How to Talk to Your Boss When You’re Underperforming

Harvard business - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 06:05
Tim Macpherson/Getty Images

It’s normal to underperform on occasion. After all, everyone has an off quarter — or even an off year — from time to time. But don’t just sit back and wait for that painful performance review. You need to have a conversation with your manager sooner rather than later. How should you position the news? How can you maintain your reputation while being honest? And what sort of explanation — if any — should you give?

What the Experts Say
When you’re having a bad time at work — your big project isn’t coming together as planned or you’re missing your sales targets by a wide margin — talking to your manager may be the last thing you want to do. But you shouldn’t shy away from the topic, according to Jean-François Manzoni, president of IMD and the author of The Set-Up to Fail Syndrome. “You don’t want your boss annoyed at you and wondering” about what’s going on, he says. It can be a tricky conversation, however. Dick Grote, a management consultant and author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals, says you must do two things to preserve your professional standing. First, “come clean” about your underperformance “before your boss has had a chance to discover it another way,” and second, focus on “solutions, not excuses.” Here are some ways to think about — and prepare for — the discussion.

The first step in owning up to your underperformance is determining the source of the problem. For starters, says Manzoni, you need to consider “whether you really are underperforming.” Often our efforts don’t “immediately translate into desired organizational outcomes.” In other words, “you could be doing all the right things but, unfortunately, it’s taking a long time for it to lead to positive results.” Look at what both the “leading and lagging indicators” tell you. If both point to underperformance, Grote recommends a period of “soul-searching.” You need to figure out if this “is a one-off situation or more of a trend.” If the missed goals are an anomaly or due to extenuating circumstances that’s one thing, but if they’re indicative of a pattern, they ought to “trigger some career thinking,” he says. This bad stretch might mean that “you are really struggling” and perhaps in “need of more development,” he says. It could also mean that “you’re not in the right job.” (More on this below.)

Next, says Grote, you need to think about your underperformance from your boss’s perspective. Ask yourself, how will my boss react to this news? “If you have a boss who has a propensity to blow up, you need to prepare for that,” he says. “You don’t want to go in naïvely thinking ‘I hope my boss is in a good mood today.’” Think especially about how you will explain what happened, says Manzoni. It could be, for instance, that you “took a risk” that didn’t pan out as you’d hoped. “You thought the market would turn. The odds were good. It was a reasonable bet, but it didn’t work out.” Or maybe you’re dealing with an outside distraction — an ailing parent, for instance — that’s the reason you’re “not at your best.” A “reasonable boss will be able to understand that,” he says.

Own up
When the time comes to talk to your boss, be straightforward and direct, says Grote. “Start the conversation by saying, ‘I have some bad news for you.’” Doing so “rivets the person’s attention” and ensures “no mixed messages.” Second, “appropriately express contrition and remorse.” A sincere “I’m sorry” goes a long way. Finally, segue into how you can make it right. “Focus on correction, not blaming, shaming, or fault finding,” he says. It’s natural to get defensive in these situations but do your best to avoid listing excuses. In difficult discussions like these, it’s natural to want to end on an optimistic note. And yet, “there are some conversations that won’t have a positive outcome,” says Grote. For this reason, he advises that you “ought not give too much thought about how to put a happy sheen on things.” The bottom line: “Don’t try to circumnavigate the problem.”

Ask for advice
As you offer ideas and suggestions on how to improve the situation, it’s worthwhile to ask your manager for guidance, according to Manzoni. “Asking your boss for advice shows that you respect your boss’s intellect and that you trust your boss,” he says. Asking for assistance is “flattering to your boss,” but you shouldn’t be obsequious, adds Grote. He suggests saying something like, “Here’s what occurs to me to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Does this make sense to you? How else would you handle this?”

Think long term
If your underperformance is representative of a bigger problem, you need to address it. This will be a separate and “longer conversation” with your manager, says Grote. He recommends saying, “When we get over this hump, I’d like to schedule a time to talk with you about the implications of this and what I can do in the long term to make sure it never happens again.” Possible interventions include more frequent check-ins or some sort of training to boost your skills. Your underperformance might also be a sign that you need to find a position at your company that’s better suited to your strengths. In this case, Manzoni advises talking to your boss about a possible move. “Say, ‘I appreciate your trust and support. I’m trying hard, but I am still struggling,’” he says. If you “establish your good intentions,” hopefully your boss can support you in identifying and transitioning to a more suitable role.

Principles to Remember 


  • Try to figure out the source of the problem by engaging in some soul-searching.
  • Offer ideas on how to improve the situation and ask your manager for guidance.
  • Resist any overly optimistic impulses. It’s not worth trying to put a positive spin on your underperformance.


  • Wing it. Prepare what you’ll say and think about how your boss will react.
  • Mince words. Begin the conversation with “I have some bad news for you.” This ensures no mixed messages.
  • Ignore red flags. If you’re struggling, it might mean that you need more frequent check-ins with your boss, more development, or a job change.

Case Study #1: Admit your mistakes and generate ideas on how to improve
Matt Lee works at ResumeGo, a resume writing service company. Matt joined the company in 2016 and has consistently been a strong performer — until he recently found himself in an unexpected slump. The company offers money back guarantees for clients who are not satisfied with its products, and a little over 10% of his clients had asked for refunds. “This was the highest percentage of unsatisfied clients I’d ever had,” he says. “I had to explain it to my boss.”

First, he thought about the source of the problem. “A lot of the issues stemmed from a lack of communication with my clients,” he says.

In looking back, he noted that several of his clients said they didn’t like the formatting of their new resume. “I realized that if I had simply showed them the format I was going to use beforehand and explained the reasoning behind why I chose that format, this [trouble] could have been avoided.”

Second, he thought about how his boss would react and prepared what he was going to say. “More refunds requested by customers ultimately means less revenue for the company, so I was definitely nervous [to talk to my boss],” he says.

Matt began the conversation by “openly acknowledging” that there was a problem. “I wanted my supervisor to know that I was very serious about finding ways to improve my performance.”

Matt says he didn’t want to come across as defensive in trying to justify his poor performance, but he also wanted to make sure his manager understood his perspective. “While I acknowledged that there were things I could have done differently, I also defended the specific decisions I made with regards to how I wrote each resume,” he says. “I’m the expert here when it comes to how to write and design resumes, so I can’t simply alter my standards every time a client disagrees with how I approach their resume.”

Ultimately his boss agreed with many of Matt’s points. “It’s important with these kinds of issues to stand your ground and justify your actions — especially when you are confident in the decisions that you made.”

Matt ended the conversation with ideas on how to improve. “I had a list of things I could do that would potentially increase my customer satisfaction numbers,” he says. “These mainly revolved around communicating with clients more extensively at the very start before making certain decisions about their resumes.”

Since the conversation with his boss, Matt has worked on his communication with clients, and his customer satisfaction numbers have improved as a result. “I think that particular quarter was likely just an outlier,” he says.

Case Study #2: Work together with your boss to improve your performance
Each January, Tracy Nguyen, an online media relations associate at Tiny Pulse, a Seattle-based startup that provides technology to assess employee morale, sits down with her boss to outline her goals for the coming year.

“This way I am always able to track my performance,” she says. “As many PR practitioners, my main responsibility is managing brand reputation through generating positive media coverage. Last May, I did not meet a monthly goal of securing seven unique instances of press coverage.”

She reflected on the reasons for her missed goal. “I sat back and looked at all of my approach methods to see what was working, what was not, and what needed to be improved.”

She figured out that her long pitch needed work. “It was not getting the attention of my target journalists,” she says.

Second, she did a lot of research on how to improve her pitching. She also sought advice from her peers on how she could get better at it. Then she prepared what she would say to her boss.

When it came time for the meeting, she told her boss that she missed her objective. She apologized for falling below expectations but then launched into a discussion of what she would do to improve. “I wanted to bring this to my manager’s attention instead of waiting to be asked about what holds me back,” she says. “I was determined to lead with possible solutions.”

Tracy also asked her boss for suggestions on how to enhance her pitching skills. “Together, we came up with a solution to try an 80/20 method, which means spending 80% of the time targeting middle-tier publications and 20% on top-tier ones,” she says.

To measure the effectiveness of this method, they compared the impact of the new practice to the previous one. “As a result, two months later I exceeded my goal,” she says.


Categories: Blogs

How to Manage Multiple Priorities – Friday Distraction

Hr Bartender - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 02:57

(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is brought to you by our friends at Kronos, a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Want to create an inspired workforce? Check out this Forbes interview with Kronos CEO Aron Ain where he talks about being an un-leader. Enjoy the article!)

There’s quite a bit of research that says multi-tasking isn’t good for us. And that we don’t really do it well. Even when we think that we do. But what does that mean in a world where we’re constantly being asked to manage multiple things…at the same time.

I don’t know about you, but somedays I feel like this Time Well Spent from our friends at Kronos. I feel like I’m playing Whack-A-Mole. And that’s not good. Over the years, I’ve figured out a few things that help me manage multiple things without feeling like I’m sacrificing quality – for both the project I’m working on AND my personal sanity.

Learn how to plan. I’m not talking about how to put appointments in your planner, although that can be helpful. I’m referring to finding time to think. Finding time to analyze information. Not just quickly glance at it and hastily make a decision. Having (the right) time to think, explore, develop crazy ideas and vet them can be immensely valuable. 

Prioritize and reprioritize. New priorities are always popping up. The answer isn’t to simply add another priority. That’s a recipe for spreading ourselves way too thin. Whether you’re an organization or an individual, we need to decide if a new initiative is really a priority and where it falls on the list. Maybe it’s not priority number one. OR maybe it is, and we need to shift some other priorities. 

Renegotiate commitments. I don’t’ want to say, “Don’t overcommit.” I think the better approach is, when faced with changing priorities, renegotiate your other commitments. Again, whether you’re an individual or an organization, go to the people you’ve promised a deliverable and discuss a new timetable. You’d be surprised how many people will be willing to work with you.

I don’t know that it’s realistic to think we’re never going to be asked to work on multiple projects or strategies at the same time. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reprioritize our commitments, so we can do our work well. 

The post How to Manage Multiple Priorities – Friday Distraction appeared first on hr bartender.

Categories: Blogs


Harvard business - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 15:10

Are you worried about being seen as a job-hopper? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your with the help of Allison Rimm, a career coach and the author of The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life. They talk through how to leave after a brief time on the job, explain a series of short stints on your résumé, or know when to stick it out.

Download this podcast

Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Email your questions about your workplace dilemmas to Dan and Alison at

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBR: Managing Yourself: Job-Hopping to the Top and Other Career Fallacies by Monika Hamori — “The notion that you get ahead faster by switching companies is reinforced by career counselors, who advise people to keep a constant eye on outside opportunities. But the data show that footloose executives are not more upwardly mobile than their single-company colleagues.”

HBR: Setting the Record Straight on Switching Jobs by Amy Gallo — “In fact, people are most likely to leave their jobs after their first, second, or third work anniversaries. Millennials are especially prone to short stays at jobs. Sullivan’s research shows that 70% quit their jobs within two years. So the advice to stick it out at a job for the sake of your resume is just no longer valid.”

