Category Archives: Leadership

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.

Gender and Leadership – Does It Matter?

I come across the topic of gender and leadership quite a bit and thought I would share what I found after researching this subject. The questions are always the same and it goes like this,

“Does gender (being male vs. female) affect your leadership styles/abilities at work?”

I want to help in dispelling the myths that are perpetuated throughout both the Internet as well as some (not so well-researched) literature. The following is a piece I researched and wrote about a month ago.

Overview

According to “Work in the 21st Century,” 99.6 percent of all top executives of Fortune 500 companies are men, while just 0.4 percent are women. Interestingly, the book “Leadership in Organizations,” states that there are no consistent findings on gender differences in leadership.

Considerations

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that women comprise 46.5 percent of the total U.S. workforce and are estimated to account for 47 percent of the labor force in 2016.

Leadership Styles

Frank Landy, Ph.D. and Jeffrey Conte, Ph.D., maintain in their book, “Work in the 21st Century,” that women tend to favor a democratic and participative leadership style, while men prefer an autocratic leadership style.

Misconception

Alice Eagly, Mary Johannesen-Schmidt and Marloes van Engen, in the July 2003 issue of “Psychological Bulletin,” argue women have an advantage over men in competing for leadership positions, and even suggested that women would make better executives.

Warning

Gary Yukl, Ph.D., cautions in his book, “Leadership in Organizations,” that research on differences in gender and leadership effectiveness has been inconclusive. For this reason, he contends that gender is not a good predictor of leadership effectiveness and does not impact employees or the workplace.

Expert Advice

According to Gary Powell, Ph.D., in the August 1990 issue of “Academy of Management Executive,” there are no differences between male and female managers. In addition, Dr. Powell says that any “sex differences that have been found are few, found in laboratory studies more than field studies, and tend to cancel each other out. (p. 71)” In short, gender does not affect leadership in business.

References

  • “Academy of Management Executive”; One More Time: Do Female and Male Managers Differ?; Gary Powell; August 1990
  • “Leadership in Organizations”; Gary Yukl; 2010
  • “Psychological Bulletin”; Transformational, Transactional, and Laissez-Faire Leadership Styles: A Meta-Analysis Comparing Women and Men; Alice Eagly, Mary Johannesen-Schmidt and Marloes van Engen; July 2003
  • “U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics”; Employment and Earnings, 2008 Annual Averages and the Monthly Labor Review; November 2007
  • “Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology”; Frank J. Landy and Jefferey M. Conte; 2007

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.

The Gender Pay Gap

Jumping Out Of College and Into the Pay Gap

As soon as people enter the workforce, salary figures indicate an initial gap in pay between men and women. The Harvard Business Review reports that a year after graduating from college, “the average woman earns 80% of what a man earns; however, after controlling for industry, type of job, prior experience, and other characteristics, this gap closes to 95%.” The AAUW, which derived these figures assert that the unexplained 5% gap indicates bias.

Clarifying the Numbers

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Carl Bialik states that one of the most common claims about the gender pay gap is that “women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men do.” However, Casey Mulligan, an economist at the University of Chicago maintains that “the gender gap would be less than 10 percentage points if you had better data and could make all the reasonable adjustments.”

Still, no matter how one looks at the numbers, there’s no denying that there IS a gap between the salaries of women and men.

Career Detours: Women Who Off-Ramp

Perhaps the most eye-opening piece of all is the data on women who leave the workforce. According to the HBR article (which cited data from the Center for Work-Life Policy), 31% of highly qualified women leave the workforce voluntarily for an average of 2.7 years. When three-quarters of these women do return (about 73% later go back to work), only 40% find full-time jobs. The author concludes that “[t]aking time out – for any reason – is costly (for women).” Finally, citing research by the Center for Work-Life Policy (CWLP), the HBR article shows that women who off-ramp lose an average of 18% of their future earning power.

