I looked at my watch. It was 3:20pm. I had been on the phone for over an hour, almost all of that time listening to Frank*, a senior manager at Jambo, a technology company, complain about his boss, Brandon.
At best, mergers and acquisitions (M&A’s) have a 50/50 chance of reaching their intended results. Study after study puts the failure rate closer to 70-90%. Why is the failure rate so high? Repeatedly, research cites the human factor as the leading reason why mergers and acquisitions fail.
It seems like every business is struggling with the concept of transformation. Large incumbents are trying to keep pace with digital upstarts., and even digital native companies born as disruptors know that they need to transform.
It pays to plan. Entrepreneurs who write business plans are more likely to succeed, according to our research, described in an earlier piece for Harvard Business Review.
I was coaching Sanjay,* a leader in a technology firm who felt stuck and frustrated. He wasn’t where he wanted to be at this point in his career. He had come to our coaching session, as usual, prepared to discuss the challenges he was currently facing.
There’s that project you’ve left on the backburner – the one with the deadline that’s growing uncomfortably near. And there’s the client whose phone call you really should return – the one that does nothing but complain and eat up your valuable time.
Why is it that between 25% and 50% of people report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work? It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.
Why don’t successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call “the clarity paradox,” which can be summed up in four predictable phases: Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Is this a silly decision not deserving deliberation? Maybe. But I bet you’ve been there. If not about food, then about something else. We spend an inordinate amount of time, and a tremendous amount of energy, making choices between equally attractive options in everyday situations.
My father-in-law grew up eating blood soup. He hated it, whether because of the taste or the humiliation, I never knew. His alcoholic father regularly drank up the family wage, and the family was often short on food money. They were evicted from apartment after apartment.
Every person is at least 75% responsible for how others treat them. Our verbal and nonverbal actions limit or expand the options of others.
We all know the story. A team creates a groundbreaking new innovation only to see it mired in internal debates. When it is eventually launched in the market, there is an initial flurry of sales to early adopters, but then sales cycles become sluggish.
Twenty-three years ago, one of my employees — I’ll call him Dale — asked for a private meeting. Dale was serious and bookish and had very strong opinions. His work was fastidious. He rarely socialized with colleagues, but he was impeccable in his commitments to others.
Leaders across the globe feel that the unprecedented busyness of modern-day leadership makes them more reactive and less proactive. There is a solution to this hardwired, reactionary leadership approach: mindfulness.
In a recent interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates argued that serious thinkers and writers should get off Twitter. It wasn’t a critique of the 140-character medium or even the quality of the social media discourse in the age of fake news.
We all know that job satisfaction often hinges on the quality of the relationships we have with our bosses. Yet in today’s rapidly evolving, 24/7 workplaces, it’s not always clear what managers should do to create the most satisfying work experiences and the happiest employees.
So much depends upon managers. For example, a Gallup study found that at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores is driven by who the boss is. This is disconcerting because the same research found that about 70% of people in management roles are not well equipped for the job.
Managers want employees to put in long days, respond to their emails at all hours, and willingly donate their off-hours — nights, weekends, vacation — without complaining.
Over the course of a typical workday, negative and positive things inevitably happen to you. If you’re like most people, you tend to focus mainly, or even exclusively, on negative experiences.
Procrastination comes in many disguises. We might resolve to tackle a task, but find endless reasons to defer it. We might prioritize things we can readily tick off our to-do list—answering emails, say—while leaving the big, complex stuff untouched for another day.
In a recent strategy meeting we attended with the leaders of a Fortune-500 company, the word “culture” came up 27 times in 90 minutes. Business leaders believe a strong organizational culture is critical to success, yet culture tends to feel like some magic force that few know how to control.
Everyone aspires to have purpose or meaning in their career but how do you actually do that? What practical steps can you take today or this month to make sure you’re not just toiling away at your desk but you’re doing something you genuinely care about?
The research is clear: when we choose humble, unassuming people as our leaders, the world around us becomes a better place. Humble leaders improve the performance of a company in the long run because they create more collaborative environments.
After sending out hundreds of copies of my résumé to dozens of companies over the last year, I realized that I was getting nowhere because my approach was wrong. What I had failed to do was ask myself some of the tough and honest questions early on.
