Tag Archives: Coaching

Coaching and Mental Illness

“Coaching is normally seen as an activity to enhance performance and achievement of goals” (Buckley, 2010, p. 394).

When coaches talk about clients in terms of mental health needs, these clients are better served by related fields like counseling or clinical psychology, not coaching or its cousin, coaching psychology.

There are many psychologists and other mental health professionals who have found coaching to be an appealing alternative to therapeutic practice. However, Anthony Grant cautions that these therapists-turned-coaches should not merely “act as a coach.” Instead, they should “develop coaching skills and psychological frameworks that go beyond existing clinical or counselling frameworks and applications” (Grant, 2006, p. 16).

Grant argues that in order for the field and profession of coaching to exist as a viable, independent discipline, it needs to differentiate itself from counseling and the mental illness, psychopathology model.

For coaches not from a mental health background (and even those who are) what follows should be required consideration in working with clients.

Peltier (2010, p. 304) asserts, “[C]oaches are not psychotherapists or doctors…[T]herapy is not their job.” However, coaches must still realize that in coaching sessions, they may be confronted with psychopathology. For this reason, it is important for coaches to be proficient in identifying clients who may need mental health counseling. On a related note, it is equally important for coaches to recognize their own need to be trained to spot mental health issues or signs of potential mental illness.

Peltier (2010) states that three mental disorders are most disabling and thus should quickly be referred to the appropriate mental health professionals. They are:

  1. Schizophrenia
  2. Bipolar disorder
  3. Dementia

* The three listed above (schizophrenia, bipolar, and dementia) usually require the intervention of a psychiatrist and a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
** For more details about these and other mental disorders, please consult the DSM-IV.
*** See Chapter 14 “Psychopathology and Coaching” of Peltier’s book “The Psychology of Executive Coaching” for a more in-depth coverage of this topic.

Peña & Cooper (2010) recommend referring coaching clients when the following mental health issues are present (this is not an exhaustive list, there are many more):

  1. High level of distress
  2. Persistent low mood
  3. Sense of hopelessness

Buckley (2010) states that when coaches are faced with mental health issues they should ask three questions:

  1. Can my coaching help? (Remember the purpose of coaching)
  2. What are my limitations?
  3. Should my coaching continue?

Buckley proposes a four-stage process to help guide a coach in making a decision:

  1. Recognize that some people may have mental health problems that make coaching inappropriate
  2. Understand the signs & symptoms of mental illness and be able to question the client further when necessary
  3. Understand the ethical, legal, and professional standards and practices
  4. Ask “What next?” Continue coaching, stop coaching or refer for medical help?

On the subject of coaching and mental illness, this statement sums it up best:

“Any diagnosis, treatment, ways to help or exploration of underlying issues is the province of mental health specialists and is best avoided” (Buckley, 2010, p. 395).

References

Buckley, A. (2010). Coaching and Mental Health. In E. Cox, T. Bachkirova, & D. Clutterbuck (Eds.), The complete handbook of coaching (pp.394-404). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Grant, A.M. (2006). A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coaching psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review, 1(1), 12-22.

Peltier, B. (2010). The psychology of executive coaching: Theory and application (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Peña, M.A., & Cooper, C.L. (2010). Coaching and stress. In J. Passmore (Ed.), Excellence in coaching: The industry guide (2nd ed.) (pp. 189-203). London: Kogan Page.

Understanding Psychometrics in Coaching

Psychometrics: The “science concerned with evaluating the attributes of psychological tests” (Furr & Bacharach, 2008, p. 8). The three most important attributes are: (1) type of data generated by the psychological tests (normally its scores); (2) the reliability of this data; and (3) the validity of the data.

In “Psychometrics in Coaching,” Jonathan Passmore (2008) said that while there is a growing number of instruments for use in coaching, a “surprising number of coaches do not know about the reliability or validity of the questionnaires they are using, or do not know about the theory or research evidence which underpins it” (p. 2).

When evaluating coaching assessments or instruments, Peltier (2010) suggests:

(1) Check the construct – “the basic concept that the instrument supposedly tests…Tests do not always test what they sound like they are testing” (p. 17).

