Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tweet Chat on HR as Business Leader

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, January 20, 2014

Enduring Cultural Phenomenon of the MBTI

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My name is Adam Grant, and I am an INTJ. That’s what I learned from a wildly popular personality test, which is taken by more than 2.5 million people a year, and used by 89 of theFortune 100 companies. It’s called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and my score means that I’m more introverted than extraverted, intuiting than sensing, thinking than feeling, and judging than perceiving. As I reflected on the results, I experienced flashes of insight. Although I spend much of my time teaching and speaking on stage, I am more of an introvert—I’ve always preferred a good book to a wild party. And I have occasionally kept lists of my to-do lists. 
But when I took the test a few months later, I was an ESFP. Suddenly, I had become the life of the party, the guy who follows his heart and throws caution to the wind. Had my personality changed, or is this test not all it’s cracked up to be? I began to read through the evidence, and I found that the MBTI is about as useful as a polygraph for detecting lies. One researcher even called it an “act of irresponsible armchair philosophy.” When it comes to accuracy, if you put a horoscope on one end and a heart monitor on the other, the MBTI falls about halfway in between. 
Now, if you’re an MBTI fan, you might say it’s typical of an INTJ to turn to science. Touche. But regardless of your type, it’s hard to argue with the idea that if we’re going to divide people into categories, those categories ought to be meaningful. In social science, we use four standards: are the categories reliable, valid, independent, and comprehensive? For the MBTI, the evidence says not very, no, no, and not really.
Reference: Say Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad that Won't Die.

Craig Dowden, PhD posted this article in the Consulting Psychology group on LinkedIn - Thought-provoking critique of the MBTI - and here is my comment:

The MBTI is a cultural phenomenon, and clearly an enduring one at that. Carl Jung must've known something, after all, about what makes us tick and what we gravitate to. The MBTI went viral, long before viral became so vogue!

Definitely a thought-provoking article, Craig. There is a certain complexity to our personality that defies efforts of any one measure to capture, and one often-neglected aspect of it is that we're not entirely logical or rational. While science is also often lauded in Western culture, we're not all inclined to scientific notions either.

I believe it was Donald Campbell who coined the term multitrait, multimethod approach. Basically, it means that because of the complexity of personality, for example, we ought to (a) measure its many aspects as completely as we reasonably can and (b) use different methods of measuring these aspects (e.g., psychometric tests, structured interviews, business simulations, even 360 feedback).

The multitrait, multimethod approach is one of the best I know at ensuring the four points that Adam Grant emphasized in his article: reliable, valid, independent and comprehensive.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, January 17, 2014

Forbes Magazine's Thoughts of the Day

Whenever I visit Forbes for the first time, on any given day, it offers a Thought of the Day.  Here are some of what I've collected over the past two years, which are relevant for leaders.  Thank you to Forbes!

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Serviceman's Abject Failure at Sales

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The serviceman who came to my house yesterday looked like this character, both literally as he had his toolkit on the one hand and figuratively as he had a hammer on the other hand and saw my problem off-the-bat as a nail.  

You see, we have an ejector pit that collects water from the water heater and furnace humidifier, and it has a pump for draining the well and pushing the water into the sewer.  Our pump drains the water, but it doesn't shut off automatically.  So, in the meantime, my wife and I have to manually plug it and unplug it.

We had heavy rains last Friday night, then a lot of melting snow on the ground.  As a result, unfortunately, we woke up to a flooded basement on Saturday morning.  The pump drained much of the water, but over the ensuing days I had to go down and plug-unplug several times a day, because water kept spilling out of the well.  

So I contacted a plumbing company.

I sent a message via their website, and literally in two or three minutes, a woman called me.  I was surprised at how quickly they responded.  I was additionally surprised when she said she could get a serviceman to my house in one to three hours.  She called me back a few minutes later, and in fact the serviceman could come, and did come, within an hour of her call.  

I didn't have a good feeling about this, but I needed to have this flooding looked into and solved effectively.

Sure enough, almost from the get-go, the serviceman put me off and made me suspicious.  He looked at the ejector pit, and then a second well that collects rain water.  It was full, as the sump pump that should've turned on wasn't on.  

Without doing much to investigate the problem, he said both pumps needed to be replaced.  I was, like, whoa, I needed him to explain what was wrong with that second well.  I tried to quickly understand, because he was moving quickly, why water spilled only from the ejector pit, not the second well.

After I got a sufficient enough explanation for why, and I had to clarify three or four times, I asked how much will two pumps cost: $630 a piece.  After I said that was out of our budget, he said he could offer both for $500 each.

