Tag Archives: competence

Global Leadership Conference – Konstanz, Germany 13 – 14 June 2014

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Along with my business colleague Mike Guttridge I attended the conference with high expectations as we had attended the previous one two years ago. The setting for the conference was the lovely Villa Rheinburg on the banks of the River Rheine and a few minutes walk from Lake Konstanz.

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The format of the conference was a combination of lectures, workshops and a tremendous amount of networking and informal discussions over coffee in the beautiful garden at the rear of the villa.

The theme of this years conference was “Global Leadership Competence: Personal Qualities, Culture, Language” and it was simply a matter of choosing the particular sessions that appealed to me.

DSC_0267 The start of the conference was done by a “performance artist / mime group” (my heart sank when I saw this on the programme!) but I have to say that it is the funniest and liveliest start to any conference…

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Bullshit still baffling brains it seems

sporting_many_hats_1600_wht_12992You’d think people would react against people who promise the earth but never deliver on performance.

Recent research from America suggest it “ain’t necessarily so”.

It seems people admire cocky people even when their pretensions are exposed.

“Confidence is compelling to observers because in the absence of information to the contrary  observers assume it reflects superior ability” say behavioural researchers in Organisational Behaviour & Human Decision Processes.

Actual talent appears irrelevant. The sense of competence lingers even after it’s been shown to be a sham say the researchers at the universities of Pennsylvania and California.

“Being perceived to possess the valued characteristics is the key to attaining higher status – it’s not necessary to actual possess them”.

Previously it was assumed that such over-confident charlatans would eventually be punished by their peers but it seems people are far more tolerant of failure – at least in the USA.

If the overconfident person has created peer impressions which persist groups may not punish them even after discovering that the confidence was unjustified.

Interestingly in the experiments, in which participants were asked to rate each other’s status, confidence, and ability as well as their own,  those who rated their own ability highest were accorded high status by the others.

Previous research has suggested that being arrogant gives people the impression that you actually are superior.

 

 

 

It’s still all about Trust

goldfish_swimming_threat_500_wht_9422Trusting people can make you vulnerable and checking them out can be time-consuming and counter-productive.

Research shows that accuracy in our ability to decide if someone can be trusted is little better than chance.

According to David DeSteno, a psychology professor at Northeastern University writing in March’s Harvard Business Review (“Who can you trust”), it’s because we place too much emphasis on reputation and perceived confidence.

We also ignore that fact that people can change in different contexts and we don’t trust our intuition enough.

DeSteno proposes 4 things to bear in mind:

1 Integrity can vary. People use reputation as a proxy for integrity but it isn’t a stable trait. Because someone has been fair and honest in the past doesn’t mean they will continue to be so in different circumstances.

His research into cheating shows that 90% of people will cheat if they believe they won’t get caught.  And they then rationalise those actions rather than accept that they are untrustworthy.

2 Power does corrupt.  Appearances can be deceptive but the author cites research by Paul Pliff, a social psychologist at Berkeley, which suggests that indicators of socio-economic status can predict trustworthiness.

Increasing status and power correlate with decreasing honesty and reliability. It’s not that rich people are inherently less trustworthy than poor people but that a person’s honesty depends on his or her relative feelings of power or vulnerability.

Assigning people to be a boss or a follower in office simulations Joris Lammers, a psychologist at the University of Cologne, found that those elevated to more senior roles displayed a high degree of hypocritical behaviour and were quick to condemn others for unethical, self-interested behaviour whilst judging their own actions to be acceptable.

When someone has a higher status than you, or even just thinks so, his mind tells him that you need him more than he needs you. Consequently he focuses on short-term outcomes and worries less about the long-term effect of being untrustworthy.

This explains why big companies often treat smaller clients less well than their larger ones.

3 Confidence often masks incompetence. Honourable intentions mean nothing if a person is incompetent. We know this instinctively from an early age (4-year olds will pick people as instructors whom they perceive as more competent).

But confidence is  so alluring that we tend to trust information provided by people who exude it, especially when money is at stake. Hence the success of confidence tricksters.

In newly formed groups those members who expressed pride in the group quickly rose to positions of leadership even though the abilities that their pride stemmed from weren’t relevant to the group’s objectives.

So while reputation isn’t a good predictor of integrity it is of competence because capabilities are more stable.

