FEEDBACK & Are You Sugarcoating Your Feedback Without Realizing It? Research Says Do These 4 Things Instead.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I tell my church growth and health clients that I will be brutally honest with them and they must be prepared for direct and non-sugarcoated feedback. If they’re not willing to receive such feedback, then I can’t take them as a client. That is because I’ve learned over the years that without clear and honest feedback clients will misinterpret the severity of the situation. Below is research that explains the illusion of transparency bias.

Are You Sugarcoating Your Feedback Without Realizing It?

by Michael Schaerer and Roderick Swaab, Harvard Business Review, 10/8/19.

… Managers tend to inflate the feedback they give to their direct reports, particularly when giving bad news. And by presenting subpar performance more positively than they should, managers make it impossible for employees to learn, damaging their careers and, often, the company.

Previous research into this kind of feedback inflation has centered on the idea that managers deliberately sugarcoat tough messages for fear of retaliation, or to protect their employees from feeling bad about themselves. But our research shows that many managers deliver inflated feedback unintentionally, and in fact think they’ve been much more clear than is the case. These findings point to some simple ways to improve how managers impart criticism.

We believe that managers’ assumption that their direct reports understand what they mean is due to a common cognitive bias called the illusion of transparency, in which people are so focused on their own intense feelings and intentions that they overestimate the extent to which their inner worlds come across to others. As a result their words may be too vague to convey their true intent. The illusion of transparency is one of the most commoncauses of misunderstandings when we communicate with others…

What to Do About It

While it can be helpful to become aware of unintentional behaviors, overcoming them is notoriously difficult. Our research points to several ways to combat the illusion of transparency.

First, increase the frequency of feedback. As a manager, you can augment your annual appraisals with continuous reminders, ongoing training, and structured weekly or monthly “pulse checks” to break the discomfort that may be preventing you from communicating more clearly. Research has found that giving feedback more frequently makes feedback more accurate. This repetition will also help reinforce your message.

Firms should also promote a culture that encourages employees to request more candid feedback from their managers prior to appraisals. Failing that, firms can institute a formal process obligating them to do so.

… Ultimately, clarity and specificity of language are managers’ best tools. Use clear language and avoid phrases that could obscure your meaning. One phrase to avoid, for example, is “a real possibility,” which people interpret as conveying a likelihood of anywhere from 20%–80%. Also, ask your employee to paraphrase what you’ve told them to make sure they fully understand your message. Managers also need to actively encourage employees to tell them how they see their own performance. As a manager, ask open-ended questions like, “What am I not seeing here? What may I be overlooking?”

Employees themselves can dispel many incorrect assumptions by asking questions, or by requesting that managers use precise, explicit terms when delivering feedback. If your manager doesn’t ask you to rearticulate what they’ve told you, try using statements that begin, “So if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying…”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2019/10/are-you-sugarcoating-your-feedback-without-realizing-it?

CONFLICT AVOIDANCE & Why It Is Under-Management (the Flip Side of Micromanagement) and a Problem Too.

by Victor Lipman, Harvard Business Review, 11/8/18.

Micromanagement gets most of the attention, but under-management may be just as big a problem.

This is the term I’ve given to a constellation of behaviors that I’ve seen occurring together often during my 24 years in management: weak performance management, a tendency to avoid conflicts with employees, and generally lackluster accountability. As the name suggests, there’s just not quite enough management being done—and results often suffer as a result. But under-management can often fly under the radar because the managers who have these tendencies aren’t necessarily incompetent; on the contrary, they often know their business well, are good collaborators, and are well-liked.

Don’t be a conflict-avoider. Let’s start with the handling of conflict. Early in my management career I was fortunate to have a mentor who took me aside and told me straight-out that if I was going to succeed in management, I needed to become more effective in my handling of conflict. I still remember his exact words. He praised my abilities (my knowledge of our business and my work ethic), but added, “Frankly, I don’t know if you want to handle conflict. I don’t know if you have the stomach for it.” I realized that if I was going to be successful in management, this was a problem area and I was going to have to work on it. So I did — diligently. I became highly conscious of conflict and not ducking it. Truth be told I still don’t like dealing with conflict (most people don’t), but I recognized it was a vital part of the management role and over time I became more comfortable with it and competent at it.

