The end of charismatic leadership?

Posted November 27th, 2012 in Articles, Blogs by admin

We may be reaching watershed in our attraction to charismatic leaders, at least the ones where style and charm without substance no longer have an appeal.

Tomas Charmoro-Premuzic, writing in the Harvard Business Review blog, contends “In the era of multimedia politics, leadership is commonly downgraded to just another form of entertainment and charisma is indispensable for keeping the audience engaged.” He goes on to describe the dark side of charismatic leadership, claiming it: Dilutes judgment; is addictive; disguises psychopaths; and fosters collective narcissism.

Samuel Bacharach, a professor of management at Cornell University’s Institute of Workplace Studies, argues charisma is not necessarily the litmas test of leadership. Rather he says, “leaders are defined by their actions and ability to execute.”

Elena Shesternina, writing an article titled “The End of a Charismatic Era,” in The World Economic Journal, contends “with government officials slowly being replaced by technocrats, it would appear that Europe’s era of charisma and charm is a thing o  the past,” citing the examples of bureaucrats gaining power in France and Italy.

Management guru Jim Collins writing in his personal blog, argues “the charismatic-leader model has to die.” He contends a charismatic leader “is not an asset; it’s a liability companies have to recover from.” A company’s long-term health requires a leader who can infuse the company with its own sense of purpose instead of his or hers, Collins argues.

Management expert Rosabeth Moss Kanter, writing in the Harvard Business Review, regarding self-defeating behaviors that ruin companies and careers, argues many leaders fail because of greed and selfishness; a lack of emotional self-control; and a lack of integrity and ethics. These behaviors and characteristics are certainly found more commonly in charismatic and extraverted leaders than in introverted leaders.

In my work with CEOs and other senior leaders in organizations, I’ve found invariably it’s the over-the-top charismatic extroverted leader who gets into trouble either personally or gets the organization into difficulty. So while there is a natural and historical attraction to the charismatic leaders who can inspire others with an emotional vision and connect with charm, the long-term impact in terms of relationships and execution becomes questionable.

Tough times for Gen Y’ers: Waiting for the leaders of tomorrow

Posted November 27th, 2012 in Articles, Blogs by admin

In a 2009 article in Psychology Today, “Millennials Poised To Take Over The Workplace,” I optimistically declared this generation — also called Gen Y’ers — was poised to replace Baby Boomers in the workplace. That prediction has not come to pass, partly because of the negative impact of the recent recession, and because many Boomers are not retiring. As a result, the economic and career prospects for Millennials are discouraging.

Huffington Post Canada, using Abacus Datawhich surveyed more than 1,000 Canadians aged 18 to 30 about their attitudes toward life from various perspectives. In general, the results revealed Gen Y is a troubled generation, somewhat pessimistic as a result of their experience in the realities of recent tough economic times.

The survey clearly showed they see employment and decent jobs as their greatest priority and challenge. It also showed Millennials shared traditional values for home ownership, marriage, children and early retirement. What distinguishes them from earlier generations, not surprisingly, is their comfort with and use of technology, particularly social media.

A poll by Sun Life Financial Canada revealed Gen Y was hardest hit in the economic downturn. Youth employment remains 250,000 jobs below the pre-recession high, the lowest level since 1977. The survey further revealed that 90% of people aged 18 to 24 reported feeling excessive stress, compared with 72% of all Canadians. Still, Gen Y’ers are faring better than their U.S. counterparts, where almost 50% of this age group are unemployed.

Current company leaders, most of whom are Boomers, need to take notice of the plight of Gen Y’ers, particularly from the perspective of grooming future leaders. One such initiative has been the Vancouver Board of Trade’s Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) Mentorship Program. Established in 1998, the program links mentors from the business community with students in the surrounding universities and colleges in the last year of their programs. The mentors work one-on-one with the students for an entire year to give them first-hand experience  in both the private and public sectors. The program has been hugely successful, with more than 1,700 students and 800 mentors participating since its inception, and attracting more than a dozen sponsors to fund and support its initiatives. There are now waiting lists for both students and mentors.