All of this happened within the first couple of minutes, but first of all he hadn't sufficiently assessed the problem.  Then, when even he determined that it was a switch problem for both pumps, that is, the mechanism that turns it on and off automatically wasn't working, he doubled his efforts to sell me two new pumps.  But we just saw directly that both pumps were actually working, that is, draining water effectively, and that instead it was the switch mechanisms that didn't work.  

He heightened his efforts further by repeatedly dissuading me from simply replacing the switches.  His company cannot warranty them. They have no cost schedule for switches alone.  He has to check with his manager.  

When I asked what it took to replace the switches, he talked about cutting one pipe and then another from the ejector pit.  Again, I'm like, what?  

Some salespeople practice the art of not listening.  He was one of them.  I worked for a manager who was like that not only with clients but also with his staff.  Even as I repeatedly let him know that replacing the pumps was not possible with our budget, he kept at it.

He relented, and went back to his van to check, on replacing the switches.  This gave me time to gather myself and do my own strategizing with this guy and our situation.

"Bad news," he came back in and said.  $250 a piece for the switches.  Yeah, right.  He made one final last-ditch attempt to sell me two pumps, now at $400 a piece.  I just shook my head at that point, and asked him what the charge was for the service call: $75.

Of course that didn't stop him from trying to sell us a drain cleaner for our bathroom and kitchen sinks.  He asked me how our drains were, and even when I said they were fine, he, practicing the art of not listening, went ahead anyway and described their product.  In fact, he tried a few times to sell this to me.  So at the end I asked how much it cost: $54.  No, thank you.  

This guy was bad news, and his company was bad news.  

So a few things for other salespeople to consider:
  • Inquire about the problem first, assess it sufficiently, and listen actively to your customer.
  • Take the time to answer questions, and give user-friendly explanations.  Don't make your customer have to repeat his or her questions.  
  • Offer workable solutions, not predetermined products.  Regardless of what deal you can provide, you ultimately have to work within your customer's budget.     
  • Last but not least, earn trust and respect and create a comfortable situation between you and your customer.
Later in the evening, I shared this with my wife, and she said that a while ago a neighbor came into to our house and tapped the inside of the ejector pit.  He said that some build-up impedes the switching mechanism, so when he cleared it, the pump worked again.  

All the more reason to think that I made the right moves with that guy.  I don't begrudge him for pushing his business.  He seemed like a nice guy, and he seemed knowledgeable enough.  But he failed miserably at his making a sale.  In fact, worse than failing, he discrediting his company.

Virtually from the get-go, I just wanted to get this guy out of my house.

Ironically, though, he helped me to clarify our flooding: that is, two pumps were not switching on.  Now I have to plug-unplug two pumps manually, but almost immediately I got the flooding problem under control.  There, you see, he actually helped me to solve the problem, too, even if only temporarily.

I'm working on a solution, which is much less expensive than replacing the switches and it may be a long-term one, if I can make it work.  The pumps will have to be replaced at some point, but now is definitely not the time, because they're working.  
Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Monday, January 13, 2014

Making Leadership Development Work

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At $15 billion, leadership development is definitely big business, not just for the companies that serve as participants but also for the companies that serve as providers.  At that annual clip, there must be better assurance and demonstration that it actually works.  In this month's article - Why leadership development programs fail - McKinsey runs down for common mistakes:
  1. Overlooking context
  2. Decoupling reflection from real work
  3. Underestimating mindsets
  4. Failing to measure results
Whether you're a participant or provider, see if you or your company commits any of these.
Too many training initiatives we come across rest on the assumption that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, organizational culture, or CEO mandate.
This is the quandary with training programs: There may be legitimate efforts to personalize them for individual leaders, but by design they work at core assumptions that (a) these leaders share the same development needs and (b) these needs can be met with the same provisions.  Moreover, in my experience, companies turn to training programs as a convenient but misguided solution to a host of disparate problems.  Unless the problem is about building knowledge and skills, then such programs aren't the right ones.  For example, it may be about performance, in which case direction, guidance, accountability or even discipline may be the right solution.

The Core Algorithm offers a meta-methodology for helping companies determine which methods will actually work for their particular purpose and their particular leaders.  The Core Algorithm does not prescribe any methods a priori.

Step 1. Begin with the end in mind
In the earliest stages of planning a leadership initiative, companies should ask themselves a simple question: what, precisely, is this program for? If the answer is to support an acquisition-led growth strategy, for example, the company will probably need leaders brimming with ideas and capable of devising winning strategies for new or newly expanded business units. If the answer is to grow by capturing organic opportunities, the company will probably want people at the top who are good at nurturing internal talent.
I'll reframe this crucial point from McKinsey: Instead of asking what the program is for, first ask yourself, say, as the CEO, what your company is trying to accomplish.  It may be growth, or it may be a host of other things - innovation, transformation or people - that require review and clarity.  That aim is translated into a goal, objective or target, and executed via strategy, planning and delivery closely attached to it.

