Developing Executive Self Awareness to Enhance Leadership Impact

Vicki Swisher

Lack of self-awareness among organizational leaders is pervasive and costly, according to Korn Ferry’s Vicky Swisher and Evelyn Orr.
They studied executives using the FYI: For Your Insight assessment tool, based on research from FYI for Insight: 21 Leadership Characteristics for Success and 5 That Will Get You Fired.

Evelyn Orr

Evelyn Orr

Executives’ #1 blind spot tied between:

• Making tough people calls,
• Demonstrating personal flexibility, adapting approaches to new circumstances.

Similarly,  there was a near-tie the #1 leadership problem:
• Not inspiring employees, not building talent,
• “Too narrow”, relying on deep expertise without broadening perspective.

Leaders vastly underestimated their effectiveness in “managing up”, suggesting that they focused more on their next promotion, rather than on developing their employees.

Joe Luft

Joe Luft

Lack of self-awareness can be reduced by using a “Reality Check” including:

o Feedback from others to provide “early warning” of difficulty.
However, this requires that evaluators are willing to provide candid observations, despite widespread discomfort in providing corrective feedback.

o Self-reflection concerning effective and ineffective behaviors, documented in a journal for review.

Harry Ingham

Harry Ingham

Executives learned most to enhance leadership skills and self-reflection from on-the-job experiences, distantly followed by learning from other people.
Structured trainings are most costly and least effective to enhance leadership cognitive, emotional, motivational, self-awareness, and learning agility capabilities.

These leadership development processes reduce individual blind spots, portrayed by San Francisco State University’s Joe Luft and Harry Ingham of National Training Labs in The JoHari Window. johari-window

Korn Ferry’s Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger provided additional executive development recommendations based on research in FYI: For your Improvement, A Development and Coaching Guide (3rd Edition).

-*How do you increase your self-awareness at work and reduce your “blind spots” about yourself and others?

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“Evolved” Leaders in an Era of Self-Interested Leadership

Jim Collins

Jim Collins

As the U.S. anticipates new political leadership and an unprecedented executive style, it’s valuable to reflect on popular wisdom from management literature.

Organizations that are “built to last” are guided by “Level 5 Executives,” argued Jim Collins in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.
This style of leadership requires both personal humility and personal will, and may be a combination not favored during the current US political transition.

Collins proposed a developmental leadership hierarchy including:

  • Level 1 Highly Capable Individual, who applies knowledge, skills, abilities, and commitment to achieve team goal,
  • Level 2:   Contributing Team Member, who contributes to team goal achievement through effective collaboration,
  • Level 3Capable Manager, who sets plans and organizes others to achieve goals,
  • Level 4Effective Executive, who inspires others to act toward the shared vision,
  • Level 5:  Level 5 Executive combines personal will to achieve the organizational improvement goal, tempered with personal humility.
    The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potentia
Modesto Maidique

Modesto Maidique

Drawing on developmental psychology theories by Jean Piaget as well as Harvard’s Lawrence Kohlberg, and Robert Kegan, Florida International University’s former President, Modesto A. Maidique proposed a six-level Purpose-Driven Model of Leadership

Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget

Leadership is service to others, organizations, and ideals, he proposed, and levels of leadership may be evaluated by whom leaders serve:

  • Level One: Sociopath, who serves no one and exhibits low empathy and generally destroys value, himself, and others.
    Well-known examples are Muammar Gaddafi, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein.
Lawrence Kohlberg

Lawrence Kohlberg

  • Level Two: Opportunist, who serves himself or herself, often at the expense of others by focusing on:  “What’s in it for me?” Examples include Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Skilling.
  • Level Three: Chameleon, who “flip-flop” to cater to many people as possible.
    Examples include Senator John Kerry, former Florida governor Charlie Crist, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Robert Kegan

Robert Kegan

  • Level Four: Achiever, who is often “successful” business executives, when measured by achieving business goals through energetic focus on goal achievement.
    Peter Drucker characterized them as “monomaniac with a mission“, driving toward a goal without fully considering the broader mission.
    Examples include former H-P CEO Mark Hurd.Purpose-Driven Model of Leadership
  • Level Five: Builder, who seeks to build an institution, not just to achieve a goal.
    Examples include IBM’s Tom Watson Jr., GM’s Alfred P. Sloan, and Harpo’s Oprah Winfrey.
    These people have a clear vision, energize others, and manage for the long term and not swayed by short-term profit or stock market valuations.
  • Level Six: Transcendent, who transcend their affiliations to focus on broader social benefit. Examples include Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Dalai Lama.

