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Diversity on Corporate Boards

Board diversity: Why what you see is what you get

Do you want the best person for the job? Perhaps subconsciously what you really want is the person who makes you feel the best about yourself, someone who reflects well on you. The type of person who will reinforce what success looks like, sounds like and most importantly, manages like. Since you are successful and you are in the hiring seat, this person will look a lot like you. Welcome to the very special tribe called Status Quo.

According to a recent article in Canadian Business, there continue to be too many corporate boards that have diversity issues. This is puzzling as there seem to be a number of reports that show board diversity has a direct impact on profitability:

Don’t corporations exist for the pure economic purpose of making money? Don’t they want to be more profitable? Or perhaps the better to ask is what these boards and their members have to lose? No matter how flat corporations become, they’re still hierarchical. Hierarchies allow some people to engage in assigning relative values to others based on perceived status and power. When you derive your self-worth from your corporate status then you’ve fixed the ‘ideal candidate’ for similar roles very narrowly.

In cases where board members are blind to how their power and influence place limitations on hiring and consequently profit-making abilities, corrective action in recruitment practices might be the key. According to Stefanie Johnson, David Hekman and Elsa Chan if there’s only one woman in your candidate pool, there’s statistically no chance she’ll be hired! Apparently when “one thing is not like the others” it signals that you’re different from the norm, that you’re different from the tribe. Instead the board needs a new norm, one in which a different candidate cannot be discriminated against so easily. This quick video explains how inclusive hiring can be facilitated:

So what do the boards of companies in which you hold shares look like, sound like, and manage like? Is there room for more diversity and consequently more profit?

Business Growth

Nothing Grows in the State of Perfection

Nothing can grow in a state of perfection.  Perfection simply does not allow it. It is already perfect, complete.

Now, the problem with perfection is in fact, its’ completeness.  Once perfected, it remains the same, never growing, never changing.  This pushes  against the nature of life itself, whose drive seems to be to forever grow or cease to be.  And like life, organizations and the people within them ideally move continually towards growth.

Working with clients as a career coach, I see first hand how the desire for perfection constrains achievement, fulfillment, decisions and action.  If one can’t do it perfectly, there is a tendency to stop or never begin.

Leadership that demands perfection, too, constrains the growth of an organization. Risk-taking stops, everyone is afraid of making a mistake and the impending consequences.

Progress - Perfection - Concept

Stop striving for perfection, and stop looking for it.  For if you find it, you have found completion. And completion can be a dead end.

If you or your organization has “room for growth”, celebrate it, for it has the space within its’ corporate walls where things can happen.

The Black Hole in Your Talent Engagement Strategy

Employee EngagementMeetingThis post has been co-authored by Fran Sardone and Catherine Lyons-Bozzo. Catherine is a recruitment veteran with over 20 years’ experience in hiring applicants your firm already knew about.

From the get-go, companies are missing the point of engaging employees, beginning with the job posting.   Let’s talk for a moment about the wonderful experience your new talented employees have with your applicant tracking system or ATS.  Outside of HR, this expensive tool is commonly known as the black hole.

The black hole is about filtering people out and that’s the way your talent pool first experiences your company.  When posting a job do you share your filtering criteria to ensure job seekers have correct information to make informed choices or are you gaming the applicants?

  • Location limitations – do you only want people in specified commuting range? What’s the range?
  • Years of experience – why do you need the applicant to have 3-5, 5-10 years of experience, please explain!
  • Education – are you biased toward big name institutions? Do you really need every certification under the sun? Which ones are actually required and why?
  • Keywords – “must be a team player”.  All the time?  In every situation? Introverts need not apply?
  • Follow up. Yes, the machine acknowledged receipt of the application…then what? The application is somewhere in the database. Guess what? If the applicant is filtered out 1st, or 2nd round, you can let them know. The courtesy of an email is simply a matter of setting up a bulk reply email.

