Defining Moments in Leadership

My colleagues and I recently attended a local breakfast meeting with Tulsa’s Lead Change Group. We focus on leadership virtually every day at Hogan, but stepping away from our desks and engaging in a community discussion about leadership proved to be both interesting and insightful. Plus, the bagels and coffee helped get the early morning off to a great start.

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How Attractive Is Your Personality? (Part I)

Although it sounds like the hook in a romantic comedy, recent findings indicate that your inner beauty (or lack thereof) might be affecting your outer beauty.Let me back up. A few months ago I was analyzing data from a large community sample and I stumbled upon some interesting information. Specifically, I found peer ratings of physical attractiveness on a sample of people who completed the Hogan personality and values assessments. Considering that I am (a) distractible and (b) a nerd, I decided to investigate further. It’s important to note that these were not ratings of likeability, friendliness, etc. Peers rated the extent to which the target person was “good-looking,” “unattractive,” “physically attractive,” and “not good-looking.” So the question became: does one’s personality affect their perceived physical attractiveness? The answer, to an extent, is yes. There were significant effects on seven of twenty-eight scales across the Hogan Personality Inventory, Hogan Development Survey, and Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory. I found positive correlations between ratings of physical attractiveness and scores on HPI Interpersonal Sensitivity, HDS Colorful, MVPI Affiliation, and MVPI Altruistic. Additionally, I found negative correlations between physical attractiveness and HDS Reserved, HDS Leisurely, and HDS Imaginative. What does this mean in non-Hoganese? First, we are physically attracted to people who are nice, friendly, approachable, and considerate. No big surprise there; mean people are ugly (or is it that ugly people are mean because they are ugly?). Second, we are attracted to people who have a flair for the dramatic, drawing a lot of attention to themselves, and being the center of attention, even to a fault. These big personalities draw our eyes to them and we seem to find them attractive for that, even if they are acting in this way for self-serving reasons. Next, we find people who value networking, teamwork, collaboration, and social interaction physically attractive. This may indicate that we are attracted to people who have the inclination or desire to engage and get to know us. Finally, the altruists of our society are found to be attractive. These individuals are motivated by a concern for the welfare of others. The attraction is likely borne out of the perception that the person is taking a genuine interest and concern for our needs and well-being; perhaps a more generous lover? Now let us turn our attention to our turn-offs. First, we are not fans of the cold, stoic, aloof types. These individuals appear indifferent to the feelings or concerns of others, so this finding is in alignment with the aforementioned factors of heightened attraction. Next, we find passive-aggressive behavior to be particularly unattractive. Although these individuals may appear friendly and cooperative on the surface, we seem to see through fa?ade and recognize that they are likely to act on their own agenda, which makes them less desirable. Finally, our eccentric visionaries are apparently persona non grata. Overall, results indicate that creativity is not related to attractiveness, but here we have an indication that extreme (and unconventional) creativity is actually a mild repellant. These results come from a single (but large) community sample. Therefore, these are not necessarily universal truths. Nonetheless, the trends are clearly there and of mention. Also, the peers providing these ratings knew the target people, so there is no guarantee that these results would generalize to how attractive a stranger at a bar will find you. That being said, it is logical that personality affects physical attractiveness only at the point that someone gets to know us at least a little bit. In summary, these results indicate that personality does have an impact on physical attractiveness. If you want to be perceived as attractive, stop acting like an inconsiderate jerk. Even if you have the face of Adonis (or Persephone), curt, brash, or uncaring behavior will likely downgrade your hotness factor. The next installment on this topic dives into gender differences, explaining what it takes for men and women (separately) to be perceived as physically attractive. Sneak preview: there are clear differences and the results do not confirm what we may commonly assume…

The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship

The future of the US (and world) economy depends on the activity of entrepreneurs, who create businesses, jobs, and wealth. Although, as Adam Smith noted, they do this for perfectly self-centered reasons and the fact that others profit from their activities is of no interest to them. Adam Smith was speaking from personal experience, and if he were alive today, he would still need to speak from experience, because applied psychology knows little about the psychology of entrepreneurship in an empirical way—although interest in the subject has begun to emerge. What happens when they are in charge? The bottom line is that they make disastrous managers. Read More »

Motivating Employees in Today’s Economy: A Lesson from the Past

  Faced with the threat of a double-dip recession, many U.S. companies, rather than re-expanding their diminished workforces, are expecting more from their employees for less pay. These circumstances put a strain on worker satisfaction; a survey by First Command Financial Services Inc. found that 24% of respondents were unhappy with their job and 39% were actively looking for a new employment. Talent Management magazine quoted Scott Spiker, First Command CEO, as saying, “This rising discontent in the middle-class workforce is clearly being fueled by the continuing economic turmoil.” Reduced bonuses and extended work weeks are sure to diminish morale. So what can organizations do to motivate and retain their talent given today’s economic constraints? A look back into the field of psychology may provide the answer. Read More »