References

“Harvard Business Review;” Investigating the Pay Gap; Sarah Green; April 2010; http://hbr.org/web/extras/pay-gap/2-slide; http://hbr.org/web/extras/pay-gap/9-slide

“Wall Street Journal;” Calculating Pay Inequity; Carl Bialik; April 2010; http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/calculating-pay-inequity-919/

High-Performing Organizations

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) has a nice article on what separates high performing organizations from low performing ones. i4cp’s research consistently indicates that companies that excel in the following five domains are typically high performers:

Note: Each point starts with i4cp’s research & wording, followed by my comments & analysis in italics.

1. Strategy

High-performing organizations have strategies that are more consistent, clearly communicated and well thought out. They are more likely than other companies to say that their philosophies are consistent with their strategies and their performance measurements mirror their strategies.

I’ve discussed before about John Kotter’s 8-Stage Change Process, one of which is developing a vision and strategy for your organization.

2. Leadership

High-performing organizations have leadership that is clear, fair and talent-oriented. Those leaders are more likely to promote the best people for the job, to make sure performance expectations are well known and consistent with the strategy, and to be committed to developing their people.

Gary Yukl (2010) in “Leadership in Organizations” shares 10 essences of effective leadership. Among these, Dr. Yukl says some effective leadership functions include developing and empowering people, promoting social justice and morality (the idea of fairness & compassion), and creating alignment on objectives and strategies.

3. Talent

There is a commitment to the right talent within the organization, and while employees are treated as unique individuals, the organization takes a holistic approach to managing and making decisions based on data-driven information. This begins with a strategic approach to workforce planning. It entails looking at the organization from an outside-in perspective that identifies the business model components and areas that drive value and then determines what the organization needs.

It’s not surprising research has found that staffing practices are related to organizational performance (Landy & Conte, 2007).

4. Culture

The culture is strong in all the right ways, and employees are more likely to think the organization is a good place to work. Employees not only adapt well to change, they embrace it. High performers also emphasize a readiness to meet new challenges and are committed to innovation.

In “Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance,” I talked about the culture within an organization. Organizational culture has a strong impact on employees, and in some cases the leaders.

In fact, with older, more established organizations, the organizational culture affects the leadership team rather than the other way around (Yukl, 2010).

5. Market

High-performing organizations have a strong market focus and go above and beyond for their customers. They are organized internally around what’s best for the customer, they think hard about customers’ future and long-term needs, and their strategy is based on customer data. And they are more likely to see customer information as the most important factor for developing new products and services.

In an earlier post titled “3 Tips on Leadership,” I shared sage advice from leadership expert, Warren Bennis. Dr. Bennis says that leaders need to have contextual intelligence. That is, they need to understand their own organization (from the inside out) as well as the larger business industry.

References

Bielaszka-DuVernay, C. (2009, April 13). Avoid mistakes that plague new leaders: An interview with Warren Bennis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://hbr.org

Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). New i4cp Study: The Five Domains of High-Performance Organizations. Retrieved from http://www.pr.com/press-release/206443

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2007). Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2nd Ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Oakes, K. (2010, January 29). The Five Domains of High Performance. Retrieved from http://www.totalpicture.com/shows/trendwatcher/kevin-oakes-high-performance.html

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

Evidence-Based Training: Debunking the Myth of Learning Styles

In “Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals,” Ruth Clark (2010) states that one of the biggest myths perpetuated by training professionals is accommodating different learning styles.

“The learning style myth leads to some very unproductive training approaches that are counter to modern evidence of what works…The time and energy spent perpetuating the various learning style myths can be more wisely invested in supporting individual differences that are proven to make a difference—namely, prior knowledge of the learner.” (Clark, 2010, p. 10)

In her book, Dr. Clark cites a research study (by Kratzig and Arbuthnott) conducted with college students about learning styles. A group of college students were asked to do 3 things: (1) Rate their own learning style as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic; (2) Each student took a learning style test that puts them into the visual, auditory, or kinesthetic category; and (3) Each student was administered three tests to measure visual, auditory, or kinesthetic memory.

If the idea about learning style were true, we would expect someone who considers himself a visual learner to score higher on the visual part of the learning style test and have better visual recall.

