by Henrik Bresman, INSEAD Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour, and Deborah Ancona, Seley Distinguished Professor of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management
Effective leaders need to know whether their ‘people hat’ or ‘P&L hat’ fits most comfortably.
A leading supermarket chain in an eastern European Union country feared an 8 percent drop in sales as discounting giant Lidl was about to enter its market. So, in collaboration with researchers, it decided to run a randomised controlled experiment. The goal was to reduce its costly personnel turnover problem, in a bid to improve quality and operational efficiency. Selected store managers received a letter from top management, encouraging them to do something about the 90 percent yearly staff turnover. It worked: Over the next three quarters, the monthly quit rate fell by 20 to 30 percent. However, surprisingly, this vast improvement led to no discernible effect on the predefined performance metrics (sales and value of perished food). In interviews, the researchers found the explanation. As store managers focused more on HR issues, they spent less time interacting with customers (to increase sales) and dealing with the flow of goods (to reduce food wastage). Continue reading →
During a recent interview with a member of my client’s executive team, a leader said to me, “Nothing I do is ever good enough for [the CEO]. We’re all starting to ask ourselves why we bother trying.” When I later debriefed the assessment findings with the CEO, she said, “People consistently disappoint me. It’s always been that way. I have high standards. That’s why I get the results that I do.”
When we discussed the unintended consequences of her expectations, it had never occurred to her that she was undermining the very results she sought. Conventional management wisdom suggests that setting a high bar for employees is a good thing. But when employees can never reach that bar, those high standards become weapons, leaving bitterness and unrealized potential in their wake.
This study of more than 300 executives in 10 countries shows that approximately 35% of executives fail because of a tendency toward perfection. That’s because achievement-oriented leaders tend to be chronically dissatisfied. While you may be thinking that you’re “just pushing them to be the best,” you may actually be setting them up to fail. Step back and reconsider whether your constant pushing may have unwanted side effects. Here are a few you might see: Continue reading →
As a leader, much of what you do is relatively forgettable. We don’t mean to insult, but your routine actions on routine days are experienced by your direct reports as, well, routine.
But for non-routine days — the days when you are under the gun, feeling the heat, or pushed to your limits — how you respond under the pressure makes an indelible impression on the people around you. Our latest research shows that your temperament in these crucial moments has a tremendous impact on your team’s performance.
When the hammer comes down, are you calm, collected, candid, curious, direct, and willing to listen? That would be ideal, wouldn’t it? Or would your direct reports describe you as upset, angry, closed-minded, rejecting, or even devious?
We asked more than 1,300 people in an online survey to describe their leader’s style under stress and the impact of that behavior on their work. We found that a large majority of managers and leaders buckle under pressure. Specifically, respondents reported that, when under pressure: Continue reading →
Earlier this year, Uber hired its first ever chief diversity officer, following a string of sexual harassment claims and other PR crises for the brand. Last month, after a year plagued by controversy, the NFL posted a job opening for a head of diversity and inclusion.
Diversity officers are popping up at many other high-profile companies, too. The titles may vary — “director of diversity and inclusion,” “chief equality officer” or “head of diversity, inclusion and belonging” — but more organizations are realizing this is something that matters to their employees. It even merits an entire position (or sometimes, even its own department).
According to data from Indeed, demand for the roles has increased significantly in just the last few years. Between 2017 and 2018, Indeed postings for diversity and inclusion positions had increased by nearly 20%.
Maybe you fell head over heels. Maybe your feelings grew over time. All you know is that you have what everyone is looking for, but few seem to get: A job you love. And you are about to leave it. How do you even start explaining?
The work is great. So is the organization. It’s not them. It’s you. And it was not just a moment of temptation. You have been thinking about it for a while. Even if you might regret it, you must part now. It’s the right time.
After all, you keep telling yourself, you’d better leave while it is your choice. When you still have options. You are too young to get cozy and too good to be taken for granted. You have seen what happens to those who do. One day, they get dumped unceremoniously, and what for, new talent? Or their love slowly curdles into complacency, leaving them going through the motions. No, you won’t let that happen, and ruin the memory of a great modern love.
Because that’s what it is, admit it. Sigmund Freud is often quoted saying, a century ago, that to live a good life we need to be able to love and work. These days, it seems, we must be able to love to work. We no longer want just respect, security, or money from our jobs. We want passion, fulfillment, and surprise too. We want, in a word, romance.