Posts Tagged ‘Harvard Business Review’

Powerful Listening Wins Employee Engagement

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Listening Ear

When you hear the word “communication,” what do you think of first: speaking, or listening? My hunch is that most of us think of speaking. In our hyper-busy, 24/7 culture, in fact, the “art” of listening–truly listening in a focused, intentional way–has been lost. It may sound like an oxymoron, but there is power in the ability to listen.

In fact, listening is an absolutely essential skill for leaders to develop. According to a recent Gallup poll, 63% of the global workforce is not engaged, and that translates into a waste of half a trillion dollars! And listening is one of the most powerful ways to engage employees, writes Greg McKeown in a wonderful article in “Harvard Business Review”. Unfortunately, leaders, like most of us, tend to focus on the messages they need to convey and forget that they need to listen to their employees.

By listening carefully to the people in their organizations on a regular basis, leaders will learn invaluable information:

  • what’s on employees’ and customers’ minds
  • what employees most want from their leaders
  • what employees most need from their leaders

What can be done to close the communication gap between leaders and their employees? McKeown suggests adapting a listening process used by the Quakers called the “Clearness Committee.” He describes in some detail how the process works and acknowledges that few companies would have time to invest in it.

But McKeown says the business world can adapt the process this way: “When one of your team members comes to you with a particular challenge, you can ask her questions to define what the real dilemma is, instead of jumping in with premature, well-intended solutions that actually miss the mark”….and you can increase the ratio of listening to speaking by asking questions.

He suggests spending at least 50% of any conversation actively listening to the other person speak. “The bottom line is this: if you want to engage your employees at a whole new level, if you want to become a person of greater influence, and if you want to discover a new kind of power — listen.”

Even Data Scientists Need to Tell Stories

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

data-analysis-cartoon-1Two data scientists acknowledged in a recent blog post that even they need to sharpen their storytelling skills rather than thinking it’s enough to keep on cranking out data. They also urged their colleagues to recognize not just the power of storytelling, but also the need to tell stories to give their data meaning.

Writing on the “Harvard Business Review” blog, Jeff Bladt and Bob Filbin of www.DoSomething.org explain that there’s a good reason many people immediately think “Big Brother” when they hear the term “Big Data.” While computers can do a lot–and keep on cranking out reports and numbers 24/7–people intuitively know that their core needs as human beings can’t be quantified or fulfilled by a machine. So the more computers are able to do and asked to do, the more anxious people become.

“As the cost of collecting and storing data continues to decrease,”Bladt and Filbin write, “the volume of raw data an organization has available can be overwhelming. Of all the data in existence, 90% was created in the last 2 years.” Yes, you read that correctly: 90% of all data at our disposal today was created in just the past 2 years! The authors caution that human translation and context is essential to make use of that information successfully.

“Without a human frame, like photos or words that make emotion salient,” the scientists say, “data will only confuse, and certainly won’t lead to smart organizational behavior.”

What do you think? How does your organization process and manage the data it collects? More importantly, perhaps, is this question: How well are all the humans in your company coping with the flood of data you’re expected to use?

What Leaders Need to Know about Resistance to Change

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog, Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes that successfully leading people through change requires that a manager first understand the reasons that people resist any alteration to their routines. Kanter says that manifestations of resistance at every level, from foot-dragging to outright rebellion, can be managed if the leader recognizes the “predictable, universal sources of resistance” and then develops strategies for maneuvering around them.

In her experience, five of the most common reasons that people resist change are:

  1. Loss of control — When change is imposed, individuals feel they’ve lost self-determination and their sense of autonomy. By inviting employees to participate in planning changes, a leader gives them choices. As a result, employees will take ownership in the outcome.
  2. Excess uncertainty — People would usually prefer to remain “mired in misery,” Kanter says, than head into the unknown. Leaders need to help employees prepare for change by explaining the process and outlining the timetable.
  3. Surprise, surprise! — People need time to get used to the idea of a major change that’s coming. Instead of springing a major re-tooling on them without warning, a leader should at least communicate hints about changes ahead, and preferably, include them in the planning.
  4. Everything seems different — A lot of changes all at once can be confusing and disorienting. Leaders need to consider how much needs to changed and keep as much of the familiar as possible while implementing a series of changes gradually.
  5. Loss of face — Individuals who have been with the organization a long time, and especially those who may have participated in creating current procedures, will be defensive when another way of doing business is instituted. Kanter advises leaders to “help people maintain dignity by celebrating those elements of the past that are worth honoring, and making it clear that the world has changed.” This will help people let go of the old and adopt the new.

Top Leadership Traits Tell the Story

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Trust, empathy, and “mentorship” are the top three traits of successful leaders, according to Vineet Nayar, vice chairman and CEO of HCL Technologies, Ltd., in a recent Harvard Business Review article. Citing his own childhood experience of a natural-born leader in the neighborhood whom all the kids followed without question, Nayar says, “None of the leadership lessons that I have learned, unlearned, or relearned ever since have left as indelible an impact as the ones I learnt as a child.”

Trust, for example, is essential in order for your employees to feel empowered, to take risks, and to “push themselves beyond their comfort zones to find success.” (Credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation are measures of a person’s trust quotient, according to The Trust Advisor, a book by David Maister, Charles Green and  Robert Galford.)

Empathy is exhibited by treating your employers as individual human beings rather than a generic group of “workers”.  Do your employees feel free to let you know what’s going on in their lives, both the joys and the sorrows? Do you allow them to see you as a human with a full range of emotion?

Mentorship is needed by everyone, Nayar says, no matter how successful they are. He references famed basketball coach Pat Riley, who once said that there was no great player who didn’t want to be coached. High achievers know that they need to continue learning, and they look to their leaders to teach them.

How are you doing in these three areas? How about your leaders?