4 It’s OK to trust your instinct.

Despite decades of research into researching ways of detecting untrustworthiness most people do little better than chance. Even trained experts.

That’s because most of us look for a single “tell” to indicate whether or not someone can be trusted whereas we need to look for a set of gestures. This is something we can do instinctively.

So is it better to trust or not?  If you have no information to go on then a bias towards trusting is better for long-term gains. Otherwise remember these 4 rules!

The5dysfunctionsofateamPatrick Lencioni is a strong advocate of trust in teams. In his best-selling book, “The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams” he sets down a hierarchy (see diagram below).Slide1Slide2

But basically it’s all about Trust.

Leadership and Influencing

businessmen_puzzle_shake_hands_1600_wht_3191Older managers may remember the days of Blake’s Grid and the 9:9 management style; striking a balance between people and productivity. That idea has been persistent, about getting the right balance in the way you manage people to get the best out of them.

John Adair, for example developed his Action-Centred Leadership model which was all about keeping the balance between the Individual, the Team and the Task.

And Machiavelli had something to say about this too. Was it better to be loved or feared? he thought it was better to be both but because that was difficult for one person to do he decided “it was safer to be feared than loved.”

But times change and there is currently much interest in the science of influencing. Influencing ethically not in a manipulative or machiavellian way.

Many leaders believe that, particularly during those important first 100 days, they have to demonstrate competence and their strengths. But years of research by social scientists show that it’s better to first show your people side by displaying warmth, and then demonstrating your competence.

A spotlight article on Influence in July-August’s issue of the HBR “Connect, Then Lead” by Cuddy, Kohut and Neffinger, explains current thinking on this.

Basically we judge our leaders on two criteria: how much we like them (warmth and trustworthiness) and how much we fear them (strength and competence). These appear to be the two primary dimensions of social judgement which account for 90% of the variance in the positive and negative impression we form of people.

We have all met people who are competent but display no sense of caring or warmth. They may elicit envy, respect or resentment in others. We may have met people who are warm but incompetent who elicit feelings of warmth but also pity and lack of respect (and it’s hard to imagine how they would become leaders).

So the best approach appears to be to start your leadership by exhibiting warmth, either verbally or using NVC, and making connections, the network building so important early in your leadership career. At the same time you are demonstrating that you are trustworthy. Then, when appropriate, demonstrate your competence. In a study by Zenger and Folkman of almost 52,000 leaders only 27 of them were rated in the bottom quartile for likability and in the top quartile in terms of overall effectiveness. In other words only 1 in 2,000 leaders were disliked and effective.

But this approach – warmth first – is not easy and most leaders feel the need to demonstrate their strengths first. Organisational psychologists, Abele and Wojciszke from the University of Gdansk, carried out experiments about training, offering either competence-based or soft skills programmes. They found that people chose competence-based programmes for themselves but soft skills programmes for other people. And when asked to describe a life-defining event they would tell a story about their own competence but when telling a story about other people refer to their warmth and generosity.

If you want to know more including tips on how to project more warmth or more strength you’ll have to read the full HBR article, in fact the whole of the July-August issue is devoted to Influence.

Fathers get easier ride at work

Research in America about how working mothers fare at work (not very well it seems – see stats at end) also looked at how working fathers were treated.

It appears that working dads are held to lower performance and punctuality standards and yet more likely to be promoted than childless men with identical qualifications.

Potential clients were asked to rate their impressions of fictitious male and female McKinsey consultants some of whom were parents. The father was the only one rated as warm and competent and the mother the only one considered warm but less competent than her childless peers.

I wrote about European research on the warm v competent dimensions a few posts ago and this has similar results. So not just an American phenomenon.

However the picture changes dramatically when the American dads take time off for child care. A number of studies show that men are penalised through lower performance ratings and fewer recommendations for rewards even after taking only a short break.

Being a father doesn’t hinder career prospects until you want to play a more active role in being a dad when your career may suffer.

Men are subject to a range of sanctions such as being passed over for promotion, having people doubt their competence behind their backs, and openly being mocked about taking time off.

And those stats on working mums: chance of being hired in first place falls by 79%, and 50% less likely to be promoted than a childless woman.

It seem the image of the male breadwinner is alive and well.

Source: HBR September 2012