NVC

Take me to your tall (and probably attractive) leader

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An old post from 2010 has popped up as one of my top posts on another of my blogs. This was a piece I wrote about leadership and tallness (before I had this blog). This is an extract from it.

I first came across this a few years ago and raised  it in a leadership workshop I was running in Sweden – along the lines of biological impact on leadership eg good looks, tallness, being a first-born etc.

The Swedes were a bit sceptical, especially when I said some of the research had been carried out in Norway – not much Scandinavian sisterhood that day.

However research across the world by psychologists and economists show that every extra inch of height is worth between $500 and $1000 a year. So a 6′ person earns up to $6,000 a year more than a 5′ 6″ person (or $12,000 a year more than someone an anthropologist would class as a pygmy). UK research showed that tall men earn 5% more than average men and 10% more than short men.

There is a mixed message for diversity campaigners: fat men don’t earn less than thin men – but fat women earn less than thin ones.

And good looks seem to effect both men and women equally with unattractive people earning up to 15% less than their more attractive counterparts.

It may be that we give more respect to taller people or think they are smarter because they look down on us. Historically military leaders would come from aristo backgrounds where they were better fed and likely to be taller than the peasants or local villagers. And there were always tall military headpieces to enhance any natural advantage.

Anyway the bottom line is: Tallness = Leaders = higher earnings and Attractiveness = higher earnings.

Not much joy then if you are short and/or ugly – although if you are vertically challenged you could always go down the same path as Prince, the Hamster, and Nicolas Sarkozy who have all worn height-enhancing heels, and not just the cuban-heeled/glam rock throwbacks but “status shoes” offering a more subtle look.

A visible heel of 1.25″ can hide an extra lift of 1.5″ – or at least £500 worth of  height-related earnings!.

Let’s see how HR sort that one out when they are practising non-discriminatory recruitment.

 

Recruiters influenced by sexual orientation

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colored_puzzle_connection_1600_wht_9893There have been several studies looking at the impact of attractiveness on your chance of being shortlisted, particularly where a photograph was included in the application.

Now a new study by the University of Sussex has found that discrimination occurs when candidates refer to membership of gay associations in their CVs.

But not in the direction you might expect.

400 participants were shown fictitious CVs. One was clearly from a lesbian, one from a gay man and the other two from a straight man and woman. The CVs were identical in terms of qualifications and experience except for a reference to membership of a gay professional association.

The researchers found that female managers were more likely to pick gay and lesbian candidates whereas men were more likely to pick straight candidates.

Benjamin Everly from the university’s School of Management & Economics said the findings suggest employers should consider carefully who was making their recruitment decisions. “These results show that bias against gay men and lesbians is much more nuanced than previous work suggests“. He could have said that there is evidence of bias against heterosexual candidates, by women, but that might not have sounded so PC.

He thought  “Hiring decisions made by teams of both men and women could lead to less biased decisions”.  He though that the findings could influence when and how gay men and lesbians disclosed their sexual orientation in the recruitment process.

The report in the Times doesn’t say what job the fictitious candidates were applying for or from what sectors the 400 participants came from. It’s possible they were students at the Business School but I don’t know that.

However research at Anglia Ruskin University suggested that at graduate entry level gay men received the fewest invitations of interview in traditional male occupations such as accountancy, banking,finance, and management and lesbians received fewer invitations for shortlisting in traditionally female occupations like social care, social services and charity work.

Recruiters are notoriously bad as selecting the right person for the job and the whole process is about discriminating against unsuitable candidates. Many people in recruitment have not been trained appropriately (worryingly the Sussex study refers to managers not HR people) and line managers are often the worst as seen recently in the steakhouse incident.

Leaving sexual orientation aside (and is Sussex going to replicate the research across the whole gender fluid/LGBT spectrum?) men and women have been shown to be discriminated against just on the basis of their looks, with women rejecting attractive female candidates and insecure men rejecting good-looking men.

Interestingly the recruitment process for the new head of the Metropolitan Police included psychometric testing, probably for the first time. (Don’t know what they used but hope it wasn’t the MBTI or DISC).

 

You need to dress the part

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business_man_and_woman_1600_wht_5662Offering advice on how to dress for the job is taking a risk. As ana ex-HR Director I know only too well. Telling someone a backless top is not appropriate in an office or that they must wear high heels? You get the point.

But someone has decided that if you want to work in “the city” there are certain things you can and can’t get away with.