These frameworks provide a structure to evaluate the words and actions of current political and business leaders, and suggest potential stylistic vulnerabilities.

-*What level of leader do you observe in the highest levels of your work organization?
-*What practices are you implementing to develop your next level of leadership skill?

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Performance Excellence linked to Preventing Failures, Corrective Coaching

Atul Gawande

Simple behavior changes, such as following a structured checklist, can avert medical care disasters attributed to poor care, found Harvard’s Atul Gawande.

He noted that people who effectively improved their performance recognized fallibility in organizational processes, and took proactive steps to remedy these shortcomings.

Three elements of better performance can be applied to fields outside of medicine:

  • Diligence – Attending to details can prevent errors and overcome obstacles.
    Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right suggests best ways to structure these memory aids.
  • Doing Right –Ensuring that skill, will, and incentives are aligned to drive excellent performance,
  • IngenuityDeliberate monitoring of potential failures, continuously seeking innovative ways to improve performance and solutions.

All of these elements can be improved with attentive observation and feedback to prevent errors of omission when people don’t:

  • Know enough (ignorance),
  • Make proper use of what they know (ineptitude).

Ignorance occurs less frequently than ineptitude due to wide availability of relevant information, Gawande noted.
He argued that both types of omission errors can be improved by systematic analysis and disciplined use of tools like checklists.

Geoffrey Smart

Checklist-based analysis was also linked to Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in Geoffrey Smart’s study of investments by Venture Capital (VC) firms,

He found a correlation between IRR and leadership effectiveness in new investment ventures.
Since selecting capable leaders is critical to business outcomes, Smart also evaluated VC firms’ typical approach to assessing potential leaders:

  • The Art Critic is the most frequently-used approach in which the VC assesses leadership talent at a glance, intuitively, based on extensive experience,
  • The Sponge conducts extensive due diligence, researching and assimilating information, then decides based on intuition,
  • The Prosecutor interrogates the candidate, tests with challenging questions and hypothetical situations,
  • The Suitor woos the candidate to accept the leadership role instead of analyzing capabilities and fit,
  • The Terminator eliminates the evaluation because the venture is funded for the best ideas, not the originators, who are replaced,
  • The Infiltrator becomes a “participant-observer” in an immersive, time-consuming experientially-based assessment,
  • The Airline Captain uses a formal checklist to prevent past mistakes.
    This approach was linked to the highest average Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for the new ventures.
    In addition, this strategy was significantly less likely to result in later terminating senior managers.

Venture Capitalists said that two of their most significant mistakes were:

  • Investing insufficient time in talent analysis,
  • Being influenced by “halo effect” in evaluating candidates.

Systematic reminders to execute all elements required for expert performance can prevent failure and signal potential failure points.

-*How do you improve performance?
-*What value do you find in expert coaching?

Related Post:
Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

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Four Career Trajectories: Linear, Expert, Spiral, Transitory

Kenneth Brousseau

Kenneth Brousseau

Successful careers can follow forms other than “up or out,” according to Decision Dynamics’ Kenneth Brousseau, Michael Driver of USC, with Lund University’s Kristina Eneroth, and Rikard Larsson.

They offered a “pluralistic career concept framework” that classified career “concepts”:

Four Career Concepts

Four Career Concepts

LinearTraditional upward movement, with variable tenure in job roles and motivated by power, achievement and related promotions.
Behavioral competencies include: Leadership, competitiveness, cost-efficiency, logistics management, profit orientation.
This career concept is most seen in tall hierarchies with a narrow span of control.

