Sometimes leaders get in the way, and when they do, damaging things can happen.
They bottleneck decisions – people get frustrated They block communication – people turn cynical They put process before progress – people quit stretching They issue orders – people start resisting They punish mistakes – people avoid creativity They approve everything – people relinquish responsibility And so on.
When leaders get out-of-the-way, beautiful things can happen.
It’s a sentiment we have all often heard in work contexts: “Don’t take it personally” or “Hey, it’s not personal, it’s business.” I’ve heard it said about feedback, conflict, difficult conversations, restructuring, losing deals, collaboration, dealing with career ups and downs — all kinds of daily workplace issues.
It’s a familiar story: You’re busy all day, working non-stop, multitasking in a misguided attempt to knock a few extra things off your to-do list, and as the day comes to a close, you still haven’t gotten your most important work done.
Being busy is not the same as being productive. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. They’re both running, but being busy is running in place.
Our most recent research, however, suggests that a small subset of leadership skills closely correlates with leadership success, particularly among frontline leaders. Using our own practical experience and searching the relevant academic literature, we came up with a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits. Next, we surveyed 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations4 around the world to assess how frequently certain kinds of leadership behavior are applied within their organizations. Finally, we divided the sample into organizations whose leadership performance was strong (the top quartile of leadership effectiveness as measured by McKinsey's Organizational Health Index) and those that were weak (bottom quartile).
What we found was that leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed 4 of the 20 possible types of behavior; these 4, indeed, explained 89 percent of the variance between strong and weak organizations in terms of leadership effectiveness (exhibit).
The human brain is capable of 1016 processes per second, which makes it far more powerful than any computer currently in existence. But that doesn't mean our brains don't have major limitations. The lowly calculator can do math thousands of times better than we can, and our memories are often less than useless — plus, we're subject to cognitive biases, those annoying glitches in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions. Here are a dozen of the most common and pernicious cognitive biases that you need to know about.
Before we start, it's important to distinguish between cognitive biases and logical fallacies. A logical fallacy is an error in logical argumentation (e.g. ad hominem attacks, slippery slopes, circular arguments, appeal to force, etc.). A cognitive bias, on the other hand, is a genuine deficiency or limitation in our thinking — a flaw in judgment that arises from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations (such as statistical errors or a false sense of probability).
Some social psychologists believe our cognitive biases help us process information more efficiently, especially in dangerous situations. Still, they lead us to make grave mistakes. We may be prone to such errors in judgment, but at least we can be aware of them. Here are some important ones to keep in mind.
Though many organizations have cut training budgets to satisfy cash flow needs or short-term profit demands, most business leaders still know that their people need development to overcome their specific challenges and ultimately reach their goals. The real issue is not whether to invest, but rather, which development solutions to invest in. Many times, coaching provided by internal coaches can be a valuable solution.
At it’s heart, this is a guide to developing Social Leadership, for individuals and within organisations. Why? Because what we have is not enough. In the formal world, governed by hierarchies of power and control, positional authority was assured. But in the Social Age, both formal and social spaces have converged, collided to form a new space. A grey space. A space not governed by old rules, possibly not governed by any rules that we have yet deduced.
Formal authority can never subvert social: it can drive conversations out of earshot, but it never kills them. Formal authority will only get us so far: for the rest of the journey, we need Social Leadership.
We generally fail to see, let alone deal with, the grossest waste that occurs in nearly all organisations; namely the low value placed on people. The impact the person has on an organisation which they work for / are involved with goes a great deal further than whatever job or role description they may have.
Most role descriptions still flounder in the quagmire of sticking to what is easily described and therefore easily measured. Yet the largest impact that any person will have on the organisation in which they are involved will be from factors having nothing to do with their role description.
Paradoxically it is the subtle and most difficult to quantify qualities of people which will have the greatest effect on the organisation and on how they fulfil the formal role which has been described for them.
A group of 21 youth climate activists scored a major victory in the courts on Friday: The plaintiffs, aged 8 to 19, allege unconstitutional discrimination by a federal government more interested in burning fossil fuels than protecting the rights to life, liberty, and property of young people. The Oregon federal judge hearing the case, Thomas Coffin, said they have a point.
Denying the federal government’s motion to dismiss the “relatively unprecedented lawsuit,” Judge Coffin wrote:
The court must accept the allegations as true and those allegations plausibly allege harm, though widespread, that is concrete. … the intractability of the debates before Congress and state legislatures and the alleged valuing of short term economic interest despite the cost to human life, necessitates a need for the courts to evaluate the constitutional parameters of the action or inaction taken by the government.
