Employees who differ from most of their colleagues in religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and generation often hide important parts of themselves at work for fear of negative consequences. This makes it difficult to know how these employees feel and what they want, which makes them vulnerable to leaving their organizations. The key to inclusion is understanding who your employees really are. Many organizations conduct employee engagement surveys, but most neglect to segment the data they collect by criteria such as gender, ethnicity, generation, geography, tenure, and role in the organization, missing opportunities to identify issues among smaller groups. Focus groups are another way to gain deeper insight into what employees care about. They are best facilitated by a third party with no vested interest in the outcome so that employees can speak freely. A one-on-one discussion with a manager can be the most powerful tool for finding out what an...
Management has long been associated with the five basic functions: planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. These default dimensions are sufficient when pursuing a fixed target in a stable landscape. But take away the stability of the landscape, and one needs to start thinking about the fluidity of the target. This is what’s happening today, and managers must move away from the friendly confines of these five tasks. To help organizations meet today’s challenges, managers must move from: directive to instructive, restrictive to expansive, exclusive to inclusive, repetitive to innovative, problem solving to challenging, and employer to entrepreneur.
What happens to people who are overconfident? Are they generally rewarded, promoted, and respected? Or do we distrust them and avoid collaborating with them? Our research suggests it may depend on how they express confidence. One way people express confidence is verbally — with specific expressions of confidence in their judgments. Another way is nonverbally, as body language and tone of voice can make one appear confident. In a series of studies, researchers found that overconfidence hurt one’s reputation — but only if the person expressed confidence verbally. Those who expressed confidence nonverbally weren’t penalized.
If you work with someone who’s gone too long without feedback and want to help them grow, you’ll need to take an empathetic approach to the conversation. Start by asking questions to clarify their motives. If a leader is constantly forcing their ideas on others, for example, you might start with a question like, “How were you hoping the team would respond to your idea?” Once you are aware of your colleague’s intentions, you need to separate them from their actions in order to have a productive discussion. Acknowledge their original intent, but follow up by stating the negative impact their action actually had on you. Pointing out the gap between what they meant to do and what happened, will help them recognize patterns of unwanted behaviors. Remember that the feedback will be hard to hear — so give them space to feel upset, remind them you are telling them to help them grow, and encourage them to focus on the future.
Researchers set out to answer the following question: How do demands and the amount of support received at work or at home affect the amount of support a person gives to their spouse or co-workers, and how does this in turn, affect the relationship of their larger family or team? Through two separate studies, they found a consistent pattern whereby men seem to reduce emotional support when demands in another role become too heavy. Women, on the other hand, provide emotional support regardless of their demands in another role, and they also “pass on” the support they receive in one role by giving more emotional support in another role, thereby boosting relationships. While spouses and co-workers do not always effectively support each other, and there is a substantial gender divide to bridge, men and women also expressed one remarkably similar need: to be heard by their spouse or co-workers. Active listening, then, is the first step forward — to not only make people feel...
Few businesses teach new sales recruits what they actually need to know. Researchers found that while tactics like product training and email are some of the most widely used to educate workers, they often fail to drive message consistency. Instead of telling their sales teams what to say, then, companies need to teach their employees what experience they are trying to deliver to customers and coach them on how to think through the lens of that experience. Training tactics that teach workers how to do this will help generate confident employees who are capable of — and confident in — creating better customer outcomes. Here are a few tactics companies looking to align their brand message should consider: 1) Ask questions to help you fully understand knowledge gaps; 2) Customize the training experience based on team feedback; 3) Focus on building confidence (confidence in telling a brand story determines how successful conversations on the front lines will...
“I’m so busy.” This is a common refrain among knowledge workers, and for the most part, companies have left it up to individuals to come up with a solution. But research from ideas42, a behavioral science nonprofit, finds that it’s virtually impossible for people to break out of their “busyness tunnel” without structural changes within an organization. That’s because we’re wired to complete the easiest task on the vine, and rewarded professionally for our near-constant availability. To prevent burnout, and improve work-life stress, companies should consider three new mental models for employees: send regular social signals that working 24/7 is not expected or rewarded; build in deliberate slack time for getting big projects done; and making everyone’s workloads more transparent.