  • Wearing brown shoes – or blue shoes or suede shoes or trainers or flip-flops – I could go on
  • Wearing a belt that’s a different colour from your shoes
  • Wearing socks a different colour from your underpants (I made that up but I know someone who always matched)
  • Wearing heels the wrong height – not too short and not too tall
  • Wearing a skirt that’s too short i.e. above the knee
  • Wearing a white shirt (says you’re playing safe and insecure apparently)
  • On the other hand wearing an Hawaiian shirt (says you’ve no taste)
  • Wearing a shirt with a pocket (only Dilberts wear those)
  • Wearing a brightly patterned tie
  • Showing too much cleavage
  • Wearing dangly ear-rings or anklets
  • Wearing tattoos especially sleeves or on the neck or face
  • Wearing piercings
  • Showing a t-shirt under your shirt (unless you’re a corbynista)

OK I made some of these up but does anyone really know the truth?

And can you hide some of the taboo stuff on the list?

Universal body language

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I invite you to add your own caption to these photographs from the Times newspaper. They show Sir (as of today he still has his knighthood) Philip Green and Mike Ashley, both in defensive mode before parliamentary business select committees.

SCAN0217

Firms say school leavers are unemployable

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business_figure_with_clients_400_wht_10680Tell me something new! This has been a recurring complaint, usually by the CBI or the IoD. This time it’s the British Chambers of Commerce.

What are they actually saying?

School leavers and even some university graduates are unemployable because:

  • they cannot speak confidently to adults
  • they can’t turn up for work on time
  • they speak abruptly to customers
  • they don’t look people in the eye
  • they fiddle with their phones all the time
  • they are unable to perform simple maths
  • they are unable to write clearly (presumably more comfortable with text speak)

John Longworth, the Director General of the BCoC has called for schools, and employers, to do more to help teenagers develop the “soft skills” demanded by employers and prepare them for interviews.

He also wants schools to enhance their careers services by forging better links with employers. (Do schools still have careers services?)

The chambers of commerce produced a survey showing that over 2/3 of employers thought that schools were not effective at preparing teenagers for work. Approximately the same proportion wanted improved literacy and numeracy and almost 90% wanted better communication skills. Over half wanted better computing skills and teamwork.

Mr Longworth said “It’s a scandal that we have nearly one million under-25s unemployed in the UK. Communication skills are a real problem both at interview and in the workplace where students cannot speak articulately and don’t know how to deal with people in a polite way. Then there is the whole business of punctuality where they won’t turn up for work on time and they don’t think that’s a problem

DSCN1502As career coaches my colleague and I have delivered workshops to prepare graduates for employment for several years – but in Lithuania where they realise how important this aspect of their education is.

My colleague has also worked with a number of UK universities, on a voluntary basis, preparing students for interviews via mock assessment days. He has experienced most of the above things plus inappropriate dress and lack of preparation.

You might be clever & work hard but unless you’re posh you’ll never make it big in the UK

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competition_corporate_ladder_1600_wht_6915If you are from a working class background, even though you are working in a higher managerial or professional job, you will still be worse off financially than someone in the same role whom comes from a more privileged background.

We’re talking about a “class pay gap” of over £7,000 a year on average but of £17,000 a year for doctors and more than £18,000 a year for lawyers.

This is almost as big a gap as the so-called “gender pay gap” but there is no legislation which deals with this kind of discrimination.

The research is based on the first UK employment survey to include questions on social mobility. The Labour Force Survey questioned almost 100,000 people in the 3rd quarter of 2014 and asked the occupational status of the main breadwinner in their family when they were 14 years of age. Even accounting for gender, ethnic origins and education and other factors the class pay gap is 10% (compared to a gender pay gap of 12%).

Daniel Laurison and Sam Friedman, the authors of the study both based at the LSE, say the study shows it’s not enough to get one of the top 3.5 million jobs in the UK. Once you get there there is a further “class ceiling“.

It’s well known that the medical and legal profession is dominated by children of higher managers and professionals but this also applies to IT, the police, and the armed forces.

There are two possible reasons working class people lose out even though they have the same qualifications and experience.

  1. It may be cultural bias. “Employers may consider as signs of talent or competence attributes actually rooted in privileged upbringing such as received pronunciation (RP), accents, a polished appearance or highbrow interests and hobbies” says Sam Friedman, one of the authors.
  2. It might also be because the upwardly mobile don’t seek promotion because of anxiety about fitting in.

41BixFZSMqL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_Mike Savage, author of “Social Class in the 21 Century” says “Employers are not allowed to discriminate by gender, race or sexual orientation but class is not mentioned … the problem is how do you detect if someone is facing discrimination because of their class?

 

See also: Social Mobility the slippery ladder

Get some colour in your life to get ahead

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business_professionals_standout_1600_wht_5372Wearing clothing with a splash of colour can help you get ahead.