In other words, given the ultra-polarized political stalemate on climate change, a bunch of kids suing the government over decades of unnecessarily slow action may be the best shot humanity has left at addressing the problem before dangerous changes are locked in. The suit is a radical challenge to the status quo in an era of radical environmental change.
“The future of our generation is at stake,” said 16-year-old plaintiff Victoria Barrett in a statement. “People label our generation as dreamers, but hope is not the only tool we have.”
When it comes to workplace stress, I’ve got both bad news and good news.
The bad news? If your work stresses you, you’re not alone. A 2013 study by Harris Interactive for Everest College showed that 83% of American workers experience stress about their jobs. That was an increase from 73% in 2012. Low pay topped the list of work stressors, with unreasonable workload, annoying coworkers, and commuting also named as major sources of stress. The World Health Organization has estimated that stress costs American businesses up to $300 billion a year.
The good news? You can manage your response to stress. As with many things, the first step to taming stress is to understand it. With that awareness, you can choose strategies to reduce stress factors and improve how you handle the stress you face.
Even if you aren't familiar with what WordPress is, or use it to publish content on the internet, there's a good chance you've visited a website that runs on it--and probably within just the past 24 hours.
That's because WordPress--an open-source content-management system--powers an astonishing 25 percent of all websites today.
I recently spoke with Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, the company that offers a range of products and services for WordPress users.
Automattic is valued today at over $1 billion.
Matt joined me for a wide-ranging conversation on my podcast, in which he shared his aspiration to capture the 75 percent of the internet that WordPress doesn't already manage.
He also explained how his 400-person team works largely from home or in co-located offices in 43 countries, and relies almost entirely on an internal blogging platform for communication and collaboration--while avoiding the use of email.
The following are excerpts from my conversation with Matt, which you can listen to in full on my podcast.
No employee wants to stay in the same position forever. That’s why people go back to school, attend conferences, schmooze, network, work overtime, take on new projects: to push their careers forward. But the training or education programs of most companies tend to fall far behind employees’ needs, according to a report this week from Degreed, a startup that tracks across-the-board learning. Two-thirds of US human resources professionals who specialize in employee development admit their workers aren’t turning to them for learning. It seems employees are taking matters into their own hands.
Negative thoughts are actually vital to our well-being and mental health, according to recent studies.
In an article for Scientific American, psychotherapist Tori Rodriguez pulls together some of this research, and explains the role of emotions such as anger and sadness in the human experience. Ignoring or suppressing these negative thoughts can have a range of unwanted effects on our mental health and well-being.
“Unpleasant feelings are just as crucial as the enjoyable ones in helping you make sense of life's ups and downs,” she explains. Without the negative we cannot evaluate our experiences, or experience true sense of satisfaction.
“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.” - Mahatma Gandhi”
Can you pay people to innovate? Companies increasingly look to knowledge workers to advance new strategies, products, services, and processes, but making it happen is tricky: Dangling financial rewards can actually prove counterproductive. Behavioral research points to ways to effectively kindle employees’ motivation to innovate.
Sleep trackers and meditation programs may be truly beneficial to some workers, even if perhaps more often, employees ignore wellness offerings or don't stick with them. But they also address just a tiny sliver of employees' true mental health issues. Most employers still aren’t like Prudential, where explicit programs exist to end stigma, support mental health for both employees and their families, and create a balanced and flexible workplace culture. Many companies fail to address the root causes of workplace angst, whether it is the long hours or poor job security that exacerbate stress and health problems for all employees or the mental health challenges—including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse—that affect a smaller but growing subset of them.
According to Grow America, a majority of people are currently unhappy in their corporate jobs.
Harris Interactive indicates a full 74 percent of people would consider finding a new job today and Mercer’s “What’s Working” study says 32 percent are actively looking. The reasons for their unhappiness? A recent study by Accenture indicates the following:
• 31% don’t like their boss
• 31% lack empowerment
• 35% internal politics
• 43% lack of recognition
What do these four things have in common? They can all be tied back to poor leadership, specifically the leader’s emotional intelligence — how in touch a leader is with their professional emotions and those of the people they lead.
Well-being is a skill. All of the work that my colleagues and I have been doing leads inevitably to this central conclusion. Well-being is fundamentally no different than learning to play the cello. If one practices the skills of well-being, one will get better at it. Based on our research, well-being has four constituents that have each received serious scientific attention. Each of these four is rooted in neural circuits, and each of these neural circuits exhibits plasticity—so we know that if we exercise these circuits, they will strengthen. Practicing these four skills can provide the substrate for enduring change, which can help to promote higher levels of well-being in our lives.
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