“However, when all of the measures were compared, there were absolutely no relationships! A person who rated themselves an auditory learner was just as likely to score higher on the kinesthetic scale of the learning style test and show best memory for visual data. The research team concluded that ‘in contrast to learning style theory, it appears that people are able to learn effectively using all three sensory modalities’ (Kratzig & Arbuthnott 2006, 241)” (Clark, 2010, p.11).

Another example she provides is in explaining how something works. We normally think that a video or animated cartoon would be the best way to show how something works, but Dr. Clark says we would be wrong. Instead, according Dr. Clark, evidence shows that “when teaching how things work, a series of still visuals can be as good as or better than animations for learning (Ketter, 2010, p. 56).

Dr. Clark explains that the reason for this is because animation overloads our brains because there’s just too much visual information for us to process. “[But] a series of still visuals…can be reviewed and revisited at the learner’s preferred pace” (Ketter, 2010, p. 56).

Fad or Fact: Individuals with visual learning styles learn best from lessons with graphics.

FAD. There is no evidence for the prevalent myth of learning styles such as visual learners and auditory learners. Perpetuating this myth detracts resources from more productive proven training methods.

Source: “Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals” (Clark, 2010, p. 22)

Wow! I love solid evidence to dispel the misconceptions we sometimes hold onto. As a trainer, I’m thankful for Dr. Clark’s evidence-based research.

References

Clark, R.C. (2010). Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Ketter, P. (2010). Evidence-Based Training Methods: Toward a Professional Level of Practice. T+D, 64(4), 54-58.

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.

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

The Price of Workplace Incivility in the Navy

A female Navy captain was recently stripped of her command of the U.S.S. Cowpens following repeated complaints of “cruelty and maltreatment” of the 400-member crew on her ship (Thompson, 2010). She was found guilty of violating Article 93 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice “cruelty and maltreatment” and Article 133 “conduct unbecoming an officer” (Ewing, 2010).

The Navy inspector general’s (IG) report found that the captain “repeatedly verbally abused her crew and committed assault.” Those who knew the captain (i.e., those who worked under her) said that the IG report resulted because of the toxic work environment aboard the ship (Thompson, 2010).

The female captain “create[d] an environment of fear and hostility [and] frequently humiliate[d] and belittle[d] watch standers by screaming at them with profanities in front of the Combat Information Center and bridge-watch teams…” one crew member recounted (Thompson, 2010).

It was also reported that she ordered a “well-respected master chief to go in ‘time out’ —standing in the ship’s key control room doing nothing— ‘in front of other watch standers of all ranks.'” (Thompson, 2010).

She also told two fellow Navy officers, “You two are f______ unbelievable. I would fire you if I could, but I can’t.” Even though cursing does occur, “to have them repeatedly brandished like clubs against subordinates — especially in front of more junior crew members — is unusual” (Thompson, 2010).

“The evidence shows” that the female captain violated Navy regulations “by demeaning, humiliating, publicly belittling and verbally assaulting…subordinates while in command of Cowpens,” the report concluded. Her actions “exceeded the firm methods needed to succeed or even thrive” and her “harsh language and profanity were rarely followed with any instruction.” Her repeated criticism of her officers, often in front of lower-ranking crew members, humiliated subordinates and corroded morale, “contrary to the best interests of the ship and the Navy” (Thompson, 2010).

One gunnery officer, who served under her aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Winston S. Churchill from 2002 to 2004, said “She would throw coffee cups at officers — ceramic, not foam….spit in one officer’s face, throw binders and paperwork at people, slam doors” (Thompson, 2010).

A retired Navy commander (who served under her when she was second in command on the destroyer U.S.S. Curtis Wilbur in 1997-98) recalls, “When I think of [her], even 12 years later, I shake…She was so intimidating even to me, a 6-foot-4 guy” (Thompson, 2010).

Pearson & Porath (2009) found that targets of workplace incivility “struggle to concentrate when treated badly. They’ll lose focus trying to understand the incivility and how to respond…[T]he emotional impact…further distracts and short circuits their ability to be effective. Incivility doesn’t shock people into better focus. It robs concentration, hijacks task orientation, and impedes performance” (p. 155).

Similarly, a study by Miner, Glomb, & Hulin found negative interactions had a fivefold stronger effect on mood than positive interactions (Sutton, 2007, p. 31). Thus, it’s not surprising to conclude that…

“[N]asty people pack a lot more wallop than their more civilized counterparts” (Sutton, 2007, p. 31).

References

Ewing, P. (2010, January 16). Cruiser CO relieved for ‘cruelty’. Navy Times. Retrieved http://www.navytimes.com/news/2010/01/ap_cowpens_cofired_011310/

Pearson, C. & Porath, C. (2009). The cost of bad behavior: How incivility is damaging your business and what to do about it. New York, NY: Portfolio.

Sutton, R.I. (2007). The no asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t. New York: Business Plus.

Thompson, M. (2010, March 3). The rise and fall of a female Captain Bligh. TIME. Retrieved from http://www.time.com

Leadership Lessons from the Titanic

“Madam, God himself could not sink this ship.” –A steward on the Titanic

In a discussion about stubborn leaders, I thought about the story of the sinking of the Titanic. Through research, I came across an article by Phil Landesberg called, “Back to the Future – Titanic Lessons in Leadership” (2001).

Titanic’s arrival was a modern marvel. It was “a grand combination of modern technology and luxury built to tame the capriciousness of nature” (Landesberg, 2001, p. 53). With the latest technological and design ingenuity, along with its massive size (the largest moving object at the time), newspapers proclaimed it to be “unsinkable.”

But, the Harland & Wolff Shipyard (builder of the Titanic) and the White Star Line (operator of the Titanic) knew that there were some scenarios that could sink the ship. But, in order to attract customers, both the ship’s maker and its operator went along with the marketing of the Titanic’s unsinkability.

Chosen to navigate the Titanic was a charismatic captain named Captain E. J. Smith, nicknamed “the millionaire’s captain.” Part of his job was to “cater to the expectations of wealthy and influential passengers” (Landesberg, 2001, p. 54).

For the most part, (from the time it set sail on April 10, 1912 to about an hour prior to it colliding with an iceberg) the Titanic’s voyage was pleasant, nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe that was the reason for Captain Smith’s cancellation of a lifeboat drill planned for Sunday April 14th.

Ironically, what made for a romantic setting—calm seas and a moonless night—signaled potential dangers as those conditions made spotting icebergs difficult. However, rather than staying to pilot the ship, Captain Smith instead went to a dinner hosted in his honor. He gave instructions to keep the Titanic on course and maintain speed unless visibility became a factor.

“Less than an hour before Titanic was to collide with an iceberg, Californian’s wireless operator, Cyril Evans, tried to pass along a message from her captain warning that Californian was surrounded by ice and stopped. On board Titanic, Phillips (one of two Titanic wireless operators working for Marconi Company onboard to relay commercial messages) was busily sending commercial messages, and replied, ‘Shut up, shut up, I’m busy….’ Ten minutes before the collision, Evans, noting that Phillips was still busy with commercial messages, shut down his equipment and retired to his cabin” (Landesberg, 2001, p. 54).

Although a large iceberg was spotted by a lookout on the Titanic, its speed and proximity “meant that the efforts of the officer in charge to avoid a collision were doomed to failure. Titanic struck the iceberg on her starboard side, sustaining damage along a 300-foot section of her hull in a mere 10 seconds. Titanic’s design allowed her to take on water in two compartments and remain afloat, but more than four compartments were breached during the collision. Upon assessing the damage, Andrews (one of Titanic’s designer who was onboard) estimated that Titanic would sink in an hour or two” (Landesberg, 2001, p. 54-55).

