How Groups Can Make Fatal Decisions

Accountability Management Teamwork

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: According to Wikipedia, “Groupthink” is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Most of us are familiar with this concept, yet it thrives and will always be a concern regarding the impact on quality decision making within groups. What are the symptoms of Groupthink? According to the people who teach the Directors Education Program at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, be aware of the following:

  • “Illusions of invulnerability: Members of the group overemphasize the strength of the group and feel that they are beyond criticism or attack. This symptom leads the group to approve risky actions about which individual members might have serious concerns.
  • Illusions of unanimity: Group members accept consensus prematurely, without testing whether or not all members really agree. Silence is often taken for agreement.
  • Illusions of group morality: Members of the group feel that it is “right” and above reproach by outside members. Thus, members feel no need to debate ethical issues.
  • Stereotyping of the ‘enemy’ as weak, evil, or stupid: Members do not realistically examine their competitors and oversimplify their motives. The stated aims of outside groups or anticipated reactions of outsiders are not considered.
  • Self-censorship by members: Members refuse to communicate concerns by others because of fear of disturbing the consensus.
  • Mind-guarding: Some members take responsibility to ensure that negative feedback does not reach influential group members.
  • Direct pressure: In the unlikely event that a note of caution or concern is interjected, other members quickly respond with pressure to bring the deviant back into line.”

This past weekend I was fortunate to be a student in the Directors Education Program and went through a few exercises that highlighted how seductive groupthink is, even to an experienced group of leaders familiar with its dangers. One business case that we used to refresh ourselves had the same elements and conditions that underscored the tragic explosion of NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger. On Jan 28, 1986, the tenth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members. Investigation of this tragedy revealed that key people recommended the shuttle not fly due to quality concerns with the infamous “O” rings under cold weather conditions. But Groupthink, including almost every symptom above, resulted in the right decision being overruled; with fatal consequences. While most groups we are part of do NOT make life or death decisions, we still need to fiercely guard against Groupthink. This aligns with the principle I often write about: The ability of high performing groups to fight well.

Personal Leadership Moves:

Familiarize yourself with the Guidelines for Avoiding Groupthink (also from the Rotman people).

  1. “Assign the role of the critical evaluator to each group member; encourage the sharing of objections
  2. Avoid, as the leader, clear statements about your preferred alternative.
  3. Create subgroups or subcommittees, each working on the same problem.
  4. Require that members of the group make use of the information available to them through their subordinates, peers and networks.
  5. Invite outside experts to observe and evaluate group process and outcome.
  6. Assign a member to play the devil’s advocate role at each meeting.
  7. Focus on alternative scenarios for the motivation and intentions of competitors.
  8. Once consensus is reached, reexamine the next (but unchosen) alternative, comparing it to the chosen course of action.”

No Groupthink in Personal Leadership

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I’m thrilled this is a subject being touched on. I personally believe we should be way more focused on promoting the “individual” instead of any type of Groupthink. Everything at work can be considered case-by-case, and if we’re too quick to just “Groupthink,” it can be a lazy and over simplified way to problem solve that can clearly lead to big mistakes.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Ok, CEO: Answer These Questions

Accountability Management Transformation

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: How would you answer the following questions as a CEO? All major consulting companies conduct “C Level” surveys to help top leadership navigate trends and think through strategic challenges. Recently, I’ve been part of several of these, and please note that the specific questions and survey process are the confidential property of the consulting companies. However, I’m going to ask you my paraphrased version of sample questions that reflect the essence without compromising the survey protocol of the firms. These surveys usually take over an hour to complete. Then, the firms compile, analyze and give the respondent the collective feedback. To make this manageable, I’m going to ask you just a few representative questions. How would you answer them as the head of your organization?

