I had already recorded this week's message but changed my mind. Something happened yesterday - something powerful and worth discussing. Or rather - someone happened: The beautiful and strong Zozibini Tunzi, the new Miss Universe from South Africa.
Let's face it. I didn't expect to find extraordinary in a beauty pageant. Extraordinary beauty perhaps - not extraordinary leadership. When we think of extraordinary leadership we think of large organizations, world forums, presidents and prime ministers, religious figures. And then I watched Ms. Tunzi's quick and impromptu speech. I added it below.
This was not Ms. Tunzi's only impressive moment. After winning, she also stated:
"I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me — with my kind of skin and my kind of hair — was never considered to be beautiful," the 26-year-old said during her closing statement. "I think it is time that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face, and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine."
Ms. Tunzi didn't grow up to be beautiful. She didn't grow up to be a leader. She didn't grow up to have a voice. And yet - she seized her talents, grabbed the moment, and claimed her space.
Like Ms. Tunzi, I didn't grow up ever thinking I could be a leader. To this day, I doubt my abilities, my knowledge, my right to speak up. To this day, I wonder whether my voice is worthy. And yet - I know, deep inside, that it is. I know, even as impostor's syndrome hits me with a vengeance, that I have something to say, something to contribute, people to help. I know the world needs me to claim my space.
Here are my questions to all of you today:
A final message to colleagues who answered "yes" to my first question: You are worthy - and you are not alone.
Whom would you follow without authority? In this brief video, I argue that if you only lead with authority you are not really leading - you are just the boss. To truly be a leader, you need to be able to influence people who would follow you willingly, even if they didn't have to do so.
Have you shared someone else's celebration? Have you experienced the celebration of another culture or invited colleagues from different cultures to share yours? Sharing celebrations is a wonderful way of respecting others and making them feel welcome. In this brief "flash learning" I suggest a couple of ways of bringing inclusion to the holidays year-round.
One of my favorite poems is The Road not Taken, by Robert Frost. I love thinking about the mystery and the possibilities of the two roads. I love the sense of adventure and wonder as I think of the road “less traveled by.”
Here's my problem: Even as we applaud people who take "the road less traveled by" - do we value path diversity? Do we accept that different people may not only choose different paths but also reach the same destinations through different routes? I argue we don't. Instead, we prefer cookie cutter approaches. We judge people according to the mold we learned to fit.
Let's bring personality diversity into this mix. It's not uncommon for organizations to use personality assessments in recruitment. The assumption behind such use: Certain personality tendencies are more likely to lead to success in certain positions. Ergo, it makes sense to select people with those tendencies. Looking for a salesperson? You want an extravert, right? Hiring a customer service representative? Make sure the person is calm and never gets angry. Looking for a person working on a routine job? Weed out anyone with imagination - and so on.
Is there a grain of truth to such practices? Yes. Introverted salespeople may feel tired after too much networking. Angry customer representatives will need energy to control their anger, especially if they feel anger towards the customers. Imaginative people working in routine jobs may feel discouraged and bored. However, I'll offer four reasons why only looking at personality trait tendencies is the wrong approach.
REASON 1: THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Introverted salespeople may be wonderful in one-on-one sessions. They may find it easier to listen to the customers and understand their needs. They could act as sales coaches, helping their customers find the best solutions. How about "angry customer representatives"? Sure, they will need to direct their angry feelings to the problem, not to the customer. That said, the very fact these people feel angry more than others may give them extra energy to fight for the customer or for the organization, whichever applies in the case. In addition, just because people "experience" anger, that does not mean they demonstrate or expresses anger. And imaginative people doing routine jobs? They may the ones coming up with a brilliant work-around that releases everyone from the routine job in question. More routine pieces of the job, for example, could be automated. Some paperwork that "has always been completed" may be irrelevant (and trust the imaginative soul to discover that quickly!)
REASON 2: PERSONALITY TRAIT COMBINATIONS
Never consider trait tendencies in isolation. A person prone to anger who has very high tact will show up differently from one who is prone to anger but tends to "tell it like it is." Introverts with high agreeableness (a trait that relates to enjoying helping others, feeling comfortable focusing on others' needs) may use their empathy as an energy booster. Imaginative and creative people with high conscientiousness (a trait related to perfectionism and discipline) will handle routine tasks they hate more easily than those with low conscientiousness.
REASON 3: BEYOND TRAIT TENDENCIES
Personality involves more than just trait tendencies. Psychologist Dan McAdams (see his website here) explains that personality involves three major layers: traits (extraversion, emotional stability, originality, etc.), characteristic adaptations (values, motivations, plans, stages of human development), and what he calls "life stories" – people’s overall identity, what gives their life "a sense of purpose." (for more information on McAdams' work, try reading this book - it's excellent).
REASON 4: PERSONALITY IS ONLY PART OF THE PUZZLE
Would you like one more reason to be cautious? One's effectiveness at work is not only predicted by personality. Besides trait tendencies, values and motivations, and overall identities, we need to consider other factors such as (a) interests, talents, and experiences and (b) the characteristics of the environment or situation. For example, introverted but experienced salespeople may be wonderful assets when know the product very, very well. They may also be successful if a "coaching sales style" is valued at the organization.
