How to Cultivate Cross-Silo Leadership

How HR managers can look for, develop and reinforce certain behaviours to break down barriers within their organisations.

HR managers who strive to identify and cultivate the best talent for their firms understand certain truisms. They know that hiring can’t be done by a bot, that there is a human aspect to finding the right fit for a particular team, and that there is great value in working across divides, be they cultural or functional.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Tiziana Casciaro (Rotman School of Management), Amy C. Edmondson (Harvard Business School) and Sujin Jang, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, argue that employees who communicate and collaborate across silos to provide integrated solutions for their clients create great value for their organisations. Drawing on their work with hundreds of executives across many organisations, the authors present a set of practices that facilitates cross-silo leadership, which can be learned and developed over time.

How can HR professionals leverage this research to ensure that both job candidates and in-house talent are in a position to work well across departments, regions or functions? In many firms, such skills may be mistakenly considered non-essential or “nice to have”. But the bottom line is that organisations that fail to cross silos are at risk of not providing the services their customers need.

For cross-silo leadership, HR managers can focus on hiring and developing talent with the following skills:

  • Cultivating cultural brokerage
  • Asking questions that facilitate perspective taking
  • Expanding points of view through network scanning

Hire and develop cultural brokers

As Jang has previously written, cultural brokers facilitate interactions between individuals who have different sets of assumptions, values and norms. Although her original research on this topic is based mostly on people working in multinational teams, she posits that functional or organisational cultures can also be brokered.

Jang identified two distinct roles of cultural brokerage: Those who help colleagues work around cultural differences (“bridges”) and those who connect colleagues with one another to build lasting relationships (“adhesives”).

  • A “bridge” allows others to collaborate across silos with little disruption to their daily routine. They do this by taking care of the cross-silo work on behalf of others, in such a way that other employees can continue working as they would within their own silo.
  • An “adhesive” connects colleagues and helps them work directly with one another, rather than acting as a bridge between them. They sow the ground for further fertile relationships to flourish, independent of the cultural broker.

Cultural brokers create great value for a firm. HR professionals can identify cultural brokers by looking at candidates’ background and experience. These are the candidates who tend to have experience in multiple domains (who have lived and worked in multiple cultures or in multiple functions) and have experience helping people work across domains. Such candidates may have been involved in post-merger integration or have experience simultaneously working with others from multiple functions, for example.

To create an environment for current employees to engage in cultural brokerage, HR managers can consider rotation programmes or matrix structures, which provide ample opportunities to develop the skills required to be a cultural broker.

Encourage inquiry and perspective taking

Asking good questions and taking others’ perspective on-board are another set of skills that HR managers can look for in candidates and encourage among in-house talent.

One way employees can see the world through the eyes of others is by asking good questions. Many organisations explicitly hire for demonstrated connecting skills. Southwest Airlines, for example, evaluates empathy when sourcing customer-facing roles. As a result, the company is famous for its award-winning customer service.

In an interview, an HR manager can listen carefully to the kinds of questions asked by candidates. Are they asking open-ended questions that allow them to gain a better understanding of the organisation and their role? Are they asking questions to check their own understanding along the way? Candidates who ask the right kinds of questions know how to engage in effective inquiry to gain perspective.

Beyond hiring for perspective-taking ability, it is also important that a firm provides opportunities to further develop individuals’ perspective-taking capacity after they join the organisation. Some large firms like GE have programmes requiring high-potentials to rotate in different functions such as finance and marketing over the course of several years. Firms with this kind of training recognise the importance of executives who can span divides. Naturally, the high-potentials are not experts in every field, but they do have a sense of what it’s like to work in the different parts of the business. A more technological solution to encourage perspective taking is found in Sberbank, where employees wear a VR suit literally called “Empathy” to develop compassion for their elderly clients and their possible physical limitations.

Having a workforce with developed perspective-taking skills leads to several important benefits. Edmondson has found that cross-industry collaborations can succeed when diverse workers take on the perspectives of other workers from dissimilar backgrounds. And Casciaro’s work shows that curious employees who ask the right types of questions build broad networks that span boundaries across disparate parts of the company.

