Tag Archives: Coaching

Creating an Ethical Organizational Culture

[NOTE: This post was updated October 2016]

“Having an organizational culture that emphasizes ethical behavior can cut down on misbehavior of organizations. Research shows that whether an organization develops a culture that emphasizes doing the right thing even when it is costly comes down to whether leaders, starting with the CEO, consider the ethical consequences of their actions. Leaders with a moral compass set the tone when it comes to ethical dilemmas” (Truxillo, Bauer, & Erdogan, 2016, p. 385).

Robbins and Judge (2009) offer a nice list of what management can do to create a more ethical organizational culture. They suggest a combination of the following practices:

  1. Be a role model and be visible. Your employees look to the behavior of top management as a model of what’s acceptable behavior in the workplace. When senior management is observed (by subordinates) to take the ethical high road, it sends a positive message for all employees.
  2. Communicate ethical expectations. Ethical ambiguities can be reduced by creating and disseminating an organizational code of ethics. It should state the organization’s primary values and the ethical rules that employees are expected to follow. Remember, however, that a code of ethics is worthless if top management fails to model ethical behaviors.
  3. Offer ethics training. Set up seminars, workshops, and similar ethical training programs. Use these training sessions to reinforce the organization’s standards of conduct, to clarify what practices are and are not permissible, and to address possible ethical dilemmas.
  4. Visibly reward ethical acts and punish unethical ones. Performance appraisals of managers should include a point-by-point evaluation of how his or her decisions measure up against the organization’s code of ethics. Appraisals must include the means taken to achieve goals as well as the ends themselves. People who act ethically should be visibly rewarded for their behavior. Just as importantly, unethical acts should be punished.
  5. Provide protective mechanisms. The organization needs to provide formal mechanisms so that employees can discuss ethical dilemmas and report unethical behavior without fear of reprimand. This might include creation of ethical counselors, ombudsmen, or ethical officers.

A good case study of an unethical organizational culture is the now defunct Enron. Sims and Brinkmann (2003) described Enron’s ethics as “the ultimate contradiction between words and deeds, between a deceiving glossy facade and a rotten structure behind” (p. 243). Enron executives created an organizational culture that valued profits (the bottom line) over ethical behavior and doing what’s right.

“A business perceived to lack integrity or to operate in an unethical, immoral, or irresponsible manner soon loses the support of customers, suppliers and the community at large*” (Tozer, 2012, p. 476).

*In addition to losing customers, suppliers and the community, I would also include losing the support of employees and managers.

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

References

Robbins, S.P., & Judge, T.A. (2009). Organizational behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Sims, R.R., & Brinkmann, J. (2003). Enron ethics (or: Culture matters more than codes). Journal of Business Ethics, 45(3), 243-256.

Tozer, J. (2012). Leading through leaders: Driving strategy, execution and change. London, UK: KoganPage.

Truxillo, D. M., Bauer, T. N., & Erdogan, B. (2016). Psychology and work: Perspectives on industrial and organizational psychology. New York: Routledge.

What Happens When Leaders Set High Expectations?

Some of you may have heard that when leaders set high expectations followers rise to meet them.

Well, there’s actually a concept called the Pygmalion Effect which says that the lower the expectations, the worse people do. In an interesting experiment (Eden & Shani, 1982) in a 15-week combat command course, trainees were matched on aptitude and then randomly put in 1 of 3 groups.

Each group had different expectations, high, average, and no specified expectations. But 4 days before the trainees arrived, the instructors were told that each trainee had a score that was based on their psychological test scores, data from a prior course on leadership, and on ratings by previous commanders. This score (known as command potential or CP) represents the trainee’s potential to command others.

What’s more, the instructors were told that the course grades predict command potential (CP) in 95% of the cases. Afterwards, the instructors were each given a list of the trainees assigned to them. Each list had the trainee’s name and the trainee’s CP score.

Based on the Pygmalion hypothesis, it was confirmed that the instructor’s prior expectation (based on what they thought were a high or low CP score for each trainee) influenced the trainee’s performance (Eden & Shani, 1982). Trainees whose instructors expected high performance scored significantly higher on objective achievement tests, exhibited more positive attitudes, and were seen as better leaders.

