Passion. Purpose. Performance. Positive Business Conference (Day 1)

I’m absolutely thrilled to be at the University of Michigan, attending this year’s Positive Business Conference at Ross School of Business.This post is my personal summary of the conference’s first day, brought to you via some of the tweets I’ve put out there…

Prof. Vic Strecher shared some really intriguing upsides of having a strong purpose in life. More importantly, you should check out his fabulous app JOOL.

Prof. Jane Dutton had me change my mind on using the term rockstar only in contexts that involve electric guitars. She shared with us her Flourishing Triangle framework of organizational effectiveness.

I was equally thrilled to be able to learn directly from Prof. Alex Edmans, whose work on the financial impact of treating employees exceptionally well has been covered extensively on Mappalicious.

Prof. Joe Arvai shared some incredible research on how to help consumers make more ethical buying decisions. E.g., why is that we can consciously choose from what part of the world our coffee comes from (and how it was cultivated) – but not with regard to our gasoline? And what if we could

After lunch, I was thrilled to have the opportunity of attending a workshop led by Prof. Robert Quinn whose blog posts I share frequently via my Positive Psychology News Digests.

Once more it became clear to me that we do not really understand “a thing” (even if we’ve heard about it a lot of times) until somebody explains it to us in the exactly right words at the right time.

When you’re in the right space, the smartest “person” in the room is the room itself.

Jim Miller, VP at Google, shared insights on the special culture that drives the incredible success of the company.

Of course, there were more sessions, and more speakers, and an abundance of inspiring conversations while having delicious food – but I cannot cover it all here.

Yet, one last thing I found out is this:

Share and enjoy!

Positive Business Conference

Your first and foremost Job as a Leader is… Peter Drucker​ on Positive Organizations

I guess it must be really hard to be a management guru these days. No matter what you say, no matter how brilliant you are – there’s a very high probability that somebody will already have laid out what your core message is. And with “somebody”, I don’t refer to a lot of people, I’m just talking about one person: Peter Drucker.

If you visit, e.g., his notable quotes on GoodReads, you’ll find that he was an incredibly smart thinker – and the he basically laid out all the principles of modern (and in some instances: post-modern) management (in the best sense of the word…). And he did all of that mostly during the 1950s and 60s!

Last week, I stumbled upon a quote that gives rise to the assumption Peter Drucker was also able to foresee some of the developments in Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), e.g.,  Jane Dutton’s concept of High-Quality Connections, or Kim Cameron’s idea of leading by managing Organizational Energy.

Here are some additional quotes alluding to the rise of Positive Organizations:

Peter Drucker on Positive Deviance and High-Quality Connections

Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.

—–

The work relationship has to be based on mutual respect. Psychological despotism is basically contemptuous—far more contemptuous than the traditional Theory X. It does not assume that people are lazy and resist work, but it assumes that the manager is healthy while everybody else is sick. It assumes that the manager is strong while everybody else is weak. It assumes that the manager knows while everybody else is ignorant. It assumes that the manager is right, whereas everybody else is stupid. These are the assumptions of foolish arrogance.

—–

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.

Peter Drucker on Strength Orientation

A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all.

—–

We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre. In those areas a knowledge workers should not take on work, jobs and assignments. It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.

—–

A man should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. The man who always knows exactly what people cannot do, but never sees anything they can do, will undermine the spirit of his organization.

Peter Drucker on Purpose

An organization is not, like an animal, an end in itself, and successful by the mere act of perpetuating the species. An organization is an organ of society and fulfills itself by the contribution it makes to the outside environment.

—–

Only a clear, focused, and common mission can hold the organization together and enable it to produce results.

Peter Drucker on Self-Knowledge and the Growth Mindset

Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves – their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.

—–

People in general, and knowledge workers in particular, grow according to the demands they make on themselves. They grow according to what they consider to be achievement and attainment. If they demand little of themselves, they will remain stunted. If they demand a good deal of themselves, they will grow to giant stature—without any more effort than is expended by the nonachievers.

Invitation: Study on Leadership Behavior

For my German-speaking readers:

I´ve initiated a study that seeks to better understand the perception of certain leadership behaviors. If you currently work somewhere and report to someone (= have a boss) you are eligible to participate.

Participation takes just 7-8 minutes. Please click here:

https://de.surveymonkey.com/r/fuehrungsstudie

You can also forward this link via e-mail or share it on social media etc.

Thank you very much!

Nico

Mann_lachend_weinend.jpg

Picture via gratisography.com

Why that Swiss Friend of yours is probably Happier than You are

Frau_BartSome nations are happier than others, that’s a fact. In most year’s rankings, Switzerland or one of the Scandivian countries (quite frequently: Denmark) take the No. 1 spot in the carefully researched list. Quite obviously, this does not mean each and every person over there is happier than your fellow countrymen – but on average, they are. Why is that the case? The solution can be found in the answers to these high-level questions:

  • Do people earn enough money – and how well does the economy do in general? Additionally: Is the distribution of wealth (perceived as) fair?
  • Do people form strong social bonds in your society? Do they value highly their family and friends?
  • Do people have access to (enough) healthy food, clean water, and decent doctors/hospitals?
  • Do people live in a (stable) democracy granting a high amount of individual freedom and safety?
  • Can people afford to be generous and compassionate vis-a-vis your countrymen (and generally, those in need)?
  • Can your citizens trust their political and economic leaders?

