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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.


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.

Following Laura’s recent blog (29 June) on how we respond to significant change, I wanted to share a number of practical insights into how leaders can help themselves, and their teams, to handle uncertainty.

There are many different ways to reflect on the challenges that will emerge from our decision to leave the EU. There are threats of the economy weakening and of years of uncertainty. Equally, there are opportunities for greater freedom and wider trading options. But for everyone, there is a strong sense of uncertainty about the future. And one thing is for sure: now, more than ever, people will feel the need for leadership.

A lot of Pearn Kandola's work in leadership development involves testing and challenging leaders in unfamiliar situations. We can gain a great deal of insight into a leader’s behaviour, mindset and decision making style when they are stretched and taken outside of the usual zones of familiarity. This is because intense pressure causes people to revert to a range of personal strategies that will either increase or reduce leadership effectiveness.

Many studies have made strong links between the ability to cope with uncertainty and our personality, while other studies have linked the use of positive affect and reframing (the capacity to see situations from a wide range of perspectives) as being critical to handling uncertainty. From years of observing leadership in action, however, there are a number of very important and practical strategies, some of which may seem counter-intuitive, that lead to greater effectiveness in leading others. These are:

Be aware

The strongest leaders have the ability to reflect on what they are thinking and feeling (it’s called meta-cognition) in a way that gives them more choices in their response and enables the leader to adapt and learn more quickly than their peers.

Zoom out

One of the hardest transitions for any leader is moving from being the expert to being responsible for experts. A strong temptation for many under pressure is to resort to seeking details and clinging to facts, in order to prove worth to others. Instead, this gets in the way of focusing on what people really need – greater vision, strategic plans and support.

Ease off

Some leaders, under pressure, feel an overwhelming need to take greater control. While clarity and direction from leaders can of course be important in handling uncertainty, taking control from others simply undermines the self-belief of followers at a time when they need opportunities to build and sustain personal confidence.

Be open

The temptation for many is to shoulder fears and concerns about the future. Again, nobody appreciates ranting or screaming in pressured situations, but being open about fears and seeking opinions and ideas from others enhances, rather than diminishes effectiveness as a leader.


The final point is the need for communication. Effective leaders know that followers need to hear and know what is going on. Bluffing, covering up or giving half-truths are obvious ways to destroy trust in teams – the only option is to communicate openly, honestly and frequently.

It is during times of turbulence, such as the collapse of the banking and finance system in 2008 and this latest decision to leave the EU, that organisations learn about the qualities of leadership. In the past, ‘charismatic’ and ‘inspirational’ leadership models were held to describe the essence of leadership, based on the notion that having certain (often male) characteristics was essential to leading others. In recent times, however, responsible, ethical and moral leadership have taken centre stage. Perhaps from here, in the constantly changing and uncertain times ahead, we will see an increasing focus on connected and inclusive leadership?

To read more of Stuart Duff's blogs on leadership and and other related business psychology topics, click here.

It is unlikely that many of us, whichever way we voted, really expected the ‘leave’ camp to come out ahead. There was a sense of disbelief amongst everyone, whichever side of the fence they fell. The unexpected result has suddenly imposed a significant change on us all.

In the face of this unprecedented change, we will experience a range of emotions before we are able to accept the new world and move forward positively. The triggers for these emotions are basic: they are essentially a physiological reaction to threat. The fear or anger we feel is a direct result of increased brain activity, and will be felt through increased blood pressure, a higher pulse rate or a desire to punch the desk. It is the body’s way of coping with threats and a fear of failure. We fear not being able to cope with the new world and we react defensively.

It is important to bear in mind that we will all react in different ways to the changes ahead and we will all find personal strategies to deal with what is happening. If you want to know how people are feeling about the change, just listen to their words…

• “This is ridiculous. It can’t be happening…”

We will all feel some kind of shock… even those who voted to leave. It is normal to go through a period of disbelief or confusion. A fear of the unknown will make it harder to think clearly and we could find ourselves pre-occupied and unable to focus on everyday life. At this stage, we will need time to adjust, and simple, clear information to help us to grasp what is actually happening.

