Thursday, February 28, 2013

Leaders: Bullies by Nature or Nurture?

February seems to be anti-bullying month here at Great Leadership. Here's a guest post from Colin Gautrey:

Many of the behaviours exhibited by leaders can easily be classified as bullying behaviours, especially when many of them converge to form the essence of a leader’s style. In a recent article, I cited 31 behaviours which could be viewed as legitimate yet prone to being misconstrued. Of the more innocent you have…

- Demanding things at short notice.

- Telling people what to do and how to do it.

- Cancelling meetings at short notice.

- Closely monitoring work ― micromanaging.

- Asking people to do things without giving them a reason why.

Do you know any leaders who do these things? Of course you do. Now, what if you add a few less innocent ones into the mix?

- Publically criticising poor performance.

- Taking feedback personally and being defensive.

- Forcing people to do things that they don’t want to do.

- Publically favouring or disfavouring individuals.

- Telling lies and being dishonest for convenience.

Do you know any leaders who do these things? Of course you do. And this is just a small sample from the list!
Many of these could almost be regarded as side-effects to high levels of drive and determination, the innocent little quirks of a multitude of individuals currently residing in leadership positions. No, not everyone who behaves like this is a bully, but they may well appear that way. Particularly to (dare I say it) those of a more “sensitive” disposition. Are you at risk of being misunderstood?
People who are born with drive will grow. Fed and nurtured by experiences, stimuli and results, they will emerge into the world of work with their own unique way of getting things done. With drive and determination valued, they will make progress ― forgiven for a while, for their slightly edgy side. Is that forgiven, or conveniently ignored? They are getting results after all.
Forgiven, ignored, but certainly not forgotten or hidden. If these behaviours are allowed to pervade, they will become increasingly ingrained. And, they contain within them the seed of disaster ― for followers (or rather the led), the organisation and also for the leader. What we tolerate, we nurture. And the longer we nurture, the bigger the consequences and, in reality, the more culpable we become.
The implications vary depending on who you are. Here are some questions to carry with you for a few days…
If you are a leader: How might your behaviour be misconstrued? To what extent are you at risk? What can you do to soften the impact of your drive and determination? How can you retain results while also avoid being regarded as a bully?
If you have leaders reporting to you: To what extent are you tolerating behaviours with latent risk? How can you challenge your team to get results positively? Do your systems influence the likelihood of these behaviours? Are you ignoring the obvious? What could the financial consequences be? And, how does this impact the culture you are presiding over?
If you train or coach leaders: Are you unwittingly encouraging these behaviours? How are you helping people to develop ways to implement “with” the people? Have you got the balance right between care and results? Indeed, are you even aware of the potential problem? Do values, ethics, integrity and trust play a prominent enough role in the work you do?
If you are being bullied: It would be tempting to ask, are you sure? However, if your perception is that you are being bullied, I am not going to try to convince you otherwise. Instead, who can you turn to for help? What resources can you tap into? How much longer will you tolerate this before taking action? What needs to happen for you to feel empowered to act? Don’t suffer in silence, get help.

In my opinion, as we develop leaders, too much emphasis is placed on skills and too little on values. Perhaps, we take positive values for granted and work on the behaviours. Maybe it’s easier, not having to delve into the depths of the human psyche.
Unless skills are added to a robust base of humility, respect for others and fairness, it is difficult to imagine how a great leader will emerge. Conversely, if you have the right value base, the skills will probably take care of themselves and you’ll get a great leadership result. In the process, you might also save on your leadership development spend too ― not to mention avoiding punitive litigation, etc.
Great leaders, truly great leaders are able to deliver drive and determination without the negative side-effects. Sadly, great leaders, truly great leaders, are infinitely small in proportion to the total population of people holding leadership positions.
In writing this article, my earnest desire is to help you to pause and think. It is an important topic which needs to be attended to. Whatever your role, you can have an impact on turning the workplace into a more positive, productive and enjoyable place to work. You have the opportunity to act. Act today.

The Author: Colin Gautrey is author of the Influence Blog ( and several books, including 21 Dirty Tricks at Work and Political Dilemmas at Work. His focus is the practical use of power and influence in the workplace. Find out more about his work at and @colingautrey.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

6 Important Elements of an Executive IDP Process

Leaders at the top of the organizational pyramid need ongoing development just as much as newly promoted supervisors. One of the challenges organizations face in developing their senior executives is the need for "mass customization".

By "mass customization", I'm referring to the the need to address very unique leadership development needs for an organization's top executives, while at the same time, doing it in a consistent, measurable, effective, and scalable way that yields a strong return on investment.