Regardless of how it is translated or executed, that aim is your end in mind and you begin with it.  Besides review and clarity, the CEO must work at getting support, engagement and commitment.

Step 2. Walk backwards to map pathways
When it comes to planning the program’s curriculum, companies face a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, there is value in off-site programs (many in university-like settings) that offer participants time to step back and escape the pressing demands of a day job. On the other hand, even after very basic training sessions, adults typically retain just 10 percent of what they hear in classroom lectures, versus nearly two-thirds when they learn by doing. Furthermore, burgeoning leaders, no matter how talented, often struggle to transfer even their most powerful off-site experiences into changed behavior on the front line.
Step 2 is based on a very simple algorithm: Do only what works vis-a-vis that aim.  There are certainly pluses and minuses to sending your leaders to a training program, but unless there is sufficient adaptation of such a program for particular leaders, it is bound to fall short.  But again, because training is a one-size-fits-all by design, such a program may not be the most effective way to develop your leaders.  Instead, they may need cross-functional assignments, secondment experience, or shadowing arrangements.

Specifically, walking backwards to map pathways begins with that end in mind.  You then account for what I call Immediate Impact factors: that is, actions or activities that lead directly to that aim you reviewed and clarified at the outset.  If that aim is growth, then the immediate impact is not, as McKinsey noted above, ideas or strategies.  Rather, it is however growth is defined by the company: for example, sales, if it's revenue growth; deals, if it's a merger or acquisition; customers, if it's market share.

The crucial question becomes, What will it take for people in the company to generate more sales, strike more deals, and secure more customers?  Accurately determining what people need will require asking them directly what they need.

Intermediate Impact factors continue the walk backwards process, based on the preceding question.  These factors may or may not fall under leadership development.  A highly talented and keen salesperson, for example, may need help dealing with a stifling, insecure manager, in order to cross-sell or up-sell to key customers.  A company aiming to grow will probably need to revisit its remuneration strategy and schedule for sales people.

Finally, Catalyst Impact factors are the direct precursors to whatever has intermediate impact.  I find that some companies jump to kickoff sessions, top-level communication, and motivational tactics, before they've review and clarified their aim and before they've carefully mapped out what they need to do to realize this aim.  Taking the preceding steps will identify specifically how you ought to initiate (i.e., catalyze) efforts.

Let's say that after due effort at the foregoing, leadership development is indeed a necessity.  McKinsey asks a good question: What precisely is this for?  I want to reiterate the reframe to that question: What is the company trying to accomplish or aiming for?  The Core Algorithm is not meant to be a lock-step, linear meta-process.  Rather, it's meant to be recursive: It's perfectly fine, and may be a necessity, to go back to Step 1 time and time again to keep that end firmly in mind.  In fact, if you're on Step 2 or Step 3 (next), and that question of What precisely is this for? crops up, then it's a signal to go back to Step 1.

The question that McKinsey doesn't ask prominently or explicitly enough is what sort of leadership development is needed.  The answer (algorithm) is easier said than done:  Whatever works best for each leader (participant).  Whatever works may mean opening up your mind and rethinking what it takes to develop your leaders vis-a-vis the vision, purpose and priorities of the company.  Training has a legitimate place in leadership development, of course, but it's simply not always the most effective or the right thing for your particular leaders.

Step 3. Walk the pathways

Step 2 is about mapping pathways from the end in mind, to where you and your company are now.  Once mapped out, then it's a matter of doing whatever it takes to make sure the company follows these pathways.  Step 3 is about action-planning and action-taking.  

In a previous company, I drew up a simple model that worked quite well for getting things done: Initiative-Communications-Delivery (ICD) Model:
  • Initiative.  Formulate, or action-plan, what you're actually going to do to walk the identified pathways and thus realize your aim.  Most business plan formats are workable, that is, as long as they identified SMART objectives, key actions, involved personnel, resources needed, and crucial accountability.  
  • Communications.  Be thoughtful, targeted, clear and regular with your communications about what you're trying to accomplish and what you're going to do.  Remember that communication is a two-way street, so it means asking and listening as much as telling and informing.   
  • Delivery.  Implement the initiative, and follow through on commitments.  There is a lot to the notion of under-promise, over-deliver.  In The Core Algorithm, I emphasize promise-right, deliver-right, instead.  
The Core Algorithm draws on what McKinsey runs down, and it expands on it at the same time.  For example, underestimating mindsets is very much a common mistake in my experience, too.  Time and time again, companies seem to forget the human elements of rolling out initiatives and developing leaders.  In a much more complex work in progress, which I call The Human Algorithm, I offer the principal tenet that each of us is fundamentally, inviolably unique.  Just as you have pundits and executives who tell you what a successful leader looks like and what he or she does, another leader comes along who bucks that profile or trend.    

