TIME psychology

What Can You Learn From the Toughest Leadership Job on Earth?

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Brazilian navy captain Sergio Lucas (R) looks on aboard the Brazilian Navy's Oceanographic Ship Ary Rongel as it goes through the Beagle Channel on its way to Antarctica on March 2, 2014. VANDERLEI ALMEIDA—AFP/Getty Images

Imagine you’re heading up a team stationed in Antarctica. And your relationship with some of the crew members goes sour.

There’s nobody else to enforce your authority. In fact, there’s no one for hundreds — if not thousands — of miles.

And you can’t fire anyone. Everyone has a critical role. How do you even punish them?

How can you take things away in a situation where everyone only has the minimum amenities to begin with?

And there’s no one to get much advice or counsel from.

Do you take a stereotypical military perspective and crack the whip? Apply the pirate model and have someone walk the plank?

Research has been done on the subject — and the tough guy stuff wasn’t effective.

What worked? Being democratic and listening. In the harshest conditions you need the softest touch.

Via Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration:

During the early 1960s, the Navy Medical Neuropsychiatric Research Unit (now the Naval Health Research Center) conducted a series of studies concerning leadership at small Antarctic stations. In that research program, Nelson (1962) found that esteemed leaders tended to possess a relatively democratic leadership orientation and a leadership style characterized by greater participation in activities than traditional for a military organization. Further, the esteemed leaders developed individual relationships with each of their crew members and reportedly sought the opinions of individual crew members about issues directly concerning them.

Now even the extraordinary leaders didn’t just play mom toward the team.

Good leaders were still aggressive, industrious and emotionally disciplined — but they were focused on group harmony.

Via Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration:

Popular leaders tended to be more self-confident and alert, but they differed most from unpopular leaders by exhibiting greater emotional control and adaptability and maintaining harmony within the group. The latter trait again emphasizes the motivational component of effective leadership; that is, the esteemed leader takes the time to speak personally with crew members and do whatever is necessary to preserve group solidarity. Many ineffectual leaders probably know that they should make these efforts, but they refrain because of insufficient motivation.

Crew members didn’t expect a leader to be a superman who had all the answers — in fact, that was a bad sign.

When there was a technical problem they wanted the expert in that area to make the decision.

They wanted policy decisions to be made by the leader — but only after input from the group.

And the only time they really wanted a take-charge, decisive dictator was in times of crisis.

Via Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration:

In general, Nelson found that a specific leader’s status and esteem in a small Antarctic group were determined by the manner in which three types of decisions were made. First, crew members expected technical or task specific decisions to be based on consultations with the appropriate specialists and individuals involved. Second, crew members expected decisions about general or routine station policy matters that would affect all personnel, such as scheduling of housekeeping and recreational activities, to be made by the leader following consultation with the entire group. Third, crew members expected leaders to make decisions regarding emergency matters as quickly and autocratically as necessary under the circumstances.

So in the toughest place in the world, tough leadership didn’t work. It was those who listened and collaborated who thrived.

 

So What?

You don’t lead a group in the Antarctic, you say? I think we all do now.

The autocratic, military style doesn’t work in the modern office either.

What’s most people’s biggest problem in the workplace? Hands down — their boss.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management

Researchers have been studying organizational climate for more than 50 years and routinely find “that 60% to 75% of the employees in any organization — no matter when or where the survey was completed and no matter what occupational group was involved — report that the worst or most stressful aspect of their job is their immediate supervisor.”

And bad employee-boss relationships have negative effects on the whole company.

People who hate their boss take more sick days, do less work and are more likely to quit.

Via Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management Is Over–and Collaboration Is In:

There’s a growing body of research indicating that bad bosses hamper productivity, which results in smaller profits and lost business. University of Florida researchers found that people who work for abusive bosses are more likely to arrive late, do less work, and take more sick days even though they may be physically fine… this kind of employee-manager abusive relationship resulted in a workforce that “experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed mood and mistrust.” These workers were also less likely to take on additional tasks, such as working longer or on weekends, and were generally less satisfied with their jobs. Also,employees were more likely to leave if they were involved in an abusive relationship than if they were dissatisfied with their pay — proving the old maxim that people quit bosses, not companies.

Even extraordinary leaders must learn the best ways to fight their number one enemy: hubris.

The military style dictator attitude won’t fly anymore. In fact, that style probably never even worked that well in the military.

Research shows the best Navy leaders have been supportive, not harsh.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

This isn’t only true in corporate settings. In environments thought to be even more stoic than corporate America—like the military—leaders who openly express their positivity get the most out of their teams. In the U.S. Navy, researchers found, annual prizes for efficiency and preparedness are far more frequently awarded to squadrons whose commanding officers are openly encouraging. On the other hand, the squadrons receiving the lowest marks in performance are generally led by commanders with a negative, controlling, and aloof demeanor. Even in an environment where one would think the harsh “military taskmaster” style of leadership would be most effective, positivity wins out.

