I love this! Everyone in the psychology field, and really any Western-society focused research science, should be reading this and taking heed. It’s entirely too easy to think that what we see here generalizes everywhere, but cultures and people are different based on too many other factors. I would love to work with this author on some research in the future!
For anyone that knows me, I am a nut about understanding the way that organizations and people work, especially as it relates to increasing and maintaining performance. Unfortunately many organizations of all sizes fail to see the many systemic components of this and how they work together, or they only have a cursory awareness without the clear connections and methods of helping them work together.
Whether you are a Fortune 100 company, or just started a month ago there are certain areas that need clear focus from the onset. It is really easy to let certain things fall to the wayside, especially when you are focusing on trying to get your business off the ground and become self-sufficient. I would like to share a few things that I believe that all businesses, work groups, teams, and divisions should think about as systemic components of your Human Performance program.
- Leadership needs to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and ensure they get the development and guidance they need to support the business and their people. This may seem a bit of a no-brainer, but it is a critical component of your Human Performance system. The leaders and senior leaders are the drivers and examples (or should be) and need to focus on developing and growing as much as or more than many others. This serves the purpose of not only increasing capability and knowledge, but I believe also helps foster humbleness by reinforcing the fact that senior leaders do not know all the answers. How many conversations and relationships would be, or are, different because of someone showing a bit of humility?
- Training is not always the answer…only for new skills or refreshes on old skills. When someone is not performing, often the first go-to is to train them again, because the assumption is that they must not know how to do whatever it is. Ask some questions first, such as: “Did they know how to do it before?” “What has changed for them personally and/or professionally?” “Are they engaged by the task/work/project/etc.?” Answers to these questions can assist in directing toward either a training event or other solution, which leads to some of the other points.
- Determine what you can and should hire for, and what you really need to and want to train for when someone joins your team. This changes the entire system drastically in many cases. If I hire with expectations for certain knowledge, skills, and abilities then that reduces the amount and depth of training necessary to provide. This also changes the potential of getting production faster and with potentially more varied perspectives.
- Re-evaluate roles and positions regularly to determine if what they were still fits for today and tomorrow. Some of us get bored being stuck in the same thing all the time, and want the opportunity to grow and move in to other areas. Re-evaluation of roles and responsibilities regularly, while including those currently in the role, can go a long way to engaging employees. Additionally, it is important to ensuring your organization is best prepared not just for where you are, but where you want to go.
- Ensure performance management is built in to the day-to-day, nor reserved for mid-year and end-of-year. It has been said a million times, but it deserves reiterating. Performance management as a practice is one of the most hated things for most managers, but the reality is if the culture of the organization and team includes coaching people for success as they take on new jobs, tasks, responsibilities, etc. and then continues providing direction and feedback after, the process goes much more smoothly. This changes the discussions and can increase engagement and feelings of trust and rapport with leaders.
- Create the culture that you would be excited to be a part of, lead it, and reinforce it. Again, this is not new, but you are the one others look at. The way you act, or the way you don’t influences others. The way you communicate, or don’t, influences others. The trust and transparency you have, or don’t, influences others. Never lose sight of the impact you really have.
- Management and Leadership are a job, not an afterthought. I really can’t stress this enough. Managers need to lead, and the activities that a manager should be doing are very different than what individual contributors should be. This should be evaluated regularly and people who are really stronger as individual contributors should be given the opportunity to do those types of jobs at no penalty. Additionally, managers need to be able to put the overwhelming majority of their focus on building a strong and stable team, growing them, removing barriers, and getting things done. If you are not doing these activities at least 85% of the time, you are NOT a manager. You simply have a title.
Your Human Performance System is critical, and very real. It is also very complex, and understanding and working with it can be difficult. But that does not lessen the importance or necessity of working on it constantly. It is dynamic and needs constant focus, and many times adjustments and change. Are you focusing in these areas? How? What else would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your comments!
In the not-so-distant past, I had the opportunity to experience a situation unfolding where a manager has taken on the role of “working manager” to a detrimental point, exacerbated by a number of facts. First, they are in a first-time management position with direct reports, which started as one and grew to 6 in a very short period of about two-and-a-half to three years. To make matters worse, their role has increasingly taken on more individual contributor responsibilities, while the responsibilities of the team members reporting to them have become increasingly varied and complex. This is a recipe for disaster.
Organizations today are increasingly attempting to “do more with less” which is not a new concept, but we see organizations taking it to frightening extremes at times. While to some degree this is a fact of business, we need to ensure that we are also being mindful of the conflicting measurements and expectations we place on leaders in the organization. How much time do you and/or your managers spend focusing on your own projects and tasks? How much time do you or they dedicate to actually managing and leading? Are your tasks and managing and leading your people considered different, and what is more critical? These are important questions.
Too often we forget that the functions of leading and managing are complex, and require focus and time. This is even more salient when leaders work with diverse workgroups across national and international boundaries, and across multiple areas of expertise. The basics of learning to delegate are important, but there is certainly more. Leaders in complex leadership situations need to the opportunity to say no, they cannot take on another task, another project, another product, another whatever without fear of reprisal. It is senior leadership’s responsibility to create and encourage this environment, and everyone’s responsibility to help support it. Further, it is the responsibility of leadership throughout the organization to make sure that the right people are not only in the right place, but also that they receive the right support at the right time. This means for themselves and other leaders.
We need the time, the training, and the support to be the best that we can, and that means each and every one of us, consistently. There is no silver bullet, but an important component is awareness. The awareness of senior leaders and mid-level leaders to recognize when they or others are taking on too much, or trying to be the hero, or trying to continue getting the accolades of being the “doer” versus being the leader. While there are many other areas for potential focus, this one thing makes a huge difference in engagement, creating a trusting environment, building relationships, and increasing potential and performance for everyone.