  1. What is the level of urgency with which your enterprise needs to transform itself? Why?
  2. How successful has your organization been managing transformation in the past? Give examples.
  3. How effective is your organization at creating compelling customer experiences? Examples? Through what means?
  4. Think ahead to 2021 and you’ve been given an award for designing and implementing the most outstanding customer experience. Post on social media, the description of that experience in less than 140 characters.
  5. Name the top five emerging technology trends over the next three to five years, that will most disrupt your industry? Enterprise?
  6. To what extent do you have a well formed purpose and business strategy to navigate through the disruptive forces here now and in front of you?
  7. Your best strategy will be to: Defend, innovate, expand, diversify, or self-disrupt. Which one of these will be your lead stance? How confident are you in execution?
  8. You are being interviewed by major business outlets as the best example in 2021 of an organization that truly reinvented itself. Describe in 20 words or less the essence of your strategy ad business model change.
  9. To what extent is your leadership fully equipped to lead this transformation? Where are big gaps and what are you doing about it?
  10. To what extent are team members “all in” with the purpose, strategy, along with having the skills and mindset to fully participate in the transformation?
  11. How effective are you in using data analytics in a predictive fashion to improve both employee and customer experience? How will you be significantly better at this three years from now?
  12. How equipped and ready are you to PERSONALLY transform your organization? How will you transform yourself first as part of leading this?

The above questions were randomly selected, and samples only. The surveys themselves were much more extensive, specific, and connected. They twisted my brain.  And the technology/disruption section was most daunting to me. As an example, many leading enterprises are well on their way implementing Artificial Intelligence to both service customers and employees. It’s happening NOW, not 2021. The reality is, any thinking organization and awake leader is taking their institution through this type of honest reflection and discovery.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. You may or may not be the head of your organization (although 40 percent of our readers describe themselves as CEOs or Managing Directors). Nevertheless, your participation in answering these and similar questions is necessary.
  2. What did you learn about yourself and organization as you answered? What will you do about it?

Answering in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: These survey questions are interesting, and it is nice to see how much critical thinking and “brain twisting” these questions demand from corporate leaders. With more A.I. implementation and (of course), more technology we don’t even know about yet, planning more than four years ahead seems difficult. To put in perspective, in 2013, Uber was a brand new service and I was just hearing about Airbnb, Seamless, Snapchat, Venmo, and more. I see why we put an emphasis on learning and adapting.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Unintended Stupidity of ‘Empowerment’

Management Organizational culture Respect

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: Well intended leaders may have unwittingly confused the heck out of many employees, and degraded customer experience with so called “empowerment.” Huh? Let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s say you want a certain standard of behavior in providing your customers a “WOW” experience. So, after eating all the leadership development “candy,” you decide to “EMPOWER” your team members to use their good judgment and just “WOW” the customer. Sounds good in theory. After all, you want to be a Level 5 service leader (or whatever). Ironically, what you will likely get is a “dog’s breakfast” of behavior from good intentions all around. Let me give you some mundane examples:

As the big boss, you want a “WOW” greeting for every customer that enters your retail stores. Your empowered guidance to store managers is; “use your head and give a great greeting.” At one store, every customer is met with eye contact and a warm welcome when they enter. Individuals make a personal connection. At another store, they do the same AND have a small, fun greeting gift for each customer. At the next store, staff interprets greeting differently because the empowered store manager believes customers should be left alone and not badgered. Etc etc. Empowerment results in mixed, varied experiences by well meaning, “engaged” employees, committed to the customer service ethos and a great customer experience. To make matters possibly worse, a customer complains about being ignored at the store where there is no greeting. So what does the top brass default to? The explanation is that the store manager doesn’t have the “DNA;” let’s replace the person with “someone who gets it.” It’s actually the top leadership that needs a shake.

Another example might be in a financial institution where expert credit adjudication scores allow for customers to receive loans or credit up to $x limit. Yet, when the data is reviewed, top leaders find out that time and again, well intended, highly engaged, “empowered” team members continuously turn down “approved” customer loans and/or underfund well below guidance. Why? Well one explanation is that empowered employees feel very protective of the institution and become very risk averse, even though experts and guidance tells them otherwise. Top leaders, while very well meaning and “evolved,” exhort loan officers and tell them they are fully empowered to make loan/credit decisions. But that “empowerment” results in consistently under performing loan portfolios and disappointed customers. Subsequently, with best intentions all around, everyone loses. The root cause is likely faulty thinking and guidance at the top.  

