“We Had Gone Back 20 Years.” The Heads of Puerto Rico’s Largest Media Company on Life After Hurricane Maria

Harvard business - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 09:00
AFP Contributor/Getty Images

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, it became one of the deadliest storms ever to hit the island. Nearly 3,000 people were killed and parts of the island are still recovering, lacking access to power and clean water more than a year later.

For one of Puerto Rico’s largest companies, Grupo Ferré Rangel, the impact has been enormous. The family-owned business runs Puerto Rico’s largest media company&#8212 (GFR Media) as well as other companies focused on customer engagement (LinkActive) and real estate (Kingbird). Company President Maria Luisa Ferré Rangel and Chief Creative Officer Loren Ferré Rangel recently sat down with HBR to discuss how GFR has changed since Maria struck.

“After Hurricane María,” said María Luisa, “Puerto Rico will never be the same. Our memories are grounded in the fact that we went to bed with one reality, one country or one island; 24 hours later we woke up in a different place.” An edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.

HBR: As publishers and editors, you had to cover the disaster while your employees — and your businesses, by extension — faced extraordinary obstacles. How did you approach those first days and weeks?

María Luisa: Puerto Rico was completely devastated, and all of our businesses were impacted, too. Inside the newsroom, we had families living in the cafeteria, conference rooms, training centers etc.; there were 200 people who lived in our newsroom for weeks. We had to put in a daycare center, a catering center, provide cash because there was no way for people to take money out of the bank, provide cars for people, especially reporters, to get around. We worried all the time about having enough fuel for the generators. And that was just for our employees. When it came to the business, we had gone back 20 years and distributed the paper as a print product. The whole island was isolated from the world.

It was a race to transform ourselves. We were responsible for informing and connecting everyone in a very tricky environment. From the first moment, because our business is connecting people, we had to pick ourselves up and do our job. But the hurricane forced us to see ourselves in a different way. Our call centers became the FEMA call centers. We were supplying electricity and water to our properties that are part of our real estate business, and so we began to rent out small spaces to people who needed to get back to work but had no place to go. We gave space to NGOs so they could also be first responders in the emergency. We started to think about what other services we could provide, and this is when we began to refocus our business.

What do you mean, refocus?

María Luisa: The hurricane forced us to stretch our thinking, challenging our perception of what we believe we could do — what we are capable of achieving in times of crisis. Crisis brings opportunities to explore uncharted territories. We’re now looking into developing other businesses and strengthening our presence in other industries. For example, now with our call center experience, we are competing for the call centers for the U.S. and Caribbean. We are evaluating coworking space opportunities. We’re looking at affordable housing with a group that can build quickly with new technology that is hurricane proof and can prove self-sufficient after an emergency with integrated solar panels and battery packs. We’re investing in hurricane proof solar panels that are applicable to various surfaces. In addition, we are evaluating investing in small startups that are offering solutions to facilitate living.

These opportunities sprouted from the crisis. The ecosystem changed, Puerto Rico changed. We needed to adjust our plan to give room and seize the opportunities that had risen within housing, energy, and services.

What made you ready for these opportunities?

Loren: No one was really ready for the outcome post-María. However, having to navigate the landscape and having to get our businesses back in track, gave us the capacity to see the needs and thus the opportunities that were evident after the hurricane. We identified jobs to be done. The hurricane forced us to see ourselves in a different way.

María Luisa: Our businesses were able to operate immediately after Maria because we planned for redundancy — generators, diesel, tech infrastructure. For example, we had three internet suppliers and although connection was nonexistent internally, we were able to transmit and keep our coverage on our websites for those outside of Puerto Rico. We were highly focused on covering the story of Puerto Rico and helping the world understand what was going on here. The printed newspaper was the only source of information available at that moment, and we understood the importance of people having information that could save their lives, that is why we decided to [distribute] the paper for free.

The hurricane had a huge financial impact, especially for the media company. We had no advertising because most of our advertisers were closed, their agencies without power. The reality of running a continuous operation, the extra expenses of diesel, gasoline, food, and then we had the cost of taking care of our employees and their families, without the revenues amounted to a $14 million loss, which we were counting on our business interruption insurance policy to cover, but at this moment we haven’t received any payment from this part of the insurance. As a family, we had to put up the money to keep the media company running for months until slowly the advertising dollars started to come back. The reality of having an operation that was debt free became very real, because if in addition to the $14 million loss, we needed to pay our interest on loans/debt, it would have made it impossible for us to continue operations.

Soon after the hurricane, you had to make cuts at the media company. Were those related to the losses? Or a desire to invest in other newer parts of the business — the solar, the housing, the call centers, etc?

María Luisa: This was one of the most difficult decisions in our lives. We had great challenges in front of us, and we needed to make changes throughout the company, in order to continue our mission. In terms of the media company, we needed to revise processes and look for efficiencies. Our industry has been in the middle of a great transformation and the impact of the hurricane made it much worse, that is why it was so difficult to make the decisions, but also necessary to sustain the business through a very very difficult time. On the human side, we knew that some of these decisions were dramatic, but at the end we had to ensure the sustainability of the business in the middle of the crisis.

Do you feel that the company has stabilized? How long has it taken to restore a sense of normalcy?

María Luisa: It was really chaotic for a while because you had to survive every day. We didn’t know if we had enough diesel to operate. Most of us were not living at home. When you drove around Puerto Rico, there were no traffic signals, no policemen. And we had a mandatory curfew. We couldn’t be out in the street after 5 p.m. This lasted about a month.

The moment we started feeling as though we had routines, we felt the chaos subside. Even if it was just being at work and picking up trash in your office. Then, when the power started to come back, we started to feel a lot more secure. Then the water came back, and we started to feel more in control. This was four months after the hurricane.

None of our businesses stopped running, but the moment we were able to be fully operational was a big deal. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have issues. We were losing money. That’s when we realized we had to create a new strategy. That we didn’t have time. That we had to move very fast.

It sounds like even though the chaos was subsiding, there was a lot that was still unsettled for a lot of people. How do you introduce a new strategy when employees are already stressed? Was it even a good idea to introduce a new strategy at this time?

María Luisa: Our focus was on making sure our employees were safe and on their way to full recovery. But we quickly started pulling people together in new ways and working in teams and across silos. The teams knew the company was stable but under threat. You can imagine my thoughts of, “How do you tell them that it’s going to be ok? How do you motivate them?” In our regular meetings with all the teams, and in every conference room, we pasted a Winston Churchill quote: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” We also pasted a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” We wanted people to know that the important thing for us was to keep moving forward and celebrate moving forward. That mentality has really helped us.

Beyond shifting in strategy, how did Maria change your business? What are some of the lessons that you learned?

María Luisa: We learned about our emergency operations. We were relying so much on technology that we forgot basics like having a list of where employees live, on paper. The computers didn’t work. We couldn’t send emails. Now we have a roster. We have added regular land lines as backup in communication and now we are working on mapping out where our employees live and how to physically reach them in case of an emergency, also creating emergency centers in our distribution buildings and call centers buildings.

And, in the media company, we were so into covering the story, in surviving the moment, that we might have lost sight that our own people were suffering. We look outside a lot — we covered the loss of Puerto Rico, but maybe we didn’t look inside enough. In hindsight, while we were working through the crisis, focused on getting the information out, we should have also had a group of our own people looking to the needs of our staff and having the space and time to process what has happened to them on individual levels too… counseling, for example. Now we’re creating a wellness program to help people deal with the trauma everybody had. And that nourishing part is a lesson to be learned.

You’ve just marked the 100th anniversary of GFR. And the one-year anniversary of Maria. What are you thinking about most? What are you hopeful about? What are you worried about?

We are thinking about the future. The social inequalities unveiled by this disaster must be addressed. How do we become resilient and how do we keep transforming — until every Puerto Rican family has a secure roof over their heads, functioning and affordable utilities, access to quality education and health services, jobs, safety, and food on their table? This is work that continues until our businesses and our economy are back on track and the social fiber of our society is regenerated and healed.

Our family has been in Puerto Rico for over a century, and we are planning to be around for many, many more years to come. We have been present and committed to Puerto Rico during times of prosperity, but most importantly, during times of adversity. Adversity has a way of reminding us how strong we all can be.

Categories: Blogs

AI’s Potential to Diagnose and Treat Mental Illness

Harvard business - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 08:00

The United States faces a mental health epidemic. Nearly one in five American adults suffers from a form of mental illness. Suicide rates are at an all-time high, 115 people die daily from opioid abuse, and one in eight Americans over 12 years’ old take an antidepressant every day. The economic burden of depression alone is estimated to be at least $210 billion annually, with more than half of that cost coming from increased absenteeism and reduced productivity in the workplace.

In a crisis that has become progressively dire over the past decade, digital solutions — many with artificial intelligence (AI) at their core — offer hope for reversing the decline in our mental wellness. New tools are being developed by tech companies and universities with potent diagnostic and treatment capabilities that can be used to serve large populations at reasonable costs.

AI solutions are arriving at an opportune time. The nation is confronting a critical shortfall in psychiatrists and other mental health specialists that is exacerbating the crisis. Nearly 40% of Americans live in areas designated by the federal government as having a shortage of mental health professionals; more than 60% of U.S. counties are without a single psychiatrist within their borders. Those fortunate enough to live in areas with sufficient access to mental health services often can’t afford them because many therapists don’t accept insurance.

Insight Center

Instead, the countless undiagnosed suffer, or look to emergency rooms and primary care physicians for treatment. Patients with depression, for instance, see their primary care physicians more than five times on average annually, versus fewer than three times for those without depression. For this reason, even though mental health treatment appears to account for only 4% of employer health costs, it’s really linked to nearly a quarter of them.

While some may consider the digitization of mental health services impersonal, the inherent anonymity of AI turns out to be a positive in some instances. Patients, who are often embarrassed to reveal problems to a therapist they’ve never met before, let down their guard with AI-powered tools. The lower cost of AI treatments versus seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist is another plus. These advantages help AI tools ferret out the undiagnosed, speed up needed treatment, and improve the odds of positive outcomes.

Like all digitization efforts in health care and other industries, these new tools pose risks, especially to patient privacy. Health care has already become a prime target of hackers as more and more records have been digitized. But hacking claims data is one thing; getting access to each patient’s most intimate details presents a whole new type of risk — particularly when those details are linked to consumer data and social media logins. Providers must design their solutions from the outset to employ mitigation techniques such as storing minimal personally identifiable data, regularly deleting session transcripts following analysis, and encrypting data on the server itself (not just communications).

AI vendors also must deal with the acknowledged limitations of AI, such as a tendency for machine learning to discriminate based on race, gender, or age. For instance, if an AI tool that uses speech patterns to detect mental illness is trained using speech samples only from one demographic group, working with patients from outside that group might result in false alerts and incorrect diagnoses. Similarly, a virtual therapist trained primarily on the faces of tech company employees may be less effective reading non-verbal cues from women, people of color, or seniors — few of whom work in tech. To avoid this risk, AI vendors must recognize the tendency and develop AI tools using the same rigorous standards as research clinicians who diligently seek test groups representative of the whole community.

More broadly, AI’s scale can be both a blessing and a curse. With AI, one poor programming choice carries the risk of harming millions of patients. Just as in drug development, we’re going to need careful regulation to make sure that large-scale treatment protocols remain safe and effective.

But as long as appropriate safeguards are in place, there are concrete signs that AI offers a powerful diagnostic and therapeutic tool in the battle against mental illness. Below, we examine four approaches with the greatest promise.

Making humans better. At their most basic level, AI solutions help psychiatrists and other mental health professionals do their jobs better. They collect and analyze reams of data much more quickly than humans could and then suggest effective ways to treat patients.’s virtual mental health services — including video and text-based therapy and coaching sessions — provide a good example. Through analyzing past assessments and real-time data collected using mobile devices, the app can help specialists track patients’ progress, identify times of crisis, and develop individualized care plans. In a year-long survey of users, 72 percent reported clinically significant improvements in symptoms of depression.

Anticipating problems. Mental health diagnosis is also being supplemented by machine-learning tools, which automatically expand their capabilities based on experience and new data. One example is Quartet Health, which screens patient medical histories and behavioral patterns to uncover undiagnosed mental health problems. For instance, Quartet can flag possible anxiety based on whether someone has been repeatedly tested for a non-existent cardiac problem.

It also can recommend pre-emptive follow-up in cases where patients may become depressed or anxious after receiving a bad diagnosis or treatment for a major physical illness. Already being adopted by insurance companies and employer medical plans, Quartet has reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations by 15 to 25% for some of its users.

Dr. Bot. So-called chatbot counseling is another AI tool producing results. Chatbots are computer programs that simulate human conversation, either through text or a voice-enabled AI interface. In mental health, these bots are being pressed into service by employers and health insurers to root out individuals who might be struggling with substance abuse, depression, or anxiety and provide access to convenient and cost-effective care.

Woebot, for example, is a chatbot developed by clinical psychologists at Stanford University in 2017. It treats depression and anxiety using a digital version of the 40-year-old technique of cognitive behavioral therapy – a highly structured talk psychotherapy that seeks to alter a patient’s negative thought patterns in a limited number of sessions.

In a study of university students suffering from depression, those using Woebot experienced close to a 20% improvement in just two weeks, based on PHQ-9 scores — a common measure of depression. One reason for Woebot’s success with the study group was the high level of participant engagement. At a low cost of $39 per month, most were talking to the bot nearly every day — a level of engagement that simply doesn’t occur with in-person counseling.

The next generation. Today’s mental health AI solutions may be just the beginning. The University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies has developed a virtual therapist named Ellie that hints at what’s ahead. Ellie is far more than the usual chatbot — she can also detect nonverbal cues and respond accordingly. For instance, she has learned when to nod approvingly or perhaps utter a well-placed “hmmm” to encourage patients to be more forthcoming.

