How often have you looked at the clock stunned because even though you’ve been scrambling all morning, it’s now noon and you have no idea where the time went or what you’ve actually accomplished? There are sound reasons why it’s so hard for us to stay focused — and fortunately there’s
What motivates people to change the way they work? When organizations introduce new processes or systems, or when they want to stimulate performance for certain business practices, they often assemble dedicated task forces, assign them specific goals, and identify deadlines and financial rewards.
Effective teams don’t just happen — you design them. And two of the most important elements of that design are a.) the degree to which team members are interdependent — where they need to rely on each other to accomplish the team task, and b.
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.
Every person is at least 75% responsible for how others treat them. Our verbal and nonverbal actions limit or expand the options of others.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Scale isn’t what it used to be. It’s never been easier to start a company, and as a result new entrants are unbundling incumbents’ businesses and chipping away at their advantage.
“People don’t quit bad jobs, they quit bad bosses,” according to an old saw. Our research suggests there’s truth behind this saying: bosses matter far more for employee job satisfaction than any other factor we measured. But what makes someone a great boss?
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.
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.
At the start of 2016 Google announced that it had discovered the secret ingredients for the perfect team.
Not just employees but their managers and even HR departments are by now questioning the conventional wisdom of performance management, including its common reliance on cascading objectives, backward-looking assessments, once-a-year rankings and reviews, and 360-degree-feedback tools.
Despite the huge impact executives can have on their organizations, failure rates remain high. Prescriptions for what to do continue to fall short.
Paul,* the CEO of Maxreed, a global publishing company, was having trouble sleeping. Publishing is an industry that’s changing even faster than most other fast-changing industries, but Paul wasn’t awake worrying about his strategy.
In most organizations, culture and strategy tend to be discussed in separate conversations. Executives know that culture is important and that a negative culture can hurt company performance, but they often don’t know what to do about it.
Even years into the deployment of the internet, many believed that it was still a fad. Of course, the internet has since become a major influence on our lives, from how we buy goods and services, to the ways we socialize with friends, to the Arab Spring, to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Yan Wang, the former CFO of VitalSmarts, didn’t survive Mao’s China by taking outlandish risks such as questioning those in positions of authority. As our CFO, she did impeccable work with the highest ethical standards.
We spend most of our adult waking hours working. Half of Americans continue to work when they reach their mid-sixties, and, according to a 2015 Gallup survey, full-time American employees work an average of 47 hours a week.
When Jared walked into a meeting to discuss a new marketing approach for a product, the conversation didn’t play out well. Five minutes into the dialogue, the product manager, Françoise, started interrupting him with questions he was planning to address later in the pitch.
You need to speak in public, but your knees buckle even before you reach the podium. You want to expand your network, but you’d rather swallow nails than make small talk with strangers. Speaking up in meetings would further your reputation at work, but you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.
“Whoa! What are you doing?” I asked aghast. I had just walked into my daughter’s room as she was working on a science project. Normally, I would have been pleased at such a sight. But this time, her project involved sand. A lot of it.
It’s not easy getting ready for a big presentation. The stakes can feel high, and in our desire for things to go well, the anticipation builds. Fear, anxiety, or even paralysis can kick in. What can you do to calm your nerves when this happens?
Since the early days of Google, people throughout the company have questioned the value of managers. That skepticism stems from a highly technocratic culture. As one software engineer, Eric Flatt, puts it, “We are a company built by engineers for engineers.