Leadership Moves:

  1. Leaders need to be absolutely clear and definitive on minimum acceptable experience/performance standards. There should be little if any discretion on the minimum. Inviting employees to be empowered is most effective when people are able to use judgment exceeding minimum thresholds. In that case variation can be (although not always) very constructive. In the situation above involving the financial institution, minimum loan limits ideally would be set by artificial intelligence, ever learning algorithms. NO discretion below the minimum would be allowed. It is more than ok to tell loan officers that they are NOT empowered to adjust down. Empowerment should be granted in other areas where judgment and human intervention upgrades rather than diminishes the customer experience.
  2. Be absolutely clear where you “empower” and provide meaningful autonomy. Do not burden your employees with “empowered” license when in reality you want something very specific. That’s when “empowerment” becomes an excuse for lazy leadership that has NOT done the hard work to be clear connecting purpose with very defined expectations. Do not hope empowered employees will deliver the experience you want when you primarily lead and give feedback on what you “don’t” want.

Right Empowerment in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: This reminds me of the popular fast food franchise, Chick-fil-A, and something I’ve noticed as a patron at their restaurants. All employees are empowered to have a minimum requirement for politeness. You’ll hear “please” and “thank you” from employees, but most notably: Instead of saying “you’re welcome,” you’ll always hear a Chick-fil-A employee say “my pleasure.” It’s very subtle, but this extra courtesy absolutely stands out. And this simple (and free) customer service upgrade is why Business Insider and other publications have written articles about how the average annual sales per restaurant reach $4 million, compared to the $1 million average their competitor KFC brings in.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

New Science Behind Smarter Teams 

Management Respect Teamwork

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: “A new science of effective teamwork is vital not only because teams do so many important things in society, but also because so many teams operate over long periods of time, confronting an ever-widening array of tasks and problems that may be much different from the ones they were initially convened to solve. General intelligence, whether in individuals or teams, is especially crucial for explaining who will do best in novel situations or ones that require learning and adaptation to changing circumstances.” That’s the summary of important work underway by scientists trying to understand why and how some teams work smarter than others. 

As most of my readers know, I’ve been stressing the renewed importance of advanced teamwork impacting innovation/adaptability, and have been gathering this thinking under the umbrella of a reenergized movement I refer to as “Peer-To-Peer Power.” That’s why the insights outlined by these researchers are important for leaders to consider when making teams smarter. Contemplate two studies with practical applications on why some teams have a collective higher IQ and get better results.

One study highlights the following as differentiators:

First, their members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group.

Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible.

Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. Indeed, it appeared that it was not diversity (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at mindreading than men.”

Another study looked at teams working online and off, and again some teams consistently worked smarter than others. The researchers’ conclusions:

More surprisingly, the most important ingredients for a smart team remained constant regardless of its mode of interaction: Members who communicated a lot, participated equally and possessed good emotion-reading skills.

This last finding was another surprise. Emotion-reading mattered just as much for the online teams whose members could not see one another as for the teams that worked face to face. What makes teams smart must be not just the ability to read facial expressions, but a more general ability, known as Theory of Mind to consider and keep track of what other people feel, know and believe.

Character Moves:

  1. We need to challenge ourselves to discover why some teams work smarter than others. Think of the number of teams in your organization. How much conscious time is given to investing in their true effectiveness? A good agenda and process is no longer sufficient for effective teamwork. We need to put intentionality behind full participation, having more women in the discussion and perhaps most importantly, what the researchers refer to as “Theory of Mind:” The ability to track what other people feel, know and believe. 
  2. Let’s explore the latest work/advancement in emotion reading skills. By the way, one cannot effectively read emotions without full attention and presence in team environments. This is just as, or perhaps even more important in on-line team peer-work versus face-to-face. 

In the end, smarter teams need to get smarter results.

Smarter teams in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I think being able to “read a room” is as important of an IQ/EQ skill as many book-learned qualifications. I hope many Millennials might have an edge up on this. It’s a puzzle we should always be working on. Figuring out what our teammates feel, know and believe is crucial and the way piece together the true character by your side. Ironically, “reading a room” is unfortunately tougher than learning some things you can just read in a book.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Dogfooding: The Company & You 

Accountability Management Organizational leadership

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: “Dogfooding” is a matter of integrity. You likely guessed that this refers to the adage many of us have heard: “Eat your own dog food.” The following outlines Facebook’s approach on the subject:

“Dogfooding” is a common practice of most IT companies for fixing the bugs in the application they create, but Facebook goes a step beyond by using the technique to retain employees, according to a report from The Economic Times. Facebook is using this technique to engage its young employees, with most of them being in their twenties and edgy and/or impatient… James Mitchell, head of the Hyderabad office (India) says, “Dogfooding is one of the best outlets that we can provide for young, enterprising intelligent minds. It binds them to the product and the company very strongly.” He says that Dogfooding is the standard through which voice of the employees can be heard. Facebook employees hack, test, and beat up all their products before (and after) they hit the market.