Michael Driver

Michael Driver

Expert – Little movement and long (sometimes life-long) role tenure due to deepening expertise in a narrow discipline.
Motives include mastery, expertise, and security, and meaningful rewards for this career concept are continued training, benefits, recognition.
Competencies are quality, commitment, reliability, technical competence, stability orientation.
This career concept is most well-matched to flat functional organizations.

Career Motives, Competencies

Career Motives, Competencies

Spiral – Lateral movement to broaden functional exposure, with sever to ten year tenure in role families.
Motivated by personal growth, creativity, and suited to matrix organizations with cross-functional teams.
Rewards include cross-functional lateral assignments and training.
Key competencies include creativity, teamwork, skill diversity, lateral coordination, people development.
This career concept is most often found in loose, temporary team structures.

Transitory – Lateral moves of shorter duration (three to five years) are motivated by desire for variety, independence.
Most often found in temporary team structures, behavioral skills include speed, networking, adaptability, fast learning, project focus.
Meaningful rewards are job rotation, temporary assignments, immediate cash bonuses.

This team’s research was distilled into assessment tools focused on career “fit” with an organization’s structure and objectives.

Timothy Butler

Timothy Butler

A similar emphasis on cultural fit is found in CareerLeader Inventory, based on Timothy Butler and James Waldroop’s research at Harvard Business School.

James Waldroop

James Waldroop

-*Which of the four career trajectories seems most like yours?

-*Which career assessment tools have you found most useful to determine your skills, interests, and best-fit organizational context?

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Ask a Narcissist

Confidence is correlated with career effectiveness and advancement.
However when people exhibit too much of a good thing, their behavior may seem “narcissistic.”

Jean Twenge

Jean Twenge

The narcissistic personality is characterized by:

Calvin S Hall

Calvin S Hall

One of the most frequently-used, well-validated assessment instruments to identify narcissism is the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, developed by University of California Berkeley’s Robert Raskin and Calvin S. Hall, and used by researchers rather than by pre-employment screeners.

Sara Konrath

Sara Konrath

Raskin and UC Berkeley colleague, Howard Terry examined responses from more than 1000 volunteers and found seven constructs related to narcissism:

  • Authority,
  • Exhibitionism,
  • Superiority,
  • Vanity,
  • Exploitativeness,
  • Entitlement,
  • Self-Sufficiency.
Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary

In addition, Raskin and Terry related these ratings of “self” and “ideal self” to participants’ responses on the Leary Interpersonal Check List, developed by Harvard’s Timothy Leary before he investigated psychedelic drugs.

Brian P Meier

Brian P Meier

An alternative to Leary’s valid and reliable, yet lengthy and time-consuming NPI, University of Michigan’s Sara Konrath, Brian P. Meier of Gettysburg College, and Ohio State’s Brad J. Bushman of Indiana University developed The Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS) to measure grandiosity, entitlement, and low empathy characteristic of “narcissistic” behavior.

They asked more than 2,200 participants to rate their answer to a single question on a scale of one to seven: To what extent do you agree with this statement? “I am a narcissist.”

Brad J Bushman

Brad J Bushman

Konrath’s team demonstrated SINS that is a valid and reliable alternative to longer narcissism scales because it is significantly correlated with scores on the NPI, and uncorrelated with social desirability, or lack of concern about what others think of them.

Erika Carlson

Erika Carlson

In addition, people who score high on the NPI and SINS are willing to admit that they act more arrogant, condescending, argumentative, critical, and prone to brag than people who score low on the NPI, according to findings by University of Toronto’s Erika Carlson.

Eleven validation studies of  the SINS conducted by Konrath’s team found narcissism related to:

People who scored high for narcissism also showed behaviors that can be problematic at work:

However, people who scored high for narcissism displayed positive attributes including:

If you think you’re working with a narcissist, you can confirm or disconfirm your inference by asking the person the single question: To what extent do you agree with this statement? “I am a narcissist.”
Interacting with a narcissist in the workplace can be challenging, and a previous blog post identifies recommended strategies.

