How to Be a “Glass-Shattering” Organization

by Colleen Ammerman and Boris Groysberg

Summary.   

Advancing gender equality is certainly desirable, but may not seem vital during this turbulent time — yet that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, losing sight of gender equity right now is likely to put you at a real disadvantage when the pandemic begins to recede. The benefits of gender equity are numerous, but there are 10 that tend to hold true across the board — and are particularly critical in these uncertain times.

Advancing gender equality is certainly desirable, but may not seem vital during this turbulent time — yet that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, losing sight of gender equity right now is likely to put you at a real disadvantage when the pandemic begins to recede.

The barriers women face in the workplace are already well-documented, and there’s mounting evidence that the situation is getting worse amid the pandemic. In the U.S., women made up 80% of workers who left the labor force in September 2020. Women of color are shouldering a greater share of these job losses. Many women who have held onto their jobs have found their work and parenting responsibilities all but impossible to manage, or have been penalized for caregiving. And women who are not caring for children or other dependents are by no means exempt from tougher career challenges in our newly-virtual workplaces, as we have noted previously.

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How to work with every damn Myers-Briggs personality type

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We got experts to weigh-in on how classic personality traits translate to remote work.

The shift to remote work has given many of us a new perspective on how we do our jobs. Without the context of a shared workspace or the rhythm of a typical office day, our own personalities are having far more of a say in our performance.

It follows, then, that the best way to maximize our output in a WFH environment is to better know our personalities – and those of our dispersed colleagues.

An efficient (and intriguing) way to manage this personality wrangling is via the tried-and-tested Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Generally regarded as one of the most accurate personality tests out there, the MBTI is widely applied within the business world, with 89 of the Fortune 100 companies utilising it.

“The MBTI is deceptively simple, but it’s also an extremely useful way to see how team members are inherently different, and how you can work together more successfully,” says occupational psychologist John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at the Myers-Briggs Company. “It’s a means to boost productivity in people, increasing their engagement and making them generally happier in their work.”

In other words, the MBTI might just be the key to turning your remote team into a smooth autonomous unit.

The 16 personality types and their traits

Based on Carl Jung’s Theory of Psychological Types, the MBTI is a self-reported personality survey that has been around in various shapes and forms since the 1940s. Respondents answer a series of simple questions about their feelings and preferences, eventually aligning with one of 16 personality types.

Each of these types is identified by four letters, starting with an E or an I (for extrovert/introvert) followed by S or N (sensibility/intuition), T or F (thinking/feeling), and finally a J or a P (judgment/perception). Each type also has a descriptor, e.g., “the analyst,” to further characterize the personality type in action.

Once you know your team members’ types, the thinking goes, you can better assign them to projects which match their preferences, proficiency, and proclivities. You can also communicate more effectively if you have a better idea of how people process information.

To get started, take the official Myers-Briggs test here (or try a similar free questionnaire, recommended by psychologists here), then check out our expert guidance below on how to work with each personality type. Continue reading

Do people work better without a crowd?

What we can learn from athletes performing in empty stadiums.

by Ben Lyttleton
On June 20, Manchester United’s star player Bruno Fernandes scored a late penalty to earn his team a draw against English Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the stands at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium were empty when he took the shot. It was the first of many soccer games to be played behind closed doors, and afterward, Fernandes was asked if it was easier to take the penalty without the distraction of the opposing team’s home fans. “I like the pressure,” he said. “With the crowd, it would be better.”

With fans across the world mostly forbidden from attending sports venues, it’s been possible to compare performances with and without the presence of crowds. In soccer, for example, there have been more goals, more mistakes leading to goals, more penalties scored, and more away wins. In Germany in particular, one analyst described a “negative home advantage,” as away teams, unaffected by a home crowd (and a referee who may give the home team more beneficial decisions), played with a new freedom.

Players and coaches seem emboldened by empty stadiums: more willing to be creative and take risks (and make mistakes) than they otherwise might be.

Could these benefits also translate to the many lines of work that today are being done at home? And how does the lack of an audience affect our own performance? Can we use it to our advantage?