So even the toughest guys know that being tough isn’t always what gets results.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

The Leadership Secret Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg Have In Common

Apple Debuts New Operating System
Steve Jobs in 2010 Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

What You Can Learn About Leadership From Jobs And Zuckerberg

Robert Sutton:

We all have imperfections and surrounding yourself with people who can do things you can’t is really essential. If you just look at Zuckerberg, the guy is very, very focused on the product and is probably not particularly great interpersonally. So on one hand you could say, “Oh, he is a flawed person,” but the smarter thing to notice would be, “Isn’t it impressive that he surrounded himself with people who have offsetting skills?”

…I spoke with one of the members of Jobs’ team who worked with Steve almost 20 years — going back to the NeXT days. He said as Steve got older he knew what he could do and he knew what he couldn’t do. He became very good at learning how to surround himself with people who could both implement his vision and could offset the skills that he didn’t have

What great leaders do is they build a team that enables them to succeed.

The Perfect Team Size

Robert Sutton:

…one of the lessons that comes through from Richard’s research is that when you get a team size over five or six, the performance of your team will start declining quickly. Once you get to seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven people, the percentage of time that people spend on coordination issues and maintaining good interpersonal relationships expands dramatically. That becomes the dominant problem in the group, instead of doing the work itself.

There is some evidence we talk about in the book that if you think somebody is a lousy leader and they are in charge of a big team, try cutting it in half and see if your lousy leader becomes a competent leader.

Team Structure Must Adapt To The Situation

Eric Barker:

In the book you mention a study of World War 2 POW’s that showed survival differences between groups which changed their structure versus those that maintained their prior hierarchy.

Robert Sutton:

God knows how they get these data sets. It was almost every POW held by both Japan and the United States. The question was, did the POW’s put in a strict hierarchical military structure as they always had or did they allow it to be more decentralized? What they found was that in the camps where they changed the structure, allowed decentralization, allowed people to make localized decisions and to have more autonomy and more freedom — that the death rates were considerably lower.

That’s an example of when you have a mindset or set of behaviors that work in one situation, sometimes you have to throw away your tools and do something else. The mindset or perspective you’re using right now, ask yourself if it works in the new situation or for this particular decision.

Great Leaders Focus On The Bad

Robert Sutton:

For a leader to make positive change, the focus needs to be on getting rid of the bad stuff first. When you do that it makes way for goodness to spread…If you don’t get rid of the bad stuff as the first order of business — whether that’s incompetence, stealing, corruption, whatever — then I think that you’re really in trouble.

Getting rid of the bad first was the hallmark of great leaders and we saw that sort of behavior over and over again.

How To Make Better Decisions

Robert Sutton:

To make a decision most people just say “Where do we want to be a year from now? And what stops us from getting there?” Instead, try going “back to the future.” Sometimes they call it a “pre-mortem”. Imagine you already succeeded or you failed.

Imagine it’s 2015 and we failed at rolling out our IT implementation. Just that simple sort of cognitive switch leads people to be much more realistic, and more fine-grained in the analysis of what they need to do.

I use this myself. I say, “Jeff should I go on this trip?” Jeff always says the same thing, “Okay. It’s three months from now. Imagine you’re there, how do you feel?” Instead of thinking how nice it might be, imagine you’re there and sort of looking back from the future. Gary Klein, the psychologist who has been pushing this, he has studies that show people make better decisions when they do this.

Recommended Books

Robert Sutton:

Orbiting the Giant Hairball. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. If you’re trying to be a creative person in a large system, I suggest you read that.

My two dear friends from IDEO, Tom Kelley and his brother David, just had a book come out called Creative Confidence. That’s a great book; just came out.

Creativity Incorporated. It’s by Ed Catmull, who is the President and driving force behind Pixar. He has great advice about how to lead a creative company.

The Most Important Thing To Keep In Mind When You Take A New Job

Eric Barker:

You’ve been teaching MBA students at Stanford for 30 years. What is the best piece of advice you give them?

Robert Sutton:

When you take a job take a long look at the people you’re going to be working with — because the odds are you’re going to become like them, they are not going to become like you. You can’t change them. If it doesn’t fit who you are, it’s not going to work.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s What to Do If Your Boss Kind of Hates You

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J.A. Bracchi—Getty Images

In an ideal world, we’d all get along great with everybody we report to. Here’s what to do if that's not the case

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

In an ideal world, we’d all get along great with everybody we report to. Here’s what to do if that isn’t happening.

Dear Annie: I’ve had my current job as a human resources manager for about a year-and-a-half, and everything was going fine until we got a new boss from outside the department. He seems to have a need to do everything himself. I’ve also come across instances where he has snooped behind my back to find out what I’ve been doing. Today, I found out he asked my admin for details of my attendance at the office, “just to check” on me.

At the same time, he is really nice to other members of my team, which leads me to conclude that, for some reason, he just doesn’t like me. In the beginning, I tried to build a rapport with him but, after being snubbed more than once, I just don’t want to make the effort any more. Is there anything I can do, besides find a new boss? — Odd Man Out

Dear O.M.O.: You probably don’t want to hear this but, if you want to stay in this job, you’re going to have to keep trying. “This is hard, because you have to humble yourself a little and find a way to see things from this manager’s point of view,” says Karin Hurt, CEO of Baltimore-based executive coaching firm Let’s Grow Leaders. She wrote a book, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship with Your Boss, that you might find useful.

A good starting point: Assume nothing. The fact that this boss came in from the outside is significant, because it means he may be used to doing things in a different way. “A certain amount of micromanagement and what looks like ‘snooping’ may just be standard behavior in the organization he came from,” Hurt notes. “It’s annoying, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t like you.”

For the rest of the story, go to Fortune.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s the Solution to Deadly Office Meetings

Hate sitting around a conference table for yet another meeting? Well, one group of scientists has a novel suggestion: They think you should be standing.

That’s right, the stand-up meeting. Thanks to wearable sensors (devices similar to the Fitbit or Nike+ FuelBand), researchers from Washington University found that taking the chairs out of the room had positive effects on workplace productivity.

“Our study shows that even a small tweak to a physical space can alter how people work with one another,” says lead author Andrew Knight, an assistant professor at Washington’s Olin Business School. “We wondered how this type of arrangement would play out for people working together in a group to achieve a collective goal,” he says.

Knight found that when standing, meeting participants were more excited and receptive to collaboration.

This work builds on earlier theories that suggest people do better work when they’re not sitting still. A lot of people use metaphors like rat race, hamster wheel and so on to describe corporate life, but some experts claim using actual treadmills delivers benefits.

Devotees say moving while working taps creativity. There are treadmill-desk combos like the Steelcase Walkstation and the TreadDesk, made by an Indianapolis company. Last year, the AP reported that TreadDesk expected to see a 25% increase in sales, thanks to purchases by big companies ranging from Microsoft to Coca Cola to Procter & Gamble.

Knight finds that the idea that not sitting down can bolster the flow of ideas holds true in a group setting, as well. Subjects in a series of experiments who were told to work together in a room where the chairs had been taken out reported that their fellow collaborators were less territorial about their ideas and more willing to share information than a control group that collaborated while seated around a table. Members of the research team also rated how well the groups did on their actual tasks (developing a university recruitment video) and found that the standers turned in a better performance than the sitters.

It might sound strange, but there’s an extensive body of scientific research showing that a person’s posture has strong influence on how — and how well — they work.

“Your posture influences psychology, and that influences behavior,” says Andy Yap, a post doctoral associate and lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Yap conducted experiments and found that when we sit in tight, contracted positions — like squeezed into a too-small seat or hunched over our phone — we feel stressed and powerful, but standing in an “expansive pose,” with legs apart and hands on a table or on the hips, can make people feel more powerful. “Even though you don’t have to stand like Superman, having an expansive workspace would actually cause you to feel powerful,” he says.

“I think the implications are really important,” Yap says of the standing-meeting research. He adds that people being territorial about their ideas is a common problem that can derail good group collaboration, which makes the findings about standing relevant for anyone who has to work on team projects. “It might be cool to see if sitting in movable chairs could reap the same benefits,” he suggests.

Yap does offer one caveat to the standing-meeting concept. “One drawback about standing is that one’s physique become more obvious to the people in the group meeting,” he points out. Taller, bigger people are often unconsciously perceived to have more power, which could mean a shorter team member might not participate as much. “These physical attributes oftentimes affect interpersonal dynamics,” Yap says.

TIME leadership

One of the Most Powerful CEOs on Earth Was Afraid to Come Out of the Closet. Until Now

BP Chief Resigns Over Gay Affair
Former Chief Executive of British Petroleum Lord Browne Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

Here’s how companies can encourage a culture of openness

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

Over the course of my career at BP, from trainee to chief executive, I was frequently asked whether I had a girlfriend or whether I was married. People assumed that I was a bachelor who had not yet met the right woman. It was a fair assumption, for an obvious reason: Most people are straight. But for those who remain in the closet, the assumption of heterosexuality can be highly damaging. It reinforces their feeling that being gay is something out of the ordinary, something that would put them at a disadvantage in their personal and professional lives, and something that is probably best kept hidden.

The assumption of heterosexuality is one of the reasons that many people in business and in other sectors continue to lead hidden lives. I have spent the past 18 months conducting interviews for my book, The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business, about the risks and rewards of coming out in business. I encountered men and women who, despite living in an age of diversity targets, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender corporate networks and equal marriage, are still afraid of the consequences of coming out. Young executives in their 20’s should be free of the fears that plagued me for over 40 years, but the evidence suggests that many of them are not.