• “This is wrong. There must be a mistake…”

In response we shift towards denial and refuse to accept the reality of the change. For the referendum this might mean challenging the legality of the outcome or proposing options for over-turning the decision. Many of us will now be thinking that the decision will be reversed, but according to senior government figures, it won’t. It is natural for us to search for angles that take the pain away before we are able to accept and deal with the reality of a change.

• “How did the government allow this to happen?”

We need reasons why this has happened. When it becomes increasingly clear that change is a reality, we may become preoccupied with thoughts of “if only….” revisiting and refining our understanding of how it happened. It can be tempting to lay blame on others and find scapegoats. It is important to recognise that there is a collective responsibility both positive and negative that may have led to the outcome. And that, indeed, some factors may have been outside our control and some choices only clarified by hindsight.

• “It is what it is. We need to make the best of the situation…”

No-one will want to stay in a state of uncertainty and conflict for ever. When ready we will begin to explore new possibilities and a vision of how the future could be optimised; new relationships with Europe; new ways for politicians to connect with their own people. We will become impatient for the pain to be over and shift towards looking to the future.

• “It’s a great opportunity. Let’s get on with it…”

Ultimately people will focus on making the new situation a reality and will absorb or embrace it as the new “normal”. Revisiting resentment and blame will feel counterproductive and, as we become more familiar with the new situation, there will be far less uncertainty and anxiety driving our responses. Ultimately, the whole experience will give greater context to other major changes – such as a new prime minister or new ways of working.

Whether it is weeks from now, months or perhaps longer, we should all look forward to the point where the future has become the past. Once there we will no doubt find the reality to be far less frightening than it currently seems. Right now, we might still be reeling from the shock of unexpected change and fearful of the unknown, but we will adapt. The world is dynamic and no outcome would have resulted in a perpetual status quo. We react, learn and evolve.

To read more of Laura Haycock's blogs on performance management and and other related business psychology topics, click here.

Warning!! This article explores how the psychology behind cognitive bias can help us weigh up the rights and wrongs of the Referendum arguments. The result may be more confusion and uncertainty. I apologise for that. Once you start to unravel the murky processes by which we make sense of the world you come to realise what emotional irrational beings we truly are.

However, fear not! The less confident you are of your ability to be objective, the chances are the more objective your decisions will actually be. Uncertainty prompts us to re-examine our assumptions and be open to new evidence. Perversely it is the people who are still undecided that we should probably have most faith in; assuming they are eventually able to make up their minds!

In this week’s Telegraph Daniel Kahneman warns of the risk in allowing ‘heart’ to rule over ‘head’ in the upcoming EU Referendum. Kahneman sees the Brexit campaign as being particularly at risk of emotionally biased judgments that might prove costly. However, I respectfully challenge Kahneman’s assessment and explore the world of cognitive bias to reveal how none of us, whether Remain or Brexit, can be certain we are right.

In the EU referendum we are tasked with making a crucially important decision that carries significant potential risks. We are asked to do so even though few of us understand macroeconomics, have little understanding of the true structure and processes of the EU and cannot fully predict the pressures and priorities of the future. To decide we have to listen to the views of experts, friends and family, and the community at large and weigh up what is authentic and important to us as individuals. Emotion and bias are an inevitable part of what we decide to vote for.

Indeed being biased is part of being human. Our decision making, our beliefs, our motivations and emotions are all intertwined. Emotional reactions are fast and subconscious. Our logical brain has to play catch-up. But as Kahneman explains, our logical brain is lazy. Rather than running objective scientific analysis, it is too prone to look for logical reasons that justify the emotional reaction that is already there. As a result the decisions we make can often ignore the facts and information put before us i.e. they show cognitive bias.

Wikepedia lists over 170 different sources of cognitive bias. I have identified 5 general groups that could impact our referendum decisions.