As per Facebook, Google and other leading companies, it’s strategically important for employees to “dogfood” its own products. And I believe this concept applies to us personally, too. One example is that I strongly believe we personally cannot stay in the high performance zone indefinitely. In full, high-performance, we eventually become fatigued and stressed so we need to intentionally REST. Leading firms like The Energy Group, who study this process deeply, understand and teach groups how to flow from high-performance to rest, and back again. They advise everything possible to avoid prolonged time in the fatigue/stress zone. If one stays too long in this stress zone, well, unintended bad things typically happen to us.

I’ve written about the importance of personal energy management a few times over the years. Most of my readers know my team and I have been leading an intense enterprise initiative since January. It’s been relentless; The thinking, planning and execution. It’s involved many 14-hour days, weekends, travel, and the excitement/anxiety associated with high risk/return movements. So… Dogfooding… Both my team and I need to internationally REST. Take some white space, and reenergize before we step on the gas again.

Character Moves:

  1. Dogfood your company products.
  2. Dogfood your beliefs and values. Both 1 and 2 are about integrity.

Dogfooding in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: Millennials all want to move a million miles an hour towards our goals, and certainly don’t live with much patience. But, even NASCAR crews have to take a pit stop and “check their tires.” If you need kibbles and bits of advice, this is a good one to chow down on.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Ban All “Just A” Jobs!

Abundance Contribution Management

FlipboardTwitterLinkedInFacebook

Key Point: Every role and job in every organization is vital. There is no room for what I call “just a” type jobs. Of course, some jobs pay better than others for a variety of reasons. However, from a company’s “brand” perspective, every job counts big time.

Many of my readers know I work in the financial services sector. In our retail business, we have a frontline customer-facing position called a CSR (Customer Service Rep). When we first held Culture Days (our on-boarding event for new hires), as people introduced themselves, some might say, “I’m JUST a CSR.” As the exec sponsor and facilitator, I would politely intervene; asking the CSR to take out “just a.” Why? This position creates the brand impression for our company due to the number of customers they touch each day and every minute. It is an essential and vital role! You and I see this at other workplaces daily. For example: The coffee barista, bus driver, receptionist, call center person, flight attendant, waiter, etc. Regardless of what companies advertise as their brand, the real brand “smell test” starts when we interact with the frontline customer-facing folks. How could we afford to have anyone of these people see himself or herself in “just a” job?

I remember when I first became the Chief People Officer of the company in 2012, and attended one our prescheduled on-boarding sessions. I sat down at a random table for lunch, and asked people why they joined the company. The very first response came from a CSR and it was, “my mom wanted me out of the house.” “Holy cow” is the politest response that immediately came to mind. I had to squeeze hard to keep my inner voice under control. If this is how we recruit for our customer facing positions, we had huge work to do. And we did. As a result, we are at a much better and different spot today. Every role is vital, and direct customer-facing ones, even more so.

Character Moves:

  1. As a leader, it is your job to make sure every role is a vital one based on the impact to customers and other teammates. Ban “just a” jobs. Help every person in every role connect to the organization’s purpose.
  2. As a team member, you also have a responsibility to connect to your company’s purpose and to act as if you matter… Because you do. Think big. Be big. Do not “mail it in,” as the saying goes. 
  3. Have the highest standards of recruiting for every position including “dishwasher.” Do not let anyone in just to fill for “just a” job. Unless, of course, you do not care about your brand.

No “just a’s” in The Triangle,

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I’m sure some Millennials might be told by peers or even society that their position is “just a” job. You can see how that’d be an easy mindset to trap yourself in, especially if you’re still searching for a position that fully utilizes your earned skillsets, or find yourself between jobs and needing to pay bills with work you’re overqualified for. But, I suppose that’s when you have to lend a nice middle-finger to anyone who tries to knock you down a peg, and believe that anything you do that (legally) keeps the lights on is something to find pride in.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis