What should you do when you become the boss? HBR’s new advice podcast Dear HBR: has the answers. In this bonus episode, Dear HBR: co-hosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks, an expert on behavioral insights. They talk through what to do when your direct reports are older than you, how to be a likeable leader, and what to say if you’re not ready to be in charge.
Working as a senior executive can be a lonely job. You have to deliver tough messages. You can’t always be transparent about your own challenges. And you must keep key decisions confidential until the timing is right.
There’s no way to escape the necessary burdens of authority. And, from time to time, you may develop a friendship with someone in your organization. It’s one thing to have a peer-to-peer friendship at work, but another to have a power imbalance with your friend. Can you be friends with someone who works for you, especially when your role requires you to harbor secrets from them?
Consider this example: Mariah and Einat became friends over a dozen years ago after they discovered their shared love of outdoor activities. They’ve hiked and backpacked and taken long bike rides together. Together they have survived some sharp rocks, literally and figuratively, in their friendship.
The subject of sexual misconduct at work is dominating mainstream conversation and board room agendas. This doesn’t just mean men and women who run large global enterprises, Fortune 500 behemoths, film studios, and media platforms. The conversation is happening in small businesses as well.
In the U.S. 43% of employees work in organizations with 50 or fewer people. It would be a mistake to think that a smaller workforce means a decreased chance of sexual harassment. In fact, a few characteristics make small firms more susceptible.
For example, at a smaller firm, people may engage with each other more frequently and that proximity can make the impact of any harassment feel disproportionately large. It can be extremely disruptive if two out of twenty employees suddenly can’t work together and need to be separated. And the legal and punitive costs of sexual harassment cases can feel steeper to a firm
Diversity is both an issue of fairness and, some say, a driver of innovation and performance. To assess the latter claim, we undertook a large, cross-country study into the relationship between multiple aspects of managerial diversity, the presence of enabling conditions such as leadership support for diversity, and innovation outcomes.
We surveyed more than 1,700 companies across eight countries (the U.S., France, Germany, China, Brazil, India, Switzerland, and Austria) and a variety of industries and company sizes, examining diversity in management positions, measured with respect to gender, age, national origin, career path, industry background, and education. We partnered with the Technical University of Munich for the statistical analysis of the results. We examined the correlation of these variables both individually and collectively, with the percentage of revenues coming from products introduced in the last three years as a proxy for innovation impact. Innovative companies are taken to
Getting as much as they can from analytics is critical for companies seeking to monetize their data, become data-driven, and put their data to work. Yet most find this difficult. Indeed, the failure rate of analytics projects remains distressingly high.
A key reason for this is that senior managers fail to manage their data scientists properly. Many fail to focus the data science program, or they put data scientists in the wrong spots in the organization; others view the data science as a technical, not business, initiative; and still others underestimate how resistant their organizations are to change, and do not fully equip data scientists to change hearts and minds.
These missteps lower your chances of success and, in extreme cases, doom the effort from the very start. But by following the road map below, you can ensure that your data scientists are more productive, and
David Maister was angry. He had been surprised and annoyed to learn that his company had set up a new AI-based marketing system that was doing most of what he thought was his job as digital marketing manager at Global Consumer Brands: deciding what ads to place where, for which customer segments, and how much to spend. And when he found that the system was buying ads for audiences that didn’t fit the company’s customer profile, he stormed in to his boss’s office and yelled, “I don’t want men and women over 55 buying our product! It’s not our audience!” Maister demanded that the system vendor modify it to enable him to override its recommendations for how much to spend on each channel and for each audience target. The vendor scrambled to give him the controls he wanted. However, after being given the reins on budgeting and
All managers know that they need to help their employees through challenging times – whether it’s a tough work situation like a tight deadline or high-stakes client, or a demanding personal situation, like a new baby or a sick parent. But almost no manager is prepared for when one of their direct reports announces that he or she has cancer, despite the fact that more than 1.6 million people will be diagnosed this year.
As an executive coach who works with top corporate leaders, I’ve closely researched how managers can respond well or poorly when faced with such a situation. It’s also a lesson I learned firsthand when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. If one of your employees tells you about a diagnosis, here are four things to keep in mind.
Allow your employee to control the terms of disclosure. You may
Scores of recent stories have exposed the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in industries such as Hollywood, tech, politics, and academia. Less attention has been given to lower-paying jobs, such as those in the service and hospitality industry, where the problem runs rampant.
