More than most other cultures, personal and organizational success are immensely important to Americans (You can toss the Chinese in with the Americans). Celebrity status, personal book sales, organizational profit and individual power and finances are inevitably touted—and by a lot more than the media. So I was amused by research focusing on theTiger Mother concluding that the theory of why people thrive is “finally rigorously debunked.
Chua and Rubenfeld argued that three traits predicted personal success. . .
In his masterful study, Leadership BS: Fixing workplaces and careers one truth at a time, Jeff Pfeffer forces his readers to deal with the actual realities of leadership. The picture is not pretty. His description is both highly analytical and comprehensive, dealing with both leadership practice and thinking.
Acknowledging the truth of his description will be painful for most and often. . .
There is a terrific amount of opinion, written and otherwise, about employee engagement. But it looks as though what Gertrude Stein said about her home town of Oakland, California, is also true of employee engagement: “there is no there there.”
If you can deal with the challenge, you’ll want to go through Rob Briner’s thought piece on employee engagement from the perspective of evidence-based decision making. It’s readable, straight-forward and solid. As Briner’s article states up-front, he intends to “stimulate deeper and more critical thinking about employee engagement from an evidence-based practice perspective.”Briner is Professor of Organizational Psychology at the University of Bath (UK) and a leader in the field of evidence-based management.
Briner reveals that the current status of evidence on employee engagement is not a pretty picture.
The Evidence Based Management Collaborative is located at Carnegie Mellon and includes both academics and practitioners. EBMC focuses on empirical research, exactly what you’ll gain from Rosenzweig’s brilliant book, The Halo Effect. Briner also has a superb picture of the evidence hierarchy, with “expert opinion, anecdotes and case studies" at the bottom of the hierarchy.
The thought piece, excerpted below, addresses two fundamental questions about engagement:
Do increases in engagement cause increases in performance?
Do engagement interventions cause increased levels of engagement and subsequent increases in performance?
One of the most useful and pragmatic studies over the past decade is that of Baumeister and colleagues, “Bad is stronger than good.” The research finds that the greater power of bad events and bad feedback over good is found in everyday events, major life events, close relationship outcomes, romance, social network patterns, interpersonal interactions and learning processes. That means that bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact that good ones. The research and its applications are so significant that I want to pull out a few issues from the study. I’ll write a blog on its application to a very significant, recurring business context in the next week or so.
I first began to understand this stuff decades ago when, as a preaching professor, I was studying the role of neurotic guilt in preaching. Neurotic guilt is what is felt when a person has no control over an event, but as a result of parenting, advising, teaching or preaching feels that he is culpable anyway. Many of my students, growing up in profoundly legalistic families and churches, became subjects of neurotic guilt on a weekly or even daily basis. Indeed, by the time I got them as twenty-year-olds, most had great difficulty understanding the distinction between moralizing and the Christian Gospel. What parishioners would be getting, I realized, was a shitload of neurotic guilt every Sunday morning. On top of that, ...
Unlike many personality traits, perfectionists usually recognize their perfectionism. And if they don’t, then their co-workers do. Colleagues of a perfectionist readily surface the information in an expletive format like, “god, what a perfectionist!” That translates, most don’t need to be told, as “what a pain in the butt.”
Historically, perfectionism has been viewed as a personality style that includes striving for flawless performance, meeting excessively high standards and overly critical evaluation of one’s own behavior. Of course, some perfectionists are quietly proud of that personality trait. And though they might make self-deprecating comments or laugh about themselves, they have not the slightest interest in rejecting the category. After all, most perfectionists believe it’s gotten them a lot of kudos and opportunities in their career.
Is perfectionism all negative? The dominant view through the 1980’s was that perfectionism was pathological, the sign of a neurotic and disordered personality. Perfectionism, psychologists believed, was driven by concerns over mistakes, doubts about actions and fears of rejection. These researchers stressed that unhealthy ...
Recently I had a conversation with a retired vice-president of a billion dollar company about America’s youthful entrepreneurs. Of course, he mentioned the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Microsoft. He immediately got into his admiration for the youngsters who started their businesses barely out of their teens, commenting that if it wasn’t for youth we wouldn’t have much in the way of new business.
I’m too old to be governed by obviously-wrongheaded ideas, no matter where they come from, even when they’re from major executives. So after he finished, I paused and then started sharing the research on entrepreneurs: in sum, he was dead wrong. The huge majority of successful entrepreneurs are past the age of 40 when they start their first company.