Through four decades at BP, I kept my private life separate from my business life. As a young professional in the oil industry, my career was going in the right direction, and I saw absolutely no purpose in coming out. The corporate ladder was slippery enough on its own, without complicating things by throwing oil on the rungs. By the time I was chief executive, I was worried that any disclosure would damage critical business relationships, particularly those in the Middle East. In countries where homosexuality is illegal, my public profile probably would have protected me, but my sexuality could have had unknown and unlimited consequences on BP’s businesses.

For the rest of the story, got to Fortune.com.

TIME psychology

10 Life Lessons You Can Learn From the Smartest Older People

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Matt Hind—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

I’ve posted before about research into the most important life lessons we can learn from older people, taken from Karl Pillemer‘s excellent book, 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.

Here’s another take on the same subject:

Before the 50th reunion of Harvard Business School’s class of 1963 they asked them what lessons they would pass on to younger people.

This isn’t firm scientific research — but we ignore it at our peril. We can learn much about life from those who have seen it to the end.

The site has a lot of content but I’ve gone through and curated the bits that I felt were most useful and insightful. Hat tip to my friend Nick for the pointer.

 

LEADERSHIP

ANONYMOUS:

I would have been a better leader if I had been less cocky in my early career, and more confident in my middle career.

 

ROBERT K. BOWMAN:

A successful leader:

  • Knows as much as he can about his organization’s mission
  • Believes in the mission
  • Communicates the mission clearly
  • Points the way
  • Gets out of the way

 

CAREER

RON LESLIE:

Steps to find fulfilling work:

  1. Take the initiative to investigate the places you think are of interest. Ask good questions.
  2. Go with the self-assurance of having written on an index card each of your past accomplishments(including where you simply helped other people do their thing) in three forms:
    1. A simple phrase; e.g., “top salesman in New York office for three years”
    2. A three-sentence statement of the problem, your solution, and the result
    3. A one-page explanation or anecdote to share if asked to give details
  3. Use those cards deftly to encourage people to talk to you — showing you listen on their level and understand whatever they tell you. Remember: The more they talk, the smarter they’ll think you are.

 

MARRIAGE & FAMILY

RALPH LINSALATA:

  • Tell your spouse and children that you love them every day, no matter how you feel.
  • Do not bring your problems home with you.
  • Realize the joy that comes from helping your spouse and children excel in their fields of interest and enjoy themselves.
  • Develop within your family a sense of obligation to help others.
  • Spending quality time with your family — not just time — is critical.
  • Choose a spouse who will understand and support you, and one for whom you will do the same. Life is much better if you can help each other grow and expand your knowledge, experiences, friends, and capabilities.

 

RON LESLIE:

The sweetest words in the English language are, “Granddad, would you like to …?”

 

BUSINESS

DONALD P. NIELSEN:

  • Not all decisions turn out well. Be prepared to deal with problems over which you have no control.
  • Almost everything will require more money and more time than you think.
  • Never settle for “good enough.” Always strive for excellence.
  • Set high expectations for yourself and those with whom you work.
  • Move quickly to deal with people issues.
  • Hiring smart, driven people is a ticket to your own success.

 

WEALTH

WARREN BATTS:

I was born in 1932 and grew up during the Depression. In the beginning, poverty was the level to which I aspired. When I reached it, my next goal was to get out of debt. That took several years. Then my goal was to become financially independent. After reaching independence, more money was not a great motivator for me. My interest became trying to make a difference — making the company I worked for successful, and working for my church and other volunteer organizations.

 

GROWING OLDER

ANONYMOUS:

Retire to something — not from something. Stay engaged. Be physically active and intellectually curious.

 

CHARITY & SPIRITUALITY

J. LAWRENCE WILSON:

If one is devoted solely to promoting the welfare of himself, his family, and his friends, life can be barren. Charity, faith, and spirituality enrich one’s life. Faith or the belief in a power greater than oneself seems to be important for humans, for spirituality is a part of every culture. If this spirituality fosters concern for the welfare of others, it is of great benefit to society. No matter what a person’s professed faith, I admire him if he is charitable.

 

HAPPINESS & SUCCESS

HENRY A. GILBERT:

Success and wealth are being a lover and being loved.

Success is using your tools and powers to enhance the lives and success of others.

Success is capitalizing on economic opportunities yet treating others with over-reaching kindness.

 

J. LAWRENCE WILSON:

When I think back over my career, I am struck that my fondest memories are of people rather than experiences, places, or accomplishments.

 

TURNING POINTS

RALPH LINSALATA:

What did I learn from the turning points in my life? Look for great colleagues, role models, and teachers. Be certain to understand the opportunities relative to the risks, and how the risks can be avoided. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and act accordingly. Play to your strengths while you work, but work on your weaknesses.

 

GERALD (JERRY) WOLIN:

Many things that happened in my career were the result of random acts. The important thing is to keep your eyes open to recognize the right moves.

 

LIFE’S LESSONS

JOSE M. FAUSTINO:

I switched fields twice in my academic career — I believed the entire experience was part of growing up. The lesson here for young people: Do not hesitate to switch interests, majors, or fields of concentration. Find your preference or your passion, then focus on it to your heart’s content.

Success is a journey – not a race. Prepare well, retain good practices, and make a habit of effective strategies:

  1. Do not be content to be average. Mediocrity breeds boredom, poor opportunity, and an unsatisfactory lifestyle. Instead, decide to excel in everything you do, and be distinctive, if not unique, in your approach.
  2. Take well-analyzed risks, particularly when there is everything to gain and little to lose. Do not be afraid of rejection when you have competently and ethically tried to succeed.
  3. Be skilled in political strategy. Interpersonal, leadership, and motivational skills are all important for success, but few consider political strategy. In my mind, there is organizational politics in any group with more than three people.

 

JOHN A. MOELLER:

An important lesson in life is learning whom you can rely on, depend on, and trust, and whom you cannot. Only experience and “gut feel” can teach this. Human nature and values — whether of business owners, top management, associates, or staff — vary all over the place. Steering your life, family, career, time, investments, and loyalty toward those you can trust and rely upon is a priority.

Never forget where you came from, and always remember what you are here for. Be true to your values and faith. We are here for a purpose. Enjoy the ride.

Here are more life lessons from the wise.

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TIME psychology

The 5-Step Formula for Presenting Like a Leader

Many books have tactics for giving a good presentation but few establish a reliable structure that works every time.

In The New Articulate Executive: Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader Granville Toogood lays out an excellent 5 part progression for effective presentations.

 

1) Start Strong

Just like a good movie, you want to start out with something that really grabs the audience.

“But how do I do that?”

The book provides a great list of techniques.

Via The New Articulate Executive : Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader:

  1. Begin with the ending
  2. Personal Story
  3. Anecdote or illustration
  4. Rhetorical question
  5. Quotation
  6. Project into the future
  7. Look into past
  8. Humor

And another good trick to a strong start is having your opener down cold.

Anxiety levels drop after a few minutes so having the intro well-rehearsed gets you through the toughest part of the talk.

Via The Art of Public Speaking:

Work especially hard on your introduction. Research has shown that a speaker’s anxiety level begins to drop significantly after the first 30 to 60 seconds of a presentation. Once you get through the introduction, you should find smoother sailing the rest of the way.

 

2) Have One Theme

You’d love to convey 67 points and have everyone remember everything. And that is never going to happen.

(You don’t even remember the 8 techniques I listed under “Start Strong” and you just read that a few seconds ago.)

Your audience can walk away with one really good message.

Be clear about what it is ahead of time and your presentation will be more focused.

How does the military make sure objectives are clear when plans are complex and lives are on the line?

They use a concept called “Commander’s Intent”: CI is a crisp, plain-talk statement that appears at the top of every order, specifying the plan’s goal, the desired end-state of an operation.

If the unpredictable occurs rendering plans ineffective, the CI still allows everyone to stay focused on the end goal.

Via Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die:

The CI never specifies so much detail that it risks being rendered obsolete by unpredictable events. “You can lose the ability to execute the original plan, but you never lose the responsibility of executing the intent,” says Kolditz… Commander’s Intent manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels without requiring play-by-play instructions from their leaders. When people know the desired destination, they’re free to improvise, as needed, in arriving there.

Have one clear message and the presentation will be easier for you to craft and your audience to remember.

(Here’s more on Commander’s Intent.)

 

3) Good Examples

Abstract concepts can be hard to grasp and remember. People need examples and stories as mental hooks to hang memories on.

Use anecdotes to illustrate principles for the audience. Create a way for them to see what you’re talking about and to provide proof.

People remember stories, not stats.

Via Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die:

When students are asked to recall the speeches, 63 percent remember the stories. Only 5 percent remember any individual statistic.

Furthermore, almost no correlation emerges between “speaking talent” and the ability to make ideas stick…The stars of stickiness are the students who made their case by telling stories, or by tapping into emotion, or by stressing a single point rather than ten.

Here’s more on how to be a great storyteller.

 

4) Conversational Language

Always stay conversational. Research shows when you use big words to sound smart you’re actually perceived as less intelligent:

Most texts on writing style encourage authors to avoid overly-complex words. However, a majority of undergraduates admit to deliberately increasing the complexity of their vocabulary so as to give the impression of intelligence. This paper explores the extent to which this strategy is effective. Experiments 1–3 manipulate complexity of texts and find a negative relationship between complexity and judged intelligence. This relationship held regardless of the quality of the original essay, and irrespective of the participants’ prior expectations of essay quality.

 

5) Strong Ending

How do you make sure the end of your presentation is strong and memorable? The book breaks out six methods that can help.

Via The New Articulate Executive : Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader:

  1. Summarize key point or key points. One or three. One is best.
  2. Loop back to the beginning
  3. Ask the audience to do something specific
  4. Appeal to the positive
  5. Project ahead
  6. Tell a symbolic story that embraces your message

Why is a strong ending so important?