So What: Leaders often get the performance they expect from their employees.

Reference

Eden, D., & Shani, A. B. (1982). Pygmalion goes to boot camp: Expectancy, leadership, and trainee performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67(2), 194–199.

Power Trip-Do You Have Enough Power to Impact Change?

I recently rediscovered the wonders of television through fantastic programs offered on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). I especially love Independent Lens, which showcases documentaries and dramas made by independent filmmakers.

The other night I watched “Power Trip” on PBS World. It’s a powerful film about an American energy company and its attempt to operate an electric company in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Of course, the title suggests a power struggle for control and this was certainly the case, but there are also other management lessons that can and should be learned.

The film documents the ongoing challenges that AES (the American energy company) face in running AES-Telasi (the electricity distribution company in Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi). While the film does a nice job of highlighting the problems of corruption, lack of infrastructure, local poverty, etc. one thing that it failed to mentioned was the ingrained culture against which a foreign company faces when it attempts to run a business in another part of the world, and whether it possesses enough power to ensure success.

Throughout “Power Trip” those working for AES talked about the theft of electricity, but considering the state of poverty the Georgian people were in, they were stuck between feeding themselves or stealing electricity. Of course, even when local people did pay it wasn’t a guarantee that they would actually get electricity because Georgia’s corrupt leaders often stole electricity for themselves or their relatives.

Here are the numbers:

  • Average monthly wage in Tbilisi: $15
  • Average monthly bill prior to AES-Telasi: $0
  • Average monthly residential electricity bill from AES-Telasi: $24
  • Time in Georgia: January 1999 to September 2003
  • Amount of money AES-Telasi spent improving power lines and meters in Tbilisi: $90 million
  • Estimated daily loss at AES-Telasi: $120,000
  • Total loss at AES during its time in Georgia: Over $200 million

In the end, the Enron scandal in 2002 caused energy stocks to nosedive. AES took a financial hit, and unable to support its Georgian operation, was forced to sale AES-Telasi in 2003. The lone buyer, a Russian state-owned company, called United Energy Systems (UES). It, too, encountered the same issues that plagued AES – corruption, poor infrastructure, and financial hardships. AES’ CEO, Dennis Bakke, resigned in the summer of 2002.

While Russia, like China, is viewed as a huge opportunity, there’s also caution that “severe political and social problems still persist in Russia and in many of the former states of the Soviet Union (like Georgia)” (Nickels, McHugh, & McHugh, 2005, p. 93).

Perhaps, in hindsight, had AES studied the history and current social, political, and economic climate of Georgia, it might not have been so hasty in wanting to set up shop. After all, how could the locals afford the average electric bill (which totaled about $24 each month) if their salary was $15 US dollars a month (yes, a month)?

Most importantly, I believe Pfeffer and Sutton (2006) offer the best wisdom. Although their suggestion is about implementing internal organizational changes, I think it’s quite applicable to this case. One question they recommend asking is:

“Do you have enough power to make the change happen?”

Have you figured out the power dynamics, the internal and external politics, as well as the overall political landscape?

As the case of Jim Walker, who was brought on to assist Nomura Securities Asian operation in Hong Kong in the late 1990s, illustrate when a leader fails to “appreciate the political nature of the environment” (Pfeffer, 2010, p. 9) in which he works, the consequence is opposition, rivalry, lost of control, and ultimately surrender.

In AES’ case, the CEO failed to appreciate the political nature of the Georgian environment and how it significantly reduced his own and his company’s power to run AES-Telasi and provide electricity to the people in Tbilisi. Had AES considered this question, it would have realized that power was never within its own control but rested, instead, squarely in the Georgian social and economic systems which were controlled by those at the very top of Georgian politics.

References

Nickels, W.G., McHugh, J.M., & McHugh, S.M. (2005). Understanding business (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

PBS. Independent Lens. POWER TRIP.

Pfeffer, J. (2010). Power: Why some people have it-and others don’t. New York: HarperCollins.