Nobody loves meetings. But they can be especially taxing for people who crave a quieter setting for brainstorming or thinking through issues, or who struggle to have their voices heard in a room full of loud-talkers.
In the past, time management experts would recommend that you divide up your work into A tasks, B tasks, and C tasks. The concept was to do the A tasks first, then the B tasks, then the C tasks, when you can get to them. If priorities changed, you just changed the order of your As, Bs, and Cs.
Each year, HBR asks 10 stars in fields outside business — whether it’s politics, sports, the arts, or competitive chess —to offer wisdom on topics of interest to our readers. Here are the highlights from the class of 2015:
I used to wake up, stumble over to my phone, and immediately get lost in a stream of pointless notifications. This digital haze continued throughout the day, keeping me from accomplishing important tasks. I was distracted, anxious, and ineffective as a leader.
There are many creative tools a designer uses to think differently, but none is more counter-intuitive than “wrong thinking,” also called reverse thinking.
I first started working for Apple on the PR agency side at Porter Novelli in Sydney, Australia in 1997. Steve Jobs had just returned to the company and the product line was a shamble of computers with confusing names, printers, scanners, and a curious, yet ill-conceived PDA called the Newton.
At some point in their careers, most leaders have either consciously — or, more likely, unwittingly — based (or justified) their approach to motivation on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Ping! Something needs your attention. Is it an email? A tweet? A text? A reminder on your phone? A calendar invite? Ping! Another one. Ping! There’s that sound again. Or maybe it’s a visual cue, an ever-ascending ticker count on your app icons or inbox.
Each year, companies are spending nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in an effort to improve employee engagement — yet you’ll get wildly inconsistent answers if you ask managers what that means. Academics, consultants, and leaders have been grappling with that question for decades.
A rising young executive found herself strategically ousted in an internal power play. Jill had all the chops to rise to the corner office: consistent top 10% performer, hardworking, intelligent, personable, driven, multilingual, an MBA from a top-tier school.
This was not your best week. Something didn’t go right. Let’s say it was a negotiation that didn’t play out your way. What do you do afterward? You might go to a bar with friends, talk to your spouse, or call your mom. But those are just delay tactics. Soon the ruminating will begin.
Some people’s careers take off, while others’ take longer — or even stall out. Common wisdom says that the former attend elite MBA programs, land high-powered jobs right out of school at prestigious firms, and climb the ladder straight to the top, carefully avoiding risky moves.
It can be tough enough to manage your own stress. But how can you, as a manager, help the members of your team handle their feelings of stress, burnout, or disengagement?
Urban planners the world over yearn to replicate the success of Silicon Valley: witness Thames Valley (England) and Silicon Oasis (Dubai), to name just two of these attempts. Invariably, these well-intentioned efforts fail for the simple reason that they’re trying to replicate the wrong model.
The world is full of people with opinions. Television, radio, and other media are brimming over with commentators making suggestions and offering seemingly authoritative advice to government officials and corporate executives about what they ought to do.
It’s not uncommon to meet a lawyer who’d like to work in renewable energy, or an app developer who’d like to write a novel, or an editor who fantasizes about becoming a landscape designer. Maybe you also dream about switching to a career that’s drastically different from your current job.
Politics is a dirty word. But office politics are unavoidable; as Aristotle noted, “man is by nature a political animal.” Whether you participate in them or not, politics have a big influence on what happens to you, your projects, and your team, so it’s hard to be indifferent to them.
We are told the winter holidays are supposed to be a magical time of deep connection with loved ones, good meals, warm fires, and gift-giving.
I’m convinced that the ingredient for the effective use of data and analytics that is in shortest supply is managers’ understanding of what is possible. Data, hardware, and software are available in droves, but human comprehension of the possibilities they enable is much less common.
While the popular press talks of stress as a negative to be avoided, seasoned managers know better. If you’re trying to drum up new business, get a customer’s order out on time, or hit your numbers for the quarter, a little stress goes a long way.
Esther is a well-liked manager of a small team. Kind and respectful, she is sensitive to the needs of others. She is a problem solver; she tends to see setbacks as opportunities. She’s always engaged and is a source of calm to her colleagues.