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, has shown that your brain really remembers only two things about an event:

  1. The emotional peak
  2. The end

Via The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less:

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have shown that what we remember about the pleasurable quality of our past experiences is almost entirely determined by two things: how the experiences felt when they were at their peak (best or worst), and how they felt when they ended. This “peak-end” rule of Kahneman’s is what we use to summarize the experience, and then we rely on that summary later to remind ourselves of how the experience felt. The summaries in turn influence our decisions about whether to have that experience again, and factors such as the proportion of pleasure to displeasure during the course of the experience or how long the experience lasted, have almost no influence on our memory of it.

 

Now How Am I Supposed to Remember All This?

Toogood uses the acronym POWER:

  • Punch (Strong opener)
  • One Theme
  • Window (Visualize with anecdotes)
  • Ear (Speak conversationally)
  • Retention

More on giving powerful presentations here and here.

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TIME Business

40% of Your Team’s Effort Is Wasted. These 4 Methods Get Results

40% of what a team does ends up as “process loss.” It’s overhead that wouldn’t exist if everything could be done by one person. Wasted effort.

Obviously, many projects require teams. But how can you create, manage or be part of a team that is more efficient?

I discussed the research behind great teams with Po Bronson, New York Times bestselling author of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing.

Here are 4 things that can make a big difference in how effective your team is.

 

1) The Formula For A Great Team: The 60/30/10 Rule

Po Bronson:

60 percent of a team’s success is “Who’s on the team?”And 30 percent of it is how you set up your team. And 10 percent, at most, is leadership.

That 60 percent means you want stars on your team. The notion of having a team of equals doesn’t really bear out in the science. In physics, basketball, immunology… stars rub off.Having to train and compete or work with stars, raises the whole team up.

If you clarify what everybody does, you get the most out of that 30 percent. The science of teams in a business context says that pretty much the number one thing you can do to improve a team performance, is to clarify roles. Ask each member “What’s your job? How do these jobs work together? Who covers for who? How do we handle it?”

 

2) Sometimes Teams Are A Very Bad Idea

Po Bronson:

There’s this mystical idea that teams are always a solution. But unfortunately, so many teams are dysfunctional: 49 percent of software projects are delivered late, 60 percent are over-budget.

We have this idea that a team should have a lot of voices on it. And that doesn’t really work. Teams should be as small as possible to get the job done. Every person has to be able to develop a relationship with every other person on the team.

Teams do give you a positive component, but they inherently have, on average, a 40 percent process loss.That comes from all the wasted energy in emails, organizing, logistics, etc. So, you get a boost from being a team, but you also get a negative effect.

 

3) The Best Teams Are Managed… Occasionally

Po Bronson:

Today’s intrinsically motivated, self-driven knowledge worker doesn’t need to be looked after all the time. Our mutual friend Dan Pink has helped popularize an idea, a really inspired idea, which has origins in this IBM telecommuting study which showed that,telecommuters were actually more productive, not less.

On average, the most effective balance is intermittent monitoring. If you watch over someone’s shoulder all the time, they’re just going to feel like they’re being bossed around. It’s going to lower the morale and work rate.

If you totally never check in on the kids, they will, on average, at some point, start goofing off in the warehouse. But what works is intermittent monitoring. Occasionally be checking in.

 

4) Great Teams Need People Who Aren’t Team Players

Po Bronson:

For orchestras, the better they sounded during performance, the more chaos there was behind the scenes. A great opera on stage is a soap opera backstage.

So, there is curiously, an argument that in many cases, a really successful team needs at lest one person who is not a team player. Someone who’s willing to stand up to authority, to rock the boat. To not make everybody happy. To not pat everybody on the back.

Being great is full of unexpected hurdles. So, what you have to have on a team is people who are willing to say “We’re screwing up.” “You’re doing that wrong.” “We need to change.” “We have to do something different — and here’s my idea.”

More from Po on how you can improve your team here.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Strategic Leadership: How to Avoid the Most Common Error Leaders Make

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Paul M O'Connell—Getty Images/Flickr RM

In my interview with Harvard Business School professor Gautam Mukunda, author of Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter, I asked him about the biggest mistake leaders make:

Gautam: Over time, it’s grandiosity.

Eric: Hubris?

Gautam: Yeah. You live in an environment where everybody constantly tells you how great you are, and you begin to believe it.

Eric: Yeah. Even Machiavelli said a leader needs people who are going to be honest with them, because everybody’s going to kiss their ass.

Gautam: Exactly… The CEO of a major corporation, how often does he or she hear the word “no”? How often does someone challenge their basic preconceptions about the world?

We constantly hear about the need for more information, but when it comes to strategic leadership that’s often not really the problem.

Leaders have information. But as former Harvard professor Richard Tedlow explains, they often just don’t want to hear it.

Via Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face—and What to Do About It:

I have been teaching and writing about business history for four decades, and what is striking about the dozens of companies and CEOs I have studied is the large number of them who have made mistakes that could and should have been avoided, not just with the benefit of hindsight, but on the basis of information available to decision makers right then and there, in real time. These mistakes resulted from individuals denying reality.