In order to do this, many organizations turn to "Individual Development Plans", or IDPs. However, a lot of these same organizations struggle with creating effective development plans, and get frustrated when even the best plans don't get implemented and produce the results they hoped to achieve.

I think what often happens is that organizations are lured into believing that IDPs are a cheap and easy shortcut to leadership development (compared to more expensive executive development training programs). They fail to appreciate how much commitment and rigor is needed to create and implement them.

We've all taken pragmatic shortcuts when it comes to IDPs. I know I sure have. It's one thing to write about how to create and implement the ideal executive IDP process - it's another thing when you are dealing with real, live human beings, as well as organizational culture and politics. However, if I could wave my magic wand and design the perfect process, it would look something like this:

1. CEO ownership and strong commitment at the top.
This is where it all starts and ends. If the CEO owns the process and believes in the strategic importance, good things will happen. Without it, while you may get a few isolated wins, most of it will turn into just another corporate program to give lip service to and quickly fades away.

2. A dedicated, competent, trusted support team.
While it's important for the CEO to own the process, even the best CEOs will need assistance. Without it they won't have the time or expertise required to manage the development of 10-20 executives or high potentials.
A support team should consist of the  head of HR, a project manager and or administrative support person, and at least one executive "coach" (or more, depending on the number of IDPs). The coach should be someone internal or external that has experience and expertise in working with senior leaders on their development. That expertise may reside in HR, OD, training, or outside of the organization.

3.  Assessment of each participant's development needs.
At the top of an organization, no two executive's development needs are the same. And even if they look the same, the context is always unique.
Assessment can start with a talent review, using a tool like a performance and potential matrix (9-box), but it shouldn't end there. A more accurate diagnosis of development needs can be achieved by using a reliable 360 degree assessment and/or other executive assessments. Stakeholder reviews are often conducted as a follow-up to the assessment tool. Some organizations, if they can afford them, will use a rigorous "assessment center" methodology, which incorporates a battery of assessments, simulations, and interviews.
All of this data is then gathered and summarized, and presented to each participant as input to their development plan.

4. A developmental partnership and shared ownership.
I believe the best IDP processes don't just leave it up to the individual or their direct manager, who often don't have the expertise needed to interpret assessment data and write an effective IDP. They also don't leave it up to the support team, which will end up in a lack of involvement and commitment. The best approach is for all parties to be involved - the CEO and senior team, a coach, the participant and their manager. While the CEO is usually not directly involved in the process and discussion, they need to review and approve each plan, as well as provide input. The particiapnt, thier manager, and a coach create the plan together and all have a part to play in implementation.

5. Tracking and follow-up.
The support team needs to put a system in place to gather all plans, establish metrics,  goals and accountability, monitor progress, report on progress, and recommend corrective actions. They are responsible for establishing a rigorous quality control process that ensures consistency and results.
The CEO then manages this portfolio of development plans the same way the CFO manages the company's financial assets.
While this may sound like too much hand-holding or baby-sitting, unfortunately, without it,  good intentions don't usually translate to action and results.
Over time, the culture will become strong enough to sustain executive development without forms, process, tracking, and support - but you'll need to be patient, it takes time.

6. Managers should be trained on how to support development.
One of the advantages of using a coach from the support team is that the coach's expertise will usually rub off on the participants and their managers, creating a developmental, cascading "ripple effect". At the same time, when training is provided to the managers in how to create development plans, coaching, feedback, mentoring, etc... they'll become self-sufficient faster and the organization will reap far greater benefits.

Executive individual development plans can be an effective component of your organization's leadership development strategy. However, just remember, the more you put into it the more you'll get out of it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It’s Time to View Leadership as a Profession

Guest post from DDI's Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D. (reprinted with permission from DDI's Directions newsletter):

Leadership is a craft. So why do so few see it that way?

The 2011 documentary film Jiro Dreams of Sushi tells the story of an 85-year-old sushi chef and his small restaurant in a Tokyo subway station—the only sushi restaurant in the world to be awarded a three-star Michelin Guide rating. Jiro, the sushi chef, has been making sushi for most of his life, but still, well into old age, he strives for perfection.

I recommend you watch this film yourself (it’s now available on DVD). Better yet: watch it with a group of leaders! As you will see in this film, Jiro is a professional in the truest sense. I challenge you, upon watching the film and seeing how passionate Jiro is about sushi, to imagine what it would be like if the leaders in your organization were as passionate about leadership.

Of course, people who take their craft seriously—people who leaders can learn from—aren’t found only in movies.
There is a local jewelry repair kiosk in the mall near where I live. My family has been customers there for over a decade, and I have always respected the owner’s passion for what he does. He has told me he considers his work a real craft, and that he has invested 18 years in constantly trying to improve.

For the past three decades I have spent about 20 percent of my time traveling. When on an airplane, I always make an effort to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me. What we talk about always tends to follow the same course. We exchange names, tell where we are from, and, of course, explain what we do. I have met many interesting people this way, including the COO of McDonald’s, the prime minister of agriculture for Thailand, and Patch Adams, the physician who sought to humanize medicine and was portrayed by Robin Williams in a 1998 theatrical film about him.

I have met engineers, pilots, sales managers, marketers, teachers, and bankers. But I cannot recall one single person—not one—who has ever told me that he or she was a leader.
Why is this? I believe it’s because no one really sees leadership as a profession. In spite of the fact that there are some 10 million-plus leaders in the U.S. alone, few identify themselves as leadership professionals. This is, in many respects, incredible.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons leadership quality is considered by many to be mediocre, at best. Dozens of survey reports continue to decry the sad state of leadership. DDI’s own Global Leadership Forecast 2011 reported that only about 38 percent of leaders rate their organization’s leadership quality as high.

So, how can we begin to change the way we think about leadership? I believe it boils down to these four things:
1. Look at leadership as a chosen specialty. One of the defining traits of professionalism is specialization—choosing to devote tremendous time and effort to attaining a high level of proficiency in a single field, such as music, surgery, or law. As a result, professionals will describe their profession not only in terms of what they do, but also in terms of what they have devoted their time and effort to master.

The same should be true for leaders. Leadership is a craft that is perfected over time through the focused dedication of time, attention, and self-awareness. When you become a leader, whatever your level or industry, it becomes your profession and you have an obligation to invest the time and effort to become the best leader you can be. Most leaders simply do not look at it this way, however. It’s time for that perception to change!

2. Use standards. Professions usually have standards for performance, knowledge, and skills. Some require degrees, certifications, accreditation, and exams. Due to the evolving nature of professional standards in some fields, continuing education is also required. For example, in the human resources profession, both the American Society for Training and Development and the Society for Human Resource Managers have established standards and certification processes. But if you do a Google search on “general leadership standards” you will come up with very little (my search only generated about 1,700 results).

There is no one examining body for leadership and no continuing education credits are required. Yet, each year countless job analyses, academic studies, and books attempt to distill the essence of good leadership. While the outputs of these efforts vary in form, there tends to be little variance in the skills, behaviors, and personality components identified as being essential to extraordinary leadership. 

In their own way, these components amount to a set of commonly accepted leadership standards. And while we are unlikely to see a leadership standards board with national or global certification processes (though that isn’t a bad idea), there are a handful of valid tests and assessments that can accurately predict leadership performance. Still, only one in three organizations uses these tools.

3. Pursue your Passion. Just because you are part of a profession doesn’t mean you are a professional. Many people find themselves in professions from which they derive little if any satisfaction. On the other hand, most professionals are highly motivated to do what they do and do it well. I would argue that many leaders consider what they are doing—leadership—a “job” as opposed to a lifelong passion. 
On the other hand, extraordinary leaders (the true professionals) love being in leadership for the right reasons: helping people grow, mobilizing the organization in a new direction, and building engaged and high performing teams. Motivations such as these should be what really matter to leaders.

4Practice. Practice. Practice. Much like Jiro the sushi chef, the late Pablo Casals, the great cellist, practiced into his eighties. When asked why, he said, “I can always get better.” The same attitude should apply to leadership. Doug Conant, the highly respected former CEO of Campbell Soup Company, put it this way: “To me, leadership is my craft and I have to work at it, and I’ve got to have the same continuous improvement mindset about my job that I challenge my associates to have about theirs.” 

True professionals like Conant are never complacent. Hours of practice are what make them stand out—and what keeps them on top of their game. Leadership skills can be learned and they can and should be practiced. When leaders commit to continuous improvement in their craft, there’s no limit to how good and how effective they can become.

The time is at hand for us to start viewing leadership as the honorable profession that it is. If you are leader, commit yourself to your profession, and strive to develop the right leadership skills, especially the Interaction Essentials required for the successful conversations that are the foundation of leadership effectiveness.
Work hard to improve, and be proud of the important work that you do. After all, your ability to be a great leader really matters to your organization. Make the most of the opportunity.