View goal-setting as mission-critical. If you’re not delivering the results you need to, which is the risk at the heart of under-management, first make sure the goals your employees need to achieve are well-conceived and clear. Most managers don’t spend nearly enough time on goal setting; too often we approach it as a nettlesome bureaucratic exercise (why is Human Resources torturing me this way, making me fill out these endless forms?). But thoughtful goals that are agreed to by employees can be a manager’s best friend because you can manage to them: they become a roadmap to guide your work with your team all year…

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2018/11/under-management-is-the-flip-side-of-micromanagement-and-its-a-problem-too

PREACHING & Research confirms we usually talk too long. What does this means for sermon length?

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In almost 30 years of consulting hundreds of churches, the one weakness that recurs most often is that the sermon is slightly too long (I’ve estimated by about 20%). Subsequently, in my own life I’ve kept my sermons shorter than people anticipate (and usually people seem to appreciate this – but this of course could be because of the speaker 😉

Therefore I found it interesting that a Harvard study found that most people spend too long in a conversation. Here is some key takeaways from the article.

“Want to be a master conversationalist? Harvard Research says you have to fix this first”

by Wanda Thibodeaux, Harvard Business Review 12/5/18.

In a study by Adam Mastroianni and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University, 133 participants were paired up and given a simple job–just talk to each other for any amount of time up to 45 minutes. They could decide for themselves when to stop, and when the conversations were over, the researchers hit them with a few questions.

The results showed that just 15 percent of people in the study left the conversation when they actually wanted to. About half of the participants wanted the conversation to end sooner, and about half wanted it to keep going longer. On average, the desired length of the conversation differed from what actually happened by 46 percent. Lastly, when participants had to guess whether their partner wanted to leave, they were right only 63 percent of the time. They thought it was only six minutes from when they wanted to leave to when their partner wanted to call it quits, when in reality it was 13 minutes.

The conclusion from the study was that, even while we might have a grasp of how much conversation we want, we’re not very good at all about judging how much others want. We also tend not to know that we’re off the mark.

So what does all this mean for you as a communicator?

Simply put, you probably don’t really know when to stop talking, and your conversation partner probably doesn’t, either. … This, of course, means you have to understand what some of those cues even are. Signals that a person might want to politely head for the door are:

  • fidgeting…
  • acting distracted (e.g., looking at their watch, checking their phone)…
  • lack of eye contact.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/wanda-thibodeaux/want-to-be-a-master-conversationalist-harvard-research-says-you-have-to-fix-this-first.html

AGILE AT SCALE & Its 3 Laws Explained + 10 Agile Axioms That Make Leaders Anxious (and they should!)

by Steve Denning, Forbes Magazine, 6/17/18. 

If at first an idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it. —Albert Einstein

In June 2018,  a time when “Agile at Scale” is emblazoned on the front cover of Harvard Business Review (read the original “Agile at Scale” HBR article here), the management journal with quasi-papal status, the era when managers could confidently ridicule agile management practices is fading fast. Instead, most managers have themselves grasped the need to be agile: a recent Deloitte survey of more than 10,000 business and HR leaders across 140 countries revealed that nearly all surveyed respondents (94%) report that “agility and collaboration” are critical to their organization’s success. Yet only 6% say that they are “highly agile today.” So, what’s the problem? Why the 88% gap between aspiration and actuality.

…The three Laws of Agile are simple—first, an obsession with continuously adding more value for customers; second, small teams working on small tasks in short iterative work cycles delivering value to customers; and third, coordinating work in a fluid, interactive network.

…The Laws of Agile are simple but their implementation is often difficult. That’s in part because they are at odds with some of the basic assumptions and attitudes that have prevailed in managing large organizations for at least a century. For example, Agile makes more money by not focusing on making money. In Agile, control is enhanced by letting go of control. Agile leaders act more like gardeners than commanders. And that’s just the beginning.