According to a study of 2,000 British workers by a personalised telephone case company 20% of employees up to their mid-30s say having a splash of colour helped them get a promotion or a pay rise.

I’m not sure how they know that but wearing colourful clothes will make you stand out, and might help you to give the impression that you are more confident or creative. (1 in 3 British workers said they felt more positive wearing brighter clothes and 1 in 4 said it made them feel more confident).

Surely it all depends on where you work and the prevailing standards. If you work in a fashion or creative industry then it will be like a peacock’s tea-party and you might be better off wearing plain black a la Steve Jobs.

Experts (not sure who) cited Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and John Snow, the newsreader as high flyers known for wearing a splash of colour to make a positive statement. I can think of dozens of other high flyers who prefer a staid, although probably expensive, corporate look.

Green micro-breaks good for productivity

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P1030063Researchers at the University of Melbourne gave 150 subjects a menial keystroke task responding to numbers on a computer screen.

After 5 minutes they were given  a 40 second break during which they were shown a view of a rooftop surrounded by tall buildings. Half of them saw a plain rooftop the other half a roof covered with a green flowering meadow.

Both groups then resumed the task. After the break concentration levels fell by 8% among those who saw the concrete roof as their performance grew less inconsistent. Those who saw the meadow showed a 6% increase in concentration and a steady performance.

The researchers suggest that having a green break – whether a walk in the park, looking out the window or even just a screensaver of this kind – is beneficial in improving performance and attention in the workplace.

The measure used: “Sustained attention to response task (SART)” had previously been mapped against brain imaging so they knew that the brain responds in predictable ways in these situations. People need to be able to both maintain focus and block out distractions to perform well.

The underlying theory is called Attention Restoration theory which suggests that natural environments have benefits for people. Nature is effortlessly fascinating and captures your attention without your having to consciously focus on it and thus allows you to replenish your stores of attention control.

DSC00729Previous research has explored how people respond to landscapes like forests, parks, and woodlands for longer periods so this research using such a short time period is impressive.

The 40 seconds was based on a trial during which that was the average time people looked at the meadow scene. Whether such a micro-break is the optimal length is not known.

Other aspects of this research suggest that people would be more likely to help each other after a green break. It all sounds very positive and builds on previous research which shows that having access to nature helps reduce stress levels.

Source: HBR September 2015

 

Face up to it – you’ve either got it or you haven’t

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ThumbsUp-maleScientists are claiming that seeing someone’s face for less than 100 milliseconds is enough to create an impression of your trustworthiness, aggressiveness, and attractiveness.

Your personality traits, your leadership abilities and your potential criminality can also be deduced from your facial appearance.

Psychologists have argued about this for some time but new evidence from Rollins College in Florida suggests it might be true.

Marc Fetscherin, a professor at the International Business School found a correlation between company profits and the shape of the Chief Executive’s face.

51ZfQfM8obL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In his new book, CEO Branding, he describes how successful business leaders tend to have broader faces than average meaning others view them as more dominant and successful.

He said “Facial width to height ratio correlates with real world measures of aggressive and ambitious behaviour and is associated with a psychological sense of power. It is therefore possible that it could predict leadership performance“.

Similar results were found by researchers at Sussex University where they analysed the faces of FTSE100 Chief Executives.

The researchers there thought underpinning this was a high level of testosterone which is associated with aggression and pursuit of dominance and which also influences the growth of muscle and bone.

Research from Finland among military personnel suggests that this view of wide-faced men being leaders might not be universally applicable in different kinds of organisations however.

With regard to personality traits there is also evidence that up to 10% of CEOs in the UK, USA and Australia have psychopathic or narcissistic tendencies – the dark side of leadership.

It’s also been known for centuries that tall, attractive people were more likely to be in leadership positions. For one thing good-looking people tend to be brighter and being well-nourished in times past probably meant you came from a privileged background – always a good starting point.

The idea that we can read people just by looking at them for 1/10th of a second has been around for a long time and was associated with physiognomy and eugenics which became disreputable. 

Today however it is still relevant when it comes to career progression. Apart from the research on CEOs, which is based predominantly on men, the research on women suggests that you can be too good-looking to get an interview.

Despite that many women, and increasingly men, are boosting their looks artificially in order to enhance their erotic capital.

Multi-tasking in Meetings never a good idea

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flipboard_discussion_text_10528You might think you are good at multi-tasking (you’d be wrong by the way) and probably don’t think of the effect it has on your colleagues.

Researchers at Harvard found that checking your phone, e-mails or social media is more distracting for your colleagues than it is for you.