It’s easier to tally goals on a score sheet than productivity on a time sheet, but there are some indicators that a lack of face-to-face office experiences is also having unexpected effects in business — and not all of them bad. One big fear when many companies made the switch was that employees, away from the pressurized environment of the physical office space and with no one keeping an eye on them, would “shirk from home.”

In fact, the opposite happened. The length of working days has increased; digital presenteeism is on the up, and so is productivity. Many people like working from home — and the majority don’t want to return to the office, at least not full-time.

Coaches have also spoken of players who star in training but choke in front of a crowd. Not every player, it seems, is like Fernandes. As Dan Abrahams, a sports psychologist who works with soccer club AFC Bournemouth has said, “More players than you would think are negatively impacted by a crowd.”

Empty stadiums suit those introverts who, according to Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, feel most alive and most capable in quieter, low-key environments. Cain believes introverts flourish with more privacy.

For those who do flourish in front of others, an audience provides a change in the pressure dynamics that affect performance. In front of a crowd, our working mode changes from “threat state,” driven by anxiety, to “challenger state,” where we are more likely “to have a go,” according to Gary Bloom, a sports psychologist who works with the Oxford United soccer club. “The limbic part of our brain is where our emotions live — our fear, our anxiety, our excitement. That part is aroused by fear/threat,” he told The Athletic website. “I don’t think it is going to be as aroused [without a crowd].” So, perhaps performing in front of others gives a chance for the challenger state to take over, and we feel more comfortable taking risks.

A couple of years ago, researchers from Johns Hopkins University put the “threat state” theory to the test. They asked people to perform a task on a video game with and without people watching: Those with an audience performed better.

In the experiment, being observed clearly served as an incentive to do well — so maybe all those Zoom calls do keep us on our toes. It may also be that the relationship between performer and crowd builds community and cohesion, hallmarks of a successful working environment. It was French sociologist Émile Durkheim who coined the term collective effervescence to describe how people build a group identity. Sport certainly does that, as can any shared experience.

The changes imposed on our social connections by the pandemic forced us to find new ways to come together: rooftop musical performances, drive-by protests, and online author workshops, to name a few of the many examples of creative responses to lockdowns. “Emergencies often prove to be the forge in which new ideas and opportunities are hammered out,” wrote Erica Chenoweth, professor in human rights and international affairs at Harvard University, in the Guardian.

Our professional behavior may still be performative, albeit in a virtual space. However, we can take inspiration from sport, and specifically penalty kicks in soccer. The secret to a successful penalty, as Fernandes might attest, has little to do with crowds. It’s more about developing the right mindset and practicing with purpose. As we grow accustomed to new working models, these are the habits that can help build success.

Source: Strategy+Business

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The Digitization Imperative

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How to Elevate Your Presence in a Virtual Meeting

by Joel Schwartzberg

Even before the COVID-19 crisis started, 5.3% of Americans — more than 8.2 million people — worked from home, according to a 2018 U.S. Census report. And with the outbreak turning more office workers into work-from-home employees, video conferences are becoming more routine for a wide range of business purposes, from staff meetings to brainstorming sessions to major announcements.

But communication tactics that work well among colleagues in a conference room may not translate seamlessly to Brady-Bunch-style quadrants on a computer screen. Organizational behavior professor Andy Molinsky recommends seeing virtual meetings as “an entirely different context, not simply an in-person meeting or a class on a screen.”

Elevating both your point and your presence in a Zoom, Skype, or similar virtual meeting, requires not only engaging in video conference-friendly tactics but also disabusing yourself of potentially detrimental misconceptions about the medium.

To help keep your impact actual when your presence is virtual, consider these six recommendations:

1. Focus on your camera, not your colleagues

Every presentation coach will tell you that direct eye contact is a vital way to reinforce your point. In a video conference, this means looking into the video camera, not at the smiling faces of Marcia, Greg, Cindy, Peter, Jan, and Bobby. Speaking into a cold black circle will not feel natural or comfortable — as humans, we’re trained to look at the people we’re talking to — but know that entertainers and politicians have been doing it for decades.