HBR: 10 Reasons to Stay in a Job for 10 Years by David K. Williams and Mary Michelle Scott — “It’s easy to quit over perceived unfairness or serious challenges. But it shows much stronger character to persevere, to find and enact solutions to problems, repair damage, and to take an active role in turning a situation around.”

HBR: Managing Yourself: Five Ways to Bungle a Job Change by Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams — “A hasty job change, made with insufficient information, is inherently compromised. When under time pressure, people tend to make certain predictable mistakes. They focus on readily available details like salary and job title instead of raising deeper questions, and they set their sights on the immediate future, either discounting or misreading the long term. Many also have an egocentric bias, thinking only of what affects them directly and ignoring the larger context.”

Categories: Blogs

How to Follow Up with People After a Conference

Harvard business - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 11:03
Marcus Franzen/Getty Images

Attending a conference is a whir of activity — flying to a destination, engaging in several days of nonstop networking, and coming home to an inbox that has spiraled out of control in your absence. Back at work, most of us immediately go into catch-up mode; the last thing on your mind is following up with the people you just met. That’s especially true if you’re an introvert and feel overtaxed by the whole process.

But a small amount of focused effort can reap long-term benefits and ensure the arduous days you spent connecting face-to-face weren’t wasted. Here’s a framework for structuring your post-conference follow up to maximize the chances that your new connections turn into meaningful professional relationships.

First, it’s important to set aside “processing time.” The conference has probably left you with business cards scattered in your briefcase, pockets, and travel bag. Unless you transfer them quickly into whatever database system you use, they’re likely to get lost quickly. The system doesn’t much matter; it’s personal preference whether you use a business card app or add them to a spreadsheet manually.

What matters is capturing the data (including writing down where you met them, so you don’t forget over time), and also making a list of people you spoke with whose cards you didn’t obtain. That may be a substantial number if the conference discourages card exchange (some conferences fear that people trading business cards will make the gathering appear too “salesy”), or if your encounter has been brief, such as a chat in the lunch line. After I spoke at the recent Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna, I took close to 45 minutes to go through the program booklet listing conference attendees and circling the names of those I had conversations with. I hadn’t exchanged contact information with most of them, but they were still connections worth maintaining.

Second, for each person you’ve written down, take a moment to identify your goal for that relationship. You can’t invest in all connections equally, of course — so where should you prioritize your time? You may want to discard some connections upfront — for instance, someone who came up to you, handed you their card, and immediately started pitching you to buy their product or service. It’s not worth subjecting yourself to that in the future.

But most new relationships will fall into three categories. Specifically, those are “miscellaneous interesting people,” with whom there’s not an obvious point of connection; people with whom you have a specific reason to follow up; and people you’d like to build a deeper relationship with.

Miscellaneous interesting people. At the Drucker Forum, for instance, I had a nice conversation with a woman who is an executive with the Port of Vienna. My work doesn’t generally overlap with hers, but I’d be glad to keep in touch because it’s always nice to know a diverse set of people. For instance, in the future, I could imagine a hypothetical situation in which I was hired to speak to a shipping company. Having a contact knowledgeable about industry trends would be valuable as a way of understanding what was important to the client. Similarly, there may be unexpected ways I could assist her in the future.

For connections like that, I apply an “ambient awareness” strategy and send a friend request on LinkedIn, so that we can stay in touch through that channel and she may periodically be exposed to my posts in her news feed, and vice versa. Note that it’s important to be aware of national preferences related to social channels. Immediately after Vienna, I headed to Moscow to teach an executive education program and discovered that most Russians don’t have LinkedIn accounts because the service is officially blocked there. I connected with those colleagues on Facebook or Instagram, instead.

A specific reason to follow up. For other conference attendees, my mission is clearer: they mentioned specific business opportunities (an invitation to speak at a university, give a talk for a large company, etc.). I make a point of emailing them them in a timely fashion — within a week is ideal — to remind them of their suggestion and request a follow-up call.

Building a deeper relationship. Finally, you’ll meet some people with whom you’d like to build a long-term connection. Their work may be extremely salient to yours (they’re a VC and you’re an executive coach that works with startups), or you may just have great personal rapport. Either way, you want to develop a strategy to turn a one-time encounter into something more meaningful, as I describe in my e-book, Stand Out Networking. If they live in your city, the options are more plentiful; you can invite them to join you at a future professional event, such as a Chamber of Commerce gathering, a tech meetup, etc., or to a hybrid business/social event (after meeting a theater executive at a conference and hitting it off, he invited me to join him a couple of weeks later at a Broadway show for which he had an extra ticket).

If you live in different cities, you’ll need to develop a more deliberate strategy. Perhaps there are future conferences coming up they might be likely to attend; you could get in touch to inquire if they’ll be there, and if so, plan to meet up in person during the event. If you’re a frequent business traveler, you can also put them on the list of people you ping when you’re in town for visits. Even if it’s unlikely you’ll meet in person again anytime soon, you can be on the lookout for interesting articles to send them, or look for ways to be helpful (for instance, if they mentioned they’re looking for new contributors for the magazine they edit, you could suggest talented colleagues).

Of course, it’s essential to make sure the help you offer is actually helpful; there’s a big difference between connecting an editor actively seeking contributors with great candidates, and connecting an overwhelmed editor with would-be columnists they don’t have the time to deal with. It’s essential to listen to their stated needs, not make assumptions about what might be useful and risk turning yourself into a burden in the process.

Almost every professional attends at least a few conferences per year. By following these strategies, you can make sure the time, effort, and money you spend on them actually turns into true relationships, not just one-time conversations that are quickly forgotten.

Categories: Blogs

AI in 2019: The Good, The Bad — And the Unknown - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM PWC

Harvard business - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 08:45

Twenty percent of executives at U.S. companies with artificial intelligence initiatives report that they will roll out AI across their business this year, according to PwC’s 2019 AI Predictions report. These companies expect their AI investment, which is often part of intelligent automation initiatives, to go beyond improving productivity and cutting costs. They see AI as a path to growing profits and revenue in 2019.

However, the executives in the survey said that there are challenges, such as training employees to use AI systems, and security threats remain a concern. Success in leveraging AI will be built on strategies for the organization and the workforce, for creating responsible AI and AI-ready data, for reinventing the business, and for integrating AI with other technologies.

For more practical steps to deliver on your 2019 AI priorities, click here.


Categories: Blogs

Using AI to Improve Electronic Health Records

Harvard business - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 07:27
splain2me/Getty Images

Electronic health record systems for large, integrated healthcare delivery networks today are often viewed as monolithic, inflexible, difficult to use and costly to configure. They are almost always obtained from commercial vendors and require considerable time, money, and consulting assistance to implement, support and optimize.

The most popular systems are often built around older underlying technologies, and it often shows in their ease of use. Many healthcare providers (including the surgeon and author Atul Gawande) find these systems complex and difficult to navigate, and it is rare that the EHR system is a good fit with their preferred care delivery processes.

As delivery networks grow and deploy broad enterprise EHR platforms, the challenge of making them help rather than hinder clinicians is increasing. Clinicians’ knowledge extends far beyond their clinical domain — care procedure knowledge, patient context knowledge, administrative process knowledge — and it’s rare that EHRs can capture all of it efficiently or make it easily available. What’s more, in the U.S., regulatory, billing and revenue cycle requirements add additional complexity to the electronic healthcare workflow and further reduce the time clinicians have to engage with patients.

The options for improving this misalignment between systems and processes are limited. One is to design EHR systems to be more integrated and streamlined from the beginning. One Medical, for example, a concierge medical practice across 40 cities in the U.S., developed its own EHR system that is closely aligned with the care and patient relationship practices it employs. Flatiron Health, a data and analytics-driven cancer care service recently acquired by Roche, bought a company with a web-based EHR and tailored it to fit its OncoCloud EHR for community-based oncology. Although these bespoke systems do seem to fit clinician workflows better, they are themselves difficult and time-consuming to develop (One Medical required ten years to build its system) and they are relatively narrow in scope. Building a system from scratch or extensively customizing a commercial one would probably not work for large delivery networks.

Using an open source EHR is a second option. However, most current ones are designed for small medical practices and aren’t easily scalable or need substantial configuration. And even though the software is free, considerable programming and IT infrastructure is required to implement it and tailor it to the individual practice. Further, open source EHRs are less carefully maintained and less frequently updated than commercial ones and so can quickly become obsolete. Finally, regulatory requirements and reimbursement rules change rapidly. Relying on either open source or internally developed systems in keeping up with those requirements creates both compliance risks and financial challenges.

A third and more promising option is to use AI to make existing EHR systems more flexible and intelligent. Some delivery networks, sometimes in collaboration with their EHR platform vendor, are making strides in this direction. AI capabilities for EHRs are currently relatively narrow but we can expect them to rapidly improve. They include:

Data extraction from free text Providers can already extract data from faxes at OneMedical, or by using Athena Health’s EHR. Flatiron Health’s human “abstractors” review provider notes and pull out structured data, using AI to help them recognize key terms and uncover insights, increasing their productivity. Amazon Web Services recently announced a cloud-based service that uses AI to extract and index data from clinical notes.

Diagnostic and/or predictive algorithms Google is collaborating with delivery networks to build prediction models from big data to warn clinicians of high risk conditions such as sepsis and heart failure. Google, Enlitic, and a variety of other startups are developing AI-derived image interpretation algorithms. Jvion offers a “clinical success machine” that identifies patients most at risk as well as those most likely to respond to treatment protocols. Each of these could be integrated into EHRs to provide decision support.

Clinical documentation and data entry Capturing clinical notes with natural language processing allows clinicians to focus on their patients rather than keyboards and screens. Nuance offers AI-supported tools that integrate with commercial EHRs to support data collection and clinical note composition.

Clinical decision support  Decision support, which recommends treatment strategies, was generic and rule-based in the past. Machine-learning solutions are emerging today from vendors including IBM Watson, Change Healthcare, AllScripts that learn based on new data and enable more personalized care.

While AI is being applied in EHR systems principally to improve data discovery and extraction and personalize treatment recommendations, it has great potential to make EHRs more user friendly. This is a critical goal, as EHRs are complicated and hard to use and are often cited as contributing to clinician burnout. Today, customizing EHRs to make them easier for clinicians is largely a manual process, and the systems’ rigidity is a real obstacle to improvement. AI, and machine learning specifically, could help EHRs continuously adapt to users’ preferences, improving both clinical outcomes and clinicians’ quality of life.

However, all of these capabilities need to be tightly integrated with EHRs to be effective. Most current AI options are “encapsulated” as standalone offerings and don’t provide as much value as integrated ones, and require time-pressed physicians to learn how to use new interfaces. But mainstream EHR vendors are beginning to add AI capabilities to make their systems easier to use. Firms like Epic, Cerner, Allscripts, and Athena are adding capabilities like natural language processing, machine learning for clinical decision support, integration with telehealth technologies and automated imaging analysis. This will provide integrated interfaces, access to data held within the systems, and multiple other benefits — though it will probably happen slowly.