Need for Clarity

First and foremost humans don’t like to feel confused. We are programmed to feel anxious if things don’t make sense and this motivates us to find clarity and answers where reality might be more ambiguous. As a consequence:

● we artificially exaggerate the difference between alternative options in order to create more distinction between them. Each side tries to paint themselves as all good and the alternative all bad although most of us recognize that either outcome brings costs and benefits. This leads the groups to become polarized.

● we don’t favour options where we sense the outcome is unknown or ambiguous. We tend to assume that the status quo is better. This preference works against Brexit which, to many, seems like a shot in the dark. However, we are also reminded of the risk that the EU could go in directions we can’t anticipate.

Need to be Right

We feel much happier if we believe our views are true and correct. It helps us feel good about ourselves if we can trust in our own logic and view of the world. This creates an unhelpful impetus to prove that we are indeed right:

● we actively look for and pay special attention to evidence that proves our initial theories but neglect to explore alternatives to the same degree. Modern media feeds this by allowing us to be selective of the news and commentary we read.

● however, even where new evidence is presented we maintain our views and fail to sufficiently revise them. To do otherwise would be to let chaos back in and admit that we were wrong before. How many of us are guilty of tuning out when someone starts to challenge our established beliefs.

● whatever the final outcome, we tend to assert that we always knew it would end that way; if the outcome is a positive one then whatever we did in the first place must have been the right thing to do; if the outcome is negative then it’s obvious that someone else was to blame. So don’t worry; everyone’s a winner! Your brain will make sure of that.

Need to Belong

We are by nature tribal animals and strongly driven by a need to feel accepted within a group that is distinct from other groups. But loyalties, identity and pressures of consensus are powerful forces that can bend our logic.

● we start to perceive things differently in tune with others in the group we choose. When a consensus builds it is hard for individuals to go against the tide. Group members not only feel pressure to openly agree with one another they actually do start to think the same way which strengthens their belief that they must be right.

● in spite of this, you will view your group as more rational and capable of considering a point from all sides; whereas you will see the alternative group as sharing the exact same faulty thinking as each other and being woefully subject to bias. The press in particular seems to expect that a political group share uniform views and they home in on any dissent as a sign of weakness. However, dissent is a sign of healthy thinking.

● we also want to be on the side of our friends and not of our perceived opponents. The EU referendum cuts across party politics and yet there is unease at sharing a platform with an individual you dislike or a party you normally try to dissociate yourself from; even though you might want similar outcomes. It takes a brave Corbynite to stand alongside Nigel Farage.

● critically we are being challenged to define which group we do belong to: cosy middle England; the diverse legacy of a British Commonwealth; or a trans-European melting pot. The reality might be all 3 but forces pull our loyalties in particular directions that are then embodied in preferential trade agreements or deals on free movement. Your own group identity will undoubtedly shape your attitudes to the debate.

Reward versus Risk

When choosing between options, we must make complex judgments between the probability of reward against the potential risk of losses. Our ability to weigh up the significance of these is often flawed and leads us to make decisions that do not deliver the best utility in the long term.

● we have a much stronger preference for options that will make life better now rather than ones that will help us further down the line; it is hard for us to imagine the future and the benefits of long term options can feel too abstract and remote to take a gamble on. Brexit has a tough job convincing people that change will be worth the short-term pain for something better in long term.

● if we have already invested a lot in an idea or project, we are more inclined to carry on investing in it regardless of how successful that investment is. We find it hard to abandon our earlier investment and walk away. The EU has been an enormous investment which our friends and neighbours across the continent have put their life savings into too. How hard would it be for us to sell out now even if that was the right thing to do?

● if we consider the possible outcomes to be relatively positive we will act in a way that is risk averse. However, if we perceive the possible outcomes to be relatively negative we will act more boldly and take a greater risk in order to avoid those negative consequences. If this is true perhaps the Remain camp should be emphasizing a generally positive picture of the future to lure people into preserving the status quo, and allowing Brexit to focus on prophecies of doom.

