Following the shock triumph of Donald Trump people are still asking themselves, how did he win? One group of the electorate that Trump failed to win over and certainly did not help him to become President were the Millennial’s - those born in the period of 1982-2000. A survey conducted before the election showed that if only Millennial’s voted Clinton would have a 504 – 23 vote crushing victory, gaining 41 out of 50 states. In contrast the same survey found that if only those 65+ voted Trump would have 298 – 214 vote victory. This phenomenon of difference between generations has not only been seen over the pond but also in Britain. In the 2016 Brexit referendum 73% of Millennial’s voted to remain whereas 60% of those over 65 voted to leave.
The vast differences between older generations and the Millennial generation may hold potential difficulties in the workplace. While much of the current knowledge about Millennial’s is anecdotal what follows is an examination of the limited empirical research on this topic.
Millennial’s have been shown to engage in different forms of communication to the generations before them. Research has discovered a constant need for continual feedback, compared to Generation X and Baby Boomers – possibly down to a “trophies for all” upbringing and overprotective parents. When negative feedback is provided Millennial’s have been shown to respond best to assertion, but also sensitivity, and are most receptive when positive feedback accompanies.
An interesting point is that Millennial’s do not like the top down method of communication currently employed by many employers. They are far less intimidated by their leaders than previous generations and work best when they feel they are ‘in the loop’.
This new generation places far more value on their home life, compared to their work life than any generation before them. Research has shown that increased media coverage of key events during their development, such as terrorist attacks, has caused an increased mortality salience (reminders that we will eventually die) and in turn a revaluation of priorities.
In line with this emphasis on home life research has indicated a preference for flexible working. PwC found that the companies with strong flexible structures such as Apple and Google, who do not have historical restraints of “how it used to be done”, have the best Millennial retention.
Expectations and Aspirations
There seems to be a general conception that Millennial’s have high expectations of the workplace, relating back to their sheltered upbringing in a time of relative prosperity. Research by Ng (2010) has shown that in terms of salary expectations new graduates do not have high expectations of their initial wage, but expect a 68% increase in 5 years, which is unrealistic.
Millennial’s want leaders who are forward thinking, looking for continual innovation and aren’t afraid to take risks. They also expect their leaders to offer them development opportunities, with research showing higher retention of Millennial’s when they perceive they are being invested in with learning and professional opportunities.
How to be an Employer of Choice for the Millennial Generation?
● Encourage open-communication. Create ‘bottom-up’ channels of communication which allow individuals to give feedback regardless of their position in the organisation.
● Introduce flexi-working. Allow individuals to work from home and give them more control over and trust in their roles. Oseland (2012) found that flexi-working actually increases productivity and staff satisfaction.
● Create realistic career development opportunities. Be clear on development opportunities from the start of employment and keep staff informed when these change to help create more realistic expectations.
● Increase staff engagement. Provide job autonomy, performance feedback, task variety and responsibility.
To read more of Laura William's blogs on business psychology topics, click here.
If you’ve struggled to maintain a New Years’ resolution, you’re certainly not alone. Whether it was trying to give up smoking, get in shape, or change the way you work, behavioural change can be difficult.So why is it so difficult?
We like to think that we’re consciously in control of everything we do, but much of our behaviour is unconscious, shaped by our experience, and triggered by our surroundings. Habits are ultimately what drives much of our behaviour, and are key to sustaining a new behaviour. It’s somewhat ironic that the habits we don’t want are often those that we form. However it’s not too late to give your New Year’s resolution another go – here’s some psychology that may help you make the change:Introducing a new behaviour
We start with intentions, but recent research shows us that intentions by themselves are not enough. We form lasting habits when we repeat a behaviour consistently in a specific context, so to make a behaviour automatic, we need to also think about context - where and when we’re doing it.
If you’ve attended our diversity training, you’ll be familiar with an ‘Implementation Intention’ as a method of encouraging new behaviour. These go beyond intentions (the what) to also pin down the context (the when). And we know that the simple act of making these specific, ‘If-Then’ statements in our minds (e.g. ‘when I see the turning for the gym, I will turn left’) can increase the likelihood of follow-through.
How do they work? When we create these ‘If-then’ statements, our brains begin to associate the situation with the behaviour in our minds, much in the same way that established habits work (albeit weaker). So when the situation arises, it’s much easier for us to trigger the behaviour – it requires less conscious effort or deliberation.
Once you have a clear ‘If-then’ intention in your mind, keeping the context the same as much as possible (i.e. same time of day, location) each time you repeat the behaviour will help to form a habit. And research shows that people with strong habits are more likely to have a regular routine. For example, one study looking at gym users found that 90% of regular gym users had a regular time and location that triggered their behaviour.Breaking an old habit
Whilst habits are key to sustaining new behaviour, they’re also the reason why changing existing behaviour can be such a pain. If you’re trying to change an existing habit, research suggests that Implementation Intentions are less effective as they’re having to compete with the more established associations. So how do we change our old habits? In summary there are two approaches:
● Where possible, remove the temptation. Remove whatever it is that is triggering your behaviour. Do you procrastinate by clicking on email pop-ups? Disable the pop-up. Do you buy a coffee when you walk past the coffee shop on the way to work? Try a different route. If you can’t remove completely, can you change the context? Habits are very context-dependent. This is also why many organisations find that office moves are a great time for behavioural change interventions – old cues are disrupted, freeing up people to act on their new intentions.
● Change the context. Sometimes you can’t remove the cues. Perhaps you can’t magic yourself to a different office, or remove the vending machine. If that’s the case, try changing the context as much as possible and investing your effort on deliberately replacing your usual response with a better one (e.g. when hungry at your desk, grabbing an apple rather than walking to the vending machine).
There’s no doubting behaviour change can be difficult, but investing your effort in the right way will eventually pay off.
To read more of Jonathan Taylor's blogs on business psychology topics, click here.
Anyone using Assessment or Development Centres (ADCs) for promotions, selection into new roles or benchmarking employee capability, will be well aware of the challenges of creating a realistic, meaningful and valid (i.e. accurate) process. Providing the right level of challenge for participants, while giving regular opportunities for feedback and learning, is a difficult balance to strike.
With this challenge in mind, we have been working with our clients to design progressive, innovative, fair, flexible and accurate assessment and development centres to support talent management. We have designed centres with our clients that deliberately vary the context, the situation and the timing of meetings in order to achieve more realistic and varied measures of capability. For example, we have used short meetings, standing meetings, meetings that are frequently interrupted and difficult teleconference calls. And by doing so, we have been achieving stronger outcomes, increasing the realism of situations and improving the quality of observations and the usefulness of the feedback. None of these alternative designs reduced the validity of our observations – they only enhanced the flexibility and improved the experience for participants.
So it wasn’t a great surprise when, at this year’s BPS Occupational Psychology conference, a number of speakers questioned whether traditionally structured assessment centres were likely to be inconsistent or even inaccurate in what they claim to be measuring. These questions emerged based on recent studies into the effectiveness of assessment centres. Using a new and well regarded approach to analysing all of the possible effects that may contribute to variance in assessor ratings in a standard assessment centre, the studies indicate that less than 2% of the variance in ratings from that assessment centre could attributable to the actual measurement of competencies (see Dewberry, 2017 (in press)). In other words, the final ratings that came from the assessment centre bore little, if any, relationship to the behaviours that they claim to measure.
Why is this? It’s difficult to say exactly, but it would appear that assessment centres are actually better at measuring behaviour within a specific context (i.e. how somebody handles a particular one-to-one meeting or group situation) than trying to do so across a range of different contexts. This perhaps reflects the view that behaviours – and leadership behaviours in particular – are far more ‘situational’ than previously thought by most practitioners.
Our approach has been further backed up by the research of Filip Lievens (2016), which questioned the traditional format and construct of assessment centres. This research proposed that an assessment centre could break with the traditional format of two role plays, each lasting for 30 minutes, and instead run eighteen interactive role plays, each lasting three minutes. For an experimental approach, the results demonstrated good validity and identified, in particular, those most extravert and agreeable, which is ideal if the assessment centre is for a people or sales role. Other methods tested open-ended video responses, rather than written responses, and webinar facilities – in the same way that many employees work on a day-today basis.
All of this raises some critical questions for any organisations using standardised, off the shelf exercises in their assessment and development centre processes. It is impossible to ignore these findings. Instead, we need to embrace it as an opportunity to further question the approach and look at ways to reflect the constant changes in work environments.
Most importantly perhaps, as we make changes to assessment and development methods, we have to continue to improve fairness, reduce the bias that is so inherent in so many processes, and give everyone an equitable starting point, whether they are being assessed for a role or developed for a future position. We have a very interesting time ahead.