One more critical piece of advice: Do you use personality type instruments in selection? Please - just don't. Personality type instruments are simply not precise enough. Intuitively, you know that there are more than four, or nine, or sixteen, or whatever finite number of "types" your instrument reports reveal. Even if you consider only five traits (the so called "Big Five," see here for more information or sign up for this Linked:HR free and SHRM pre-certified e-learning course) and five positions per trait (very low, low, medium, high, very high) you end up with 3,125 possible "types." On top of that, there are multiple subtraits associated with each trait. Personality types are simply shortcuts to represent a correlated set of traits. They may help people get started, but too many people would be "mistyped."
In summary, as you consider using a personality instrument in your recruiting practices, remember the following:
With all that said, do I still support the use of personality assessments? Absolutely. I love the neutral language people receive to talk about differences. I love that we can build better teams, capitalizing on the natural tendencies and strengths of different people. We can rethink jobs, so that the same job does not require people to display opposite trait tendencies at the same time. And, on top of all that - nothing stops us from also discussing values, talents, interests, and other building blocks that make us unique and human. At the Master’s in Leadership Development at Drake University I direct, we address personality diversity right in the first course, and bring it back in practically all discussions. I firmly believe personality discussions should be part of all team building, leadership development, and other educational interventions in your organization.
I leave you today with the question of the week:
Arsonists & Gardeners, Gatekeepers & Gate Changers
Have you ever received negative (or "developmental") feedback that "killed your soul"?
If you answered "yes" to the question above, possibly one of two things happened (and maybe both). First, you probably put considerable effort into the project or process for which you received feedback. Negative feedback (I am avoiding the euphemistic word "developmental" on purpose) stings more when we feel it is undeserved. Second, the person providing the feedback focused only or mostly on the problem areas. The person may also have been angry or treated you poorly.
In this brief video, I first compare a person who cannot provide effective feedback to an arsonist who burns everything on sight. A good feedback provider is like a gardener who focuses on the beautiful plants without ignoring the weeds.
Next, I discuss selection processes. I wonder in what situations people in charge of selection decisions should be gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are in charge of their "gates" and only allow in people who hold the "perfect key." Instead, organizations might profit from "gate changers" - professionals who change the rules. These leaders transform the gate to accept those with different talents, cultures, personalities, or even professional background.
Think about your own experiences:
The state of the economy - national and global - impacts everything we do: Budget projections, compensation and hiring plans, strategic initiatives, etc. This week, The Leader Campus Community Leader Mel Wildermuth interviews Otaviano Canuto - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bObtGFSIKI - of the Brookings Institute, formally of the World Bank. Mr. Canuto speaks about the U.S. economy slow down and about the world economy, which could struggle after the Brexit event.
Here are two questions for the week:
As you may know from previous postings, my graduate students and I are currently conducting a study on Courage and HR. A fascinating theme we have encountered is "Honest Challenge": The idea is that HR professionals (and, in particular leaders) need to be ready and willing to tell the truth. HR professionals are courageous when they go against the flow, when they honestly express their ideas, not only to leaders but also to peers. In this quick "flash learning" video, Dr. Wildermuth explains the problem and asks two questions:
Next week, I'm honored to speak at the Iowa SHRM Conference in Des Moines, Iowa (October 9-11, 2019). My topic: Effective Intercultural Development Practices. In the video below, I offer a brief preview of my presentation.
I hope you can come to the conference, though, as I'll go far more in-depth "in person!" If you are coming to the Iowa SHRM Conference, please come say hello!
Is HR courageous?
This is the question I ask HR professionals this week. With the invaluable help of two Drake University students, I am currently analyzing hundreds of responses on the importance of courage for HR professionals. I will present the findings at the International Leadership Association Conference in Ottawa, Canada, 24-27 October.
I go to the ILA every year and get a lot of energy from my colleagues in leadership. I have met fellow researchers, learned new models, and enhanced my teaching through the ILA. I am super excited to go and feel honored to be presenting! If you are also attending the ILA conference, please let me know, I would love to meet you while I'm there.
For more information on the ILA Conference visit THIS PAGE or click on the image below.
In the video below, I share our preliminary findings on the importance of courage. I also share an elegant moral behavior model by renowned moral psychologist Dr. James Rest.
Have you ever felt at a "dead end job"? By "dead end," I do not necessarily mean a job where you could not get promoted. I mean a job where you stopped learning.
As I conduct research for the book I plan to write on The Meaningful Leader® I often ask people to think of their "moments of disengagement." The way I refer to these moments is the time in which "you lost the light in your eye." It may not surprise you to hear that many of the stories I hear are about lousy managers - people who overreact to mistakes, lose control, ignore the needs of their employees and, even more commonly (and sadly) expect employees to leave their integrity and values at home.
A common theme, however, has to do with the loss of growth and hope. People feel like they have nothing else to give, nothing else to fight for. A common theme is boredom.
Helping followers grow is a key part of a leader's job. So can you help your follower grow? Here are a few ideas:
A final consideration as you help your followers grow: Avoid the control trap. Micromanagers, by definition, do not support their followers' development. When you micromanage, you send a powerful message of lack of trust and fear of failure.
Here is the question of the week: Think of a leader you had who helped you grow. You may consider a leader from your personal or professional life. What did this person do that was so powerful? What can you learn from your experience?
Dr. Cris Wildermuth
Dr. Cris Wildermuth is Linked:HR's Community Leader and an Associate Professor at Drake University, where she directs the Master of Science in Leadership Development. You may find out more about Dr. Wildermuth's leadership development, ethics, and intercultural development consulting practice at THIS PAGE.