Future EHRs should also be developed with the integration of telehealth technologies in mind (as is the EHR at One Medical). As healthcare costs rise and new healthcare delivery methods are tested, home devices such as glucometers or blood pressure cuffs that automatically measure and send results from the patient’s home to the EHR are gaining momentum. Some companies even have more advanced devices such as the smart t-shirts of Hexoskin, which can measure several cardiovascular metrics and are being used in clinical studies and at-home disease monitoring. Electronic patient reported outcomes and personal health records are also being leveraged more and more as providers emphasize the importance of patient centered care and self disease management; all of these data sources are most useful when they can be integrated into the existing EHR.

Most delivery networks will probably want to use a hybrid strategy — waiting for vendors to produce AI capabilities in some areas and relying on third party or in-house development for AI offerings that improve patient care and the work lives of providers. Starting from scratch, however, is probably not an option for them. However necessary and desirable, it seems likely that the transition to dramatically better and smarter EHRs will require many years to be fully realized.

Categories: Blogs

When a Leader Is Causing Conflict, Start by Asking Why

Harvard business - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 07:00
Charles Orr/Getty Images

Not long ago, I received a call from an HR manager at a large corporation seeking an executive coach for one of their senior leaders. He was described as arrogant, tactlessly blunt, and lacking empathy. Despite his challenges, all of which hadn’t improved much despite several previous coaching interventions, the company hadn’t fired him because he was considered one of the industry’s most brilliant engineers, responsible for several of the firm’s most profitable patents. The company simply couldn’t afford to let him go.

How do you coach a leader whom others think is a hopeless case? Sometimes you can’t. The person may well turn out to be a jerk who won’t change their toxic ways. In that case, the company needs to fire the individual. Tolerating destructive behavior will send the signal that it’s ok to mistreat others as long as you get results. But, often, as was the case with my client, the leader who everyone thinks is hopeless is simply being misunderstood and their behavior misdiagnosed.

Whether you are a coach, an HR leader, or an executive trying to help a challenging subordinate, your credibility, and that of the leader you’re trying to help, depends on an accurate understanding of what’s actually going on. Here are three ways you can be sure you’re addressing the right problem with a challenging leader in the right way.

Manage your assumptions and judgements. Without realizing it, those of us in advisory roles often bring our own issues to our work helping others. We make assumptions and judgements based on our own experiences that often have little to do with the leader we’re trying to support. Before I even met this leader, I found myself feeling anxious, dismissive, and judgmental toward him based on what others had said. I imagined how I would respond to his insulting behavior and what I would say if he made an arrogant comment. But my defenses were unwarranted and my assumption that he was a jerk proved wrong. He was engaging, open to learning, and willing to accept his need to improve. When I asked him why he thought he was so harsh toward others, he seemed stumped and genuinely troubled by how others had characterized him.

You and Your Team Series Difficult Conversations

I’d heard from the company’s HR manager that this executive was especially cruel toward one colleague. Why had he singled out one person to treat in a uniquely nasty way? As we explored this, it became clear that something about the younger engineer triggered the executive’s anger and it eventually clicked: The young engineer reminded him of his older brother, with whom he had a contentious relationship. My client was raised in an excessively achievement-oriented family, that prized blunt candor over tact, and he was regularly sent the message that he was inferior. His brother had been the family’s golden child while he was never good enough. This direct report was a daily reminder of that pain. This back story in no way excused his behavior, but it did explain it. More importantly, it revealed a path forward toward changing it. But I had to set aside my biases and prejudgments to build the trust necessary to access these important insights.

Look past symptoms to contradictions. Determining what lies beneath seemingly destructive behavior requires looking beyond symptoms. My client’s colleagues had described him as mean and insensitive. His previous coaches had focused on various interpersonal techniques, like how to give constructive feedback, work with different personality styles, and delegate effectively. But they’d neglected to probe into the dynamic with that one engineer. To thoroughly diagnose a leader’s behavior, look for breaks in patterns. Are there people this person works especially well or poorly with? Specific circumstances in which they shine or falter? No one is the same all the time, so understanding where people deviate from predictable habits can isolate important clues. In my client’s case, his unique contempt toward one colleague was an important data point. Further, I learned later that his widely regarded technical expertise coupled with his family background made him feel anxiously responsible for the company’s technical reputation. His team members experienced this as micromanagement and dismissive of their expertise. If we’d focused on those symptoms, we wouldn’t have gotten very far. We needed to understand the root cause. It’s not uncommon to inaccurately diagnosis bad leadership behavior. One Arizona State University study found that toxic leadership pathologies are often confused with behaviors that might fall into a normal range of pathology. To avoid confusing common leadership shortfalls with serious pathologies, it’s critical to dig deeper behind symptoms.

Have a broad repertoire of solutions. For many in advisory roles, their diagnostic lens is narrowed to problems they are best equipped to solve. Every hammer looks like a nail, as the saying goes. For example, I’ve seen some consultants whose specialty was team building, so it was no surprise that their findings and recommendations were all around improving team trust. Leadership coaches use their favorite personality instruments to solve everything from poor financial performance to low morale. It’s important to be open-minded to solutions that fall outside your expertise. Ineffective leadership behavior can originate from deep-seated pathologies to problems with organizational culture. Having a repertoire of tools and approaches helps avoid the dangers of applying a one-size-fits-all solution to all situations. And don’t be afraid to refer people to others who have different expertise that may be able to better help your clients with particular issues. In the case of my client, I recommended he also see a therapist to work on his anxiety and unresolved family issues. He and I worked on more effective ways to engage, teach, and empower his team, and how to recognize when his triggers were getting in the way of doing so.

Consistent scholarly research suggests when it comes to empirically measuring the effectiveness of those advising leaders, we fall far short. Mislabeling behavior or a person as beyond help is one way we fail leaders. If you don’t look for contradictions, get to the root cause, and have a range of solutions, you could unwittingly limit someone’s growth or, even worse, derail their career. But if you do those things, with an open mind, you may be able to help save the job of a valuable leader who might otherwise have been let go, and in turn, provide great value to those you serve.

Categories: Blogs

Dealing With Managers Who No Show for Interviews – Ask #HR Bartender

Hr Bartender - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 02:57

I’ve been in this position before. Many times, as a matter of fact. It’s not fun. And frankly, it’s not right.

Hi! I work as a candidate experience coordinator, and one of my biggest pain-points is dealing with last minute cancellations from our hiring managers that create 30-60-minute gaps in the middle of a candidate interview. I always try to scramble and find a fill in or to rework the schedule, but I’d say more often than not, it’s not manageable due to their tight schedules.  

In the past few months, the amount this has happened has decreased significantly (due to a couple of new policies and our killer recruiters!), but it’s still an issue. Too many times I must give a tour and then sit with the candidate to talk about company culture and essentially just kill time until the next scheduled interviewer arrives. I think it’s obvious and doesn’t shed the best light on our company. Any creative suggestions or ways we could fill this time when this does happen? Thank you!

I’m going to start by pointing out the elephant in the room. This is an organization that has a person dedicated to the candidate experience, which is a goodgreat thing. The candidate experience is important. There’s a well-known case study from Virgin Media documenting how they discovered a bad candidate experience cost the organization over $5M annually and how they turned it around. So, the candidate experience isn’t just some feel good thing. It costs organizations significant dollars when it’s not done right.

Which is why I want to point out the obvious. If your organization has someone dedicated to the candidate experience and hiring managers don’t seem to respect the candidate experience, then this needs to be addressed first and foremost. With unemployment at historic lows, organizations cannot afford to send this message. Now, there are potentially some power dynamics at play and we could speculate all day long about them. Bottom-line: there’s an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

That be said, I do understand that sometimes emergencies happen. But I’d like to think that candidates understand that. Recruiters can explain emergencies. But if the company is facing a 30-minute emergency and asks the candidate if they can stick around, here are a few things to consider:

Train a second interviewer. I know at some point the candidate will have to meet the primary hiring manager, but in the meantime, they could meet a supervisor. Or a senior employee. Just make sure the person doing the interview has attended some kind of interview skills training.

Tour the facility. I know the reader note mentioned that they do tours to fill time. If ‘no show’ managers are a frequent occurrence, I would hold the tour until the end of the candidate’s time, so I could always move it up. Versus planning the tour and then discovering a manager isn’t available. 

Move the HR interview. Speaking of juggling schedules, if this is happening on a regular basis, I would make the HR interview the one with flexibility. Again, instead of interviewing with HR and then finding out a manager needs to shift their time, I would work around the managers. 

None of these solutions are ideal, but they could work. Ultimately the solution is that managers need to conduct their interviews on time. Because if they don’t, all the schedule shuffling in the world by HR isn’t going to help. And they will lose candidates. 

Candidates have options. If managers don’t show up on time for interviews, it sends the message that the manager doesn’t respect the candidate’s time. That’s the issue to address. 

Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring Duval Street in Key West, FL

The post Dealing With Managers Who No Show for Interviews – Ask #HR Bartender appeared first on hr bartender.

Categories: Blogs

Everything Begins with a Day One

Leadershipnow - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 11:37

LEADERSHIP IS intentional influence. Leadership is about being intentional. It’s about taking responsibility for everything we do. We affect others in ways we never imagined. It is prudent of us then to be intentional about how we live out our life. It gives us the moral authority to lead. The value we add becomes the meaning in our life.

This is Day One by Drew Dudley is about choosing to lead. Everything worthwhile in life begins with a Day One. “If you want to be a leader, chose to be a leader today. Repeat that choice every day. It doesn’t matter if you failed to do it yesterday or if you’ve done it every day for a decade: every new day begins with a recommitment to that choice.”

And it’s a daily choice. With everything in our environment to distract us from that choice, to push us into being reactive rather than proactive, some days that choice will take a huge effort. But the payoff is big. Your most enduring legacy will very likely have nothing to do with your plans. The greatest impact you will have on the people around you and the organizations of which you are a part will almost always be a result of the unplanned consequences of your everyday actions.
It’s the daily behaviors that add up to a successful life—to successful leadership. So we must plan to make a difference.

Our leadership plan must revolve around who we want to be—our values. We must identify and define those values and then do something every day that embodies those values. “When you no longer must consciously align your behavior with your values—when it happens by instinct—you have created a ‘personal culture of leadership.’”

Dudley has identified six values in his life that drive his behavior every day. Yours may be different. They are articulated through six questions that when asked in advance of your day can lead to a change in your behavior. His six questions are:

1. Impact—What have I done today to recognize someone else’s leadership?

“Leadership recognized is leadership created. What if we all worked to create a culture in which the true measure of our lives is how many people smile when our name is spoken twenty years after they last saw us.” Answering this question “will create moments of impact that remind others they have mattered, do matter, and will matter in the future.” Let people know they are leaders to us.