To read more of Stuart Duff's blogs on leadership and and other related business psychology topics, click here.
It’s that time of year again - a new year, a new you. No doubt your social media feeds have been filled with advice on how you can unleash your inner Richard Branson and be more productive in 2017. Rather than talk about working, I’m going to focus on the other side of the coin – rest and recovery. You see we’re not the machines that we try to be – in fact, much of our performance can be attributed to how well we rest and recover when we’re not working.Let’s start with sleep…
As a workforce we’re tired. During the week most of us don’t get enough sleep – and when we’re busy it’s often the first thing that we sacrifice. An estimated 1/3 workers get less than 6 hours sleep a night1. But sleep matters. Decades of research tells us that the quality and quantity of sleep we get has a profound influence on our memory, attention, our ability to process information and capacity to manage our emotions. While the amount of sleep we each need varies with age and from person to person, if you’re currently getting less than 7 hours a night, forming a new habit where you go to bed earlier could have a dramatic impact on how you experience your work.Recovery during your down time
During our working day, we’re constantly responding to various pressures and demands, drawing on our own physical, psychological and emotional resources to be able to respond effectively. However these resources are finite – and recovery is a physiological need that we all have. The quality of the rest we get during our evenings and weekends can have a profound effect on our performance back at work.
Rest is important – for example, one study found that individuals who returned to work feeling well rested were more productive, showed greater personal initiative, engaged in more organisational citizenship behaviours (voluntarily going beyond what is expected in your role, such as helping out a colleague), and reported that their work felt easier to complete2. But feeling rested is not simply a function of how long we stay away from the office – but rather what we do with the time. In particular, engaging in activities that draw on different resources to the ones we use at work, or that replenish those we have lost during the day can support our recovery. Three types of activity have been associated with greater recovery:
● Psychological detachment
Mentally ‘switching off’ from work – thinking about something else, rather than continuing to ruminate on what happened during the day. Research shows that this can improve mood, reduce negative emotions experienced during leisure time and increase performance once back at work2. But detaching from work can be difficult – very rarely do we end the day with everything neatly tied off. However, simple changes to how you structure your time – such focusing on bigger tasks in the morning, and tackling the smaller tasks towards the end of the day can make a difference. When you do run out of time, writing down where, when and how you will finish any incomplete tasks before you leave work can help you switch off3.
Any activity that does not place any further demands on you and that allows you to feel calm. This can include activities such as mindfulness meditation, yoga or listening to music, all of which you can do during the working day or at lunchtime. A study in Germany found that individuals who engaged in Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) during their lunchtime experienced a significant reduction in their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, both in and outside of work, compared to their colleagues4.
● Mastery experiences
These are any activities that give a sense of achievement or personal development. This can include activities such as learning a new language or instrument. Or exercise - for example going for a run, or resistance training. It could even include successfully assembling some flat-pack furniture! Essentially any tasks that give a sense of accomplishment or progression can count as mastery experiences. Research shows that these even simple tasks can be critical for maintaining self-esteem and self-efficacy – particularly when encountering setbacks at work2.
We’re not designed to work continuously – we need regular recovery to perform at our best. By giving some thought now to how you spend your downtime, and by resting smarter, you’ll notice a big difference this year.
1 Luckhaupt, S. E., Tak, S., & Calvert, G. M. (2010). The prevalence of short sleep duration by industry and occupation in the National Health Interview Survey. Sleep, 33, 149–159.
2 Binnewies, C., Sonnentag, S., and Mojza, E. (2010). Recovery during the weekend and fluctuations in weekly job performance: A week-level study examining intra-individual relationships. Journal of Occuptational and Organizational Psychology, 83, 419-441.
3 Smit, B. (2016). Successfully leaving work at work: The self-regulatory underpinnings of psychological detachment. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 89, 493-514.
4 Krajewski, J., Sauerland, M., Wieland, R. (2011). Relaxation-induced cortisol changes within lunch breaks – an experimental longitudinal worksite field study. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 84, 382-394.
To read more of Jonathan Taylor's blogs on business psychology topics, click here.
The old adage: “no news is good news” means that if we hear nothing then nothing is wrong. In other words silence is good. There is a deep assumption that people only share with others the details of events that conflict with their expectations: where something has failed, disappointed; broken; shocked or at the very least surprised them. If things are going as expected or hoped then there is, it is assumed, nothing to report that would interest anyone else.