Ellie — an avatar rendered in 3-D on a television screen — functions by using different algorithms that determine her questions, motions, and gestures. The program observes 66 points on the patient’s face and notes the patient’s rate of speech and the length of pauses before answering questions. Ellie’s actions, motions, and speech mimic those of a real therapist — but not entirely, which is an advantage with patients who are fearful of therapy.

In a research project with soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan, Ellie uncovered more evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the Post-Deployment Health Assessment administered by the military. Ellie was even able to identify certain “tells” common to individuals suffering from PTSD. With up to 20% of returning veterans coping with PTSD and a staggering suicide rate among the population, the potential impact of a solution like Ellie is significant.

As with all potential breakthroughs, caveats remain and safeguards must be developed. Yet, there’s no doubt we’re on the cusp of an AI revolution in mental health — one that holds the promise of both better access and better care at a cost that won’t break the bank.

Categories: Blogs

How Managers Can Make Casual Networking Events More Inclusive

Harvard business - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 07:00

Some years ago, at a former company, I began noticing a curious series of events. My manager and team practiced an egalitarian decision-making process in which we would meet, discuss everything from content marketing campaigns to social media tactics, and collectively come up with strategies to move forward with. However, often, I would return to work later in the week to find the decisions that we had initially agreed upon were moot, and the manager was moving forward in a completely new direction. There was no explanation for what initiated these changes.

I eventually solved the puzzle; my male manager and certain members of our department were meeting with employees, including leaders, over unplanned, informal networking events at a local bar. There, they would talk shop and decisions were made that excluded others — about who to hire, promote, and assign to important projects. Though I was never invited, I later learned that it wasn’t gender-based. White women at all levels in our department were invited. But as the only woman of color and immigrant woman in my department, I wondered how I could score an invitation.

Situations like these aren’t nefarious. Research on affinity bias shows that we are naturally drawn to people who are like us. A casual drink here, a few networking events there with like-minded colleagues isn’t so bad, right? Unfortunately, these seemingly innocuous meetings can have consequences, and most of them fall on the careers of employees from underrepresented backgrounds. This especially applies to immigrant women of color who are often navigating three historically low-status identities: being female, a person of color, and an immigrant.

Part of the solution is to invite people from underrepresented backgrounds to these kinds of events. The other solution is one that can create lasting change for diversity and inclusion: to organize inclusive events that welcome employees from all backgrounds. A good first step for managers is to master the below practices, based on interviews I conducted with female leaders who are working to reduce bias in the workplace.

1. Learn about your employees’ preferences, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds. After-work drinks can exclude women who shoulder the lion’s share of caregiving responsibilities globally. In addition, many women of color are not invited to out-of-office gatherings, whether or not they have children. Ellen Pao’s seminal book Reset is among the growing evidence that shows the consequences women of color, and often immigrants, face from being left out of office networking events — both spontaneous and planned. She writes: “We are either silenced or we are seen as buzzkills. We are either left out of the social network that leads to power — the strip clubs and the steak dinners and the all-male ski trips — and so we don’t fit in, or our presence leads to changes in the way things are done, and that causes anger, which means we still don’t fit in.”

To ensure all women feel included, managers need to first understand the practices that exclude them, as well as the barriers that stop them from attending work functions. “As a manager, it’s necessary to ask questions about your employee’s preferences in a respectful way,” says Adina, a manager at a global technology company. These include dietary preferences and activities that make your employees feel comfortable. “Make sure there are always options for people with restrictions: of food, drink and activities,” she adds. It’s important to ask these questions privately so that the employee doesn’t feel targeted in a group setting. The most effective way is to ask in person, one-on-one. You can also include questions surrounding personal preferences for work events in an organization-wide, anonymous survey.

2. Engage a diverse planning committee. Formal company events should have a diverse planning committee that understands how to serve a diverse group of people. Susi Collins, Senior Program Manager of Diversity & Inclusion at Nordstrom, advises that managers empower “all employees to contribute to the content of the event, especially women, junior colleagues, and people of color.” Throughout the planning and execution, attribute ideas to their originators, and concretely and explicitly praise the contribution of women of color, she adds. The contribution of women, particularly women of color, is often undermined. Giving credit and calling attention to it affirms its importance.

While planning, also try to listen more than you talk and be mindful of how you are taking up space, especially if the topic of discussion is not your expertise. Constantly being the loudest voice in the room reinforces the social dynamics you are trying to change, those that position only men and white people as leaders, and women of color as support staff.

3. Plan more events that don’t center around alcohol — and don’t immediately assume that women of color don’t drink. In the U.S. and Western Europe, networking culture often revolves around alcohol, which can leave out people who don’t drink. Planning more events that aren’t alcohol-driven is key to being more inclusive. Even if an event is at a bar or alcohol is present, don’t assume that immigrant women of color will be uncomfortable attending. I’ve attended plenty of events at bars, even during times when I wasn’t drinking alcohol, and know many immigrant women of color who have no objections to being around alcohol, whether or not they personally consume it. In these situations, it’s best to extend an invite and let your employee decide for herself, rather than making the decision for her.

4. Organize more daytime events. Day or lunchtime events are a great way to ensure all employees can participate. Bhavani Murugiah, the former head of people for a technology company, recommends a tactic that worked well at her former employer called “Lunch Roulette” — a program that randomly matched employees with 3-5 coworkers to connect over a monthly lunch. This kind of casual meeting can break down silos between departments and create networking opportunities for people who don’t always get invited to informal events.

5. Be intentional when structuring events outside of business hours. Organize events outside of business hours that actively get employees from different backgrounds to connect with each other. Passive events like movie screenings “can alienate employees from underrepresented groups,” says Felicity Menezies, Sydney-based CEO of Include-Empower, and former head of private banking for Westpac Singapore. It can be challenging for people to make new acquaintances in general — especially those who are more introverted. Add in factors like language barriers, cultural differences, biases, and stereotypes, and it becomes clear why casual networking events can feel inaccessible to, or at times, completely exclude people from underrepresented backgrounds. According to Menezies, a better approach is to offer activities that structure interactions without triggering social anxiety and are considerate of diverse personalities, languages, cultures, ethnicities, and physical abilities. Examples include community volunteering, team-building exercises, or potlucks where people from different cultural heritages share dishes and the stories behind them.

6. Be intentional when making connections. When there are employees from diverse backgrounds at an event, go out of your way to introduce women and people of color to important stakeholders, says Collins. Using your influence to foster these connections can have a significant impact on how welcomed an employee feels and even change their career trajectory. “As a manager, you have to understand how there are so many ways to impact someone’s assimilation into a company, or even a new culture,” Murugiah also says. “Whatever you do to make a change, it has to be genuine and thoughtful.”

7. Audit the frequency of events and attendees. Take stock of how often the team meets informally, as well as formally, and the demographic of the attendees each time. This will give you the information you need to course-correct and personally reach out to those who you don’t see. Your goal should be to figure out what is preventing people from coming, and use that feedback to make positive changes.

8. Constantly look for blind spots and ask for feedback after the event. Doing so will help you recognize areas for improvement, and hopefully, make the next event even better. A part of being inclusive is recognizing what you don’t know, so respond to the feedback with openness and humility. This will help build trust and create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their opinions honestly.

In my research, I have repeatedly found that companies that don’t make an intentional effort to be inclusive often end up excluding women of color and immigrants. It’s crucial for people at all levels of an organization to understand how casual gatherings exclude employees from marginalized backgrounds, and more so, can have a detrimental impact on their careers. Organizations have a responsibility to disrupt these destructive patterns.

Categories: Blogs

The Promise and Peril of a Star CEO

Harvard business - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 06:05

Star CEOs can be good for companies, providing social proof that their firm is a high quality place and making it easier to attract capital and talent. But they can also be dangerous. The recent cases of Tesla, Papa John’s, and CBS exemplify this: all three companies benefitted from the brightness of their star CEOs. And then all each company had to deal with expensive, distracting problems their star created.

Consider Tesla: before Elon Musk became CEO in 2008, the electric car company had delivered fewer than 200 cars and was running out of cash. Ten years later, it could produce, albeit with extraordinary measures, 5,000 cars a month and had a higher market value than Ford’s. Within the company, Musk has held unusual power; he is the largest stockholder in Tesla, and is positioned as a visionary genius who is essential to the company’s success. Still, Musk’s tweets about taking the company private cost the company a $20 million settlement with the SEC and exposed it to larger potential liability from aggrieved stockholders.

This is a far from unusual story. You could also consider Papa John’s; working out of a converted broom closet in his father’s small-town tavern, John Schnatter grew pizza empire Papa John’s to over 5,000 locations. Schnatter now controls of 30% of Papa John’s shares, and his status as founder, as well as his long-running visibility as the company’s spokesperson in broadcast and print ads gives him unusual power. Still, Schnatter’s comments about NFL players who knelt during the national anthem and the accusation that he used a racist word in a conference call drove down the company’s sales and its stock price.

Similarly, though Les Moonves owned an insignificant amount of CBS stock, he had outsized power at CBS based on his long-term performance and the prestige he built for himself in the entertainment industry. Under his leadership, CBS turned from the last-place butt of jokes into a first-place powerhouse. Still, accusations of sexual harassment against Moonves this year exposed CBS to not-yet quantified but likely expensive liabilities.

These examples highlight the delicate balancing act when it comes to handing star CEOs who provide large benefits but expose the company to great risk; they have to fire a CEO who acts unethically, but they can’t fire a CEO just for exposing the company to risk. And because CEOs have to take risks in order to create value, directors have to strike a balance that maximizes the benefits and minimizes the dangers of a risky CEO. There are ways to thread this needle, though. Work I and others have done to help boards get the best out of CEOs who wield unusual power and bring a company unusual benefits suggest that there are ways for directors to achieve that difficult balance, even in difficult situations like the ones above.

First, directors should push for a large number of directors who are truly independent, not just technically independent. If the CEO chairs the board, have a lead director who is strong and who is actually independent of the CEO. Give the lead director the power to call meetings of the board without the CEO’s permission or presence. This avoids giving the CEO the ability to prevent the board from meeting without him.

Second, the independent directors should meet regularly in executive sessions without the CEO present. Executive sessions give independent directors opportunities to discuss concerns without the sessions turning into battles with an offended or enraged CEO. Bill George, the Medtronic CEO who took its market value from $1 billion to $60 billion in 10 years and went on to be a senior fellow at Harvard Business School, heard regularly from his independent directors after they met in executive session. Governance expert Ram Charan considers executive sessions the most important recent innovation in corporate governance.

Third, support your CEO’s activities that relate to the interests of the company, not just to his or her ego. It is hard to imagine a successful CEO who lacks sufficient ego-strength to face the challenges CEOs face or to display the confidence stakeholders need to see, but when a CEO becomes more than a CEO — when he or she becomes a star — it is easy for their ego to get out of hand. Stardom also can be a problem, for example, when CEOs spend too much time enhancing their personal reputation instead of enhancing the value of the company.

Some CEOs exhibit traits that resemble narcissism. Narcissistic CEOs often provide a compelling vision and attract followers. But there are downsides to CEO narcissism. Narcissistic CEOs often are poor listeners and hyper-sensitive to criticism when they do listen. They often lack empathy, which can lead them to do things that are obviously unacceptable to most people but not to them. Think of Musk’s tweet calling one of the Thai cave rescuers a “pedo.”

Fourth, star CEOs are more likely to take advice from other people who are stars like them than from people who are merely experts, because stars often think they know more than the experts. Get star CEOs of other companies on the board. Your CEO is more likely to listen to them than to non-star directors. Narcissistic CEOs rarely take advice. Worse, they often see advice or mere disagreements as mortal threats. Their overconfidence, unwillingness to take advice, and tendency to become hostile when they feel challenged can put the company at risk of expensive and dangerous litigation.

Fifth, Don’t let a CEO put the company in a position where he or she can prevent you from doing what is good for the company by threatening to quit. While you might want your CEO to be seen as a star, don’t let your CEO position himself or herself as indispensable to the company. It is a sign of danger when investors say “There is no Tesla without Musk.” Have a good COO and other C-level people in place. Tesla has no COO. Facebook brought in Sheryl Sandberg as COO. Google brought in Eric Schmidt as CEO until co-founder Larry Page was ready for the position.

Finally, recognize that to fulfill your director duties, you might have to change the CEO’s role to something like chief strategy officer or chief visionary. Even if the CEO has the power to replace you, you have legal and moral duties to try to do what is best for the company. If the balance tips and the CEO is creating more damage than benefit, you have to act. Consider two of our three examples: Schnatter no longer is CEO or board chair at Papa John’s, and Moonves left CBS. Tesla’s board has done less — only what the SEC forced it to do. Still, Musk, who remains CEO of Tesla, gave up being board chair. Is this enough to balance what he brings and what he threatens? Tesla’s board alone can answer this question.

Categories: Blogs

Retention: Employees Want to Choose Their Own Career Adventure

Hr Bartender - Sun, 10/21/2018 - 02:57

It’s no surprise that talent management is a key issue for organizations today. And I’m not talking about just in the United States. Employers all over the world are experiencing challenges finding the best talent. But hiring is only one piece of the puzzle. Once you hire that great candidate, now you have to retain them.

That’s why I was very excited to snag an advance copy of Alexandra Levit’s “Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future”. I’ve participated on conference panels with her and we’re both members of the Workforce Institute at Kronos advisory board. She’s a super smart business pro and I’m truly honored to call her a friend.

One of the chapters in the book that really spoke to me directly relates to employee retention. It’s the idea that employees want a say in their own career development. Personally, I can’t help but think this is a result of the edict that organizations gave to companies during the Great Recession – own your career development. And employees said, “Okay.” But now employees are saying, “Here’s what we want to develop our careers.”