Or, in the words of University of British Columbia economics professor John Helliwell, co-editor of the World Happiness Report (as quoted on ThinkAdvisor.com):

Six factors explain about three-quarters of the difference in country rankings […]: GDP per capita, social support (based on the question, “Do you have a friend or relative to call on in times of trouble?”), life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity (having donated to charity within the past month) and trust (perceptions of business or governmental corruption). 

In order to make make the top ranks of the “happiest nations list”, a country needs to do pretty well on each of those factors. But they also explain why some countries that don’t do so well economically might be far ahead of some richer counterparts:

(Some of) the best things in life are free – e.g., your family and friends.

Farewell to Competitiveness – Why Companies need a New Operating System

This post is just a little off-topic, but really just a little. Marc Stoffel is the CEO of Haufe-umantis, a Swiss software company. What make him special is the fact that he´s an elected CEO.

Haufe-umantis is special in many ways. Among the peculiarities is the fact that all leaders within the company are chosen by a democratic election – up to the position of CEO. I´ve had the chance to meet Marc on a couple of occasions. He´s a great guy and holds very intriguing conceptions of leadership, organization design, and engagement. One of his quotes still rings in my ears very clearly:

Employees choose their leaders each and every day – whether they are allowed to or not.

22 Positive Psychology-infused Articles every (HR) Leader should know

Positive Organizational ScholarshipPositive Psychology has a lot to offer for leaders, especially those people taking on a leadership role in human resources and people management. In this post, I´ve gathered 22 research articles infused by Positive Psychology (more specifically: Positive Organizational Scholarship) that, in my opinion, have tremendous value for aspiring as well as established managers and entrepreneurs.

The topics comprise desirable attributes and personality variables such as grit, character strengths, and core self-evaluations, how to create positive relationships at work, how employee motivation is created and sustained, how to find meaning and purpose in work, and several review articles, e.g., on the connection of positive emotions and job performance. Enjoy!

P.S.
This is my 300. post since I’ve started Mappalicious about two years ago. Giving myself a slight pat on the back right now…

Want to be the Boss? Be Happy, Science says, and you´ll be a Good Leader

Happy BossFor a moment, think about a leadership person (a.k.a. boss) in your life that you really liked working for. How could that person be described, what kind of personality did he/she convey? Was he/she more the grumpy moaner – or rather an upbeat “Sunday´s child”?

Turns out that this question is not only about likeability but also about leadership effectiveness. In a recent meta-analysis* published in The Leadership Quarterly titled Is a happy leader a good leader? A meta-analytic investigation of leader trait affect and leadership, Dana L. Joseph and her colleagues found that – broadly speaking – happier leaders also tend to be more effective leaders. In the words of Joseph and her colleagues:

Our analyses show that leader trait affectivity, particularly leader trait positive affect, plays a significant role in predicting leadership criteria.

A happy boss is a good boss.

They also find that the relationship between leader happiness and effectiveness may not be a direct one. Rather, it seems that happy bosses predominantly engage in a special leadership style that has been coined transformational leadership. As opposed to more traditional leadership styles (telling people what to do and controlling them; management by objectives etc.), transformational leadership, according to Joseph et al., consists of the following dimensions:

  • idealized influence, or the extent to which a leader displays conviction and behaves in a way that causes followers to identify with him/her;
  • inspirational motivation, which involves communicating optimism and challenging followers to meet high standards;
  • intellectual stimulation, or the extent to which a leader takes risks, challenges assumptions, and encourages follower creativity;
  • and individualized consideration, which is characterized by follower mentoring, attending to follower needs, and listening to follower concerns.

Now, does that sound like the behavior of a boss we´d all like to work for? My answer is a clear yes. And it predominantly starts with that person´s happiness.

* A special type of study that statistically aggregates previous study results to provide an overview of a specific branch of research.

No, the Chief Happiness Officer is not the Pizza Guy!

Smiling PizzaAs Positive Psychology has been entering mainstream media outlets over the past years, there have been people advocating for the implementation of ”Chief Happiness Officer” (CHO) role (sometimes also: Chief Wellbeing Officer) in organizations, typically as part of the wider HR/People Operations department. And while I fully endorse the idea in general (as there is a very distinct connection between employee happiness/wellbeing and organizational success, please see this article for an overview) I get really frustrated when reading what this role supposedly is all about. Here´s a selection of what I´ve read in several news outlets and blogs over the past weeks:

  • ordering pizza, ice-cream, massages and the like;
  • organizing office parties;
  • organizing trainings;
  • helping with relocation;
  • helping to individualize workplace furniture and design;

Excuse me – but are you f…..g kidding me? This is the description of a team or human resources assistant. We don´t need a CHO to achieve these things…

The Chief Happiness Officer is not the Pizza Guy!