Now that you’ve turned your potential shiny new human being into a ‘resource’, have you noticed how many times this person has actually applied to your company either through your own organization’s ATS or recruitment personnel? They’re making a big effort to figure out how to engage with you. In the meantime your recruitment arm has engaged a search firm to fill this very role, which is now costing you lots of money. You’ve filtered them out, now you’re paying to filter them back in – Kaching! So if engagement is really Corporate Canada’s #1 concern, then it’s time to rethink business as usual. Engagement means having consideration for your future colleagues and a quality touch mind-set.  It’s past time to put the human back into your resources management.

There are ways to do this right and campus recruiters have the right tactical mindset. How can you take your efforts out into the community?

  • Sponsoring sporting events
  • Host a job fair, local public library or community centres are good choices
  • Summertime: target concert venues and fairs
  • Know the demographics of your community outreach: StatCan can help!

If employee engagement is truly on your agenda, then give your recruitment staff a new mandate focusing on job clarity, justification of your criteria and the means to opt in to your company.

index

Performance Management and a Growth Mindset

This post has been co-authored by Carlos Davidovich and Fran Sardone

Carlos Davidovich, Optimum Talent’s Neuromanagement Coach, and I have been discussing the upcoming event Reinventing Performance Management on June 21. We’ve been reading some of Deloitte’s publications and swapping performance review stories – misery loves company!

For Carlos, whose first career was as a medical doctor, this topic gives him a chuckle:

I studied medicine at a public university in Argentina, surrounded by scores of students in each class and almost no contact with the professors. The only chance to succeed and progress was passing the yearly exam. We were very curious about how other educational models were dealing with this situation (Harvard, etc.). As students we heard that Ivy League medical schools started with 100 students and finished with 100 students! Then we were told that in those schools, in those models, there were no exams. The professor/student contact was so high that a final yearly exam was not needed. When the learner was having difficulties, the issues were addressed immediately, so that learning could advance and the stu-dent could progress.

This ‘leave no learner behind’ philosophy reminded me of my past job at a university teaching and learning department.

Fran: Deloitte seems to be making the distinction between summative and formative feedback, concepts well known in education.

• Summative feedback is quantitative:
Your assignment is graded as B- or 73%. It’s a judgement about a past event fixed in time (like an exam), consequently the stakes are high.

• Formative feedback is qualitative:
Your assignment strengths and weaknesses are reviewed and discussed. It’s an appreciation of the ongoing situation by both parties. Since feedback gives the opportunity to improve perfor-mance, the stakes are low.

Josh Bersin of Deloitte does a great job of explaining the myth of the bell curve approach to performance management. Like the 100% final medical exam, force ranking doesn’t do anything to help people grow and perform better.

So here’s the question I have for Carlos:

Fran: In a higher education setting, I’m willing to receive feedback from a professor because she’s an expert in the subject I’m studying. Why am I willing to accept feed-back from a manager who might be senior to me in hierarchy, but not necessarily in professional or technical expertise?

Carlos: One of the key components of a performance feedback process is trust, in both directions. The manager needs to trust that the employee is right for the role. The employee needs to trust that the manager is competent and supportive. They have to believe in one another and cultivate a growth mind-set. Together they can work on the potential inherent in the employee to get the job done on behalf of the organization. The way to provoke this is by leaving the ball in the employee’s court – the work belongs to him. But the only way the employee succeeds organizationally is through regular, continuous, supportive dialogue so that he stays on course.

Can organizations actually change gears sufficiently to cultivate this type of environment? Hopefully Deloitte will have some answers for us on June 21.

Judges Or Auctioneer Gavel And Money On The Wooden Table

Reinventing Performance Management

When I was training leaders on the topic of feedback, we always joked about that day when you received the email, with many attachments from HR: Performance Assessment day is coming! It was universally viewed as a burden, one more thing to do. It was done quickly to get back to real work. The prevailing sentiment was, ‘Oh brother, I’ve got so many other important things to do right now’. This experience was consistent across 10-15 countries, different cultures and different sectors. I’ve never heard anyone say ‘what a great opportunity to work on my team’s development’.