In fact they blame our obsession with our devices for the unproductive meetings taking place everywhere. I don’t necessarily agree with that having attended my fair share of useless meetings long before we had smart phones and tablets.

But there’s no doubt it’s worse now with the “always on” mentality many people have.

People were asked by Francesca Gino how they would respond if a friend or colleague checked their e-mails or posted on social media during a meeting.

She said “The results suggest that we feel distracted and annoyed when others are checking their phone rather than paying attention to what we have to say in a meeting. Yet we fail to realise that our actions will have the same effect on others when we are engaging in them

She also confirmed that multi-tasking is a myth because other than simple tasks we can’t perform several action at the same time. When we try it takes 50% longer with 50% more mistakes (our brain is switching from one task to another and takes time to recover its earlier position).

Banning phones from meetings might help but also organising the meeting better.

41Rq7xmxm0L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Patrick Lencioni, author of “Death by Meeting” estimates that professionals spend 31 hours each month attending unproductive meetings and almost three-quarters of attendees say they take other work with them. (Professor Gino thinks people take their phones and devices as a back-up plan in case the meeting gets boring or ineffective).

Lencioni says bad meetings not only exact a toll those who suffer in them but also cause anguish in the form of, anger, cynicism, lethargy and lower self-esteem.

The HBR suggests the following rules to get the best out of meetings:

  • Keep it small i.e. no more than 7 people to ensure everyone can pick up on NVC and other nuances
  • Ban devices as unacceptable distractions
  • Keep it short i.e. less than an hour (I remember meetings in the public sector lasting 6 hours)
  • Stand up. Meetings where you’re not allowed to sit down ply last 2/3 as long
  • Never just update. That can be done outside the meeting by e-mail, otherwise it’s a time-waster
  • Set an agenda and be clear about the purpose of the meeting and that there will be a plan of action

FYI Lencioni is also the author of “The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams” which is well worth a readThe5dysfunctionsofateam

 

 

Leadership and Influencing

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businessmen_puzzle_shake_hands_1600_wht_3191Older managers may remember the days of Blake’s Grid and the 9:9 management style; striking a balance between people and productivity. That idea has been persistent, about getting the right balance in the way you manage people to get the best out of them.

John Adair, for example developed his Action-Centred Leadership model which was all about keeping the balance between the Individual, the Team and the Task.

And Machiavelli had something to say about this too. Was it better to be loved or feared? He thought it was better to be both but because that was difficult for one person to do he decided “it was safer to be feared than loved.

But times change and there is currently much interest in the science of influencing. Influencing ethically not in a manipulative or machiavellian way.

Many leaders believe that, particularly during those important first 100 days, they have to demonstrate competence and their strengths. But years of research by social scientists show that it’s better to first show your people side by displaying warmth, and then demonstrating your competence.

A spotlight article on Influence in July-August’s issue of the HBR “Connect, Then Lead” by Cuddy, Kohut and Neffinger, explains the current thinking on this.

Basically we judge our leaders on two criteria: how much we like them (warmth and trustworthiness) and how much we fear them (strength and competence). These appear to be the two primary dimensions of social judgement which account for 90% of the variance in the positive and negative impression we form of people.

We have all met people who are competent but display no sense of caring or warmth. They may elicit envy, respect or resentment in others. We may have met people who are warm but incompetent who elicit feelings of warmth but also pity and lack of respect (and it’s hard to imagine how they would become leaders).

So the best approach appears to be to start your leadership by exhibiting warmth, either verbally or using NVC, and making connections, the network building so important early in your leadership career. At the same time you are demonstrating that you are trustworthy.

Then, when appropriate, demonstrate your competence. In a study by Zenger and Folkman of almost 52,000 leaders only 27 of them were rated in the bottom quartile for likability and in the top quartile in terms of overall effectiveness. In other words only 1 in 2,000 leaders were disliked and effective.

But this approach – warmth first – is not easy and most leaders feel the need to demonstrate their strengths first.

Organisational psychologists, Abele and Wojciszke from the University of Gdansk, carried out experiments about training, offering either competence-based or soft skills programmes. They found that people chose competence-based programmes for themselves but soft skills programmes for other people. And when asked to describe a life-defining event they would tell a story about their own competence but when telling a story about other people refer to their warmth and generosity.

If you want to know more, including tips on how to project more warmth or more strength, you’ll have to read the full HBR article, in fact the whole of the July-August issue is devoted to Influence.

Size matters

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Bar room jokes aside there are several interesting studies on the impact that size has on the way we perceive people and the way they behave.

Study 1.

single_colored_chair_rotating_anim_500_wht_10055Andy Yapp, at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, examined the impact of ergonomics on people’s ethics.