Pfeffer, J., & Sutton, R.I. (2006). Hard facts, dangerous half-truths, and total nonsense: profiting from evidence-based management. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

4 Steps to Resolving Conflicts on Your Team

Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange shares some great tips for resolving conflicts on your team:

The First & Most Fundamental Step: Define the root cause of the conflict. You do this by asking the following questions:

  • Why are team members arguing with one another?
  • Is there a deeper personality conflict here?
  • Is one member being stubborn?
  • Does one member always insist on getting his or her way?

The answers to these questions will help you discover whether the root cause is a behavior or a situation. After doing that, proceed to the following THREE steps:

  1. Negotiate a resolution. Look for a solution that works for all members of your team; dictating a resolution to a team conflict can backfire. Point out the importance of agreeing to disagree on certain issues. Encourage members to find common ground and explore new possibilities.
  2. Encourage active listening. Allow the disagreeing parties to voice their feelings, and ask questions about why they feel as they do. Ask people to behave in ways that demonstrate interest in what others are saying. For example, avoid doodling, fidgeting, and interrupting while others are speaking. Model active listening behaviors, such as asking questions that encourage speakers to expand on their points, or referring back to points made earlier and building on those ideas.
  3. Remind team members to forgive. Once your team has resolved a conflict, remind people to forgive one another for any hurt feelings or damaged egos. Encourage forgiveness by practicing forgiveness yourself. Don’t hold a grudge. Don’t harbor ill will after a conflict has been resolved. And remember to apologize when you’ve done something wrong.

Reference

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

Less Talk, More Action-The PAR Technique

In “Good Boss, Bad Boss” Robert Sutton talks about a problem many of us see in our workplaces — too much talking and not enough doing. Sutton says too often people (this includes bosses and their subordinates) know what needs to be done but rather than doing it, they talk (hold endless meetings), write about it, and study it to death. Professor Sutton shares about a restaurant chain that hired a consulting firm to create a detailed plan to improve their operations. During the presentation, a long-time executive shared that a decade earlier, the company had received the same report. The executive then proceeded to read from the old report which had almost the same advice as the new one. The lesson: Management had known for quite some time what needed to be done, but they just didn’t do it.

For today’s post, I will use the PAR technique (Problem, Action, Results) also called STAR (Situation or Task, Action, Result) to share about my experiences living and working on an island in the North Pacific Ocean – an island called Saipan. This PAR method (I hope) will help you see how simple it is to not just talk about a problem, but to act to resolve it.

BACKGROUND

Yearning for adventure, excitement, and something different, I left Texas in January 2004 to live and work on an island in the North Pacific Ocean as a Behavior Specialist. My job covered 20 schools on the islands of Saipan (15 schools), Rota (3 schools), and Tinian (2 schools) totaling over 12,000 students. It included assessing at-risk and conduct/behavioral problem students, observing and conducting functional behavior assessments, designing appropriate behavior intervention plans, and assisting teachers and school staff in the proper implementation of the prescribed behavior program. On a daily basis, I provided consultations to school staff to train and assist in behavior and classroom management, positive behavior support, school crisis management, and traumatic stress & crisis intervention response.

(P)ROBLEM

Saipan, Rota, and Tinian (collectively called CNMI or Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) posed a particular challenge due to their geographical locations (eight hours west of Hawaii), their relatively young educational system (public education did not start until the mid 1940’s when the first public school, WSR Elementary, was established in 1946, with others soon following in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s) and cultural values and norms.

There are more than 20 ethnicities and nationalities from East, West, as well as Pacific communities, including Chamorro, Carolinian, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Bangladesh, Russian, Thai, Vietnamese, Micronesian (Yapese, Chuukese, Pohnepeian), Palauan, Hawaiian, Marshall Islands, American, Australian, and various European communities. Although the island (population 82,000) is considered Chamorro and Carolinian, more than half of the population is comprised of foreign “guest workers” employed in the garment and tourist industries. In fact, there are roughly 17,500 garment workers and laborers in the CNMI, most of whom are non-English speaking Chinese.