How is this possible? If we just had the best information, wouldn’t making the right strategic leadership choices be easy?

Um, no.

Denial Is Human. And Sometimes Vital.

Denial is big. Hubris is huge. Egos expand faster than waistlines.

And if you don’t think this applies to you then this definitely applies to you.

Why do we experience denial at all? There are two theories:

  • As Robert Trivers discusses in his book Folly of Fools, our brains evolved the ability to deceive ourselves because that makes it easier to deceive others — and more successful liars thrive.
  • The other reason is much simpler: Denial makes us feel better.

In fact, sometimes denial is vital.

Knowing the statistics, what business leader would ever be an entrepreneur or attempt to turnaround a seemingly doomed company without a little denial?

Who would think they could succeed where all others failed without a little hubris?

But It Can Go Too Far.

When you start to think you have the midas touch, things get ugly in a hurry. It’s amazing how ego can get in the way.

Jeffrey Pfeffer at Stanford did a study where they told subjects (“leaders”) that feedback they’d given on an advertising campaign had been included in the final product to a greater or lesser degree.

In reality, all the final campaigns were the same. What happened?

People who thought their feedback was included liked the results twice as much, despite there being no real difference.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

Supervisors in the third group, who believed that their comments influenced the final advertisement, rated identical product about twice as highly as the other supervisors who believed they had no influence, and gave similarly inflated ratings to their own ability as managers. The mere act of believing that they had engaged in supervision led them to believe that the final product was twice as wonderful (and they were twice as wonderful), even though their actions had no actual impact!

Do some people manage to avoid this trap? Yes.

For his book Good to Great, Jim Collins studied breakthrough companies and identified a hierarchy of strategic leadership.

The CEOs of top companies all had a similar style. Collins called them “Level 5″ leaders.

What sets Level 5 leaders apart?

Those leaders who can stop focusing on me me me and measure their self-worth by the health of the company avoid the hubris trap.

Via Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t:

Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.

strategic-leadership

If right now you’re saying “I think I’m a Level 5 leader”, frankly, that’s probably the best sign of hubris I can think of.

But seriously, how can you tell if a company is full of denial?

Ask yourself: Are the conversations after a meeting a lot more honest than the ones in a meeting?

Via Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face—and What to Do About It:

One quick test: are the private conversations that follow meetings usually more frank and honest than the public discussions in the meetings themselves? The energy level is often greater after a meeting than in it, notes Babson College management professor Allan Cohen. Why? Because “everybody talks about what didn’t get said.”

That is not good.

So how do you avoid denial and (maybe) work your way to Level 5?

3 Things You Need To Do

In Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management, Pfeffer and Sutton point out three ways to avoid the hubris trap.

1) Don’t Believe Your Own Hype

The irony of leadership is you need to speak with certainty to be taken seriously. But if you take yourself too seriously, you end up in the hubris trap.

This duality must constantly be managed. And as Machiavelli warned, beware sycophants.

You need people who will be honest with you. Shoot the messenger and, in the long term, you shoot yourself.

2) Figure Out When, And How, To Get Out Of The Way

Don’t ask, “What can I do?” Ask, “Am I needed at all right now?”

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

The first step that effective leaders need to take is not to ask “What can I do?” Rather they should ask, “Am I needed at all? Will my actions, or even my presence, do more harm than good?” The best leaders know when and how to get out of the way.

This is summed up by a favorite quote of mine from Steven J. Ross: “Get the best people for the job and LET THEM DO IT.”

3) Build Systems And Processes

Leaders can only be hands-on when teams are small. Past that, their immediate effects are limited.

This is why good leaders build systems that make sure their way of doing things can be made clear even when they can’t be present.

The Battle Is Ongoing

Denial, ego and hubris are all parts of human nature.

They are like gravity. We don’t defeat them. To move forward we must actively resist them every day.

Via Denial: Why Business Leaders Fail to Look Facts in the Face—and What to Do About It:

You will therefore never defeat denial, but you had better battle it. As James Baldwin once wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME

13 Easy Ways to Teach Yourself to Be More Confident

Few are born confident, research shows. The self-assured learn to be that way, and you can too


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights toentrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Are you as confident as you’d like to be? Few people would answer “yes” to that question. But, according to Becky Blalock, author and former Fortune 500 executive, anyone can learn to be more confident. And it’s a skill we can teach ourselves.

Begin by forgetting the notion that confidence, leadership, and public speaking are abilities people are born with. In fact, research shows that being shy and cautious is the natural human state. “That’s how people in early times lived to pass on their genes, so it’s in our gene pool,” she says. “You had to be cautious to survive. But the things they needed to worry about then are not the things we need to worry about today.”