(2) Validity – “Is this test measuring what it says it measures? Is it accurate? … Was this instrument developed for people similar to your client?” (p. 18).

(3) Reliability – Is the instrument stable? “Can you use it and get the same results that the designers get?” (p. 18). Are the results consistent when using with different types of clients.

(4) Standardization – Also known as norming. “To whom or to what is your client compared?” (p. 19) For example, a test that was created using a White, wealthy, highly educated as a norm group may not be as applicable to others.

References

Furr, R.M., & Bacharach, V.R. (2008). Psychometrics: An introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Passmore, J. (Ed.). (2008). Psychometrics in coaching: Using psychological and psychometric tools for development. London: Kogan Page.

Peltier, B. (2010). The psychology of executive coaching: Theory and application (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

The Benefits of Coaching Employees

[NOTE: This post was updated August 2017]

What are the benefits of coaching employees? Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange offers some great reasons:

When organizations coach employees, benefits to the company include:

  • Overcome costly and time-consuming performance problems
  • Strengthen employees’ skills so you can delegate more tasks to them and focus on more important managerial responsibilities—such as planning
  • Boost productivity by helping your employees work smarter
  • Develop a deep bench of talent who can step into your shoes as you advance in the company
  • Improve retention; employees are more loyal and motivated when their bosses take time to help them improve their skills
  • Make more effective use of company resources; coaching costs less than formal training

When employees are coached, they:

  • Build valuable skills and knowledge they can use to advance in their careers
  • Feel supported and encouraged by their manager and the company
  • Experience the pride and satisfaction that come with surmounting new challenges

*Note: For an updated and more comprehensive list of the many benefits of coaching employees, read my 2017 post, “The Many Benefits of Coaching Employees.”

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

Reference

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Coaching People: Pocket Mentor Series, Harvard Business Press

Business and Executive Coaching Buyer’s Guide

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) recently published a coaching guide. It appears that SIOP is trying to compete for a piece of the coaching pie by the language on the site, and I applaud them for finally doing so. For example,

“Effective [business or executive] coaching requires expertise in a wide array of fields including assessment, measurement and evaluation, change management, adult learning and development, leadership development, performance management, organizational behavior, and team dynamics. Because psychologists educated in Industrial and Organizational Psychology (I-O) have a doctoral degree and a thorough education in these fields, they are particularly qualified to provide effective coaching assistance.”

The language suggests that a good “coach” (in this case a business or executive coach, not a life coach) is one who is educated and trained in I-O psychology and the listing of things that add up to being an effective coach are taught in I-O programs. Good move I must say.

Under the first comment section SIOP makes an even bolder move by stating:

“Many people call themselves coaches, and their education may range from a one-day continuing education course to a doctoral degree from a major research university. (See the SIOP website for information on doctoral and masters level programs in I-O psychology.) Many organizations certify coaches although the meaning of many of these certification efforts is not clear. We believe the most effective coaches are well educated in the areas of I-O psychology listed above and encourage an organization to ask detailed questions about education and experience.”

Now, that’s taking your place in the coaching arena!

I also like their questions to ask a coach. And in the comment section warns those seeking coaching to, “Watch out for gimmicks and one- size-fits-all solutions. Make sure the coach is using tools that are valid, i.e., have evidence of their usefulness for their intended purpose, and appropriate for the individual and setting.”

In particular, I like these questions:

(1) What is your training and experience in the following areas?

  • Individual Assessment
  • Measurement and evaluation
  • Performance evaluation
  • Change management
  • Training and development
  • Organizational behavior
  • Team dynamics

(2) How much and what kind of experience do you have in organizations?

(3) How much and what kind of experience do you have in this industry and with
individuals in this role (e.g., line management, staff functions, professionals)?

(4) How many people have you coached?

  • How did you identify the problem(s) of the individual?
  • How do you assess the individual?
  • What tools do you use? What experience have you had using them?
  • What kind of action planning process do you use?
  • What kinds of developmental activities do you employ?
  • How do you evaluate progress? How? When?

(5) How (and how often) do you evaluate the effectiveness of your coaching?