For the traditional manager, counter-intuitive ideas like these abound. This is not the way people say big firms are run. This is not by and large what business schools teach…

First Law Of Agile: The Law Of The Customer

  1. Firms Make More Money By Not Focusing On Making Money

For several millennia, the notion that businesses exist to make money was seen as one of the immutable truths of the universe. Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, wrote in his article in the New York Times on September 13, 1970 that any business executives who pursued a goal other than making money for their firm were “unwitting pup­pets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.” Today, many public companies embrace maximizing shareholder value as their main goal, even though Jack Welch and many others have called it “the dumbest idea in the world.”

A growing number of companies have chosen a different goal. They have accepted Peter Drucker’s 1954 dictum that “there is only one valid purpose of a firm: to create a customer.” When delighting their customers through continuous innovation becomes the bottom line, making money is the result, not the goal, of the firm’s activities.

The interesting thing is that when firms operate this way, they make a lot more money than companies that focus directly on making money, including the five largest and fastest growing firms on the planet (by market cap): Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, now worth over $2 trillion. It involves a shift from a focus on inanimate things (money, products outputs) to a focus on people (human outcomes, experiences, impact)

Yet let’s face it: setting aside what many still see as an immutable truths of the universe doesn’t come easily.

  1. There Are No Internal Customers

It’s common in many big bureaucracies to talk of internal customers. One unit services another unit and regards the other unit as its internal customer, who in due course becomes a producer for the ultimate customer or end-user. …

In Agile management, there is no such thing as an “internal customer.” The only purpose of work is the ultimate customer or end-user. Under the Law of the Customer, the original producers not only meet the needs the internal customers: they are given a clear line of sight as to what value is being provided for the ultimate customer. Satisfying so-called internal customers is merely feeding the bureaucratic beast. It is a pretend-version of Agile.

  1. There Are No B2B Organizations

The situation is the same when a firm is providing products or services to another firm which acts as an intermediary for ultimate end user. The customers are the end-users who ultimately experience the products and services. Merely satisfying the needs of the intermediary is not enough for sustainability…

Similarly, Microsoft for many years saw the customers of its Windows program as the big retailers like Dell and HP. More recently, they have come to realize that their customer is really the end-user, not these intermediaries: there is now an immense effort to reach out to, undestand and interact with these millions of end-users.

  1. Making Better Products May Not Make More Money

Making products better, faster cheaper, more convenient or more personalized is a good thing. But in a marketplace where competitors are often quick to match improvements to existing products and services and where power in the marketplace has decisively shifted to customers, it can be difficult for firms to monetize those improvements. Amid intense competition, customers with choices and access to reliable information are frequently able to demand that quality improvements be forthcoming at no cost, or even lower cost.

Making better products through operational Agility is an increasingly-necessary foundation for the survival of a firm. But it’s not enough for the firm to thrive. To make a lot of money, the company has to go further. It has to delight non-customers—those who are not already customers. That’s because there are usually vastly more non-customers than customers. They are non-customers for a reason: their needs are not being met. If the company can find a way to meet their needs, then a whole vast new ocean of potential customers opens up, in which there is usually very little competition. If the firm can appeal to both customers and non-customers, it can make a great deal of money. “Instead of being slightly better than everybody else in a crowded and established field, it’s often more valuable to create a new market and totally dominate it,” writes David Brooks in the New York Times. “The profit margins are much bigger, and the value to society is often bigger, too.”

The Second Law Of Agile: The Law Of The Small Teams

   5.  Forget Economies of Scale: Your Market Is One Person

The 20th Century firm tended to be focused on generic products to achieve economies of scale. By contrast, Agile is about generating instant, intimate, frictionless incremental value at scale. That’s the new performance requirement. When firms do this, as shown by the experience of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google they make a great deal of money.

Thus Agile organizations focus on providing intimate value, with an effective “market of one”, i.e. a level of customization and customer service at which a customer feels that he or she is an exclusive or preferred customer of the firm. For example, search engines are used by billions of people every day across the globe. However, each user gets customized search results based on their locations and refer to places nearby, weather forecast, or traffic condition…

  1. Don’t Scale Up: Descale Complexity Down

A key Agile theme concerns descaling work, i.e. a presumption that in a volatile, complex, uncertain and ambiguous world, big difficult problems need to be disaggregated into small batches and performed by small cross-functional autonomous teams, working iteratively in short cycles in a state of flow, with fast feedback from customers and end-users…

