Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category
We’ve written a lot here about the lack of parity for women in income, career mobility, and leadership. Recently, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University published a special issue of KelloggInsight on Gender and Leadership. Rather than highlighting a specific article, we are going to tell you (briefly) about all of them with the individual URLs so you can go directly to any of particular interest to you. It’s a really nice line-up of work where you are sure to find something new even if you follow the gender and leadership literature closely.
Braggarts become leaders: Women don’t become leaders because they don’t speak up about their abilities, talents, and accomplishments. Men, on the other hand, do. Men become leaders. This article summarizes the research on tooting your own horn and how organizations need to understand that men are more likely to over-state their past accomplishments.
Queen Bees? Not so much: Women who rise to top positions (against the odds) are very likely to help other women gain promotions as well. For example, a woman’s presence on the Board of Directors not only increases the number of female executives but increased salaries for women, as well.
There really is a female leadership style: Comparing companies in both Norway and the United States, the authors find that companies with female CEOs tend to have fewer reductions in force (i.e., layoffs) in difficult economic times.
Woman in charge and economic growth: Countries with high levels of economic diversity often have slower economic growth. That changes when there is a woman in charge.
A discussion of the latest in gender research and equality: Alice Eagly (a well-known researcher) discusses the latest research findings and advises managers who want to promote gender equality in their organizations.
Recently, in a multi-panel mock trial, we held our breaths as a 60-something white male business man volunteered to be the presiding juror since he had a lot of experience leading groups. We had purposely loaded the group with only a single strong Plaintiff juror (and a second moderate Plaintiff supporter), knew the new presiding juror was a strong Defense supporter, and wondered if he would attempt to silence the Plaintiff jurors.
We knew we would have to interrupt deliberations if he did so despite very clear guidance (pre-deliberation) to allow everyone to be heard. We were heartened when the initial poll showed a 10-2 split and everyone summarized their thoughts. But, then the presiding juror said, “I’d like to roll back a bit and hear more from our Plaintiff jurors since that opinion is so different. We can learn from them and maybe they can learn from us.”
It was unexpected given the demographics and work history of the presiding juror. Looking closer, there was a clue in his background questionnaire. This was a man with three children, the eldest were in their late 30s and the third was 16. He had commented that it was a whole different world to raise the 16-year-old in than he experienced with the older siblings. That awareness of the importance of change and diversity of opinion in the world around him may have led to one of the most respectful and thoughtful deliberations we have seen, with a majority opinion listening carefully to the (clear and calm) opposing voice. It isn’t what we often see.
New research underscores the idea that the autocratic leader will dampen group collaboration IF the autocrat has a leadership role. If their role is not a formal one, however, the group will not allow the autocrat to take over and group discussion remains healthy and diverse. Researchers completed three separate studies with a total of 402 participants to arrive at these conclusions.
In the first experiment, they put participants into groups but secretly had one group member write (prior to the actual experiment) about a situation in which they had felt powerful. These are the instructions the secret writer was given:
“Please think about a time when you had power over someone. By power, we mean a situation in which you controlled the ability of another person or persons to get something they wanted, or were in a position to evaluate those individuals. Please write 4-5 sentences describing this situation in which you had power.”
This is a well-known way to induce feelings of power. Those who would be assigned as formal leaders were also asked to write about “how the experiences they wrote about could help inform the strategies they would use in team interactions the next day”. The next day, those “formal-leader writers” were given name tags that said “Leader” and in other cases, there was no formal leader assigned despite one member of the group being secretly “primed” (through the prior writing task) for feelings of power.
In the groups where the writer had a tag saying “Leader”, other group members experienced them as talking too much and reported a sense that group discussions were less respectful than in those groups without formal leaders. Team performance was diminished in these groups.
The writers that were not given a name tag saying “leader” were still vocal, but they did not drive the discussion in a negative way, and team performance was higher in these groups without the formal leaders.
The second and third studies replicated the key findings in Study 1 but Study 3 contains an important finding for litigation advocacy. In study 3, some of the formal leaders were given some additional information:
“Each member in the team is representing a different role. So, everyone has something unique to contribute to this task. Given every team member’s unique perspective, obtaining everyone’s views of the situation can be critical in reaching a good decision.”
You will likely not be shocked to learn that those leaders given the specific information on the value of each team member performed much more effectively. Specifically, they were not talking too much, not directing conversation excessively, and not disrespecting members of the group. The researchers conclude that when given formal positions of leaderships, leaders who feel powerful can lead to diminished team performance. When they are in formal positions of leadership, group members are more likely to defer to the leader. This dampening effect of a powerful or autocratic leader can effectively be diminished however, by simply instructing the leader on the value of every individual in the group.
We have advocated teaching jurors how to deliberate for a long time now, but in recent years have begun to specifically add the directive to let everyone speak and to interact respectfully so that the wisdom of the group can emerge. It has made a real difference in the quality of the information we obtain from our pretrial research, and, we believe, is directly transferable to the closing statement and teaching jurors how to deliberate effectively. The presiding juror we described at the beginning of this post took that directive to heart and acted in precisely the way this research would predict. That’s a good thing.
For the fourth year in a row we have been honored with recognition from the ABA via inclusion in their 2013 list of the Top 100 legal blogs in the country. We work hard to blog consistently even when inundated with work and would appreciate your vote for us at the Blawg 100 site under the LITIGATION category. You will have to register your email just so you can’t vote 47 times. There are many worthwhile law blogs on this list so take some time to peruse. Thanks! Doug and Rita
Tost, LP, Gino, F, & Larrick, RP (2013). When power makes others speechless: The negative impact of leader power on team performance. Academy of Management Journal, 56 (5) DOI: 10.5465/amj.2011.0180
If you are reading this blog post while in a meeting, please know it’s twice as likely women will be offended by your behavior than will men. That’s the finding of a new research study from Howard University and the USC Marshall School of Business Center for Management Communication. The study looks at perceptions of the person who uses a smart phone during either formal or informal meetings and their findings are intriguingly varied by gender, age, geographical location, income level, and even the number of people attending the meeting.
The research samples 554 full-time working professionals (204 employees at an East Coast beverage distributor and a nation-wide, random sample survey of 350 business professionals in the United States who earned more than $30K in income and were employed by companies with at least 50 employees). They asked survey participants for their reactions to the following smart phone use behaviors in both formal and informal meetings: making or answering calls, writing and sending texts or emails, checking text messages or emails, browsing the internet, checking time with the phone, checking incoming calls, bringing a phone to a meeting, and excusing oneself to answer calls.
Here are highlights of their findings:
The majority of Americans still consider it unacceptable to use smart phones during meetings. “In particular, making or taking calls, writing and sending texts or emails, checking text messages or emails, and browsing the internet are considered strongly inappropriate during formal business meetings.” While these actions are slightly more accepted during informal meetings, the majority still consider them unacceptable.
Younger professionals (age 21-30 years) consider checking texts and emails appropriate during formal meetings. “They are 3x more likely to consider this appropriate than professionals above 40 years of age.” In informal meetings, younger professionals think checking email and text, answering calls and even writing texts and emails appropriate–while those above 41 years of age beg to differ.
Men are twice as accepting as women of checking texts, sending texts, and answering calls during informal meetings.
Along the Western coast, professionals were least accepting of smart phone use during formal meetings. In the Southwest, professionals were least accepting of smart phone use during informal meetings.
Professionals with higher incomes are less accepting of mobile phone use in meetings. The researchers suspect that those with higher incomes are typically high-status and do not like subordinates whose attention strays during meetings.
Just setting your phone on the table at a working lunch with five other people is seen as rude by 20% of the survey responders. And your use of “Excuse me” prior to taking that call is not cutting it. More than 30% of the survey respondents think it is “rarely or never” appropriate “during informal/offsite lunch meetings”.
Overall, the researchers say these findings communicate the importance of using smartphones respectfully in meetings and recommend organizations use the data provided in their report to illustrate the “dramatic generational and gender differences” in perceptions of smart phone use during workplace gatherings.