Students in the Leaders of Tomorrow program are required to participate in the four basic pillars of the program: The mentorship arrangement; community volunteerism; networking events and leadership opportunities. In addition, they receive a membership in the Vancouver Board of Trade and access to its events and activities.

“LOT offers students an avenue to apply their academic knowledge, develop strong connections, and prepare for life after graduation,” says Austin Nairn, who has managed the program for the past four years.  “The holistic nature of the program helps students have a greater awareness of possible career paths and often a greater appreciation for community volunteerism. Mentors challenge students to take steps towards meeting their goals and many remain in contact well after the program is complete.”

While times are difficult for Millennials, perhaps more so than many people appreciate, taking the initiative to improve the quality of their lives, sustain their optimism and prepare them to the leaders of the future is an opportunity that must be embraced.

“Why I need a life coach–and you might too” Guest Blog

Posted November 27th, 2012 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Why I Need a Life Coach — And You Might, Too

By Deborah Gaines in the Huff Post 50 Canada

Posted: 11/27/2012 7:30 am
 I have a life coach. Among people I know, this is about as embarrassing as saying, “my nine-year-old isn’t toilet trained” or “I have an STD,” so you may be wondering why I am coming out with it.

The reason is, in the 10 years I have been working with Travis, my life has changed dramatically for the better. And if I, with my arrogant, know-it-all attitude, can experience this kind of change, I believe you can, too.

It all began with a gift from a friend. I was a freelance writer with an unemployed husband and two small kids, and she bought me several sessions with the career consultant (no one called them life coaches back then) who had handled her corporate layoff.

My challenge was clear: I needed to make twice as much money without sacrificing flexibility or working more hours. This, as I explained to Travis in our first phone session, was clearly impossible. The newspaper industry was imploding, flooding the market with people like me. The competition was younger, hungrier, and more technologically nimble, while I was older, crankier, and less able to adapt.

With kindness and patience, Travis began to do what all good coaches do: dismantle the road blocks I had placed in the way of my own success. We started by visualizing employment that would fill my needs. Rather than focusing on a specific industry, he asked me to list my criteria for a great job: More money. Dinner with the kids every night. An environment where my education and previous experience gave me an edge. A steep learning curve to keep me from getting bored.

I ended up leveraging my college contacts to pitch corporate writing projects, a process that I fought fiercely until I received my first assignment — a brochure that took three days and paid more than a month of full-time newspaper work. This was followed by a six-month engagement for a law firm that netted well over a year’s salary.

I stopped complaining about Travis’ rates. He, in turn, made me a deal — he would charge me on a sliding scale that increased along with my income. He literally bet on my success.

One of the hardest parts of all this was learning to recite my new fees with a straight face. Before meetings, I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror, looking myself in the eye and saying, “My hourly rate is [more than I used to make in a day], with a two-hour minimum.” Then I would try to control the nervous giggle that inevitably followed this outlandish statement.

Travis’ constant refrain, which took years to worm its way into my consciousness, was “Why shouldn’t you succeed?” Financial educator Barbara Stanny wrote a great book on this subject called Secrets of Six-Figure Women. In dozens of interviews, she showed that the difference between high earners and the rest of us had nothing to do with our skills — the culprits are fear, lethargy, and self-sabotage.

Another key to career success has been learning to align money with values. What makes me happy, and how can I support these goals financially? I first learned of this concept through a book called Money & Happiness by HuffPo editor Laura Rowley. Over the years, I’ve worked with Travis to determine what I really want (perhaps the hardest question you can ask) or, as he puts it, “what truly feels prosperous.”

I have learned, for instance, that experiences feel more prosperous to me than things. I would rather travel frequently than live in a palatial house. Time with my family is infinitely more valuable than high-ticket cars or clothing.

These areas blur the lines between career coaching and the full-blown life version. What constitutes success in relationships, and how can I achieve it? What are my criteria for a prosperous life?

It’s been a long road, and I’m not entirely there yet. Sometimes Travis annoys the hell out of me. Sometimes things don’t work out the way I planned. Often I wish I was healthy enough to just know this stuff without spending four thousand dollars a year on a babysitter for my mental health. But I’m not — so I am investing in my success.

So far, the returns have been pretty great.