More sexual harassment claims in the U.S. are filed in the restaurant industry than in any other, where as many as 90% of women and 70% of men reportedly experience some form of sexual harassment. While the industry has had its share of high-profile stories (with a number of well-known chefs and TV personalities being accused of inappropriate behavior), even more insidious is the routine harassment of service workers by managers, coworkers, and, importantly, customers.
There are several factors that make restaurant employees particularly susceptible to sexual harassment. First, men make up the majority of management and higher-paying roles in the U.S. restaurant industry.
When we talk about the importance of building strong relationships with employees, there’s a growing contingent that we often neglect: those who don’t work in the main office. This means not just the 31% of Americans who work remotely four or five days a week but also the people in satellite locations, where workers can easily feel forgotten. I’ve experienced this problem both as a manager and as an employee. For instance, when I ran a startup in San Francisco that was acquired by a company based in Toronto, I went from overseeing on-site and off-site employees to leading an entirely off-site branch of a faraway business. Being a remote employee myself, and having my entire team also fall into that category, forced me to think differently about how to build team culture and keep everyone engaged and motivated.
I traveled to headquarters to meet the team, figure out the
Vincent Siciliano, CEO of California-based New Resource Bank, was brought in to turn things around and restore the bank’s founding mission, which is to “serve values-driven businesses and nonprofits that are building a more sustainable world.” Within a few years, Vince had the bank back on track, but not everything was going as well as it seemed.
After the successful transition, the leadership team decided to take the pulse of the organization, and discovered low levels of engagement and displeasure with senior leaders. Vince was surprised, but he assumed the discord was left over from the many changes the organization had gone through, so he chose not to take action — time would heal all.
A year later, the bank sent out another employee survey. This time, the results were more specific: Morale was a significant issue, and the majority of people, including members of the senior
Walmart announced today that it is raising its starting wages in the United States from $9 per hour to $11, giving employees one-time cash bonuses of as much as $1,000, and expanding maternity and parental leave benefits as a result of the recently enacted tax reform. It is part of Walmart’s broader effort to create a better experience for its employees and customers. The new tax law creates a major business opportunity for other retailers as well — if their leaders are wise enough to take advantage of it.
The U.S. corporate tax rate is dropping from 35% to 21%. Retailers, many of whom have been paying the full tax rate, are going to benefit substantially. Take a retailer that makes 15% pretax income. Assuming its effective tax rate goes from 35% to 21%, it could save the equivalent of 2.3% of sales. Specialty retailers with higher pretax
Sydney Finkelstein, a professor of management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, encourages leaders to approach their direct reports like teachers. As Finkelstein explains, being a teacher-leader means continually meeting face to face with employees to communicate lessons about professionalism, points of craft, and life. He says it’s easy to try and that teaching is one of the best ways to motivate people and improve their performance. Finkelstein is the author of “The Best Leaders Are Great Teachers” in the January–February 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Early results of an experiment at The Gap provide hope that there might be a remedy for one of the most controversial labor practices in retailing and other service industries, such as hospitality, health care, and call centers. That practice: schedules that require employees to work different shifts every week. Associates rarely have any control of their schedules, and often get only three days’ notice of next week’s schedule. These volatile and unpredictable schedules can wreak havoc with workers’ child-care arrangements, school classes, and other personal responsibilities. They can make it virtually impossible for part-timers to hold down multiple jobs, and widely fluctuating hours mean workers’ incomes also can fluctuate widely.
But this situation could change.
Since 2015, stable-scheduling legislation has been passed in four cities (San Francisco, Emeryville, Seattle, New York), one state (Oregon), and introduced in many others. As a result of
Companies that want to help their employees become better stewards of cybersecurity need to go beyond regular trainings on password security and other basic protocols. The best way to train employees to defend against hackers is to teach them how to think like one.
The first step is getting smart about what it actually means to be a “hacker.”
Start by forgetting everything the media and entertainment industry has told you about hackers. The media has a history of sensationalizing the term by using it to denote cybercriminals. This is too narrow a view.