Instead of constructing a big complex organization to handle complexity, the organization disaggregates the problem into tiny pieces so that it can be put together in minuscule increments and adjusted in the light of new, and rapidly changing, information about both the technology and the customer…

  1. Control Is Enhanced By Letting Go Of Control.

In Agile management, there’s a presumption that in a volatile, rapidly changing world, big difficult problems should—to the extent possible—be disaggregated into small batches and performed by small self-organizing teams. The thought of self-organizing teams tends to make managers worry about losing control. What they need to understand is that they are giving up the illusion of control, rather than actual control. In a complex, rapidly changing environment, explicit efforts to impose control and predictability are doomed. Detailed reports may create the semblance of control, but the reality is often very different from what is in those reports.

The solution to reconciling disciplined execution and innovation lies in giving greater freedom to those people doing the work to exercise their talents and creativity, but doing so within short cycles so that those doing the work can themselves see whether they are making progress or not.

  1. Agile Is A Mindset, Not A Process

Traditional managers typically approach Agile saying, “Show me the process so that I can implement it.” The problem is that Agile is a mindset, not a process. If it is approached as a process with the old mindset, nothing good happens.

But surely, people ask, there must be some model that we can follow. There is much allure for instance in the Spotify model as presented in the charming videos prepared by Henrik Nyberg. So there is a cry: “Let’s implement the Spotify model!”  There’s just one problem: as former Spotify coach, Joakim Sundén, often explains, not even Spotify implements the Spotify model. For one thing, the videos are several years old. Second, Spotify continues to rapidly evolve and improve its model. In a pair of visits in 2016, we noticed significant differences even within a period of several months.

  1. Talent Drives Strategy, Not Vice Versa

“The central premise of a talent-driven company is that talent drives strategy, as opposed to strategy being dictated to talent.,” says the book, Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First (HBRP, 2018) by Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of McKinsey & Company, and his colleagues Dennis Carey and Ram Charan, “The wrong talent inevitably produces the wrong strategy, and fails to deliver. Numbers like sales and earnings are the result of placing the right people in the right jobs where their talents flourish and they can create value that ultimately shows up in the numbers.”

The Third Law Of Agile: The Law Of The Network

    9. The Top-Down Organizational Pyramid Is Finished

Success in today’s marketplace requires nimbleness, flexibility, adaptability and agility—everything that the 20th Century corporation was not. These firms were built for strength, with high walls and moats for the defense of the status quo. Their very raison d’être was to prevent change.

Turning a top-down pyramid into a flexible network is tricky. At the heart of 20th Century management thinking is the notion of a corporation as an efficient steady-state machine aimed at exploiting its existing business model. “Traditional, MBA-style thinking,” as Google executives, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, write in their book, How Google Works, “dictates that you build up a sustainable competitive advantage over rivals and then close the fortress and defend it with boiling oil and flaming arrows.”

By contrast, when the whole organization truly embraces Agile, the organization is an organic living network of high-performance teams. In these organizations, managers recognize that competence resides throughout the organization and that innovation can come from anywhere. The whole organization, including the top, is obsessed with delivering more value to customers. Agile teams take initiative on their own and interact with other Agile teams to solve common problems. In effect, the whole organization shares a common mindset in which organization is viewed and operated as a network of high-performance teams.

  1. Lead Like A Gardener, Not A Commander

In Team of Teams, by General Stanley McChrystal and his colleagues (2015, Penguin Publishing Group), McChrystal explains had to unlearn what it means to be a leader. A great deal of what he thought he knew about how the world worked and his role as a commander had to be discarded.

I began to view effective leadership in the new environment as more akin to gardening than chess,” he writes. “The move-by-move control that seemed natural to military operations proved less effective than nurturing the organization— its structure, processes, and culture— to enable the subordinate components to function with ‘smart autonomy.’ It wasn’t total autonomy, because the efforts of every part of the team were tightly linked to a common concept for the fight, but it allowed those forces to be enabled with a constant flow of ‘shared consciousness’ from across the force, and it freed them to execute actions in pursuit of the overall strategy as best they saw fit. Within our Task Force, as in a garden, the outcome was less dependent on the initial planting than on consistent maintenance. Watering, weeding, and protecting plants from rabbits and disease are essential for success. The gardener cannot actually ‘grow’ tomatoes, squash, or beans— she can only foster an environment in which the plants do so.”