My takeaway is that a decade ago when organizations said, “own your career”, they didn’t necessarily anticipate that employees wouldn’t want to give it back. Hate to say it, but my guess is employers thought when they’re ready to get back in the driver’s seat of career management, employees will happily relinquish it. Nope. Sorry, that’s not happening. In “Humanity Works”, there are three reasons presented for this disconnect:

  • Organizations aren’t sharing with employees what career development looks like and the role they can play.
  • Organizations are sharing career development roadmaps, but not in a way that resonates with employees.
  • Organizations don’t have any idea what employees expect when it comes to career development.

It’s important to note that, when we talk about career development, we’re not always referring to promotions. Employees understand that career development is about experiences. I can totally relate to this. In thinking back on my own career, there were opportunities I had as a manager that some vice presidents never get. So here are six activities to think about when it comes to employee career development:

  1. Roles and responsibilities. Again, it’s possible that organizations can’t change an employee’s job title but a little shift in responsibilities could make a huge difference.
  1. Technology. Give employees access to new technology. Employees are accustomed to testing and using various technologies. This doesn’t mean you should not hold employees accountable for data security.
  1. Learning and development. It’s time for organizations to view their training sessions as more than simply training. Organizations can turn these sessions into something more impactful for employees.
  1. Flexible work and sabbaticals. Organizations willing to offer flexible work might find that employees use this time to develop their skills. Holding them accountable for the work (versus the time) could be a benefit.
  1. Job sharing and rotations. Personally, I believe many organizations used to do these things back in the 1990s but have let them fall to the wayside. It’s time to bring them back because when done right – everyone wins.
  1. Temporary assignments and special projects. These opportunities can give employees the chance to use skills they don’t use every day AND meet people in the company they don’t normally work with.

Of course, I’m only sharing a snippet of the takeaways you’ll get from “Humanity Works”. You won’t be sorry ordering this one.

Companies that are waiting for their talent management challenges to disappear are going to be waiting a long time. It’s time for organizations to develop a talent management strategy. One that not only includes how to find the best talent, but how to keep them. Because the last thing anyone wants is to spend company resources finding employees to have them leave after a few months.

The post Retention: Employees Want to Choose Their Own Career Adventure appeared first on hr bartender.

Categories: Blogs

Why Climate Change and Other Global Problems Are Pushing Some Business Leaders to Embrace Regulation

Harvard business - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 10:00
Martin Barraud/Getty Images

Global carbon emissions need to be reduced to net zero by 2050 to have a good chance of holding global average temperature rises to no more than 1.5oC, a level that would be disastrous, but not catastrophic for human civilization.

So states a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which sets out the policy choices governments around the world need to make over the next 12 years to 2030 if they want to limit global temperature rises to 1.5oC rather than 2oC.

If global temperatures rise more than 1.5oC, the risks of draught, floods, forest fires, heat-related deaths and loss of agricultural productivity all worsen significantly.

The response from political leaders so far has been mixed. Some governments may be poised to revise their climate change targets in line with the call for net zero emissions by 2050.

Others have been less enthusiastic. The Australian government has rejected the report’s call to phase out coal power by 2050. In the U.S., President Trump’s response to the IPCC report so far has been to cast doubt on it. This follows his summer 2017 announcement that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. Since then the Trump Administration has been busy unravelling a series of public policy initiatives and regulations that underpinned the Paris commitments the U.S. had made, like the Clean Power Plan and vehicle emissions standards, citing them as an impediment to business.

Predictably, environmentalists, pro-environment politicians, and countries especially vulnerable to climate change have reacted to all of this with distress.

But perhaps a little less predictably, so have many business leaders.

For example, many American CEOs spent considerable energy in the weeks building up to Trump’s Paris announcement lobbying the President not to withdraw. Over 1,700 companies and investors have subsequently signed the We Are Still In statement, making public their commitment to uphold the agreement.

While it’s become more normal in recent years to see some businesses taking proactive measures to drive innovation to tackle some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges, it generally remains a widespread assumption that business leaders see government intervention in the economy and increased regulation as something to be avoided.

But there is now a growing trend of some CEOs actively lobbying for more ambitious government action and regulation on a whole range of social and environmental issues.

Many businesses were actively involved in lobbying governments to make an ambitious agreement on climate in Paris in the first place. Unilever CEO Paul Polman was one of many who worked tirelessly to push governments to higher ambition. More than 365 companies and investors voiced their support for the US Clean Power Plan in 2015. More than 200 companies have publicly called for the introduction of carbon pricing. Business leaders are now calling on governments to create the policy frameworks to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

And it’s not just on climate. Companies invested significant resources in pushing for high public policy ambition in agreeing the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. On human rights issues, companies have lobbied the UK government for stronger regulation tackling Modern Slavery in corporate supply chains, and the Cambodian government for stronger protection for worker’s rights.

What’s going on? Businesses aren’t supposed to want more regulation of their activities. This growing trend is the subject of a research program at Hult International Business School, where we have followed a number of CEOs and companies involved in such advocacy activities over the past few years.

Part of what’s been driving more ambitious corporate action on innovation to address social and environment challenges is increased pressure and higher expectations from the rest of society that business should play a role in helping sort out contemporary global challenges. Ultimately, long-term legitimacy, reputation, and license to operate are at stake.

A number of CEOs are realizing that such expectations cannot be met by innovation and voluntary actions alone. The scale of today’s social and environmental challenges requires government action, too — there are some ways in which public policy can drive change that cannot be achieved otherwise.

In some cases, regulatory change can lead to direct commercial benefit, creating markets that didn’t exist before, or handing competitive advantage to those better able to capitalize on the regulatory change. For many companies, the right solutions are available for tackling social and environmental challenges, but they don’t become commercially viable unless regulatory change aligns commercial incentives with the right thing to do.

As a result, some CEOs have started overcoming their aversion to government intervention and fears that incompetent government meddling will get in the way of prosperity. There’s a growing recognition that ambitious government intervention has a crucial role to play in both addressing global challenges and helping business succeed.

So what are these companies learning about how to do this kind of advocacy well? Our research, as well as recent studies by others such as Business Fights Poverty and Harvard, and scholars at the University of Lugano in Switzerland, point to a number of key issues to get right.

  • Respect the leadership role of government, but be prepared to use your voice and influence. Your activities should be aimed at informing and supporting—but not replacing—the responsibility of governments to decide public policy. But that doesn’t mean business should be silent if government is not acting in the public interest.
  • Aim for public policy outcomes that seek to effectively address societal challenges. The aim should be to reach solutions that address the problem and have consensus backing, rather than making sure your own interests prevail regardless of the impact on others. This may sometimes involve accepting public policy initiatives that could result in a short-term hit to profits, because in the long run they are going to help solve the problem, and help maintain your longer-term legitimacy. The outcomes you are aiming at need to be consistent with key universal standards, such as UN Global Compact and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • Be inclusive. Traditional lobbying is done between government and individual companies or trade associations. But advocacy for more ambitious public policy is more effective if it is done on a multi-stakeholder basis. Public policy outcomes are going to be more effective if all groups affected have had a say in shaping them. Ensure the voices of the marginalized have a say in the process.
  • Consider active joint advocacy with NGOs. Unlikely partnerships between companies and NGOs can have more impact on influencing policymakers, as each can compensate for the weaknesses of the other. Governments can distrust NGOs as being purely ideologically motivated, and can distrust business for being purely profit-motivated. Joint advocacy can deal with these legitimacy questions of both sides.
  • Be transparent and truthful. Lobbying often happens behind closed doors, and the worst kind of lobbying in the past has been characterized by misinformation and misdirection. Public policy outcomes are going to be more effective if people have confidence that they know what different groups were calling for and they can trust the basis on which these positions were put forward. Be transparent about third party lobbying organizations that you offer financial support to.
  • Invest to be able to advocate from a robust evidence base, for example on climate or health and nutrition.
  • Make sure you have coherence and consistency between your external advocacy positions and internal policies and practices. You should also ensure the advocacy positions of trade bodies you are a member of are consistent too.
  • Make sure you have the right skills and capabilities. It turns out that lobbying to persuade governments to introduce new regulatory measures often requires a different kind of skill set to the traditional government affairs function. Many companies have found themselves hiring in campaigners from NGOs to join their advocacy teams.

Finally, this is a question of personal leadership. Our research showed high levels of peer networks in CEO advocacy for more ambitious government action – each CEO reaching out to others to make the case for them to get involved in advocacy coalitions. An effective approach needs a personal commitment from the top.

Categories: Blogs

Lessons from Mayo Clinic’s Redesign of Stroke Care

Harvard business - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 09:00
David Pereiras/Getty Images

Facing escalating costs of medications and technology, health care patients and providers in the United States continue to search for opportunities to reduce overall costs while maintaining and improving health care outcomes. At the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Stroke Center Practice, we conducted a project to design and deliver care more customized to the needs of individual patients while reducing cost and resource constraints. It is a risk-stratified approach that could be applied to treating many medical conditions.

The Mayo Stroke Practice used time-driven activity-based costing (TDABC) to study costs associated with alternative protocols for stroke care (see the graphic below). TDABC uses a bottoms-up approach to identify the actual clinical processes and resources used to care for a patient over a period of time. TDABC works from a process map of a patient’s care pathway, attributing costs to the time of each resource used at each step of the pathway. With this information, clinicians learn how to make more efficient use of high-cost resources, leading to lower total costs while achieving the same or better patient outcomes.


However if one could predict a patient does not need such care, this could save the system, as well as payers, a lot of money. The daily cost of an NSPCU bed — both to the payer (insurers and patients) and the hospital — averages $500 a day less than an ICU-level care bed, which is multiplied by length of stay (LOS). There are also measurable costs “turning over” a hospital bed in terms of both time delays such as patient’s waiting in the emergency department as well as financial expenses in cleaning and sanitizing a room to be ready for the next patient. Similar to the opening moves in a game of chess, which can determine the rest of the game, similar bed logistics can make or break hospital bed flow. So how can one improve both hospital bed flow and improve value-based care in stroke patients?

Using existing stroke data and TDABC mapping, one can stratify a stroke patient’s true risk for needing or not needing ICU-level care using the National Institutes of Health stroke scale (NIHSS). Historically, a “step-down” unit or progressive care unit (PCU) was typically used on the back end after ICU-level care for patients too sick and unsafe to send to a regular hospital bed because they might decompensate and end up back in the ICU. Using a NPCU strategy on the front end for some stroke patients is revolutionary in the sense patients are admitted directly from the emergency department after receiving TPA. This reengineering of hospital bed flow allows a relative cost savings without compromising quality and improves the value.

Since 1995, when TPA was FDA-approved to treat stroke patients, the common practice was to monitor these patients in the ICU environment due to concerns for decompensation from intracranial bleeding and complex interventions. Under fee-for-service reimbursement, however, stays in the ICU can incur daily charges up to $2,500, nearly 25% of Medicare’s total reimbursement ($11,000) for TPA treatment.

The Mayo stroke team used the NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS), which ranges from 0 (normal) to 42 (severe), to stratify patients into different risk categories and identify those who truly needed ICU-level care. In a trial for intravenous TPA for acute stroke care, reported in 1995 in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average NIHSS score was about 14.

The most severely affected stroke patients had a NIHSS greater than 24 were most likely to need ICU-level care for monitoring. Therefore, Mayo Clinic’s stroke center data showed similar findings and proposed that stroke patients with an NIHSS score of 18 or higher should be monitored in the ICU for the first 24 hours after receiving TPA. Such patients often suffered medical complications that required advanced interventions such as intubation and mechanical ventilation. However, patients with few comorbidities and NIHSS scores of 14 or less had a reduced probability of severe complications that required critical interventions. Care for these patients could potentially be managed and monitored in the lower-cost NSPCU environment.

The team saw an opportunity to reduce costs based upon how and where patients received care, while still meeting Joint Commission requirements for post-TPA care, by treating low-risk patients in a NSPCU-level bed with a specialized hybrid level of nursing care (see the table below) for the first 12 hours. This risk-stratified care model improved value by delivering equivalent care quality with a lower-cost mix of resources. In addition, the stratification process allowed for better “demand elasticity” of ICU bed utilization.

Comparing NeuroICU and NSPCU Nurse Monitoring for Stroke Patients Parameter Neuroscience ICU (NSICU) Neuroscience PCU (NSPCU) Costs per day (1 = least expensive, 5 = most expensive) 3 2 Medicare reimbursement for tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) Same Same Nursing monitoring Every 15 minutes for the first 2 hours, then hourly for the next 24 hours Every 15 minutes for the first  2 hours, then hourly for remaining 12 hours, then every 2 hours until 24 hours Potential benefits Frequent monitoring to detect and prevent neurologic deterioration Less-intense neurological checks to allow stroke patients more sleep for healing Potential drawbacks Not cost-effective for less severely affected patients. Default for community hospitals with less resources to create NSPCU. Increased sleep deprivation for patients with hourly neurochecks. Missed opportunity for intervention if patient suddenly declines with longer gaps between neurochecks NIH stroke scale (NIHSS) range 18-42 < 18 Note: NIHSS cutoff of 18 was chosen at Mayo Clinic for TPA along with consensus clinical judgment of other comorbidities, which might necessitate patients being placed in ICU–level care for 24 hours versus PCU-level care. Source: Mayo Clinic Foundation for Medical Education and Research (Kern Center)

Optimizing NSPCU and ICU bed utilization therefore is analogous to the game of Tetris in which players fit blocks of various sizes inside an available structure. All hospitals play a similar game to optimize space utilization by getting the “right patient to the right bed” with the fewest moves possible. ICU-level care beds are the most expensive in the hospital and are reimbursed at the highest rate. Ideally, they should be used only for the most complex medical/surgical cases or for transfers from emergency department (ED) and other hospitals. By freeing up ICU beds, previously used for lower-risk stroke patients, hospitals have more capacity, or elasticity, to admit postoperative ICU patients and ICU admissions from the ED and allow those care teams to focus on those patients.