In many ways, hackers are the model citizens of the digital era. They are creative, persistent, and resourceful. They think in digital terms and have the curiosity and drive to figure out how technology works. They view every problem as an opportunity. They stand up for what they believe in and they want the world
Some years ago, we worked with a director of a multinational pharma company who’d been receiving poor grades for engagement and leadership effectiveness. Although he tried to change, nothing seemed to work. As his frustration grew, he started tracking the time he spent with each of his direct reports — and every time he received bad feedback, he pulled out his data and exclaimed, ”But look how much time I spend with everyone!”
Things improved when he began a daily 10-minute mindfulness practice. After a couple of months, people found him more engaging, nicer to work with, and more inspiring. He was surprised and elated by the results. The real surprise? When he pulled out his time-tracking spreadsheet, he saw that he was spending, on average, 21% less time with his people.
The difference? He was actually there.
He came to understand that, even though he was in the same
It’s your job as a manager to make work meaningful for the members of your team. But what about the freelancers with whom you work? Have you stopped to consider how they’re finding meaning in their careers?
We answered this question by interviewing freelancers in a wide range of industries — from tech to advertising. And what we found in our interviews was an interesting reinforcement of our prior work on employer branding and agile talent. The freelancers’ answers about what made work meaningful for them mapped to these six drivers:
- Advancement: Moving up, seeking status and responsibility
- Autonomy: Independence, seeking choice and flexibility
- Balance: Time for what matters, seeking achievement and enjoyment
- Service: Social contribution, seeking to make the world a better place
- Variety: Development, seeking new opportunities to learn and grow professionally
- Affiliation: Community, seeking membership
Here’s a quick sampling of what we heard:
What would you do if the majority of your entry-level, hourly workforce was planning to leave in less than a year? More than half of the 1,200 young people working in entry-level jobs we surveyed said that was their plan — and less than a quarter felt highly satisfied with their job. That’s expensive for business. Turnover can cost up to 200% of an employee’s annual salary, depending on the role. In industries like retail, customer service, and hospitality, entry-level turnover alone costs billions of dollars each year, based on voluntary turnover rates and annual replacement costs. Meanwhile, employee disengagement results in higher absenteeism, more accidents, lower business profitability, worse customer service, and a lower share price.
To understand how employers can improve engagement and retention, FSG worked with Hart Research Associates to survey over 1,200 entry-level, hourly workers between the ages of 17 and 24, and
As topics like automation, artificial intelligence, and skills retraining dominate conversations about the future of work, some predict catastrophic job loss and a dystopian future where legions of unskilled workers languish unemployable in the margins. Others, like O’Reilly Media’s Tim O’Reilly, aren’t so pessimistic. They remind us that we’ve been here before and that, rather than simply increasing efficiency and cutting costs, emerging technologies can be used to augment our work and raise the quality of life for the population as a whole.
Regardless of which view prevails, navigating this terrain requires a workforce that can adapt to changing environments and acquire the skills necessary to be successful in the future. And that’s where we are falling short. In the surveys of the U.S. workforce that we conduct at the American Psychological Association, training and development consistently emerges as one of the areas employees are least satisfied with and lack of opportunity for growth, and advancement is second only to low pay
“What’s wrong — is the company going bankrupt? Are we being sold?”
For Charlie, who had joined his family’s bakery business two years after getting his MBA and earning his stripes at another company, this question from the plant manager came out of the blue.
He was eager to earn his colleagues’ respect, rather than relying on his family name to provide it. So he went to great lengths to be just “one of the gang” in every possible way. This included parking in the back of the building and walking through the production plant, rather than zipping into the reserved space he’d been provided near the executive offices in the front. Most days he would stop and chat on his walk through the factory, getting to know his colleagues and learning more about the operations. But one day, after his morning walkthrough, the plant manager
Imagine looking at a photo of a single shoe on the sidewalk, or two people embracing, or a person walking alone into a cemetery. All these images instantly ignite emotions and associations — without a written or spoken word. And because the reaction is physiological, it happens in seconds.
As a facilitator, I’ve found that photos can create connections between people faster — and more profoundly — than any other icebreaker or team-building activity I’ve ever used. And because the response photos evoke is natural, leaders with no facilitation experience can use photos to turn many team interactions into an opportunity to create connection and accelerate collaboration.
Why does a photo create a feeling of connection? Thank biology. And hormones.
Human communication has existed for more than 30,000 years, but written communication has been around for only 3,700. As a result, our brains had a lot of