With the stigmas and misinformation surrounding mental health and mental illness, coupled with an educational system still in its infancy and an economy dependent on U.S. federal support, counseling services and school crisis management were at the bottom of the priority scale in the eyes of the cash-strapped government and local school system.

(A)CTION

Being one to never back down from a challenge and understanding that (as my friend and coworker described) the CNMI was “fertile soil” to work in, I was able to set and attain two goals: (1) Being part of a six-member Counseling Steering Committee Team that successfully implemented a Monthly Level-Sharing program (CMLS) to train school counselors; and (2) Conducting 25 workshops and training over 700 teachers and school staff on Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Training and Behavior & Classroom Management.

(1) I partnered with a team of counselors in the local school system and the local mental health agency to educate and train other counselors and to equip them with basic counseling and trauma response skills to address the psychological and emotional needs of students at school and other children and adolescents in the community.

(2) Together with a colleague, I wrote two grants, secured funding, and became a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Certified Instructor to educate and train teachers, administrators, and school staff on how to best manage anxious, hostile, and/or violent crisis situations in their classrooms and on their campuses.

(R)ESULTS

The responses and feedback were phenomenal.

(1) Through our CNMI Counselors Monthly-Level Sharing Meetings/Trainings, we tackled difficult topics including child sexual abuse, suicide, and self-injurious behaviors. School counselors reported an increase in feelings of confidence and competence in addressing some of these issues in their schools.

(2) As a result of the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Workshops as well as trainings and presentations on classroom management and anti-bullying, over 700 educators, counselors, and administrators were trained on best-practices models in managing crisis and potentially volatile situations.

Here is an example of data from the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training conducted at an elementary school (on Feb. 6-7, 2006), a high school (Apr. 1-2, 2006) and during two PSS Statewide Professional Developments (Feb. 8-10 & Aug. 17-18, 2006). Of those who attended the Statewide Professional Development workshop (on Aug. 17-18, 2006) and who responded to the workshop questionnaire on a scale of 1-5 (5 being very useful), 14 out of 14 (100%) said they “strongly agreed” that they had met the program objective to use nonverbal techniques to prevent acting-out behavior; 14 out of 14 (100%) said they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” they had met the program objective to use CPI’s Principles of Personal Safety to avoid injury to all involved in a crisis situation; 14 out of 14 (100%) said they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” they had met the program objective to use safe physical intervention procedures as a last resort when a person is a danger to self or others; All participants or 100% gave the overall Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training program the highest approval rating of “5” (strongly agree). These figures reflect the overwhelmingly positive response to the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Training program.

WHAT I LEARNED – The Key Lessons

As with many important things which transcend the lessons and printed materials drawn from textbooks, what my job and interactions in the CNMI have taught me are the following:

(1) A collaborative spirit and attitude work best.
(2) Keep things simple, practical, and relevant in order to link talking to action.
(3) Everyone, from children to adults, from the under- to the over-educated has a story to share. Make time to listen to their stories.
(4) Don’t ever assume you know them, their problems, or traumas – you don’t.
(5) Above all else, treat everyone with kindness and respect because no one likes being talked down to.

Side note to #2: The older I get and the more “education” I receive, the more I realize that simple is often best and that the smartest, wisest people are those who ask questions rather than speak. There are also people who are impressed with what Robert Sutton calls “jargon monoxide” or gobbledygook, nonsense. They tend to talk more and do less, rather than the opposite – talk less and do more. In my own experience, I have discovered that people who have a tendency to spew out “jargon monoxide” are those trying to hide their own incompetence or those trying to impress others. It’s even funnier when these same people use big words to which they don’t know the meanings to. Sometimes, real life is much more entertaining than television.

Reference

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

*This entry (in its entirety) is also cited as:

Nguyen, S. (2011). Less talk, more action—The PAR technique. Journal of Safe Management of Disruptive and Assaultive Behavior, 19(1), 14-16.

Eight Effective Stress Management Strategies

[NOTE: This post was updated December 2017]

In this post, I want to share eight useful stress management tips and strategies.

