August 12, 2011

New Blog Site!!

Please visit our new blog site for our latest news, opinions and insights!

Read more!

June 8, 2011

How annoying are you?

Science reveals the Irritating, the Picky and the Arrogant: take the free assessment

We have something a little light and fun to start off the summer of 2011. . .

I had the opportunity recently to work with Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman of National Public Radio’s Science Friday. They recently published the book, Annoying—The Science of What Bugs Us. Joe’s interviews with people about what makes some so annoying had led him to our colleague Bob Hogan, whose Hogan Development Survey is all about how people can unintentionally derail their reputations and careers.

So we all worked to develop a short survey, sent it out to a few hundred of our closest friends and developed the "Annoying Inventory." When we got the results, we did a quick factor analysis and found that annoying people fall into three categories: Irritating, Picky and Arrogant.

The "Picky" person has a detail focus and often the micromanager’s “my way or the highway” approach to working with others. "Arrogant" people are, well, arrogant. They criticize others’ efforts and like to be the focus of attention. People who can’t trust others or who are hard to please are in the "Irritating" category. It’s all very annoying.

Palca writes: What is the recipe for annoyance? For starters, it should be temporary, unpleasant, and unpredictable, like a boring meeting or mosquito bites. For example, why is that guy talking on his cell phone over there so annoying? For one, it’s unpleasant and distracting. Second, we don’t know, and can’t control, when it will end. Third, we can’t not listen! Our brains are hardwired to pay close attention to people talking and follow the conversations. The loud chatter pulls our brains away to listen to half of something we’re never going to understand.

In Annoying—The Science of What Bugs Us, Palca and Lichtman look at annoying behaviors at work, in politics, sports, science and, yes, even romance.

How annoying are you? You can find out for free by taking the assessment here.

We’ll compare your answers to the current norms for Arrogance, Irritating-ness and Pickiness, and tell you where you rank on general Annoyingness.

Read more!

May 18, 2011

The Hunt for Executive Talent is Getting More Competitive – Cultural Flexibility in Demand

Source: Wall Street Journal, 4/11/2011

“Global businesses are looking for leaders who have the ability to move easily between different cultures and have deep local roots as well as international operational experience…. The talent pool is very small.”

When there is not enough immediately qualified talent, you have two options.
  1. Design the work to fit the people you can find, or
  2. Hire people who will respond to training efforts who can then fill the spots.
The latter option is probably more efficient. And there are three excellent assessments that directly address cultural flexibility that you can use with your global-based clients to develop their own talent pool.

The granddaddy in the field was originally developed in the 1970s for the Peace Corps: the Overseas Assignment Inventory. The OAI eventually found its way into the capabilities provided by Prudential Intercultural. Working with Prudential we extensively revised and revalidated it in 2008. It focuses on successful expatriate adjustment to a foreign assignment. Some of the secrets to success that it reveals are: 
  1. Having both personal and career motivations for wanting the assignment
  2. Having a clear set of job tasks in the new assignment
  3. Having high quality communication and support from family
Other skills that make things go smoothly for expatriates are realistic expectations, respect for beliefs that differ from one’s own, and willingness to be open to letting others know you.

All of these are part personality tendency and part learned behavior, so the assessment points out areas for development.

The Global Assessment Inventory (GAI) was designed to look at the skills a person has working cross culturally but not as an expatriate. The most important areas here are global sensitivity (recognize the value of different perspectives), risk taking (flexibility in solving problems), and patience. As with the OAI, the assessment provides a view of personal tendencies and behavior, comparing you with those who successfully navigate cross-cultural relationship situations. Then it offers development recommendations on how you can do better.

The third assessment we recommend, Global Mindset Inventory (GMI), comes out of Thunderbird School of Global Management, which is ranked #1 among business schools in international business. Professors there have studied thousands of their graduates (see HBR article) who are employed all over the globe and identified the set of competencies of high-performers:
  1. Intellectual Capital – Your cognitive capabilities, business savvy, and cosmopolitan outlook
  2. Psychological Capital – Your level of confidence, sense of adventure and appreciation of diversity
  3. Social Capital – Your empathy, diplomacy and interpersonal impact
For a more detailed description of the personal capabilities that make a difference in global talent, refer to their article from the April 2010 Harvard Business Review.

Development is the surest way to increase your talent pool and it begins with accurate, appropriate assessment. This is one more way to make Human Resources a strategic competitive advantage.

Read more!

April 1, 2011

Executive Assessment and a Charge of Sexual Harassment

We present this blog from consultant Jodie-Beth Galos who is both a lawyer and an executive coach.  The situation she presents is an amalgam of several from her career, and it highlights how an assessment can be part of a solution for a very sensitive problem.

It’s a nightmare: a valid sexual harassment complaint against a senior executive. It could be a CEO or CFO, or any head of marketing, operations, information services, etc. 

The organization faces serious external legal challenges and internal credibility issues.  Showing good faith and improving the organization’s position by firing the executive isn’t in the cards—you can’t or don’t want to take that step. The executive is otherwise an asset to the organization, possessing expertise difficult to replace.
The problem won’t be solved by a written warning or by sending the executive to a sensitivity class. This particular executive is skilled at rationalizing and externalizing blame.  The charge is seen as a lie or retribution for something the executive did. So any harassment prevention training will be disregarded, accountability for behavior change won’t occur and the odds are set for a repeat performance.  Legal risks remain, coupled with the probability of harm to future employees.

Assessment can be a part of a different approach to reduce the very real liabilities.

The executive needs to express credible remorse without killing your case.  Your employees need reassurance that the organization doesn’t advocate a culture of expedience: the rules apply to everyone, even or especially to those at the helm. 

The solution?  An individual, intensive coaching intervention combined with follow-up to minimize a repeat problem.

A first step is to engage a coach familiar with harassment litigation, and who can listen to the executive’s view of what actually happened. This includes discussion about the personal relationship between the executive and the person charging harassment, reflecting distorted views of romantic involvement and the executive’s need to be in charge. This helps promote empathy for the victim’s experience, a key step.

Next, the executive needs to take steps to picture behavior in a greater context.  Multi-rater 360 assessments (such as the Clark Wilson Group Executive Survey) provide the feedback necessary for the executive to learn how others perceive their actions. So the harassment victim is not singled out but part of the network of relationships the executive has with other employees.

Of course this needs to be combined with tutorials on discrimination and harassment law, and organizational policy and procedure. The responsibilities of management then take on real significance.  By reflecting on the ways in which the conduct violated another’s rights, the potential for repetition of the problem conduct is dramatically reduced or even eliminated.

And, the executive is positioned to create a thoughtful action plan to improve a broad spectrum of leadership effectiveness, moving from personal feelings to an appreciation of personal impact. Follow-up coaching supports self awareness and achievement of the action plan.

Accountability replaces defensiveness, and openness replaces anger.  The executive finds balance, prepared to distinguish between friendly business interactions and inappropriate behavior.  With a development approach like this, a nightmare can become an organizational culture-reforming message in disguise.

Jodie-Beth Galos, Esq., SPHR is a consultant and executive coach who specializes in counseling C Suite executives accused of harassment and discrimination.  Her background as a former litigator and HR professional makes her uniquely suited to reducing legal liability while improving leadership effectiveness.  She has effectively testified on behalf of organizations as a fact witness. Her website is

Read more!

March 11, 2011

The high IQ quarterback—can a job candidate be too smart?

Sources: Fort Worth Star Telegram; Palm Beach Post Sports, 3/3/2011

The National Football League sets an interesting example for human resources with its annual Scouting Combine that just happened in February. It’s the NFL’s way of triangulating data, because players that may not have stellar college seasons behind them might still have what it takes to play professional football.

The Combine assesses candidates from a different perspective. Top college players are invited to Indianapolis for a weeklong assessment of all the job qualifications you might expect: size, strength and speed. The NFL also conducts cognitive testing during the Combine.

This year’s Combine had the sports press scratching its head over the question of whether or not a player can be too smart when candidate Tim McElroy nearly “aced” the Wonderlic assessment. The Alabama quarterback scored 48 out of a possible 50 points.

The Wonderlic was developed by E.F. Wonderlic in the 1930’s and served a similar role during World War II. NFL teams have used it for many years to help identify smart players. We periodically use cognitive assessments in our work with clients. The Wonderlic is primarily for entry-level positions. For management positions, we most often use the Hogan Business Reasoning Inventory. The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Inventory is ideal at the executive level to evaluate critical thinking skills. It’s also one of the assessments used for screening into the “high IQ” MENSA society.

Aptitude and intelligence testing has a long history. Alfred Binet developed one of the first systematic assessments in France in the late 1800’s, and it was used to distinguish between “educable” school-age children, and those who would not benefit from a public school education. In World War I psychologists used intelligence tests to identify potential leaders, using a written form for those who could read and a symbolic version for those who could not.

All of the assessments of this type reflect a secret widely known in industrial psychology: Smart people do better. Like any rule of thumb, though, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The truth is that being smart helps to a point, but being very, very smart may not be so good.

As with the NFL, corporate HR is wise to balance its assessments to get a complete “picture” of any candidate.

So let’s go back to our very smart quarterback. With the NFL average Wonderlic score at 24 and McElroy at 48, what might be worrying people?

For starters, being smarter than the coaches can be challenging to team hierarchy. Then there is the fact that any extreme ability can be distancing from others who see the person as very different. Great insight can come across as arrogance if it isn’t tempered by an appropriate sense of position.

Sometimes very smart people can’t make a decision; because they love considering the many possible ways a problem can be studied. And it’s a cliché, but true, that some very smart people get separated from “common sense” by considerations the rest of us would never contemplate. Most of us probably encountered a professor along the way who had two feet firmly in the air.

