22).

In my opinion, the group(s) of individuals who collectively decided to adopt an increasingly more convoluted and difficult-to-remember name* for the field of I-O psychology ensured one thing — that the overall profession (and the legions of business psychologists who make up the profession) would struggle with its sense of identity.

*From Industrial and Business Psychology in 1945 Industrial Psychology in 1962 Industrial and Organizational Psychology in 1973.

I’m certainly not advocating another push for a name change. However, I think it is critical to understand FOUR things:

(1) how the name has changed since its inception (i.e., understand the history),
(2) why there continues to be discontent about the name and the push to change it (i.e., study the current situation),
(3) the importance of defining the overall profession within this context (i.e., use history and context to dictate course of action), and
(4) where to go from here (i.e., set achievable, realistic, agreed-upon goals and objectives).

“The right name captures the imagination and connects with the people you want to reach” -Danny Altman (as quoted on p. 22 in Designing brand identity [4th ed.])

Constantly bickering over what to call yourself (or your organization), being indecisive and falling into the trap of analysis paralysis, failing to unite the SIOP membership, and not setting and acting on a strategic course of action have all negatively contributed to the stagnation of SIOP.

Philip Durbrow, Chairman and CEO of Marshall Strategy said this (on p. 142 in Designing brand identity [4th ed.]): “If you wish to make a meaningful statement, a name change is not enough. The name should represent a unique, beneficial, and sustainable story that resonates with customers, investors, and employees.”

What unique and sustainable story can business psychologists (I-O psychologists) share that will resonate within the field as well as outside with others? Find or create that story, own it, and then passionately share it with others.

[Added 03/2017]: SIOP featured a great and spot-on article (Spring 2017) titled, “Has Industrial-Organizational Psychology Lost Its Way?” on its website. In the article, Ones, Kaiser, Chamorro-Premuzic, and Svensson (2017) stated that the field of industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology, while “more relevant than ever” is at risk of being marginalized.

“We see the field losing its way, in danger of becoming less relevant and giving up ground to other professions with less expertise about people at work—but perhaps better marketing savvy and business acumen.” -Ones, Kaiser, Chamorro-Premuzic, and Svensson (2017)

The troubling trends that the authors see I-O psychology heading includes: overemphasizing theory; being fixated on trivial methodological minutiae; and emphasizing academic publication but ignoring practical applications. The result is that the field of I-O psychology is “losing real-world influence to other fields.”

The authors wrote that fields such as marketing, behavioral economics, and neuroscience are gaining more attention and respect because they’re able to sell themselves and their products and services better.

“The insular, academic thinking that dominates the [I-O psychology] discipline creates hostility and antipathy toward practice and the applied world that keeps it on the periphery—when it could be center stage in a leadership role.”

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

References

Aamodt, M. G. (2013). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Highhouse, S. (2007). Where Did This Name Come From Anyway? A Brief History of the I-O Label. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/tip/july07/sheridan%20pdfs/451_053to056.pdf

Koppes, L L. (n.d.). A Brief History of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc. – A Division of the APA. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/History/historynew.aspx

Koppes. L. L., & Pickren, W. (2007). Industrial and organizational psychology: An evolving science and practice. In L. L. Koppes (Ed)., Historical perspectives in industrial and organizational psychology (pp. 3-35). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2013). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Latham, G. (2009). A Message From Your President: Bridging the Scientist–Practitioner Gap. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/tip/jan09/01latham.aspx

Levy, P. E. (2010). Industrial/organizational psychology: Understanding the workplace (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Münsterberg, H. (1918). Business psychology. Chicago: LaSalle Extension University.

Ones, D. S., Kaiser, R. B., Chamorro-Premuzic, T., & Svensson, C. (2017). Has Industrial-Organizational Psychology Lost Its Way? Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/tip/april17/lostio.aspx

Riggio, R. E. (2013). Introduction to industrial/organizational psychology (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Wheeler, A. (2013). Designing brand identity: An essential guide for the whole branding team (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Leadership and Management: Are They Different?