The idea that only negative stories are of interest has led our news media to be heavily skewed towards tales of doom and gloom and it has been argued, in fact, that “good news is no news”. In spite of the world being happier, healthier and more prosperous than ever before, we are bombarded with the stories of war, disease and criminality gathered from around the globe to fill up our TV News schedule. Good news stories are too often relegated to “The One Show” or other light entertainment programmes: they are treated as less important.
This bias is no surprise. Humans are programmed to attend to threats; this helps us either avoid or deal with the threat and keep ourselves safe. We are also hard wired to attend to whatever is new. From babies we notice when a new toy is introduced, or a new sound is heard and our attention is re-awakened. This helps guide our learning through exploration of our environment. New things are not necessarily bad; but they are those things that surprise us as different to the norm.
The problem is, our preference to treat good news as less worthy of attention results in a fundamental weakness to how we manage people’s performance. “Giving feedback” is usually seen as synonymous with giving negative feedback. After all, if the person is doing well or doing what you expect them to do then what is there you can actually say that would be of any interest.
The difficulty here is that if feedback is either not given at all, or only given when there is something negative then the overall impact, for the receiver, is to feel demoralised, discouraged and to lose trust with the feedback giver. With children, we can see disruptive behaviours increasing if these are the only behaviours that are noticed and rewarded with the parent’s attention. More generally, through a process of “learned helplessness”, people stop exploring and trying to learn or improve if their efforts only result in further negative responses; in other words they become depressed.
Within the workplace, managers must turn this core bias on its head. The truth is that “no news is most definitely bad news” for people if you want them to feel motivated and to grow. Performance management feedback cannot simply consist of the main dramatic headlines: the things that have gone wrong. Feedback must principally focus on developing a person’s sense of worth and their self-efficacy – their belief that they can do well. And this means constantly reinforcing good performance by noticing, discussing and planning how to repeat and extend the successful behaviours. It is assumed that when someone does something right they will know this and understand why and therefore do this again. However, through a combined lack of self-awareness and recognition from others; it is just as likely that good behaviours will ultimately be abandoned. Furthermore, when the manager really does need to deliver some bad news; the receiver is more likely to fixate on this and potentially experience a deterioration in performance and motivation.
When sharing feedback, make it:
● Principally focussed on what went right and how to do this again
● Only offer negative feedback as an additional way to build on past success.
To read more of Laura Haycock's blogs on performance management and and other related business psychology topics, click here.
The City of London Police announced they will be launching an investigation into corruption in football. This was in response to the Daily Telegraph’s claim of Premier League managers (current or former) having taken bribes while buying and selling players.
To many fans the allegations held against those honoured with managing the teams they love are surprising. However, with an understanding of the psychology of behavioural ethics, it shouldn't be a great surprise as these individuals operate in an environment consisting of many of the factors understood to promote the growth of unethical behaviour. So what are these factors that can be hypothesised to account for the turn to corruption, not just for football managers but for the individuals of any organisation and how can we reduce their effect?
John, K. L., Loewenstein, G., Rick, S. I. (2014) Cheating more for less: Upward social comparisons motivate the poorly compensated to cheat. Organizational behaviour and human decision processes, 123, 101–109.
Kouchaki, M., Desai, S. D. (2015). Anxious, threatened, and also unethical: How anxiety makes individuals feel threatened and commit unethical acts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100, 360–375.
Kouchaki, M., Smith-Crowe, K., Brief, A. P., Sousa, C. (2013). Seeing green: Mere exposure to money triggers a business decision frame and unethical outcomes. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 121, 53–61.
To read more of Harry Verner's blogs on business psychology topics, click here.
As we approach the end of the calendar year, and perhaps, the business year, there is for many a sense of dread as we contemplate the prospect of annual performance appraisals. As an integral part of an organisation’s performance management system, the appraisal has been a key tool used to motivate people. However, if anything it often achieves the opposite.
Performance Management (PM) has had an increasingly negative press over recent years. This is a pity as we genuinely need it: people want to feel they are progressing in a positive direction and that they are doing the right things to stay on track in their careers; and companies want to attract, keep and develop their talent to achieve their vision. Aon Hewitt tell us the companies with the highest levels of employee engagement are also those with the most effective PM processes, and that PM is a direct driver of engagement.
