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March 2012
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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Are organisations today losing their moral fibre?

Posted by: Reena Jamnadas

 

The resignation of a top executive at the world’s most powerful investment bank, Goldman Sachs, hit headlines across every mainstream newspaper last week. Greg Smith said he quit the Wall Street giant due to a collapse of its “moral fibre”. He described how leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. But now, all that is left of the culture is a rigorous focus on money-making, even if adverse to the best interests of their clients and customers.

 

The pressure is exacerbated by this issue for the government to focus on how to tighten regulations and ensure the investment banking industries of the City and Wall Street are focused appropriately on their customers and treating them fairly.

 

However, is the real issue here about the urgent need for good leadership?

 

Business researchers, Naumann and Bennett, described leaders as being ‘climate engineers’; what they convey through their personality, values, beliefs, preferences, and behaviours leaves an imprint on the character of those they lead. Events such as those seen at Goldman Sachs speak not only of the need for effective leadership, but more so, the need for effective and wise leadership where leaders are guided by doing what is right.

 

At Capp, we have interviewed dozens of top executive leaders from blue-chip companies such as Microsoft, Sony, and O2 that were nominated as being “wise” in their organisations.  Here are some of the characteristics that these wise leaders demonstrated:

 

Characteristics of Wise Leaders in Blue-Chip Companies

 

  • Guided by a strong ethical code: No matter how tough the decision, wise leaders are always guided by ‘doing the right thing’ and moreover, they have the integrity and courage to do so. They are by no means evangelical about their ethics, but a strong moral fibre guides their outlook on their vision, strategy and approach which earns them respect in the eyes of their followers.

 

  • Optimise positive outcomes: Despite their complex environments and pressures, wise leaders ensure that they make decisions that optimise outcomes for themselves, their stakeholders, and external circumstances. If these three are not in alignment,  they are likely to think twice before committing to any action in order to avoid catastrophe.

 

  • Strong judgement: Wise leaders have an acute sense of judgement. They combine tacit knowledge with experience and insight to make strategic judgements and act accordingly.

 

  • Leave a legacy: Creating a powerful, long-lasting and positive impact is greatly important to wise leaders, no matter how small the task. Wise leaders create a legacy for their organisations through their vision and decisions that they make, relationships with internal and external stakeholders, and the way that they solve complex problems.

 

  • Act with purpose: Wise leaders have a deep sense of purpose that underlies everything that they do. For wise leaders, this purpose is related to contributing towards the greater good such as enabling their customers/clients to have a greater quality of life, or realising the best of people across their organisation.

 

  • Humility: Wise leaders are not ego-centric, but neither are they meek or mild. Often their characters are robust and consistent, but wise leaders always see their contributions as part of a bigger picture. They are always willing to learn from others, accept and learn from their mistakes, and give others credit where credit is due.

 

  • High self-awareness: A strong awareness of their strengths and weaknesses enables these wise leaders to lead where they need to, and work alongside others to compensate for their weaknesses. Wise leaders are acutely aware of the implications of their behaviour on others, their organisation, and their external environments which enables them to take multiple perspectives.

 

  • Comfortable with managing uncertainty : Especially in today’s climate of financial pressure, global competition, governmental initiatives, and an evolving economic and ethical climate, wise leaders recognise and effectively manage uncertainty and ambiguity. They are centred in their approach and recognise the need to remain focused no matter what the challenge.

 

How can we cultivate wise leadership?

 

As leaders, how can we develop these characteristics in ourselves? A good starting place would be to ask yourself the following questions:

 

1.       How would you describe your values and ethics? Take time out yourself and with your team to answer this question. Ask yourself how these values and ethics can be embedded in the ways that you work together and with your customers/clients.

 

2.       What do you pay attention to when making complex decisions? Pay attention to the holistic picture and consider the consequences of decisions on yourself, your stakeholders and external circumstances. Use your networks to develop relationships with other people that can offer you multiple perspectives.

 

3.       What do you want to be known for? Ask others for feedback on the legacy that you have left so far in your organisation. Are things heading in the right direction? Consider your purpose and assess what opportunities you have to create a powerful legacy through your vision, strategy, relationships with others, and contributions to your organisation.