Limits in Attention and Memory

Even if we try to control all these biases, our brains have limited ability to perceive, process and remember information. We have therefore evolved to pay attention to and remember whatever information is deemed to be most important.

● Negative information that signals risks will be regarded as more important than good news and you will give it more salience in your decision making. There is a reason why everyone is trying to scare us (and ignoring the last point above).

● We can get so focussed on one issue that we regard as important that we lose sight of a multitude of other issues that collectively carry as much weight. This issue might well be one that you have anchored your opinions to from the outset. The central issue for you might be financial wealth; or democratic control. We don’t like it when people confuse us by talking about farming subsidies or the NHS or mobile phone tarrifs. So more likely than not we tune those messages out and hang on to the one thing that stood out from the start.

● if we hear something often enough we start to believe it as fact. There is an illusion of truth simply because it sounds familiar. Politicians need not worry too much about proving their statistics. They just need to keep repeating them.

Managing Bias

One thing is for certain; the more you know about how you think, the less you think you know about anything.

We have a huge blind spot to our own biases. In spite of all the evidence of the flaws in our decision-making, we continue to fool ourselves that it is only other people who are subjective. In fact, the more you pride yourself on your track record of making morally balanced judgments, the greater the risk of you being biased in the future. You should always continue to question your own thinking.

Of course, you might be wise to the ways that others try to influence you and attempt to maintain a cynical attitude to their arguments. Sadly, again, this could put you at greater risk of bias. Sensing that others are trying to control or coerce you may provoke a subconscious reaction to do the direct opposite and exercise your sense of freedom.

Whilst you teeter on the fence a little longer, gathering views and opinions, a key challenge is which experts to trust. We have good reason to question the motives of business leaders and politicians. However, if we discount everyone’s views then what are we left with?

Anyone want to flip a coin?

To read more of Laura Haycock's blogs on performance management and and other related business psychology topics, click here.

Role models are important. Having contact with someone who shows what is possible, makes it more likely an individual will follow a similar path by:

● increasing their motivation to do the same,

● providing useful knowledge and support in how to do it, and also, importantly,

● by raising a person’s level of belief that they can do it too; their self-efficacy.

This seems to be particularly important, however, for women, who might not otherwise imagine themselves following a particular path themselves. Seeing other women succeed, in spite of any gender-related obstacles, increases young women’s own self-belief and makes them more likely to follow their own dreams and aspirations and fulfill their potential.

All people benefit from role models. For example, Buunk et al (Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2007) showed that final year students presented with an interview of a successful graduate in the job market had a higher degree of aspiration and proactive career behaviour as a result. However, others have found that exposure to positive role models had a particularly strong impact on women and such patterns can be seen at different life stages and in different cross cultural contexts.

Example studies:

● Barnir, Watson and Hutchins (Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2011) found that contact with entrepreneurs (male or female) had a particularly strong impact on women’s own entrepreneurial self-efficacy and consequently their intention to become an entrepreneur themselves.

● Lockwood (Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2006) found that women are particularly inspired by female career role models, whilst for men the gender of the role model was less significant; after reading a fictional account about an outstanding female professional, female students rated themselves more positively than if the article had been written about a man.

● The presence of a female role model can impact performance as well as aspirational drive. Latu et al (Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2013) observed that female students, when asked to give a presentation spoke less and to a lower rated quality compared to male students, unless, there was a picture of a female role model (Angela Merkel or Hilary Clinton) posted at the back of the room in which case the gender difference disappeared.

● Seeing a girl succeed in maths is more likely to inspire other girls and help them improve their performance, unless it is made clear that the role model’s success had been contingent on hard work rather than natural ability in which case girls were equally inspired by both male and female role models (Bages and Martinet, British Journal of Social Psychology, 2011).

● In India, girls who grew up in a village where there had been a female leader in the local council were more likely to achieve the same educational attainment as the boys and spend less time on household chores, in spite of comparable labour markets (Beaman et al, Science, 2012).