Businesswoman in conference room

Photo Credit: Flickr

Northouse (2013) wrote that leadership and management are similar in many ways. Both involve influencing, achieving goals, and working with people. However, while they may share some similarities, there are distinct and important differences. Northouse said the study of leadership goes as far back as the times of Aristotle, while the concept of management came about “around the turn of the 20th century with the advent of our industrialized society” (2013, p. 12).

In this article, I will first include quotes in support of the notion that leadership and management are similar. I will then follow with quotes and passages in support of the notion that leadership and management are different.

Manager And Leader – One And The Same

Mintzberg (1990) defined a manager and a leader as one and the same. Mintzberg considered a manager “the person in charge of the organization or one of its subunits” (1990, p. 164). In his HBR article (which originally appeared in Harvard Business Review in 1975), he referred to CEOs as managers. Managers include “foremen, factory supervisors, staff managers, field sales managers, hospital administrators, presidents of companies and nations…” (p. 164). Mintzberg maintained that managers are vested with authority over an organizational unit and from this authority comes status, which then leads to interpersonal relations and access to information. And, it is information that allows a manager to make decisions and develop strategies.

Manager And Leader – Not Synonymous

“Leaders manage and managers lead, but the two activities are not synonymous . . . [M]anagement functions can potentially provide leadership; [L]eadership activities can contribute to managing. Nevertheless, some managers do not lead, and some leaders do not manage” (Bass, 1990, p. 383).

“Leadership is path-finding; management is path-following. Leaders do the right things; managers do things right. Leaders develop; managers maintain. Leaders ask what and why; managers ask how and when. Leaders originate; managers imitate. Leaders challenge the status quo; managers accept it . . . Leadership is concerned with constructive or adaptive change, establishing and changing direction, aligning people, and inspiring and motivating people . . . They set the direction for organizations. They articulate a collective vision . . . They sacrifice and take risks to further the vision” (Bass, 2008, p. 654).

“Managers plan, organize, and arrange systems of administration and control. They hold positions of formal authority. Their position provides them with reward, disciplinary, or coercive power to influence and obtain compliance from subordinates. The subordinates follow directions from the manager and accept the manager’s authority as long as the manager has the legitimate power to maintain compliance—or the subordinates follow out of habit or deference to other powers of the leader. Management is concerned with consistency and order, details, timetables, and the marshaling of resources to achieve results. It plans, budgets, and allocates staff to fulfill plans” (Bass, 2008, p. 654).

Good Leader ≠ Good Manager, Good Manager ≠ Good Leader

Here’s an example that illustrates the difference:

A good leader (e.g., CEO of a software company) may not be someone technically proficient in guiding a software developer through a complex job. That job belongs to a competent manager. And, a good manager may be good at managing the day-to-day duties in the factory or office, but lacks the vision required of a great leader to strategically guide an organization.

Different Concepts That Overlap

Northouse (2013) said:

“Although there are clear differences between management and leadership, the two constructs overlap. When managers are involved in influencing a group to meet its goals, they are involved in leadership. When leaders are involved in planning, organizing, staffing, and controlling, they are involved in management. Both processes involve influencing a group of individuals toward goal attainment.” (p. 14)

References

Bass, B. M. (1990). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications (3rd ed.). New York: The Free Press.

Bass, B. M. (2008). The Bass handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications (4th ed.). New York: Free Press.

Mintzberg, H. (1990). The manager’s job: Folklore and fact. Harvard Business Review, 68(2), 163-176.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Organizational Diversity Initiatives

diversity business employees

Photo Credit: Flickr

Diversity initiatives usually sound great on paper and on an organization’s website. However, upon closer inspection, it is easy to see that there often exists a huge gap between rhetoric and practice.

Jayne and Dipboye (2004) stated that simply having a diverse workforce “does not . . . produce the positive outcomes that are often claimed” (pp. 411-412). Increasing diversity, in and of itself, will not improve the talent pool. It will not build commitment, improve motivation, or reduce conflict. Nor will it increase group or organizational performance.

One of the first challenge in managing a diversity initiative is to understand that the concept of diversity is difficult to operationalize, with different organizations defining the term “diversity” differently (Jayne & Dipboye, 2004).

Second, a diversity “training” program on its own is not a panacea. A company with only a diversity training program should never think of itself as having a diversity initiative. For example, in reviewing the components of a diversity initiative at one organization (I’ll called it Company DIYDI for “Do It Yourself Diversity Initiative”), it became evident that the diversity training program was just one part of a much larger, more comprehensive diversity initiative. The other pieces of a diversity initiative, in addition to training, MUST also include: recruiting, retention, development, external partnership, communication, and staffing and infrastructure (Jayne & Dipboye, 2004).

Due to the absence of many of the parts listed above, the diversity initiative at Company DIYDI was ineffective. Unfortunately, the diversity programs that were in place played a very minor role in shaping the diversity initiatives at this particular organization. Among some of the major omissions, there were no leadership development programs, no community outreach, and no employee benefits with a diversity component integrated into the larger framework. For instance, at Company DIYDI there were no domestic partner benefits for employees.

To succeed in properly instituting a diversity initiative, it is essential to integrate diversity priorities with the overall mission of the organization. For instance, to achieve diversity success for a college or university, Wade-Golden and Matlock (2007) suggested creating a well-crafted, well-articulated and integrated strategic plan that engages each level of the institution and one that reflects a commitment to action.

When there is a lack of consistency between what’s written or advertised at the organizational level from the reality of what employees (and/or students if it’s at a university) perceive, feel, and/or experience, tensions (sometimes subtle and other times more visible and vocal) can surface.

Jayne and Dipboye (2004) listed some steps that organizations can take to manage diversity more effectively:

  1. There must be commitment and accountability from upper management.
  2. A comprehensive needs assessment must be conducted.
  3. Tie the diversity strategy to business results in a realistic way.
  4. Emphasize team-building and group process training.
  5. Set up metrics and evaluate the effectiveness of diversity initiatives.

Takeaway: Effective organizational diversity initiatives are difficult, comprehensive, and time-consuming. There’s no doubt that it is a challenging, laborious undertaking. However, if it is done correctly, organizations and its employees will benefit.

Steve Nguyen

References

Jayne, M. E. A., & Dipboye, R. L. (2004). Leveraging diversity to improve business performance: Research findings and recommendations for organizations. Human Resource Management, 43(4), 409-424.

Wade-Golden, K., & Matlock, J. (2007). Ten Core Ingredients for Fostering Campus Diversity Success. Diversity Factor, 15(1), 41-48.

Keeping Your Clients Informed and Providing A Timely Response Are Essential To Great Customer Service

customer-service

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have written before about customer service on this blog (e.g., poor customer service hurts your business and customers leave you because of poor customer service).

In this post, I want to talk about the importance of providing timely responses to customer questions/inquiries and keeping your clients informed, and how failure to do either one or both will hurt your business.

Two instances come to mind when I think about consultants who lost clients because they either ignored their clients’ emails or neglected to keep their clients updated about the status of a project.

The first example involved a skilled consultant who was hired to provide technical services for a client. Although highly talented, the consultant neglected answering client emails, a key to maintaining good relationship with the customer. Multiple questions from one client went unanswered, and by the time this consultant responded, the client either had already come up with a solution or the opportunity to address the issue had already passed.

The second example involved another experienced consultant who failed to keep clients informed about problems or issues that might delay delivery of services. After the first missed deadline, inquiries from a client were met with excuses for why the deadline was missed, and instead of taking ownership and responsibility for the missed deadline, the consultant blamed others for the delay.

In both examples, highly skilled consultants lost clients.

A health professional once told me that in health care, providers will sometimes make a mistake because, let’s face it, no one is perfect and as hard as professionals try, they’re still human and can and do mess up. However, this health professional told me that he learned a very important lesson in running his own healthcare practice. He said if you have a great relationship with your clients, even if you screw up, you’ll have a much better chance of retaining your client than if you have a shoddy relationship. He told me that even if you are highly skilled, if your relationship with your clients are second-rate, the chances of losing them are much greater than if you are moderately skilled but provide excellent customer service.

“Many times . . . consumers do not complain . . . but instead take actions such as switching brands [or companies] or engaging in negative word of mouth (WOM)” (Hawkins & Mothersbaugh, 2010, p. 636).

Take-Away: No matter how skilled or good you are at your job, if you provide a service to customers (whatever that service might be), be sure to remember that you need to also provide exceptional or first-rate customer service, which includes providing timely responses to customer questions/inquiries and keeping your clients informed. Failure to do so can result in lost business (or clients) or damage to your reputation, or both.

Reference

Hawkins, D. I., & Mothersbaugh, D. L. (2010). Consumer behavior: Building marketing strategy (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Strategic Leaders-Challenges, Organizational Abilities & Individual Characteristics

compass

Photo Credit: Flickr

I’ve written before about the challenges of successfully executing strategy. In this post, I’ll clarify the difference between leadership and strategic leadership. I’ll also discuss what constitutes strategic leadership, a major controversy surrounding strategic leadership, five challenges of strategy execution, and nine factors of strategic leadership.

Strategic leadership is different from leadership. Whereas leadership refers to leaders at any level within an organization, strategic leadership talks about leaders at the top of the organization (Vera & Crossan, 2004). Another important distinction is that leadership studies focus on the micro levels (relationship between leaders and followers, trait and style of leaders, individualized leadership models, etc.), while strategic leadership focuses on the macro level of executive work (e.g., instead of looking at leader-follower relationship, the macro view looks at how the dominant coalition of the company influences the strategic process of the organization)(Vera & Crossan, 2004).

According to Yukl (2010), a major controversy surrounding strategic leadership research is the level of impact CEOs have on the effectiveness of their companies. Critics maintain that CEOs exert little influence due to limitations imposed on them by stakeholders, corporate culture, lack of resources, strong competitors, and unsympathetic economic conditions. These opponents assert that industry performance and economic conditions play an even greater role on a company’s effectiveness and success than CEOs.

There are FIVE challenges of strategy execution (Franken, Edwards, & Lambert, 2009):

  1. Relentless pressure from shareholders for greater profits. This forces top business leaders to redefine their strategy more often.
  2. Increased complexity of organizations. For example, the activities it requires to create products and services span various functional, organization, and even geographical boundaries.
  3. Balancing demands of executing complex change programs with business performance. In particular, in cases where management is tied to rewards based on performance, it can be difficult to get buy-in into creating strategic plans for the future.
  4. Low levels of involvement of managers at the beginning stages of strategic execution.
  5. Difficulty securing the required resources to execute the strategy. As a result of the large number of concurrent change programs, many of the company’s resources will already be allocated and even if they are available, managers will aggressively compete for them.

Yukl (2010), however, insists that the research shows, despite these constraints, CEOs and top executives can still have “a moderately strong influence on the effectiveness of an organization” (p. 401).

Davies & Davies (2004) proposed 9 FACTORS of STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP. They include organizational and individual abilities.

Strategic leaders need to have FIVE organizational abilities:

  1. Be strategically orientated – link long-range visions and concepts to daily work.
  2. Translate strategy into action – identify projects that need to be undertaken to move the company from where it’s at to where it wants to go.
  3. Align people and organizations – aligning individuals to a future company state or position.
  4. Determine effective intervention points – knowing both what to do strategically and exactly when to intervene and change direction.
  5. Develop strategic competencies – in the example of a school, rather than delivering curriculum innovation, it is the fundamental understanding of teaching and learning.

Strategic leaders need to have FOUR individual abilities:

  1. Dissatisfaction or restlessness with the present – seeing where you want to be (vision), while dealing with your current reality; being able to envision the strategic leap that the organization wants to make.
  2. Absorptive capacity – recognizing new information, analyze it, and applying it to new outcomes.
  3. Adaptive capacity – ability to change and learn, having the cognitive flexibility linked to a mindset that welcomes and embraces change.
  4. Leadership wisdom – taking the right action at the right time; coming up with ideas, deciding whether ideas are good or not, making ideas functional and convincing others of its value, balancing effects of ideas on yourself, others and institutions.

Steve Nguyen

References

Davies, B. J. & Davies, B. (2004). Strategic leadership. School Leadership & Management, 24(1), 29-38.

Franken, A., Edwards, C., & Lambert, R. (2009). Executing strategic change: Understanding the critical management elements that lead to success. California Management Review, 51(3), 49-72.

Vera, D. & Crossan, M. (2004). Strategic leadership and organizational learning. Academy of Management, 29(2), 222-240.

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Snakes in Suits? Maybe Not — Psychopathy According to DSM-IV TR

snake

Photo Credit: Flickr

I thought I would repost my comments to a discussion question in the SIOP (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology) group on LinkedIn about the notion of “corporate psychopaths” (made famous by the book Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work [Babiak & Hare, 2006]).

From Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work (p. xiv):

“The premise of this book is that psychopaths do work in modern organizations; they often are successful by most standard measures of career success; and their destructive personality characteristics are invisible to most of the people with whom they interact. They are able to circumvent and sometimes hijack succession planning and performance management systems in order to give legitimacy to their behaviors. They take advantage of communication weaknesses, organizational systems and processes, interpersonal conflicts, and general stressors that plague all companies. They abuse coworkers and, by lowering morale and stirring up conflict, the company itself. Some may even steal and defraud.”

As a former mental health counselor, I am very cautious about buying into this notion of “corporate psychopaths.” Technically, psychopathy is not mentioned in the DSM-IV-TR as a diagnosis. It actually falls under “Antisocial Personality Disorder” (301.7).

For information sake (not trying to diagnose), the criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder requires that a person must have (1) a history of conduct disorder symptoms as a juvenile, AND (2) antisocial symptoms as an adult. It’s important to note that the DSM-IV explains the pattern of those who engage in antisocial behavior “continues into adulthood” (DSM-IV TR, p. 702). In other words, their problematic behavior started before they were 18 and continued into adulthood.

The DSM-IV said the prevalence of psychopathy in the general population is about 3% in males and 1% in females (DSM-IV TR, p. 704).

Another important note is that generally a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder is not warranted if the person also has a substance abuse problem.

Based on the criteria listed above, many of those who would be described or classified as “corporate psychopaths” in the book “Snakes in Suits” might actually not be psychopaths.

This is why I am very skeptical about this idea of “corporate psychopaths.”

Indeed, the authors of Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work (pp. xiv-xv) warned:

We consider it important to caution the reader that, although the topic of this book is psychopathy in the workplace, not everyone described herein is a psychopath [and that] reader[s] should not assume that an individual is a psychopath simply because of the context in which he or she is portrayed in this book.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical
manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

Babiak, P., & Hare, R. D. (2006). Snakes in suits: When psychopaths go to work. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Half-Truths and Omission of Facts in Selling

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Photo Credit: Flickr

My first job was working for a sporting goods store in a mall. I was really excited because it was a well-known company and had a sister company selling athletic shoes and clothing. But my manager was a guy much more concerned with making a sale than building a quality sales team or creating customer loyalty.

One incident still stands out in my mind to this day. A teenager and his mother came into the store looking for a new backpack since the seams were coming apart. I asked him the brand of his backpack, and when he told me, I shared with him and his mom that he did not need to buy a new backpack. Instead, all he needed to do was write to that company and ask them to repair or replace the backpack since it has a lifetime warranty on it. I told them that I had done this and that company honored their lifetime warranty and repaired my backpack just several months before.

My manager smiled, but as soon as they left, he berated me for losing a sale. When I tried to explain why I did what I did, he dismissed my reasons and told me that I did not have to tell them the whole truth, and that I should have left out the lifetime warranty part so they would have to buy a new backpack from our store.