-*How do you identify narcissists in the workplace and in personal life?
-*What are more effective ways to work with them?

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Walking Linked to More Creative Solutions than Sitting

Marily Oppezzo

Marily Oppezzo

Getting  moving can enable creative problem solving:  More novel, feasible, and appropriate ideas were generated by people when they walked than when they sat, reported Santa Clara University’s Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz of Stanford University.

Dan Schwartz

Dan Schwartz

The research team contrasted the impact of:
-Walking indoors or outdoors vs.
-Sitting or being pushed in a wheelchair indoors or outdoors.

More than 175 volunteers in 4 experiments completed several well-validated assessments of creative thinking:

  • JP Guilford

    JP Guilford

    Guilford’s Alternate Uses (GAU) for common objects, created by University of Southern California’s J. P. Guilford, to measure of cognitive flexibility and divergent thinking,

  • Mark Beeman

    Mark Beeman

    Barron’s Symbolic Equivalence Test (BSE), introduced by Frank Barron of University of California, Santa Cruz to calibrate the number of original insightful analogies generated for  complex ideas.

Frank Barron

Frank Barron

 

Oppezzo and Schwartz coded analogies according to a protocol developed by Northwestern’s Dedre Gentner to measure:

o   Level of detail (vague, precise),
o   Semantic proximity to the base statement (near, far),
o   Relational mapping to the base statement (low, high).

Dedre Gentner

Dedre Gentner

Walking increased 81% of participants’ divergent creativity on the Guilford’s Alternate Uses (GAU), and 23% of participants’ scores for convergent thinking measured by Compound Remote-Association test (CRA).
This trend significantly increased when volunteers walked outside:  These participants produced the most novel and highest quality analogies.

Walkers across 4 experiments generated an average of 60% more creative ideas than when seated.
In addition, people who walked were more talkative, and their greater verbal output was associated with more valid creative ideas.

Marc Berman

Marc Berman

The sequence of walking and idea generation affects the number and quality of creative suggestions.
Participants generated more valid creative solutions when they walked first then sat for the next problem-solving session.
In contrast, volunteers did not produce more valid creative solutions with more experience when they sat first then walked, or when they sat but never walked.

John Jonides

John Jonides

These effects may be explained by  Attention Restoration Theory (ART), described by University of Michigan’s Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan as two types of attention:

Stephen Kaplan

Stephen Kaplan

They suggested that walking in natural environments enables renewal of directed attention capacities and improves performances on difficult tasks when no longer walking.

In contrast, walking in an urban walk requires directed attention to avoid obstacles and dangerous situations, and provides less opportunity to restore directed attention.

Jin Fan

Jin Fan

After volunteers walked, they performed better on attentional function tasks measured by Jin Fan of Mount Sinai Medical School’s Attention Network Test.
Items evaluate:

  • Alerting,
  • Orienting,
  • Executive attention.

Benefits of walking on creative production were not related to mood or weather conditions during four different seasons.
Even viewing photographs of nature helped participants improve backwards digit-span compared with viewing photographs of urban environments, in Opezzo and Schwartz’s investigation.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

These studies validate Friedrich Nietzsche’s observation that “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking and imply the value of walking in a natural setting before generating creative ideas.

Another implication is based on the finding that amount of talking  was associated with increased number and quality of creative ideas.
As a result, allocating sufficient time for extended discussion is likely to increase innovative output.

These findings suggest that access to walking places in natural settings is more than a pleasant amenity:  It enhances cognitive functioning and performance.

-*How effective have you found taking a brief walk outdoors before high-stakes discussions?

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Negotiation Drama: Strategic Umbrage, Line-Crossing Illusion, and Assertiveness Biases

Daniel R Ames

Daniel R Ames

Ability to optimally match one’s style of assertiveness to specific situations can determine success as a leader and negotiator, according to Columbia University’s Daniel Ames and Abbie Wazlawek.

Abbie Wazlawek

Abbie Wazlawek

Earlier, Ames and Stanford’s Frank Flynn reported that moderate levels of assertiveness are associated with career advancement, and with effective negotiation and influence in conflict situations.
In addition, they found that most observers provided consistent ratings of managerial under-assertiveness and over-assertiveness.

