personality traits

Women bosses are the best? The jury is still out

Posted on Updated on

Researchers in Norway at the BI Business School say that women almost have it all when it comes to leadership ability.

They are better than men at using people skills, the ability to take others with you, to compromise with good grace and to make employees feel valued.

They also outperform men in getting things done, can set ambitious goals and follow them through methodically.

They are even better at entrepreneurial skills such as innovation and have the courage to seize the initiative and communicate a vision clearly.

So what’s the catch? Well when the going gets tough it’s men that get going apparently.

After examining personality traits among Norway’s managerial elite it seems women are more likely to lack the emotional stability required in leadership so they wilt under pressure.

The authors said ” The survey suggests that female leaders may falter through their stronger tendency to worry – or lower emotional stability. However this does not negate that they are decidedly more suited to management positions than male counterparts. If decision-makers ignore this truth they could be employing less qualified leaders and impairing productivity”.

The researchers looked at the correlation between leaders and emotional stability, an outgoing personality, openness to new experiences, agreeableness and a methodical nature (these are all traits in the Big 5 personality model).

They also compared  managers in the public and private sectors. They found that public sector leaders showed higher degrees of innovation, stronger people skills and more meticulous attention to detail. This applied more to senior rather than middle managers.

The most effective managers were those motivated by a genuine interest in their work and a sense of its value.

After the recession there were lots of anecdotal stories of female CEOs being preferred to mop up the mess left behind by former (male) CEOs and research that showed that female CEOs were trusted more. And there is evidence that having females in your team can make it more effective.

Whether or not people like working for female bosses is a different matter. Are they too nice, or too bossy?

Marissa Meyer seemed to have lost the plot at Yahoo after banning working from home and building a creche next to her office so she didn’t have to.

Here in the UK there have been some embarrassing examples of senior women managers in the NHS who have had to leave their posts in disgrace. Perhaps only proving that there is equality and that women can be just as bad leaders as men

Anatomy of a true leader?

Posted on Updated on

green_stick_figure_stand_out_crowd_1600_wht_1832In the Sunday Times business section this weekend Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners and the Centre for Entrepreneurs, set out his list of the most important characteristics that a managing director should possess.

In brief these were:

The ability to motivate. The boss who can enthuse a workforce will generally do better than one who rules by fear.

Domain Knowledge. They must have sufficient technical understanding to gain the respect of their team.

The ability to listen. The best bosses don’t dominate debates but encourage feedback and leave their doors open. They listen to the shop floor by going there in person.

Decisiveness. Ultimately companies cannot function as pure democracies and someone has to make decisions rather than procrastinate. Employees need a sense of direction.

Financial literacy. Must be able to interpret financial statements and analyse accouts.

A sense of humour. Life is too short not to enjoy going to work .

Reliability in a crisis. Someone who doesn’t panic in the face of adversity and gets down to work in a diligent and professional way without histrionics.

Frugality. Having a thrifty approach to business. Extravagant CEOs set a bad example especially if they live beyond their means. A lean operation is the only way.

Delegation. The only way for start-ups to become large companies is for the proprietor/managers to learn to identify, promote, trust, and empower talent.

Adaptability. Modern companies need to be flexible and intelligent leaders thrive on change and are constantly learning.

Bravery. Outstanding leaders need the courage to make unpopular decisions. Those who fail to speak out on controversial issues and follow the consensus are followers not leaders.

That’s Luke Johnsons’ list and I can’t say I disagree with any of them. An interesting mixture of personality traits e.g. adaptability (being open to experience) and learned skills e.g. financial knowledge.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who meets all those criteria however! And when it comes to frugality it’s hard to say it abounds. When the average pay at the top of organisations is 130 times pay at the bottom and CEOs get rewarded for failure e.g. the Barclays CEO walking away with £28 million it’s hard to believe it exists at the very top of organisations.

If you want to comment or add to the list contact him at: luke@riskcapitalpartners.co.uk

 

 

What influences your job preferences?

Posted on

one_on_on_interview_clip_1600_wht_6951According to research by OPP it comes down to age and personality.

Older workers are different from younger ones preferring jobs with role clarity with an emphasis on loyalty and independence.