In an atmosphere of confusion and chaos, women and children were loaded onto lifeboats (per Captain Smith’s order). Unfortunately, without an understanding of and experience with lifeboat procedures, “the lifeboats were only partially loaded before being lowered to the sea. Designed to carry up to 65 passengers, some left with only a dozen people on board. As the lifeboats rowed away from Titanic to avoid being sucked down when she sunk, hundreds of passengers were left screaming and thrashing about in freezing water” (Landesberg, 2001, p. 55).

By early morning on April 15th, only 705 people were still alive, while 1,517 died.

LEADERSHIP LESSONS

#1 Never Make Assumptions

Captain Smith and many other leaders affiliated to the Titanic assumed that it could never sink.

“I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” -Captain R. J. Smith, R.M.S. Titanic

#2 Watch for the Calm before the Storm

The quiet seas and a moonless sky made it hard to spot icebergs, making it deceiving that things were ok.

#3 Heed Warnings

There were attempts to warn the Titanic from another ship (the Californian’s Cyril Evans). But those messages were dismissed because Phillips (one of two Titanic wireless operators) was busy sending commercial messages.

#4 Stop Finding the Blame

“[I]f we look for culprits when something goes wrong, we’ll find them. However, holding individuals accountable for results can prevent learning how to improve performance or prevent a problem from recurring” (Landesberg, 2001, p. 56).

#5 Manage the System to Find a Solution

The Senate inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic revealed that Marconi wireless operators (like Jack Phillips who was onboard the Titanic to relay commercial messages) often would refuse “to communicate with wireless operators of ships (such as the Frankfurt) known to use competitor’s equipment. Frankfurt was the first ship to answer Titanic’s distress call and the operator went to consult his captain. When he returned, Phillips, on board Titanic, rudely refused to answer the question posed by Frankfurt’s captain, “What is the matter?” (Landesberg, 2001, p. 56).

The lack of cooperation and collaboration was evident in Landesberg’s (2001) account:

“While there seemed to be a ship relatively close by, the nearest ship responding to Titanic’s SOS distress signal was Carpathia, and she was more than four hours away” (p. 55).

“Leaders must look to cooperate (even while they compete) to improve the systems in which they operate, for the good of all…Had the aim of providing passenger safety been clear to everyone (i.e., Titanic’s officers and crew–including wireless operators and Californian’s officers and crew) there would have been far less confusion, more cooperation, and less loss of life on the evening of April 14, 1912.” (Landesberg, 2001, p. 56-57).

Reference

Landesberg, P. (2001). Back to the Future—Titanic Lessons in Leadership. Journal for Quality & Participation, 24(4), 53-57.

Leading in a Crisis

“A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.” -English proverb

The recent earthquake in Chile is a grim reminder of what it takes to lead in a crisis. Unlike the situation in Haiti, Chile has both a functioning government and the infrastructure in place to respond to the disaster. However, the Chilean response has not been fast enough (MSNBC, 2010). Chilean leaders are immobilized from not knowing what to do and their actions in disarray.

In Chile, survivors said they had little warning about the coming tsunami. Furthermore, they’re angry that the government’s response, in providing aid and support, has been slow. Looting has resulted as people desperate for food and supplies say they’re not getting any help (MSNBC, 2010).

In “7 Lessons for Leading in a Crisis” (2009), Bill George said that a crisis is like being at war. Crises test a leader’s ability to lead an organization through and out of a crisis. “There is nothing quite like a crisis to test your leadership. It will make or break you as a leader. Crises have brought down many leaders and their organizations with them…” (George, 2009, p. 1).

George (2009) maintained that leaders who are never tested (i.e. have never gone through a crisis) may be unable to handle crisis situations. Instead, under such emergencies, these untested leaders may buckle under pressure or freeze.

This is akin to an emergency room doctor who has just graduated from medical school and doing his internship. Although he may have learned what to do via textbooks, he has never been in a real crisis situation before.

From my experience conducting crisis management workshops, I have seen this first-hand. During the didactic (teaching/lecturing) portion, professionals will appear to be learning the required skills about what to do in a school or classroom emergency (e.g., when a student becomes violent). In simulated exercises, they’ll seem a bit less skilled. And in the final phase of the training, in testing (applying knowledge to simulated scenarios), they are the least proficient.