Recent cases highlighted in the media suggest that executives, in a desperate quest to quench the market’s unquenchable thirst for growth, are ignoring reason and dictating growth targets so insurmountable that their employees are turning to unethical and perhaps illegal means to achieve their g
There are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: (1) they are not capable; (2) they are not interested; (3) they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes
Since we now expect learning to be as simple and compelling as watching YouTube, hundreds of video-based content providers and MOOCs offer free bite-sized content for us to consume on our phones while sitting in the coffee shop or standing in the subway.
When individual contributors are tapped to manage large-scale projects, oversee direct reports, or participate in strategic planning, they need to develop new skill sets on the fly — skills such as interpersonal dexterity, emotional agility, and communication savvy.
In today’s busy world, convenience seems to outweigh consequence, especially with how people use their mobile devices. Using free public Wi-Fi networks, for example, comes with any number of serious security risks, yet surveys show that the overwhelming majority of Americans do it anyway.
The average Facebook user spends almost an hour on the site every day, according to data provided by the company last year. A Deloitte survey found that for many smartphone users, checking social media apps are the first thing they do in the morning – often before even getting out of bed.
I recently worked my way through Edmund Morris’s first two Teddy Roosevelt biographies, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex. Roosevelt wasn’t without flaws, but he was by nearly all accounts fascinating and intellectually voracious.
As constant travelers and parents of a 2-year-old, we sometimes fantasize about how much work we can do when one of us gets on a plane, undistracted by phones, friends, and Finding Nemo.
Several years ago, colleagues and I were invited to predict the results of a start-up pitch contest in Vienna, where 2,500 tech entrepreneurs were competing to win thousands of euros in funds.
In a world where the average employee sends and receives 122 emails per day and attends an average of 62 meetings per month, your boss or HR leadership simply doesn’t have the time or bandwidth to properly think through how best to deploy your talents moving forward.
The year 1995 was heralded as the beginning of the “New Economy.” Digital communication was set to upend markets and change everything. But economists by and large didn’t buy into the hype. It wasn’t that we didn’t recognize that something changed.
“Traditional approaches to staying focused don’t work for me.” “I know what I should do to be more productive, but I just don’t do it.” I hear sentences like these repeatedly from coaching clients.
We’ve all been in the awkward situation of meeting someone new and having to build rapport quickly — at networking events, industry conferences, charity events, dinner parties, and other social-professional situations.
In 1900, 30 million people in the United States were farmers. By 1990 that number had fallen to under 3 million even as the population more than tripled. So, in a matter of speaking, 90% of American agriculture workers lost their jobs, mostly due to automation.
Gemma is extremely caring and sensitive. She pays a great deal of attention to others’ emotions and is kind and considerate. Gemma is also quite optimistic. She is usually upbeat and remains positive even in the face of bad news.
Congratulations! You got the job. Now for the hard part: deciding whether to accept it or not.
Over the past decade, we have learned how our brains are hardwired for emotional contagion. Emotions spread via a wireless network of mirror neurons, which are tiny parts of the brain that allow us to empathize with others and understand what they’re feeling.
A growing number of people feel like an old carton of milk, with an expiration date stamped on their wrinkled foreheads. One paradox of our time is that Baby Boomers enjoy better health than ever, remain young and stay in the workplace longer, but feel less and less relevant.
When I was in my late twenties, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Doctors operated and told me to hope for the best. I returned to Japan, where I was working, and tried to forget about it. The tumors returned a year later, this time in my liver.
A young friend recently remarked that the worst boss he ever had would provide him with feedback that always consisted of “You’re doing a great job.” But they both knew it wasn’t true — the organization was in disarray, turnover was excessive, and customers were not happy.
I hate meetings. They sit subconsciously in my brain, taking up space. I prepare for them in my notebooks. I travel to them, and then back again, in the middle of my work days. And what do most meetings usually result in? You guessed it — more meetings.
Increasingly, corporations and professional services firms are working to create design-centric cultures. Many products, services, and processes are now technologically complex. People are not hardwired to deal well with high levels of complexity. They need help.
In recent years, work has become infinitely more complex. Technological innovations have led to round-the-clock work schedules and mounting expectations. Our assignments have grown more collaborative, requiring more coordination, conference calls, and meetings.