Read more at … https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2018/06/17/ten-agile-axioms-that-make-managers-anxious/#51ae8abc4619

And read also:

HBR Embraces Agile At Scale

Explaining Agile

Why Agile Is Eating The World

#Dmin

DELEGATION & How to Politely Turn Down Your Boss’s Request for Additional Work

6C544504-CC13-49EB-B359-63C14CE16938
Read more at … https://www.hbrascend.in/topics/politely-turn-bosss-request-additional-work/

PREACHING & The Surprising Power of Asking Questions #OrganicChurchBook #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When researching my Abingdon Press book, “Inside the organic church,” I found growing young churches often have sermons in which the audience is asked to respond to the preacher with live questions. Traditionalists usually found this worrisome, because they feared losing control of the learning experience. But research cited in this Harvard Business Review article demonstrates that asking questions deepens learning.  Not surprisingly, I practice questioning of my listeners in my courses, seminars and even sermons.

by Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2018.

“Be a good listener,” Dale Carnegie advised in his 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. “Ask questions the other person will enjoy answering.” More than 80 years later, most people still fail to heed Carnegie’s sage advice. When one of us (Alison) began studying conversations at Harvard Business School several years ago, she quickly arrived at a foundational insight: People don’t ask enough questions. In fact, among the most common complaints people make after having a conversation, such as an interview, a first date, or a work meeting, is “I wish [s/he] had asked me more questions” and “I can’t believe [s/he] didn’t ask me any questions.”

…Dating back to the 1970s, research suggests that people have conversations to accomplish some combination of two major goals: information exchange (learning) and impression management (liking). Recent research shows that asking questions achieves both.

… Not all questions are created equal. Alison’s research, using human coding and machine learning, revealed four types of questions: introductory questions (“How are you?”), mirror questions (“I’m fine. How are you?”), full-switch questions (ones that change the topic entirely), and follow-up questions (ones that solicit more information). Although each type is abundant in natural conversation, follow-up questions seem to have special power. They signal to your conversation partner that you are listening, care, and want to know more. People interacting with a partner who asks lots of follow-up questions tend to feel respected and heard.

An unexpected benefit of follow-up questions is that they don’t require much thought or preparation—indeed, they seem to come naturally to interlocutors. In Alison’s studies, the people who were told to ask more questions used more follow-up questions than any other type without being instructed to do so.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2018/05/the-surprising-power-of-questions

TRANSITIONS & What to do when people beat a path to a new pastor’s door w/ new ideas

by Ron Carucci, Harvard Business Review, 8/8/17.

A 10-year longitudinal study on executive transitions that my organization conducted found that more than 50% of executives who inherit a mess fail within their first 18 months on the job… there are six things the most effective leaders do to avoid failing in a new role…

Know the fine line between self-promotion and real help. Fearing for their very survival, people in a damaged organization will campaign at great lengths to prove their worth. My client had people beating paths to her door with ideas that had languished unheard. They were eager to offer their support, and even more eager to be seen as key players in the future she was constructing. In one debrief, she vented to me, “On one hand, some of the elements of their ideas are really good. On the other hand, they are so invested in convincing me how indispensable they are that they’ve lost objectivity about what is and isn’t feasible.” She felt obligated to hear their ideas but reluctant to offer critique, for fear of appearing not open to any ideas but her own. She knew she couldn’t symbolically accept ideas just to look like she’d listened, nor could she be the only one whose substantive ideas prevailed. She created a process of full transparency that allowed ideas to be judged on the merits of their potential impact, not on who brought them. Together, the team created a set of criteria that future solutions needed to meet, and all ideas were presented to the entire team, not just her. Further, she made it safe for each presenter to disclose any personal agenda about why they wanted their ideas adopted and what fears they had about their ideas not prevailing. She asked them to “honestly assess your idea as if you had no fears about job security.” Not only did this accelerate trust among them, it also allowed the best ideas to prevail…

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2017/08/leading-effectively-when-you-inherit-a-mess