It’s challenging to focus on your camera for an entire meeting — especially while others are talking — but know that you increase the impact of your points when you look deep into the dot.

Practice looking into your camera during video conferences when you speak, even for brief moments. The more you use it, the more comfortable you’ll become with it.

2. Maintain a strong voice

I always counsel my students and clients to use a louder-than-usual voice because, in addition to being audible, strong voices convey authority, credibility, and confidence. This concept is just as true in virtual conferences as it is in actual ones. So even though you’re using an external or internal microphone and thus may be tempted to speak at a conversational volume, maintain a strong, clear voice as if you’re in a large conference room.

Using a loud voice will also keep you from mumbling and from speaking too quickly due to the amount of breath required.

3. Frame yourself wisely

Proximity plays a big part in how audiences perceive you as a communicator. The farther away or more obscured you appear, the less engaging you will be. In a video conference, your head and the top of your shoulders should dominate the screen.

If your head is cut off at the top or bottom, you’re too close. If your entire torso is in view, you’re too far away. If only half of your head is in sight, please adjust the camera.

Also be mindful of your background. Cluttered rooms make communicators seem disorganized. Distracting elements will pull attention away from you. Find an environment where the background is simple, reflecting your professionalism.

Preparation is critical, so take time before the meeting to pick your location and put your head fully in frame to ensure you’re putting your best face forward.

4. Be present and mindful

In a conventional meeting, participants are typically very mindful of their presence. But in a video conference where you’re muted (and maybe in your pajama pants), it’s easy to forget you’re still being watched. You may be tempted to check your email or attend to other work, but multi-tasking is perilous because you don’t want to be caught unprepared if asked a sudden question.

Even if you don’t need to be fully engaged in the meeting, your professional reputation can suffer if it even looks like you’re not paying attention. So close those other windows, turn your phone upside down, and remember that you’re always “on camera.”

Because you’re less aware of social cues in a virtual meeting, it’s also important to be mindful of how long and how often you speak, if you interrupt other people, and if you make a comment that might offend someone present but out of sight. My advice: Don’t consider yourself “at home.” Consider yourself “at work.” Your behavior may follow.

5. Don’t become your own distraction

In a live meeting, you never have to worry about talking while muted, annoying ambient noise, or the interference of pets and children. But these are all common pitfalls of virtual meetings, and they can quickly sabotage your point. Your job is to make sure you’re remembered for what you did right, not what went wrong, so be mindful of the power you have over both your virtual and physical environments.

Start by training yourself to stay on mute whenever you’re not speaking and unmuting yourself only when you do speak. Staying on mute shuts out sudden noises as well as routine noises you may not be aware of, like the ticking of a wall clock, the clickety-clack of your typing, or even your own breathing. Unmuting yourself obviously enables you to speak, but — perhaps more importantly — saves you from being on the receiving end of the embarrassing colleague chorus, “You’re on mute!”

Make sure to turn off your camera when you’re doing something visually distracting as well, such as moving to another room or eating. (Drinking is not very distracting, but chewing is another story).

Finally, if boisterous children (or pets) want to participate in your call, your colleagues will probably laugh or relate, so don’t be worried about or embarrassed by spontaneous distractions. However, if you’re tasked with giving a major presentation, try to have someone supervise them in another room, far from the temptation of your presence, or at least create an engrossing activity for them. Parenting and presenting cannot happen simultaneously, and truly important messages require not only your colleagues’ full attention, but yours as well.

6. Use the chat window as your partner

Consider the chat window as not just a discussion platform, but a presentational appendage. When you refer to an article or shared document, link to it in the chat. If you run the meeting, put a link to the agenda in the chat. When others are speaking, respond with support or questions in the chat. The chat window is a unique opportunity in virtual meetings to elevate your presence, add dimensions to your ideas, and demonstrate that you’re fully present.

Whether you’ve been participating in virtual meetings for years or just started this month, it’s important to realize that a video conference isn’t just a conference over video — it’s an entirely new interactive experience, which requires adapting your perspective, habits, and tactics to make it work effectively for you.

Source: HBR