One of the responsibilities of any leader is to support people in their performance and their development, and this activity is a continuous process. The good news is that when you get used to performance feedback as a continuous process, it becomes easier, quicker and definitely effective. You don’t wait until the next year for results, the results come daily.

Let’s call things by their real names.

In one of my classes, students were asked to role-play a performance review. The student playing the employee was arguing and debating every comment and point issued by his ‘manager’. I didn’t understand what was going on so I stopped the role-play and asked the ‘employee’ why he took this approach. The ‘employee’ explained that in his company, everyone knew how much money was assigned to a particular rating. So he was placed in the position of defending his salary. The performance review had transformed from a discussion to a negotiation.

What is a performance review?

There is a universally implicit belief that the performance review is an evaluation, and being evaluated results in negative psychological and emotional triggers. Traditionally these evaluations have been a judgement about past performance. The performance review process should really be about the future and about improvement. Consequently this means that the manager must transform from a judge to a mirror. In this way you create the right scenario, which is:

  • the employee is accountable for their ongoing performance
  • the manager is supportive of the employee in their role while keeping the employee performance aligned with organizational needs.

In short, the manager maintains the organizational context in which the employee performs and improves in their role.

At Optimum Talent, we’re delighted to host Patricia Salverda and Amanda MacKenzie who will share Deloitte’s insights into Reinventing Performance Management on June 21st. If you’d like more information about the event, please visit the Events page on the Optimum Talent site.

 

Red Pencil Standing Out From Crowd

You’ll Never Survive Working for a Narcissistic Leader – Here’s Why

Last month I took issue with the Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog post entitled “How to Work for a Narcissist”. This month I look for perspectives and insights from colleagues here at Optimum Talent to address this issue. In this post you’ll hear from:

When speaking to Larry, Carlos and Jocelyn they all began with the same question. ‘Are we truly talking about a Narcissist, which means a person with a mental disorder? Or are we talking about a self-centred person?’ Terms are important because they define the approach to the issue under discussion.

Larry who has over 40 years of experience in clinical psychology as well as coaching offers the following insights.

Narcissism is a clinical diagnosis. This means the narcissist is dysfunctional and that their behaviour is dysfunctional in a significant way.

The only reason for hiring a narcissist is because the hiring manager believes they need this specific person in the role, typically for a high stakes initiative or project. The hiring manager is dependent on the narcissist to achieve something she/he cannot.  Narcissists, who are extremely talented individuals, are the means to this end. The hiring manager will tolerate the narcissist as long as possible in order to achieve a goal. The cost will be that the most competent people will begin to leave the organization.

In reality narcissists are very unhappy people. In fact, they are incapable of being happy, have no self-respect and think they are losers because no one can stick with them for long. Yet, everyone experiences the narcissist as arrogant, intimidating and a person keen to make others feel incompetent and inadequate.

When coaching a person reporting to a narcissist Larry offers three possible outcomes:  leave, get fired, stay and become ill. Do you really need this particular job?  The best course of action for employees is to stand up for themselves. The narcissist will either fire you or respect you enough to tolerate you.  The employee is taking a 50/50 chance. If the narcissist needs the employee then there will be no leadership as the relationship will be one of indifference.   Essentially the employee will be ignored and will have to get on with the job the best they can.  In Larry’s experience narcissists don’t remain in their roles for more than a couple of years as the organizational cost is too high.

Symbol Of A Narcissist Without Head And With Pawns In The Hands

Carlos
, whose first career was as a medical doctor and is now following developments in neuroscience, reinforces Larry’s perspective with insights for the employee.

The advice in the HBC post is too simplistic and therefore not realistic. This is a bandage solution and any bandage is fragile. It doesn’t fix the problem, just covers it.