 

4.        What are your strengths and weaknesses? Don’t underestimate the power of your strengths. Explore what strengths you can use to help you achieve your goals through your role. Do you have people around you that could help compensate for your weaknesses? To help use your self-awareness, draw a network map and consider how your actions could impact positively or negatively on others.

 

5.       How do you feel about uncertainty? Reflect on which strengths have helped you to remain centred in uncertain or ambiguous situations in the past, and what decisions you can make in the here and now that will help safeguard your future.

 

So, developing these characteristics of wise leaders may not be peculiar to just what Goldman Sachs need, but what every organisation is calling out for in today’s complex and challenging environments.

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On Learning to Learn: Four Positive Psychology Principles

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

I spoke last year at a Training Journal conference on Learning to Learn in the 21st Century. My focus was on what we know from positive psychology and strengths psychology about learning, and how this can help us with our learning in the 21st century. As many of us move into the next round of quarterly reviews in April, I thought this would be a timely moment to share some of those insights.

 

First, how we feel about learning and our learning environment is critical. Barbara Fredrickson’s work has shown us that we need positive to negative emotion ratios of 3:1 if we are to flourish as human beings. She has also shown that we are more creative, better at problem solving, and think more broadly when we experience positive emotions. As such, it’s not a big step to say that having a positive emotional environment is conducive to optimal learning.

 

Second, every one of us is better at giving advice to other people than we are at applying that advice to ourselves. This is a universal truth because of “psychological distance” – quite simply, we make better decisions when we are able to step back and take perspective. As such, an easy trick is to ‘be your own consultant’, by stepping outside your situation and imagining you are somebody else. What would you advise them? Then flip back and apply this advice to yourself.

 

Third, recognise that we learn far better from our strengths than we do from our weaknesses. For example, studies have shown that people who are already good at reading tend to learn and apply rapid reading techniques more quickly, and that people who are good at achieving their goals get even better at achieving their goals with training on how to do so. In Capp’s consulting work, we have shown that people recruited for their strengths learn how to do the job in a fraction of the time that is usually required – significantly reducing their time to competence and improving business performance.

 

Fourth, there is so much that we can learn from our heroes, provided we know who to look to, what to look for, and what to do with it. The secret is to focus on what people do to be successful and how they do it, then to apply this learning ourselves, adapting it as appropriate for our own situation and context. This requires us to understand deeply what our hero does and how they do it, without getting distracted by the peripheral factors that may be part of their brand, but that have no impact on their performance. In my own case, I studied Malcolm Gladwell’s style and techniques for understanding how to develop characters for the introductory case studies in The Strengths Book - I didn’t get distracted by thinking that his trademark Afro was the secret to his writing success.

 

Overall, I summarise these four positive psychology principles of learning as follows:

 

1. Create a positive emotional learning environment, where positive to negative emotion ratios are at least 3:1.

 

2. Be your own consultant.  If you were somebody else looking in on your own situation, what would you advise yourself?

 

3. Recognise that learning from, and building on strengths is more effective than learning from weaknesses. Sometimes weaknesses might need to be minimised if they undermine performance, but realising our greatest potential will never come through just trying to build on or learn from our weak areas.

 

4. Learn from your heroes by focusing on what they do and how they do it, then applying that learning to yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to be exactly like your hero to achieve what they have achieved – learn their lessons, but apply them appropriately to your own context and situation.

 

Many leading thinkers and consultants, most notably Peter Senge, have argued that our ability to learn, and apply that learning, will differentiate the most successful people, and the most successful organisations, from the rest. Apply these four positive psychology principles of learning to ensure that you stay ahead of the field, rather than being left behind in an increasingly globalised, competitive and demanding 21st century.

 

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Get Along or Get Ahead? The Gendered Implications of Being Nice

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

Women are in a “no win” situation. If they are agreeable (as women are stereotypically expected to be), they are less likely to speak up for themselves, and more likely to risk being exploited and taken advantage of by others. If they are disagreeable, they are viewed more negatively by their peers – because they are violating the gender norms that (whether we like it or not) exist for women, but that exist in reverse for men (who are more expected to be disagreeable).

 

These are the politically inconvenient facts as demonstrated by Tim Judge and colleagues in a recent paper that examined the impact of sex and agreeableness on income. If you’re nice (i.e., agreeable), you earn less, whether you’re male or female. If you’re nice and you’re female, ouch, you earn less than anyone.

 

The six facets of agreeableness – trust, straightforwardness, altruism, modesty, compliance and tender-mindedness – give a good idea of what this personality trait is about. If you’re high in agreeableness, you’re a stereotypical “nice person”. If you’re low in agreeableness, you’re not. You might think that less agreeable people are the “jerks” (the most polite alternative I could find to the usual word) of organisational folklore, but in fact this doesn’t have to be the case.

 

In reality, less agreeable people who are more successful, simply tend to be less agreeable at certain times and in certain situations. For example, they are much more prepared to make the case for themselves when they need to (such as in pay negotiations), as opposed to going along with others and accepting the status quo in order to keep relationships harmonious.

 

The net difference: less agreeable people (or at least people prepared to be less agreeable in pay negotiations) are more likely to negotiate higher salaries and so have higher incomes. And on balance, they are more likely to be men.

 

As a result, we might conclude that if you want to be less agreeable (at least in certain circumstances), you should choose actively to:

  1. Stand up for yourself and your own interests (rather than accepting the status quo or avoiding anything that could upset others or cause conflict).
  2. Value individual achievement (at least slightly more than you value time with family and friends).
  3. Make decisions that are based on your own competitive individual success (rather than maintaining harmony and pleasing the people around you). 

Easy, right? Change your behaviour in this way and the world is your oyster.

 

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as this. How people evaluate you is based as much on the other person’s gender expectations, as it is on your own behaviour. This led Judge and colleagues to conclude: “Closing the gender gap seems to hinge less on changing women’s behavior than it does on changing the minds of decision makers” (p. 405).

 

With such a complex web of factors at play, the only sure thing is that there are no easy answers or simple prescriptions for what to do.

 

Nonetheless, here are my recommendations for how you can both get along and get ahead:

  1. If in doubt, be nice. Being nice builds favour power – and you then just need to remember when to call those favours in.
  2. Be prepared to be less nice – and even not nice – when you need to be, and when you judge it’s appropriate.
  3. Be clear about what you want and why you want it. Agreeable people are more likely to value relationships over success, and there is nothing wrong with this – as long as you recognise that this means you’re likely to earn less, and you accept the consequences.
  4. Be prepared to stand up for yourself and be unpopular on the occasions, and in the situations, that warrant it. People will respect you more – as long as you get the balance right and choose your situations wisely.

So, while it certainly isn’t easy, there are strategies you can adopt to ensure that, nice or less nice, male or female, you can both get along and get ahead.

 

Reference:

Judge, T. A., Livingston, B. A., & Hurst, C. (2012). Do nice guys – and gals – really finish last? The joint effects of sex and agreeableness on income. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 390-407.

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Importance of the Virtual World in HR – Human Capital Review

Posted by: Alex Linley

Pleased to share with you this article just published in Human Capital Review on the Importance of the Virtual World in HR. In this article, I discuss how we are using virtual delivery of training and development for programmes including Women in Leadership and performance management, with clients including Thomson Reuters and Standard Chartered Bank.

 

With restrictions on travel budgets, the emergence of new and effective ways of virtual working, and the realisation that transfer of learning can be effectively and powerfully achieved through virtual learning. As a result, helping people to stay in their workplace and apply their learning and insights immediately through development interventions that are embedded in their job and work environment is the way of the future.

 

No more do we need to end training or development sessions with “What will you do to apply this when you’re back in the office in Monday?”, since virtual learning allows learners to learn and develop in real time, without needing to leave their workplace.

 

As technology advances ever further, the power and the impact of the virtual world in HR will only become ever more apparent.