10 Reasons To Unplug and Reclaim Your Productivity

Posted November 13th, 2012 in Articles, Blogs by admin

I came across this great article at online

10 Reasons To Unplug and Reclaim Your Productivity


It’s been there for a while, gnawing at the back of your mind: the creeping suspicion that technological devices have reached the point of diminishing returns when it comes to productivity. Oh sure, being able to edit documents on a phone or create presentations on a computer the size of a dinner plate has been amazing and made us much more efficient than we were. But these devices work so well, we’re having trouble turning them off, and that’s hurting our output. If you’re having trouble convincing yourself, here are 10 reasons to yank the cord and take back your work day.


    According to Dr. Charlotte Fritz of Portland State University, the old maxim that more coffee equals more productivity isn’t necessarily true. In a series of studies, she found coffee breaks were actually connected to higher fatigue levels (although that could simply be due to tired people drinking more coffee). In fact, any little breaks — for coffee or to surf Facebook — during the work day did not lead to more energy unless they involved something work-related, like complimenting a coworker. At the risk of being stoned, it might be time to think about unplugging the coffee maker and the router.


    No doubt when you shelled out $500 for that iPad you insisted to your significant other, “But, Honey, I’ll get so much work done on it!” Even if you’d been honest and said you wanted it to watch How I Met Your Mother in the bathroom, you probably didn’t realize that reading on e-readers actually takes longerthan it does with print. That was the finding of tech expert Jakob Nielsen in 2010. Specifically, Nielsen found readers go 6.2% slower on iPads and 10.7% slower on Kindles. More recent studies have shown more repetition necessary to retain information that is consumed via screen than paper, which is another way of saying reading takes longer and hampers productivity.


    Ever start to feel like your mind is becoming as cluttered as your desk with all those gadgets? Recently, marketing firm Prophet carted its employees off to Iceland for Unplugged: a four-day break from Facebook, texting, phones, and computers to focus on innovation and brainstorming. They recognized that even if all this technology is helping American workers do their day-to-day jobs, they’re hindering our ability to stop and think about creative ways to work more efficiently. Efficiency goes hand-in-hand with productivity, and sometimes unplugging is the mother of invention.


    We hate to burst your bubble, but chances are good (especially if you’re fresh out of college) that for most of us worker bees, the boss does not need to be able to get in contact with us at 11 p.m. to get our advice on a merger. Of course, certain jobs require staying plugged in round the clock, like those in the medical industry. But the rest of us don’t need to be constantly checking the email or the cell for texts. What we need to do is concentrate on the task at hand so that we do it well, get promoted, and become the person who is vital.


    Multitasking may be the biggest myth perpetrated on American workers since the latest jobs report (there’s a little political humor for you). Using technology to do two (or more) things at once is supposed to make things go twice as fast. Sorry, pal; turns out it makes each task take 25% longer on average. Splitting our attention between email and a phone call, say, simply leads to more mistakes that require more time to fix than they saved, not to mention the time needed to refocus on what you were doing before you switched tasks. The human brain is simply not wired for multitasking, period. So do yourself a favor and stop fighting nature — your productivity will thank you.


    If your morning routine involves watching TV or surfing the Web, consider unplugging and going to the gym. Not only is it obviously healthier, but your productivity at work will get a kick, too. According to research conducted at the University of Bristol, employees who exercised before work, and even those who waited to work out until their lunch break, were “better equipped to handle whatever the day threw at them.” Nearly three-fourths of the participants in the study claimed they saw an improvement in their time management on days they worked out.


    What kind of world are we living in when we don’t even think we can unplug on vacation, for God’s sake? While staying connected from an exotic locale might (repeat, might) mean a modicum of work production that you would otherwise miss out on, it decreases your chances of unwinding and returning to the office reenergized. And when that becomes the case, you miss out on a boost to your productivity, according to corporate coaching guru Lois Frankel. “Vacations play a big role in superior job performance … But you only get that benefit if you return relaxed and refreshed.”


    So you have a $550 Galaxy Note for taking notes in meetings and a $500 iPad for reading The Wall Street Journal on the subway? Has your productivity gone up that much more than it would if you bought a $1 paper, a $.50 spiral notebook, and got a free pen from a bank? Not to mention the fact that these latter items are much, much less likely to distract you to use them for anything other than those work activities. You could doodle ormake a newspaper hat, but that’s pretty much it.