The psychological impact of a narcissists is profound. The narcissist garners results from an organizational point of view, so why change what works? A person who works for a narcissist must have a very strongly developed personality. People need validation for what they think. The narcissist gets this from others who benefit from them and want to be like them. No one can work for a narcissist without damage to their self-esteem.  A narcissist will never provide any validating feedback and the employee will be psychologically affected.

In order to cope the employee needs supporters within the organization, including HR.  We are always checking ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) through others. The problem is that a healthy person will be in a power relationship with a narcissist, creating a Catch 22 situation for the employee.  If the employee stays then they will be damaged or their career will be damaged.  In either case their life is no longer a reflection of reality.  If they leave then they often feel like a failure because narcissists can deceive many people.

A person needs to be mentally healthy enough to say that, while the boss is a high performer the boss is also a narcissist, therefore the only positive outcome in this situation is for one of us to leave. Ultimately an employee must be mentally healthy enough to self-validate their decision to leave.


Jocelyn offers a different perspective. As a narcissist is incapable of being coached, his advice is based on an individual with narcissistic characteristics.

The HBR post is missing a big component regarding the role of leadership and HR in the organization.

Some senior leaders can also report to leaders with narcissistic tendencies, we all report to someone – but where is this person’s leader and where is HR in this scenario? A person with narcissist tendencies is a personality derailer. What can appear to be strengths or attractive ‘high performance’ qualities can be too much of a good thing. It’s essential that HR and leadership recognize that this person needs help.  HBR has forgotten that someone has to intervene because this behaviour results in negative consequences.

What needs to be done to address narcissistic tendencies?

A problem can only be fixed if it is recognized as such. Narcissistic personality traits have an impact on others. While people recognize this person’s positive characteristics, it can’t be all about “Joe”.  There are other people who need to be recognized too.  Derailers in this case can lead to attention-seeking and it’s their self-awareness that needs to be increased in relation to the resulting negative consequences. A method of raising self-awareness is with a powerful/rigorous psychometric assessment, paired with feed-back from others, such as a 360 assessment.  The goal is to ensure that perceptions and consequences are clearly understood and articulated.

What can we do?

This is about changing a person’s behaviour and that’s not easy.  The person needs to do things differently.  In this case examples of behavioural change might include:

  • Not speaking first in meetings, letting others talk
  • Including others by praising them, highlighting their contributions and accomplishments
  • Asking more questions, getting input, thoughts, etc.

This feedback and coaching must be limited to a few key behaviours so that the person isn’t overwhelmed or becomes frustrated.  This has to be achievable.

This person needs constant and consistent encouragement and feedback in order for this program to work.  It also requires ongoing recognition of derailing behaviours and their consequences in order to reinforce good behaviours.

Can you work for a Narcissist? No you can’t. No one can and remain healthy.

Team Pulling Up An Arrow

Team Effectiveness…Yeah Sure, We’ve Heard it all!

You have heard it and most likely you have experienced it too. Team building, team effectiveness training, and catchy slogans like TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More and There is no I in team. I have seen so many challenging situations, not to say horror stories in which I think the acronym TEAM could instead mean, Tearing Everyone Apart Mostly!! We’ve also learned the four stages of team; forming, storming, norming, and performing. However, for many the reality is more like a regular swing between storming, out of storming and back in storming! This could be nicely expressed with Muse’s lyrics from their song Starlight, “High hopes and expectations, black holes and revelations”.

Teamwork Placing Final Piece In Puzzle

There are certainly factors that lead to more effective team work, don’t get me wrong, I recognize and value them. Factors such as having common and clear objectives, strong commitment and building trust are often referred to in the team effectiveness literature. The establishment of business objectives is the easiest (I did not say simple) and most natural for leaders working in teams. The common issues and often most delicate is the way team members resolve different point of views, disagreement and potentially conflict. Avoiding debate on different opinions is not recommended, in fact, we want debate.