Finally, after these workshops and without a chance to apply what they’ve learned, their skills level decrease and sometimes disappear altogether.

My recommendation, based on my experience teaching crisis management, is to practice, practice, practice for emergencies. Just as police SWAT teams practice, just like firefighters practice, just like nurses and doctors practice to stay sharp during emergencies, so too should organizational leaders practice. They need to develop an emergency plan, get stakeholders involved, practice and then practice some more.

References

George, B. (2009). 7 lessons for leading in a crisis. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

MSNBC (2010, March). Lots of anger, some aid, in disaster zone. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35657707/ns/world_news-chile_earthquake/

3 Leadership Tips from Warren Bennis

“Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it.” -Warren G. Bennis

In an interview with Harvard Business Review’s Christina Bielaszka-DuVernay (2009), Warren Bennis* (at right in above photo) shared three tips for how leaders and aspiring leaders can be successful:

1) Delegation: “Learning to delegate is difficult. It’s tempting for all of us, especially ambitious business professionals, to believe that unless we do something ourselves, it won’t be done right.

“What new leaders need to understand is that by not delegating, they’re disrespecting not only others but themselves. They’re not using themselves to their best advantage, and they’re demonstrating that they haven’t learned one of the key truths about leadership, which is that the only way to make your weaknesses irrelevant is to respect others’ strengths and use them.”

2) Attentiveness: “[E]ven if a leader has surrounded herself with trusted advisers who give her straight talk, she still needs to cultivate attentiveness. That means whenever an issue or crisis arises, asking herself, What have I done to create this situation? What did I contribute to this mess?

“The goal is not to blame but to understand. Accepting failure is pretty easy; to understand it is the hard part.”

3) Contextual Intelligence: “Get the business literacy down pat. Just as a musician has to master the scales before he can become a master, so a leader has to gain a command of the basics to break free of the grid of technique and become an eminence.

“It also means knowing the whole industry: what it’s about, what makes one an expert in that particular space.

“Finally, it requires knowing your company inside and out: the products, how customers see you, the culture — and what employees particularly value about it….If you want to lead people, you have to enter their world.”

*Dr. Warren Bennis is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on leadership. His best selling book On Becoming A Leader has been named one of the 100 best business books of all times and considered the top leadership book. He has served as an adviser to five U.S. presidents.

Reference

Bielaszka-DuVernay, C. (2009, April 13). Avoid mistakes that plague new leaders: An interview with Warren Bennis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://hbr.org

Traits of Leadership

Research regarding traits related to leadership effectiveness has found about half a dozen (Yukl, 2010):

  • High energy level and stress tolerance
  • Self-confidence
  • Internal locus of control
  • Emotional stability and maturity
  • Personal integrity
  • Socialized power motivation
  • Moderately high achievement orientation
  • Low need for affiliation

Goleman (2004) maintained that “emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader” (p. 82). He proposed that emotional intelligence is made up of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill. While emotional intelligence has a genetic component, it can also be learned and increases with age.

In order to improve emotional intelligence, organizations need to help leaders break old behavioral habits and start new ones. This requires an individualized approach and takes time.

“It’s important to emphasize that building one’s emotional intelligence cannot—will not—happen without sincere desire and concerted effort. A brief seminar won’t help; nor can one buy a how-to manual. It is much harder to learn to empathize—to internalize empathy as a natural response to people—than it is to become adept at regression analysis. But it can be done” (Goleman, 2004, p. 87).

I believe that Apple, Inc.’s CEO Steve Jobs has many of the traits related to leadership effectiveness as outlined by Yukl (2010) and Goleman (2004). Whatever you call it – passion, determination, motivation, zeal – he never lost it and was able to capitalize on his vision to propel him back to the top, running Apple Computers today.

There’s a great story in the Harvard Business Review (Sonnenfeld & Ward, 2007) about what happened after Jobs lost his job and how he recouped and climbed back atop the leadership mountaintop.