2. Courage—What did I try today that might not work, but I tried it anyway?

Courage is demonstrated through action. “Effective personal leadership is the willingness to honestly ask ourselves: ‘In what areas of my life am I settling? Leadership is having the courage to be honest with yourself about where in your life you are allowing yourself to settle and taking action to ensure you don’t do it for a single day longer.”

3. Empowerment—What did I do today to move someone else closer to a goal?

We are responsible. “One of the reasons so few people put up their hand when asked if they are a leader is they’ve accepted a situation where the things that they are chasing in their life—the things they believe will make them happy—can only come from someone else.” A driver in New Orleans told Dudley, “We serve others whenever we help them move closer to one of their goals. For some people that might mean an educational goal, a career goal, or a goal related to their legacy. But let me tell you, the most important goals you can help someone reach are the goals related to their dignity. People need to feel seen, they need to feel understood, they need to feel connected to another person. Too many people in this world don’t have those goals met.” Acting for the success of others.

4. Growth—What did I do today to make it more likely someone will learn something?

Expand your capacity. “Go too long without appreciable growth in your life and not only does it become difficult to see yourself as a leader, it become difficult to feel like you matter.” I liked this statement: “You can’t lead on a need-to-know-only basis. You can fix things, you can maintain, but you can’t lead.” We must continually expose ourselves to the new and uncomfortable. “It’s not enough to be supportive when you see opportunities to help people, you must be a catalyst for creating those opportunities and forgiving others the tools to create them for themselves. Forget power, influence, and control: make people feel like they’re better when you’re around and they will follow you anywhere.”

5. Class—When did I elevate instead of escalate today?

We can choose our response. We don’t have to operate on autopilot. “Class is elevating a situation when your instincts push you to escalate, when it would be easier to escalate and when you have every right to escalate. The difference lies in your goal for the resolution of the situation: elevating means trying to succeed, escalating means trying to win.” Treat people better than they deserve to be treated.

6. Self-Respect—What did I do today to be good to myself?

“The fact that we have the rest of our lives ahead of us is the biggest reason we don’t do things today that will make the rest of our lives better.” Plan failure into your plans. It’s inevitable. “The most extraordinary leaders I’ve known are the ones who are best at healing.” Only hurt people hurt others. “It means leaders have got to forgive and leaders have got to heal. If we don’t evict the things living rent free in our heads, we will carry them with us and one day use them as weapons against those we care about most.”

The last section of the book is a workbook of sorts to help you define your own values and create your own questions based on those values. This is Day One will help to see leadership as a responsibility everyone has. It’s a choice. We can build a community of leaders one day at a time.

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Categories: Blogs

The Student Debt Crisis, and the FIRE Movement

Harvard business - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 10:05

Youngme Moon, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, and Mihir Desai discuss staggering student debt levels, the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) Movement, and share their After Hours picks for the week.

Download this podcast

For interested listeners:

Some recent picks:

  • Today, Explained Podcast, Nov. 30 Episode (Humans 2.0)
  • Babylon Berlin (Netflix)
  • The Prison Inside Me” (Reuters)
  • Robert Stavins (follow on Twitter)
  • FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data)
  • RBG (Documentary on Amazon Video)
  • The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Video)
  • The Ringer website
  • Janesville (Amy Goldstein)
  • Airtable (software)
  • Small Fry (Lisa Brennan-Jobs)

You can email your comments and ideas for future episodes to: You can follow Youngme and Mihir on Twitter at: @YoungmeMoon and @DesaiMihirA.

HBR Presents is a network of podcasts curated by HBR editors, bringing you the best business ideas from the leading minds in management. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Harvard Business Review or its affiliates.

Categories: Blogs

How to Be A Better Virtual Communicator

Eblingroup - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 08:55

Surely you’ve noticed that most conference calls, video conferences, e-mail threads and virtually any other form of virtual communications pretty much stink. Why is that and what can we do about it?

Dr. Nick Morgan has the answers. In this recorded interview with Nick, I asked him to share some of the fascinating research he gathered and conducted for his new book, Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World. He did and, even better, he shared his best tips for how we can all be better virtual communicators. (Here’s a cryptic hint. We need to overcome our sensory deprivation.)

In 2018, everyone engages in virtual communication all day long. Want to make it less painful and a lot more effective? Listen to my interview with Dr. Nick Morgan. Better yet, buy and read his book!

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.

Categories: Blogs

Impact Investing Could Accelerate the Fight Against Cancer

Harvard business - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 08:00
Luxy Images/Getty Images

A new generation of philanthropists, whose wealth was created via entrepreneurship in technology-driven fields, has the unique opportunity to make a real difference in speeding the pace of progress in the fight against cancer. Not content with having hospital pavilions named for them or with giving large, open-ended gifts for academic research, they want to use their wealth to have a direct and visible impact on patients’ health. Research we have conducted has revealed a variety of new, highly impactful investment approaches that can help accelerate the pace of the development, approval, and commercialization of new cancer therapies. By embracing these new approaches this new generation of philanthropists has the opportunity to truly help cure cancer.

The results-oriented attitude of the new generation of philanthropists couldn’t have come at a better time. Rapid advances in precision medicine and immunotherapy are ushering in a new era in the treatment and cure of many cancers. And new approaches to philanthropy, often termed impact investing, have emerged as a path to meet their goals. As part of our work with the Harvard Business School-Kraft Precision Medicine Accelerator, funded by a $20 million gift from the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation, we have been studying these approaches. It is our belief that they have the potential to dramatically speed the pace at which more and more cancers are either cured or become chronic, rather than deadly, conditions.

Three big ideas underlie these new approaches: precision medicine, disease-focused investing, and investing at scale. Precision medicine refers to delivering the right medicine to the right patient, at the right time, and in the right sequence. It can only be realized when the scientific understanding of a particular cancer includes knowledge of the genetic and molecular aberrations that that are causing the disease. Once the science reaches this point, the chances of creating a disease-modifying therapy go way up. To illustrate, 10 years ago personalized medicines accounted for less than 10% of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s drug approvals. By 2017, that number had increased to 34% and is heading to over 40% this year.

The improved odds of success in drug discovery are providing new opportunities for donors to back what has become known as venture philanthropy. In this approach, drug discovery is developed around a specific disease and is financed by the efforts of a disease-focused foundation. For example, it was the venture philanthropy of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that allowed Vertex Pharmaceuticals to refine and test the drugs that have resulted in three FDA-approved treatments that enable 90% of CF patients to live symptom free. Because CF is a relatively rare disease, affecting roughly 70,000 people worldwide, pharmaceutical companies were unwilling to invest in potential cures. But that didn’t stop the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation which raised over $200 million specifically earmarked as venture philanthropy to back drug-discovery and clinical-trial efforts. As Josh Boger, the founder of Vertex, has stated, “Without Cystic Fibrosis Foundation funding, Vertex would not be in CF.”

This same approach offers an enormous opportunity in the cancer space. What is needed are many investments aimed at the different underlying causes of each specific cancer type. While this creates concentration risks, which are typically avoided by venture funds, they are precisely what disease foundations should be doing and where the new generation of philanthropists can make an enormous difference by taking on one particular type of cancer.

One timely example illustrates the point. Senator John McCain recently died from glioblastoma, a relatively rare but very deadly form of brain cancer. Ted Kennedy and Beau Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, died from the same disease. Treatments to cure or modify glioblastoma could come from a large, say $150 million, venture philanthropy fund whose only mission is to identify and fund start-up companies with a variety of approaches to conquering this disease. Developing such funds — be it in glioblastoma, ovarian cancer, or any of the other less-common cancers for which no effective treatments exist — is a unique opportunity for young and older philanthropists who want to see their dollars create cures.

While venture philanthropy funds represent a way to invest at scale in a particular cancer, larger funds are beginning to emerge that invest at much greater scale in a broader range of cancers. Andrew Lo, a finance professor at MIT, has been a trailblazer in this area. Armed with numerous simulations, Lo has argued that a large megafund of investments in cancer companies could not only help find cures but also produce more predictable returns for investors.

An illustration of this concept comes from the UBS Oncology Impact Fund which raised $471 million in 2016 to invest solely in ventures that would “accelerate the development of new cures” from investors who had to commit a minimum of $500,000, an amount within reach of UBS’s private wealth clients, many of whom are looking for investments that have social impact. UBS’s role was to market the fund to its private wealth clientele. The selection of investments and nurturing of new ventures is handled exclusively by the highly respected and experienced venture capital firm MPM, which has a track record of achieving high returns in the cancer space. We believe the success of the fund represents a model that others could emulate or build upon to attract large amounts of new capital to the cancer space in either general funds as with UBS-MPM or large focused funds focused on say immunotherapies or data analytic start-ups.

Curing cancer will require brilliant science and lots of investments dollars. It is our hope that the new generation of philanthropists, with their entrepreneurial and results-oriented approach, will lead the way in having their philanthropy and investment make a real difference in halting the onslaught of this devastating disease.

Categories: Blogs

When Competition Between Coworkers Leads to Unethical Behavior

Harvard business - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 07:35
Andrew Olney/Getty Images

Many of us love competition and, more important, winning. Competition drives us toward our goals and motivates us to improve our performance, while the prestige and power that come from winning can provide a powerful morale booster. What’s more, winning increases testosterone and dopamine hormones, which, in turn, increases our confidence and willingness to take risks, and thus our chances of further success.

At the same time, the need to win can blind us to ethical considerations. It’s a potential problem in all kinds of areas: colleagues who have a strong rivalry at work, managers who need to make their numbers for the quarter, even political parties that spend campaign funds to attract votes. A common theme in these situations is that there are only a few winning slots — and maybe just one — with massive stakes in terms of money, advancement, and fame.

What’s often driving this fierce competition is the knowledge that our performance is being assessed not in absolute terms but in comparison with others’. In the workplace, such “rank-and-yank” methods — also known as the vitality curve, forced rankings, and stacking systems — are regularly used to judge performance, whereby, say, the top 20% of employees are categorized as high performers and the bottom 10% face redundancy. Similarly, the bell-curve grading in an MBA classroom ensures that students are categorized and graded relative to peers, without considering their overall performance.

In our research, recently published in the journal Human Resource Management, we found that performance evaluation schemes based on peer comparison can encourage unethical behavior. In one study, we asked 164 MBA students to read a hypothetical scenario (based on a true story) about an investment banker facing an ethical dilemma, and to estimate the likelihood that this banker would indulge in unethical behavior. The students were randomly assigned to three conditions for how the banker would be paid: a fixed salary with no bonus; a fixed salary with a bonus tied to the banker’s number of trades; and a fixed salary with a bonus tied to the banker’s performance relative to his peers. (For more details of this study and the ones below, see the sidebar “Our Studies.”) Our results showed that the students in the relative performance condition expected the banker to be more likely to behave in an unethical manner.

Our Studies

Study 1
We asked 164 MBA students to (1) read a hypothetical scenario about an investment banker, Sam, who faced an ethical dilemma and (2) estimate the likelihood that he would indulge in unethical behavior. The scenario was motivated by the true story of an investment banker whose trading practices ultimately drove his bank to insolvency. According to the scenario, Sam was one of the key traders for his bank’s recently launched operations in Singapore. He had a successful trading career at the bank’s London operations: In the past two years his trades made millions, accounting for 8% of the bank’s annual profit. The bank had hired 10 other traders in its Singapore office, all of whom handled independent accounts without interfering or knowing much about the others’ work. Recently, the scenario continued, Sam had noticed that he had a big trading loss on one of the accounts, costing his bank $100,000. Sam was thinking about what he should do, as performance appraisals were coming soon. Now, Sam also managed the bank’s error account. Most banks have an account like this, which is used to account for genuine trading mistakes. Sam could use the error account to hide his losses without the knowledge of the bank. Of course, this is illegal and unethical.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions that differed in the performance management system applied to Sam: control (a fixed salary of $300,000 with no additional bonus possibilities), absolute (a fixed salary of $300,000 with additional bonus related to the total profits from his trades), and relative (a fixed salary of $300,000 with additional bonus based on his performance as compared with the other traders’). We found that the average likelihood of using the error account in the relative performance condition was significantly higher than that in the absolute and the control conditions. Our results showed that the participants under relative performance evaluation expected the banker to be more likely to behave in an unethical manner.

Study 2
We investigated people’s ethical behavior in self-reporting their performance. We invited 160 participants of U.S. origin on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk online platform to participate in a 10-question IQ quiz. They were asked to self-verify their answers and report their score to us. Again, participants were randomly assigned to one of the three groups that differed in their evaluation and compensation schemes: control, whereby all participants were given a fixed participation fee of 10 cents irrespective of their performance; absolute, with participants having a bonus possibility based on the number of correct answers they reported; and relative, where only the top scorers were to be rewarded with a bonus. Specifically, in the absolute condition, participants were informed that of the approximately 50 people who were participating, 10 of them would be randomly selected and we would pay an additional 10 cents for every point they scored. In the relative condition, participants were informed that of the approximately 50 people who were participating, at the end of the study we would award $1 to the 10 highest scorers based on their final scores. We deliberately kept the monetary incentives close to zero in order to study the effects of evaluation and comparisons instead of money and rewards.

The results surprised us. Participants averaged 3.39 correct answers (out of 10 questions) with no significant differences between the three experimental conditions. However, most participants — 85.6% (137 out of 160) of our sample — overreported their performance. Moreover, both the incidence and magnitude of overreporting was higher in the relative performance condition than in the other two conditions. 100% (56 out of 56) of participants in the relative performance condition overreported their performance, which was significantly greater than the 86% (44 out of 51) in the absolute performance condition and the 70% (37 out of 53) in the control condition. The self-reported score in the relative performance condition was also significantly greater than in the absolute performance condition, as well as in the control condition. In short, the competitive pressure and comparison seemed to encourage rule breaking.

Study 3
Again on Mechanical Turk, we invited 184 participants of U.S. origin to participate in a decision-making scenario. Participants assumed the role of a university professor who is close to tenure evaluation and is being considered for nomination to a prestigious national congress. The professor has a manuscript under review with a top journal, and its publication is key to both the tenure and nomination decisions. The data analysis for the manuscript had not provided desirable results and the professor is tempted to manipulate the data. Participants were asked to provide their likelihood of manipulating data on a scale of 0 (not at all) to 100 (certainly). They were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: control and consequential reflection. The only difference between the conditions was that participants in the consequential reflection condition were asked to list possible consequences (both positive and negative) of their decision before providing their likelihood judgment. We found that the average likelihood of data manipulation in the consequential reflection condition was significantly lower than in the control condition. We replicated our findings with another study, conducted with 142 MBA students who, instead of assuming the role of the professor, were asked to assess the likelihood that the academic would indulge in such data manipulation.

Further Studies
Across three additional experiments, we found that taking a moment to reflect helped to put short-term benefits and long-term potential losses into perspective. For example, in the consequential reflection study described above, after providing their likelihood judgment, all participants were asked to rate the magnitude of both the perceived risks and the perceived benefits involved in the situation they faced, using a scale of 0 (low) to 100 (high). For each participant, we combined these assessments to construct an assessment index. Our results showed that participants in the consequential reflection condition perceived significantly higher risks vis-à-vis benefits than those in the control condition.

In another study, we investigated people’s ethical behavior in self-reporting their performance. Using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform, we invited 160 participants of U.S. origin to participate in a 10-question IQ quiz. They were asked to self-verify their answers and report their scores to us. Again, participants were randomly assigned to one of three compensation groups: a fixed participation fee of 10 cents, irrespective of performance; a fixed fee with a bonus based on the number of correct answers they reported; and a fixed fee with a bonus for only the top scorers. The results surprised us. The groups didn’t differ much in performance, and most participants overreported their scores. But both the incidence and the magnitude of overreporting was highest in the third group, the one in which only top performers received a bonus. Notably, every single person in the group overreported their score. In short, the competitive pressure and the comparisons encouraged rule breaking.

Organizations continue to experiment with and debate the pros and cons of comparison-based performance management systems. In recent years, for example, Yahoo endorsed them, while Microsoft abandoned them. One thing is clear, though: Relative comparisons are widespread and here to stay. Given that, what can be done to limit possible temptations of ethical breaches that accompany such competitive comparative settings?

We propose a subtle and simple intervention we call consequential reflection: prompt individuals to reflect on the positive and negative consequences of their decisions. In another study of ours, participants who took a moment to think and write down such possible consequences were less willing to act unethically. Again on Mechanical Turk, we invited 184 participants of U.S. origin to participate in a decision-making scenario. Participants assumed the role of a university professor, close to tenure evaluation, who had a manuscript under review with a top journal. The data analysis for the manuscript had not provided desirable results, and as a result the professor was tempted to manipulate the data. Participants were asked how likely it was that they would manipulate the data, with some participants being prompted to consider the consequences. We found that those participants were significantly less likely to take unethical action.

Why would this kind of prompt be effective? Research on the human mind tells us we run on autopilot much of the time. The pressures of our jobs mean we often don’t take time to pause and reflect. Therefore, our intuitive, habitual behaviors take over. In matters of ethics, this can lead to a self-centered, “me-first” attitude, focused on the immediate benefits for ourselves and ignoring the long-term consequences of ethical lapses.

To put this idea into practice, we propose that leaders try the following:

  • Conduct pre-mortems. Ask employees and teams to regularly stop and reflect before making crucial ethically charged decisions. Instead of diagnosing decisions after the fact, take the time to think about their positive and negative consequences early on.
  • Organize ethics hackathons. On a regular basis, get team members together to share upcoming decisions. Let peers dissect them, play devil’s advocate, and raise possible issues with various stakeholders.
  • Train for reflection. Encourage employees to embrace a reflective, mindful approach to decision making. Training sessions on mindfulness can be beneficial for helping employees to slow down and think critically.
  • Make ethics part of culture. Include consequential reflection in values statements and culture guidelines in your organization. Reminders such as “Think first” and “Seek opinions” can be placed prominently in offices.

We believe the strengths of our intervention are that it’s effective, cheap and easy to implement, and unlikely to provoke strong objections from people. As our research shows, simple psychological interventions can be a valuable part of an organization’s tool kit for creating an ethical culture.

Categories: Blogs

How Timeboxing Works and Why It Will Make You More Productive

Harvard business - Wed, 12/12/2018 - 06:05
Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

Five years ago I read Daniel Markovitz’s argument for migrating to-do lists into calendars. Since then, my productivity has at least doubled.

That momentous (at least for me) article describes five problems with the to-do list. First, they overwhelm us with too many choices. Second, we are naturally drawn to simpler tasks which are more easily accomplished. Third, we are rarely drawn to important-but-not-urgent tasks, like setting aside time for learning. Fourth, to-do lists on their own lack the essential context of what time you have available. Fifth, they lack a commitment device, to keep us honest.

This was enough for me. I converted from my religiously observed to-do list (daily work plan) to this calendar system, also known as timeboxing (a term borrowed from agile project management). All five of Markovitz’s criticisms of to-do lists have manifested for me. In a study we conducted of 100 productivity hacks, timeboxing was ranked as the most useful. And over the last few years, I have also discovered several additional benefits of timeboxing, which I would like to share.

First, timeboxing into a calendar enables the relative positioning of work. If you know that a promotional video has to go live on a Tuesday and that the production team needs 72 hours to work on your copy edits, then you know when to place the timebox. In fact, you know where to place the timebox: it’s visual, intuitive, obvious. Working hard and trying your best is sometimes not actually what’s required; the alternative — getting the right thing done at the right time — is a better outcome for all.

You and Your Team Series Getting More Work Done

Second, the practice enables you to communicate and collaborate more effectively. If all of your critical work (and maybe just all of your work, period) is in your calendar, colleagues can see it. So not only are you more likely to plan your work to accommodate others’ schedules (the paragraph above), others are able to check that your work schedule works for them. Shared calendars (with attendant privacy options) are the norm in the corporate world now, with Microsoft and Google leading the way.

Third, it gives you a comprehensive record of what you’ve done. Maybe you get to the end of a blistering week and you’re not even sure what happened? It’s in your calendar. Or a performance review looms — what were the highs and lows of the last six months? It’s in your calendar. Or you’re keen to use an hour to plan the following week and need to know what’s on the horizon. It’s in your calendar. Just make sure you have your own personal (i.e. not exclusively employer-owned) version of this data, or someday it won’t be in your calendar.

Fourth, you will feel more in control. This is especially important because control (aka volition, autonomy, etc.) may be the biggest driver of happiness at work. Constant interruptions make us less happy and less productive. Timeboxing is the proper antidote to this. You decide what to do and when to do it, block out all distractions for that timeboxed period, and get it done. Repeat. Consistent control and demonstrable accomplishment is hugely satisfying, even addictive. This is not just about productivity (largely external), this is about intent (internal, visceral) and how we feel.

Fifth, you will be substantially more productive. Parkinson’s law flippantly states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Although it’s not really a law (it’s more of a wry observation), most of us would concede that there is some truth to it (especially as it pertains to meetings). A corollary of this observation in practice is that we often spend more time on a task than we should, influenced by the time that happens to be available (circumstantial) rather than how long the work should really take (objective). Disciplined timeboxing breaks us free of Parkinson’s law by imposing a sensible, finite time for a task and sticking to that. Although it’s hard to precisely quantify the benefits of any time management or productivity measures, this is clearly enormous. Just take a commonplace example: do you habitually take two hours (cumulatively, often drawn out over multiple sessions) to complete a task that really could have been done in a single, focused, time-boxed hour? If the answer is yes, then your personal productivity might be double what it is right now.

The benefits of calendarized timeboxing are many, varied, and highly impactful. The practice improves how we feel (control), how much we achieve as individuals (personal productivity), and how much we achieve in the teams we work in (enhanced collaboration). This may be the single most important skill or practice you can possibly develop as a modern professional, as it buys you so much time to accomplish anything else. It’s also straightforwardly applied and at no cost. Box some time to implement a version of this that works for you.

Categories: Blogs

Why It’s So Hard to Sell New Products

Harvard business - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 13:50

Thomas Steenburgh, a marketing professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, was inspired by his early career at Xerox to discover why firms with stellar sales and R&D departments still struggle to sell new innovations. The answer, he finds, is that too many companies expect shiny new products to sell themselves. Steenburgh explains how crafting new sales processes, incentives, and training can overcome the obstacles inherent in selling new products. He’s the coauthor, along with Michael Ahearne of the University of Houston’s Sales Excellence Institute, of the HBR article “How to Sell New Products.”

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Categories: Blogs

Leadership and Work Teams

Greatleaders hipbydan - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 09:47

Guest post from Simon Mac Rory:
If you work in an organization today as a leader you will lead a team. 90% of what we do in an organization happens through collaborative effort, making the team the most important production unit.
For two years (2016 and 2017) Deloitte’s Global Human Capital trends survey has positioned organizational redesign as the number one concern for businesses. In 2016 they termed this the ‘Rise of Teams’ and 2017 ‘The Organization of the Future – Arriving Now’. Bottom line, organizations are seeking to reconstitute themselves as a network of teams, ditching the traditional hierarchy. This makes teamwork even more crucial to overall success or failure for the organization.
The rhetoric surrounding this critical aspect of work tends to indicate that organizations and senior leaders are champions of teamwork and that they have the team ‘nut’ cracked - the reality however, points to a very different scenario. 
It is estimated that only 10% of teams can truly be deemed high performing, 40% are dysfunctional and detrimental to team members experience. The balance of 50% can at best be described as performing marginally and never producing more than incremental results. For me, the success and effectiveness of any team starts and ends with the leader. In my experience of working with and coaching work teams, the best, most effective teams always seem to have the best and most effective leaders.  If this premise and the figures above are accepted it would suggest that only 10% of team leaders are high performing, enabling their teams, whilst 40% of leaders are failing in their leadership tasks, whilst the remaining 50% are barely holding in there!
Most of the trouble for the struggling team leader starts with the belief that teams are there to support their leader.  
Nothing could be further from the truth and the converse is the needed reality – leaders are there to support their teams. This is what is referred to as the inverted hierarchy. Leaders are at the bottom of the pyramid supporting those in the team above them and not the other way around. This is a ‘get over it already’ moment. As a team leader the only means you have to success is in the success of your team. The more successful they are, the more success for you. Your job is to get all the barriers to team performance out of the way. You ensure that the team has what it needs, and you go to bat for the team always. Your job is to deliver strategy and structure for the team and it is the team that delivers output, quality and customer satisfaction. The alternative is that you as leader do everything, believe that you have all the answers and the rest of the team become your audience whilst you perform.
Jack Welsh famously said “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others”.  Great team leaders intuitively recognize this. This means being prepared to delegate, to empower and then to coach and support as necessary. It also means that as a leader you must recognize that the team is comprised of individuals and that each has separate, unique needs and operate at differing levels of ability and confidence. Therefore, there is a need for a leader to have flexibility in leadership style to develop the most appropriate overall style for the team, adjusting it to meet the needs of individual team members. Great team leadership is about creating the confidence in your team members to follow you by anticipating their needs and ensuring that all that can be done to enable each member of the team is done - so they can deliver.
An effective team leader will understand this requirement for flexibility, evaluating their performance, examining not only their leadership style but the appropriateness of that style. They must have the confidence to continually ask themselves and the team, “Is there anything I can do to improve my leadership of this team?”
Sounds complicated? Not really. Adopt the inverted hierarchy and see yourself at the bottom of the pyramid supporting the team members and their performance and not the other way around.
Traditional versus inverted hierarchy

With such a disposition, the management of coaching, performance, goals, communications, up- skilling, planning and evaluation becomes the natural task of the leader. This in turn will lead to a natural adoption of the appropriate style of leadership for the team and its individual team members, driving overall performance. Finding that balance for the team overall and meeting the individual needs of members is a key task of team leadership. Remember it is not the team leader’s job to do all the team tasks, rather it is to enable and support the team members to deliver.
Are you leading your team with the appropriate style? If your team has any characteristics of the left-hand column you may need to change your leadership style.
Teams without appropriate leadership   Teams with appropriate leadership Lack or have misplaced confidence
Display confidence
Constantly seek direction
Are self-managing
Avoid decision making
Have a clear focus
Are fearful of mistakes
Have an appropriate sense of ownership
Have tenuous loyalty at best
Have loyalty to the team leader
Avoid extra effort
Go the extra mile when required
Keep quiet about bad news
Enjoy high levels of trust and openness
Find it difficult to be motivated
Tend to be more motivated
Have a sense of “flight or fight” and the accompanying stress levels
Experience high morale – will want to belong to the team
Feel frustrated
Feel valued as individuals and as a team
Are constantly threatened by attrition
Have high retention
Tend to have the few carry the many
Have an equitable division of labour
Allow poor performers to ‘get away with it’ leading to a sense of unfairness
Do not carry poor performers
Are less effective and struggle to deliver success
Are more effective and more successful

Simon Mac Roryis a team development specialist. He works with senior leaders to help them discover that edge to become truly high performing. He founded The ODD Company www.theoddcompany.iein 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to the international markets. Simon operates from London with a Dublin-based support office. He received his doctoral degree for his work on the application of generic frameworks in organization development and is a visiting research fellow at NBS. His new book is “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative of teams”
Categories: Blogs

How Digital Leaders Get the Right Work Done - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM WORKFRONT

Harvard business - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 09:03

Companies are spending millions on digital transformation, yet studies find many leaders feel their projects aren’t achieving their objectives. Why? Workfront CEO Alex Shootman says digitization is happening in most companies on a function-by-function basis, leaving teams to work in silos instead of executing new strategies together. Listen here to learn more about what Shootman calls the “digital work crisis.”

Download this interview

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Welcome to the Quick Take, a conversation with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. I’m Angelia Herrin, Editor for Special Projects and Research at HBR. And today I’m talking with Alex Shootman, President and CEO of Workfront. He’s also the author of a new book, Done Right: How Tomorrow’s Leaders Get Work Done. Alex, thanks so much for joining us today.

Alex Shootman, Workfront

It’s great, thank you for having me. I’m excited to have the conversation.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Alex, you use a term, digital work crisis, to describe what’s going on in our workplaces today. What do you mean by that term? What’s behind it?

Alex Shootman, Workfront

Well, Angelia, according to a recent study by McKinsey, over $1.3 trillion will be spent by companies on digital transformation, yet over 70 percent of those projects will not achieve their intended objectives. And when you start asking the question of why do they not achieve the objectives, that “why” is really the source of the digital work crisis. And let me explain to you what I mean.

Companies have spent enormous energy responding to the existential threat of new entrants. In fact, only eight percent of companies’ CEOs believe that their business model will remain economically viable if their industry continues to digitize at its current course and speed. We’ve got a very large customer that’s a financial services company. And they told me that they have spent tremendous time and money transforming and digitizing their customer experience, yet it is still connected to an analog and siloed internal organization.

And that’s really the source of this digital work crisis. Companies know that digitization is the path forward. But most organizations do this kind of function by function. And so it makes it impossible for teams to execute together. And because of that, executives are flying blind; they’ve got no way to play, no way to execute, no way to measure what’s going on. And this is the digital work crisis. The digital work crisis is this unnerving pace of technological change, complex global networks, and lists product and service variation in almost infinite work streams, a whole tone of digital distractions, and fundamental access to more data than humans can handle. And that is what is causing what we see in our customers every day — an inability to get stuff done.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

So, we’re facing a very different workplace. Can you talk a little bit about what your research has found, about the challenges we’re facing? What’s changed in our workplace today?

Alex Shootman, Workfront

We’ve done a piece of research every year for five years straight. And it’s the state of work. And we surveyed over 2,000 individuals who do modern work inside of large enterprises. So, these are enterprises with over 1,000 employees. And because we’ve done this over five years, we can see some things that have not changed about this digital work crisis, and some things that are changing.

So, let me start with some things that haven’t changed, and this is amazing to me. Every year over the last five years, respondents to this survey say that they spend only 40 percent of their time doing their real job. Think about that, Angelia. If you or I were the CFO of a manufacturing company, and we were in a board meeting, and the board asked, “What is your manufacture and capacity utilization?” And you and I said we didn’t know, or we said it might be 40 percent; we would probably get released to pursue other opportunities. And so it’s staggering to me that every year for the last five years, this number has not changed. And that basically only 40 percent of human capital in modern work is doing their real job.

The other thing that hasn’t changed is a lack of transparency. People continue to report that work is complex, and they really don’t know what they’re supposed to do, and they don’t know what their peers are doing. And the other thing that has not changed is executives really want their people doing high-value work. They know they’ve got a lot of money invested in their folks, and they continue to ask “Why are they not spending all their time doing high-value work?”

So those three things have not changed. Let me tell you what’s different this year than the past years. The first is this notion that the challenges at work, the challenges of managing modern work, really are a crisis. Five years ago, when we started asking questions around the challenges of work, people reported that it was a nuisance, you know. People were frustrated, made them not really like their job. But now what people are saying is, “I cannot execute the business strategy of the company.” So, this challenge at work, the crisis of trying to manage modern work, has gone from a nuisance to a business imperative.

The second thing that’s changed is how people think about automation. Five years ago, it was all about “the robots are going to take my job.” Now what people are saying is they are demanding automation to help them do their job. Almost half of the respondents say that they are requesting tools to manage work. And what’s interesting to us is that we also do kind of a generational survey within the questions that we ask. And so millennials are more likely than Gen X and baby boomers to say that their team is requesting more technology to manage their work; 51 percent of millennials say that and 40 percent of baby boomers say that. So, their crisis is impacted by the ability to execute. People are welcoming automation.

And the last thing that is awesome that I see people saying is that there’s an increasing importance of purpose. People are starting to say, “You know what? It really matters to me what I do, and I want to do a great job, and I want to spend time doing great things that have purpose, instead of just doing business work.” So, what hadn’t changed was very underutilized folks, lack of transparency, executives demanding people to do high-value work. What has changed is people are seeing this as a work crisis. People are welcoming technology investments, and people want to do great work that has a purpose.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

So, you’re talking about some tough issues here, as well as some opportunities. So, as you talk to leaders, how are they thinking about how they are driving toward changes?

Alex Shootman, Workfront

One of the things that we see our customers doing as they drive toward changes in the modern workplace is they’re beginning to treat work, the work that their people do, they’re beginning to treat it as a tier-one asset. What they realize is that they’ve always treated finance and financial management as a tier-one asset. They’ve treated human resources and human resource management as a tier-one asset. How they manage their customers, right, customer relationship management, that’s a tier-one asset for the company. Even technology, information technology, you know, they’ve invested in treating that as a tier-one asset.

They’ve invested millions of dollars to manage these important assets of the company really well. And now what they’re saying is, “You know what, I’m no longer willing to manage work that is a tier-one asset using a kind of cobbled together set of legacy capabilities.” So that’s truly one of the things that we’re seeing. And we’re seeing these business leaders of tomorrow they’re really championing a new operating model of work. They’re realizing that they’ve got to have cross-functional collaboration.

Think about this, if you think about a legacy product company. Let’s say it’s an apparel company, right. And then you think about how new entrants come into the market. They will design a product faster. They will create a campaign with a celebrity on YouTube very fast, get all of that to market, create a whole lot of buzz around it. And that product, the life cycle of that product, may be very short, but they strap together many, many iterations of that cycle.

And so, the business leaders in some of the larger traditional apparel manufacturers, as an example, realize that they’ve got to have cross-functional collaboration, visibility, accountability, a model that allows product marketing, distribution, technology to kind of all act together as one team. And so that’s what we’re seeing the business leaders of tomorrow do — is champion a shift to this new kind of operating model of work.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Alex, what opportunities are you seeing in the market for these emerging leaders, and how can they capitalize on the skills that they’ve built?

Alex Shootman, Workfront

You know, one of the most exciting things that I’m seeing is young leaders seizing the opportunity to improve work at their companies and get promoted as a result. One of the stories that I share in the very beginning of the book Done Right is about a lady named Allison Angelita. And she had success — success managing modern work — and she got great recognition and promotion.

And I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been part of three different software companies that created brand new categories. And in each of these situations, there were young gifted leaders that had the foresight to use these new categories as rocket fuel for their careers. And when I met with leaders at Workfront and we got past the topic of the technology we were discussing, they always came back to a conversation about what they would really value. How would they get earned knowledge about how to get things done at a modern geographically distributed, dynamic and competitive enterprise? These leaders want an impact, they want to make a difference, and they’re looking for practical ways to get things done.

Basically, what they want to do is they want to be masters of modern work, and it was that ambition itself that is the inspiration for the book that we wrote called Done Right.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

So, as you look at the people who are now coming out of school or they’re going into college, what would you tell them are the most marketable skills of the future?

Alex Shootman, Workfront

Yeah, I’ll tell you, and this is one of the reasons why we wrote the book. I believe that the most marketable skill in the future for any aspiring executive is the ability to get stuff done. We’re really lucky at Workfront. We’ve had a front-row seat with over 3,000 companies. We’ve had the opportunity to study the doers, for lack of a better term. And it turns out that people that get stuff done, they repeat a set of practices, they repeat it either consciously or unconsciously. And so, we wanted to codify this understanding, first, for our own people in our company, and then, you know, second, for the broader example.

Let me give you an example of that. The first two chapters of this book are about the basics of being able to describe the work that you’re trying to do and determining who is going to care about that work and why they would care. Inside of Workfront, we’re an organization where we’re supposed to be able to do stuff well because that’s what we go out and help our customers do. We did a project where we looked internally, and we looked at things that we had done well and things that we didn’t execute. And what turned out in common was the things that we didn’t execute were things where we just didn’t do the basics that are in chapters one and two of the book in terms of, “Can you describe the work that you’re trying to do, and do you know the stakeholders that care?”

And so, what I advocate when I’m sitting down with young leaders is, go back to basics, none of this stuff is rocket science but you have to take the time to do a small number of disciplines right. And the good news is, we’ve studied people for you, and we can share with you what those disciplines are.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Alex, what’s the one overriding principle that you’d like to share, like, if you have to tell someone, “Here’s my ‘aha!’ takeaway from this book that I want you to put to work in your career”?

Alex Shootman, Workfront

Maybe I’d broaden it from maybe just a broader topic, and it’s the following: We have a culture inside of Workfront that’s getting it done and doing it right. So, imagine a two-by-two matrix where we sit down with folks and ask them, “Are you doing it right?” Those are the values of our organization. “Are you getting it done? Are you accomplishing your role?” And what we tell people is, “You know, if you’re not doing either, it’s probably not a great place for you. If you’re doing it right but you’re not getting it done, we want to coach you because you’re made of all the right stuff. If you’re doing both, you’re a superstar. If you’re getting it done but you’re not doing it right, we’re going to have to fire you faster than anybody else in the company.”

So, the one thing I would just want to leave folks with that I’ve learned is, you can get things done and you can do them the right way. And there’s no reason to have to cut corners. There’s no reason to have to do something the wrong way, and you will personally get a whole lot more satisfaction by accomplishing your goals by doing them the right way. And you’ll inspire more people to follow you if you do things the right way. And so that’s what I would want to leave folks with is: You do not have to do the wrong thing to become a successful executive.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Alex, that’s such good advice. And this has been such a good discussion. I want to thank you so much for talking with us. Alex Shootman’s new book, Done Right: How Tomorrow’s Leaders Get Work Done, will be published in December.

To learn more, please click here.

Categories: Blogs

Research: When Overconfidence Is an Asset, and When It’s a Liability

Harvard business - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 08:00
W. Wayne Lockwood, M.D./Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

What happens to people who are overconfident? Are they generally rewarded, promoted, and respected? Or do we distrust them and avoid collaborating with them? Our research suggests it may depend on how they express confidence.

One way people express confidence is verbally. We make specific, numeric expressions of confidence in our judgments, such as when making probabilistic forecasts (e.g., I’m 90% sure), or when estimating our performance relative to others (e.g., I’m in the top 10%). Much of the research on overconfidence looks at verbal expressions of overconfidence, because these can more clearly be compared to actual performance and outcomes.

But this is not the only, or even the most common, way that people express confidence. There are a number of nonverbal things we do, using body language and tone of voice, to appear confident. For example, people who feel confident tend to act dominant—speaking boldly and loudly, at a rapid pace, and starting the conversation with their own opinion. They may also nod their head for emphasis and generally have a larger presence in the room. They are seen as powerful, and others defer to them. These nonverbal expressions of confidence aren’t always perceived accurately, however, as things like culture and context can lead to different interpretations.

Both channels of communicating confidence, verbal and nonverbal, can be extremely effective at garnering positive attention and influence in groups. According to one hypothesis (the presumption of calibration hypothesis), we generally assume others have the self-knowledge to know how confident they should be, and we also assume they will truthfully communicate this confidence to us (the so-called truth bias), unless extenuating circumstances suggest otherwise. So whenever we encounter confidence, we tend to find it compelling, and we expect it to be justified.

Sometimes though, we find out information that suggests someone was actually overconfident and makes us second-guess our initial view. Maybe they said they were extremely sure, or their body language exuded confidence, and it turned out they were wrong. Here, the research has been mixed about the consequences of overconfidence.

Some research has reported that being overconfident while participating in a group activity did not damage the person’s reputation. Individuals who had acted confident about their task performance, but were later revealed to be worse at the task than they had claimed, did not suffer a severe drop in their social status in the group relative to someone who had been well-calibrated. The researchers concluded that “the status benefits of overconfidence outweighed any possible status costs”.

But other research, using vignettes or videos of people, found that eyewitnesses and job applicants who verbally stated their confidence level to evaluators did take a large reputational hit once additional information suggested they had been overconfident. For these individuals, it seems they could have saved their credibility by being more modest.

In a series of studies recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we teamed up with other researchers to investigate why some of us had previously observed that overconfidence could be a liability, while some of us had found it was not. We noticed a pattern in the existing research: that the confidence expressions in studies on in-person groups were primarily nonverbal; whereas in studies with vignettes or videos, they were primarily verbal. So we tested whether the way confidence was expressed was what determined the consequences of being overconfident.

In our first study, we asked 444 online participants (mTurkers) in the U.S. to choose between two candidates to collaborate with on a task–one who was confident and one who was cautious. Participants overwhelmingly selected the confident candidate, regardless of whether confidence was described using verbal statements from the candidates, or was inferred from how the candidates carried themselves on recorded video. Then participants received performance information that could help them detect overconfidence; they found that, despite their confidence, all candidates were equally mediocre at a pre-screening version of the task.

After this revelation, now the channel by which confidence was communicated made a difference. If the candidate had expressed confidence verbally, the candidate suffered a big blow to reputation and lost the advantage; fewer people selected them as collaborators compared to the cautious candidate. However, if the candidate had expressed confidence nonverbally, this candidate kept the advantage.

We repeated this study with male and female candidates, and with two different types of tasks (an emotional IQ test and guessing strangers’ ages from photographs). We observed the same pattern of results. Confidence was always beneficial to a candidate initially, but if the candidate’s performance did not live up to expectations, then the channel of communication became a deciding factor in the candidates’ desirability as a collaborator.

In a follow-up study, we replicated this finding with 256 undergraduate participants, some of whom got to meet the candidates in person, ask them questions, and observe their nonverbal behavior, before selecting a collaborator; while others in the verbal behavior condition read the same verbal statements as in the first study. We saw even stronger results.

Why might the channel of communication have such an important role in whether overconfidence is a social liability? One feature of nonverbal behavior is that it is not so clearly tied to a specific, falsifiable claim as are verbal expressions. We explored whether this was what mattered in follow-up studies.

In one study, we asked 462 mTurk participants to select a collaborator, as the participants had done in our first studies. After the candidates’ less-than-stellar performance was revealed, we explained that the candidates had each overtly denied being overconfident about their task ability. Our participants found the denial much more plausible when the candidate had expressed confidence nonverbally rather than verbally. This was a strong indicator that plausible deniability could be behind the advantage for the candidates expressing overconfidence nonverbally.

In another follow-up study, we again found evidence to suggest that channel of communication played a key role because of plausible deniability. This time we used a judge-advisor paradigm, in which we asked 302 undergraduate participants, many of whom were majoring in business, to act as managers evaluating advisors. The advisors expressed confidence or cautiousness about their decisions on a recorded video, with varying levels of plausible deniability. For example, in one condition, the advisors expressed confidence, or lack thereof, with the video sound on mute to showcase their nonverbal behavior (e.g., head nodding for emphasis).

The results replicated our previous studies, in that confidence, no matter how it was expressed, was beneficial until it became clear that performance fell short. Then, overconfidence cost the advisors. But those who expressed confidence nonverbally  (with a higher level of plausible deniability) did not lose all of their initial advantage.

These studies point to one reason why some people are penalized for being overconfident while others are not. It’s harder to hold people accountable for overestimating their abilities or knowledge when they express that confidence in nonverbal ways. It’s important to recognize these cues that demonstrate confidence – standing tall, speaking loudly, and dominating conversation – to avoid  giving those who are overconfident undue influence.  You can also hold colleagues accountable by asking them to be specific in their confidence assessments and by verifying their accuracy over time.

Categories: Blogs

Why the U.S. Needs Allies in a Trade War Against China

Harvard business - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 07:45
ULTRA.F/Getty Images

On December 1, in Buenos Aires, President Trump started the 90-day clock to negotiate a trade deal with China. He claims he wants to tackle the big systemic concerns involving theft of American intellectual property, the forced transfer of technology from American firms, and the state-driven nature of the Chinese economy. For trade watchers, the time frame for such ambitions sounds absurd. But they are not entirely out of reach. If Trump makes up with scorned friends in order to take on a common adversary, he could get a meaningful deal.