They wanted to know whether or not your workspace would have an effect on your honesty.

What they found was that the bigger and larger the space and seating, which encouraged expansive gestures, the more likely it was that people would pocket overpayments, cheat on a test, and break the rules in a driving simulator.

In the first test they deliberately overpaid people for participating in the test and found that 78% of those with the bigger chairs kept it compared with 38% of people working in cramped spaces.

They also observed illegally parked cars in New York and found that when a driver’s seat increased by 1 standard deviation from the mean the probability that a car would be double parked increased from 51% to 71%.

The researchers say that when we have more space we can adopt more expansive postures and these often project high power whereas people working in constrictive spaces where they have to keep their limbs close to their bodies project low power.

The findings were not influenced by the height of the person nor by how corrupt the person might have been before the experiment as they were randomly assigned. The posture was the only variable.

This is interesting as I would have thought that people working in constricted or uncomfortable environments might be likely to cheat just to get back at their employer – a kind of organisational justice.

But we also know that power corrupts.

Yapp and his colleagues admit there might be cultural differences e.g. Asian norms of modesty and humility are inconsistent with the power posturing.

The research replicates that done at Columbia University (see below)  on the size of desks (and illegal parking in New York).

Main source: “Big chairs create big cheats” HBR November 2013

Study 2.

fountain_pen_writing_ink_1600_wht_11648Companies led by CEOs who have large signatures – an indicator of narcissism – perform worse than ones led by CEOs with small signatures.

Researchers at the Robert H Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland measured the signatures of 650 CEOs on 10 years’ worth of annual reports from almost 400 top 500 companies.

Large signatures, which have been linked to narcissistic personality traits such as dominance and an outsize ego, were positively associated with overspending, lower return on assets, but higher CEO pay relative to other industry peers.

The companies of these CEOs spend more on capital goods and acquisitions but had worse sales and sales growth over several years. They also had fewer patents suggesting a lack of innovation.

This is probably because narcissistic leaders dominate discussions, ignore criticism and belittle other employees.

The assumption about big signatures and narcissism is based on research by Richard Zweigenhaft which showed that people with higher self-esteem and more dominant personalities had large signatures.

It’s also the case that the CEO population is more narcissistic than the general population as well as having other dark triad characteristics.

Source: HBR May 2013

Study 3.

businessman_relax_desk_1600_wht_5638And size matters when it comes to honesty at work and in other settings.

Researchers at Columbia Business School think sprawling across an over-size desk makes people feel more self-confident and more likely to behave dishonestly to further their careers.

The researchers manipulated the size of workspaces and found that people were more dishonest on tests when their environment allowed them to stretch out.

In another study they found that drivers given bigger car seats were more likely to be involved in “hit and run” incidents when incentivised to go faster in a driving simulation.

They also checked 126 cars on New York City streets, half of which were parked illegally. They found that drivers with large car seats were more likely to be breaking the law.

Study 4.

figure_looking_observing_500_wht_13769When it comes to impressing potential partners, size really does matter.

Research conducted for Brother Europe, when it was promoting its new A3 printer range across Europe, seems to prove that.

Professor Richard Wiseman, a leading human behaviour psychologist and author of; “:59 seconds. Think a little Change a lot”, carried out the research and he found that in “Dragons’ Den-style” pitch scenarios, businesses using A3 marketing materials appeared ‘significantly bigger, more successful and professional’ than those using standard A4 prints.

Moving from size to weight, in a paper published by researchers at MIT, Harvard and Yale universities; “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgements and decisions” it appears that our sense of touch (the haptic impressions) also influences our thoughts.

They asked people to scrutinise a job candidate by looking at a resume (CV) placed on either heavy or light clipboards. The people using heavy clipboards viewed the candidate as possessing a more serious interest in the job and as more likely to succeed than those holding a light clipboard. They conclude that; “First impressions are liable to be influenced by one’s tactile environment”.

They say that understanding how the tactile environment influences perception could be relevant in; “almost any situation where you are trying to present information about yourself or attempting to influence people“.

My colleague and I have always advised candidates to use heavy-duty paper for their CVs and covering letters rather than 70/80 gm supermarket special photocopy paper. This was based on creating a good impression (because first impressions count) but now it seems it’s not just how good it looks but how heavy.

As the researchers say; “physical experiences are mentally tied to metaphors …. when you activate something physically it starts up the metaphor related to that experience in people’s heads” eg heavy = solid, reliable, serious, and so on.”

And next time someone puts a clipboard into my hands ….

 

These posts appeared separately on SGANDA previously