I shared this piece of information with them for two reasons. First, it was the right thing to do. Rather than leaving out important information (e.g., they did not need to buy a new backpack) or tell some half-truths I felt it was best to help them save money. Second, by saving customers money, I established trust and built an honest relationship with a potential repeat customer or have that customer share via word of mouth how helpful I was to their friends and family. In fact, the mother was especially thankful and kept thanking me as she was leaving our store.

BUSINESS LESSON: What that sporting goods store manager failed to understand was that a sale was not lost, but rather a customer was gained. And in the eyes and minds of those two customers, I had earn their trust and respect. What’s more, they might be returning to the store because I had taken good care of them. They might even tell other people about their positive experience with me and refer other customers my way. Making a quick buck by deceiving customers with half-truths and leaving out important facts is what a manager with a short-term, self-serving mentality does. However, a great long-range mentality manager knows that business sales depends greatly on establishing and maintaining relationships with customers, and this is achieved by earning their trust.

How Expertise can Strengthen or Dilute your Credibility

trust

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Japanese television offers a wide selection of variety shows. Unlike those in the U.S., Japanese variety shows will invite a group of “talents” (although I’m still not sure what many of their talents are, other than smiling and tasting different foods). The thing that immediately got my attention about all of these variety shows was the repeated use of talents (actors or comedians) to comment on any issues, whether the person was qualified to do so or not.

It is simply baffling to me how a group of people, with no discernible expertise on a subject matter will comment on just about anything. The subjects can vary from management to mental health to melting snow, and believe it or not, a group of people will comment on it. Last week, I saw five people on one variety show standing around commenting on different shapes of snow.

In another week, a young man (one of the “talents”) was on a talk show embedded inside a joint infomercial and a soap opera (I’m not joking). The young man shared that he was concerned about his melancholy outlook on life and his tendency to be negative. Another “talent” (I think he’s a former teacher) proceeded to play armchair therapist by asking the guy to read aloud from Romeo and Juliet.

Ok, so what does all of this nonsense have to do with psychology and workplace behaviors? Two things: expertise and credibility.

I realize I’m making a huge leap from talking about Japanese variety shows to the business environment, so please bear with me. But, the more I watched these “talents” the more I kept thinking about expertise and credibility. Because these “talents” do not have the expertise to offer anything of substantive value (that I could not otherwise get by simply asking my next door neighbors for their opinions), they (at least in my eyes) end up diminishing their own brand and/or jeopardizing their own credibility.

In Business Leadership (2003), Kouzes and Posner said credibility is one admired characteristics of a leader:

“Credibility is the foundation of leadership” (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 262).

“The qualities of being honest, inspiring, and competent compose what communications researchers refer to as source credibility. In assessing the believability of a source of information—whether it is the president of the company, the president of the country, a sales person, or a TV newscaster— researchers typically use the three criteria of trustworthiness, expertise, and dynamism. Those who rate highly in these areas are considered to be credible sources of information” (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 261).

Kouzes and Posner (2003) said your credibility must be earned over time. It’s not something that’s bestowed upon you when you get a new title or job. What’s more, credibility can affect the workplace.

“Credibility has a significantly positive outcome on individual and organizational performance” (Kouzes & Posner, 2003, p. 266).

In The Leadership Challenge (2007), Kouzes and Posner explained in greater details about why credibility matters. They wrote (pp. 38-39):

“Using a behavioral measure of credibility, we asked organization members to think about the extent to which their immediate manager exhibited credibility-enhancing behaviors. In our studies we found that when people perceive their immediate manager to have high credibility, they’re significantly more likely to

  • Be proud to tell others they’re part of the organization
  • Feel a strong sense of team spirit
  • See their own personal values as consistent with those of the organization
  • Feel attached and committed to the organization
  • Have a sense of ownership of the organization

When people perceive their manager to have low credibility, however, they’re significantly more likely to

  • Produce only if they’re watched carefully
  • Be motivated primarily by money
  • Say good things about the organization publicly but criticize it privately
  • Consider looking for another job if the organization experiences problems
  • Feel unsupported and unappreciated

“Credibility makes a difference” (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p. 39).