Stress may be defined as “the experience of a perceived threat (real or imagined) to one’s well-being, resulting from a series of physiological responses and adaptations” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 62). There are two kinds of stress, eustress refers to stress associated with positive events, and distress refers to negative events. “Stress can be associated with most daily activities” (p. 62).

Strategies to manage stress include: assessing stressors, changing responses, and learning to cope. Find out what works best for you—it may be taking mental or physical action; downshifting; changing the way you think; managing your emotional responses; exercise, relax & eat right; yoga, qi gong, tai chi, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation; learning time management; managing your finances; or using alternative stress management techniques—will help you better cope with stress (Donatelle, 2009).

Six Ways To Relax Your Mind (WebMD; Donatelle, 2009; MayoClinic):

(1) Writing/Journaling – Write about things that are bothering you. Write for 10 to 15 minutes a day about stressful events and how they made you feel. This helps you identify sources of stress and finding ways to manage them (WebMD).

(2) Discussing Feelings – Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to. Talking with friends, family, a counselor, or a member of the clergy about your feelings is a healthy way to relieve stress (WebMD).

(3) Doing Things You Enjoy – This can be hobbies, volunteer work, etc. Take time to engage in activities that you like (WebMD).

(4) Focusing on the Present – One thing we all struggle with (at one time or another) is the tendency to jump to conclusions or “fortune-telling” where we assume we know what the future holds or what “will” happen (Williams, Edgerton, & Palmer, 2010). Another tip for being more present-minded is meditation (MayoClinic). Check out a nice meditation exercise here.

(5) Cognitive Restructuring – The modification of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that contribute to stress. “To combat negative self-talk, we must first become aware of it, then stop it, and finally replace the negative thoughts with positive ones—a process referred to as cognitive restructuring” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 79).

(6) Downshifting – “Today’s lifestyles are hectic and pressure-packed, and stress often comes from trying to keep up [with others]” and trying to “have it all.” “Downshifting involves a fundamental alteration in values and honest introspection about what is important in life” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 78).

Two Ways To Relax Your Body (WebMD; Donatelle, 2009; MayoClinic):

(1) Exercise – Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress (WebMD; MayoClinic).

(2) Relaxation Techniques – Breathing exercises, meditation, muscle relaxation, yoga, qi gong, and tai chi can help relieve stress (Donatelle, 2009; MayoClinic; WebMD).

Stress has an enormous impact on the human body (See this Washington Post link). Stress affects the nervous system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, etc.). “Successful stress management involves mentally developing and practicing self-esteem skills, focusing on positive thinking about yourself, and examining self-talk to reduce irrational responses” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 79).

Finally, there’s a concept called psychological hardiness:

“Psychologically hardy people are characterized by control, commitment, and an embrace of challenge. People with a sense of control are able to accept responsibility for their behaviors and change those that they discover to be debilitating” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 75-76).

Hardiness is the “foundation of an individual’s ability to cope with stress and remain healthy” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 76).

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

References

Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The basics (8th ed.). San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Mayo Clinic — Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

Mayo Clinic — Stress Relief
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-relief/hlv-20049495

Mayo Clinic — Video: Need to relax? Take a break for meditation
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/multimedia/meditation/vid-20084741

Washington Post: Stress and Your Body
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2007/01/22/GR2007012200620.html

WebMD: Stress Management – Ways to Relieve Stress
http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-relieving-stress

Williams, H., Edgerton, N., & Palmer, S. (2010). Cognitive Behavioural Coaching. In E. Cox, T. Bachkirova, & D. Clutterbuck (Eds.), The complete handbook of coaching (pp.37-53). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