I Want My Kids to Fail… What a great article! Sounds crazy, but I think we all need to learn how to gracefully lose, and then to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off.
Thomas Edison said of his attempts at creating the first light bulb that he did not fail 10,000 (yes, that is ten thousand!) times, but rather found 10,000 ways that would not work. He also acknowledged that each way that didn’t work got them closer to the one that did. This is replicated by Jonas Salk as he and his team of scientists worked to find a cure for one of the deadliest and most crippling diseases, polio. They tried many ways to create a vaccine, and many failed. But, had they given up, we may still have children who couldn’t walk, or permanently on a breathing machine.
Think about it, what have you failed at that led you to a great discovery or something bigger and better? What have you failed at recently? If you feel stuck in a rut, have you taken any risks that would move you out of that rut?
- Feb. 23, 1954 | Clinical Trials Begin for Jonas Salk’s Polio Vaccine (learning.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Eradicator of Polio – Dr. Jonas Salk (tvaraj.wordpress.com)
- I Want My Kids to Fail (gettingresultscoaching.wordpress.com)
- Daily thought series: 8 (fireofficermentor.com)
- Failure in the Workplace – Why It’s Good for Innovation (themarlincompany.com)
In the business world, we often hear that giving pay increases and other monetary gains is not the answer to increasing workplace engagement, productivity, job satisfaction, and a whole host of other factors. Conventional wisdom has been that providing encouragement and praise is just as good as the tangible rewards. Now, emerging research shows that this really may be the case.
A study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science indicates that when people are provided with intangible, or symbolic, resources such as praise, information, or affection they will be more inclined to return the favor with concrete resources such as money, work, or effort (Matsumura & Ohtsubo, 2012). There are challenges to a study such as this, but as Matsumura and Ohtsubo point out, the findings are supported by another study from 2008 by Izuma, Saito, and Sadato in which the brain shows response via fMRI to these intangible resources in the same way that it does to tangible resources.
What does this mean for leaders and workers? It certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy getting tangible, or concrete, resources or rewards! However, it does indicate that organizations would do well to ensure that they let employees know how much they are appreciated through other intangible means, and they should research and understand better the science behind what makes us happy and feel as though we want to reciprocate.
Izuma, K., Saito, D.N., & Sadato, N. (2008). Processing of social and monetary rewards in the human striatum. Neuron, 58, 284-294. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2008.03.020
Matsumura, A., & Ohtsubo, Y. (2012). Praise Is Reciprocated With Tangible Benefits: Social Exchange Between Symbolic Resources and Concrete Resources. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(2), 250-256. doi: 10.1177/1948550611417016
- Social Commerce Psychology (thedigitalconsultant.wordpress.com)
- The Psychology Behind Social Media (whatjathinks.wordpress.com)
- How Much of the Neuroimaging Literature Should We Discard? (neurocritic.blogspot.com)
- Review Of Literature – Employee Motivation (thinkingbookworm.typepad.com)
- Financial planning in the brain scanner slidecast (slideshare.net)
- Aplying Neuromarketing to Improve Business Results (neurorelays.wordpress.com)
Have you ever wondered why groups become so competitive, or what could possibly cause the atrocities that occur when a central government, tribe, nation, or other group chooses to attack another group, and get rid of them? In the most recent issue of the journal , McPherson and Parks (2011) provide a provocative look at this topic. The findings are not only important for understanding much of the conflict that we see in the world today, but I believe they are also applicable in the business world. First, we will review the findings, and then we can apply them to workplaces today. : Theory, Research and Practice
Multiple contributors to aggressive, and sometimes dangerous, competitiveness are evident such as potential for loss of resources, difference in values, perceived threat to in-group values, perceived in-group superiority/perceived out-group inferiority, and challenge to status. These findings are well documented in other studies, and McPherson and Parks (2011) take it further with results indicating that groups are more inclined to eliminate an individual or other group than individuals are, and will make the decision to do so much faster. No surprise that those with less connection with the other group(s) or individual(s), higher levels of competitiveness, and those scoring higher on Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) are the quickest and most likely to try to dominate what they perceive to be the lesser group(s) or individual(s).
So what does this mean for business? In organizations, especially in large, diverse organizations with a workforce that increasingly is spread around the globe, understanding the way that issues such as this work can assist in reducing inter-group issues. This means being aware of healthy lines and boundaries for competition, but understanding that each group has needs for resources, and making those available as equally as possible. It further means helping groups to understand the interconnectedness between each other, and the collaborative ability available for use when recognized. Organizational and group leaders either can function as warlords, encouraging conflict and negative actions, or can be a peacemaker contributing to the collaboration and understanding of equality between groups.
McPherson, S., & Parks, C.D. (2011). Intergroup and Interindividual Resource Competition Escalating Into Conflict: The Elimination Option. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 15(4), 285-296. doi: 10.1037/a0024938
- Are we born to be kind? Group Dynamics and Wellbeing (my.psychologytoday.com)
- Ineffective group dynamics play a role in poor research reporting (eurekalert.org)
- Teams Are The Foundations Of The Most Organization Today, Yet They Can Be Also Be Plagued By A Consistent Set Of Problems (thinkingbookworm.typepad.com)
- Building rapport and enhancing teamwork (patricktay.wordpress.com)
- Process Leadership (processconsultancy.com)
- Can Intergroup Behaviors Be Emitted Out of Self-Determined Reasons? Testing the Role of Group Norms and Behavioral Congruence in the Internalization of Discrimination and Parity Behaviors (psp.sagepub.com)
- Who gets the blame? Study sheds light on how people assign blame to organizations (eurekalert.org)
This is an interesting article that challenges, humorously, the common notion of the infallibility of fMRI and, somewhat indirectly, other testing types as well.