References

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2003). Leadership is a relationship. In J. M. Kouzes (Ed.), Business leadership (pp. 251-267). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Silly Job Titles Are Not Funny

[NOTE: This post was updated March 2018]

Forbes has a funny post about the silly job titles that some top executives hold (e.g., Chief Listening Officer [at Kodak]). Please understand I’m not commenting on the skills and competencies of the individuals who hold these titles, only in the silliness of the titles themselves.

The Forbes article quoted Mark Stevens, author of Your Marketing Sucks, in saying: “It is all corporate Kindergarten playtime title-making . . . It’s a puppet show.” According to Stevens, having “Chief” in the title is merely for show. “These people have absolutely no power . . . Most of these vanity titles don’t even report to the CEO.”

Here’s the bottom line: “The only C’s with ‘real’ power are the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and, occasionally, Chief Operating Officer” (Forbes).

Similarly, Josh Dreller wrote in a blog post about the most meaningless job titles on LinkedIn. As his post showed, title inflation is not unique to top executives. Instead, it’s an epidemic that is spreading to every level, in every company. On LinkedIn, Josh came across various silly titles, such as “Senior Road Warrior Marketing Intern”, “The Social Media Badass”, “Chief Thought Provoker”, “Chief People Herder”, and “Digital Marketing Magician.”

I love what Robbin Block (an author and a radio host who commented on Josh’s post) said:

“It’s getting ridiculous to the extreme. A label can be useful, but not if it’s completely fabricated . . . Titles actually used to mean something and indicated a person’s expertise and experience.”

Although Robbin was referring to marketing titles, I think this is certainly applicable in every industry.

All silliness aside, a job title is important for several reasons. I/O psychology professor Michael Aamodt (2010) explained that an accurate job title does the following:

  • It describes the nature of the job.
  • It aids in employee selection and recruitment (by indicating the nature of the job, thus helping an organization match potential applicants with the requirements for the job).
  • It provides employees with some form of identity.
  • It affects perceptions of the status and worth of a job.

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

References

Aamodt, M. G. (2010). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Dreller, J. (2012, August). The most meaningless (and hilarious) job titles on LinkedIn. Retrieved from http://www.imediaconnection.com/articles/ported-articles/red-dot-articles/2012/aug/the-most-meaningless-and-hilarious-job-titles-on-linkedin/

Goudreau, J. (2012, January 10). C Is For Silly: The New C-Suite Titles. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2012/01/10/c-is-for-silly-the-new-c-suite-titles/

Analysis Paralysis-A Self-Imposed Bottleneck

In a conversation about how, in one organization, management had known for quite some time what needed to be done, but they just didn’t do it, a professor inquired: “What purpose might it serve for an organization to be in possession of possible solutions yet choose not to implement them?”

What a great question.

Robert Sutton (2010) contended that what separates good bosses from bad ones is that good bosses find ways to link talking to doing, and that bad bosses are oblivious and often don’t even realize that they “routinely stifle and misdirect action” (p. 130).

Perhaps this is overly simplistic, but with regard to why organizations that are in possession of possible solutions but choose not to implement them, I think sometimes managers and/or organizations fall prey to “analysis paralysis” where there’s a tendency to over analyze everything and which can result in the crippling or stifling of timely actions.

The Ultimate Business Dictionary (2003) defines analysis paralysis (or paralysis by analysis) in this manner :

Paralysis by analysis is “the inability of managers to make decisions as a result of a preoccupation with attending meetings, writing reports, and collecting statistics and analyses” (p. 235).

The obsession with studying a problem and analyzing an issue to death is akin to creating a self-imposed bottleneck. The obstruction/congestion is your own doing.

References

Sutton, R.I. (2010). Good boss, bad boss: How to be the best…and learn from the worst. New York: Business Plus.

(2003). The Ultimate Business Dictionary: Defining the World of Work. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.