Delivering bad news is something that most people are not good at. Either we're trying to ease the pain of the message for the recipient or trying to protect ourselves from that person's wrath. It's a human impulse to shield those we care about from distressing information and it's equally human to avoid being the bearer of unpleasant news.
This same behavior can be observed in the business and IT worlds. Research conducted by Jaclyn Jensen of George Washington University found that as projects get closer to completion, decision makers are more likely to conceal negative information. In this study, groups of undergraduates were confronted with a significant problem in the fictional business projects they were working on. If a project was 90% completed, 81% failed to mention anything negative. However, if the project was only 10% complete, 37.5% avoided mention of the problem.
You have to love this research: The Harvard Business Review reports that new research demonstrates that "people who are prone to guilt tend to work harder and perform better than people who are not guilt-prone and are perceived to be more capable leaders." The research was conducted by Francis Flynn, the director of the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford's Graduate School of Business.
The study was done with about 150 people that worked in the finance department of a Fortune 500 company. The workers were given a standard psychological test that measured the tendency to feel guilt. Then Flynn compared the results with those people's performance reviews. The workers that were more prone to guilt received higher performance ratings from their bosses. Other studies showed they were more committed to their companies and were judged by their peers to be stronger leaders.
If you have made it through this year with a good management job, a sense that next year will be as good or better, and with a belief that the future looks rosy, consider yourself lucky. Many people have not been so fortunate this year and are looking towards a future that is uncertain. But being in a strong position today is no reason to rest on your laurels. There's always room to grow as a manager. Most managers, however, stop improving. "Most bosses reach a certain level of proficiency and stop there-short of what they could and should be," say Linda Hill and Kent Lineback (co-authors of "Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader" being published in 2011) in an article based on their book for Harvard Business Review.
Senior executives expend much effort into grooming their directors and managers and keeping them satisfied in their jobs with the aim of retaining their key people. The operative word here is people. According to a new paper from PricewaterhouseCoopers, it may be smarter to shift the focus to pivotal roles. People in pivotal roles are the ones that have the most direct impact on customer satisfaction. The roles different in every organization, and they're not necessarily high-profile.
People in IT can debate the merits and disadvantages of using Apple's technology in the Enterprise, but there is little debate about the company's explosive growth in the consumer market. How did Apple become so successful? You certainly need to credit the vision of Steve Jobs, the company's understanding of what consumers want and their ability to be innovative, but there's another ingredient that a former employee cites and that's its management style.
Sachin Agarwal, a former Apple engineer who worked at the company for six years before leaving to start the blogging platform Posterous in 2008, credits the company with teaching him valuable management skills. Here are the eight key lessons this young CEO learned from the iEverything company:
To keep pace in a rapidly shifting industry, technology companies need young and technical-minded employees who are eager to innovate. But are they the kind of staffers who make good managers, or are tech companies -- many of which are young themselves -- setting themselves up for leadership troubles?
That's a question asked by Robert Fulmer and Bryon Hanson -- academic director and managing director of Duke University's corporate education affiliate, respectively -- in an Aug. 23 Wall Street Journal article. Their conclusion? Tech companies that don't address the issue will eventually pay, both in company defections and in an inability to fill top spots.