Help employees leverage their holistic view of the network

Finally, one of the challenges of working across divides has to do with the perception of who is connected to whom beyond the formal org chart. This ability to perceive the web of connection in an organisation is important, because the more employees can broaden their vision of where the interesting opportunities are or where the important intersections might be, the easier it is to work across silos. Casciaro found that people don’t understand exactly who is connected to whom in a network, or what she calls “elemental” perception. For example, if I know Ben and Saeedah, I tend to assume they know each other, even if this isn’t actually the case. Elemental perception isn’t our strong point. Instead, people are more effective at “holistic” perception of networks, such as determining who is central in a network. That is, it’s easier to see which colleague is connected to everyone and which one works on the periphery. With this holistic perception, we understand who our go-to person for information is. Employees can develop their network perception by asking questions and working out who is central in an organisation.

HR managers can help employees distinguish between elemental and holistic perceptions and encourage them to trust their holistic perceptions. When employees start seeing the forest of connections rather than the trees of individuals, they can connect across silos more effectively. In addition, leveraging their holistic network vision will also help them determine which relationships are in need of cultural brokerage and which ones would benefit from thoughtful inquiry and perspective taking.

Cross-silo skills and alignment of incentives

The research by Casciaro, Edmondson and Jang suggests that it is possible to look for and develop all these skills in job candidates. Although it requires some investment, the potential payoffs are great: Employees who can engage in cultural brokerage, take others’ perspective and see the informal network in the organisation are much better equipped to provide the kind of cross-silo solutions that customers need.

One of the biggest barriers to fostering these skills is that these behaviours are often considered non-urgent and are therefore not necessarily rewarded in a way that equals the value they bring to a firm. That is, the connection between who does the work (employees) and who benefits (the company) is often missing. To support these activities, organisations – and HR professionals in particular – can put structures and incentives in place to encourage these skills.

Source: INSEAD

The real ROI on leadership is impact

By Dr. Teresa Ray, PCC

Organizations spend a lot of time discussing the return on investment for every effort they undertake, and rightfully so. Being a good steward of your resources is important.

The difficult truth, however, is that some initiatives like leadership, development and growth don’t have a measurable return on investment.

Measuring leadership investment is like attempting to catch the wind in a jar — you can’t. However, you can see, feel and measure the impact the wind has on the surrounding area. When you consider what it means to be a leader, you shouldn’t be looking at the return on investment but, rather, the return on impact.

Understanding Your Impact

What would those who work with you really say about their experience? Would they describe you as a good leader — or a great one? Would they spend more time and energy talking about you, or talking about the impact and influence you’ve had on others?

Good or bad, leaders always leave something behind, but it’s my experience as an executive coach that most leaders struggle to answer even the most basic questions about the impact they have. Often, this is because they’re unsure about the legacy they hope to leave or they misjudge the scope of their impact. Published in the journal Organizational Dynamics, a review of multiple studies “consistently found that women leaders under-estimated (i.e., predicted lower) how others viewed their leadership behaviors.”

Without knowing what you hope to leave behind, you fail to give yourself a target. So how do you define your target? It requires self-reflection, self-awareness and an understanding of the type of impact you want to have on others.

Type 1: You impact people on an individual level.

One leader I worked with described her passion for helping others to grow. She strives to add value to the careers of those around her by identifying skill gaps and then invests time in influencing, coaching and growing others. If you asked those around her, they would each tell you exactly how they are better at their jobs and on their teams because of her influence. The key to this type of impact is that it’s individual. She isn’t simply hoping people share her vision. She looks at an individual and determines exactly how she can help them.

Now, you might be thinking that this type of impact requires quite the time commitment. Here’s where I’ll challenge you: Leadership isn’t about you. If you’re leading others, it’s all about them. If you can’t find time to connect, you should examine what’s getting in your way.

Type 2: You impact your team by sharing your unique skill set.

A lot of leaders fall in this category. They focus on growing others in very specific areas, usually defined by what they themselves are skilled at. Examples include effective communication, client or project management, sales, meeting or presentation skills and ethics and integrity.

These leaders are known for their own expertise in these areas and they are always watching for ways to influence and impact others in the same areas. When I talk with the colleagues and employees of these leaders, they each describe how the specific skill they gained by working with their leader has impacted their career.

Type 3: You impact the overall company culture.

In this case, the leader demonstrates the power that comes with remembering there is a heartbeat behind every name tag and a person behind every employee ID number. These are the leaders that influence and impact organizational culture. These leaders show kindness and are considered great listeners. They lead with a coaching style of leadership and carve out time with others. These leaders are beloved by their colleagues and employees. Even after they’ve retired or moved on from the position, employees will describe how they carry the behaviors forward. As one employee I encountered put it: “I stop and listen to my people now and avoid jumping to conclusions because my former boss was a great listener and always had time for me.” Another said, “I learned to ask great questions and allow my employees to think through problems and solutions because I worked for someone who allowed me the space to problem-solve and think out loud without judgment.”

Leaders always leave something behind, good or bad. So, if you haven’t spent time thinking about your legacy as a leader, please do. Sit down in a quiet place, consider the type of impact you want to have and write out your goals. In other words, define your target, so you can achieve a positive return on impact.

Source: Forbes

Study: Remote workers are happier, stay in their jobs longer, and work more hours than on-site employees

By Brit Morse

In recent years, businesses increasingly have offered remote work arrangements to keep employees happy and productive. Now, a new study has quantified just how appreciative remote workers really are–and how much your company stands to benefit.

Video conferencing company Owl Labs surveyed 1,200 U.S. workers between the ages of 22 and 65 for its 2019 State of Remote Work report, and found that employees who regularly work remotely are happier and stay with their companies longer than on-site employees. Of the more than 1,200 people surveyed, 62 percent work remotely at least part of the time.

In the study, released on Tuesday, full-time remote workers said they’re happy in their job 22 percent more than people who never work remotely. The reasons respondents said they decided to work remotely were better work-life balance (91 percent), increased productivity/better focus (79 percent), less stress (78 percent), and to avoid a commute (78 percent).

Not surprisingly, Owl Labs also found that employees are more loyal to companies that offer them increased flexibility. The remote workers surveyed said they’re likely to stay in their current job for the next five years 13 percent more than on-site workers did.

Not only are remote employees happier, but they are prepared to work longer hours, according to the report. Remote workers said they work over 40 hours per week 43 percent more than on-site workers do.

The report also revealed other differences between remote and on-site workers, finding, for example, that remote workers were more than twice as likely to earn more than $100,000 per year. And the higher they were on the corporate ladder, the more likely survey respondents were to have the privilege of working remotely: The job levels with the greatest percentages of remote workers were founder/C-level (55 percent) and vice president (46 percent).



Leadership assessment: Do men and women influence differently?

By Darleen DeRosa

Do men and women lead differently in the workplace? Based on much of the research, the short answer is “yes.” Although the gender leadership differences often align with the stereotype that women lead with a more interpersonal style and men with a more task-oriented style, it appears that gender does play a role in leadership style and preferences.

Because a leader’s success often depends upon their ability to gain the support and cooperation of people who frequently have competing priorities or conflicting goals, OnPoint Consulting wanted to understand what gender differences, if any, exist in how leaders use influence. To help answer this question, we used a 360° feedback questionnaire to collect data on the influencing skills of 223 leaders (116 men and 107 women) across organizations and industries.

While the data pointed to some significant differences in the approaches men and women use to gain others’ buy-in and support, we also uncovered some surprising similarities. The following is a summary of our findings.

Most Effective Influence Tactics
Our previous research on influence identified 11 influencing tactics used by the most effective managers. We then grouped these tactics according to their effectiveness in gaining others’ support and commitment—most effective, moderately effective, and least effective tactics. The four tactics that are most effective in gaining commitment from others are: Continue reading

Playbook for stockpiling AI talent: Buy, borrow, build

By Clint Boulton

Many IT leaders will tell you hiring tech talent is right up there with culture change as a chief hurdle to business transformation. Finding enough software engineers, Scrum masters, DevOps leaders and other potential change agents remains a burden. But experts agree the top challenge is hiring experts in data science, including those with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence skills.

From healthcare to financial services, every sector is embracing some form of AI as a core business strategy. Eight-four percent of 500 business leaders surveyed online by consultancy EY in 2019 said that AI is critical in facilitating efficiencies and reducing costs, gaining a better understanding of customers and generating new revenues.

But the road to success depends heavily on the talent pool, as 31 percent of those same leaders said that a lack of skilled staff is the No. 1 barrier to AI adoption.

Here experts share their experiences with mining AI talent and provide tips for how CIOs can lure the right mix of data scientists, ML engineers and AI experts. Continue reading