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Spurred by the climate crisis and increasing social challenges, such as rising inequality, the stakeholder capitalism movement is gaining steam, leaving us to grapple with two tough questions: 1) How can groups across the socio-economic and political divides get better aligned on the current reality we’re facing? And 2) What is the appropriate approach, including taxation and regulation strategies, to produce the economic, environmental, and social outcomes we need to survive and thrive for years to come? If business leaders don’t help answer these questions, they run the risk of getting answers foisted upon them. The authors suggest leaders start within their companies, by measuring the right performance indicators, being a thoughtful voice for regulation, painting an integrated picture for shareholders and not being afraid of taking on risks.
Negotiation experts have long confirmed the intuition that that being warm and friendly pays off at the bargaining table. Recent research finds that people also tend to believe niceness will buy them better deals — but when put to the test, this prediction turns out to be wrong. It appears that being firm can sometimes lead to better deals, at least in a distributive or single-issue negotiation, than being warm.
In the corporate world — and our culture more broadly — there’s always a push to do more, and do it quickly. The author recommends taking a step back, slowing down, and choosing one goal to focus on. She offers four steps for choosing the right one: 1) Make sure your goal is aligned with the strategic vision for your company. 2) Create a “goal timeline.” 3) Identify a “keystone goal.” 4) Force yourself to work towards the goal for a predetermined amount of time.
If a company can transition from simply delivering a product to building a community, they can unlock extraordinary competitive advantages and create a superior business model. In fact, strong communities help support the ideal business model. Specifically: • Enthusiastic members help acquire new members, resulting in lower customer acquisition costs and a tight viral loop. • Members of a community are loath to abandon it, resulting in increased member retention and therefore improved lifetime value. • Members of a community support other members in that community, resulting in high gross margins due to a lower cost of service.
The result of this are very real network effects: as engagement grows, the community gets smarter, faster to respond, more globally available, and generates more value.
In his recent annual letter to CEOs, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink makes the stunning claim that climate change has brought us to “the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance” and “in the near future … a significant reallocation of capital.” BlackRock has committed to “place sustainability at the center of [its] investment approach.” Although BlackRock cannot divest of companies in its index funds, Fink makes it clear that they will be “increasingly disposed to vote against management and board directors when companies are not making sufficient progress on sustainability-related disclosures and the business practices and plans underlying them.” This is a warning from the world’s largest shareholder that public companies dare not ignore. If Fink is correct in predicting that capital will increasingly be allocated to those companies with the most sustainable business models, then investors will need new sources of data to understand and anticipate the economic...
Is Silence Killing Your Strategy?
In his thirty years of working in corporations, Harvard Business School professor Michael Beer has witnessed firsthand how organizational silence derails strategic objectives. When employees can't speak truth to power, senior leaders don't hear what they need to hear about their company's fitness to compete, and employees lose trust in those leaders and become less committed to change.
In Fit to Compete, Beer presents an antidote to silence--principles and a time-tested innovative process for holding honest conversations with everyone in your organization. Used by over eight hundred organizations across the globe, the strategic fitness process has helped leaders in a diverse range of industries--including medical technology, information technology, banking, restaurant chains, and pharmaceuticals--hear the raw but necessary truth about the sources of misalignment between their strategies...
You can email your comments and ideas for future episodes to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Youngme and Mihir on Twitter at: @YoungmeMoon and @DesaiMihirA.
HBR Presents is a network of podcasts curated by HBR editors, bringing you the best business ideas from the leading minds in management. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Harvard Business Review or its affiliates.
When presented with a problem that requires behavior change, we pounce on it with big goals. We’re programmed to “go big or go home,” but big goals are more burdensome than they are motivational; they require daunting effort to accomplish and sustain.Instead, the way to achieve big is to start small — through micro habits. Micro habits are small components of a larger habit. By breaking down an ambitious job into smaller, more achievable ones that you build over long periods of time, micro habits help you complete big goals.To succeed with micro habits, you must be deliberate and choreograph steps to sustain them. First, identify a “ridiculously small” micro habit, and piggyback on a daily task, so it becomes part of your regular routine. Next, track your progress and hold steady for a long time before building on the habit. Finally, find others to hold you accountable and keep you motivated.