Getting the right patient to the right bed also reduces the number of transitions of care (TOCs). Historically, some patients underwent four separate handoffs as they made transitions initially from ED or an operating room to the neuroscience ICU, then to the NSPCU, and finally, to a regular floor bed. This represents at least four moves (A →B→C→D) for the patient and adds risks: Details about medication allergies and other Important information about the patient can be lost, communicated incorrectly, or misconstrued during the handoff from one care team to the next. Handoffs are similar to those in football. The number of handoffs increases the complexity of the play and is associated with a higher likelihood of “fumbles,” or medical errors. When stroke patients are admitted from the ED directly to the NSPCU, a regular floor bed the next day, then discharged home, there is at least one less TOC, or handoff. In addition to reducing the total number of TOCs, a standardized, or structured, communication tool — a checklist — for exchanging important patient information during handoffs can reduce the number of medical errors as well.

As illustrated in the above examples, the ability to stratify and predict patient needs up-front opened the door for actions that enhanced process efficiencies, reduced operational costs, and improved patient outcomes. Patients that received TPA and were subsequently monitored in the NSPCU had an average reduced cost of 25%. Of 448 stroke patients seen in the past three years, all of whom would previously been sent to the ICU, 166 (37%) were monitored in the NSPCU, leading to a net cost reduction of nearly 10%, with no adverse impact on patient outcomes.

While the role for a progressive care, or step-down, unit is not new in health care, it is one we believe may be underutilized for elderly and more complex patients, especially when its cost advantage over the highly-resourced ICU has not been quantified. An NSPCU increases the effective capacity of existing ICU-level beds and provides better utilization of regular-ward-floor beds for medically-stable patients. Importantly, the risk-stratified approach does not replace or supersede physician judgment about factors not accounted for in the NIHSS-weighted model when deciding the best overall course and bed status for the patient.

As this case illustrates, process mapping of care pathways and accurate costing makes it possible to design and deliver care that is more customized to the needs of individual patients. The customization produces equivalent or better quality and outcomes at reduced costs because of more efficient resource utilization and diminished risk from medical errors. None of the gains discussed in this article are unique to stroke treatment, and the NSPCU model can be extended to many medicine and surgery areas to improve the value delivered at hospital, national, and international levels.

Categories: Blogs

Research: Investors Punish Entrepreneurs for Stereotypically Feminine Behaviors

Harvard business - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 08:00
Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images

“I would not be caught dead in a pink suit now,” says Susan Perry, the founder of SpeechMED, a startup that translates complex medical information into language patients can understand.

Clothing is just one of the issues Perry has reconsidered when it comes to how she pitches her business. As a middle-aged woman, she has faced bias because she doesn’t fit the stereotype of what an entrepreneur looks like. Raised to be soft-spoken, Perry now makes a conscious effort to lower her voice, plant her feet firmly, and speak directly. When she gets one of the tough, defensive, “prevention-oriented” questions that women entrepreneurs tend to receive from investors, she redirects and instead offers a bold and expansive vision for her company, more in the style of how a man might answer.

Perry’s transition to a more gender-neutral, or even masculine, pitching style seems to be working. Her company completed the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab at Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, was accepted into the gener8tor accelerator program, and is currently gearing up to pitch dozens of investors. Most importantly, she now feels confident about her pitch and her ability to raise money.

We know that women entrepreneurs face significant challenges securing funding from investors. Our research found that only 15% of companies receiving venture capital investment have a woman on their executive team and less than 3% have a woman CEO. Perry’s experiences — and my own years of research on gender and funding — help explain why.

While we often assume women entrepreneurs are discriminated against simply for being women, my research shows that they’re actually penalized for exhibiting stereotypically feminine traits. In fact, men are also at a disadvantage when they display “feminine” behaviors in the pitch room, while women are not penalized if they project more “masculine” behaviors.

A study my colleagues and I recently published found that masculinity and femininity, rather than gender identification (whether someone is a man or a woman), affect how entrepreneurs are perceived by potential investors. In an elevator pitch competition, investors were less likely to select as finalists entrepreneurs who demonstrated stereotypically feminine behaviors like warmth and expressiveness, regardless of their gender.

What’s unique about our study is that it looks at how gender roles and gender stereotypes, as distinct from sex, impact the pitching process. Our findings suggest that it’s not women who have a harder time raising money from investors, it’s anyone who fits certain feminine stereotypes. This is supported by the fact that, as a group, the women in our study were no less likely to receive investor interest than the men. It was behaviors, not gender, that mattered.

While this bias against feminine traits is certainly problematic, being clear on what plays well to investors is something women can use to their advantage. You can’t change your gender, but you can control how you present yourself.

Pitching a business is like any kind of performance — you need to know your audience. The pitch room is a unique environment with its own cultural norms and expectations about what kinds of behaviors are hallmarks of a successful entrepreneur. Just as someone wouldn’t show up to a pitch without a slide deck or proper business attire, it’s critical to take these behavioral norms and expectations into account as well.

That doesn’t mean remaking your personality or the way you express your gender. It simply entails thinking carefully about what sides of yourself you want to emphasize when you pitch. We’re all more or less aggressive, nurturing, assertive, or sensitive in various areas of our life, depending on the role we play in a given situation. Women should consider what might happen if they brought forward certain parts of their persona in the pitch room and left others outside.

Perry doesn’t view adopting a more masculine pitch style as trying to be something she’s not, but instead as uncovering a part of her “natural self.” She’s felt empowered to drop some of the ways society trains women to hold themselves back. “Women are risk takers,” she says, but “we’re sometimes taught that it’s not nice to be seen that way.”

Indeed, research shows that women in many fields face a catch-22 when navigating gender: They are discriminated against for being feminine (which conflicts with the norms of jobs and industries perceived as masculine) but also penalized if they try to act masculine (which contravenes the norms of their gender). Perhaps the most famous example of this phenomenon, known as gender role congruity theory, is when Hillary Clinton was criticized for being too ambitious, aggressive, and cold (all masculine traits) during her presidential runs. Though she was also critiqued as “weak” for exhibiting stereotypically feminine behaviors, people liked her more when she behaved in a manner consistent with her gender.

A number of studies have found that women face this particular bind in areas including politics, management, and corporate leadership. However, our research shows that this dynamic does not apply to entrepreneurs seeking funding. Women in our study were not punished for behaving in more masculine ways; instead, they benefitted by avoiding the penalty that comes with acting feminine. This finding suggests that women don’t need to fear backlash when shifting toward a more bold, assertive approach in their pitch.

This shift should encompass both style and content, for example, having aggressive revenue projections as well as presenting them in a confident way. Perry says, “As women, we want to collaborate and calm people’s fears, but we are not rewarded for that when we’re pitching. We’re rewarded for thinking boldly and being comfortable about risk.”

Access to early-stage capital has been shown to be important, often critical, to startup success, which is why the funding gap between men and women entrepreneurs is so concerning. Yet the strategy of simply having more women investors won’t work if feminine traits are penalized in the pitching context by investors of all genders. In the long run, investors need to broaden their view of what makes a successful business leader and create room for both masculine and feminine entrepreneurs (and those in the middle).

For now, women founders can benefit from having a clearer understanding of what the expectations are when they step into the pitch room and how they can present themselves most effectively.

Categories: Blogs

7 Myths About Coming Out at Work

Harvard business - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 07:00
hh5800/Getty Images

More and more big businesses are providing workplace protections for LGBTIQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer) people. It’s becoming clear that when workers can bring their authentic selves to work, they are more productive and engaged. Research shows that coming out increases job satisfaction, intention to stay, and emotional support from co-workers, whereas staying “in the closet” has costs — both for the individual and the company.

And yet, many people are still reluctant to come out at work. In our study, we surveyed 1614 LGBTIQ+ Australian workers and held focus groups with 60 participants across various industries. We found that 68% of respondents are not out to everyone at work. Other studies show that this number decreases to 46% in the US, and 35% in the UK.

We know that when LGBTIQ+ people work in a safe environment, they are more willing to come out. But while workplace policies and practices are critical, the decision to come out at work is a complex and personal one. It involves other factors, like when, how and whom to come out to.

Our research considers this, and digs below the surface to examine the experience of LGBTIQ+ people at work. We challenge myths that are drawn from common assumptions about coming out and offer suggestions to organizations that want to help their workers feel safe being themselves.

Myth #1: Coming out at work is not a big deal — after all, it’s the 21st century!
Though the LGBTIQ+ community has seen big wins in the past few years — same-sex marriage is now legal in 26 countries, and around 20 have passed some kind of legislation recognizing transgender rights — coming out is still dangerous in many areas of the world and can be deadly for trans and gender diverse people. Even in countries that are economically-developed and progressive, like Australia, homosexuality has only been decriminalized since 1997, and marriage equality was just legalized in December of last year. The LGBTIQ+ rights movement is still very much in progress, and this factors into some workplace cultures and how comfortable people may feel coming out.

Myth #2: Coming out is similar for all LGBTIQ+ people. The LGBTIQ+ community and their workplace experiences are diverse. In Australia, there has been a gradual transformation in gay and lesbian rights over the past 40 years, which has also seen support for and protections of gay and lesbian people at work. However, trans/gender diverse workers have been historically overlooked. They are often less willing to come out at work due to fears of discrimination and social exclusion. Our research finds that 32% of trans/gender diverse people fear they would lose their job if they came out at work versus just 6% of LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) people. Not surprisingly then, 49% of trans and gender diverse workers try hard to conceal their identity from colleagues, compared to only 13% of LGB workers.

Myth #3: LGBTIQ+ workers have complete control over whether they do or don’t come out at work. For some LGBTIQ+ workers, living authentically at work remains an aspiration. While almost three-quarters of our respondents indicated coming out is important to them, only one-third are out to everyone at work, suggesting that not everyone who wants to be out feels comfortable being out. For others, decisions about when and how to come out are often out of their control. Some individuals are outed against their will, while others are forced to come out because of workplace policies. One transgender respondent wrote, “Give me a choice to NOT disclose – the reason HR knows I am a trans man is because it was policy for HR to process police checks when I started at my current workplace.”

In fact, research shows that transgender people going through the transition process often have to come out to co-workers, causing great anxiety and distress. For some transgender people, living authentically means keeping their gender history private, particularly if they affirmed their gender identity when they were very young. For others, who transition later in life, as one participant told us, “we are out merely by existing.”

Myth #4: Coming out has nothing to do with work. Our research reveals that people who are able to come out at work are happier. Compared to workers who are out to some people or no one at all, those who are completely out at work are significantly more satisfied with their job (29% versus 16%), enthusiastic about their job (40% versus 26%), and proud of their work (51% versus 38%). Other research finds that having a double life — being out in private life but not at work — increases social stress and depression.

Because workplaces are where people share their personal experiences, coming out — and feeling safe enough to do so — is about something as simple as participating in conversations without having a guard up or editing. For an LGBTIQ+ person, telling a story about their weekend could be an indirect way of signaling their identity.

Heterosexual and cisgender workers typically don’t face the same dilemma because they are part of a majority group when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. They have the privilege of being visible just by being. LGBTIQ+ people often must choose to come out if they want to be visible at work. If an LGBTIQ+ person feels that they can’t come out or chooses not to, others might assume that they are also a member of the majority group. One gay male respondent reported, “I am more masculine and fit a certain (jock/rugby) stereotype and so people assume that I am straight and I often don’t correct them.”

Myth #5: Coming out at work happens just once. Coming out is actually a repetitive process. It occurs not just once, but on multiple occasions. For instance, a bisexual woman may come out to her immediate manager when she is first starting a job, but also later, when she meets new co-workers, other managers, or clients.

Among our respondents who indicated that they openly talk about their LGBTIQ+ identity at work, only 17% of them openly talk about their identity to clients. Some are concerned that being out may jeopardize client relationships and negatively impact the company as a whole. One respondent reported, “During the marriage equality vote, my organization had a big client – we are talking about a multi-million-dollar client — who said ‘if you publicly support marriage equality, you will lose our business.’” Other respondents indicated that being out at work meant risking their lives: “[With] every new client, I’m scared that it might be my last time walking the earth as I enter their house.”

Myth #6: There is only one way to come out or not come out. There is a range of ways LGBTIQ+ people can signal their identities, or hide them. For instance, 47% of our respondents display objects like photographs, magazines, or symbols to reveal their identity at work. In contrast, 21% of our respondents avoid revealing their identity by keeping quiet when co-workers talk about their romantic lives, and 23% said they avoid behaving in ways that may conform to stereotypes associated with their identity group. Others who conform to heterosexual or cisgender stereotypes say they can ‘fly under the radar’ altogether.

Myth #7: People are scared to come out just because of career risks. Coming out is a constant cost-benefit analysis and requires weighing different risks. A lack of support from co-workers and supervisors, and past experiences of discrimination, often prevent LGB workers from coming out. But our research also shows that respondents are more concerned about social exclusion than career penalty. While about 19% of respondents who are not out at work worry their careers would be ruined if they were, 70% are concerned coming out would make their colleagues uncomfortable around them.

The importance of a supportive social environment plays a huge role in a person’s coming out decision. So what can organizations do to develop a work space in which living authentically is an everyday reality for LGBTIQ+ workers? Leadership makes all the difference. Our research reveals that respondents whose leaders publicly support LGBTIQ+ issues are 50% more likely to be out to everyone at work. We recommend leaders who want to create an LGBTIQ+ inclusive culture:

  • Develop a working partnership with leaders who have a different sexual orientation or gender identity than your own. This will help you learn, champion change, and challenge your assumptions.
  • Make LGBTIQ+ inclusion visible in your organization. You can show support by displaying rainbow flags or other inclusive symbols, asking HR to create a diversity group for LGBTIQ+ people to connect and share their experiences, or developing a network of staff allies.
  • Learn about all members of the LGBTIQ+ community. This means not just LGB people, but also people who are trans or gender diverse, who have an intersex variation, or who are pansexual.
  • Check your assumptions to see if they hinder LGBTIQ+ inclusion. For instance, assumptions like: everyone is straight; everyone prefers binary pronouns; coming out is a purely personal issue, and not a workplace issue; this person must be LGBTIQ+ because of how they look, sound, dress, or behave; it’s ok to ‘out’ someone.
  • Avoid non-inclusive or presumptuous language, like “that’s so gay,” asking women about their “husbands” and men about their “wives,” or assigning someone a gender pronoun. If you see someone participating in these behaviors, confront them. When you do so, that person will be less likely to do it again and they will also be more likely to change their views on what is appropriate behavior — as will any bystanders.

