Sunday, March 29, 2015

Supporting Others (or not!) As We Strive to Achieve Our Goals

Stanford Professor Szu-chi Huang has co-authored an interesting new paper about goal achievement along with Susan M. Broniarczyk of the University of Texas at Austin, Ying Zhang of Peking University, and Mariam Beruchashvili of California State University at Northridge.  Their paper is titled, "From Close to Distant: The Dynamics of Interpersonal Relationships in Shared Goal Pursuit.” 

What did these scholars discover about people's behavior with peers as they pursue common goals?   In the initial stages of goal pursuit, people tend to be supportive of one another.  They advise and encourage one another.   They reach out and try to help their peers.   However, as people get close to achieving their goals, they become more distant from their peers.   They are less likely to offer tips to others, or to share important and perhaps helpful information.   According to this article from the Standford Graduate School of Business, "Almost 79% of those in the advanced stage expressed feelings of distance and reluctance to share information with other members, compared with 44.4% in the early stage." 

Huang studied this phenomenon from the perspective of engaging customers in programs such as Weight Watchers.  The findings may have far-reaching implications though.  We know from a variety of studies that sharing information within groups can be a challenge.  Sometimes, we hear that people horde data because, "Information is power."  However, we know that power is not the only reason people fail to disclose information to their peers.  Sometimes, people work in different silos, and for that reason, barriers to free information flow exist.  In other cases, people do not feel safe speaking up and sharing their perspective.  This study suggests that sharing of information may be more prevalent when we begin to pursue a particular objective, but it may diminish as we approach our goals.   Teams leaders, therefore, need to be particularly mindful of facilitating information sharing and knowledge transfer as projects mature. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Does Variety Make Us Happier at Work?

Knowledge@Wharton reports on some interesting research by Wharton Professor Cassie Mogilner and Duke Professor Jordan Etkin.  They studied the effect that variety in your work affects your happiness.  In other words, do people prefer to work on many different things vs. focusing on one task?  Mogilner summarized their findings as follows:

It depends on the time frame. In [our research], we looked at the effect of variety of our activities on overall happiness. We found that over a day or a week or a month, variety — perhaps consistent with people’s perceptions — leads to greater happiness. However, over shorter periods of time than a day, such as an hour, 15 minutes [or a] half-hour, when variety actually does get experienced as multitasking, it actually becomes fairly stressful, and instead of variety increasing my happiness, it makes me less happy.

Jack Welch Speaking at Bryant University

I'm excited that Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, will be speaking here at Bryant University on Monday, April 13th! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Employee Loyalty at Marriott

Fortune has an in-depth look at Marriott's culture this week in its "best places to work" issue.  The magazine notes that Marriott's leadership, culture, and talent management practices have enabled it to achieve low employee turnover.  According to the article, "The average tenure for a hotel general manager at Marriott is 25 years; industrywide it’s much lower. Some 10,600 people have been there more than 20 years."  

What's the secret?  Well, it's not one thing, as you can imagine.  It's an entire system of activities that creates the type of environment in which people want to stay.  I thought one practice was particularly worth noting.  It's described here:

The second is an on-the-ground network of business councils—76 local and regional teams of general managers worldwide who meet regularly to compare notes and serve as a conduit to Bethesda, where they report to Debbie Marriott Harrison, global officer for culture and business councils (and Bill Marriott’s daughter). The councils “are one of the best tools I have,” she says.

I found this network quite interesting, because it creates the opportunity for information sharing and best practice transfer across the organization.  Moreover, it enables important information to flow to the corporate office.  It gives people voice and enables senior management to keep the finger on the pulse of the organization.  Of course, the key to making these types of councils successful is what senior management does with what they hear from the field.  I assume that Marriott demonstrates how they are truly listening to this input, and they act on the information and suggestions provided to top management.  People want a voice, but they also want to be sure that they are actually being heard. 

Bryant University's College of Business on Twitter

If you are interested in learning more about Bryant University's College of Business, where I serve on the faculty, please follow us on Twitter at @BryantCOB.   Hope you enjoy the conversation. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nancy Dubuc: Building a Great Team & Learning From Failure

In this week's New York Times Corner Office column, Adam Bryant interviews Nancy Dubuc, CEO of A&E Networks.  Dubuc (a native of Bristol, RI) describes her philosophy for building a great team:


How do you hire?  A lot of it is intuition. I also think about the skills I have and the skills I need. I’m a big believer in the idea that people tend to fall into one of three camps — you’re either a thinker, a doer or a feeler.  So I’ll be thinking about the mix of those three groups on my teams. If you have all thinkers, nothing will get done. If you have all doers, that can be really chaotic because you’re not necessarily thinking about the there, but at least they’re trying to solve the problem. And feelers are important because they create energy - but if you have too many of them, they will just dramatize the moment.  When the put the different kinds of people together in the right way, that can be very powerful.  You never want that out of balance.


Monday, March 16, 2015

The Performance of Mutual Fund Managers

Jeff Sommer wrote an article in the New York Times this weekend about a recent study of mutual fund performance.  The findings support a longstanding body of literature, but nevertheless, they are worth sharing because they are so stark.  Sommer describes research conducted by Standard & Poors.  They examined over 2,800 actively managed domestic equity mutual funds from 2010.  They identified the top 25% performers during that year, and then examined how many of those funds stayed in the top 25% each subsequent year.  How many achieved that feat through 2014?  Only two! (Hodges Small Cap and AMG Southern Sun Small Cap).  Amazingly, Sommer notes that random chance would have outperformed these mutual fund managers during this time period.  If the managers of these funds had simply flipped a coin to select their stocks, we should have expected that three funds would have remained in the top 25% each year from 2010 through 2014! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Do Work That Makes You Proud, and Don't Get Comfortable!

At today's 18th annual Bryant University Women's Summit, we heard from many terrific speakers, including Sallie Krawcheck (former president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America) and Hoda Kotb (morning anchor at NBC).  One of my favorite pieces of leadership advice came from Martha Sullivan, CEO of Sensata Technologies.  That firm is one of the world's leading suppliers of sensor technology, and it generates approximately $2.4 billion in annual revenue.  Sullivan accepted the New England Businesswoman of the Year Award at this year's summit.  In her acceptance speech, she reminded attendees, "Do work that makes you proud, and don't get comfortable."  First, don't make your focus the judgements of others.   Ask instead, am I proud of the job that I have done?  Did I do my best work?  Did I do it the right way?  Second, don't get complacent based on past success.  Don't think you've got it all figured out. The world's changing quickly, and the best leaders never get too comfortable.  Great advice from a very successful leader!