While these results are striking, we would point out that the researchers asked survey participants for what they consider rude in others and not what they themselves do behaviorally. The findings are therefore subject to the fundamental attribution error since the observer often attributes behavior to character traits (like being rude and disrespectful to others in general), while the actor attributes their behavior to situational demands (like needing to respond quickly or awaiting a return call from a difficult to reach client). In essence, these are ‘leading questions’, which by their nature heighten awareness and sensitivity to the subject under examination. If they had asked us, we could have edited the questions to minimize this effect and avoided this weakness in the study.
As professionals who rely on smartphones to stay in touch with clients, keep projects in motion, field questions from outside the room about aspects of our work on the case at hand, et cetera, it is very tempting to rationalize checking messages constantly, and I confess my guilt at doing it when this research (and common courtesy) would suggest I’d be better served to wait. So here are a couple of suggestions for how to handle it.
Get over the need to be constantly wired. Know in advance whether something is so hot it requires immediate attention, and if nothing is that pressing, put your silenced phone somewhere that you can’t reach until after the meeting is recessed.
If there is something that must be dealt with during a meeting time or luncheon, anticipate to the others at the meeting the possibility of an interruption, apologize in advance, and if possible, explain to them why it is so urgent that it justifies your being distracted and your wasting their time.
If you are not entirely familiar with the organizational culture of the group you are meeting with (for instance, you are meeting with clients you are not entirely familiar with), don’t look to the young men in the room for cues about what is and is not acceptable. You are likely to turn off some of the group even if several don’t mind at all. Do you really want to risk insulting half of your client group? The safe bet is to keep your phone set on ‘chill’, and ignore it until you are by yourself.
Pretend that your clients or customers ‘know’ whether or not your smart phone use is truly urgent, and resist any compulsive but non-urgent usage. I have been in meetings (and even in trial) where attorneys or staff are checking sports scores, stock quotes, and playing solitaire. In one case, jurors noticed that a lawyer– sitting at counsel table– was playing online poker. If he doesn’t care about the testimony, why should the jury?
As professionals who rely on smartphones to maintain contact with busy attorney clients and who need to talk to our support team at somewhat unpredictable times, we chafe a bit over these findings, while admitting that we knew it all along. There is a reason that our parents wouldn’t let us answer the phone during dinner. And we know smartphone users can be obnoxious and annoying. These results are useful information to consider when it comes to workplace relationships and the maintenance of respect for those around us.
Washington, MC, Okoro, EA, & Cardon, PW (2013). Perceptions of Civility for Mobile Phone Use in Formal and Informal Meetings. Business Communication Quarterly.
Shuki. Soukias. Raheem. Samir. Jamal. Lakisha. Atholl. Tyronne. Magestic. Did you know that something as simple as a first name makes the difference between whether you even get the interview? Last weekend we were doing a focus group and one of the mock jurors had a very unique first name. One of a kind. She was African-American. It reminded us of this research and we wanted to post about it since the findings never exactly went viral (as they perhaps should have).
We are only going to cover one research article but there are several out there if you are interested in learning more. This one is more recent and that is why we chose it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if the studies are 10 years old or fairly recent: they all say the same thing. When we see names that seem ethnic to us, we are less interested in interviewing the applicant. It comes down to what is familiar and thus comfortable for us. We like common names more than unique names. And we want to hire people who have common names so that we are more comfortable.
After reviewing the literature, researchers hypothesized that common names would be liked more than unique or ethnic names. To examine the hypothesis, they completed three studies. First, researchers tested sample first names on “working adults and undergraduate business students”. They included “white” (e.g., John, Mary, Robert, Susan), “Russian” (e.g., Vladamir, Sergei, Oksana, Svetlana), “African-American” (e.g., Tyronne, Jamal, Latoya, Tanisha), and “unique” (e.g., Ajax, Atholl, Magestic, Tangerine) names in their sample. The goal of this study was to make sure the names “fit” for the participants sense of White, Russian, African-American and Unique first names.
Participants rated the “white” names as common, the “Russian” names as “likely not American”, and saw the African-American names and the “unique” names as different (as opposed to common). Further, common names were more likable, African-American and Russian names were somewhere in the middle, and unique names were liked the least.
