More than ever, leaders are expected to be supportive and empathic towards their teams. People are not machines and machines do not create as much value anymore as knowledge does. People need to be empowered and realise their personal potential and grow. Companies innovate through knowledge and technology. And psychological safety drives performance. Empathy is to be added to the repertoire of CEOs and leaders, therefore: We need Chief Empathy Officers!
Have you ever noticed the emotions involved when you want to change something or you are going through a change? Joy or sadness, anger or fear, trust or distrust, surprise or anticipation? These are our primitive emotions, which are hard-wired responses in all of us and correspond to a distinct and dedicated neurological circuit. Being hardwired, basic emotions (or ‘affect programs’) are innate and universal, automatic, and fast, and trigger behaviour with a high survival value. Change evokes emotions and as you may have experienced yourself in your business life, most of the time change evokes fear and distrust, leading to frustration and physical responses such a stress. It makes you feel uncomfortable and you would probably start finding ways to relieve yourself from stress as it feels unpleasant and unwanted. But would it be worthwhile to embrace this stress and dig deeper into what actually stresses you or others out?
You want change in your life, in your career, in your behaviour. But it is hard and every time when you think you are ready for the change, something pulls you back. Triggers such as a situation, certain circumstances, old habits, feelings. I am sure you have said it yourself: Oh, it’s the story of my life… Thoroughly asking yourself why you actually end up not doing what you really want and stand for, but remaining stuck in old habits, can change the story of your life. So how do you change the story of your life?
Group dynamics, one of my favourite topics. Group dynamics allow you to observe, to spot the priming, polling & framing, and teamship. But sometimes a team is not all too dynamic, but rather static. Groupthink has entered the meeting room, with all of its inherent consequences. The group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgement. Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanise other groups. So what are the symptoms and how can we overcome groupthink?
In January, I attended a great 2 day workshop about Action Science at Oxford University/Saïd Business School by Dr. Bob Putnam from Harvard Business School (quite some name-dropping here... apologies). Bob taught us that one of the barriers to success, is that members of an organisation are unable to engage in an open, fact-based inquiry into potentially threatening issues. Many people seem to face some alignment issues between 'what I responded' and 'what did I think/feel', as well as between 'what she said' and 'what I think/felt she said'. Misinterpretations, wrong judgments, incomplete data - it all leads to unintended consequences or hot reactions. How to fix this and what can we learn from Bomb Science - which is not Rocket Science. In fact Rocket Science seems to be easier to understand.
In this essay I want to address whether there is an increase in narcissistic behaviour and entitlement of Generation Y (millennial) born between 1980 and 1994, and what the underlying causes for such a possible rise could be, in particular with respect to parenting and institutional factors. Further, I will discuss how domination of narcissistic behaviour and sense of entitlement could unfold in the workplace in a worst-case scenario, and how companies could respond to an increase in narcissistic behaviour and a strong sense of entitlement of Generation Y.
How do you treat people? How are you treated and how does it motivate or demotivate you? Do you feel people are authentic and behaving appropriately? What does it tell you about you? What can you learn? Do you share the same values? Do you feel trusted and respected? Does the team culture and vibe lead to performance? Observation helps you to understand why people trust each other and why people don’t. It helps you understanding how high quality relationships are built and maintained, and how conflicts arise. Observing yourself and others helps you in understanding team dynamics such as joy, excitement, but also tension and frustration. Observation teaches you about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, as well as the potential of people. Observation starts with yourself. Just like leadership: it is inside of you. And you can learn it: for free!
Innovation does not mean that new solutions need to be created. Utilising existing resources differently can be innovative too. Positive deviance is a bottom-up approach which identifies and learns from those who demonstrate exceptional performance on an outcome of interest, and assumes that problems can be overcome using solutions that already exist.
Have you ever had the feeling that the outcome of a steering committee meeting was manufactured prior to the meeting itself? That the discussions were directed into a favourable outcome for a few of the members, positive or negative? I have been a member of many steering committees and reported to a few too. In quite a number of cases, I felt that the meeting was just a formality. Obviously, office politics played a major role, mostly on the expense of engagement of all people involved – not to speak about the commitment to implement the decision. This is how it happens.