How do you teach yourself to be more confident? Here’s Blalock’s advice:

1. Put your thoughts in their place.

The average human has 65,000 thoughts every day, Blalock says, and 85 to 90 percent of them are negative–things to worry about or fear. “They’re warnings to yourself,” Blalock says, and left over from our cave-dwelling past. It makes sense–if we stick our hand in a flame our brain wants to make sure we don’t ever do that again. But this survival mechanism works against us because it causes us to focus on fears rather than hopes or dreams.

The point is to be aware that your brain works this way, and keep that negativity in proportion. “What you have to realize is your thoughts are just thoughts,” Blalock says. They don’t necessarily represent objective reality.

2. Begin at the end.

“There are so many people that I’ve asked, ‘What do you want to do? What do you want to be?’ and they would say, ‘I don’t know,'” Blalock says. “Knowing what you want is the key. Everything else you do should be leading you where you want to go.”

3. Start with gratitude.

Begin the day by thinking about some of the things you have to be grateful for, Blalock advises. “Most of the 7 billion people in the world won’t have the opportunities you do,” she says. “If you start out with that perspective, you’ll be in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day.”

4. Take a daily step outside your comfort zone.

There’s a funny thing about comfort zones. If we step outside them on a regular basis, they expand. If we stay within them, they shrink. Avoid getting trapped inside a shrinking comfort zone by pushing yourself to do things that are outside it.

We’ve all had experiences where we’ve done something that terrified us, and then discovered it wasn’t so bad. In Blalock’s case, she was visiting a military base and had gotten to the top of the parachute-training tower for a practice jump. “They had me all hooked up, and I said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do this, I have a small child at home,'” she recalls. “The guy took his foot and pushed me off the tower. When I got out there I realized it wasn’t that bad.”

We won’t always have someone standing by to kick us out of our comfort zones, so we have to do it for ourselves. “Just act!” Blalock says.

5. Remember: Dogs don’t chase parked cars.

If you’re running into opposition, questions, and doubts, there’s probably a good reason–you’re going somewhere. That doesn’t mean you should ignore warning signs, but it does mean you should put those negatives in perspective. If you don’t make changes, and challenge the status quo, no one will ever object to anything you do.

6. Get ready to bounce back.

“It’s not failure that destroys our confidence, it’s not getting back up,” Blalock says. “Once we get back up, we’ve learned what doesn’t work and we can give it another try.” Blalock points out that the baseball players with the biggest home run records also have the biggest strikeout records. Taking more swings gets you where you want to go.

7. Find a mentor.

Whatever you’ve set out to do, there are likely others who’ve done it first and can offer you useful advice or at least serve as role models. Find those people and learn as much from them as you can.

8. Choose your companions wisely.

“Your outlook–negative or positive–will be the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” Blalock says. “So be careful who you hang out with. Make sure you’re hanging out with people who encourage you and lift you up.”

When she quit her C-suite job to write books, she adds, some people were aghast and predicted that no one would read them while others were quite encouraging. It didn’t take her long to figure out that the encouraging friends were the ones she should gravitate toward.

9. Do your homework.

In almost any situation, preparation can help boost your confidence. Have to give a speech? Practice it several times, record yourself, and listen. Meeting people for the first time? Check them and their organizations out on the Web, and check their social media profiles as well. “If you’re prepared you will be more confident,” Blalock says. “The Internet makes it so easy.”

10. Get plenty of rest and exercise.

There’s ample evidence by now that getting enough sleep, exercise, and good nutrition profoundly affects both your mood and your effectiveness. “Just moderate exercise three times a week for 20 minutes does so much for the hippocampus and is more effective than anything else for warding off Alzheimer’s and depression,” Blalock says. “Yet it always falls of the list when we’re prioritizing. While there are many things we can delegate, exercise isn’t one of them. If there were a way to do that, I would have figured it out by now.”

11. Breathe!

“This one is so simple,” Blalock says. “If you breathe heavily, it saturates your brain with oxygen and makes you more awake and aware. It’s very important in a tense situation because it will make you realize that you control your body, and not your unconscious mind. If you’re not practicing breathing, you should be.”

12. Be willing to fake it.

No, you shouldn’t pretend to have qualifications or experience that you don’t. But if you have most of the skills you need and can likely figure out the rest, don’t hang back. One company did a study to discover why fewer of its female employees were getting promotions than men. It turned out not to be so much a matter of bias as of confidence: If a man had about half the qualifications for a posted job he’d be likely to apply for it, while a woman would be likelier to wait till she had most or all of them. Don’t hold yourself back by assuming you need to have vast experience for a job or a piece of business before you go after it.

13. Don’t forget to ask for help.

“Don’t assume people know what you want,” Blalock says. “You have to figure out what that is, and then educate them.”

Once people know what you want, and that you want their help, you may be surprised at how forthcoming they are. “People are really flattered when you ask for advice and support,” she says. “If someone says no you can always ask someone else. But in my experience, they rarely say no.”

Read more from Inc.com:
How 4 Entrepreneurs Started Up (Really) Young
Firing an Employee–Even a Bad One–Is Hard to Do

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