Rich Wellins, Ph.D. is senior vice president of Development Dimensions International (DDI), and is an expert on leadership development, employee engagement and talent management. He is responsible for launching DDI’s new products and services, leading DDI’s Center for Applied Behavioral Research (CABER) and its major research projects and developing and executing DDI’s global marketing strategy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Handle 3 Kinds of Conflict

Conflict is inevitable, both in the workplace and in our personal lives. Learning how to handle, manage, deal with, and/or resolve conflict is a critical skill for any leader.

A lot of leaders make the mistake of using the same conflict management strategy for all kinds of conflict. There are actually three types of conflict, each requiring a different approach:

1. Conflict of emotion:
Conflicts often involve both substance and emotion. When emotions are high, i.e., anger, fear, distrust, defensiveness, it's almost impossible to use a rational problem solving approach. When emotions are high, the adrenaline flows faster, and blood and oxygen are diverted from our brains. This physical response is great for getting ready for a barroom brawl - but it's a terrible way to solve a problem.

However, this is exactly the mistake many (men in particular) make when trying to use a "let's fix the problem" approach to a conflict of emotions. When it doesn't work, they then get frustrated and angry at the "lack of cooperation" and unwillingness to "calm down" from the other party.

Instead of jumping right to problem solving, a better approach is to use active listening skills to deal with the emotions first. Active listening means paraphrasing, asking questions, and seeking to understand both what the person is saying (the substance) and how they are feeling (the emotion). Actually, there are times when that's ALL someone needs from another person, just to be listened too. But if there is a problem to be solved, dealing with the emotions first sets the stage for problem solving.

2. Conflict of needs:
A conflict of needs is the rationale, substantive part of conflict. It also starts out as a conflict of emotion because people get caught up in a conflict of solutions that don't address each person's needs.

Here's an example:
Teenage daughter: "I need the car to go shopping today"
Dad: "Well, you can't have it, because I need the car to run my errands".
Teenage daughter: "You NEVER care about me, you're the worst Dad in the world, etc...."

In this case, both parties needed transportation to run some important errands. Using Dad's car was only one solution. Other solutions could have been using Mom's car, getting a ride from a sibling, or taking the bus.

The key skill to use when resolving a conflict of needs is to re-frame the conflict from looking at a lose-lose single solution to a win-win solution that satisfies both needs.

3. Conflict of Values:
Conflicts of values are are often deeply held beliefs about things like religion, politics, social issues, and other strong opinions about what is "right" and what is "wrong". While it's often constructive to listen to seek to understand another person's point of view, people will rarely change their minds in a conflict of values. There is no "problem" to solve or need to satisfy. However, too many people think they can use their persuasion skills or ability to shout louder than the other person to turn someone to their point of view. It rarely, if ever works.

So, the next time you have a the opportunity to wade into a conflict - either proactively or reactively, ask yourself what kind of conflict(s) are you dealing with. Then, choose the right strategy for the situation. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Revolutionary Advice for Overmatched Competitors

At a critical junction in the American Revolution, George Washington used superior leadership to turn the tables on a stronger competitor – and so can you.

Part Two of a special President's Day guest post from Hay Groups Signe Spencer:

Most business categories these days are dominated by one or two oversized competitors, with resources to match. That can leave smaller companies unwilling to commit to a head-to-head battle.

But in my experience, effective leadership can level the playing field.

And I think George Washington would agree.

I base that assertion on a recent reading of David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing, the acclaimed book that examines Washington’s leadership during the early months of the American revolution.

Washington’s army was locked in a desperate fight against the global superpower of the era. The British army’s professional soldiers were superbly trained, disciplined against the chaos of battle, equipped with the latest weaponry and led by experienced career officers.

By contrast, Washington’s army was made up of volunteers and local militiamen with little or no formal military training, led by amateurs with limited (or less) command experience.

Not surprisingly, the British had won a series of one-sided victories, capturing New York City and pushing the Americans all the way across New Jersey. And on January 2, 1777, they had the Americans cornered outside Trenton. Washington had no clear line of retreat, and he faced an almost certain defeat if he stayed and fought.

Moreover, the stakes were immense: If the Americans lost, the army might simply have disappeared as dispirited volunteers returned to their homes. The revolution could well have ended right there.

Effective leadership turns the tables. But the revolution didn’t end. Washington and his officers, joined by prominent local residents, devised a third alternative – a night march leading to a dawn attack from the rear – that defeated the mighty British army.

And the principles of effective leadership that helped Washington score his unexpected victory can help any overmatched organization gain an advantage over a stronger rival.

1. Be realistic. Optimism is a wonderful quality in a leader. But when you’re leading a team against a formidable opponent, whistling in the dark rarely earns you a victory. You simply can’t sugarcoat a challenging problem. If you team members already know the true dimensions of the issue, you’ll lose credibility; if they don’t, they won’t be able to contribute appropriate and meaningful solutions. 

