Harvard Business Review Notes by Frank Olsson

Harvard Business Review Notes by Frank Olsson

24 July 2020

Harvard Business Review Notes by Frank Olsson

Harvard Business Review May/ June 2020

This issue arrived mid-June or about two months later than normal as Covid19 epidemic slowed down all postal deliveries. Hopefully we are on the way back to something more normal. I found a couple of articles on ‘Sexual Harassment’ in the issue and one on ‘Becoming a genuinely empowering leader’ particularly interesting. Please find a few notes below.   

Value Humble Leaders. Humble leaders foster more collaborative top teams, model participative leadership, and increase information sharing across the organization. The company they lead do better on the stock market.

How Narcissism Affects Group Performance. Similar to the research on Humility it would seem quite obvious that Narcissists reduce the enthusiasm and contribution of team members as in borne out in the piece of research. Beware of Narcissists. / If you are signalling ‘I know more and am better than you,’ you make others shrink or nurture a desire to leave to the detriment of maximising aggregate talent – my comment/

Failures may not be the best teacher. When it comes to personal failures, people look away to protect their egos, and as a result they don’t learn – unless they are highly motivated.

Why Sexual Harassment Programs Backfire – and what to do about it by Fran Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev. The Harassment programs that the Supreme Court favoured in 1998 amounted to little more than snake oil, doing more harm than good. Start any training by telling a group of people that they’re the problem, and they’ll get defensive. Once that happens they are less likely to want to be part of the solution; instead they’ll resist. More than 30% of men said that false claims of sexually harassment are ‘a major problem.’ And no surprise that 58% of women who had been harassed said that not being believed is a major problem.

The reason why reporting harassment backfire is the retaliation against victims who complain. One study showed that 2/3 of women who reported their harassers were subsequently assaulted, taunted, demoted or fired by the harassers or friends of the harassers. Women who file harassment complaints end up, on average, in worse jobs and poorer physical and mental health than do women who keep quiet.

Companies sometimes offer to transfer victims to other departments or locations, but they almost never actually transfer or fire the accused, because they worry that the accused will sue. Instead they typically mandate more training.

Our current grievance system puts the victim at a disadvantage, through unenforceable confidentiality rules, a high evidentiary bar, and punishments that leave the harassers in place. That is why only one in ten victims make a formal complaint. This puts the victim in a lose-lose situation. 75% of victims just wanted the harassers to stop rather than get punished.

Having access to an Ombudsman (or Ombuds) is helpful. This is an outside neutral person there to help and guide the victim. This puts the victim in the driver’s seat. The Ombuds can can hear them out confidentially and help them think through their options.

Establishing a harassment taskforce is a sensible step to deal with it. The best way to enlist people for your cause is to ask them to help you with it. Shining a light on where problems lie can change the culture.

We can’t solve the problem by tagging all men as potential harassers in training sessions or by making victims navigate a complaint system designed to prevent the accused from suing. What is most helpful is to design training that treats all workers as victims’ allies and give them problem solving tools, and to design complaint systems that provide the typical victim with a quick response that doesn’t spark retaliation.     

Empower managers to Stop Harassment by Adrienne Lawrence. Most companies respond to sexual harassment as if it was a legal issue, quickly calling for HR intervention and then activating a highly choreographed, often biased, quasi-judicial process. This rarely shows sufficient concern for the employee who is being harassed and rarely lead to solving the actual problem. Typically, employers are primarily concerned with limiting their legal liability. 32% said they had not told anybody about being harassed, 3% filed a complaint, and 80% just left the company. Retaliation is illegal – yet it happens in at least 75% of instances where sexual harassment is reported.

What Happens When an Employee Calls the Ombudsman? by Charles L Howard. An ombuds serves as a knowledgeable sounding board for people experiencing difficulties at work, a supplement to formal channels for reaching those who have the authority to act, and a unique resource for expanding management’s insights into the company’s work life and culture. Our society and its organizations would be better off if such programs were ubiquitous.

The Agile C-suite by Darrell, Sarah Elk and Steve Berez. The agile process forces leaders to get out of their silos and work together as a multidisciplinary group, breaking through impediments and pivoting when necessary. By rebalancing whichever of the components are out of our alignment, they will, over time, over time, create an operating system for an agile enterprise. /you need to be able to operate as if you were small, no matter what your size – we see how small firms can get to solutions so much faster that giants – we need to teach the elephant to dance – my comment/. Spend less meeting time on operating details and more on strategic issues. When both stability and agility is achieved this improves business results, unleashes employee potential and job satisfaction.

The New Market Conundrum by Rory McDonald and Kathleen Eisenhardt. Early on forget about differentiation. Instead observe what others in the market are doing and borrow from them. Experiment relentlessly and then commit to a single template for creating value. But don’t go full speed ahead with it; leave your model purposely undetermined and wait until the market settles before optimizing it.

The Case for a Chief of Staff – CEOs need more support by Dan Ciampa. This article left me unconvinced as I think one must be careful not to create extra layers and reduce agility.

The first step to becoming a genuinely empowering leader by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss. The traditional leadership narrative is all about you: your vision and strategy; your ability to make the tough calls and rally the troops; your talents, your charisma, your heroic moments of courage and instinct. But leadership really isn’t about you. It’s about empowering other people as a result of your presence, and about making sure that the impact of your leadership continues in your absence. Your job as a leader is to create the conditions for your people to fully realize their own capacity and power /i.e. your role is to add value to staff – my comment/

Trust is crucial. People tend to trust you when they believe they are interacting with the real you (authenticity), when they have faith in your judgment (logic), and when they feel that you care about them (empathy). When trust is lost, it can almost always be traced back to a break down in one of these three drivers.

Instead of focusing on what you need in a meeting, work to ensure that everyone else gets what they need. Share the burden of moving the dialogue forward, even if it is not your meeting. Search for the resonant examples that will bring the concepts to life, and don’t disengage until all present understands. This is almost impossible to do if texting and checking emails is an option, so put away the devices. Put away your phone more frequently! Make an effort to learn from other people, showing you don’t have all the answers.

Encourage people not to hold back on their unique selves, that is their most valuable asset. Pay less attention to what you think people want to hear and more attention to what you need to say to them.

Discovery-Driven Digital Transformation by Rita McGrath and Ryan McManus. CEOs will have to integrate agility and innovation into their existing businesses. A discovery-driven approach provides a way to address those challenges.

Marketing Meets Mission by Myriam Sidibe. At Unilever, brands with a social mission promoted new behaviours that enhanced public health in Asian and African markets. At the same time, they grew 46% faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70% of the company’s revenues. Start on a purpose driven journey now!

The Strategic Side Gig by Ken Banta and Orlan Boston. Now, more than ever, engagement in strategic side gigs is a requirement for executives. It is critical these days to bring a different perspective and apply it to whatever you are doing. And you cannot do that if your attention is limited to the four walls of your organization.   

Notes by frank@olsson.co.nz 17/06/20


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