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Category: Leadership (Page 2 of 2)

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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? Time will tell.

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.

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.

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.

Two Businessmen Sitting Indoors With Coffee Laptop And Folder

Stop Paying Lip Service to the 70:20:10

The 70:20:10 approach to development is fairly well known by HR professionals and many line managers.  It is commonly recognized that about 70% of what adults learn comes from experience (learning by doing), 20% comes from others (working with a good leader or coach and receiving feedback), and 10% comes from formal learning (taking a classroom or e-Learning course, for example).

Though easy to understand, there is a difference between knowing a concept and applying it effectively. Unfortunately, it seems that many organizations are paying lip service to the concept; especially the 70. Development plans created for leaders are too often weak on the 70% and contain vague recommendations. Proportionally, the concept looks more like this in its application 70:20:10!

Learning while working on real business issues or assignments is very powerful. The “prescription”—the development plan—must be specific about the types of situations to which the leader must be exposed. The challenging or stretch assignment is by far the most common way organizations will grow their leaders by experience. But there are a limited amount of leaders who can be involved in stretch assignments. This view of the 70 is too limited.

There are multiple other ways to grow leaders by leveraging the 70, such as:

  • Being a member of a committee responsible for a new product implementation
  • Attending a strategic negotiation meeting with your leader
  • Leading a cross functional initiative such as Six Sigma aiming at improving organizational effectiveness
  • Collaborating with a university on a research project
  • Training peers and other employees on a new sales management and reporting system
  • Leading a charitable initiative in your community, etc.

Many examples of learning-by-doing do not require the leader to leave their current job. The experience can be short or long, in-depth or light, internal or external to the organization. 

Business presentation on corporate meeting.

In order to support the line managers to truly leverage the 70, an in-house customized repertoire of high added value experience can be created. This allows the leadership to “see” the number of ways leaders can learn by experience. Because in fact, the 70:20:10 can’t be managed and directed like the formal learning; you can only support it, facilitate it and help make it happen.

It is often said that the 70:20:10 allows leaders to learn at the speed of business; the amalgamation of the multiple ways to learn and grow makes it more real and applicable to today’s work environment.

What is critical to retain from the model is not the % allocated to each component of the model, but that leaders will maximize their growth and chances to progress in their career if they leverage multiple ways of learning and learn constantly, no matter how it is being categorized!

Jocelyn Bérard is the author of book  “Accelerating Leadership Development.” He can be reached at jberard@optimumtalent.com

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