One week after he was fired from Apple (a company he co-founded), Jobs flew to Europe, bought a bicycle and a sleeping bag and camped out under the stars in the Tuscan hills of northern Italy, planning what he would do next.

After returning to California, with a renewed passion and ambition, he went on to found another computer company, NeXT, which Apple purchased in 1996. With the acquisition of NeXT by Apple, Jobs returned to Apple as its leader and simultaneously became the energy behind Pixar, the computer-graphics studio famous for producing Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Monster, Inc., and recently Up.

“It is the single-minded, passionate pursuit of a heroic mission that sets leaders like Steve Jobs…apart from the general population, and it is what attracts and motivates followers to join [him]” (Sonnenfeld & Ward, 2007, p.84).

References

Goleman, D. (2004). What makes a leader? Harvard Business Review, 82(1), 82-91.

Sonnenfeld, J.A. & Ward, A.J. (2007). Firing Back: How Great Leaders Rebound After Career Disasters. Harvard Business Review, 85(1), p76-84.

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

Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance

[NOTE: This post was updated November 2016]

In “Leading Change” (1996), Kotter outlined an 8-Stage Process to Creating Major Change:

  1. Establish a Sense of Urgency: Examine market and competitive realities; identify and discuss crises, potential crises, or major opportunities
  2. Create the Guiding Coalition: Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change; get group to work together as a team
  3. Develop a Vision & Strategy: Create a vision to help direct the change effort; Develop strategies for achieving that vision
  4. Communicate the Vision: Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies; have Guiding Coalition role model the behavior expected of employees
  5. Empowering Action: Get rid of obstacles to change; change systems or structures that undermine the vision; encourage risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions
  6. Generating Short-Term Wins: Plan for visible performance improvements or “wins”; create those “wins”; recognize and reward employees who made “wins” possible
  7. Consolidate Gains and Produce More Change: Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision; hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the change vision; reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents
  8. Anchor New Approaches in the Corporate Culture: Create better performance via customer- and productivity-oriented behavior, more and better leadership, and more effective management; articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success; develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.

Professor Kotter (1996) shared about a time he consulted with an intelligent and competent executive who struggled trying to implement a reorganization. Problem was many of his managers were against it. Kotter went through the 8-stage process. He asked the executive whether there was a sense of urgency (Stage #1) among the employees to change. The executive said, “Some do. But many probably do not.” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22). When asked about a compelling vision and strategy to implement (Stage #3), the executive replied, I think so [about the vision]…although I’m not sure how clear it [the strategy] is” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22). Finally, when Kotter inquired whether the managers understood and believed in the vision, the executive responded, “I wouldn’t be surprised if many [people] either don’t understand the concept or don’t entirely believe in it [the vision]” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22).

Kotter (1996) states that when Stages #1-4 of the Kotter model are skipped it’s inevitable that one will face resistance. The executive ran into resistance because he went directly to Stage #5. Kotter states that in attempting to implement change, many will rush through the process “without ever finishing the job” (Kotter, 1996, p. 22) or they’ll skip stages and either jump to or only do Stages 5, 6, and 7.

Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn (2005) maintain that when employees resist change they are protecting/defending something they value and which seems threatened by the attempt at change.

Eight Reasons for Resisting Change (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005):

  1. Fear of the unknown
  2. Lack of good information
  3. Fear of loss of security
  4. No reasons to change
  5. Fear of loss of power
  6. Lack of resources
  7. Bad timing
  8. Habit

To overcome resistance to change, make sure that the following criteria are met (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005):

  • 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.”
  • Compatibility: The change should be as compatible as possible with the existing values and experiences of the people being asked to change.
  • Complexity: The change should be no more complex than necessary; it must be as easy as possible for people to understand and use.
  • Triability: The change should be something that people can try on a step-by-step basis and make adjustments as things progress.