A CHO that really deserves the C in her title would be a strategic role out and out, someone who reports directly to an organization´s CHRO or even CEO, as employee wellbeing has been shown to impact the bottom line in a pretty direct way. A CHO, the way I see it, should have a least 10 to 15 years of experience in different HR functions (e.g., leadership instruments, employer branding, payroll etc.) and should also have gained some experience in more operational roles to know about the “pain points” of the employees she´s responsible for. She would have (at least) a master´s degree in a field like organizational/occupational/positive psychology, or even an MBA with a specialization in one of those areas – and several years of experience in a leadership role. Increasingly, expertise in predictive data modelling could also be helpful, but I guess this could be delegated to a specialist. The role should be responsible for or at least significantly involved in the following processes and functions:

  1. strategy and mission development;
  2. leadership culture, development and instruments;
  3. training initiatives, especially on leadership;
  4. development of career tracks and work-time models,
  5. performance management including compensation & benefits;
  6. employee surveys, predictive analytics and other (big) data initiatives;
  7. employer branding, recruiting, and retention management;
  8. corporate health initiatives;
  9. workplace design;
  10. internal communications.

Only, if the CHO role is able to significantly influence all these tasks and processes in a concerted approach and is part of (or has regular access to) the company´s top management, it would be possible to leverage the valuable insights that Positive Psychology and especially Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) have generated over the last 20 years. Image Source

Positive Psychology has Changed the Way I Live, Lead, and Love

Martin Seligman & Nico RoseFacebook has been gentle enough to remind of the fact that my graduation from Penn took place a year ago. If you´d like to know what were my take-aways right at the end of the MAPP program, please read this post: My Mind´s MAP(P).

Looking back with a bit of temporal, spatial, and mental distance, I am able to say that this experience has changed my life in basically all of its important facets. I am not going to tell that I am a “totally different person” or something like that – because it´s not true. But my deep-dive into Positive Psychology has transformed – to some extent – the way I live, lead and love on a very tangible level. I just do some things differently by being more open.

I hope to continue on this path of increasing openness – and I hope I can continue sharing my experience and knowledge with you… 
Penn Graduation 2014  

A KPI for the Leaders of the Future: Return On Flourishing (ROFL)

First, I have to admit it feels really good to think something (or at least: say it “in the digital public”) for the very first time. At least with regard to Google hits, I´ve created a new expression:

Return on Flourishing - Dr. Nico Rose

Return On Flourishing (ROFL – pun somewhat intended)

In my main occupation, I work as a human resources director. In most business organizations, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are of paramount importance. One of the most important KPIs in every organization is Return on Investment (ROI). In its simplest form, ROI is the return of some activity divided by the cost of that same activity. For instance, if a marketing campaign costs $10,000 and (identifiably) leads to $20,000 in additional sales in a certain period of time, the ROI of that project is 200%.

To this effect, it would also be possible to calculate a Return on Flourishing – which I propose to be the additional (financial) return that is generated by investing in measures designed to foster flourishing of the company´s workforce; minus the cost of those measures. By now, there´s an abundant body of research that is able to demonstrate that companies which invest in employee wellbeing do indeed fare better economically – which may ultimately even be detectable in stock prices (please check out the following paper: Does the stock market fully value intangibles? Employee satisfaction and equity prices).

By way of example, employee well-being could lead to a better quality of products or services; or a more engaged salesforce, leading to better sales figures. On the other hand, higher levels of flourishing may lead to cost reductions, e.g., by decreasing levels of absenteeism and healthcare costs; or lower levels of employee turnover which in turn helps to minimize recruiting costs. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that investing in employee flourishing will lead to an increase in financial returns. In order to make this effect visible and clearly identifiable from the inside perspective, first, we would have to establish a baseline of overall flourishing in the workforce. Based on Seligman´s PERMA framework, we could rather easily measure the following:

Alternatively, there are existing “one-stop” questionnaires to measure flourishing, e.g., the PERMA Profiler (please check out my MAPP Capstone thesis for its items; this could be adapted so as to better fit to a working context).

Second, one or more activities to foster workforce flourishing would have to be implemented. For instance, there could be company-wide workshops on job crafting. Or rather, first we would have to implement that project with a part of the workforce (treatment group; e.g., a product line) in order to later compare those employees with another group that will receive the workshops at another point in time (control group; another product line). If, after implementation, the treatment group shows significantly higher levels of flourishing compared to the control group (manipulation check), we could move on to the final step.

Ultimately, the financial success of the different business units would have to be calculated for several ensuing periods. If the treatment group fares significantly better than the control group (e.g., a significant increase in sales), this difference could be attributed to the increase in employee flourishing. Of course, it is always tricky to make this kind of causal inference, but there are lots of steps one can take to rule out or control for other effects. Now, if the increase in financial returns surpasses the cost of the measures to increase flourishing (over time), we would assume a positive Return on Flourishing (ROFL).

Return on Flourishing (ROFL): the wider Perspective

Of course, this is still a rather limited point of view. Studies were able to show that an increase in well-being at work leads to higher levels of general well-being. To that effect, we can assume there could a be a wider ROFL – where higher employee well-being leads to an increased level of well-being with regard to the company´s community and stakeholder groups via a kind of ripple effect.

What are your thoughts on this?