(6) What ethics code guides your work?

  • How does the coach handle ethical problems?
  • Who is the client?

(7) What are your references?

In raising concerns about the definition of coaching (as a distinct, standalone profession) and about the credibility of coaches as well as an entire coaching industry that has sprung up, Grant (2007) raised an important consideration. He says:

“Because coaching is an industry and not a profession, there are no barriers to entry, no regulation, no government-sanctioned accreditation or qualification process and no clear authority to be a coach; anyone can call themselves a ‘Master Coach’” (Grant, 2007, p. 27).

He goes on to say that there are so many “coach training organisations [sic],” some of which are nothing more than credentialing mills because after a few days of training and payment you can become a certified master coach. “[I]t sometimes seems as if ‘every man and his dog’ [can] offer a coach certification programme… making the value of such certifications highly questionable” (Grant, 2007, p. 27).

I think it’s important to take heed of this piece of advice:

“Make sure that you take the time to find an individual (or firm) who has the skills and approach that works for your organization and your needs” (SIOP, 2009).

Disclosure: I am currently in an Industrial and Organizational Psychology program and am a member of SIOP.

References

Grant, A.M. (2007). Past, present and future: The evolution of professional coaching and coaching psychology. In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology (pp. 23-39). New York: Routledge.

SIOP. (2009). Selecting a Coach: What Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Bring to the Table. Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/workplace/coaching/selecting_a_coach.aspx

Differentiating Coaching Psychology from Counseling Psychology

[Note]: This post is a reprint of my response in a LinkedIn group discussion in the British Psychological Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology (SGCP). The original discussion question asked for responses regarding the differences between coaching and counseling psychology with the aim of defining coaching psychology.

COUNSELING PSYCHOLOGY

In the U.S., the Society of Counseling Psychology (Div. 17 of the American Psychological Association) views counseling psychology in this manner:

“Counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders.” (Div. 17 website)

Counseling psychology works with clients who require therapy to address issues (which can range from mild to severe). In my opinion, there really is not a clear distinction between counseling psychology and clinical psychology, as both can tackle various forms of mental illness. Because counseling psychology uses psychopathology (mental illness) and operates with that in mind, it is psychology for “therapy” or psychology for the treatment of mental health problems.

COACHING PSYCHOLOGY

Anthony Grant (2006) defines “coaching psychology” this way:

“Coaching psychology can be understood as being the systematic application of behavioural science to the enhancement of life experience, work performance and well-being for individuals, groups and organisations who do not have clinically significant mental heath issues or abnormal levels of distress.”

I like this last part of Grant’s definition because coaching works with healthy clients, not those needing mental health counseling.

Coaching starts with the premise that the client is healthy and works to enhance the client’s well-being and performance (in life and/or the workplace). If and when coaching clients do need “therapy,” the coach should be competent enough to recognize this need and the importance of referring these clients for therapy.

References

Grant, A.M. (2006). A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coaching psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review, 1(1), 12-22.

Society of Counseling Psychology. About counseling psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.div17.org/students_defining.html

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.

Helping to Bring Credibility to Executive Coaching

The profession of coaching has grown and continues to do so such that “nearly every age, occupation, and personal passion has a coach waiting to answer the call” (p. xiii). In particular, coaching is becoming a common part of an organization’s toolkit to help rank-and-file employees on up to top executives (Whitworth et al., 2007).

Much has been heralded (especially within the past several years) about coaching and its benefits. No, I’m not talking about sports coaching, but rather coaching applied to the world of business, also known as executive coaching. Because there’s no law (in the U.S.) preventing anyone from calling him/herself a “coach” or using the word “coaching,” executive coaching can sometimes seem like the old wild west. Research indicates that within the field of coaching, one of the fastest growing areas is in business (includes executive) coaching (WABC, cited in Stout Rostron, 2009).

It’s interesting to note that many who enter the coaching profession do so without any formal psychological training (Peltier, 2010). As such, they often question the need for this type of background. A 2009 Harvard study of coaching showed that only 13% of coaches believed that psychological training was necessary and almost half didn’t think it was important at all (Kauffman & Coutu, cited by Peltier, 2010).

