Friday, March 23, 2018

Crisis Management at Facebook

Facebook executives have received a great deal of criticism for their delayed public response regarding the "Cambridge Analytica" crisis.  CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg did not make any public statements regarding the situation for four days. Numerous public relations and crisis management experts have criticized top management for the lack of communication.  When executives began to speak publicly about the situation, the criticism did not subside.  Journalists, analysts, and customers demanded more information from the organization. Josh Constine at Tech Crunch wrote the following:

What’s missing from this response is any indication why Facebook didn’t do more to enforce its policy prohibiting apps from sharing user data, or why it took Cambridge Analytica at their word when they said they deleted the data without proper investigation. Or a straight-forward apology. Facebook is still playing the victim here.

Writing in the Washington Post, reporters Elizabeth Dwoskin, Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg revealed that Facebook may not have disclosed the full extent of their relationship with the researcher who gave all that data to Cambridge Analytica:

The psychologist who disseminated Facebook user data to an analytics firm working for the Trump campaign had a closer relationship with the social network than it has let on, co-authoring a research paper based on a massive amount of data that Facebook provided to him.

Undoubtedly, many crisis management lessons will be derived from this incident. Most experts will focus on the lengthy delay (four days) before Zuckerberg and Sandberg issued public statements. I think there's a related lesson though, and it has to do with people's expectations of these two executives. Before this scandal, these two business leaders had highly public profiles. They were everywhere - making speeches, participating in interviews, and being profiled in major publications. The downside of maintaining such a public profile is that people will expect much more of you if a crisis occurs. Four days of silence stands out EVEN MORE for these executives than it would for those who kept a very low profile. The lesson is clear: Be aware of what people will expect of you, bsaed on your past behavior. You will face much criticism if you seek publicity when times are good, and then go underground when scandal erupts.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Should Leaders Speak Last in Meetings?

Canadian enterpreneur Cameron Herold argues in this article in the Globe and Mail that leaders should speak last in meetings.  He writes,

When you have quieter, more reserved people in a meeting, the best thing you can do as the leader is hold your ideas back until the end. Too often, leaders offer their ideas first. But people don't become confident, or grow as leaders, by listening to what you have to say. Instead, you need to encourage members of the team to offer their ideas first, especially those less inclined to speak up.

Herold makes a great point here.  I'm not suggesting that leaders should always speak last.  However, in many cases, the leader does need to exercise some restraint so as to insure that all voices will be heard.  Moreover, leaders frame the problem when they open the discussion.  How you frame a problem often drives the types of solutions that are generated.  Leaders need to be careful about not framing a problem in a way that constricts the alternatives that are put forth.  

What should a leader be doing if they are not putting forth their ideas and proposals at the outset of the meeting?  They should be listening actively, asking questions, probing assumptions, requesting additional data if necessary, and calling on those who may be quiet to encourage them to join the conversation.   

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rethinking the Onboarding Process

How many companies bore the heck out of new employees during the onboarding process?  Do they bury them under an avalanche of forms to be completed and powerpoints to be viewed?  Recently, Dave Gilboa, co-founder of Warby Parker, sat down for an interview to discuss how his firm approaches onboarding.  Here's an excerpt from the article:

Many of the most memorable moments in any employee’s life cycle happen at the very beginning. Everything is new. Everything makes an impact. They either feel supported and excited or lost and bewildered. They feel initiated or left out. In a way, this sets the tone for how they perceive your culture and the rest of their time at the company. “You have to make people feel special and welcome from the very first moment they interact with your organization,” says Gilboa.

What are you doing to make your onboarding process energizing and inspirational?  Are you truly welcoming new employees and helping them begin to make interpersonal connections within the organization?  Are you inculcating the firm's values from the start?   

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Power of Guilt: Understanding Employee Absenteeism

Most of us probably believe that a link exists between a person's attendance record at work and his or her job satisfaction.  The employees who show up every day must be more satisfied than those who opt to stay home a fair bit, right?  Not so fast. Interestingly, the data do not support the beliefs most of us hold about absenteeism and job satisfaction.  

An interesting new study helps us understand what's really going on in the workplace.  Rebecca Schaumberg and Francis J. Flynn examined more than 300 customer service associates at various call centers.   The scholars measured job satisfaction, and they tracked the employee's attendance at work over a four month period.   Interestingly, they also administered a survey to evaluate how "guilt prone" each individual was.  What did they discover?  If individuals were not very susceptible to feelings of guilt, then attendance and job satisfaction are positvely corelated.  In other words, the more dissatisfied people are, the more likely they are to miss work.  That's what we would expect.  However, things change when we examine people who are higly "guilt prone."  For these people, no relationship exists between attendance and job satisfaction.  These people sometimes keep right on showing up for work, even if they are very unhappy, because of their feelings of guilt.  

The lesson is clear - be careful how you interpret a strong attendance record on the part of employees.  Low absenteeism may not signal that you have created a terrific work environment where people love to come to work.  It may tell more about the personal attributes of your workers, and what motivates them to act each morning.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Constructive Activity on a Snow Day

Another nor'easter rages today in the northeast.   Weather forecasters predict 15-20 inches of snow in my region.  Many people are not working today.  What can and should you with your time if you have some free time?  Besides shoveling the driveway, catching up on email, or taking a nap, you might consider learning something new.  Researchers have demonstrated that novelty stimulates the brain.   Moreover, innovative solutions often arise when people make connections between seemingly disparate concepts.  Therefore, think about reading a book about something outside of your domain of expertise.  Perhaps find a good documentary that intrigues you.  Play a game that you have never played before with your kids.  You may just ignite a creative spark by exposing yourself to a novel experience.  

Monday, March 12, 2018

Choiceology Podcast with Dan Heath

Check out my appearance on the "Summit Fever" episode of Dan Heath's Choiceology podcast.  You may know Dan as the best-selling co-author of books such as Made to Stick, Switch, Decisive, and The Power of Moments.  His books, written with his brother, Chip Heath of Stanford, are just terrific.  

Thursday, March 08, 2018

I Already Know That...

What's one of the most dangerous phrases that you can hear a leader utter?  "I already know that..." Why is it so worrisome when we hear those words?  It suggests that the individual believes that their state of knowledge on that subject is settled and complete.   Therefore, they might not be open to learning new things, to questioning what their assumptions, and to considering the fact that they just might be wrong.   We want leaders to at least consider the possibility that they are mistaken, or that changing circumstances make old assumptions outdated.  The next time you find yourself thinking, "I already know that," I encourage you to ask instead, "What questions might I ask that could spur additional learning on this subject?  How might I benefit from reconsidering my views and assumptions here? What could I be missing?"