VIDEO: Managing Dominance in Teams

If you want to get something done, put a powerful person on your team. If you want to ruin the team, in order to get more done, put one or two more powerful people on the team. Productivity will decrease.

This is the conclusion of a recent study by two academics — Angus Hildreth and Cameron Anderson — at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business and reported by Shankar Vedantam on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

Psychologists refer to this trait as dominance.

The supervisor must make it very clear that success will require total team effort. Each individual is responsible for results. Failure to achieve is a failure of team as well as a failure of individuals who will be held accountable.

Dominance is vital to leadership but, as with all power, it must be used appropriately in order to benefit others and not simply the individual.

Note: For more information on the research cited in this post, read “Failure at the Top: How Power Undermines Collaborative Performance,” by Hildreth and Anderson.

First posted on SmartBrief on 01/05/2018

VIDEO: Come On, Be Happy

Listening and kindness are two characteristics of human behavior that sometimes fall by the wayside in the workplace.

“Listen to what others say!” has morphed into a mantra in management. And so it is ignored. Here are some questions to help you become a better listener — and a better helpmate for your colleagues.

  1. What is my role? Knowing what you do, as well as what you are expected to do, is critical to understanding your role in the company.
  2. What is my colleague’s role? Knowing what others do is equally important because, if you don’t understand their roles, you cannot assist them.
  3. What can I do to help? Consider action steps you can take. It may be as simple as being timely or courteous. It may be as time-consuming as actually helping them complete a task.
  4. What’s stopping you from helping out? Some people resist help. None of us like meddlers. Being “of service” is not interfering; it’s offering assistance.
  5. How do you know when you are succeeding? Serving others works when it facilitates work. People work more efficiently and more cooperatively.

And all of this taken together makes for a happier and more productive workplace.

First posted on SmartBrief 12/08/2017

VIDEO: How to Build Confidence

Why do you need confidence?

Here’s what Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write in their book“The Confidence Code for Girls”: “Confidence is what you use to help you do anything that seems hard, scary, or impossible. … Confidence is what gives you a boost for everyday challenges as well.”

While that advice may be intended for girls age 8 to 14, it’s equally applicable to all of us, no matter our gender or our age.

If you want to improve your confidence, says Kay, you need to push yourself. Such an approach could be useful to managers. While overconfidence is an issue for some people in authority, getting into a position of authority requires that you manifest a sense of confidence.

Confidence comes from a sense of accomplishment — all that you have accomplished in your life and career.  If you want to succeed further you will need to learn to accept new challenges.

Here are three questions you can ask yourself about confidence.

  1. What do I want to achieve next? Focus on a goal that you want to accomplish. Consider what you will do to achieve it. Analyze the steps you will take to achieving your goal.
  2. What will I do if I encounter resistance? Plan ahead for challenges. Consider how you will face them. Do not underestimate your ability. Know in advance where to find help.
  3. What do I expect to learn about myself? Achieving a goal will be worthwhile, but so too, will be what you learn from the effort.

Confidence is rooted in accomplishment, but it grows through risk and failure, and the will to persevere.

First posted on SmartBrief on 9/12/2019

VIDEO: Resilience-Song for Your Spirit

I am sucker for the Great American Songbook — the great songs written from the ’20s through World War II.

While I enjoy the melodies mostly, sometimes the lyrics of a song will grab me.

Such is the case with “Pick Yourself Up,” with lyrics by Dorothy Fields and music by Jerome Kern.

Perky and upbeat as the melody is, the lyrics challenge us to take charge of ourselves when we are feeling down and out, or up against a big challenge.

Now nothing’s impossible, I’ve found for when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.

The message of this song is resilience. All of us get knocked down from time to time. The question is: what will we do about it? The song has a right response.

Don’t lose your confidence if you slip, be grateful for a pleasant trip,
And pick yourself up, dust off, start over again.

Resilience is a theme that echoes throughout history. Every successful person has overcome his or her share of adversity and become stronger and often wiser because of this.

Resilience is something we need to employ in real time. It’s the spark that challenges us to get back up again and face the challenges of the day.

Focus on what you have accomplished thus far in your life. Think about your strengths. How have you survived previous challenges? What have you learned from them? Take pride in what you have achieved. It will steel your soul.

First posted on SmartBrief on 4/26/19

VIDEO: Autocracy is Not Leadership

Some bosses like to be in charge. Totally.

We call them autocrats.

“Companies used to be able to function with autocratic bosses,” wrote Harvard professor and author Rosabeth Moss Kanter. “We don’t live in that world anymore.”

The fallacy of autocracy is that it is efficient. In reality, it is not. Oh, it may work for a time, but only when the boss is fully engaged and fully in charge. People around the boss derive their authority by their proximity to the boss, not necessarily their ability to get things done. When the boss is away, the organization shuts down.

Worse, autocracy is not sustainable, not merely because of the lifespan of the boss but also because all power is centralized.

Leadership is nurtured by inclusion — not because it’s a nice to do but because it’s a must-do. Autocratic bosses bear the weight of the enterprise on their shoulders. While they may entertain outside counsel, the operative word is “entertain.”

Autocracy by nature is exclusionary. It chokes off the life force that comes from working with other people.

Down with autocrats. Up with leaders who share their power.

First posted on SmartBrief on 11/25/2017

VIDEO: Opening with a Negative May Be a Positive

All of us have heard negative comments when a new initiative comes our way. We are good at coming up with reasons for avoiding new work. It’s part of human nature. So if this is true, then why not address the concerns in the room at the outset?

Let your people vent their feelings first before giving them a new assignment. It is good to confront the issues in the room — head on.

Once the explaining is done – by the manager, the employees or both — it will fall to the manager to make things happen by handing out assignments. Before doing so, however, it would be wise to ask employees what they can stop doing so they have time to focus on the new project.

Asking employees to give up work to take on other work is not novel. Such an approach is rooted in lean thinking, where you pare away tasks that have no added value. Eliminating them frees up employees to do more without adding to their workload.

One final note. Be positive. Position the new project as an opportunity.

So next time your team is tasked with a major undertaking, consider opening on a negative (allowing people to vent) as a means to getting to the positive (a fully engaged team).

First posted on SmartBrief on 11/10/2017

VIDEO: Building Self-Awareness

“I may not be very good at my job, but I know it makes me happier when I do it.”

That sentiment emerged from an interview that Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain, gave to Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air.”

Health care chaplains, as Egan describes them, are not affiliated with a particular faith. The job of hospital or hospice chaplain is to work with people where you find them in their life’s journey.

In a sense, chaplains are like coaches, those who help their clients find meaning in their work, their lives, and their relationships with others. At the same time coaches, like the rest of us, make mistakes.

The world needs self-aware people who know their limitations and resolve to improve. Living in ignorance is no solution. You need to learn from your mistakes.

First posted on SmartBrief on 10/27/2017