M&As | Employee Impact

Dozens of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) occur on a daily basis in the business world. A vast majority of these deals are strategic plays designed to reduce costs, increase competitive advantage or simply buy out the closest competition. Many M&As go relatively unnoticed by the public unless an interest piece is published showcasing a $ billion headline paired with a well-known company. Unless you track these events, or their impact on everything from your cell phone bill to your investment portfolio, they can be easy to miss. Here is an abbreviated list of the largest global M&A’s from Q1 of 2011:1. AIG: $59 billionAcquirer: Preferred Shareholders2. TMobile USA: $39 billionAcquirer: AT&T3. Progress Engery Inc.: $26 billionAcquirer: Duke Energy Corp.4. Fiat SpA-Auto Business: $18.5 billionAcquirer: Shareholders5. ProLogics: $15.2 billionAcquirer: AMB Property CorpIn the last few months, M&A’s have also been a recent topic of conversation with multiple individuals from a consulting standpoint. Unfortunately, these have been negative experiences from the ‘acquired,’ citing example after example of poorly-managed and poorly-implemented transitions. Regardless of the financial purpose behind M&A activity, there are still corporate citizens (aka: people) that are dramatically affected by such deals. It is only natural that employees may feel alienated in their role or fear losing their senior position to an individual with marginal experience in their area of expertise. Said differently, an acquired employee is likely to view this situation as something closely aligned with a hostile takeover rather than a merging of shared I.P. and capital in which a new more competitive company can emerge. Senior executives must then lead this transition rather than manage reactions or mitigate attrition.Deanna Hartley, in an article from Talent Management magazine, proposes that leaders must clearly communicate the intentions behind M&A activity, expectations of value-added processes, and potential risks and opportunities to all staff members. Hartley goes on to say that a key process in communication with M&A is ensuring your message matches what employees hear or interpret. She suggests numerous top-down meetings, roundtable discussions, and exposure to leadership from both sides of the deal. Ultimately, clarity and security should be a target in the minds of upper management while stabilizing the merging of two distinct companies. As long as new business relationships form with frequent, open dialogue, there should be reduced chance for productivity to suffer.It would not be a surprise to say that there is little emphasis on aligning corporate culture in the boardroom during M&A negotiations. Be that as it may, companies should still involve employees to gather opinions or ideas on the transition as soon as a deal is reached. Early intervention, in the form of open communication, is crucial to quiet the fears of employees on both sides of the table. 

Happy Customers, Happy Employees, Happy Brand

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Dan Pallotta wrote a noteworthy entry, titled “A Logo Is Not a Brand,” which examines the importance of one’s brand beyond the logo, ads, and celebrity sponsors. As part of his piece, Pallotta refers to the implications customer service can have on a brand, for better or worse: “If the clerk at your checkout counter is admiring her nails and talking on her cell phone, she's your brand, whether she's wearing one of the nice new logo caps you bought or not.” 

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Bad Bosses in Hollywood

My husband and I needed a break from the heat last weekend, so we ventured out to the movie theater. We decided to see Horrible Bosses – I’m a Jason Bateman fan, and my husband (not surprisingly) finds Jennifer Aniston quite talented. As the storyline unfolded – three friends plotting to kill their respective bosses – I started thinking about how many memorable films have depicted frustration and dissatisfaction in the workplace.One of the first movies that came to mind was 9 to 5 starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin. In 9 to 5 the women dream of murdering their overbearing, humiliating, and sexually harassing boss. In this case, their accidental murder attempt (never keep the rat poisoning with the coffee creamer) resulted in kidnapping their boss and taking over his job. Ironically, the organization had greater productivity, work life balance, and employee satisfaction under their reign. This film provided a great portrayal of some of the frustrations and barriers women faced during the 1980s.More than a decade later, the film Office Space provided a comedic outlet for anyone who was being downsized, analyzed, or bored by a mundane work environment. After a meeting with an organizational efficiency consultant, Peter Gibbons plots to steal money from Initech with the help of two friends: Samir and Michael Bolton. When this plan works a little too well, the men try to correct their mistake and end up watching their company be burned to the ground by their disgruntled co-worker, Milton. Flash forward to last weekend. Once again, Hollywood portrayed three friends working for arrogant, micromanaging, and sexually harassing bosses. Each friend faces unique challenges in his work environment, but the sentiment is the same: the work environment will improve with a staffing change.In addition to providing a humorous take on the workplace’s daily frustrations, these films have a common theme: they illustrate that leadership plays a vital role in employee satisfaction and motivation in the workplace. In a presentation I recently attended, the speaker asked the audience how many people had worked for a bad boss. The show of hands was astonishing! When asked what these individuals found frustrating, we heard responses like volatile, micromanaging, and manipulating – adjectives related to interpersonal style and behavioral characteristics, rather than skill or intelligence. Although the Hollywood portrayal of these bosses may be dramatic and comedic, these individuals do exist in the workplace, and organizations need to provide opportunities for self-awareness and development. If not, we may have more cases of disgruntled employees – minus the money laundering and murder plots (of course). 

The Importance of Understanding Global Leadership

Globalization has arrived. The work of individuals, teams, business units, and companies span geographic boundaries, markets, cultures, and languages. Organizations have operations around the globe, and the major economies of the world are tightly interconnected.

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There is no “I” in TALENT?

A virtual debate in the business blogosphere has been growing more and more heated over the past several weeks and months.  It appears the debate began with a May 17th New York Times article that quoted Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s illustrious CEO, as saying, “Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good. They are 100 times better.”  Although difficult to follow at first, Zuckerberg’s argument is that a brilliant individual is 100 times more valuable than a mediocre team.  His statement reflects a new strategy in the War on Talent that many have also begun to adopt.  According to the Times article, many of the giants in Silicon Valley are so desperate for fresh talent they have resorted to purchasing entire companies simply to acquire the gifted entrepreneurs, engineers, and programmers that created and comprise them.  This new practice has been dubbed “acqhiring,” and is becoming more common in industries where the competition for talent is fierce and requires more benefits, dazzling incentives, and creative ways to attract the best and brightest.

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We Hired You To Drive Change…Now Conform

An acquaintance of mine was recently sharing her on boarding experiences for a job she just started. She was hired her based on her experiences with dynamic talent management projects and they assigned her the mission of driving progressive change in the organization’s candidate selection and leadership development programs. An early indication of the obstacles standing in her way became clear when a colleague said, “Before we brainwash you into doing business as usual around here, tell me your ideas.” At least they were self-aware of their problem!

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