Washington didn’t mince words when he opened his strategy session. He painted an accurate, if daunting, picture of the army’s dire situation. Fischer describes Washington’s assessment, as remembered by an officer who was present:    

“In case of an action a defeat was to be apprehended; a retreat by the only route thought of, down the river, would be difficult and precarious.  The general concluded by saying that the loss of the corps he commanded might be fatal to the country.” 

2. Make everyone a contributor. When you up against a formidable competitor, you need all the good ideas you can get. An open leadership stance, characterized by a willingness to listen to ideas from all sides, and evaluate them based solely on merit, is essential if you’re going to coax every team member to actively and effectively participate in creating a solution.

Washington openly solicited ideas, and guided the open discussion as ideas were advanced and discussed. He didn’t preempt his subordinates by offering his ideas first, and didn’t constrain the discussion with a heavy hand. Nevertheless, no one who participated doubted that he was in charge.

3. Uncover and exploit all your assets. Regardless of the size and resources you’re up against, you will certainly have some competitive advantages of your own. If you’re facing a global competitor, you probably have a better knowledge of your particular market and its conditions; if you’re up against a much bigger organization, you are probably more nimble. Find your advantages, and put them to work.

Washington and his officers consulted civilians who lived in the area – an asset not available to the British. Two of these local residents ended up guiding the army over little-used farm roads, enabling them to march around the British during the night.

4. Execute your plan with vigor. When your team develops an effective approach or plan against a competitor, put it into action quickly and decisively. A long-term siege favors the competitor with deeper pockets – but prompt, bold and resolute movement can change the dynamics in your favor.
When Washington decided to follow the plan he and his officers had developed, he immediately put it into action. Officers organized their men for the night march, leaving behind a shadow force of a few hundred to tend fires and fool the British into thinking the army had stayed put. They were able to launch an attack from the other side of the British army as dawn broke.

Taking the approach outlined here against a stronger competitor requires commitment, clear thinking – and courage. And there is no guarantee of success.

But through effective leadership and resolution action, you can improve your organization’s chances and business results – and in today’s competitive environment, every organization needs every edge it can get.

Signe Spencer is a senior consultant and the global practice leader for capability assessment at Hay Group, where she has studied the connections between leadership and organizational success. She can be reached at

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A 236-Year-Old Lesson in Leadership

Before he could become father of a country, George Washington had to create a new way to lead – and his example is still worth following.

In honor of President's Day, here's a two-part guest post from Hay Group's Signe Spencer (look for part two tomorrow):

I recently read David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing, the acclaimed book about the critical early months of the American revolution, including Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River and surprise attack on Trenton.

For me, though, the most fascinating event in the book was a meeting a week after the attack – because it captured George Washington in the process of inventing a brilliant new style of leadership in the face of overwhelming challenges.

His new approach was completely at odds with the norms of his time, but perfectly suited to the circumstances he faced. And it has never been more relevant to business leaders than it is today.

Leadership, in the balance. The stakes could not have been higher. After Washington’s success against Trenton, the British had brought in reinforcements and were poised to counterattack. With no clear line of retreat, the American army faced a crushing defeat.

The night before the battle, the commanders on both sides convened meetings of their officers. The British general already had his plans in place, and issued orders to his subordinates accordingly. Objections were brushed aside. The leadership approach was strictly hierarchical, following the traditions of the British military.

Washington led a completely different kind of meeting, in part because he led a different kind of army. It was a diverse mix of volunteers and militias with different traditions and backgrounds, primarily loyal to their own town, region or colony.

Facing an almost impossible challenge with no clear solution, he made that diversity an asset by actively seeking the advice of his subordinates. Instead of issuing commands or dismissing different or conflicting ideas, he encouraged discussion and consideration of alternate approaches. 
Remarkably, the techniques Washington improvised in that meeting still resonate today for leaders of diverse teams facing serious challenges:

  1. Creating a context. Leaders must paint a broad and complete picture for their team, providing the perspective that enables them to understand the meaning, repercussions and influences of their decision-making.

    Washington made sure his officers recognized the importance of their actions. Defeat would be more than a military setback; it might turn public opinion against the revolution itself.
  2. Framing the problem. Leaders tackling complex challenges need to make certain that their team fully understands the dimensions of those challenges. No mincing words; no sugar-coating the problem.

    Washington frankly outlined the untenable dilemma the army faced: a likely defeat if they stood their ground, and a dangerous and uncertain outcome if they tried to retreat through difficult terrain.
  3. Seeking advice. To encourage discussion and contributions from the team, leaders must be clear that they are looking for solutions – without prejudicing the process by offering their own proposal at the start. Everyone who can contribute should be included.