Everybody talks about leaders and leadership. But what about teamship? The larger the teams, the larger the complexity is of achieving the same goal. Collective action occurs when a number of people work together to achieve some common goal. I believe that company culture and performance depend largely on group dynamics and in particular if collective action can be achieved. IF it can be achieved at all. Because quite often, group members do not seem to be willing to achieve the same goal. We speak about a collective action problem.
Two important ingredients for successful organisations: a slightly narcissistic CEO and psychological safety within the organisation. But what happens when a very narcissistic CEO turns in to a Big Bad Wolf and starts treating human beings as objects? Try maintaining psychological safety in the team, which sounds like Little Red Cap giving feedback to the Big Bad Wolf, dressed up as her grandmother, and she about the size of his mouth. It is not working out very well. So, to which extent can they coexist? What needs to be in place to make sure that the Wolf keeps his charm, but does not eat Little Red Cap? How can Little Red Cap believe that she can provide a reality check to the Wolf without being eaten? In this essay, I will address the importance of both psychological safety and CEO narcissism and I will discuss possible interventions to prevent the coexistence of these two potential opposites of going over the tipping point from constructive narcissism toward reactive and destructive narcissism.
Is it possible to change the mindset of a large organisation, such as a multinational? The question is, whether it is possible to scale the principles of Action Science to a larger group, such as an organisation, to change its mindset and thereby improving the actions for the intended outcomes. To understand the possibility, I will reflect on the impact of group dynamics and circumstantial influences on the application of Action Science to a larger group. These dynamics and influences – such as trust, motivation, cultural differences, distances between entities, and constant change – impact group behaviour and therefore the success rate of a collective learning intervention to achieve a mindset change, on individual level and various size levels of an organisation. My reflection.
If you would like to look back on your life when you are old, would you plan to say that it was a great adventure, or that you felt safe? The answer has a lot to do with your personality and how you regulate your motivations with respect to what you want to achieve: do you focus on promotion (self-growth) or prevention (no errors)? The same is valid for your co-workers; it helps to understand what motivates them and to avoid misunderstandings, wrong expectations and mismatches between leaders and their direct reports. How do you recognise the 2 types of regulatory focuses and what motivates them? What is the impact in the workplace? What are the implications for Leaders and HR responsibilities?
Whether you meet with your direct reports or you meet with your supervisor, annual appraisal meetings will have a lasting impact in particular on the direct report’s motivation and future performance. How do you make sure that the impact is constructive, drives intrinsic motivation and leads to a better cooperation that before?
Learning from failures is very important for leaders and managers to increase their capacity to cope with crisis events, by learning from the experience of previous crises. Just as well for decreasing subsequent accident and incident rates for decreasing an organization’s risk of failure, for enhancing organizational reliability, and for achieving various organizational outcomes such as service quality, adaptability, innovativeness, and productivity. Didn’t Einstein state that Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results? (you will find the answer at the end of this article). But how can organisations and teams learn from failures? What are the conditions to make it work best?
Corporate Social Responsibility is more on the agenda than ever. The introduction of the Triple Bottom Line (1994) and the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have pushed companies to take Corporate Social Responsibility to the next level. But are companies really committed to change their business models and 'live' Corporate Social Responsibility? Is it possible to make radical changes to their business models or are there arguments not to do it? Or is it more of a gimmick? In other words: Is Corporate Social Responsibility used by companies as a defence against making radical changes to their business?
Especially in sports the adagium Never Change a Winning Team is what coaches live by. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? is probably what you have heard at work. But does it make sense to leave things as they are when you are successful? Is your magic formula forever creating top-results? What happens if your successful product becomes obsolete and you have little room to change course, because all your processes have been set up for that one product? Let’s have a look at 3 examples showing the importance of changing a winning team.
Have you ever wondered what is going on when your successful pilot project does not receive implementation approval? Or why your performance does not land that promotion? Decoding power plays and political dynamics provides us with a working tool with which we can analyze organizational politics and orient our action in a politicized way.