An interesting literature review done by industrial psychology Ph.D. students, including Mathieu Forget from Optimum Talent indicated that cognitive conflicts are positively correlated with organizational performance. In other words, healthy and fact based debates are constructive for the team and the organization. The literature review also indicated that affective conflicts are negatively correlated with organizational performance. In other words, unhealthy relationships with pervasive effects and negative emotion lead to poor business performance. But here is the trick, cognitive and affective conflicts are correlated at .57, i.e. when there is a healthy debate, the odds are that a negative emotionally charged discussion will erupt. Here lies the critical and most important factor that can make it or break it for any team: the capacity to resolve various levels of differences, from the different point of view, to the strong contradicting opinion up to the open conflictual arguments – and still maintain effective working relationships. 

The behaviour that can be improved by most team members is the way to have effective meaningful dialogues and debates, in such a way that the sender and the receiver of the message feel respected, involved and valued. All the while leaving the highly charged negative emotion at the door, not a small feat.

The more team members trust each other, the stronger the team will be. Trust will be built with behaviours such as team members consistently following through on the commitments; team members depending on one another to act in the best interests of the team and team members believing in each other to be competent and capable in their respective roles, including the team lead.

Working in teams is more and more frequent in modern organizations, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Avoiding the team approach is not really an option; and facilitating light and slogan driven interventions will not have the durable effect you are looking for. Understanding some key elements such as the necessity to be effective in having healthy debate and building trust will make an important difference. You now know where to focus your effort. Matt Bellamy from Muse also wrote “Don’t waste your time or time will waste you”! 

Different Business Thinking

The Banality of Management Advice

On April 1 Harvard Business Review (HBR) published a post entitled How to Work for a Narcissistic Boss.  Given both the date and the title I was prepared for a prank.  Like the HBR cartoons I hoped for a little erudite satire on the self-perpetuating vanity of corporate culture.  Nope.  It’s a post offering advice on how to subordinate yourself to someone with a mental illness.  An illness described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5.

Does the post suggest you might want to “Get out!”? Yes it does, but I think most people can reach this conclusion on their own. There are also pros and cons to weigh, principles to remember and two case studies.  The first is about managing your stress so you can take another person’s abuse. The second is about catering to a narcissist’s needs, until you can’t take it anymore.  Again, you’ll need to get out.  Why do you need to get out? Simply stated, “Research shows there are a large number of narcissists who become leaders.”  You are not a leader, you are a subordinate. It’s not your place to rock the boat.  After all, status quo is very important to people with status.  For companies that find their status reflected in the magic mirror of P&L statements, spreadsheets and pie charts, well let’s just say these entities aren’t eager to hear you express concerns over a golden goose, especially a ‘high performer’. 

What’s truly disappointing is that at no point in this post do we learn how to approach Human Resources with concerns that an employee is suffering from a mental disorder.  Yes, a narcissist suffers, along with everyone under their control, bearing the brunt of the consequences.  Many would find the thought that HR can facilitate a helpful and healthful outcome to this situation sadly humorous.

Subordinates, by definition, occupy a lower class, rank or position; submissive to or controlled by authority.   Bullies need power and so do leaders.

Is HBR so enamoured of its leadership focus that it cannot distinguish between the two?  No wonder there is a pervasive employee engagement problem.

Career vs job sphere in cubes to illustrate a great work opportu

Career Management + Career Accountability =Life Time Employment

Some of us are told education is the key for success; others are told to work for a large company, the government or a bank, and the expected result is a job for life. The truth is that in a very volatile marketplace in the 21st century, there is no one ingredient for success. You need to apply a number of strategies and approaches to ensure your marketability. You are the only person that can secure life-time employment.

People today need to deal with greater uncertainty in the marketplace and a good way to do this is to take ownership of your career. It is clear that individuals who consciously invest in their careers stand out from other employees.