Role models can be found anywhere, but mothers play a particularly crucial role. Research has shown that having a mother who has pursued further education or a career inspires their daughters to stay in education longer, to set higher career goals and to persist in those careers longer, ultimately achieving greater success. The sons of working mothers, meanwhile, are also more likely to share family caring, presumably as they have experienced this within their own family dynamic (McGinn et al, Working Paper, 2015). Many women might themselves choose to combine work with family and here too having a role model is crucial. For example, seeing particular individuals who have themselves progressed to senior positions whilst working part time (Durbin and Tomlinson, Gender Work and Organization, 2014).

Whatever a woman’s career choices, it is clear that role models have a powerful impact. The more that schools and employers can do to demonstrate what is possible, the more likely it is that women will see a diverse range of career opportunities as being available and possible for them. This means bringing attention to real women who have become doctors or engineers or business leaders (in addition to those in more traditional female roles and careers); showing how success has been the result of hard work rather than due to a gift or privilege (and therefore something anyone could potentially achieve); and also showing how these individuals might have done this without excessively compromising on their own personal family goals whatever those might be.

To read more of Laura Haycock's blogs on performance management and and other related business psychology topics, click here.

In December 2013 an advertising copywriter in Indonesia was said to have ‘literally worked herself to death’ after her punishing work schedule left her totally exhausted.

The story of Mita Duran was told during a symposium organised by Altruth McDowell on work-life balance and well-being at the Division of Occupational Psychology conference in Nottingham.

This symposium looked at the impact technology is having on our lives, both positively and negatively and I’ll highlight some of the key points.

Firstly though it’s worthwhile pointing out that the enormous computing capability that we all carry around with us has bought manifest opportunities to work more collaboratively and flexibly than ever.

However, the blurring of the lines between work and home life means that the concept of “downtime” may have bitten the dust. We are all on call, potentially, all of the time. In the research carried out, people blamed the ‘culture’ of the team and the expectations of others. What became apparent is that we may be the ones who are primarily responsible. We all contribute to the team culture and by our apparent willingness to respond to emails at any time of the day we perpetuate the very thing we are criticising.

Even when people have drawn up agreements with family members not to do work emails whilst at home, it appears that many of us can’t resist taking a peek when no-one else is around.

Organisations tend not to have policies or guidance around this-it's assumed we should all know how to deal with it. Many people, in fact, assume that their colleagues deal with work-life conflict better than them which can lead to not wanting to admit the struggle they have controlling how much work they do in their leisure time.

Having said that, a one size fits all policy isn’t the solution, as each of us has our own preferred way of working. Instead we need a framework to help us decide what works for each individual. Above all, teams need to talk about this to establish a set of group norms, agreed and monitored by everybody.

To read more of Binna Kandola's blogs on diversity and and other related business psychology topics, click here.

As we embark on a new year, many of us will be setting goals and aiming to improve ourselves in some way; reflecting on the year that has gone, with a gnawing sense that we “could do better”.

We know that goal setting can be helpful in supporting achievement and, in turn, the achievement of our goals can give us a sense of success. However, repetitive striving towards something better is risky. Fuelling a perfectionist attitude can actually lead to a loss of motivation and proactivity unless a more adaptive approach is practised.

Multiple demands

I know that I could be thinner, fitter, better dressed and healthier; I could be a better parent, neighbour and friend; I could be more socially responsible and ‘green’; not to mention more popular, famous, wealthy and respected. On top of that we all want to get the best exam results, performance review or job that we possibly can. The pressures to be successful are diverse and pervasive. They are fuelled by self-help books, social media and cultural expectation which externally define what we all could and should be. And underlying all this is the belief that by achieving these goals we will be happier.