There are 6 methods for dealing with resistance to change (and their advantages & drawbacks)*** (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005; Kotter & Schlesinger, 1979 & 2008):

Methods for dealing with resistance to change | Source: Kotter and Schlesinger's 2008 article "Choosing Strategies for Change"
Methods for dealing with resistance to change | Source: Kotter and Schlesinger’s 2008 article “Choosing Strategies for Change”

  1. Education & Communication: educate people about a change before it is implemented; help them understand the logic behind the change.
  2. Participation & Involvement: allow people to help design and implement the changes (e.g., ideas, task forces, committees).
  3. Facilitation & Support: provide help (emotional & material resources) for people having trouble adjusting to the change.
  4. Negotiation & Agreement: offers incentives to those who resist change.
  5. Manipulation & Cooptation: attempts to influence others.
  6. Explicit & Implicit Coercion: use of authority to get people to accept change.

***For additional (and quite valuable) information related to the six methods for dealing with resistance to change outlined by Schermerhorn and colleagues, there is a Harvard Business Review article by Kotter and Schlesinger (1979 & 2008). The 2008 article, “Choosing Strategies for Change” is a reprint of the same 1979 article. For better layout and graphics, I’ve referred to the 2008 article. I believe the six methods for dealing with resistance to change outlined by Schermerhorn and colleagues (2005) is based on or came directly from Kotter and Schlesinger’s 1979 article.

***In Kotter and Schlesinger’s 1979 HBR article (and in the 2008 HBR reprint) the six methods for dealing with resistance to change included the six approaches (e.g., education + communication, negotiation + agreement, etc.) as well as three more columns (commonly used in situations; advantages; and drawbacks). I found this to be especially useful and have posted a screenshot (above) of the graphic used in Kotter and Schlesinger’s 2008 HBR article. I would encourage readers to read Kotter and Schlesinger’s HBR article.

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

References

Kotter, J. P. & Schlesinger, L. A. (1979). Choosing strategies for change. Harvard Business Review, 57(2), 106-114.

Kotter, J. P. & Schlesinger, L. A. (2008). Choosing strategies for change. Harvard Business Review, 86(7/8), 130-139. Also retrieved from https://hbr.org/2008/07/choosing-strategies-for-change

Kotter, J.P. (1996). Leading change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

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

Elements of Corporate Cultures

In “Culture by Default or by Design?” Edmonds and Glaser (2010) talk about the challenge of describing the culture of an organization. In the article, the authors maintain that the impact of your corporate culture can spell success or disaster for the organization.

The culture of your company is its personality, it’s “how things are done around here” (Edmonds & Glaser, 2010, p. 37). Culture can be the company’s values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors – both of the overall system itself and of the individual members who make up the organization.

Asking employees to describe their corporate culture is akin to asking a fish to describe what water is like. Neither the employee nor the fish can do it properly because they’re both immersed in it (Edmonds & Glaser, 2010). It’s even more challenging for new employees as they sometimes stumble onto and violate unwritten norms and rules embedded in the organization.

Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn (2005) assert that the function of the organizational culture is to serve both as an external and internal role to help the organization adapt. Under the external role, questions asked include, “What exactly needs to be accomplished and how do we do this?” For the internal role, the question is “How do members of the organization work together, get along, and work out conflicts?”

On the surface it may seem apparent, but it can take years to fully understand some corporate culture (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005). The reason is that corporate culture is highly complex and multi-layered, composed of an observable culture, the shared values, and common cultural assumptions. The observable culture is the “how we do things around here.” The shared values link employees of a company together. Finally, common cultural assumptions are those “truths” that will come up after analyzing the culture (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005).

Elements of Strong Corporate Cultures (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005):

  • A widely shared real understanding of what the firm stands for, often embodied in slogans
  • A concern for individuals over rules, policies, procedures, and adherence to job duties
  • A recognition of heroes whose actions illustrate the company’s shared philosophy and concerns
  • A belief in ritual and ceremony as important to members and to building a common identity
  • A well-understood sense of the informal rules and expectations so that employees and managers understand what is expected of them
  • A belief that what employees and managers do is important and that it is important to share information and ideas

References

Edmonds, C. & Glaser, B. (2010). Culture by default or by design? Talent Management, 6(1), 36-39.

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