Group of young business people sitting around table on office te

To take your career in your own hands, start with implementing these simple strategies:

1. Assessment & Mindset: Through self-assessments and self awareness, know your strengths and areas that need improvement, and determine if those are what are in demand in the marketplace. Make sure your skill-set is up to date. Know what you need for today, and for tomorrow.  Understand the challenges and influences within and around you.

2. Reputation Awareness: Everyone has a reputation, and it is important to manage yours effectively. Understand your own credibility and track record, and how you are perceived by others. Speak to a manager, colleagues and even friends for feedback on their experiences with   you. Do some self-reflection through someone else’s eyes and then determine what qualities and characteristics to keep working on and what should remain the same.

3. Network: Cross network and really get to know the people on your team, within your company and in the marketplace. Taking the time to network is a crucial investment in your career. “Coffee” and “lunch” are important skills to learn and have. Networking while you are in a position is equally as important as when you’re looking for a job.

4. Sharing Goals: Managers can’t read minds, so give them a sense of who you are, what you want and your expectations. Seek out your manager, don’t just wait for your quarterly or annual review. Have ongoing career conversations in formal and informal settings.

5. Understand your Why:  Why do you do what you do?  We know the difference between a person that is truly passionate and aligned with what they are doing and the person that just shows up to work.  If you can, always articulate “why” your value to the organization will be clear.

 

Brain

Listen, Learn, Lead – With your Whole Brain. The Business of Neuroscience

“We can not deny emotions, leading change is leading emotions. Our rational brain helps us to arrive at conclusions but our emotional brain’s conclusions are those that lead to actions.”

The application of Neuroscience in business is called Neuromanagement.

By definition: The art of synchronizing the science of the brain with human behaviours in organizations and everyday life.

Or: What triggers a CEO, executive, mid-level manager or any employee to make the decisions they make each and every day.

The principles of Neuromanagement encourage people to focus attention on the practices that will genuinely make a difference in their work style and explore and then adjust new territories for change and growth.

Neuromanagement is bringing to light the understanding of leadership processes within organizations. It’s important to first understand the reason behind the individual’s decision making process in leadership. From there we can find ways to improve performance, individual development and create effective change management processes. Neuromanagement offers the best hope for effecting real change in a leader and within an organization.

Education is essential, but education is also trumped by our ability to manage relationships within an organization. Skill and knowledge are an asset, but our ability to understand the difference between success and failure resides in how we manage relationships, emotions and truly understand the rationale behind the decision making process.

Business Ideas And Creativity

Three key markers in Neuromanagement include:

Neuroeconomics: In general, we assume people invest money to make more money, but neuroscience is proving that is not necessarily true. Our brain has different motivations, and neuroeconomics is helping to identify the real reason people invest their money.

Neuromarketing: Do you know why you chose one product instead of another? The study of consumer behaviour has been recognized for a long time and we know that 90% of the time this is an unconscious decision. Neuromarketing is targeting that 90%. Our full brain is involved in the buying decision process. Unfortunately, the rational part of our brain has the smallest power in that decision.

NeuroLeadership (David Rock): The most challenging situation in any organization: the leadership process. People don´t leave a company, instead they leave their boss. A truly effective leadership culture should create an engaging and inspiring environment. Neuroleadership brings to light  a new concept that delivers tools on how to lead people within an organization effectively based on their human behaviour.

Neuromanagement is ever evolving and presenting organizations with solutions to increase productivity and effectiveness of individuals and the organization overall.

Neuromanagement findings can help:

  • Create ways to manage stressful situations in our daily work
  • Craft and deliver high impact feedback at any level
  • Help to recognize those that push us to make wrong decisions
  • The impact of a growth mindset
  • To understand the process of change in the brain. Barriers that exist and how to overcome them
  • Bring a different understanding of the leadership process in an organization

Through neuromanagement, we’re able to better understand the brain pathways, increasing our awareness on how we react and why. From there, we’re able to provide individuals with the tools they need to solve difficult situations. In the end a more accurate diagnosis leads to a more effective solution.

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