Twenty years ago I was part of a mini-industry designing complex PM processes with annual timetables anchored to the business planning cycle and decisions about pay. A central goal was to ensure a structured and standardised approach that would enable people to be rewarded fairly. The assumption was that people would be motivated to develop in order to achieve these rewards. As an add-on feature, PM processes gave support in how to achieve this development through ongoing feedback and coaching.
However, our faith in such processes is falling away. The link between pay and motivation is not nearly as strong as we had assumed. It seems it’s not the financial reward that matters but the quality ongoing support and involvement of a line manager in helping someone improve that really counts. This is what drives loyalty and motivation and which underpins the development of personal performance. Sadly, linking PM to pay, only serves to undermine the more important benefits.
As a result many large organisations are shifting their focus; cutting loose the decisions about reward and using PM first and foremost as a vehicle to help people develop. Obviously people still need a sense that their salary is competitive and calculated in a fair and transparent way. However, there are other ways to deliver that without linking it directly to the achievement of annual performance objectives.
There are major problems in using PM for reward:
1) It creates mind-numbing bureaucracy. Deloitte estimated that 2 million hours were spent per annum largely by their managers trying to agree ratings. HR can become pre-occupied with processes that prove how ratings and reward decisions were derived rather than focusing on what will actually make the greatest difference to performance and motivation.
2) It focuses on the past. There is a demand for evidence of what people have DONE to justify reward decisions. Therefore PM looks backward with a view to analysing and assessing the value of past performance. This does not encourage open and honest conversation about what and how to improve.
3) It comes too late. Due to the above two points, PM activities become loaded towards the end of the year. By this time the objectives established the year before are often irrelevant as the organisational world has moved on. The more useful performance conversations will need to have taken place in the moment, throughout the year, to keep pace with change.
4) It encourages the wrong behaviours. Offering financial reward based on an individual’s performance, encourages self-serving behaviours, rather than doing what is best for the long term success of the team. It also encourages people to focus on the activities they can measure and prove rather than those that genuinely add value.
By decoupling decisions about pay, organisations can unleash the true potential of Performance Management. In practice this means ensuring that PM is no longer associated with the dreaded Annual Appraisal. Rather it is all about what happens along the way. This means:
● Building trust through regular positive and informal interaction
● Learning from successes in order to develop confidence
● Quality coaching conversations with managers to find ways to improve
● Real-time feedback after key events and as a day-to-day norm
● Honest interpretation of multiple and diverse feedback
● A focus on what is needed today and tomorrow rather than what has been done before
● Embracing a team ethos and seeing success as a joint endeavour Less Inclusive?
This comes with risks. By truly focusing on managers’ conversations with their team members rather than a bureaucratic process we are forced to acknowledge the reality that success is dependent on management skill and motivation. Unfortunately, managers, like all of us, are subject to bias. In fact, the more informal the process, the greater the risk of bias with the result that Performance Management becomes less inclusive over time. We know that managers will naturally have more frequent interactions with those people they feel more comfortable with and whom they identify with due to homophily. This immediately creates more frequent and possibly richer opportunities for certain team members to gain developmental support and can become a relative barrier for others. As this type of bias is largely unconscious, new style performance management needs to work hard to give managers strategies to ensure the same opportunities to learn and grow are extended to everyone and that everyone feels engaged and enabled.
To read more of Laura Haycock's blogs on performance management and and other related business psychology topics, click here.
At its most basic level, Performance Management is about establishing a goal and setting people off in the direction of that goal. Like a paper aeroplane, we might launch it in a particular direction to reach a desired destination. However, once launched there is nothing further we can do to influence its course. We must simply sit back and wait to see if it succeeds or fails.
This is what old style Performance Management was like. We would set people off with the best of intentions but then sit back and watch events unfold. Like digging up the black box flight recorder after the plane had crashed, we would wait until the end of the year to see if they had succeeded or failed and evaluate this through the annual review. However, it was too late to stop the plane crashing in the first place with costly consequences.
Of course, what the pilot really needs to ensure a successful flight is live information and this comes in the form of the cockpit flight instruments. The pilot needs to know:
• Are we on the right track?
• Are we doing the right things to stay on track?
• Are there any changes we need to take account of that might interfere?
They need constant feedback to guide and support them in order to get the best result no matter what they encounter en route. The pilot cannot rely on their own senses; in bad weather important visual cues are missing and the pilot can misinterpret other physical sensations. As a result they can emerge from a cloud and unexpectedly find themselves flying upside down. The pilot needs independent reliable information to help them and they must learn to trust what these instruments are telling them.