He was silent for a moment. Then he started disagreeing with me, totally ignoring the fact that I’d emphasized the research. I listened quietly, then commented that it was all very romantic to believe in Gen-Yers. They certainly bring a lot of useful stuff to the party. But the facts of the matter just wouldn’t support his notions. He’s a very nice guy who occasionally pays attention to me, not least because I drive a Mercedes (crazy). It was clear, however that his intuition was working overtime, and I wanted to suggest to him that he tell his gut to shut up. . . .
What’s often frustrating about the plethora of web material on personal development is the difficulty of sorting the highly useful recommendations from the fluff or the just plain wrong-headed. A terrific amount of so-called career research suffers from the halo effect—the bias that because an attribute is productive in one occasion, then the other related attributes will also be productive—and in other situations. The halo effect is also at work in the distinction between cause and correlation. Still, there is far more empirical, social science and humanistic research in the field than most would imagine, so whenever that’s available, I recommend it to my clients. On other occasions, I recommend the work of well-known authorities. Here are a number of potentially useful recommendations.
Stanford’s Bob Sutton, on Five signs that your mentor is giving you bad advice, an expert in the field of career and behavior, supplies us with an unusual, even unique set of valuable insights. Sutton reminds us of the struggle to take something that works well in one place and replicate it in another (the halo effect). As Sutton points out to mentees, they “have to play an active role in judging the advice they get.” Sheryl Sandberg is among those who reveal that mentors have played a key role in her success, but that she’s learned . . .
George Packer at the New Yorker on Black Friday and the Race to the Bottom. Why did Black Friday, beginning on Thanksgiving Thursday this year, and continuing into Shopaholic Saturday and Sunday poop out so badly? And why, with the usual brawls over towels and TVs reported on YouTube, did retailers like Walmart and Target take a total hit of more than $1.7 billion less than last year? Packer answers the question and wonders why, with too many Americans now working low-paying jobs stocking inventory and ringing up merchandise, those same stores don't understand that their workers are too poor to buy the products in the big-box stores. You'd think those same firms would be leading the protests for higher wages. Why, when moderate Southern businessmen spoke up for higher wages during the civil rights era, do you not hear that rhetoric today? It may be that America is still waiting for the first retail C.E.O. to see what’s in front of his nose.
Early in a client’s
development, one important issue always comes up. If the client doesn’t bring
it up, I do. It’s this: how does he or she go about learning and what are the
best ways for them? A few talk about learning styles—the notion that each
person has a particular way he or she learns best, whether eye-oriented,
print-oriented or ear-oriented. This notion has been around and quite popular
for a long time. It’s also been thoroughly debunked by research.
But there are three important, very solid “learning style”
lessons about the way we learn.
Certain kinds of
issues, though exceptionally definitional and useful, inevitably get relegated
to the back pages of the newspaper. Research data in its initial stages doesn’t
get near the front pages unless it’s about popular conflicts, related to widely
held concerns and fails to challenge blameworthy voters. For example, the data
supporting the notion that parental support of their kids’ education may be the
most significant factor in personal success took a long time to get to the
front pages. Maybe that was just repression, denial or ignorance. Obviously, the
red meat about poor teaching, corrupt unions and government failure is a lot
more interesting, though often irrelevant.
So research that reveals that American adults are, at
best, in the middle of the pack of nations when it comes to problem solving in
technology-rich environments is relegated to page 11 in the New York Times and
page 7 in my local Minneapolis Star Tribune. If you’re an astute HR person, senior
exec in one of our better companies or young parent, the information just might be very useful.
At the least it would tell you what to focus on in recruiting for better
decision-makers and what to do about your kids' education.
After all, you can’t problem solve very well until a problem
is well-defined. And it could make you very cautious about the quality of
employee intuition and their ready inferential, opinion-based chatter. After all,
as Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed out years ago, you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.
The data The comparative research was based on new tests developed
by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a coalition of mostly
developed nations. The tests focused on literacy, facility with basic math—numeracy—and
problem solving in “technology-rich environments.”
Japan ranked first in all three fields with Finland
second in average scores with the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway near the top. And
Spain, Italy and France near the bottom. Just 9% of Americans scored in the top
two of the five proficiencies. The biggest lag in Americans was among younger
people. Among 55-to-65 year olds, the US fared better than its counterparts.
Among 45-to-54 year-olds performance was average. Once more: the performance
was most behind among younger people.
Why is the US so
rich? If you feel defensive about these stats, you’re probably
asking why, if we’re so dumb, are we so rich? Anthony Carnevale at the
Georgetown Center on Education and the Workplace said that the answer is
four-fold: higher skill levels at the top, being big, being more flexible than
other economies, and being able to attract other countries’ most skilled
laborers. “But that advantage is slipping.”
This really, really needs to be on the front page to stir
up the hoi polloi, get the politicians focused clearly and get the public going
on the necessary changes. That is, if we can look beyond the end of our noses.