Francis Flynn

Francis Flynn

However, most people do not accurately assess others’ evaluation of their assertiveness in specific situations.
Over-assertive individuals tend to have less-accurate self-perception than less assertive people, and both groups experience “self-awareness blindness.
These inaccurate self-perceptions may develop from polite yet inaccurate feedback from others, which provides faulty information.

A frequently-employed negotiation tactic is overly-emotional verbalizations during negotiations.
More than 80% of participants reported that they had expressed greater objections than they actually felt to influence the negotiation partner, and a different 80% of volunteers said they observed exaggerated objections by their negotiation partners.

Daniel Ames AssertivenessParticipants in Ames and Watzlawek’s studies reported whether they or their counterpart used these excessive emotional displays in negotiation role-plays.
In addition, they rated their own and their negotiation partner’s assertiveness styles.

Self-awareness resulted in most favorable negotiation outcomes: More than 80% of negotiators rated by others and by themselves as “appropriately assertive in the situation” negotiated greatest value to both parties.

Ames Assertiveness U CurveStrategic umbrage also appeared effective:  People who received strategic umbrage displays by their negotiation partners were more likely to rate themselves as over-assertive in their negotiation position.
However, negotiators who applied strategic umbrage rated these self-critical negotiation partners as appropriately assertiveness.
Ames and Watzlawek called this misperception of others’ perceptions the line-crossing illusion.

This mismatch between negotiation partners’ ratings of appropriate assertiveness was linked with poorer negotiation outcomes:  Just 40% of negotiators who were rated as appropriately but felt they were over-assertive (line-crossing illusion) negotiated the best possible deal for themselves and their counterparts.
This suggests that disingenuous emotional displays of strategic umbrage lead negotiation partners to seek the first acceptable deal, rather than pushing for an optimal deal.

Jeffrey Kern

Jeffrey Kern

To improve accuracy of meta-perception – other people’s perception of assertiveness style – Ames and Wazlawek suggested:

  • Participate in 360 degree feedback,
  • Increase skill in listening for content and meaning,
  • Consider whether the positions discussed in negotiation are “reasonable” in the situation in light of comparable alternatives and options,
  • Request feedback on “strategic umbrage” reactions, to better understand additional factors that modify perceptions of “offer reasonableness,
  • Evaluate costs and benefits of specific assertiveness styles:
    Gary Yukl

    Gary Yukl

    Over-assertiveness may provide the benefit of “claiming value” in a negotiation or but the cost may be ruptured interpersonal relationships and a legacy of ill-will, according to Jeffrey M Kern of Texas A&M as well as SUNY’s Cecilia Falbe and Gary Yukl.

  • Consider cultural norms for assertiveness regulation in “low context” cultures like Israel, dramatic displays are frequent and expected in negotiations.
    In contrast, “high context” cultures like Japan require more nuanced assertiveness, with fewer direct disagreements and “strategic umbrage” displays, according to Edward T. Hall, then of the U.S. Department of State.
Edward T Hall

Edward T Hall

Likewise, under-assertiveness may benefit by minimizing interpersonal conflict, but may lead to poorer negotiation outcomes and undermined credibility, in future interactions, according to Ames’ related research.

To augment a less assertiveness style:

  • Set slightly higher goals,
  • Reconsider assumptions that greater assertion leads to conflict, and consider that proactivity may lead to increased respect and improved outcomes
  • Assess the outcome of collaborating with more assertive others.

To modulate a more assertiveness style:

  • Make slight concessions to increase rapport and trust with others,
  • Observe and evaluate the impact of collaborating with less assertive others .

The line-crossing illusion is an example of a self-perception bias in which personal ratings of behavior may not match other people’s perceptions, and others’ behaviors can attenuate individual confidence and assertiveness.

*How do you reduce the risk of developing the line-crossing illusion in response to other people’s displays of “strategic umbrage”?

*How do you match your degree of assertiveness to negotiation situations?

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