10 Most Visited Posts and 10 Posts You Might Have Missed

10 MOST VISITED POSTS

  1. People with a Situational Value System – “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person.”
  2. Leadership Lessons from the Titanic – “Madam, God himself could not sink this ship.”
  3. What Gets You Up in the Morning? – “What Keeps You Up at Night?”
  4. The 4 Character Strengths of a Leader – Humility, Forgiveness, Self-Control, and Kindness.
  5. How Face-to-face Conversations Help Us Deal with Technostress – The most profound and easiest solution on “unplugging” is to simply “talk.”
  6. Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance – When employees resist change they are protecting/defending something they value and which seems threatened by the attempt at change.
  7. The Dangers of Charismatic Leaders – 4 negative consequences of charismatic leaders.
  8. 5 Reasons Why Employees Stay – Pride, Compatibility, Compensation, Affiliation, and Meaning.
  9. How to Create an Inspiring Work Setting – Some great ways to foster an inspired work environment.
  10. Work Stresses, Bad Bosses, and Heart Attacks – 75% of the workforce say their immediate boss is the most stressful part of their job.

10 POSTS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

  1. Elements of Corporate Cultures – Culture can be the company’s values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.
  2. A 24/7 Mindset about Work is Bad for Your Health – Employees who are highly engaged need time off the job to unwind and distance themselves from their work.
  3. The Price of Workplace Incivility in the Navy – “Nasty people pack a lot more wallop than their more civilized counterparts.”
  4. Coping With Fear-Lessons for Business and Life – “Don’t let fear undermine your chance to do that one thing you’ve wanted to do.”
  5. What Really Motivates Employees – The top motivation for workers is making progress.
  6. Are You A Chronic Kicker? – A “chronic kicker” is a person who’s constantly complaining about his or her job.
  7. Seven Ways to Avoid Becoming the Boss from Hell – Treating employees with respect and dignity tops the list.
  8. Leadership and Life Lessons from John Wooden – “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
  9. Workplace Incivility Hurts Employees & Businesses – A survey of public sector employees in the United States found that 71% of respondents reported at least some experience of workplace incivility during the previous 5 years.
  10. Workplace Incivility Causes Mistakes and Even Kills – “Incivility doesn’t shock people into better focus. It robs concentration, hijacks task orientation, and impedes performance.”

Eight Common Problems Teams Encounter

Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange lists EIGHT problems that teams encounter:

  1. Absence of team identity. Members may not feel mutually accountable to one another for the team’s objectives. There may be a lack of commitment and effort, conflict between team goals and members’ personal goals, or poor collaboration.
  2. Difficulty making decisions. Team members may be rigidly adhering to their positions during decision making or making repeated arguments rather than introducing new information.
  3. Poor communication. Team members may interrupt or talk over one another. There may be consistent silence from some members during meetings, allusions to problems but failure to formally address them, or false consensus (everyone nods in agreement without truly agreeing).
  4. Inability to resolve conflicts. Conflicts can not be resolved when there are heightened tensions and team members make personal attacks or aggressive gestures.
  5. Lack of participation. Team members fail to complete assignments. There may be poor attendance at team meetings or low energy during meetings.
  6. Lack of creativity. The team is unable to generate fresh ideas and perspectives and doesn’t turn unexpected events into opportunities.
  7. Groupthink. The team is unwilling or unable to consider alternative ideas or approaches. There is a lack of critical thinking and debate over ideas. This often happens when the team overemphasizes team agreement and unity.
  8. Ineffective leadership. Leaders can fail teams by not defining a compelling vision for the team, not delegating, or not representing multiple constituencies.

*Note: For a more comprehensive look at effective teamwork, read my 2016 post, “Characteristics of a Team and Barriers to Effective Team Functioning.”

Reference

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

When Participative Leadership Results in Indecisive Leadership

Participative leadership is where a leader consults with and encourages subordinates’ participation in the decision-making process. Participative leaders have a tendency to seek feedback from those who report to them and taking their suggestions into account before making decisions (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008). While it is not necessary to always consult with others, there are advantages in soliciting subordinates’ advice, namely better decisions and greater acceptance of decisions (Yukl, 2010).

However, participative leadership is ineffective if any of the following occurs (Yukl, 2010):

  1. the subordinates don’t all share the leader’s objectives,
  2. the subordinates don’t want to take responsibility for helping to make decisions,
  3. the subordinates distrust the leader, or
  4. if there’s a time crunch (difficult to track everyone down) making it impractical to consult with individuals or hold group meetings.