Finally, we should point out that it’s not just about leadership. Organizational policies and strategies that recognize the specific needs of, and sometimes just the existence of LGBTIQ+ people, are also key to establishing an inclusive environment.

We recommend organizations:

  • Include sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status in diversity and inclusion policies; have transition policies and supports in place for staff who are trans or gender diverse; make sure parental leave policies recognize LGBTIQ+ people.
  • Review workplace forms to ensure that they are inclusive, and have an option for people who don’t identify as male or female.
  • Make some bathrooms gender-neutral, and introduce gender-neutral dress codes if your company has dress codes.

LGBTIQ+ people can be themselves and have a real choice about coming out at work when their employer and people at work are supportive. Being aware of the common assumptions and the challenges people face is the first step toward building a work environment that is inclusive and safe for LGBTIQ+ people.

* “LGBTIQ+’ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/gender diverse, intersex, and queer. The “+” recognizes that LGBTIQ doesn’t include a range of other terms that people identify with, or use to describe themselves.

Categories: Blogs

Working with People Who Aren’t Self-Aware

Harvard business - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 06:05
Sven Krobot/EyeEm/Getty Images

Even though self-awareness — knowing who we are and how we’re seen — is important for job performance, career success, and leadership effectiveness, it’s in remarkably short supply in today’s workplace. In our nearly five-year research program on the subject, we’ve discovered that although 95% of people think they’re self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are.

At the office, we don’t have to look far to find unaware colleagues — people who, despite past successes, solid qualifications, or irrefutable intelligence, display a complete lack of insight into how they are coming across. In a survey we conducted with 467 working adults in the U.S. across several industries, 99% reported working with at least one such person, and nearly half worked with at least four. Peers were the most frequent offenders (with 73% of respondents reporting at least one unaware peer), followed by direct reports (33%), bosses (32%), and clients (16%).

Un-self-aware colleagues aren’t just frustrating; they can cut a team’s chances of success in half. According to our research, other consequences of working with unaware colleagues include increased stress, decreased motivation, and a greater likelihood of leaving one’s job.

So how do we deal with these situations? Is it possible to help the unaware see themselves more clearly? And if we can’t, what can we do to minimize their damage on our success and happiness?

Understanding the problem

Not all badly-behaving colleagues suffer from a lack of self-awareness, and not all who do can be helped. Therefore, you must first determine whether the source of the problem is truly someone’s lack of self-awareness. Ask yourself:

What’s behind the tension?

When we’re having trouble working with someone, the problem isn’t always a lack of self-awareness on their part. Interpersonal conflict can arise from different priorities, incompatible communication styles, or a lack of trust.

To determine whether you’re truly dealing with an un-self-aware person, consider how others around them feel. Typically, if someone is unaware, there’s a consensus about their behavior (i.e., it won’t just be you). More specifically, we’ve found several consistent behaviors of un-self-aware individuals:

  • They won’t listen to, or accept, critical feedback.
  • They cannot empathize with, or take the perspective of, others.
  • They have difficulty “reading a room” and tailoring their message to their audience.
  • They possess an inflated opinion of their contributions and performance.
  • They are hurtful to others without realizing it.
  • They take credit for successes and blame others for failures.

Where is this person coming from?

In contrast to the unaware, certain difficult colleagues—like office jerks—know exactly what they’re doing, but aren’t willing to change.

I once knew a chief operating officer with a reputation for humiliating his team whenever they disappointed him. When finally confronted about his behavior, his response was, “The best management tool is fear. If they fear you, they will get the work done.” (Unsurprisingly, his superiors did not share his views and fired him several months later).

The biggest difference between the unaware and the Aware-Don’t-Care are their intentions: the unaware genuinely want to be collaborative and effective, but don’t know they’re falling short. Whereas the “aware don’t care” unapologetically acknowledge their behavior (“Of course I’m pushy with clients. It’s the only way to make the sale!”), the unaware can’t see how they’re showing up (“That client meeting went well!”).

Helping the unaware

Once you’ve determined someone suffers from a lack of self-awareness, it’s time to honestly assess whether they can be helped. Think about their intentions and whether they’d want to change. Have you seen them ask for a different perspective or welcome critical feedback? This suggests that it’s possible to help them become more self-aware.

But the odds can be steep. Our survey found that although 70% of people with unaware colleagues have tried to help them improve, only 31% were successful or very successful. And among those who decided not to help, only 21% said they regretted their decision. So before you step in, ask yourself:

Am I the right messenger?

The number one reason our survey respondents gave for not helping an unaware person was that they didn’t think they were the right messenger. It’s true that when helping the unaware, providing good, constructive feedback only gets us part of the way. For someone to truly be open to critical feedback, they must trust us — they must fundamentally believe that we have their best interests at heart. When trust is present, the other person will feel more comfortable being vulnerable, a prerequisite to accept one’s unaware behavior.

So think about the relationship you have with your unaware colleague: have you gone out of your way to help or support them in the past? And are you confident they will see your feedback for what it is—a show of support to help them get better—rather than inferring a more nefarious motive? Or, are there others who might be better suited to deliver the feedback than you?

Am I willing to accept the worst-case scenario?

The second most common reason people decide not to help the unaware is that the risk is simply too high. As one of our study participants noted, “I may not be able to help and trying [might] just make them angry.” The consequences of help-gone-awry can range from uncomfortable (tears, the silent treatment, yelling) to career limiting (an employee might quit; a colleague may try to sabotage us; a boss could fire us).

Here, power differentials are a factor. For example, though unaware bosses have an especially detrimental impact on their employees’ job satisfaction, performance, and well-being, confronting one’s boss is inherently riskier because of the positional power she holds. Conversely, the risk is usually lower with peers, and lower still with direct reports (in fact, if you have an unaware employee, it is literally your job to help them). But regardless of their place on the organizational chart, we must be ready to accept the worst-case scenario should it occur.

If you believe you can help, then what’s the best way to do so? There are certainly many helpful resources on providing high-quality feedback, and most apply with the unaware. There are, however, three practices worth underscoring for these individuals.

First, talk to them in person (our research suggests those who provide feedback via email are 33% less successful). Second, instead of bringing up their behavior out of the blue, practice strategic patience. If possible, wait until your colleague expresses feelings of frustration or dissatisfaction that (unbeknownst to them) are being caused by their unawareness. Ask if you can offer an observation in the spirit of their success and wellbeing (using the word “feedback” risks defensiveness). Third, if they agree, focus on their specific, observable behavior and how it’s limiting their success. End the conversation by reaffirming your support and asking how you can help.

What to do if they don’t change

It’s easy to feel hopeless when you can’t help someone who is unaware. The good news is that although we can’t force insight on them, we can minimize their impact on us.

Mindfully reframe their behavior: The popular workplace practice of mindfulness can be an effective tool for dealing with the unaware. Specifically, noticing what we’re feeling in a given moment allows us to reframe the situation and be more resilient.

Here is one tool to notice but not get drawn in to our negative reactions to the unaware. I first came up with the “laugh track” when I had the misfortune of work­ing for an Aware-Don’t-Care boss. One day, after a particularly unpleas­ant encounter, I recalled my favorite TV show growing up, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary’s boss was a surly man named Lou Grant. On a good day, Lou was grumpy; on a bad day, he was downright abusive. But because his comments were followed by a canned laugh track, they became surprisingly endearing. I de­cided that the next time my boss said something horrible, I’d imagine a laugh track behind it instead. I was frequently surprised at how much less hurtful (and occasionally hilarious) this tool rendered him.

Find their humanity: As easy as it can be to forget, even the most unaware among us are still human. If we remember this, instead of flying off the handle when they’re behaving badly, we can recognize that, at the core, their unaware behavior is a sign that they are struggling. We can adopt the mindset of compassion without judgment.

Researchers have found that honing our compassion skills helps us remain calm in the face of difficult people and situations. As management professor Hooria Jazaieri points out, “there are [negative] consequences…when we are…thinking bad thoughts about someone” — compassion “allows us to let them go.”

Play the long game: When it comes to dealing with the unaware, one of the most important things to remember is that just because they’re that way now doesn’t mean they won’t change in the future. Unaware behaviors sometimes have to be pointed out multiple times before the feedback begins to stick — or, as one of our research participants noted, “Sometimes they have to bump their head enough times to finally see the light.”

In our research, we’ve studied people who made dramatic, transformational improvements in their self-awareness. Though it takes courage, commitment, and humility, it is indeed possible—and whether or not the people around us choose to improve their self-awareness, we have complete control over the choice to improve ours (find a quick, high-level assessment of your self-awareness here). At the end of the day, perhaps that’s where our energy is best spent.

Categories: Blogs

Policies and Procedures Must Grow With Business [infographic] – Friday Distraction

Hr Bartender - Fri, 10/19/2018 - 02:57

There have been numerous articles about how the annual performance review process is broken. Today’s post is not one of those articles.

It is a reminder that, as business professionals, we must change with the times. Meaning we must update policies and procedures to keep current with the change in today’s business environment. For example, not that long ago, the only way we could make a doctor’s appointment was by calling the doctor’s office, waiting on hold for 10+ minutes, followed by speaking with an office worker who would schedule the appointment. Then we would receive a phone call to confirm that we were coming. And when we arrived, we would spend 20-30 minutes completing paperwork before seeing the doctor.

Those days have changed. Mr. Bartender and I recently moved to North Florida and, as a result, we’re establishing new relationships with doctors. We can make appointments online. Get paperwork online. Confirm our appointment via text. Medicine is changing as the technology around us changes.

Today’s infographic, courtesy of Reflektive, shows us the growing divide that’s happening with performance management.

I’m not saying that changes in business necessitate ditching the performance review. I believe performance reviews serve an organizational purpose. However, that doesn’t mean companies should use a 1980s performance review process in 2018. We don’t do that for most other things, why do it for managing performance?

Performance management, like so many other employee-centric processes, need to be brought into current times. It’s not just a nice thing to do. It’s a business imperative. If you want to learn more, download Reflektive’s white paper “The Growth Divide: An Economic Imperative for People Management Innovation”. This might be one of the documents that you can easily circulate around the office to get senior management thinking.

I totally get it. Trying to revamp a legacy process like performance reviews can be tough. Managers are a great place to start when it comes to changing the performance management process in business because they play a huge role in delivering employee feedback. I’m working on a webinar with Reflektive titled, “No Bad Managers: 5 Programs Every Organization Needs to Create High-Performing Teams” that will focus on this aspect of management development. The webinar will be on Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 1 PM Eastern / 10 AM Pacific. And as always, if you already have something scheduled, go ahead and register to get the recording.

The post Policies and Procedures Must Grow With Business [infographic] – Friday Distraction appeared first on hr bartender.

Categories: Blogs

Underpaid (Live)

Harvard business - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 14:05

Do you deserve a higher salary? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions in a live taping with an audience of compensation experts. With the help of Susan Hollingshead, the chief people officer at Vendini, they talk through how to get more money when you haven’t been in your role long, the company isn’t giving out merit increases, or you’re at the bottom of your job’s salary range.

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: How to Ask for a Raise by Carolyn O’Hara — “Pitch your raise as not only recognition for past achievements, but also tacit acknowledgment that you are a dedicated team player committed to growing with the company. Lay out your contributions, then quickly pivot to what you hope to tackle next. Assure your boss that you understand his pressures and goals, and pitch your raise as a way to help him.”

HBR: New Research Shows How Employees Feel When Their Requests for Raises Are Denied by Lydia Frank — “According to our analysis, 33% of employees who were denied a raise were provided no rationale. Of those who did receive some rationale (whether budgetary constraints, performance, or some other reason), just over 25% actually believed it. And of those who didn’t believe the rationale or didn’t receive one, more than 70% said they planned to seek a new job in the next six months.”

HBR: How to Get a Raise When Budgets Are Tight by Peter Bregman — “Think like a shareholder of the company. Ask lots of questions about the strategy, what’s keeping the top leaders awake at night, how your department impacts revenue or profitability, and what’s important to your direct manager. Identify, with your manager, the top two or three things you can work on that will drive revenue or profitability. Once you’ve had that conversation, you’ll have your raise-worthy work focus.”

HBR: 15 Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer by Deepak Malhotra — “Sadly, to many people, ‘negotiating a job offer’ and ‘negotiating a salary’ are synonymous. But much of your satisfaction from the job will come from other factors you can negotiate—perhaps even more easily than salary. Don’t get fixated on money. Focus on the value of the entire deal: responsibilities, location, travel, flexibility in work hours, opportunities for growth and promotion, perks, support for continued education, and so forth. Think not just about how you’re willing to be rewarded but also when.”

Categories: Blogs

How to Stop Delegating and Start Teaching

Harvard business - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:00
Creativ Studio HeinemannE/Getty Images

As a college professor, I regularly train PhD students. In psychology and most fields of science, students are assigned to a project early on in their studies and learn key skills through an apprenticeship model. Many go onto to take on projects related to more specific research goals, and are eventually taught to design their own studies — a slow and painstaking process. Each step, from idea development and design to data analysis and reporting, requires a lot of supervision. It would generally be faster for lab directors to hire employees to carry out these studies instead, or to do all the heavy lifting themselves.

But, then, who would train the next generation of scientists?

Managers who have difficulty delegating tasks can learn from this process — particularly if your workload has become overwhelming, or you need someone to pick up the slack when you are out of town. The hardest part about delegating a task to someone else is trusting that they will do it well. And many managers are reluctant to turn over their responsibilities to someone who may not meet that expectation.