In the second study, 166 university students enrolled in part-time graduate business courses (61% male, 39% female; 78% White, 4% African-American, 2% Hispanic, 12% Asian/Pacific Islander; and 3% “other”; average age 30 years; average work experience 8.4 years) were selected. The participants in this study were asked to evaluate the names in terms of how unique they were, how much they liked the names, and “how willing they would be to hire people with those names”.
In this study, again, participants liked the unique names less and were less likely to be hired. The “best names” (i.e., most liked and most likely to be hired) in this study were Mary and Robert and the “worst names” (i.e., least liked and least likely to be hired) were Atholl and Magestic. African-American and Russian names were seen as being in between these two extreme in both likability and willingness to hire.
So, in the third study, the researchers wanted to check actual hiring behavior to see if the same findings occurred again. In this study, participants were “105 working adults enrolled in a part-time MBA program who had not participated in either of the earlier two studies”. Average age was 28 (range was 21 to 47); they averaged 6.3 years of work experience; 55% reported they had hiring experience; 82% were White, 2% were African-American, 4% were Asian or Pacific Islander, 3% were Hispanic, and 2% were “other” (7% did not report race); 62% were male and 31% were female (7% did not report gender).
Participants in this study were told to imagine they were hiring a new administrative assistant. They were given a real newspaper ad for an administrative assistant and a booklet with 8 resumes and 8 sets of questions regarding hiring. All resumes were designed to make them reasonable candidates for the administrative assistant position. 4 resumes were males and four females with one name taken from each of the four name categories. Participants were asked to evaluate how likely they would be to hire the individual candidates.
We know you think you know what is coming. And (at least in this instance) you are likely wrong. There were no effects by name type or gender. The researchers were surprised by this (as were we) given the strong findings in the first two studies and the plethora of research on the topic.
They offer several ideas for why this happened–chief among them that the participants (as MBA students) wanted to be seen positively and so they were very careful to respond in a socially positive manner. Further, the participants took 15 to 20 minutes to review the 8 resumes and this is unlikely to happen in a regular workplace where supervisors scan resumes to make a rough cut and first impressions are more likely to determine whether a resume goes on for an interview or is discarded.
What the authors do say is that their results would indicate that rejecting unique names is not simply due to racial prejudice. If that were the case, the African-American names would have been the “worst” names for getting an interview. Instead, the studies found that how unique a name was determined which names would go in the “most disliked” category. The researchers think recruiters may well react negatively to names that are unique and thus not recruit or interview those candidates with unique names as often as they choose to recruit and interview those with common names. Anecdotal evidence confirms this theory, both in the States and abroad.
The most obvious omission in the research studies above regards Hispanic names. Would they trigger special treatment? Even in 2008 (when the research was published) the prominence of Hispanic employees in the US workforce would have made inclusion in the study obvious. So we will have to wait a bit to find out whether Javier should change his name to James, and Amelia stands a better chance if she is known as Emily. It would be a shame, but then again, none of us choose our names, so judging one another for the decisions made by our parents when we were born is probably always a shame.
So should people with unique first names change their names for career purposes? The EEOC would beg to differ and may indeed be differing (although it is not confirmed) with the owner of the Whitten Hotel in Taos, New Mexico. This is instead an issue for every organization to take responsibility for reversing. We may not be comfortable with ethnic sounding names but that is very much our problem and not the problem of the individual with the ethnic name. Here’s what you can do:
Use initials on resumes rather than names (and no pictures!) so each candidate is evaluated based on skills and abilities rather than assumptions about names or faces (and the ethnic or racial information they may communicate).
Educate your hiring managers and HR staff about ethnic first name biases. In the process, make it absolutely clear that not only is it a foolish policy to select people based on what their parents thought were nice names, it is likely illegal if construed to be racially tinged. And it usually is.
Promote a work environment that reflects the changing demographics of the country (and the world).
Cotton, J., O’Neill, B., & Griffin, A. (2008). The “name game”: affective and hiring reactions to first names Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23 (1), 18-39 DOI: 10.1108/02683940810849648