When a leader constantly asks for subordinates’ input, it communicates to employees, and even those observing from outside the company, that the leader’s style is counterproductive to getting things accomplished, and achieving stated goals and objectives in a timely manner.

References

Schermerhorn, J.R., Hunt, J.G., & Osborn, R.N. (2008). Organizational behavior (10th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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

Workplace Incivility Causes Mistakes and Even Kills

Research on workplace incivility (for example, emotional abuse or rudeness in the workplace) revealed that if someone is rude to you at work or if you witness rudeness you are more likely to make mistakes.

In The No Asshole Rule, Bob Sutton shared that nurses reported being demeaned at an alarmingly high rate. “A 1997 study of 130 U.S. nurses…found that 90% reported being victims of verbal abuse by physicians during the past year” (p. 21). A 2003 study of 461 nurses revealed that in the past month 91% had experienced verbal abuse, often from physicians (Sutton, 2007).

In a previous post entitled Workplace Incivility Hurts Employees & Businesses, I shared Pearson and Porath (2009) findings that 1 in 5 people in their study claimed to be targets of incivility from a coworker at least once a week. About 2/3 said they witnessed incivility happening among other employees at least once a month. 10% said they saw incivility among their coworkers every day. Workplace incivility (e.g., rudeness) can have a negative effect on the efficiency and productivity of the organization (Pearson, Andersson, & Wegner, 2001).

“[W]hen people feel mistreated and dissatisfied with their jobs, they are unwilling to do extra work to help their organizations, to expend ‘discretionary effort.’” (Sutton, 2007, pp. 40-41).

“A hostile environment erodes cooperation and a sense of commitment to high-quality care…and that increases the risk of medical errors.” -Dr. Peter B. Angood, chief patient safety officer at the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

So what?

Porath and Erez (2007) discovered that being the victim of rudeness can impair your cognitive skills. Tarkan (2008), writing in The New York Times, said that rude, bad behaviors on the part of physicians lead to “medical mistakes, preventable complications and even death.” Tarkan added that a “survey by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit organization, found that 40 percent of hospital staff members reported having been so intimidated by a doctor that they did not share their concerns about orders for medication that appeared to be incorrect. As a result, 7 percent said they contributed to a medication error.”

Pearson and Porath (2009) say that a negative by-product of a toxic, uncivil work environment is that employees no longer feel psychologically safe, and as a result are less likely to seek or accept feedback. “They will quit asking for help, talking about errors, and informing one another about potential or actual problems” (pp. 81-82).

In the tragic case of Air Florida Flight 90, analysis of the black-box recordings revealed that the copilot tried several times to warn the captain of possible dangers. Unfortunately, the warnings of the copilot were dismissed as unimportant by the captain. Seventy-two out of seventy-seven people onboard, along with the copilot and pilot, died (Pearson & Porath, 2009).

Sound Bite: “Incivility doesn’t shock people into better focus. It robs concentration, hijacks task orientation, and impedes performance” (Pearson & Porath, 2009, p. 155). What’s really alarming is that incivility can actually put lives at risk or even cause deaths.

References

Pearson, C., Andersson, L., & Wegner, J. (2001). When workers flout convention: A study of workplace incivility. Human Relations, 54(11), 1387-1419.

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.

Porath, C., & Erez, A. (2007). Does rudeness really matter? The effects of rudeness on task performance and helpfulness. Academy of Management Journal, 50(5), 1181-1197.

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

Tarkan, L. (2008). Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive — and a Doctor. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/02/health/02rage.html

Seven Ways to Avoid Becoming the Boss from Hell

The American Management Association posts articles, white papers, and various other training materials for business professionals on its website. I came across this piece about a year ago (although it was originally posted in April 2007), that ties in quite nicely with Dr. Robert Sutton’s newly released book, “Good Boss, Bad Boss.” You can read my review of “Good Boss, Bad Boss” in my August 2010 post.