Jeff Bezos’s recent visit to India was marred by protests, an antagonistic remark by the Indian finance minister, and a refusal to meet by the Indian prime minister — all despite Bezos’s promising to spend a billion dollars and generate millions of jobs by 2025. What happened? The authors’ take is that at least one part of the Indian democracy is sending a loud and clear message: It is unwilling to welcome a multinational that disrupts traditional businesses and does so ruthlessly with alleged unfair trading practices.
In the past 10 years, organizations have come to the realization that in order to win the war for talent — and attract the most capable and skilled employees and leaders — they must find a way to unlock diversity.
This means creating a culture of inclusion, where people with different demographic and psychological backgrounds feel valued — not by blending in or showing high levels of culture fit — but by providing a different perspective to reduce the homogeneity of attitudes, values, and beliefs and keeping groupthink and decision-making biases in check.
How does one build an inclusive culture? Although there is no simple answer to this question, we at least know what the most important factor in the equation is: leadership.
Culture is primarily the result of the values of the leader. As Plato noted in The Republic: "Societies aren't made of sticks and stones, but of men whose individual characters, by turning the scale one way or another,...
Dictionaries define quiddity as “the inherent nature or essence of someone or something.” In our consulting practice, we’ve found quiddity a useful concept in representing an organization’s founding history and principles that align and anchor it internally. If culture is “the way we do things around here,” quiddity is “why we do things the way we do.” When an organization understands, communicates, and celebrates its quiddity, it’s far better able to drive culture and all that culture impacts — from recruitment and training to branding, reputation, and beyond.
Professor, author, and popular radio host Art Markman focuses on three essential elements of a successful career – getting a job, excelling at work, and finding your next position – and expertly illustrates how cognitive science, especially psychology, sheds fascinating and useful light on each of these elements.
Almost every leader wants to make more time for strategic thinking, but two barriers often get in the way. One issue is the incentives put in place by companies: There’s often cultural pressure to work long hours. But tethering yourself to your desk is rarely a recipe for innovative strategic thinking. The second barrier may be internal: Research shows that busyness is a sign of social status. Leaders want people to think they’re busy, so they lean into the frenzy. To fight against these external and internal pressures, remind yourself that strategic thinking doesn’t necessarily require large amounts of time. A short walk outside can make all the difference. You may also benefit from documenting where your time is actually going. It’s quite possible that there are tasks you could combine, defer, or outsource to buy yourself an extra two hours per week — more than enough to step outside the daily hurly-burly and enter into the flow state of considering...
Just like a business must understand what its customers need to produce the most impactful products, managers must understand what their team members need to create the most valuable learning opportunities. Think of this approach to employee development as “user-centered” with the “user” or the “employee” being top of mind. To start, set up one-on-one meetings with your direct reports and ask questions that will help you understand what areas they most want to grow in. Then, look for on-the-job learning opportunities to help people develop by considering what experiences will best cater to their personal needs. Smaller opportunities are best when an employee is unfamiliar with a necessary skill. Bigger opportunities that require employees to take risks and stretch beyond their comfort zones are more suited to individuals who have prior experience carrying out a certain task; in these moments, they can put their skills to the test more independently and play a larger role.
The potential of “big data” and “artificial intelligence” to revolutionize business is routinely hailed by everyone from entrepreneurs to executives at established public companies. Many of these claims have elicited increasing skepticism from the public.
A provocative new book by two Harvard Business School professors, however, argues that the transformational effect of “the Age of A.I.,” if anything, has been underappreciated.
Nothing is more costly to an organization’s culture than a toxic employee. Research shows that rudeness is like the common cold — it’s contagious, spreads quickly, and anyone can be a carrier.
Dylan Minor, a visiting assistant professor at Harvard Business School, and Michael Housman, chief analytics officer at Cornerstone OnDemand, studied just how costly toxic employees are using a large dataset of nearly 60,000 workers across 11 firms in various industries, including communications, consumer services, financial services, health care, insurance, and retail.
How does hiring a toxic employee compare to hiring a superstar? Minor and Housman found that one toxic employee wipes out the gains for more than two superstars. In fact, a superstar, defined as the top 1% of workers in terms of productivity, adds about $5,000 per year to the company’s profit, while a toxic worker costs about $12,000 per year. The real difference could even...
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