Importantly, the cockpit instruments are designed to make important information readily available, but feedback isn’t forced on the pilot unless there is a genuine emergency. Care is taken not to distract the pilot with too many threatening messages. The information provided is mostly positive or at least neutral in nature, reassuring the pilot there are doing OK or at least enabling the pilot to make minor adjustments before things go badly off course.
In spite of all the technology, the pilot is in charge of their own plane. The computers and instruments can only facilitate and support. It is crucial that the pilot is fully engaged in the flight and able to assume control the moment something complex or unexpected arises.
Having said that a good pilot will be encouraged to question and cross check their assumptions and decisions by consulting a range of information. Like all people, pilots can be blinded by bias, e.g. taking an overly optimistic view of the risks they face; being influenced by preconceptions of a situation. However, each piece of data on its own might be misleading; an holistic view is required.
Taking these lessons on board, successful Performance Management needs to:
Put the pilot in control: We know that the greater the level of involvement from employees the more positive the outcome from feedback discussions. They should believe they are in charge of their own plane and are taking the lead in terms of soliciting and interpreting feedback.
Frequent and informal: In work we know that more frequent contact creates a stronger relationship of trust. Just as the pilot must trust their instruments in order to gain the greatest benefit, so does the employee need to trust their manager. Research shows that the better the relationship, the greater the trust and the more positive the outcomes regardless of whether feedback is favourable or critical.
Real-time: Line managers can help individuals identify immediate opportunities for feedback. Particularly after key testing events; the sooner the feedback the better. The line manager should also create opportunities to review and consider this feedback as frequently as possible so that constant adjustments can be made.
Reliable holistic view: The manager should assist the employee in gathering feedback from a number of sources in order to compare perspectives, and assist the employee in interpreting these perspectives, bearing in mind the bias any one source of feedback may have been subject to.
Positive focus: Too often, line managers remain silent until there is a serious problem at which point what the employee hears are threatening sirens and alarms meaning the information is seen as a negative experience. Feedback should, first and foremost, be about what went right, building a belief in the ability to do well and helping the employee to make use of their strengths.
Warns when appropriate: The above point doesn’t mean being soft. The manager will need to vigorously help the employee build on their successes. In addition, when something is genuinely of concern; it should be clearly and confidently shared so that the employee can take action. It is much easier to deliver negative feedback if this is done within the context of constant positive dialogue.
Manages risks around Inclusion: The cockpit has no favourites. The data is equally available to all who choose to consult it. In work managers must work hard to overcome any natural bias towards certain people. We know that manager will have more frequent positive interaction with people they most identify with. To be inclusive they must be alert to how this differentiates the quality of the development support they give to particular individuals. However, more than this, they must proactively build trust with those individuals who might not assume to come looking for their input.
To read more of Laura Haycock's blogs on performance management and and other related business psychology topics, click here.
When Theresa May became Prime Minister, it was the second time that the glass ceiling at the top of British politics had been shattered. However, politicians and business leaders alike should beware the ‘glass cliff’ during times of crisis. So what is the glass cliff, and what are the implications for leadership?The Glass Cliff
Whilst the glass ceiling means that women are still less likely than men to progress into senior leadership positions, researchers have found that, in times of crisis, women are more likely to be appointed to leadership positions. This is known as the ‘glass cliff’ as it carries an increased risk of failure and criticism.
For example, researchers examined the share price performance of FTSE 100 companies immediately before and after the appointment of a male or female board member. They found that when companies appointed men to their boards of directors, share price performance was relatively stable before the appointment. However, companies that appointed a woman had experienced consistently poor performance in the months preceding the appointment. In essence, men and women were being appointed to directorships under very different circumstances, with different likelihoods of success.“Cleaning up the mess”
Why does this happen? In part, glass cliff appointments reflect gender stereotypes - that women are peculiarly suited to crisis management. This is clear from recent commentary regarding women politicians. Bloomberg recently ran an article titled ‘Women Are Cleaning Up Britain’s Brexit Mess’, whilst Baroness Jenkin of Kennington was quoted by The Guardian discussing the Conservative Party leadership contest: “I think they [the country] feel that at a time of turmoil, a woman will be more practical and a bit less testosterone [driven] in their approach. More collaborative, more willing to listen to voices around the table, less likely to have an instantly aggressive approach to things.”