    Washington did not propose a course of action, according to participants. Instead, he frankly asked for advice, and took an active role in the open discussion that followed – which included contributions from local citizens who had also been invited. 
  4. Reaching a consensus. While it’s important to encourage and maintain an open exchange of ideas, leaders must ensure that the group moves toward a consensus solution. Endless discussion is almost never a solution.

    By the end of Washington’s meeting, a new, third option had taken shape with unanimous consent. The plan was to march around British forces by night with local residents serving as guides, and attack from the rear at dawn.
Following their improvised plan, the Americans won a decisive victory the next morning, forcing the British to retreat to New York and renewing colonists’ faith in the cause.

Lasting testament to leadership. My colleagues and I study what works and what doesn’t in organizational leadership. When it comes to uniting a diverse team and enabling them to solve a seemingly insoluble problem – precisely the kind of complex challenges organizations face today and in the future – the approach Washington pioneered on that dark night in 1777 is as effective today as it was then. 

As you celebrate Washington’s Birthday, think about following his example with your diverse workforce. As a leader, you can make a difference – and you never know what victories it will bring!

Signe Spencer is a senior consultant and the global practice leader for capability assessment at Hay Group, where she has studied the connections between leadership and organizational success. She can be reached at

Thursday, February 14, 2013

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Hire the Wrong Person

Guest post from DDI's Jazmine Boatman:

For some people, when perplexed about a frivolous decision (Chilis or Olive Garden? Blue tie or green? Red shoes or black?), tossing a coin and leaving the decision to chance can offer a lot of relief. What is the real risk of having a sandwich instead of pasta for dinner, really? But when it comes to bigger decisions, coins tend to not be the method of choice for savvy decision makers. Or are they?

DDI’s most recent trend research, Global Selection Forecast 2012, tells us that only 51% of newly hired employees are confident that they’ve made the right decision to come work for you. That means their productivity is suffering, and so is yours. It also means they’re probably looking for another job right about now and are in the process of forcing you to go through the entire painstaking hiring process once again. And it’s not just the new hires that think so, HR agrees. We found that less than half of those in charge of their organization’s staffing rate their hiring processes as effective. This means that with the current processes, the odds for making good hiring decisions are worse than they would have been simply tossing a coin.  

While the consequences of more low-risk decisions like a meal can last a few hours, the people you hire can affect you and your organization for years to come. For these decisions with colossal impact, how can you increase your odds for success?

The following are 5 questions you can ask yourself to KNOW MORE and GUESS LESS about who you hire:

1) Do you know what you’re looking for? Before you go to the store, you typically create a shopping list. Otherwise, you’ll end up roaming the aisles and coming home with less money in your pocket but still nothing to eat. Do you have a shopping list for what your new hire has to be able and willing to do? Have you outlined exactly what they need to know and have experienced?

2)  Do you have an inside (wo)man for the job? Before you open the doors to the hordes of people out there looking for work, is there someone already in the organization that you should be considering?  Particularly for leadership positions, internal candidates have a leg up on the inner workings of your organization. A recent study (Bidwell, 2011) found that external hires cost 20% more and performed worse on the job.

3)  Do you know enough about your external candidates? Gathering data about people is complicated. Because people are complicated. You’re going to need a variety of methods (e.g., interviews, tests, simulations) for gathering the critical information you need to know about how candidates will perform on the job. In fact, the organizations most effective at hiring use at least 3 different tools. Find out more about these tools and how to conduct more effective interviews in the Global Selection Forecast 2012.

4)   Do your candidates know enough about you and what they’re signing up for? The more you can share about the day-to-day job (e.g., projects they will work on, people they will need to influence, time spent in meetings), the more informed candidates can be in whether this is a job that (a) they will be good at, (b) they will enjoy, and, (c) they will stay in for a long time to come.  

5)  Do they know how to make the impact you’re expecting? They’re not mind-readers. Newly hired employees need specifics about how to be successful once they’re on the job. Who better to tell them than you? You have the information they need to thrive. If you’ve gathered the right data during step 3, you have critical information about what they need to leverage on Day 1 and what could prove to be a barrier to their success. This information doesn’t belong in a file folder down in HR, it is best used in the hands of hiring managers and their new hires.

When it comes to increasing the odds of making a critical hiring decision that will make your life easier and benefit your company for years to come, the message is simple and clear: KNOW MORE and GUESS LESS.