Below (in its entirety) are Seven Ways to Avoid Becoming the Boss from Hell:

  1. Treat employees with respect and dignity
    • Discuss personal and sensitive issues in private rather than publicly.
    • Get to know your employees as people rather than mere workers.
  2. Involve employees in decisions
    • Let employees know that their ideas are welcome.
    • Thank employees for their suggestions and use them.
  3. Empower employees
    • Delegate whenever possible.
    • Allow employees to have more of a say in how they do their work.
  4. Clearly communicate assignments
    • Communicate goals and expectations both individually and in writing.
    • Ask employees to restate the goals and assignments in their own words.
  5. Listen, listen, listen
    • Practice active listening techniques such as asking open-ended questions.
    • Learn how to probe for information, ideas, and feelings when speaking with employees.
  6. Recognize that your job includes solving “people problems”
    • Be prepared to address employee issues such as ineffective performance, health problems, family crises, substance abuse, and harassment from coworkers.
    • When necessary, seek counsel and involvement from professionals in the human resource department.
  7. Provide personal recognition
    • Catch employees in the act of performing well and provide them with recognition immediately, rather than waiting for the next performance review discussion.
    • Just like the best gifts to receive are those when there is no occasion, periodically thank employees individually for their hard work.

Reference

American Management Association. (2007). Are you the “Boss from Hell?” Retrieved from http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/Are-You-the-Boss-from-Hell.aspx

Book Review-Handbook of Coaching Psychology

For the past several months, I have been using Palmer and Whybrow’s “Handbook of Coaching Psychology.” It has becoming one of my “must-have, go-to books” when researching or referencing coaching or coaching psychology topics.

Coaching draws so much from psychology, and in fact, psychology serves as the foundation to many coaching practices (Fillery-Travis & Lane, 2007). However, there are coaches who practice without being informed by psychological research, and they end up using “frameworks of dubious validity” and are often engaged “on a psychological enterprise without a background understanding of the psychology used” (p. 59).

Palmer & Whybrow (2007) explained that, “[t]he key difference between definitions of coaching and coaching psychology is that the latter include application of psychological theory” (p. 3). A coaching approach rooted in psychology can provide a unified voice for a coaching based on and informed by psychology (Palmer & Whybrow, 2005).

It is for these reasons that the “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” carries such great importance. This book is the first of its kind, in both its depth and breath, in the field of coaching psychology. Offering insights on coaching psychology practices, the “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” covers topics including the evolution of professional coaching & coaching psychology, cognitive-behavioral coaching, solution-focused coaching, psychodynamic coaching, positive psychology & coaching psychology, person-centered coaching, the role of coaching psychology (between counseling & coaching), coaching psychology supervision, psychometrics in coaching, and much more. There are even sections in the back of the book on coaching and coaching psychology-related professional associations and journals.

One chapter I really enjoyed is Bachkirova’s (2007) “Role of Coaching Psychology in Defining Boundaries between Counselling and Coaching.” In it, she explained how coaching suffers from a definitional consensus while trying to reconcile the tenuous position it’s currently in – between coaching and counseling. Bachkirova (2007) said that “coaching psychology” serves a dual role. First, it is an attempt to clarify the role and boundaries of psychology in coaching. Secondly, it also serves as a bridge connecting coaching and counseling/psychology.

Summary: The “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” belongs on every coach or coach-in-training’s library. It is the quintessential coaching psychology bible. If you are a coach or want to become one, you owe it to yourself to utilize sound psychological theories to inform and guide your coaching practice. The “Handbook of Coaching Psychology” will help provide the strong psychological foundation you need to be an effective coach and ensure that your coaching skills are evidence-based and grounded in science.

References

Bachkirova, T. (2007). Role of coaching psychology in defining boundaries between counselling and coaching. In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners (pp. 351-366). New York: Routledge.

Fillery-Travis, A., & Lane, D. (2007). Research: Does coaching work? In S. Palmer & A. Whybrow (Eds.), Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners (pp. 57-70). New York: Routledge.

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (Eds.). (2007). Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners. New York: Routledge.

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (2005). The Proposal to Establish a Special Group in Coaching Psychology. The coaching psychologist, 1, 5-12.

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