Consistent with these views, researchers have found that in times of success, stereotypically male attributes are seen as being most important for the selection of a future leader; yet in times of crisis, stereotypically female attributes matter most for leader selection.When opportunity knocks…
A second driver of the glass cliff effect is that crisis situations are seen as providing women (but not men) with good leadership opportunities. They are more likely to be construed by decision makers as ‘golden opportunities’ than as ‘poisoned chalices’. This is exacerbated by the relative lack of leadership opportunities for women - while men who are invited to take-up a leadership role in a crisis may feel able to decline the invitation and ‘wait for something better to come along’, women may have no such luxury and be encouraged to ‘take whatever they can get’.
The result is that when women do take-up senior leadership roles, they are more likely than men to have to deal with crisis situations, with a greater chance of failure. In addition, a psychological effect called the ‘fundamental attribution error’ means that in seeking to explain the reasons for failure, people tend to focus on individual characteristics of the leader, rather than the situational and contextual challenges that affect the organisation. As such, compared to men, women who assume leadership positions can be more exposed to criticism.Data driven talent
A key take-away is that the glass cliff effect is most likely to occur when stereotypes influence appointment decisions. Talent moves, especially for senior leadership roles, need to be driven by objective, rich and relevant data. This provides a platform for talent and resourcing specialists to make a real impact – by ensuring long-term succession plans are in place, by systematically collating performance data, by putting in place a strong due diligence processes to inform appointments, and by ensuring that HR has the insights and the influence to shape decisions at the top table.
To read more of James Meachin's blogs on assessment, recruitment and and other related business psychology topics, click here.
Leading a team successfully is not necessarily about having the knowledge, or even the experience in your chosen field. From a psychological perspective, leading and inspiring a team is more about the way in which you engage your team, than technical knowledge. Many businesses underestimate the impact of this, and they promote people to management positions based on the knowledge they have developed – and not on their ability to lead. The following tips can help you to positively manage your team, and inspire them to work more effectively.Flexible working
With the development of technology and globalised business, home working is becoming more common. Employees no longer have to be in a fixed space at all times, and research has shown that both employees and businesses can benefit. How does this affect people’s ability to lead their teams, if they are not psychically together?
Firstly, it’s important to note that this is a different working environment. People are not used to working from separate physical locations, and emails can give rise to conflict due to miscommunication.
The best approach is to adapt your home working leadership skills for different staff members. For example, our research has found that outgoing and extrovert employees are more likely to be successful working from home. Personality is really important and home working won’t necessarily suit everyone. Using this insight can help dictate how you manage, for example, more introverted staff who are working from home; might they need a little more support and regular check-ins?
At Pearn Kandola, we have developed the iLEAD toolkit to support leaders developing the most effective teams. It provides them with ideas and practical advice on how to handle a wide range of work challenges, including how to motivate others, how to develop greater resilience, and how to generate a compelling vision.
Secondly, the technology used to enable home working varies. Many depend upon phone calls or tele-conferencing, but the best method is video-conferencing. Our research has shown that video-conferencing is a much more successful means of communication and it is the closest to face to face contact. It leads to less conflict amongst staff and enhances the ability to get the best from a team, whilst heightening employee productivity.Empathy
Inspirational leadership always includes empathy. Research has shown that leaders who display empathy through their everyday behaviour are rated more highly in their leadership abilities. People with high levels of empathy are perceived to be interested in other people and they express concern and support for their welfare. Having a high level of empathy for employees can help leaders understand what best motivates them to change their behaviour and develop themselves as individuals.Keep it simple with coaching
Meet with your employees regularly to coach and discuss their goals, but keep it simple. It’s best not to try and achieve too much in any one discussion, as having a long to-do list of personal development can often mean that nothing gets done at all. Set regular SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) mini-goals that can be achieved over a number of weeks or months, and check in on progress. Always close the session with clear next steps that your employees are bought into. Asking questions to check on motivation can help achieve this.Helping your team reach solutions
When issues crop up in the workplace, your employees are likely to come to you with challenges and questions. Although it might be quickest to give them ‘the answer’ to their questions, the best way you can approach this is to help them come to their own conclusions. You can help them get there by asking question about their view of the options, or the best way forward. Try, where possible, to help them come to the final solution themselves. This will help them feel confident about how to move forward, and in time your employees will develop the confidence to solve difficult issues on their own.
To read more of Louise Weston's blogs on teams, leadership and and other related business psychology topics, click here.
|Subscribe to the Pearn Kandola blog feed.|