About the author:
Jazmine Boatman manages DDI’s Center for Applied Behavioral Research (CABER), which conducts and champions research on leadership and talent in the workplace. She and her group work to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of DDI solutions worldwide and fulfill the philosophy that talent management practices should be evidence-based.
An industrial-organizational psychologist with special expertise in leadership and measurement, Jazmine consults with clients and leads evaluation studies that measure the results of DDI interventions. Jazmine has provided thought leadership to DDI clients and associates and helped them design measurement strategies to assess the implementation of their programs and the execution of their objectives. Jazmine has consulted with numerous Fortune 100 and 500 organizations such as Citigroup, The Hartford, Con-way Inc., P&H Mining, YUM! Brands, Sara Lee, Schwan’s, T-Mobile, Goodyear, and Texas Children’s Hospital.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Targets of Bully Bosses Aren't the Only Victims

Targets of Bully Bosses Aren’t the Only Victims, New UNH Research Shows
First-Ever Study Shows Impact of Abusive Supervisor Extends to Victim’s Co-Workers

DURHAM, N.H. – Abusive bosses who target employees with ridicule, public criticism, and the silent treatment not only have a detrimental effect on the employees they bully, but they negatively impact the work environment for the co-workers of those employees who suffer from “second-hand” or vicarious abusive supervision, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.

In the first ever study to investigate vicarious supervisory abuse, Paul Harvey, associate professor of organizational behavior at UNH, and his research colleagues Kenneth Harris and Raina Harris from Indiana University Southeast and Melissa Cast from New Mexico State University find that vicarious supervisory abuse is associated with job frustration, abuse of other coworkers, and a lack of perceived organizational support beyond the effects of the abusive supervisor.

The research is presented in the Journal of Social Psychology in the article “An Investigation of Abusive Supervision, Vicarious AbuseSupervision, and Their Joint Impacts.”

Abusive supervision is considered a dysfunctional type of leadership and includes a sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviors toward subordinates.

“Although the effects of abusive supervision may not be as physically harmful as other types of dysfunctional behavior, such as workplace violence or aggression, the actions are likely to leave longer-lasting wounds, in part, because abusive supervision can continue for a long time,” Harvey said.

Those long-lasting wounds also are felt by the co-workers of the victims of bulling bosses.

Vicarious supervisory abuse is defined as the observation or awareness of a supervisor abusing a co-worker. Examples of vicarious supervisory abuse in a workplace include an employee hearing rumors of abusive behavior from coworkers, reading about such behaviors in an email, or actually witnessing the abuse of a coworker. 

“When vicarious abusive supervision is present, employees realize that the organization is allowing this negative treatment to exist, even if they are not experiencing it directly,” the researchers said.

The researchers queried a sample of 233 people who work in a wide range of occupations in the Southeast United States. Demographically, the sample was 46 percent men, 86 percent white, had an average age of 42.6 years, had worked in their job for seven years, had worked at their company for 10 years, and worked an average of 46 hours a week. Survey respondents were asked about supervisory abuse, vicarious supervisory abuse, job frustration, perceived organizational support, and coworker abuse. 

The researchers found similar negative impacts of first-hand supervisory abuse and second-hand vicarious supervisory abuse: greater job frustration, tendency to abuse other coworkers, and a lack of perceived organizational support. In addition, the negative effects from either type of abuse were intensified if the coworker was a victim of both kinds of supervisory abuse.

“Our research suggests that vicarious abusive supervision is as likely as abusive supervision to negatively affect desired outcomes, with the worst outcomes resulting when both vicarious abusive supervision and abusive supervision are present,” the researchers said. “Top management needs further education regarding the potential impacts of vicarious abuse supervision on employees to prevent and/or mitigate the effects of such abuse.”

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.

UNH is offering two extraordinary leadership development programs in April and the Fall of 2013:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Slaying the Politics Dragon

Guest post from Robert Murray (and great advice):

I have been getting an unusually high number of inquiries this week from young leaders asking about office or corporate politics.  One person asked me if I thought they should take a course in it.  Another asked if I thought they should keep their mouth shut when their boss tells them one thing and then abruptly changes their position in a meeting.

Corporate politics, unfortunately, are everywhere.  I have even seen them appear in the most amazing cultures and at fantastically successful businesses.  It amazes me the lengths people will go to “one-upping” a colleague in the workplace.

As a senior leader and former C-Suite executive in a Fortune 100 organization, I have seen some politicking that would make you want to turn out the lights and curl up in the fetal position with a blanket.  Talented, highly educated, supposedly mature adults doing their most evil best to further themselves at someone else’s expense. 