    Fitness freak and blogger Mark Sisson points out that basicallyall lab animals are constantly stressed. His solution? Work outside. If sunlight, fresh air, and the inherent freedom of being outdoors can’t lower your work-related stress, nothing can. And you can probably guess why we bring this up. That’s right:stress goes down, productivity goes up. And with wifi hotspots, portable keyboards, and Bluetooth, there isn’t even a need to strictly unplug from all your business contacts. It’s more like unplugging your most valuable asset — your body — from an environment that may be stifling your productivity.


    So much of what we think about productivity is just flat wrong. For example, we think staying up late using the phone and/or the computer for work makes us more productive. Actually, it seems not only does it not increase your output, it makes you stupid. Late-night computer use can lead to sleep problems and increased stress, which we’ve already mentions hinders productivity. But think how much less you get done when you’re yawning constantly and can barely keep your eyes open. Unplug and go to bed, folks!

Why performance reviews don’t improve performance

Posted November 12th, 2012 in Articles, Blogs by admin

In his article in the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz, President and CEO of the Energy Project, and author of Be Excellent At Anything, says that when we hear the phrase from someone, “would you mind if I give you some feedback?” what that actually means to most of us is “would you mind if I gave you some negative feedback?” wrapped up in the guise of constructive criticism, whether you want it or not.

There are some fundamental problems with negative criticism, regardless of whether we clothe it politely as “constructive.” First, Schwartz contends, criticism “challenges our sense of value. Criticism implies judgment and we all recoil from feeling judged.” Indeed, psychologists such as Daniel Goleman, contend that threats to self-esteem and sense of self-worth in the form of criticism can feel like threats to our survival.

Part of our resistance to positive reactions to negative feedback is the way our brains work. Neuroscientists have clearly identified that our brains are fundamentally protective, defensive mechanisms. If your ego and sense of self is threatened, your brain unconsciously will act to protect and defend, either actively or passively.

Nowhere does negative or constructive criticism appear more frequently than in performance reviews of employees. The prevailing theory is that criticism, which invariably is part of the performance review, will improve the employee’s performance, and in addition the employee will positively welcome it. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The reality is that the traditional performance appraisal as practiced in the majority of organizations today is fundamentally flawed, and incongruent with our values-based, vision-driven and collaborative work environments.

Robert Sutton, a Stanford University professor, says that performance evaluations do more harm than good. A 1998 study by Development Dimensions Incorporated, found that employers themselves expressed overwhelming dissatisfaction with performance reviews. The consulting firm, People IQ, in a 2005 national survey, found that 87 percent of employees and managers felt performance reviews were neither useful nor effective. In an article published inThe Psychological Bulletin, psychologists A. Kluger and A. Denisi report completion of a meta-analysis of 607 studies of performance evaluations and concluded that at least 30 percent of the performance reviews ended up in decreased employee performance.

Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins, in their book, Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What To Do Instead, detail studies that clearly show performance appraisals do not work and outline what could replace them. Garold Markle, in his book, Catalytic Coaching: The End of The Performance Review, argues that performance reviews have reached the end of their utility and should be replaced with a manager-employee coaching system.

Charles Jacobs, author of Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Supervisory Lessons from Brain Science, says that the brain is wired to resist what is commonly termed as constructive feedback, but is usually negative criticism. Brain science has shown that when people encounter information that is in conflict with their self-image their tendency is to change the information, rather than changing themselves. So when managers give critical performance appraisal feedback to employees, their brains’ defense mechanisms are activated, and the motivation to change is improbable.