However, the study also observed that even though coaches are only hired to help executives with personal issues 3% of the time, these same coaches, in fact, addressed a personal issue 76% of the time in coaching!

Stout Rostron (2009) maintains that while business coaches don’t need to be psychologists, they should at a minimum receive “practical grounding or ‘literacy’ in psychological theory” (p. 25).

While researching coaching textbooks, I came across the Institute of Coaching, an organization that aims to legitimize the field and practice of coaching by promoting coaching research, education, and practice. It is “dedicated to enhancing the integrity and credibility of the field of coaching.” Stout Rostron (2009) talked about the need to create empirical evidence on executive coaching and its impact. This is why I believe the existence of the Institute of Coaching will be a tremendous boost to help build that much needed credibility in the otherwise undisciplined field of coaching.

“The Institute (housed at McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and the world’s premier psychiatric hospital) is a way to build a robust international coaching research community and to support coaching research by providing research grants and mentoring to advance the practice and profession of coaching.”

The Institute of Coaching recently launched its own membership association called the Institute of Coaching Professional Association (ICPA).

MEMBER BENEFITS

ICPA members (annual subscription fee required) have access to peer-reviewed journals, networking and educational opportunities with leaders in coaching research, coaching demonstrations, and much more. ICPA offers three levels of membership—Affiliates, Founding Members, and Founding Fellows.

All members have access to:

  • Monthly Coaching Report
  • Extensive online resources including a library of research papers, white papers on best practices and return on investment, PowerPoints on many coaching relevant topics
  • Monthly live interviews, seminars, and coaching demonstrations with coaching leaders and researchers.
  • Online journal club
  • Journal subscription to Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research & Practice
  • Discounts on IOC events and professional development seminars

SEMINARS AND INTERVIEWS

Leadership tele-seminars, podcasts, and interviews will us better understand the mindset and expectations of the business leaders. Questions include: What do corporate leaders value about coaching? What are they looking for?

COACHING DEMONSTRATIONS

Coaching demonstrations will help you see coaching skills in action and learn the answers to important coaching questions. Coaches will describe the theory and evidence-based thinking behind the interventions they offer. The goal is to use theory and research to provide much needed “legs” for the practice of coaching.

COMMENTS

For those new to the profession of coaching (especially students like me), the benefit of watching coaching demonstrations is invaluable. This is a great way to learn by watching veteran/master coaches. When I was going through my counseling program, our professors made us watch videos of master therapists/psychologists conducting sessions. It was a way to connect what we learned via books to real life scenarios.

[NOTE]: ***I am not affiliated nor am I being paid to advertise the Institute of Coaching. I am merely passing along information that I think might benefit those who seek it. Thanks.***

References

Institute of Coaching. (2010). About Us. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from http://www.instituteofcoaching.org/index.cfm?page=aboutus

Institute of Coaching. (2010). Welcome to the Institute of Coaching Professional Association! Retrieved January 10, 2010, from http://www.instituteofcoaching.org/index.cfm?page=members

Institute of Coaching. (2010). Coaching Research Network. Retrieved January 10, 2010, from http://www.instituteofcoaching.org/index.cfm?page=network

Kauffman, C., & Coutu, D. (2009). HBR research report: The realities of executive coaching.

Peltier, B. (2009). The psychology of executive coaching: Theory and application (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Stout Rostron, S. (2009). Business coaching international: Transforming individuals and organizations. London: Karnac.

Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, K., Kimsey-House, H., & Sandahl, P. (2007). Co-active coaching: New skills for coaching people toward success in work and life (2nd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black.

Being Attractive Helps Get You Hired

[NOTE: This post was updated October 2017]

When making decisions about whether or not to hire prospective job applicants, interviewers are influenced by an applicant’s attractiveness (Shahani-Denning, 2003, citing Watkins & Johnston, 2000; Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005). There is a great deal of evidence that being good-looking positively impacts the hiring decisions of employers (Shahani-Denning, 2003, citing Watkins & Johnston). This is known as the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype (Shahani-Denning, 2003, citing Dion, Berscheid & Walster, 1972).

