Navigating Office Politics When There Is No Office

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Dorie Clark

Across jobs, companies, and industries, people’s success has always depended not just on what they produce or deliver, but also on their ability to navigate the murky waters of office politics. A great deal of scientific research has explored the hidden potent forces underlying the formal and informal power dynamics in any group or organization, unsurprisingly highlighting the pervasive and sometimes toxic nature of office politics.

But what happens to office politics when you remove the office? Although virtual work has existed for some time now, the pandemic has dramatically changed the context of work by fully removing the office, eliminating interpersonal contact and physical human interaction — and with it, opportunities to engage in tactics of manipulation or impression management. As one of our clients recently lamented: “Without the office, how can I pretend to work?”

Many people have by now recovered a certain degree of normalcy by returning to the office, albeit less often, and without as many colleagues around. In fact, for a large proportion of the industrialized workforce, the big bulk of work continues to be done from home, with most work interactions confined to Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc. Continue reading

The Psychology Behind Effective Crisis Leadership

by Gianpiero Petriglieri

When I ask groups of managers what makes a good leader, I seldom have to wait long before someone says, “Vision!” and everyone nods. I have asked that question countless times for the past 20 years, to cohorts of senior executives, middle managers, and young students from many different sectors, industries, backgrounds, and countries. The answer is always the same: A vision inspires and moves people. Expansion, domination, freedom, equality, salvation — whatever it is, if a leader’s vision gives us direction and hope, we will follow. If you don’t have one, you can’t call yourself a leader.

This enchantment with vision, I believe, is the manifestation of a bigger problem: a disembodied conception of leadership. Visions hold our imagination captive, but they rarely have a positive effect on our bodies. In fact, we often end up sacrificing our bodies in the pursuit of different kinds of visions, and celebrating that fact — whether it is by dying for our countries or working ourselves to exhaustion for our companies. Visions work the same way whether mystics or leaders have them: They promise a future and demand our life. In some cases, that sacrifice is worth it. In others, it is not. Just as it can ignite us, a vision can burn us out. Continue reading

Keep Your People Learning When You Go Virtual

by Annie Peshkam and Gianpiero Petriglieri

Over the past five years, we have been taking our work online deliberately and at a steady pace. At INSEAD, the business school where we work, we’ve been expanding virtual meetings, ramping up virtual classes and coaching, and introducing digital tools to enhance face-to-face work. Then, in the past few weeks, everything else moved online, too. As in many organizations, the transition happened almost overnight in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis that has disrupted everyone’s private as well as working lives.

In such conditions, organizations and leaders might be forgiven for going into survival mode and putting learning aside. Companies do that all the time: They pause major learning initiatives, such as training courses, and minor ones, such as process checks after team meetings. They slash learning budgets and cancel mentoring sessions in a downturn. In times of upheaval, anxiety runs high and the instinct to preserve the world as we know it takes over. Leaders put aside their intent to include and develop, and revert to command and control. “Forget learning!” the thinking goes. We can’t afford it when we need to secure operations and get the basics done.”

This is dangerous. Like all major crises, and perhaps more than most, the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to leave behind lasting changes in the way work and business take place. Learning will be the foundation of our survival, then, for both organizations and the individuals who make them up. As the world shifts to online work and businesses struggle to reinvent themselves, organizations need to learn what kinds of new products and services will appeal to their consumers and learn how to create them. Leaders must learn how to keep a distributed workforce focused, energized, and attuned to customers’ changing needs. Continue reading

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

To Be a Great Leader, You Need the Right Mindset

by Ryan Gottfredson and Chris Reina

Organizations worldwide spend roughly $356 billion on leadership development efforts. Yet, the BrandonHall Group, a human capital research and analyst firm that surveyed 329 organizations in 2013, found that 75% of the organizations rated their leadership development programs as not very effective. Why aren’t companies getting more bang for their leadership development buck? Our latest research suggests it’s likely because most leadership development efforts overlook a specific attribute that is foundational to how leaders think, learn, and behave: their mindsets.

Mindsets are leaders’ mental lenses that dictate what information they take in and use to make sense of and navigate the situations they encounter. Simply, mindsets drive what leaders do and why. For example, they explain why two different leaders might encounter the same situation (e.g., a subordinate disagreement) and process and respond to it very differently. One leader might see the situation as a threat that hinders their authority; another as an opportunity to learn and further develop. When leadership development efforts ignore mindsets, they ignore how leaders see and interpret problems and opportunities like this one.

You may wonder: if mindsets are so important, which ones should you help your leaders develop? In our recent work, we broadly scoured research across the social sciences to understand the various mindsets that individuals may possess. In doing so, we identified four distinct sets of mindsets that have been found to affect leaders’ ability to engage with others, navigate change more successfully, and perform in their leadership roles more effectively.

Growth and Fixed Mindsets. A growth mindset is a belief that people, including oneself, can change their talents, abilities, and intelligence. Conversely, those with a fixed mindset do not believe that people can change their talents abilities and intelligence. Decades of research have found that those with a growth mindset are more mentally primed to approach and take on challenges, take advantage of feedback, adopt the most effective problem-solving strategies, provide developmental feedback to subordinates, and be effortful and persistent in seeking to accomplish goals.

Learning and Performance Mindsets. A learning mindset involves being motivated toward increasing one’s competence and mastering something new. A performance mindset involves being motivated toward gaining favorable judgements (or avoiding negative judgements) about one’s competence. Leaders with a learning mindset, compared to those with a performance mindset, are more mentally primed to increase their competence, engage in deep-level learning strategies, seek out feedback, and exert more of an effort. They are also persistent, adaptable, willing to cooperate, and tend to perform at a higher level.

Deliberative and Implemental Mindsets. Leaders with a deliberative mindset have a heightened receptiveness to all kinds of information as a way to ensure that they think and act as optimally as possible. Leaders with an implemental mindset, as the name suggests, are more focused on implementing decisions, which closes them off to new and different ideas and information. Comparing the two, leaders with deliberative mindsets tend to make better decisions because they are more impartial, more accurate, and less biased in their processing and decision making.

Promotion and Prevention Mindsets. Leaders with a promotion mindset are focused on winning and gains. They identify a specific purpose, goal, or destination and prioritize making progress toward it. Leaders with a prevention mindset, however, are focused on avoiding losses and preventing problems at all costs. Research has found that those with a promotion mindset are more prone to positive thinking, more open to change, more likely to persist despite challenges and setbacks, and demonstrate higher levels of task performance and innovative behaviors compared to leaders with a prevention mindset.

Once you have a better understanding of these mindsets, you can tailor your leadership training programs to unlock most effective ones in your managers. A great example of an organization that leveraged the power of mindsets in this way is Microsoft. From 2001-2014, Microsoft’s market capitalization and stock price largely stayed the same. But, in 2014, when Satya Nadella took over, he made it his mission to revamp the leadership and the culture at Microsoft. In his book, Hit Refresh, Nadella explains that mindsets– particularly growth mindsets– were his primary focus when revamping Microsoft. With this leadership, the company’s market capitalization and stock price has more than tripled.

This is just one example that shows that if organizations want their investment in leadership development to more fully pay off, it is essential that they prioritize mindset development — specifically by targeting growth, learning, deliberative, and promotion mindsets. As leaders cultivate each, their thinking, learning, and behaviors will naturally improve because they are seeing and interpreting their situations more effectively.

Source: HBR