Admittedly, Trump did spend the first two years of his presidency alienating traditional American allies as much as officials in Beijing. He reversed the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy moves by pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate, Iran sanctions deal, and Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. And his own protectionist actions on trade policy – tariffs imposed on steel, aluminum, and threatened on cars – mostly hit exports in economic allies like Europe, Japan, Canada, and South Korea. Because they weaken an otherwise concerning alliance, China’s view of many of those Trump policy actions is fairly positive.

But a change in approach is conceivable. In what would be a stunning policy plot twist of the Trump presidency, it is possible that American negotiators could join forces with their previously rebuffed counterparts in Europe and Japan to form a collective front, all pushing for Chinese reform. Although the White House has yet to signal anything like this, it’s worthwhile to consider how such a strategy might play out.

This coalition of market-oriented economies would make three fundamental demands. First, Beijing would have to commit to a crackdown on state-sponsored cyber-espionage and theft of commercial trade secrets. Second, the Chinese government would also need to move away from its legacy system of coercing western companies to form joint ventures with domestic firms, as this has created tension with companies being compelled to transfer their technology on noncommercial terms. Finally, China would have to cut its industrial subsidies and the excess credit it has used to prop up state-owned enterprises.

In fact, European and Japanese trade ministers have been working behind the scenes – with the support of President Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer – to develop new rules to address each of these joint concerns with China. The three publicly announced the initiative almost exactly one year ago on the sidelines of a World Trade Organization conference, coincidentally also in Buenos Aires. The trilateral group revealed further progress after meeting in March in Brussels, in May in Paris, and in September in New York.

The December 1 announcement created a moment for this trilateral group to put their plan into action. Trump could take it, reunite with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and confront China en masse. And proceeding as a bloc is more likely to work, mainly because it capitalizes on the right economic incentives.

To see why the three must work together, remember that American negotiators have already tried to press Beijing on their own. Though it received strikingly little public attention at the time, the Obama administration undertook sustained attempts to negotiate a bilateral investment treaty with China. This one-on-one effort sought an agreement to protect foreign companies from suffering from the same problems Trump purportedly now wants to fix. Such a treaty might have addressed the coercion and theft of American intellectual property, as well as some of the concerns over China’s massive subsidies, through new rules and better enforcement.

However attractive this all sounds, the U.S.-China bilateral treaty approach was probably doomed for failure. It is a deceptively simple example of what the Harvard-trained economist Mancur Olson popularized as the collective-action problem. The “harm” caused by China’s unfair trade practices is spread out across all of its trading partners, each of whom has only a minor incentive to act. Therefore, on its own, America simply does not possess enough incentive to ask China to do the structural change required to make a difference.

The problem is something of a paradox. America would not reap all of the benefits if China took on all of the reforms being demanded. Beijing can’t improve intellectual property protection in a targeted fashion that would only advantage American companies, scientists, and workers – its efforts would also end up helping German, Japanese, and British entrepreneurs. And a Chinese agreement to cut back on subsidies improves conditions facing steel and aluminum companies also operating in Europe and Japan, not just in the American Midwest. The sheer inability to prevent others from benefiting from Chinese reform means that an America that goes alone will tend to underinvest in efforts to push for change.

Understanding the limits to negotiating alone is critical. Beijing recognizes that the U.S. doesn’t have the stomach to put up a big enough fight on its own to fully play out a war of attrition. Why should American automobile workers in South Carolina have their exports shut out of the Chinese market due to Beijing’s retaliation to Trump’s tariffs when the main beneficiaries are car plants in Europe or Japan? American soybean farmers have noticed that this fall’s tariff on their crop means China will switch to sourcing from competitors in countries like Brazil.

Even if the Trump administration feels emboldened to inflict the pain of tariffs on American consumers, the next president may not be. So, the Chinese can simply wait. The implication of Olson’s free rider problem is that, just like Obama had insufficient leverage to get China to do structural change, Americans are likely unwilling to suffer the pain of President Trump’s unilateral tariff war for long enough to get the job done.

Nor should they have to. China’s biggest fear is one of collective action by the Europeans, Japanese, and Americans. Beijing will likely soon present Trump with a deal to simply agree to buy more American agricultural or industrial products, but not make much movement of reform. This offer will be tempting. Selling off the growing stockpile of American soybeans or the cars in the overflowing parking lots at the docks will appeal to an American president who has been interested thus far in deals in which only the Americans benefit.

But this would be short-sighted. China importing more agriculture or cars from America without reform may simply come at the expense of someone else. And that someone else may be exports from an ally like Europe or Japan. So not only would falling for the seductive but poisonous offer not fix the long-term problem with China, it would further weaken an already fragile trilateral partnership. It would also be China’s way of buying itself out of the needed systemic reform from which the Europeans and Japanese benefit, too.

All of this does assume the Trump administration is serious about fixing the trade relationship with China. The next 90 days could also reveal whether its true intention is instead to limit China’s rise based on some perceived national security or other non-economic concern.

Now, the first two years of the Trump presidency do make the likelihood of collective action seem remote. And yet, the opportunity to capitalize on the moment is now there for his taking. The failure to do so may be a waste of Trump’s best, and potentially only remaining, opportunity on this issue.

Beyond making up with allies, a final potential attraction to such a plot twist would be the statement that Trump had learned from the failings of his predecessor. For the Obama administration did try to negotiate structural reform with China – but its ultimately unsuccessful attempts were carried out also almost entirely alone.

Categories: Blogs

What Businesses Should Know About Brazil’s New President

Harvard business - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 07:00
Rubberball/Mike Kemp/Getty Images

On October 28th, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil’s Social Liberal Party (PSL) defeated Fernando Haddad of the Worker’s Party (PT).

Bolsonaro, a candidate coming from the far-right of the political spectrum, picked up 55% of the vote. This outcome can largely be attributed to three factors: Brazil’s lethargic and largely jobless economic recovery, a decline in public security, and a strong and sustained anti-corruption wave first instigated by the unprecedented Lava Jato investigation.

The most important of these factors was the lack of a strong economic recovery following the end of Brazil’s recession in 2017, the deepest in its history. Through September of this year, Brazil’s economic activity index showed that the overall economic output in the country remained 6.5% below where it stood at the same point in 2014. In the last twelve months, Brazil’s unemployment rate has eased just barely from 12.4% to 11.9% (mostly driven by individuals leaving the labor force rather than finding jobs), while investment, which contracted by 14% YOY in 2015 and 12% YOY in 2016, climbed by just a meager 4.3% YOY.

These economic trends were then exasperated by both a deteriorating security situation across Brazil’s major cities, driven by rising unemployment itself in addition to cuts to public security funding, and a strong anti-corruption wave. Both of these forces clearly favored Jair Bolsonaro, the ex-army captain who was perceived to be the “cleanest” of the candidates. (His opponents, Fernando Haddad and PSDB candidate Geraldo Alckmin, were both indicted for corruption and money laundering the month prior to the election.) Bolsonaro also portrayed himself as a strong-man capable of bringing order to the country via policies such as the liberalization of arms for private citizens and greater permission for police to use deadly force to stop crime.

What business leaders should expect from the Bolsonaro administration

To understand where Brazil’s economy will go following the election of Jair Bolsonaro, it’s necessary to first understand why the economic recovery to date has been so lethargic. This can largely be laid at the feet of one monumental failure of the current government under President Michel Temer: the lack of a comprehensive pension reform.

As it stands today, the World Bank estimates that Brazil’s debt to GDP ratio, which currently stands at approximately 75%, would rise to above 150% by 2030 without a significant fiscal adjustment led by reform to the country’s existing pension benefits. This bleak outlook, and the continued lack of clarity around a potential fix, is the major driver of why financial institutions have yet to aggressively increase lending and why businesses appetite for new investment has remained muted.

Jair Bolsonaro was the only candidate in the run-off election that supported a reform of the pension system, which may be why, despite his bombastic rhetoric on campaign, yields on Brazil ten-year treasuries fell by more than two percentage points and the currency ratio appreciated from 4.1 (Brazilian real to USD) to 3.62, between September and the day following the final electoral outcomes. (Since then, though, both indicators have moved slightly in the opposite direction, largely due to global market conditions). This demonstrates falling inflation expectations and a stronger outlook for growth, as markets believe he will likely achieve what others could not, and thus return the country to a steadier path of economic expansion.

There are still fundamental concerns over whether Bolsonaro, once being sworn in on January 1st, will pursue some of his potentially more destabilizing policy proposals, such as liberating gun ownership or reducing restrictions on the exploitation of delicate areas in the Amazon rainforest for economic gain. While my firm Frontier Strategy Group is forecasting growth in Brazil at 3.0% in 2019 up from 1.6% in 2018, we believe both Bolsonaro’s extreme position on some subjects, and perhaps more importantly his lack of experience in a position of true power, are risks to his ability to sustain the political support necessary to pass the reforms that Brazil needs. Likewise, political miscalculation have proven to come with heavy consequences for the country’s past leaders, with just two of the four directly elected presidents under the current constitution having actually completed their last terms in office (and one of those who did is now imprisoned for corruption and money laundering).

Our forecasts suggest that while Bolsonaro is likely to pass pension reform in 2019 (both raising the retirement age and also reducing benefits), he is unlikely to make dramatic inroads into addressing other ills of the market, such as its burdensome tax system, its challenging labor code, or its underfunded infrastructure. And despite some of his past statements, we also don’t see Bolsonaro as an immediate threat to Brazil’s democratic institutions.

Bolsonaro did not win with as much popular support as it might first appear — he took 55% of the valid votes, but just 43% of the total electorate after considering blank votes and abstentions. He also does not have the sustainable super majority in Congress needed to pass constitutional amendments without significant efforts at coalition building (which require 308 votes in Brazil’s lower house and 49 votes in the Senate – in rather two votes through each body). While Bolsonaro’s party picked up 44 additional seats in the lower house, to hold 52 total seats, there remain 30 parties in Congress, making coalition building a matter of constant horse trading.

For all of the differences between Bolsonaro and his predecessors, he will face many of the same governing challenges that they did.

Is Brazil’s electoral outcome indicative of a broader global trend?

While there are many factors across the world driving economic volatility and uncertainty — Brexit, U.S.-China trade tensions, currency upheaval in markets such as Argentina and Turkey — that could result in more populist events over the next few years, or at least anti-establishment forces coming to power, we could also easily see a further push back against these forces.

That is to say that the forces that brought Bolsonaro to power in Brazil cannot be read as indicative of a cohesive global trend. In fact, as we have seen, Bolsonaro’s rise in Brazil was the result of a combination of largely unique domestic factors: an economic recession driven largely by domestic factors, rising insecurity, and a sustained anticorruption wave ignited by an unprecedented investigation targeting the country’s most powerful individuals.

In that sense, while companies should not be worried about an underlying global trend lending itself to the election of highly unpredictable heads of state, the case of Brazil clearly demonstrates the need for continued application of scenario-based planning across high stakes markets to ensure the ability to  rapidly adjust to downside risks, but also take advantage of sudden emergence of new opportunities.

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