First, let’s talk about why it happens…

Corporate politics happens for a number of reasons.  Operationally, they include leaders competing for limited resources or the culture being one of a highly competitive work environment.  On an individual basis (which is usually the cruelest and one that is a derivative of an individual suffering from an inferiority complex or lack of confidence) politics are played out when there is a burning desire to advance, they want to gain popularity or attention or they want to mitigate threats to their perceived power.  It plays out in a number of ways however the results are always the same.

Thriving in the environment or with the nemesis that is making your life miserable…

First, decide if what you are experiencing is a direct conflict with your personal values.  If it is, you need to decide if this is a place you want to work at.  If leaving is not an option, read on…

1.    Learn the value of “Timing.”  If your boss is dealing with pressure (stress) from another place, you asking for something completely unrelated may cause an adverse reaction.  Always be aware of your timing.

2.    Learn the value of “Optics.”  If there is a budget crunch going on and you propose a new, huge training program that is going to significantly improve revenue, you may be hit with surprise resistance from people that are getting their programs cancelled.

3. Learn to observe, listen and get the “whole picture” before you take a position.  In the world of politics, it comes at you from all places.  When you seek first to understand everything, you can see through the games that may be going on.

4. Respect others and their turf.  Never stick your nose into a team member’s work area if they do not report to you.  Bad form and a recipe for a dust up.

5.  Never, ever gossip or be involved in gossip.  This is the root of nasty, drama filled politics.

6. This is the “Killer App” for mitigating politics…  Be forever positive.  Always talking about other people, departments and ideas in a positive light will ensure that you will be viewed as a team player and a trusted resource.  Your stress level will go WAY down and you will be able to deal with more because you are not suffering from the effects of all the negative energy.

Remember, unless you when the Power Ball Lottery (And that comes with a whole new set of problems), you will have to work for some 40 years.  You need to learn how to deal with politics or work in any organization will not be much fun.

Robert Murray is a Key Note Speaker, International CXO, Executive Turn Around Mercenary and the author of the critically acclaimed book; “It’s Already Inside: Nurturing your innate leadership for business and life success.” You can find Robert at:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

10 Penalties That I Would Call if I Were a Management Referee

In the final minutes of the recent Super Bowl, 49ers coach Harbaugh was upset about a holding penalty on Michael Crabtree that he thought should have been called. After the game, he said “there was no question in my mind there was a pass interference, and then a hold on the last play.”

What would professional football be without good officiating? From Coach Harbaugh’s perspective, it would be the difference between winning and losing the most important game of the season.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the workplace, there are no management referees. Managers get away with all kinds of fouls, with little or no consequences. Often it’s because no one with any authority is there to catch them in the act.

What if we created a new job called a “Management Referee”? Just like those NFL-like referees that roam the airports in the Southwest Airlines commercials throwing penalty flags for bag fees and poor customer service, these referees would patrol the workplace looking for flagrant management malpractice violations.

Here’s 10 penalties that I’d look for if I were a Management Referee:

1. Employee pass interference:
Otherwise known as micromanagement, this penalty is for getting in the way of an employee or team of employees that know how to do the job better than the manager.

2. Illegal use of meetings:
A meeting with no agenda, no apparent purpose, no process facilitation, little or no collaboration, and no meaningful decisions or action items.

3. Unnecessary roughness:
Unfair, undeserved, overly harsh, unprofessional and disrespectful criticism.  Often referred to as bullying.

4. Offsides/neutral zone infraction:
Inappropriate touching, language, innuendos, and other types of sexual harassment. Depending on the foul, "illegal use of hands" could be called as well.

5. Unsportsmanlike conduct:
An ethical violation.

6. Excessive use of buzzwords:
Should be self-explanatory. Words that would most likely draw a flag: anything 2.0, pushing the envelope, out-of-the-box, sea change, low-hanging fruit, and nailing Jell-O to a tree.

7. Humor with the intent to injure.
Over-use of insults, jabs, gotchas, sarcasm, or cynicism.

8. Offensive hubris:
Over-the-top self-indulgence and arrogance, often as a result of an over-inflated ego

9. Delay of game:
Slow decision making that slows down critical projects and causes employees to miss deadlines or have to rush at the last minute.

10. False Start:
Confusing, contradictory, or a lack of direction that results in projects starting and stopping.

What penalties would you call as a management referee?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The February 4th Leadership Development Carnival

The February 4th Leadership Development Carnival is up! This month's edition is being hosted by David Burkus from LDRLB (leader lab).

You can find it right here: February 2013 Leadership Development Carnival

37 outstanding posts on leadership, innovation, and strategy.

Go - read - enjoy!