 

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Behind the Scenes, the Manager’s Role…

Posted by: Emma Trenier

 

When new teams come together, there are many reasons why they either succeed or fail to gel. In my experience, this gelling rarely happens by accident. There is a usually a good manager behind the scenes setting the tone, steering, giving feedback here and there in a multitude of ways in addition to their visible core activities. I have recently worked with a team manager who seems to be doing everything right…

 

He is a strategic thinker and knows that he finds it hard to translate his big complex ideas into words. He has found that complementary partnerships really work, and so he relies on his team leaders to explain many of his ideas to the team.

 

He consciously sets an example to others of work-life balance, generates a positive climate through daily banter and encouraging participation. Everyone takes their turn at chairing team meetings and they all enjoy coming into the office.

 

He not only understands the skill sets of each team member, but also understands their strengths. To identify their strengths, every team member has taken Realise2, Capp’s online strengths assessment tool, and shared their profile with the rest of the team.

 

He understands the emotional impact of change on his team and is continually observing where each individual is on the change curve. His aim is to move people forward, but only as fast as they are able to go.

 

As this team has begun to build its own identity, he has worked with them to create a team vision and strategy that is aligned with corporate strategy, but that is also meaningful to each individual.

 

Finally, through discussion with other leaders, he has found a way of setting goals and objectives that enable each person to use their strengths to fulfil their part in the team in a meaningful way.

 

High profile psychologist Martin Seligman talks about the five factors that lead to flourishing with his PERMA model. These are Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. This team manager, who is doing pretty much everything right, has found a way to incorporate all of these elements within the life of his team. Seligman would certainly be impressed.

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Breaking the Glass Ceiling to Europe’s Boardrooms – Financial Mail

Delighted to announce that Capp’s Nicky Garcea is a guest blogger on the Financial Mail Women’s Forum, with a blog posting yesterday – International Women’s Day – on Breaking the Glass Ceiling to Europe’s Boardrooms.

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Celebrating Women’s Strengths on International Women’s Day

Posted by: Nicky Garcea, Alex Linley & Celine Jacques

 

To mark International Women’s Day, we celebrate the strengths of women everywhere, and especially the 90 women included in The Strengths Book Hall of Fame, whom we are proud to list below:

 