Kassin, Fein, & Markus (2008, citing Hosoda, Stone-Romero, & Coats, 2003) found that as a society, we tend to favor those who are good-looking. And while this isn’t fair, research has found it to be true (Watkins & Johnston, 2000).

“Research shows that not only are good-looking applicants more likely to be hired, but they are likely to be hired at a higher starting salary. Attractiveness makes a difference with promotions, too. People ascribe more positive characteristics to attractive people” (Eichinger, Lombardo, & Ulrich, 2004, p. 124).

Whether researchers studied business school students or real-life HR professionals, the results were almost identical. The majority of the candidates hired were more attractive (Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005). “[A]ttractive applicants are preferred over less attractive applicants” (Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005, p. 571). While not surprising that attractive applicants tend to be hired more than less attractive applicants, what is surprising is that attractive applicants are also offered higher starting salaries compared to those considered less attractive (Toledano, 2013).

There is research suggesting that experienced managers do not seem to fall prey to this attractiveness/beautyism bias compared to managers who are not as experienced (Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005).

However, this quote from a Cornell HR Review article is quite clear:

“In short, attractive individuals will receive more job offers, better advancement opportunities, and higher salaries than their less attractive peers—despite numerous findings that they are no more intelligent or capable” (Toledano, 2013, para. 5).

So, given this unfair reality, what are applicants (who aren’t as attractive) to do? Jawahar & Mattsson (2005) assert that because good-looking people are believed to have better social skills, the bias against those who aren’t as good-looking might have more to do with the belief that the “less attractive” are less socially skilled. The researchers recommended that people who aren’t good-looking can help themselves by “demonstrating their social skills and directing the interviewer’s attention to other strengths” (Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005, p. 572).

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

References

Dion, K. K., Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is what is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 285-290.

Eichinger, R. W., Lombardo, M. M., & Ulrich, D. (2004). 100 things you need to know: Best people practices for managers & HR. Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited.

Hosoda, M., Stone-Romero, E. F., & Coats, G. (2003). The effects of physical attractiveness on job-related outcomes: A meta-analysis of experimental studies. Personnel Psychology, 56, 431-462.

Jawahar, I. M., & Mattsson, J. (2005). Sexism and beautyism effects in selection as a function of self-monitoring level of decision maker. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(3), 563-573.

Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Markus, H. R. (2008). Social Psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Shahani-Denning, C. (2003). Physical attractiveness bias in hiring: What is beautiful is good. Hofstra Horizons, Spring 2003, 15-18. Retrieved from http://www.hofstra.edu/pdf/orsp_shahani-denning_spring03.pdf

Toledano, E. (2013, February 14). May the Best (Looking) Man Win: the Unconscious Role of Attractiveness in Employment Decisions. Cornell HR Review. Retrieved from http://www.cornellhrreview.org/may-the-best-looking-man-win-the-unconscious-role-of-attractiveness-in-employment-decisions/

Watkins, L. M., & Johnston, L. (2000). Screening job applicants: The impact of physical attractiveness and application quality. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 8, 76-84.

People with a Situational Value System

rude-customers

“A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person” (Barry, 1998, p. 185).

[NOTE: This post was updated January 2015]

Many years ago, while waiting for a show at a nice hotel in Dallas, my wife and I were standing in line to order some coffee. As we were in line waiting (we were second in line) at a busy one-person coffee stand, the woman waiting behind us (she was third in line) yelled out, “Can I go ahead and pay for this?” It didn’t matter to her that two other people (the first lady in line and us) were ahead of her in this ordering process.

I forgot what this was. It might have been a bottle of water or something small. But pretty much everyone else waiting patiently in line was ordering something small. After she interrupted and cut in line, she made some disparaging remarks about the single employee working there.

My wife and I both used to work as a waiter (me) and waitstaff trainer (wife) and thus we’re especially sensitive to and aware of how we and others treat waiters, waitresses, or anyone in a people service profession (e.g., hotel maids, bellmen, etc.). When I see behaviors like this woman’s, it brings me back to the time, more than 20 years ago, when I worked as a waiter for a restaurant in Austin, Texas.

