Tag Archives: self-confidence

Get the best out of your team

everyone_has_an_idea_500_wht_12709 There is a lot of research on how to develop more effective teams and research that shows what hinders a work group becoming a good team.

And what happens when a  group is set up to achieve a particular task? A common problem is that the more confident, extroverted members tend to hog the limelight and the real experts often take a back seat which reduces their contribution.

Bryan L Bonner, at the University of Utah, and Alexander R Bolinger, at Idaho State University, say the following intervention can help to change that dynamic.

Ask the team, early in the meeting, to check what each individual can contribute to the problem. This period of reflection can increase the team’s performance  probably because the process of collectively assembling the knowledge within the team increases overall understanding of the task and how to complete it.

In the experiments set up by Bonner and Bolinger – reported in HBR September 2014 – university students were set up in 3-person teams and all given estimation problems e.g. heights of mountains or weight of heaviest person who ever lived.

Some teams were instructed to begin by coming up with two pieces of information each which could be helpful. In some teams this was done individually and then brought to the team (a bit like the improved version of brainstorming) but the rest did it as a group. Other teams, used as controls, were given no guidance.

In the control teams they tended to defer to the whoever seemed most confident – and they had the worst performance.

The best performance came from teams that inventoried their team knowledge as a group and used that knowledge to devise ways of solving problems.

The process sounds simple but is not unique. In Action-Centred Leadership participants in the leadership training exercises are encouraged to check their teams for relevant knowledge and/or experience.

Bonner and Bolinger rightly point out that on their own teams rarely  allow time for this kind of intervention so team leaders should encourage the group to assess the knowledge and experience within the team.

This shifts the emphasis from social influence to informational influence and helps the team to filter out irrelevant factors such as confidence, extraversion, status, assertiveness, gender and race.

 

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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.

Size Matters

at least when it comes to honesty at work and in other settings.

businessman_relax_desk_800_wht_5638Researchers at Columbia Business School think sprawling across an over-size desk makes people feel more self-confident and more likely to behave dishonestly to further their careers.

The researchers manipulated the size of workspaces and found that people were more dishonest on tests when their environment allowed them to stretch out.

In another study they found that drivers given bigger car seats were more likely to be involved in “hit and run” incidents when incentivised to go faster in a driving simulation.

They also checked 126 cars on New York City streets, half of which were parked illegally. They found that drivers with large car seats were more likely to be breaking the law.

It doesn’t pay to be too nice 

P1000657 - Version 2Professor Adrian Furnham’s column in The Sunday Times is always of interest to psychologically minded executives and his book; “The Elephant in the Boardroom – the causes of leadership derailment”, should be essential reading for all would-be directors.

As a psychologist I liked the piece in which he explained why nice guys don’t always win – because of their Agreeable personality.

Agreeableness is one of the Big 5 Personality Factors (along with Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Neuroticism).

He points out that Agreeableness can be a handicap in business as the higher you score on this factor, the less likely you are to succeed as a business leader!

Most of us would prefer to work for an agreeable rather than a disagreeable boss, wouldn’t we? Well perhaps not says Furnham. Agreeable bosses may make you dissatisfied by not dealing with poor performers and being too forgiving, maybe treating you all the same, or being manipulated by your more devious colleagues.

One of my earlier posts Sometimes you just have to tell em” was about research at Roffey Park that showed that we are not very good at dealing with underperformance or telling people what we want, that strong managers get more respect, and that a firm consistent approach is better for morale and performance generally.

And it gets worse – if you’re a female. The Times reported last year on some research carried out by the Institute of Employment Research and concluded that;  “It doesn’t pay for a female boss to be too nice. The research showed that personality factors do come into account and that, for example, nice people earn less.

Too niceApparently nice women are being swept away by openly aggressive ones who know what they want.

A more recent paper presented to the Academy of Management by Beth A Livingston from Cornell University analysed surveys spread over 20 years. She found that  significantly less agreeable men earned 18.3% more than men who were significantly more agreeable. For women the difference was less, just 5.5%.

Livingston said; “Men’s disagreeable behaviour conforms to expectations of masculine behaviour“.

Apparently nice women are being swept away by openly aggressive ones who know what they want.

Working hard obviously helps but if you are too conscientious you may be seen as neurotic (or get bullied), and extraverts do no better than introverts.

Professor Cary Cooper, at the University of Lancaster Management School, agrees but also thinks women have more emotional intelligence than men and are not generally as egocentric.

So agreeable managers have to learn how to toughen up – for the sake of their team and the organisation, just as the disagreeable ones have to learn how to be nice – if only for the PR.

The July 2010 issue of Psychologies magazine has picked up on this topic in their article; “Why it pays to be tough at work“. It suggests that the prevailing view that it’s not the cleverest (presumably meaning IQ) but those with the highest emotional intelligence that succeed is wrong.

That was always a simplistic view at best and one that Adrian Furnham disagrees with as he says there is evidence that disagreeable poeple do better. The German research quoted says agreeable women earned £40,000 less over a lifetime than women who behaved more like ruthless men.

The article’s author then has a go at empathy. She quotes Jack Welch’s wife as saying that; “too much empathy is paralysing” when you have to give tough feedback or make tough decisions, and goes on to talk about women being prone to slipping into “good mother” roles where they create “gardens of entitlement” sowing seeds of future problems (such as?).

After dismissing empathy – by quoting Neutron Jack’s wife for goodness sake – the author next attacks self-knowledge which she doesn’t consider essential for top jobs as it can detract from self-confidence if it makes you aware of your failings (is she serious that these people don’t need feedback ?

Some people have short memories; what about Enron, the banks or BP?. Furnham is quoted as saying that people who get on may be narcissistic – which is not the only dark-side attribute.

If men overestimate their abilities and don’t navel gaze while women underestimate themselves and have self-doubt (imposter syndrome) then women seemed doomed to fail according to the author and people like Suzy Welch.

In fact the author seems to welcome emotional stupidity as it makes less demands on her. She even has a dig at Anne Mulcahy, ex-CEO of Xerox, because, although she has written about what women can bring to the workplace in terms of emotionality which makes them better leaders, she cut 1/3 of the workforce.

Did she not wonder how Neutron Jack got his nickname?

Original published on 12 April 2010