But there is a problem with this mindset. Managers need to stop thinking of passing off responsibilities as delegating — period. If you do, then you will only assign your employees high-level tasks when you don’t have time to do them. Until then, you will continue doing everything yourself. This is not an uncommon behavior. After all, you are probably better at doing your job than your direct reports, who have less experience in your role.

The problem with this style of delegation is that it sets your employees up for failure. A coach wouldn’t let an athlete go into a big game without practicing extensively beforehand. Managers should share this same mentality. When you assign someone a task for the first time — with no prior training — simply because you are unavailable to do it, their chances of succeeding are slim. You also run the risk of damaging team morale. Employees might get the impression that they are not capable of doing complex work if they are too overwhelmed by the task.

As a manager, a central part of your job is to train and develop people. This includes people who want to move into leadership roles, similar to yours, one day. When you take on the mindset of a trainer — instead of a manager delegating work — you will naturally look for ways to give a little more responsibility to the people who work for you. And those people who put in effort, and show an aptitude for the work, should be given more opportunities to try new, challenging tasks.

To start, try to gauge who on your team genuinely wants to move up in the organization, and identify their main areas of interest. Create a development plan for them and write down the skills they will need in order to reach their goals. Then, focus on giving them assignments that require those skills, as well as any tasks you think they are curious to explore. Often, people need a nudge to focus on their weaknesses — particularly ones that they are convinced fall out of their wheelhouse.

Structure the experience so that your employees are able to work their way up to a challenging task. Give them a series of practice sessions. The first time you introduce a task to someone, you might want them to experience it as a ride-along. Just let them shadow you while you explain some of the key points. Then, give them a piece to do on their own with your supervision. Only let them carry the full load when you sense that they are ready.

For example, you might want to teach someone how to run a weekly progress meeting while you are out. Start by training them when you are in the office. Have them watch you formulate the agenda and think through the issues that will be discussed. Then, the next time, let them create an agenda of their own, but critique it. Give them a chance to run part of the meeting with your supervision. That way, they are ready to run a full meeting on their own when the time comes. By doing this, you are both helping your team reach their career goals, and training them to take on some of your own responsibilities.

Taking on some of your direct reports as apprentices is an effort. It will take extra time out of your already busy week. You will have to check their work carefully at first to make sure that it is up to your standards. You will have to teach them not only how to do the tasks, but also, why the tasks are done that way. You will have to call on them to help fix any problems that arise from the work they’ve done, because practice is how they will learn. And your own productivity may slow down as a result of the time you spend mentoring others.

When you make this kind of training a regular part of your job, though, delegating tasks becomes easy. You will have created a team of trusted associates who can step in and help when you are overwhelmed or out of the office. And, as an added bonus, you have also groomed your successors. After all, as the old saying goes, if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

Categories: Blogs

Which Data Skills Do You Actually Need? This 2×2 Matrix Will Tell You.

Harvard business - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 10:00
Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

Data skills — the skills to turn data into insight and action — are the driver of modern economies.  According to the World Economic Forum, computing and mathematically-focused jobs are showing the strongest growth, at the expense of less quantitative roles.


So whether it’s to maximize the part we play in data-driven economic growth, or simply to ensure that we and our teams remain relevant and employable, we need to think about transitioning to a more data-skewed skillset. But which skills should you focus on? Can most of us expect to keep pace with this trend ourselves, or would we be better off retreating to shrinking areas of the economy, leaving data skills to the specialists?

To help answer this question, we rebooted and adapted an approach we took to prioritizing Microsoft Excel skills according to the benefits and costs of acquiring them. We applied a time-utility analysis to the field of data skills. “Time” is time to learn — a proxy for the opportunity cost to you or your team of acquiring the skill. “Utility” is how much you’re likely to need the skill, a proxy for the value it adds to the corporation, and your own career prospects.

Combine time and utility, and you get a simple 2×2 matrix with four quadrants:


  • Learn: high utility, low time-to-learn. This is low hanging fruit that will add value for you and your team quickly.
  • Plan: high utility, high time-to-learn. While this is valuable, acquiring this skill will mean prioritizing it ahead of other learning and activities. You need to be sure that it’s worth the investment.
  • Browse: low utility, low time-to-learn. You don’t need this now, but it’s easy to acquire so stay aware in case its utility increases.
  • Ignore: low utility, high time-to-learn. You don’t have the time for this.

In order to help you decide where to focus your development effort, we have plotted key data skills against this framework.  We longlisted skills associated with roles such as: business analyst, data analyst, data scientist, machine learning engineer, or growth hacker. We then prioritized them for impact based on how frequently they appear in job postings, press reports, and our own learner feedback. And finally, we coupled this with information on how difficult the skills are to learn — using time to competence as a metric and assessing the depth and breadth of each skill.

Insight Center

We did this for techniques, rather than for specific technologies: so, for machine learning rather than TensorFlow; for business intelligence rather than Microsoft Excel, etc. Once you’ve worked out which techniques are priorities in your context, you can then work out which specific software and associated skills best support them.

You can also apply this framework to your own context, where the impact of data skills might be different.  Here are our results:


At Filtered, we found that constructing this matrix helped us to make hard decisions about where to focus: at first sight all the skills in our long-list seemed valuable. But realistically, we can only hope to move the needle on a few, at least in the short term. We concluded that the best return on investment in skills for our company was in data visualization, based on its high utility and low time to learn. We’ve already acted on our analysis and have just started to use Tableau to improve the way we present usage analysis to clients.

Try the matrix in your own company to help your team determine which data skills are most important for them to start learning now.

Categories: Blogs

3 Steps for Engaging Health Care Providers in Organizational Change

Harvard business - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 09:00
Westend61/Getty Images

One of the hardest things about introducing innovation or change in organizations is getting people on board. This is especially true in health care.

As health care organizations are being pressured to cut costs, reduce medical errors, and adopt both standardized processes and new innovations, providers are being asked to give up established and comfortable ways of working. They are having to spend more time on documentation, see more patients in a day, and use unfamiliar processes and tools. For many staff, physicians, and nurses, these changes mean less time healing patients and fostering wellness — the reasons they became health care professionals. Naturally, many start to question the direction of their organization, as these new behaviors and practices appear to conflict with the values of their profession.

When staff view innovations and changes as clashing with longstanding patient care values, they are less likely to adopt new behaviors and practices. This is why health care leaders need to focus on aligning innovation with existing cultural values, and devote more time to explaining how new processes and behaviors will allow employees to better enact their values and deliver high quality care.

Based on our research on organization change, our involvement in health care leadership training, and our conversations with over a hundred health care executives, we offer three key ways managers can engage providers in change and connect innovation efforts to their core motivations, passions, and values.

Insight Center

Seek to understand why staff think innovations or changes do not align with the existing culture and mission.  In a leadership training session we observed, the CEO of a nonprofit medical practice and research organization listened to division and department chairs share their employees’ concerns: quality care is sacrificed for financial pressures, standardized processes negate years of expertise, techniques once heralded as best practices are being replaced, and so on.

The CEO told these leaders to take two steps: first, listen to the doctors and staff to understand why they perceive misalignment between the myriad of changes and the values of the organization; second, reframe and strengthen the connection between innovations and the core values of the hospital, so it no longer seems like a misalignment. For example, standardized processes or instruments are not negating doctors’ expertise, but rather helping ensure consistent quality of care.

Elsewhere, a CEO of a large integrated health system told us about seeking to understand staff perspectives through weekly rounds. In one case, he listened to nurses express resistance to a new process for end-of-shift patient handoffs. The old handoff process was simply a private conversation between two nurses; but the new way included a “bedside shift report” that included the patient in the nurses’ conversation. Many nurses thought the new process took much longer and hindered the exchange of information.

The CEO addressed their concerns by focusing on the improvement in patient care. He highlighted that with the new process, patients were more engaged in their care and better understood the need for medications or procedures, which in turn affected the ultimate outcome of patient health. He reminded the nurses that good patient care was central to the hospital’s values and why most of them became caregivers. Once the nurses accepted the rationale, the focus of the conversation shifted to logistical barriers that kept them from adopting this change (e.g., what to do if the patient is asleep at shift change). Alignment of common values enabled and motivated them to work through this change adoption together.

Engage employees with data to explain the problem, its urgency, and how to address it. Data and metrics can create an awareness of problems, a means to explore them, and a goal post to measure progress. Let’s look at a problem shared by many health care organizations — health care-associated infections. Based on data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on any given day, about one in 25 hospital patients gets at least one health care-associated infection. A common cause is poor hand hygiene: The CDC suggests that, on average, health care providers clean their hands less than half of the times they should.

The leader of a large integrated hospital system shared with us how they used data to change existing norms and routines and drive more hand washing. The hospital assigned “stealth monitors” — employees at various levels and roles who worked across several units and covertly collected observational data at set times. A safety group collated this data by unit and included it in a posted weekly report.

During morning huddles, unit and division leaders shared the data and started conversations about potential reasons behind the numbers. This weekly dialogue not only kept the problem in the forefront, but also engaged employees in diagnosing the barriers and factors outside of their control that made change hard to implement.

In one discussion, employees shared that when the batteries in the hand sanitizer dispensers died, it decreased handwashing until workers from another floor could replace the batteries. A simple change of moving spare batteries to the units and allowing anyone to replace them eliminated a critical barrier to improving adoption. This combination of data, engaging staff in problem-solving, and appealing to the mission of good patient care drove the rate of handwashing from 45% to 82% in one year.

Pay attention to the behaviors you reward and tolerate. As part of the same hand washing initiative, hospital system administrators created a Speak Up program, which empowers and trains nurses, staff, and doctors to call out anyone failing to wash their hands, on the spot, as they moved from patient to patient. For the campaign to work, no one, regardless of level or status, was immune from a reminder to wash his or her hands. Engrained cultural norms and power relationships about speaking up needed to be shaken (e.g., technicians were empowered to remind surgeons to wash their hands).

The weekly huddle meetings became a time to acknowledge those who bucked the existing power norms and reinforce the new behaviors. At these, the CMO handed out Starbucks gift cards to the staff that spoke up to physicians and others when they did not wash their hands. Rewarding new behaviors that contradicted the existing norms reinforced the message that it is safe to act in new ways. The change would not stick if doctors were exempt from feedback about noncompliance.

Doctors were also encouraged to thank anyone who spoke up to them when they forgot to wash their hands. When physicians negatively reacted to feedback from staff and resisted the culture change, an administrator reached out to them. The administrator reminded the physician of everyone’s responsibility for patient health, often using an emotional appeal: “How would they feel if their family member was seen by staff that did not engage in healthy hygiene?” Their comments linked physician behavior to the shared core values of high quality patient care.

The status quo persists when bad behaviors at any level of the organization are tolerated. When leadership understands that turning a blind eye to one bad behavior can decimate the adoption of innovation by others, they may be more willing to hold difficult conversations with the highest-status employees in their organization.

As health care continues to transform, aligning new innovations with existing cultural values will make it easier to lead successful change initiatives. Seeking to understand staff perspectives, using data, and holding all employees accountable for patient safety and care will help providers understand how change can support, rather than contradict, the values they hold dear.

Categories: Blogs

The Trade War with China Could Accelerate 3-D Printing in the U.S.

Harvard business - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 08:00
SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

Vice President Pence just made it all but official: The United States is in a cold war with China. Fed up with Beijing’s industrial espionage, market manipulation, and cyber attacks on the West, coupled with its bullying of neighbors and repression at home, the Trump administration announced a series of strong steps to fight back.

Since the Chinese think their time on the global stage has come, they aren’t likely to back down anytime soon. That spells trouble for American manufacturers with global supply chains. Undoubtedly, it will accelerate the reshoring of items now sourced in China. As companies rethink their supply chains, they ought to seriously consider embracing a new manufacturing technology that’s now ready for prime time: 3-D printing.

No longer relegated to trinkets and prototyping, 3-D printing, which is also called additive manufacturing, is now moving into mass production. Printer makers have solved a variety of quality, cost, and speed problems to the point where printers can compete with conventional manufacturers at volumes of tens or even hundreds of thousands of units.

That’s true even when the individual 3-D printer factory makes only a few hundreds of units, because it won’t depend as much on economies of scale.  Parts made in small American factories will cost nearly the same as those made in giant Asian plants — especially since these highly automated printers require less labor than conventional processes. So 3-D printing is tailor-made for reshoring — bringing production back home to be closer to customers. Not only does it lessen supply chain risks, but it weakens China’s advantages in manufacturing.

The U.S. military has already been working on additive as a quicker way to supply repair parts to remote locations and to make ultra-light, high-performance fighter jets. More broadly, the Obama administration set up the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center (“America Makes”), a technology support program in Youngstown, Ohio. But the Trump administration is looking to ramp up those efforts with tax breaks and direct subsidies to companies that bring military supply chains home.

Those supports will be crucial to getting manufacturers on board with the new technology. It will take time and effort: Additive manufacturing require a steep learning curve for engineers used to working on conventional assembly lines, and each part must be tested extensively to make sure it holds up under wartime conditions.

Additive manufacturing just passed a major test when GE certified parts for the new GEnx engines in Boeing 747s.  If additive can stand up to the rigors of jet propulsion, then it can handle most any military demand.

Speeding up the adoption of additive is still going to be a challenging investment, even with Pentagon subsidies. But companies making the upfront investment will likely reap even greater rewards down the line. As I described in “The 3-D Printing Playbook,” the payoff from additive will build over time.  Organizations will gradually revamp their operations to take advantage of its flexibility and versatility well beyond the factory floor. From product design to customer outreach, additive enables a fully-digitized enterprise that is hyper-responsive to market trends.

Companies that move especially quickly could pioneer the next stage of additive manufacturing. Because 3-D printers are so versatile, they can go from one kind of product to another with minimal time and cost for the switchover. That means companies can move from industry-specific factories to plants that produce for multiple industries. If demand in one industry slows, the company can switch some printers over to industries that are hot — and keep the factory’s capacity utilization high.