I didn’t know it at first but was quickly informed by the other waitstaff that I was waiting on a baseball celebrity and his family. “Ok, not a big deal,” I thought. I’ll just make sure that I’m at my best and take care of them as I always do with all of my customers.

Because the family was busy visiting and chatting loudly, I stepped back to give them time to decide what they wanted to order. Not long afterwards, the wife snapped her fingers at me (like a rich person does when she beckons her servants). After the family ordered, she dismissed me, like “I’m done with you now leave my sight” type of attitude.

William H. Swanson, Chairman and Former CEO of Raytheon, cautioned:

“Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with . . . Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles.” [Cited in USA Today “CEOs say how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character”]

I think this advice should be taken very seriously, especially by those in a supervisory or management role. In a USA Today article, Siki Giunta (CEO of Managed Objects, but who previously worked as a bartender) summed this up well when she said this type of situational behavior is a good predictor of a person’s character because it’s not something you can learn or unlearn easily but instead it shows how you were raised.

The woman who cut in line to place her order felt that she was special and deserved special treatment and gave herself permission to cut in front of others and then displayed contempt by mumbling unkind comments about the person preparing the coffee.

Takeaway: Whether it’s ordering coffee on a Saturday night or interacting with employees at work on a Monday morning, each of us—whether you’re a CEO, manager, or employee—needs to treat everyone, both in and outside the office (regardless of their status or title in the social or corporate ladder) with kindness, dignity, and respect.

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

References

Barry, D. (1998). Dave Barry Turns 50. New York, NY: Ballantine Publishing Group.

Jones, D. (2006, April 17). CEOs say how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2006-04-14-ceos-waiter-rule_x.htm

What is Your Life’s Work?

[NOTE: This post was updated February 2018]

In his book, What is Your Life’s Work? Bill Jensen asks people to write a letter to a loved one about the meaning and importance of work. Specifically, he wanted them to think about this question:

“What is the single most important insight about work that you want to pass on to your kids? Or to anyone you truly care about?”

In the course of writing these letters, people experienced something remarkable — clarity about what “it” is that’s most important to them and the power of following their dreams.

“There are only 1440 minutes in every day. No do-overs. Time stolen from you at work means less time for whatever really matters to you…We must all be respectful of how work uses the precious time in people’s lives — as a guiding principle in whatever [we] do every day” (Jensen, 2005, p.9).

“I’m a workaholic. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t striving for full-throttle success. As it turns out, I failed in one critical area. I had turned my back on life.” (A Letter Writer quoted in Jensen’s book)

According to over 40 Gallup studies, about 75% of workers are disengaged from their jobs. And based on a recent U.S. Job Retention Survey, 75% of all employees are now searching for new employment opportunities. Jensen also found, in a New American Dream Survey, that more than four out of every five of us (83%) wish we had more of what really matters in life (Jensen, 2005, p.5).

In the past 20 years, Jensen has interviewed and surveyed over 400,000 people in more than 1,000 companies. What he found was that “[m]ost of us already know what really matters. We just let all the daily excuses and conflicting priorities cloud our judgment…Yet the people who are truly focused on what matters rarely have this problem. They know how to listen to themselves – how to quiet all the outside noise long enough to hear their own heartbeat and their own wisdom” (Jensen, 2005, p.16).

Jensen (2005) recommends several things:

  • Face what you fear
  • Get grounded, there are others like you
  • Let go, nobody’s watching
  • Suspend judgment, others’ “aha” moments can reveal a lot
  • Find your passion, write it down
  • Laugh at your own excuses
  • Rewrite the script, because you can

“[T]he most important quality in a candidate is passion for what he does and who he is. This passion will drive people to succeed even when obstacles occur in the workplace…For my money, give me someone with passion. We can teach him the rest.” (Mike Grabowski, quoted in What is Your Life’s Work?)

Wishing you good work life, health, and well-being.

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

Reference

Jensen, B. (2005). What is Your Life’s Work?: Answer the BIG Question About What Really Matters…and Reawaken the Passion for What You Do. New York, NY: HarperCollins.