In a competitive world we have been brought up to strive to meet these expectations placed upon us and constantly achieve more. However, this approach can feed a sense of insecurity and of never being good enough. Rather than making us happy, this pattern of thinking drags us down. The effect of this constant pressure is taking particular toll on younger people with dramatic rises in anxiety, depression and eating disorders. In reality, it isn’t possible to be the best you can be in every different measure of success. There are only 24 hours in each day and we must budget our time to focus on the things that matter most. So the perfectionist in us is already doomed to fail.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

Striving for perfection

A person’s degree of achievement orientation is a powerful driver to their need to set and work towards goals. And the perfectionist will make these goals more challenging and of a higher standard. These personality traits can lead to higher actual achievement as they motivate the person to work harder towards their goals. However, satisfaction is often short lived as the goal becomes replaced with another more challenging one. Further there is a risk in defining success purely in terms of the accolade achieved. For someone with these characteristics, the failure to achieve a goal is likely to lead to feelings of shame and guilt. Such negative emotions ultimately become a deterrent for the perfectionist to take risks or to try something that they are not confident they will “succeed” at. Warning signs of unhelpful perfectionism include:

● Procrastination – finding it hard to start owing to fear of failure

● Being highly critical of others as well as yourself

● Emotional outbursts when things go wrong

● Catastrophising after negative feedback e.g. “I’m not good enough”

● Understanding “average” as meaning failure

● Being overly concerned with what others think

● Cycle of dread (of potential failure) and relief (rather than satisfaction with success)

Adding fuel to the fire

There are things we do that feed this perfectionist attitude. Educationalists have found that measuring success purely in terms of test results and congratulating students for high scores, in the long run becomes counterproductive. Using this approach, those who expect to achieve and be recognised for high scores, become afraid to test their boundaries and are more likely to give up when the questions get tough. They find it hard to deal with failure. At the same time those who cannot hope to get a high score and receive recognition may never choose to try in the first place. This is called the “performance approach” to encouraging achievement. We see this performance approach in other spheres. In the home, parents are encouraged to take particular care in over-emphasising achievement and giving attention only when a child “does well”. If a child does not believe they are valuable and loved in their own right just for being them, then the emotional reward from an achievement becomes empty and short-lived. Similar patterns exist in the workplace where we know that, over and above pay rises and bonuses and measurement against targets, what creates the best engagement is feeling valued and receiving personal consideration from a manager.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

Running your own race

More useful is a “mastery approach” to encouraging achievement. If teachers recognise and reward the effort that students put into their work and the perseverance they show when things get tough; the result is everyone feels better about the outcome and feels good about the experience of being tested to the limit. Using this approach, maths teachers will see students “have a go” more readily, try longer and progress to harder questions over time than if they reward test scores alone.

By shifting the emphasis towards effort rather than results, we create a more “adaptive” perfectionism. This is perhaps most brilliantly enshrined within Paralympic sports where we celebrate triumph over personal challenge more than who was overall the fastest or strongest. The shift in focus benefits us all as we are encouraged to also run our own individual race.

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” Booker T. Washington

The route to true success

Giving up on perfectionism does not mean giving up on achievement. It’s about turning your definition of achievement on its head. This will help you to find a sense of satisfaction that is more lasting and significant. It will make it more likely that you try in the first place, and more likely that you stick to your goal and ultimately more likely you will rise to higher standards of achievement.

● Value yourself and what makes you unique and special. You don’t have to win to be worthwhile and good

● Be authentic. Invest time and attention on a goal that holds meaning or value for you alone

● Focus on how you cope with challenge and sustain improvement rather than seeing success as a specific outcome

● Be prepared to start, to experiment, to take risks and get it wrong

● Let go of the need to achieve in other arenas – no-one can win at everything

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Maya Angelou

To read more of Laura Haycock's blogs on performance management and and other related business psychology topics, click here.

We’ve all made the mistake of going shopping when we’re hungry, so we all know what happens: our trolleys get filled with unhealthy treats that we don’t really need, but that we want now, while we forget to stock up on the essentials that we’re going to need for the rest of the week. Even when we know it will make us feel guilty, we do this because of a little thing called ‘projection bias’, which happens when our desire for short-term gratification overrides our longer-term needs. It’s a major barrier to making strategic long-term plans, because it can make it difficult to identify what we’re going to need in the future.