Once factories develop the software to coordinate and optimize these multi-industry operations, we’ll see the emergence of “pan-industrial” corporations. From the outside, these behemoths may look like conglomerates. But on the inside, thanks to the digital integration enabled by additive, they’ll achieve a variety of cross-division synergies.  Imagine a “Universal Metals” pan-industrial that makes drones, jeeps, and mortars.

Once a pan-industrial perfects its integration software, it’s likely to create a software platform for suppliers and distributors to join. That’s the only way to fully optimize the value chain around additive. And as we know with Google and other software giants, the more companies you have on the platform, the stronger your platform will be. Pan-industrials could eventually create dominant ecosystems based on their integration platforms.

Other industries besides defense are likely to work on additive-driven reshoring and pan-industrialism. Jabil, the giant contract manufacturer, has been buying up numerous printers and integrating them into its sophisticated supply-chain software platform. Until the slide in the company’s fortunes generated leadership turmoil, General Electric had been making progress as well.

The defense industry won’t be alone in pushing the additive frontier. It just may have the greatest urgency.

Categories: Blogs

What Can Big Businesses Learn About Innovation from Social Entrepreneurs? - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM QATAR FOUNDATION

Harvard business - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 07:55

Big businesses struggling in an era of rapid transformation can learn a lot from the experiences of social entrepreneurs finding and adapting innovative solutions in difficult contexts. In the 1990s, when Afghanistan was being ravaged by war, a bootstrapped initiative started by a former refugee was able to succeed where multi-million dollar projects funded by governments and large-scale development organizations could not. Believing that the best route to long-term empowerment for women was through education, Sakena Yacoobi created an underground network of schools that operated out of private homes. Despite resistance from local militias to allowing women to attend school, the project grew over time to help millions of children attain invaluable literacy and critical thinking skills. As the winner of the WISE Prize for Education in 2015, Yacoobi’s initiative is one of many that we at Qatar Foundation support to harness the potential of innovation for social development.

  • The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) and the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) are global initiatives of Qatar Foundation that support key stakeholders from across the world to develop new ideas and solutions capable of shaping the future of education and healthcare.

Based on our collective experience of working with thousands of innovators, policymakers, and activists around the world, here are three key ideas big businesses can learn about innovation from social entrepreneurs.

1. Empower Bottom-up Solutions

The most talked-about buzzword in social innovation is “co-creation,” and that is true for a simple reason: enabling end users to design solutions leads to better outcomes. Sultana Afdhal, the CEO of WISH, has firsthand experience identifying youth community leaders and supporting their projects through the WISH Young Innovator Program. “We may have many great ideas about things we perceive people need, but it is important to talk to the end user and listen to them,” she says. “Maybe what you think is the best idea you’ve ever had actually isn’t.”

One graduate of the WISH Young Innovator Program is Adepeju Jaiyeoba from Nigeria, who created the Mother’s Delivery Kit as a cost-effective solution to providing expectant mothers with the products they need during childbirth. Jaiyeoba’s birth kits have proven to be an effective intervention that addresses pregnancy-related mortality, saving the lives of newborns and their mothers. To date, an estimated 100,000 birth kits have been distributed.

Jaiyeoba’s project was successful not just because it was frugal innovation, but because she was intimately aware of what users needed and how they could be served. The impetus for Jaiyeoba’s project came following the death of a friend due to pregnancy-related complications. Afdhal adds, “People think of innovation as high-tech, scientific, and costly, but cheaper, simpler interventions can often be a seed for something greater.”

2. Scale Ideas that Work

To stay competitive in today’s marketplace, one approach that large corporations have taken is to invest considerable financial resources and talent toward dedicated innovation labs and Silicon Valley outposts. Despite glitzy promises, such projects often fail to deliver substantive impact. This is in part because even when such initiatives land upon good ideas, they don’t have the right mechanisms in place to apply those learnings at a broader level.

Dr Asmaa Al-Fadala, Director of Research and Content Development at WISE, says, “Innovative ideas remain as ideas if we do not act on them. That is why we focus on translating theory into practice.” To bridge the gap between innovation and application, it is crucial to identify best practices around the world, and provide the innovators with channels so that their message can reach important decision-makers.

One such channel is the WISE Accelerator Program, which selects education initiatives with high potential for scalability and positive impact and supports them through mentorship, access to investors, and international networks. A beneficiary of the WISE Accelerator has been Ideas Box, created by Libraries Without Borders, which offers a portable multimedia toolkit to build rich learning environments in emergency contexts. Today, the project has been successfully implemented in multiple countries, making headlines in news outlets ranging from The Wall Street Journal to National Geographic. Ideas Box is a great example of an initiative that is made much more impactful through being given the recognition and support good ideas deserve.

3. Adapt to Local Contexts

There is no “copy-paste” method of innovation. Great ideas still need to be contextualized to different social, cultural, and economic circumstances.

Take the Orenda Project for example, a rising edtech start-up from Pakistan that was incubated as part of the WISE Learner’s Voice Program. Orenda makes high-quality education accessible and fun for children through digitally streamed cartoons. Its programs already serve dozens of schools and are set to grow rapidly, providing much-needed alternative learning pathways for children in underserved communities. But the success of the initiative was the result of a spontaneous pivot. At first, the founders of Orenda wanted to open a school for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, only to find out that the government planned to demolish the slum where they were planning to build. Backed into a tight spot, the minds behind Orenda realized that untapped opportunities were offered by the extensive use of smartphones in the local community. The solution was to build a virtual education platform instead.

As businesses navigate the rough seas of creative destruction, such examples from the world of social entrepreneurship may offer inspiration and insight for how to tackle uncertainty. After all, as Afdhal notes, the most useful exercise for organizations trying to innovate more effectively is to learn from other industries.

To learn more about the World Innovation Summit for Education, the World Innovation Summit for Health, and other initiatives of Qatar Foundation, visit

Categories: Blogs

Case Study: When Two Leaders on the Senior Team Hate Each Other

Harvard business - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 07:00
kuritafsheen/Getty Images

The feedback in the 360-degree reviews was supposed to be anonymous. But it was crystal clear who’d made the negative comments in the assessment of one executive.

Lance Best, the CEO of Barker Sports Apparel, was meeting with Nina Kelk, the company’s general counsel, who also oversaw human resources. It had been a long day at the company’s Birmingham, England, headquarters, and in the early evening the two were going over the evaluations of each of Lance’s direct reports. Lance was struck by what he saw in CFO Damon Ewen’s file. Most of the input was neutral, which was to be expected. Though brilliant and well respected, Damon wasn’t the warmest of colleagues. But one person had given him the lowest ratings possible, and from the written remarks, Lance could tell that it was Ahmed Lund, Barker’s head of sales. One read: “I’ve never worked with a bigger control freak in my life.”

Editor's Note

This fictionalized case study will appear in a forthcoming issue of Harvard Business Review, along with commentary from experts and readers. If you’d like your comment to be considered for publication, please be sure to include your full name, company or university affiliation, and email address.

“These comments are pretty vicious,” Lance said.

“You’re surprised?” Nina asked.

“I guess not,” Lance acknowledged.

His CFO and his sales chief had been at loggerheads  for a while. Ahmed’s 360 also contained a few pointed complaints about his working style — no doubt from Damon.

Lance sighed. Five years earlier, when he’d stepped into his role, he’d been focused on growing the company that his father, Eric — the previous CEO — had founded. Barker had licensing deals with sports leagues to make merchandise with their logos and partnered with large brands to produce it for retail markets, and when Lance took the company over, its revenues were about £100 million. Soon after, he’d landed the firm’s biggest partner, Howell. Negotiating the deal with the large global brand had been a challenge, but it increased business so much that Lance and his direct reports still felt as if they didn’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done. They certainly didn’t have time for infighting like this.

“So what do we do with this info?” Lance asked.

Nina shrugged. “This is the first time I’ve been through this process myself.”

“Right. Clearly I’ve got to do something, though. I know that Ahmed and Damon aren’t mates, but I do expect them to be civil.”

Nina nodded, but Lance sensed she was biting her tongue. “You can be honest with me, Nina. I need your counsel.”

“Well, if I’m honest,” she said tentatively, “I think that’s part of the problem. The expectation is that we’re civil, but that doesn’t translate to collaboration. We all trust you, but there isn’t a whole lot of trust between the team members.”

“So does everyone think Damon is awful?” he asked, pointing to the report.

Nina shook her head. “It’s not just about him. You can see from the feedback that Ahmed isn’t a saint, either. He picks fights with Damon, and the tension between them — and their teams — has been having a ripple effect on the rest of us. You see the finger-pointing. It seems like everyone is out for themselves.”

Although Lance hated hearing this, it wasn’t news. He’d just tried to convince himself that the problems were growing pains and would sort themselves out. After all, sales and finance were often at odds in organizations, and the conflict hadn’t had a big impact on Barker’s revenues. They’d grown 22% the previous year and 28% the year before that.

Of course, none of that growth had come easily, and opportunities had certainly been missed. The team had dropped the ball on inquiries from several retailers interested in its products by failing to coordinate getting them into the company’s system quickly. Now, Lance realized that might be a sign of more fallout to come. He needed to fix this. “My dad always wanted to do one of those team-building retreats,” he said, smiling. This had been a running joke among Barker’s executives for years. Whenever Eric had sensed tension, he’d mention the idea, but he never followed through.

Nina laughed. “Unfortunately, I think we’re beyond that.”

This Mess

The next morning, Lance was in his office when he got a text from Jhumpa, the head of product and merchandising: Can you talk?

Knowing this couldn’t be good, Lance called her immediately.

Skipping the formalities, she launched in: “You need to get them on the same page.” Lance didn’t have to ask who “them” was. “Ahmed has promised samples for the new line on the Clarkson account, but his order exceeds the limits accounting set, so we need Damon’s signoff, and he won’t give it.”

This was a recurring fight. Ahmed accused Damon of throwing up roadblocks and using his power to undermine the sales department. Damon retorted that Ahmed was driving Barker into the ground by essentially giving products away. Lance went back and forth on whose side he took, depending on which of them was behaving worse. But he didn’t want to intervene again. Why couldn’t they just find a compromise?

Practically reading his mind, Jhumpa said, “They’ll stay in this standoff forever if you let them. It’s as if they’re in their own little fiefdoms; they act like they’re not even part of the same team.”

“Have you talked to them about this?”

“The holdup with Clarkson? Of course I have. But it doesn’t help. This situation is a mess.”

The last comment stung. The team wasn’t perfect, but it was still operating at a pretty high level.

“It would really help if you talked to them,” Jhumpa gently pleaded.

Lance thought back to the last time he’d sat down with Ahmed and Damon. Each had brought a binder filled with printouts of the e-mails they’d exchanged about a missed sale. Lance had marveled at how long it had probably taken each of them to prepare — never mind the wasted paper.

“Let me look into it,” Lance said. This had become his default response.

“Can I tell you what I’d do if I were in your shoes?” Jhumpa said. “Fire them both.” Though Lance had always appreciated her straightforwardness, he was taken aback. “Just kidding,” she added hastily. “What about having them work with a coach? I mean, we could all benefit from someone to help us talk through how we handle conflicts and from establishing some new norms.”

Lance wondered if the firing comment had really been a joke, but he let it pass. “I did talk to that leadership development firm last year,” he said. “They had some coaching packages that seemed appealing, but we all agreed we were too busy with the new accounts.”

“Well, maybe we should make time now,” Jhumpa replied.

After they hung up, Lance was still thinking about the idea of letting Ahmed and Damon go. Terrifying as the thought was, it might also be a relief. He’d heard of CEOs who’d cleaned house and replaced several top execs at once. He could keep Jhumpa, Nina, and a few others and bring in some fresh blood. It would be one surefire way to reset the team dynamics.

Doing Just Fine

Later that afternoon, at the end of a regular meeting with the finance team, Lance asked Damon to stay behind.

“I heard there’s a holdup on the Clarkson samples,” he said.

“The usual. Sales needs to pare back the order. As soon as Ahmed does that, I can sign off,” Damon said calmly.

“It doesn’t sound like Ahmed’s budging.”

“He will.”

Lance decided to wade in.

“Is everything OK with you guys?”

“Same as usual. Why? What’s going on? The numbers look great this quarter. We’re doing just fine.”

“I agree on one level, but I have concerns on another. It’s taking six months to onboard new customers at a time when everyone is fighting for them.”

“Is this about those 360 reviews? I tried to be fair in my feedback,” Damon said a bit defensively.

“The input is anonymous, so I don’t know who said what, but the tension between you and Ahmed is obvious.”

“Of course it is. I’m the CFO and he’s in charge of sales. If we’re both doing our jobs well, there’s going to be conflict. And that’s what I’m doing: my job. I’m the keeper of the bottom line, and that means I’m going to butt heads with a few people.” Lance had heard him say this before, but Damon took it one step further this time. “Your discomfort with conflict doesn’t make this any easier.”

They both sat quietly for a minute. Lance knew that as part of this process he’d need to examine his own leadership. Indeed, his 360 had been eye-opening. His people had described him as a passionate entrepreneur and a visionary, but they’d also commented on his preference for managing one-on-one, instead of shepherding the team, and his tendency to favor big-picture thinking over a focus on details.

“OK. I hear you on that,” Lance finally said. “That’s on me. But you also need to think about what you can do to improve this situation. There’s a difference between productive and unhealthy conflict, and right now it feels like we’ve got too much of the latter.”

Our Vision Might Crumble

“Have you considered one of those team-building retreats?” Lance’s father asked when they spoke that night. “I know you all never took me seriously — ”

Lance chuckled. “Because you never booked it!”

“ — but I still think it’s a good idea,” Eric continued. “No one really knows how to have a productive fight at work. It’s not a skill you’re born with. You have to learn it.”

“I’m considering it, Dad. But I’m not sure it would be enough at this point.”