Action – Angelina Jolie & Freya Stark

Adherence – Queen Elizabeth II & Vanessa Mae

Adventure – Louise Arner Boyd & Valentina Tereshkova

Authenticity – Cheryl Cole

Bounceback – Paula Radcliffe & Wilma Rudolph

Catalyst – Whitney Houston

Centred – Vera Lynn

Change Agent – Germaine Greer & Beverly Naidoo

Compassion – Diana, Princess of Wales & Mary Seacole

Competitive – Billie Jean King

Connector – Julie Pankhurst & Therese Prentice

Counterpoint – Rachel Carson & Vivienne Westwood

Courage – Aung San Suu Kyi & Harriet Tubman

Creativity – Tracy Emin & Beatrix Potter

Curiosity – Marie Curie

Detail – Zaha Hadid & Arlene Phillips

Drive – Amelia Earhart & Margaret Thatcher

Efficacy – Joan of Arc & Oprah Winfrey

Emotional Awareness – Kiran Desai & Karen Horney

Empathic Connection – Esther Rantzen

Enabler – Maria Montessori

Equality – Emmeline Pankhurst & Eleanor Roosevelt

Esteem Builder – Jane Addams

Explainer – Susan Greenfield & Delia Smith

Feedback – Marva Collins

Gratitude – Halle Berry

Growth – Florence Bascom

Humility – Susan Boyle

Humour – Tina Fey, Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders

Improver – Mary Anderson & Elizabeth Fry

Incubator – Dorothy Hodgkin

Innovation – Jacqueline Gold & Mary Kies

Judgement – Sandra Day O’Connor

Legacy – Wangari Muta Maathai

Listener – Xian Zhang

Mission – Camila Batmanghelidjh & Anita Roddick

Moral Compass – Rosa Parks

Narrator – J.K. Rowling

Optimism – Anne Frank & Barbara Windsor

Order – Betty Boothroyd, Kim Woodburn & Aggie MacKenzie

Persistence – Ellen MacArthur & Cha Sa-Soon

Personal Responsibility – Irena Sendler

Personalisation – Katharine Cook Briggs

Persuasion – Karren Brady

Planful – Marina Raskova

Prevention – Kylie Minogue & Stella Rimington

Pride – Judi Dench & Donatella Versace

Rapport Builder – Mo Mowlam

Reconfiguration – Madonna

Relationship Deepener – Yang Wan

Resilience – Helen Keller & Jane Tomlinson

Resolver – Violeta Chamorro & Marjorie Proops

Scribe – Jane Austen & Alice Walker

Self-awareness – Kate Adie

Service – Clara Barton & Florence Nightingale

Spotlight – Shirley Bassey

Strategic Awareness – Catherine II (the Great) & Marjorie Scardino

Time Optimiser – Lilian Gilbreth & Ruth Lawrence

Unconditionality – Mata Amritanandamayi & Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Work Ethic – Mary Robinson & Queen Victoria

 

To discover more about these strengths heroines, and to find out why we selected them as exemplars of these strengths, please see The Strengths Book and explore the Hall of Fame. At Capp, we are discovering unique insights into women’s strengths and how they can make the most of them. Watch out for more on this topic in our future blog postings.

 

Who would you add to our list of female strengths heroines, and why? This could be someone close to you, or it could be someone more well-known in the wider world. Share your thoughts on The Capp Blog.

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Do You Have What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur?

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

In November last year I was honoured to give one of the keynote addresses at the Ideas on Stage Conference in Paris, an event at the interface of innovation, communication and entrepreneurship, where many of Europe’s leading technology start-ups and incubators were to be found.

 

The topic I had been asked to speak about was one that is very close to my heart: entrepreneurship, and more specifically, what it takes from a psychological perspective to succeed as an entrepreneur.  I argued that there are three themes that distinguish an entrepreneur from the general population. My talk was illustrated with the strengths that enable this, together with examples of famous entrepreneurs who demonstrated these strengths.

 

First, successful entrepreneurs see a different future to the rest of us. Entrepreneurs have a compelling vision of how the world can be different, which they then set about making happen. The entrepreneurial strengths at work here include how they see the future (Strategic Awareness, think Meg Whitman of eBay and now HP fame), how they invent the future (Innovation, think Steve Jobs, need I say more?!), or about how they challenge the future (Counterpoint, think Jeff Bezos of Amazon, renowned for taking an 8-year view on how things will shape out over time).

 

Second, these entrepreneurs are driven to do something about the different future they see. It’s one thing to have an idea, quite another to act on it. There are different strengths that inspire entrepreneurs in different ways, for different reasons. It might be the drive inside you (Drive, as exemplified by Martha Lane Fox of lastminute.com renown), the drive to win (Competitive, think Larry Ellison of Oracle), or the drive to make a difference (Mission, as shown by Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company). Whatever the source, you need something that gives you the get-up-and-go to get started and get things done.

 

This leads us to the third theme. Entrepreneurs take action and execute. In entrepreneurship, execution is everything.  This execution comes through being prepared to take a risk (Adventure, which Richard Branson demonstrates in his escapades as well as his businesses), to take the opportunity (Connector, as demonstrated by Loic Le Meur, founder of the superb Le Web conference – coming to London on 19-20 June this year), or simply to take action (Action, think Lord Alan Sugar of Amstrad and subsequently The Apprentice fame).

 

Critically, though, it isn’t any one of these strengths that makes the entrepreneurial difference, it’s how they are combined. And not just how they combine in any one person, but how the entrepreneur deliberately combines them in his or her team t0 build a great company that will deliver success.

 

As such, I argued in my presentation that the greatest strength of all was in knowing your own strengths, knowing the strengths of others, and then using this knowledge to build a great complementary team that leverages the collective capability of its members.

 

As the late, great Peter Drucker wrote 45 years ago in The Effective Executive, “the unique purpose of organization is to make strength productive”. It is exactly this that the greatest entrepreneurs do so well.

 

What do you think? Do these three themes capture entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship? Should we add Bounceback and Resilience as a fourth theme? What have your entrepreneurial experiences and observations taught you? Share your comments on The Capp Blog.

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