Samuel Culbert, a professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and author of Get Rid of Performance Review: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing-and Focus on What Really Matters, argues that employee performance reviews are “destructive and fraudulent.” He argues “it’s time to finally put the performance review out of its misery,” adding, “this corporate sham is one of the most insidious, most damaging and yet most ubiquitous of corporate activities.” Culbert argues that the performance reviews “instill feelings of being dominated. They send employees the message that the boss’ opinion of their performance is the key ingredient of pay, assignment, and career progress.” He contends that the use of performance reviews is about “power and subordination, making condor all but impossible,” and causing employee defensiveness and stress. Culbert goes on to argue that the practice is more about intellectual laziness and ego-building for managers, and it avoids having to tackle the hard work of changing organizational processes. What should replace the performance review? Culbert argues that something called a “performance preview,” a process that holds the manager and members of the manager’s team equally responsible for results.

Literature abounds with systems and strategies for giving constructive criticism, and consultants have made lucrative livings implementing such systems in organizations, despite how flawed they are. Perhaps the silliest component of these systems is to suggest to the person giving the constructive feedback to “sandwich it” between positive statements, as if the person receiving the feedback will focus on the positive part of the sandwich, and not the negative. Again, this ignores the brain’s programmed preference to respond to negative information.

Rachel Emma Silverman and Leslie Kwoh, in two articles in The Wall Street Journal, cite evidence from the Corporate Executive Board that some companies are now abandoning formal performance reviews and replacing them with “performance previews,” in which the boss or manager engages in a dialogue with an employee about how a specific task or project will be completed before action is taken. This places onus not only on the employee to specify the how and what action will be taken, but also places onus on the boss to discuss what supportive actions are necessary. This creates a two-sided, reciprocally accountable performance system. The boss’s job then, is to guide, coach, tutor, and assist the employee rather than judge, evaluate and find fault.

Social media can also be used effectively to provide feedback in an informal and developmental way. Some companies are now using online technology to regularly collect “crowdsource” feedback. This system allows any employee to give immediate and real-time feedback to any other employee or boss while work is progressing.

Erick Mosley, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, argues “a group of independently deciding individuals is more likely to make better decisions and more accurate observations than those of an individual. Crowdsourcing, by leveraging social recognition data, is a better way for managers to collect, evaluate and share information on employee performance.”

Unlike 360-degree performance evaluations, which are end-point or annual processes, crowdsourcing is ongoing and real-time feedback. Also, rather than constructive crowdsourcing evaluations that duplicate performance evaluations that look for faults or critical feedback, a crowdsourcing system can be used as a motivational tool, by providing positive feedback. “When the crowdsourcing conept is applied in this way,” Mosley says, “co-workers and peers can identify and reward desired behaviors and cultural attributes through unsolicited recognition, as they happen…This stream of recognition, which often appears in internal social newsfeeds, provides timely, measurable insights into your talent top influencers and performers.”

The reality is that constructive criticism is an oxymoron. All criticism is inherently destructive and negative, however we may attempt to window dress it, or “sandwich it” between positive statements. Anything constructive is associated with growth, which requires a person to be open, not in a defensive state of mind. When put together, these two ideas constitute an oxymoron.

To be in an open, receiving state of mind, the feedback must be positive, or at least guide the recipient to self-awareness and self-discovery. Leaders in organizations now have an opportunity to abandon a system that is not only dysfunctional but doesn’t recognize the latest in neuroscience research and take advantage of new social media technology.

Complimenting someone can improve their performance

Posted November 12th, 2012 in Articles, Blogs by admin

The team had previously discovered that the same area of the brain, the striatum, is activated when a person is rewarded a compliment or cash. Their latest research could suggest that when the striatum is activated, it seems to encourage the person to perform better during exercises.

Forty-eight adults recruited for the study were asked to learn and perform a specific finger pattern (pushing keys on a keyboard in a particular sequence as fast as possible in 30 seconds). Once participants had learned the finger exercise, they were separated into three groups. One group included an evaluator who would compliment participants individually, another group involved individuals who would watch another participant receive a compliment, and the third group involved individuals who evaluated their own performance on a graph. When the participants were asked to repeat the finger exercise the next day, the group of participants who received direct compliments from an evaluator performed better than participants from the other groups. It indicates that receiving a compliment after exercising stimulates the individual to perform better afterwards.

According to Professor Sadato, “To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. We’ve been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise.There seems to be scientific validity behind the message ‘praise to encourage improvement’. Complimenting someone could become an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during rehabilitation.”

This research was funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Sciences Research Grant (KAKENHI).