“What about the comp?” This was another thing that Eric had brought up routinely. During his tenure as CEO, he’d realized that the C-suite compensation wasn’t structured to encourage collaboration. Bonuses were based on individual, functional unit, and company performance at respective weightings of 25%, 70%, and 5%.

“Maybe it’s time to bump up that 5% to at least 10% or even 20%,” Eric said.

“I’d like to make those changes, but I need Damon’s help to do it, and he’s swamped,” Lance said. “Besides, lots of experts say that too many people view comp as a hammer and every problem as a nail. CEOs expect comp to fix anything, but usually you need other tools. I may have to do something more drastic.”

“You’re not considering firing anyone, are you?” Eric had personally hired all the senior executives now on Lance’s team and was almost as loyal to them as he was to his own family.

“To be honest, it’s been on my mind. I’m not sure what I would do without Ahmed or Damon. They’re an important part of why we make our numbers each year. They help us win. But I look back  and wonder how we did it playing the game this way. I need a team that’s going to work together to reach our longer-term goals.” When Eric had retired, he and Lance set a target of reaching revenues of £500 million by 2022. “This group feels as if it could disintegrate at any moment. And our vision might crumble along with it.”

“I’m sorry,” Eric said. “Do you feel like you inherited a pile of problems from your old dad?”

“No, I feel like I’ve somehow created this one — or at least made it worse.”

“Well, one thing is certain:  You’re the boss now. So you’ll have to decide what to do.”

What should Lance do about the conflict between Damon and Ahmed?

If you’d like your comment to be considered for publication in a forthcoming issue of HBR, please remember to include your full name, company or university affiliation, and email address.

Categories: Blogs

Enduring Uncertainty

Greatleaders hipbydan - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 06:30

Guest post from Chris Lewis:
Go on admit it. You’re busy, right? Busier than last year. Busier probably than five years ago. In fact, you’re busier than you can ever remember being. You’re now so busy most people couldn’t even begin to understand how busy you are. And you don’t have time to tell them anyway. 
There was a time when life was slower. It all used to be so certain. You could plan. You could predict. You could be safe. Well, how’s that working out for ya after 9/11, the banking crisis, Brexit, and Trump? It’s a constant crisis.
The characteristic of all leadership in the 21st century is now the speed at which it needs to respond to crises as well as doing their day job. Burnt-out leaders end up with never-ending ‘to-do’ lists, and that’s not really their job. Of course, they need to do something; everyone knows that. Leaders though are more than that. They have to ‘be’ something. They need to represent values because that’s what permits a collective identity. If you don’t have that, you can’t have leaders.
Try this test. Ask someone to describe their parents. Usually, they respond that their parent is loving or caring or patient or dynamic or ambitious. Now ask them to describe themselves.
Usually, they say they go to work or take their kids to school or help them with their homework or put them to bed. What’s the difference? The latter description focuses on what the person does – primarily how they manage things. The former though is quite distinctive.  It focuses on who people are. That’s the essence of leadership – who you are. The values matter.
Three things always hamper any talk of leadership.
First, it’s unusual to sit and discuss leadership because everyone is now so busy. Conversation, especially among busy strangers, is particularly difficult. It usually happens online and conforms to Godwin’s Law which asserts that people will be likened to Nazis in direct proportion to the length of the conversation.
This brings up another point that just because we have more communication, it doesn’t follow that there is more conversation. And no conversation means no ability to negotiate or resolve emotions.
Secondly, it starts from an ego-centric idea that any discussion of leadership focuses on the leader and never the -ship. This is the model of the infallible, visionary, confident, male which has been passed down through centuries from Moses to Elon Musk. You’ve seen that movie before. 
Of course, it’s a complete myth. Sure, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, but did he get there without a team?
This is where the ‘infallible male’ idea is revealed as a myth. There is a great deal of research out there that says this model is becoming outdated.
Let’s take the principle of collaboration and teamwork. On almost any measure, female leaders are more effective at collaboration, empathy, and teamwork than men. Often, this takes the form of female leaders sacrificing personal goals to meet those of others. 
Male leaders are most usually the other way around. They achieve individual goals at the expense of the broader group. The argument for gender equality in leadership is not just a matter of social justice. It’s imperative for efficiency.
Finally, male egocentric leadership is the provenance of all certainty. This is pickled in logic, analysis, and data. It permits men to predict. It does not allow teams to prepare. This is where we need more than a Western Reductionist philosophy. 
Analysis has been essential and continues to be, but parenthesis matters, too. Think of it like this. Drill-down, yes. But look-across, also.
Female leadership allows the uncertainty of imagination and emotion into leadership. Thus, the provenance of all certainty is not fact, but mediocrity. Leaders must embrace uncertainty because that’s all that exists now and in the future.
Chris Lewis is co-author, with Pippa Malmgrem, of The Leadership Lab: Understanding Leadership In The 21st Century. Lewis, a former journalist, is founder of one of the largest creative agencies in the world, LEWIS. Founded in 1995, his practice now encompasses more than 25 offices and 500 staff. He is British, but splits his time between Britain and America. For more information, please visit:
Categories: Blogs

I Ran 4 Experiments to Break My Social Media Addiction. Here’s What Worked.

Harvard business - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 06:05
Barcroft/Getty Images

Social media can connect us to new ideas, help us share our work, and allow previously unheard voices to influence culture. Yet it can also be a highly addictive time-sink if we’re not careful about our goals, purpose, and usage.

Over the last two years, I conducted four different experiments to monitor my own behavior, implementing trackers and blockers in order to better understand how social media usage affected my productivity. My goal was to see if by interrupting my daily behavior I could change my “default settings” and have more time for deep, focused work.

In the end, these four experiments opened my eyes about my relationship to social platforms, and taught me effective strategies to maximize the benefit of these social tools while limiting the downsides.

The first step was collecting data. Before beginning my experiments, I tracked my daily behavior to better understand where my time and energy was going, which gave me insight into what I could change to produce more satisfying deep work. I used RescueTime for tracking my computer usage, and Moment to track my cell phone behaviors.

Experiment #1: Complete Removal of Social Sites For 30 Days

My first experiment was a complete removal of all social aspects from my routine: no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or LinkedIn for 30 days. Leading up to it, I raised objections—“but I need Facebook for my work!”, my brain sputtered, in a testament to the addictive power of the apps.

I logged out of each site and deleted all the apps from my phone. Then, I used Freedom, a website blocking tool, to restrict the social sites from my browser and phone. Finally, I had my partner take over my phone and install parental restrictions on browser sites with a password unknown to me. (I wasn’t taking any chances.)

The Results. Once I decided to go all-in, it was surprisingly easier to do than expected. There was a relief in being offline and deciding, once and for all, to do it. Here’s what I learned:

  • There were a few technical hassles: Facebook, in particular, is embedded in a lot of other applications, which created a problem any a tool required Facebook as a login. Going forward, I’ll create email-based logins only (which is also better for security).
  • My book-reading skyrocketed. In a month, I read more books than I had in the combined three months prior. Whenever I craved a break, I turned to my Kindle, instead of social or news sites.
  • I used social sites a surprising amount for research and discovery—when I’m thinking of a person I want to connect with, or a project I want to follow-up on, I would quickly type the social site for ease. Not having access created more friction in the short-term, but didn’t ultimately delay the work I was doing. There was a tension between instant access and carving out boundaries for deeper creative work that I found useful, albeit annoying.

After the experiment was over, I went back to allowing myself unlimited social media access and continued to track my usage using RescueTime. With a fresh perspective after a month away, I was able to more clearly see a pattern emerge around how I used the various sites, both for better and for worse. My key finding was the marked difference in my behaviors across devices: My laptop wasn’t the biggest culprit for addictive behavior: when I was at my desk, working, I spent the majority of my time actually working. My phone was the biggest culprit for addictive behavior.

Further, it was very clearly time-based. My social media usage (or cravings) clearly spiked at certain times. Most of my bad habits were tied up in late-night tiredness, early-morning mindlessness, and craving “The Scroll” whenever I was tired. It also became fairly predictable that I wanted a mid-morning break (around 11am) and an afternoon break (around 3 or 4pm). By far, the worst time was late evening, after dinner, when my brain felt like complete mush.

By all-out blocking the social feeds for thirty days, I saw where in the day my tiredness emerged and when I wanted to use the platforms for research or actual connection.

Experiment #2: Carving Out Daily Time Blockers

I wanted to learn whether or not I could limit, but not eliminate, social media and have equally effective results. This next experiment involved a daily restriction on websites based on the known “tired times” I’d identified in the first experiment.

For two weeks, I limited social access during certain periods of the day using the blocking app like Freedom. I allowed social sites on my computer in the afternoons only — not in the mornings, or after dinner. I also blocked all news websites, television sites, and installed Newsfeed Eradicator for Facebook, a social plug-in that helps prevent the scrolling nature of the newsfeed.

Results: Keeping the mornings social-media and news free was a game changer. I got so much more done on my biggest projects by having dedicated focus hours, and also knowing that there was a scheduled break in my day coming up.

  • The long-term effects of this change became apparent by day four or five. In the mornings, if I succumbed to impulsivity (a quick check here, an Amazon purchase there, firing off a couple of emails), it was far more difficult for me to throttle back into the realm of deep work.
  • By carving out chunks of the day to focus on specific work projects (moving one big project forward before 11am), I radically improved my personal productivity.
  • Temptation was strong, but waned over time: by overcoming the biggest pull to check first thing in the morning, I was much more focused and clear throughout the rest of the morning.

This proved to be a very effective strategy for me. Time-based internet blockers helped me increase my productivity. But now the reverse question came up: instead of blocking out times when I’d never use social, what if I dedicated a particular slot of time to it?

Experiment #3: The Social “Happy Hour”

The next experiment I tried was dedicating a specific hour of my day completely for use on social sites. I set up a calendar invitation from 4-5pm: a “happy hour” at the end of the work day to connect, enjoy, and run across new people and ideas after nearly 12 hours of working or parenting.

Results: Creating a built-in stress relief hour where I know that I can slide into “social research and browsing” (“The Scroll”), helped me avoid temptation at other hours of the day. It was easier to replace a bad habit with a better one than to focus all my energy on eliminating the bad habit.

  • Strangely, consolidating all of my social media use into a single hour made it seem less exciting. I noticed that I’d be finished scrolling within 20 minutes, or 30 minutes on a long day. There’s only so much sustained reading and commenting that I can do.
  • I was much more efficient at responding to all of the requests that come my way—rather than have metered out conversations trickling through the day, I buckled down, opened up new browser tabs for each meaningful mention or request, and whipped through it.
  • My content creation went way down. Instead, I began to plan ahead with a loose Evernote file for social media status updates and things I wanted to share, and the 12-hour delay between composing and pressing “publish” gave me a better chance to reflect on whether instant-sharing was really still necessary.

The biggest insights were that (1) social media usage dripped throughout the day drains the energy and focus I have for writing and other work, and (2) that there’s something insidiously satisfying about pressing publish on a status update, and each time I do it, I get the dopamine hit of satisfaction and response. But each tiny posting saps energy, and that adds up.

Experiment #4: 24 Hours To Break the Cycle

One of my favorite methods for resetting my brain is taking a full weekend day without my phone or my laptop, an idea I originally got from Tiffany Shlain’s “tech shabbat.” Back when I used to train for triathlons and open-water swims, Saturdays were spent largely outdoors, and it’s rather difficult to spend time scrolling the web while biking or swimming. So I used Freedom and a mesh wifi network to block the internet from midnight on Friday evening until Saturday at 3pm from all of my machines.

Results. Having something to do—going on a hike, going to the beach, meeting friends for coffee—helps tremendously.

  • The hardest part is walking out the door without the phone. From there, the freedom begins. The best way to block the internet is to physically leave devices elsewhere.
  • On days when I stay inside, I set my Freedom App to a weekend schedule of “no social media or email” until 3pm on Saturdays. The mornings can be lazy and slow. I’m not a doctor, I’m not an emergency worker, and we can all make it through the day if I’m not on email at 6am on a Saturday morning. By the time 1pm rolls around, I’m usually so involved in some other activity that I don’t notice.
  • I found I needed to be flexible about this experiment. On days when I have article deadlines or want to work a few hours on the weekend, I’ll set parameters for how and when to log on to get a chunk of work done.

Today, even with kids (and no triathlons currently), I still notice the effect of taking a Saturday away each week to disrupt the pattern of connection. A day free of the Internet is a great way to do a pattern reset if you notice (as I have) personal productivity dips by Friday.

Shifting From Subtraction to Addition

By and large, my first experiments were based on control and elimination. Sometimes, instead of focusing on constriction and willpower, however, it’s actually a better strategy to focus on the thing I want more of: more reading, more unplugged time with my family, space to think. One of the reasons diets don’t work very well is because most of them focus what you restrict, rather than what you add. My later experiments opened my eyes to the power of addition: planning ahead for dedicated social time, or a Saturday spent outdoors.

Today, I use Freedom to block social websites and news in the mornings nearly every day. I deleted Facebook and email from my phone, I will manually re-install them from 4pm to 5pm and then delete them again (yes, daily). I take regular 24-hour breaks. And I track my usage with RescueTime, which sends me an alert when I’ve hit 45 minutes of total “distracting” time.

With social media, many of us want to reduce our consumption, but we miss an important piece of the puzzle: we’re craving something that we want, and we think that social media has a quick answer. These experiments helped me realize that at the heart of my cravings around the social internet are deep connections with friends, access to new ideas and information, or time to zone out and relax after a hard day. Each of these components can be satisfied with other things beyond social media, and more effectively. As with many tools, it’s not an all or nothing, good-versus-bad conversation. I will continue to experiment in the future, especially now that Apple has introduced it’s “Screen Time” feature. Just because the apps are available, doesn’t mean our current default behaviors are the best ways to use them or get what we want. By limiting my access to social sites, I created a pattern disrupt that allowed me to reach out to more friends, read more books, and go deeper into work that mattered.

Categories: Blogs


Subscribe to Triz Sigma aggregator - Blogs