My father was a great supporter of education, the more the better. But he also once told me, during my trek towards a Ph.D., to make sure that too much education didn’t make me stupid. While educational achievement and being smart don’t necessarily go together, I understood his point. I met quite a few very smart people who did very stupid things as I navigated graduate school and then when I entered the world of work.

So like any other trait, motive, or capability, when taken to an extreme, being smart can hurt you. But most of us don’t have to worry about that, do we?

Read more!

March 3, 2011

Leadership With Tears – The Impact of Emotion

Sources: CBS 60 Minutes, John Boehner interview with Lesley Stahl, Dec 12, 2010

A little crying on the floor of the US House of Representatives this week reminded me of how I was struck by last month’s 60 Minutes segment profiling our new House Speaker, John Boehner.  Boehner cried at several points during that interview, each time related to a comment or question about living the American Dream. The report also showed clips of other famous political criers. The 1972 tears of Edmund Muskie, Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign in 2008, George Bush talking of the family tragedies brought about by 9-11, and even Barack Obama on the death of his grandmother the day before his election to president.

I started to think of other situations where there were tears, and when they were good or bad from a leadership influence standpoint. And I remember the maxim “there are no happy tears” from my graduate school training. 
Whether or not the tears are appropriate (or effective, from a leadership standpoint) is definitely bound by culture.  Certain environments or organizational climates tolerate emotional expression, while others don’t. I can envision an emotional outburst at an advertising agency, where creative energies must flow rather freely to generate new ideas, as an acceptable response.  I can also envision the discomfort among passengers in an airplane when a teary pilot announces trouble up ahead. 

In leadership situations, I don’t think that gender makes a difference even if there is a gender difference.

People pointed to Muskie’s tears as the end to his 1972 campaign. But watching the clip on 60 Minutes gave me a different thought. Muskie denied he cried, despite the video evidence, saying they were snowflakes melting on his cheek.  I am too young to remember the ‘72 campaign very well, but I suspect the career-ending event was more to do with the denial of tears than their presence.

Many have criticized conservative commentator Glenn Beck, who apparently cries regularly on his show, as trying to manipulate others by using his tears to connect emotionally with his audience. Beck’s politics and behavior splits people quite distinctly into lovers or haters. The lovers agree with his views and see the tears as genuine. The haters disagree with his views and see the tears as fake.

In 2008 Hillary’s tears showed her as a more vulnerable, warm person with a heart—something that was not much in her reputation at the time. I think tears also worked well in the situations that led to George Bush and Barack Obama welling up on camera. And they worked well, I think, for John Boehner, largely because they were genuine and not apparently manipulative. He admits that people who know him “know that I cry” and that it is part of what makes him who he is.

Authenticity, or being genuine, seems to be the key when it comes to tears in leadership.

Author: Dr. Paul M. Connolly

Read more!

February 9, 2011

Independent as Icarus: Are you overplaying your strengths?

In a few weeks we’ll be launching a new assessment designed to help you answer this question. We’ve been working with author-entrepreneur John Bradberry, whose book Six Secrets to Startup Success: How to Turn Your Entrepreneurial Passion into a Thriving Business, will be hitting bookstores in March.

We worked with John and his team to create the Entrepreneur Core Characteristics Profile (ECCP) that is designed to give you insight into 11 key personal attributes associated with entrepreneurial success.

John’s work supports that of others who have researched this topic, pointing out a high achievement orientation, confidence and resilience. What I found interesting about his approach was the identification of several “Icarus” factors, basically when there is too much of a good thing. One of those factors, for example, is independence. While it is good to be able to stand on your own, a successful entrepreneur also has to be able to engage others to solve problems.

You can read more about these “Icarus” factors on John’s blog.

The concept of strengths being taken to extremes and turning into ineffectiveness can be seen in many psychological measures. Those who score very high in Adjustment may seem cold and aloof. Those scoring high in Ambition compete with others on their own teams. Those high in conceptual thinking or inquisitiveness study problems without recognizing the need to act.

Why is it so hard for people with a strong uniqueness to manage it? One reason is that people recognize unusual differences, and that is often a source of recognition. For example: Joe is very outgoing. Or, Jane is a good problem-solver. Those compliments can lead to justified pride in something that makes us special. And over time that pride can be cement for a person’s identity.

Another key reason is that unusual traits often lead to a success. In my own case I have been known to have a fair bit of persistence. This tendency helped me get through several barriers along the way, including getting through graduate school and starting a business. But that same attribute had also led me to an early but spectacular failure in college, when I couldn’t give up on a medical career despite more than ample evidence that it was simply not a realistic option for me. I nearly flunked out of school rather than recognize that my skills were in a different direction. There is a difference between persistence and blind obstinacy, a nuance that is often lost on someone whose strength is the ability to keep trying.

There are definitely clusters of attributes that are common to particular jobs. In our next entry, we’ll review the research on a sample of 75 widely recognized, high-achieving women. These results show what they have in common and how they are different, in terms of what it takes to be successful, on either the corporate or entrepreneurial track.

Read more!