Overcoming projection bias

In this example, it’s easy enough to overcome projection bias - we try in future not to shop when we’re hungry. But there’s a bit more to it than that. We need to be able to form a vision of the future - of our future needs - in a way not influenced by what we’re feeling at the moment.
This applies to more important decisions than what we need to buy at the supermarket. For example, it could mean the difference between a successful business plan and an unsuccessful one, or it could mean that your team reshuffle doesn’t work in the long-run. Any kind of decision or project that will have long-term ramifications needs a strategic approach to make it work - and there’s no room for projection bias when it comes to strategic thinking and planning.

Developing the vision to see your goals fulfilled

We’ve devised a tool that is designed to help you build strategic, realistic long-term goals without succumbing to the influence of biases, available in the iLEAD Tools: Thought Leadership book. It centres around the six core elements needed for goal-planning to be successful, and they go by the acronym “V-SPORT”, which stands for:

● Vision - the focus of your strategy - your end goal

● Stakeholders - who needs to be involved? It could be key customers, investors, or anyone else whose support is critical, and whom you’ll need to keep informed throughout.

● Priorities - having a clear idea of which actions are most important will allow you to make the right decisions if or when time and resources become stretched.

● Opportunities - what do you, and others, stand to gain from the completion of your goal? Will you be able to delegate anything, and if so, what benefits will this bring to those to whom you delegate?

● Risks - what could stop your project from being successful? How can you avoid or manage these risks?

● Timelines - what time and resources are needed to achieve your goal? Flexibility is key when it comes to timings, as you’ll need to be able to accommodate potential future changes, such as new developments in your competitors’ activity.

Within each of these areas, the ‘How to develop strategic long term goals’ tool helps you work through the questions you need to consider in order to achieve your goals. It includes a Strategic Goal Setting Checklist tool, which will help you to make sure that you cover everything and is broken down into sections corresponding with each part of the ‘V-SPORT’ acronym, starting with writing down your vision and taking you right through to fitting your goal in with wider objectives and forecasting future change.

Where do your strengths lie?

Similarly organised is the V-SPORT Self-Analysis Checklist. This allows you to flag up any areas where you may require additional support, and you complete it using a “red, amber, green” answer system to indicate which aspects of V-SPORT you can complete easily and which are likely to be harder to achieve. A simple two-step process will enable you to calculate your results, which will tell you where your strengths lie as well as areas where development may be needed. After this, your answers to a series of questions provided in the tool will help you formulate a plan to achieve your goal.

So what’s stopping you?

If you’ve followed all the steps in the iLEAD Tool so far and you’re still having problems, it could be because you’ve come up against a common barrier to success. To help you get past it, we’ve also included in this tool a reference guide to the most common barriers to success and what you need to do to overcome them. A particularly common one, for instance, is that the goal you’ve set yourself is too big and complicated, and it seems impossible to understand how to go about achieving it. With practical guidance from the iLEAD Tool, you’ll be able to work past this problem. For example, you’ll understand the need to make each milestone as specific as possible.

What happens next?

Having worked your way through the resources provided in the ‘How to develop strategic long term goals’ tool, you’ll be in a much stronger position to set goals in a strategic, considered way, maximising your chances of successfully fulfilling your objectives. The tool also includes a section on the next steps to help you put your plan into action, including advice on gathering feedback that could provide you with valuable insights on your strengths and areas for development.

For more information on how to put this knowledge to effective use, read the ‘How to take responsibility’ tool in the iLEAD™ Task Leadership book.

Shortlisted for the Chartered Management Institute Management Book of the Year Award 2016, iLEAD™ Tools provide you with the advice and practical resources to enable you to develop your task, people and thought leadership skills. By gaining a better understanding of leadership and learning how to lead, from how to communicate your vision to how to make ethical decisions, you will become a better and more effective leader and create stronger and more successful teams.

To read more of Mike Idziaszczyk's blogs, click here.

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