They also prefer to work where everyone knows each other, is from a variety of backgrounds, and is treated as individuals with unique skills.

They are less comfortable in insecure jobs even though there might be opportunities for high pay. This might reflect family responsibilities or concerns about affording retirement.

In terms of personality factors emotional stability, rule consciousness, and self-reliance, increase with age but factors like liveliness, abstractedness, apprehension, and tension decrease.

These findings were reported by Gulko and Deakin in a report “Age and Work Characteristics: The role of Personality” at a British Psychological Society conference in Brighton.The authors said that given the ageing workforce this knowledge “can help employees with (the) attraction, selection, and retention of employees”.

Fellow psychologist Malcolm Starkey has directed me to some research at the University of Antwerp that looks at generation differences in relation to motivation and finds that older workers are not less motivated – just motivated by different things.

It doesn’t pay to be too nice

Posted on Updated on

figure_holding_happy_sad_signs_1600_wht_10227Professor Adrian Furnham’s used to have a column in The Sunday Times which was always of interest to psychologically minded executives and his book; “The Elephant in the Boardroom – the causes of leadership derailment“, should be essential reading for all would-be directors.

As a psychologist I liked the piece in which he explained why nice guys don’t always win – because of their Agreeable personality.

Agreeableness is one of the Big 5 Personality Factors (along with Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Neuroticism).

He points out that Agreeableness can be a handicap in business as the higher you score on this factor, the less likely you are to succeed as a business leader!

Most of us would prefer to work for an agreeable rather than a disagreeable boss, wouldn’t we? Well perhaps not says Furnham. Agreeable bosses may make you dissatisfied by not dealing with poor performers and being too forgiving, maybe treating you all the same, or being manipulated by your more devious colleagues.

One of my earlier posts “Sometimes you just have to tell ’em” was about research at Roffey Park that showed that we are not very good at dealing with underperformance or telling people what we want, that strong managers get more respect, and that a firm consistent approach is better for morale and performance generally.

And a paper presented to the Academy of Management by Beth A Livingston from Cornell University analysed surveys spread over 20 years. She found that significantly less agreeable men earned 18.3% more than men who were significantly more agreeable. For women the difference was less, just 5.5%.

Livingston said; “Men’s disagreeable behaviour conforms to expectations of masculine behaviour“. As n earlier post of mid pointed out, rudeness and aggression can be mistaken for power, even though it can have a negative impact on the bottom line.

And it gets worse – if you’re a female. Research carried out by the Institute of Employment Research concluded that; “It doesn’t pay for a female boss to be too nice“. The research showed that personality factors do come into account and that, for example, nice people earn less.

Apparently nice women are being swept away by openly aggressive ones who know what they want.

Working hard obviously helps but if you are too conscientious you may be seen as neurotic (or get bullied), and extraverts do no better than introverts.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, at the University of Lancaster Management School, agrees but also thinks women have more emotional intelligence than men and are not generally as egocentric.

So agreeable managers have to learn how to toughen up – for the sake of their team and the organisation, just as the disagreeable ones have to learn how to be nice – if only for the PR.

An article in Psychologies magazine picked up on this topic in their article; “Why it pays to be tough at work“. It suggests that the prevailing view that it’s not the cleverest (presumably meaning IQ) but those with the highest emotional intelligence that succeed is wrong.

That was always a simplistic view at best and one that Adrian Furnham disagrees with as he says there is evidence that disagreeable poeple do better. The German research quoted says agreeable women earned £40,000 less over a lifetime than women who behaved more like ruthless men.

The article’s author then has a go at empathy. She quotes Jack Welch’s wife Suzy as saying that; “too much empathy is paralysing” when you have to give tough feedback or make tough decisions, and goes on to talk about women being prone to slipping into “good mother” roles where they create “gardens of entitlement” sowing seeds of future problems (such as?).

After dismissing empathy – by quoting Neutron Jack’s wife for goodness sake – the author next attacks self-knowledge which she doesn’t consider essential for top jobs as it can detract from self-confidence if it makes you aware of your failings (is she serious that these people don’t need feedback ?

Some people have short memories; what about Enron, the banks or BP?

If men overestimate their abilities and don’t navel gaze while women underestimate themselves and have self-doubt (imposter syndrome) then women seemed doomed to fail according to the author and people like Suzy Welch.

In fact the author seems to welcome emotional stupidity as it makes less demands on her. She even had a dig at Anne Mulcahy, ex-CEO of Xerox, because, although she wrote about what women can bring to the workplace in terms of emotionality, which makes them better leaders, she still cut 1/3 of the workforce.

 

Originally posted on Sganda

Leadership capabilities necessary for a successful merger

Posted on Updated on

puzzle_people_working_together_1600_wht_6984Growing through mergers and acquisitions is a common strategy but the sad truth is that 40-80% of mergers fail to meet their objectives.

A study of 94 mergers by a Washington-based consultancy firm Potentious found that, using the Korn-Ferry 360 degree evaluations, the following leadership capabilities were the key to success.

 

In the acquiring company

Motivate others
Influence others
Build relationships
Develop others
Act with integrity
Show adaptability
Focus on customer needs

In the target company

Motivate others
Influence others
Build relationships
Provide direction

The findings are based on a five year study using a range of financial indices as well as the 360 data.

Although there is an overlap in the capabilities for both organisations the study revealed that they were more important in achieving success at senior level in the acquiring company but at middle management level in the target company.

I wonder if this is because senior executives in the target company are more likely to be demoralised or worried about their future whereas middle managers might see it as an opportunity?

Cary Cooper and colleagues did some research in the UK into mergers and acquisitions back in the late 1980s and found that morale and productivity (what we would now call employee engagement) often took 12 – 18 months to recover after a merger or takeover.

Based on these findings the author of the study, J Keith Dunbar, proposes that :

assessing the collective leadership capabilities should be part of the due diligence carried out before any merger, and
that the middle managers at the target companies, who are crucial to success, should be offered contracts which will keep them there”

Source: HBR September 2014

My most read posts in 2014

Posted on Updated on

Screen Shot 2012-10-05 at 22.49.07My output on this blog was pretty paltry last year as I was busy writing elsewhere and tweeting (probably too much!)

However the number of countries in which my lists were read more than doubled to 85 countries, mainly the USA, the UK, and Brazil but also in Suriname, Belize, Lebanon, Qatar, Algeria, Sri Lanka, the Faroe Islands and China. So thank you for such an international interest.

For what it’s worth the most read posts on this blog in 2014 were:

  1. Thinking outside the box – literally
  2. MBTI typies – for the believers
  3. Empathetic introverts make the best carers
  4. Learning to become an optimist
  5. Using social media impacts on academic performance
  6. Mentally challenging jobs are good for you
  7. Can scientists really change your memories
  8. Were the Victorians really smarter than us?
  9. Your partner’s personality adds value
  10. End of the road for Positive Psychology at work? jointly with Gender differences in responding to stress

Your partner’s personality adds value

Posted on Updated on

business_man_and_woman_1600_wht_5662Successful people are more likely to have a partner with certain personality traits according to a 5-year study at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri.

These traits, which help their partners to be advance their careers are: conscientiousness, reliability, and diligence.

These are the traits commonly found in successful executives with conscientiousness linked to success in life generally i.e. you do what you say you’ll do.

The study examined 5,000 married couples aged between 19 and 80 years of age and tracked them over 5 years to see how well they did at work. They also asked them to describe their partners.

Those who progressed the most in their chosen occupation had a spouse who scored high in conscientiousness, regardless of sex.

The author of the study, Joshua Jackson, talking about the results said “ It is not only your own personality that influences the experiences that lead to greater occupational success, but that your spouse’s personality matters too”.

He said it’s not just about your spouse encouraging you to ask for a pay rise or promotion but the influence of your spouse’s daily behaviour which influences you over time.

Conscientiousness can mean a spouse sharing the domestic chores or emulating the other person’s personality traits making them reliable and diligent employees.

This is where HR has been getting it wrong! Instead of using personality questionnaires to assess the applicant they should be inviting the applicants’ spouses in for assessment as well. Of course that doesn’t help if the applicant doesn’t have one – unless they borrow one for the occasion from a successful friend.