From the film `Moneyball, many people may come away with the belief that sabermetrics (i.e., statistical analysis or data analytics) is the underpinning of the Oakland Athletics' success.  But it is only one part of it.  The other is how Billy Beane and Peter Brand end up working with the players themselves, that is, coaching and mentoring them, guiding and supporting them, even confronting and trading them.

So when I simplify the algorithm to doing whatever works, it also means doing whatever works for you as the CEO and each and everyone of these leaders whom you're developing.  Hearts, minds and spirit - yours and theirs - must be in it sufficiently enough, otherwise development is a losing proposition or even an abject failure.

In my parlance, The Core Algorithm accounts for the human elements.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, January 10, 2014

Musings on New Year's Resolutions

Incidental Comics
I see Grant Snider as a modern-day philosopher, astute about the ironies of the human condition but approachable enough for everyday people to grasp his musings.

Recently I marveled at a lone squirrel deftly scurrying up bare branches.  Very tall trees populate our backyard, and in this wintry landscape, dusting of snow fell off as the squirrel leaped from one branch to another.  The higher it goes, and the further it scurries, the thinner the branches.  But it managed to navigate it all skillfully, its furry tail like a graceful, billowing scarf in flight. 

Those branches would break, if we ourselves were to climb them and try to go as far as that squirrel.  The way I see Snider's latest offering is, those fallen geese, birds and squirrels are a metaphor for the imposition of our reality on them.  Left to their own device, these common creatures in our midst know instinctively what they need to do and they manage to do it well.    

New Year after New Year, we make resolutions, and I often wonder how serious we really are at fulfilling them and how quickly we dispense of them.  We may be determined to keep our resolve, and we may promise that our resolutions cannot be broken.  

But what is it really that permits us to do so?

I weigh this question in Theory of Algorithms and The Core Algorithm.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD       

Monday, January 6, 2014

Marveling at Technology Innovations

Courtesy of a little digital magic, the young man in this poster really does know when it's a British Airways plane. And that really is the actual flight number and where it's flying in from.
The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has launched an interactive billboard campaign at Euston Station to raise awareness about how people can intervene to help put a stop to domestic violence. The campaign, which launched 30 April 2012, runs on JCDecaux's large format e-motion screens and encourages passers by to get involved in the advert by controlling the scene using their mobile phone. 
Created by JWT London, "Drag Him Away" features an abusive domestic situation between a man and a woman with the call to action "USE YOUR PHONE TO STOP THIS NOW GO TO http://www.ncdv.org.uk/stop AND DRAG HIM AWAY." Users can either enter the web address or scan on the featured QR code to start interacting immediately. The participant is able to control the characters by dragging the man away from the woman and onto on that adjacent billboards. The screens then synchronise to urge people to report any domestic violence situations to the NCDV so that they can intervene on the victim's behalf. 
Produced by Grand Visual, the revolutionary campaign runs on the Agent platform which enables mobile and digital out of home interaction. 
NCDV would like to thank JWT and Grand Visual for all the hard and exceptional work which has been put into this campaign.
The Lynx Excite Angels have fallen...
We often equate innovation with technology.  Indeed Booz & Company's 10 Most Innovative Companies the last four years are dominated by technology firms:

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So I marvel at how clever the above three electronic and interactive billboards are, posted in Billboards That Drop Angels On Your Head. There is no questioning the innovation prowess among their designers and developers.

But keep in mind that technology is not necessarily a prerequisite for innovation, much as we in industrialized nations hold such an equation in mind.  In fact, in impoverished villages and sectors of India, the sort of offerings that work best for people are a kind of undoing or reductionism of sophisticated technology.

Anil Gupta is on the hunt for the developing world's unsung inventors -- indigenous entrepreneurs whose ingenuity, hidden by poverty, could change many people's lives. He shows how the Honey Bee network helps them build the connections they need -- and gain the recognition they deserve.
Engineer RA Mashelkar shares three stories of ultra-low-cost design from India that use bottom-up rethinking, and some clever engineering, to bring expensive products (cars, prosthetics) into the realm of the possible for everyone.
Indeed people are no less innovative, in the face of low or no technology.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD