Monthly Archives: July 2008

Teams and Diversity – how to benefit

More new research on teams and how teams deal best with diversity, direct from INSEAD.

“Klein’s research focuses on leadership of groups which consist of people with diverse Katherine Kleincore, fundamental values – groups where conflict is likely and it is difficult for the team to focus on a common goal. Klein specifically studied teams with diversity in work ethic- with some members who were hard-working, driven and internally motivated to accomplishing the task at hand, and other members who were more relaxed and not so motivated; as well as teams that varied in terms of respect for authority and traditional values.

What Klein found is that task-oriented leaders – those that focus the group on the task by assigning roles and deadlines, and providing a lot of structure to the team – can effectively lead values-diverse teams to perform well. “If a leader doesn’t provide structure, then you have trouble.”

Less successful in leading values-diverse teams are relationship-oriented leaders, who tend to be warm and caring toward individual team members. “You can imagine that that would be really helpful. Everybody would feel heard, everybody would feel included … What we find (though) is that it backfires. So when you have a leader that’s very warm, very considerate, and you have a very diverse group in terms of these values, it tends to exacerbate conflict.”

Sustainability – people, planet, profits

I loved the title of this AMCHAM Women in Management seminar and I enjoyed the content and the format. The speakers gave great insights into what organisations are doing to contribute to sustainability, they also gave us their personal stories and the format gave us time to engage with our table groups rather than just passive listening. Three big ticks from me.

On the “people” front, Siobhan Toohill told us about a number of initiatives to engage Stockland employees in sustainability, including introducing a balanced scorecard for all employees. What a way to embed the corporate balanced scorecard – with a 10% KPI requires each employee to identify what they are doing to contribute to sustainability.

The flow-on benefit for Stockland is that employee engagement scores are way up, confirming that sustainability is good for business.

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A star team can beat individual stars

Each year when we watch the Tour de France, the team dynamics fascinate us and remind us of the basic essentials of a high performing team:

1. A clear common purpose. Both Cadel’s team Silence Lotto (S-L) and CSC have a clear common purpose – get the yellow jersey.

2. Skilled people in complementary roles. Each person must have a clear role and together the roles must cover all the requirements of the team. This seems more the case in CSC than S-L. Everyone is riding to support their leader/s. There is no individual glory this year for Robbie McEwen.

3. Common approach – there is a strategy for each team and there is a common approach – support your team leader and don’t “bag” your co-riders. Assume they are trying their hardest.

4. Mutual accountability – the team succeeds if they get the yellow jersey, not just the individual winner.

5. Individual and group development – a focus on mental and emotional strength as well as the physical.

So whose team will win? We will see next week which is the better team, not just the best star, but unfortunately for Cadel, CSC seem to have a higher performing team. I hope I’m wrong for the Aussie’s sake.

And how does your team rate on these five scales? For a worksheet to assess contact us: info @

Online Playing fields – what are the rules of our game?

I am involved in two online lists where there is a bit of argy bargy going on and at the same time I am reading about Barry Hall from the Sydney Swans and his weekend ‘hit out’ on the AFL football field.

For a while I have been toying with the metaphor of online lists as playing fields and wondering – how do we set up the rules of the game? It seems to me that without agreement to the rules or principles of our interactions, we all come to these lists and play the game as we have learned to play in life.

From my perspective – having been brought up to play “nicely” – it seems dangerous to play with those who have been brought up to play hard ball. The person who has learned to high tackle others, intellectually or with cruel words, seems to get the last word in and us “nice” players stagger off when we’ve had one too many whacks to the side of the head.

As my husband said about Hall, rough play is part of the game, so it’s not good enough to complain “he goaded me”. But this is not how I prefer to debate nor interact with others on an online list. So the challenge is to see whether and how we can come to an agreement about “how we interact”.

My call to action is for us all to play “fair” not foul, which for me means to interact in such a way that I feel good and I intend for the other person to feel good too – the classic win+win. Whether I am being idealistic remains to be seen.

Change your thinking, change your feeling

Interesting new research by Elizabeth Phelps and colleagues of New York University, shows that we can think our way out of feeling something bad, by changing the meaning of the thoughts and feelings. As the article says, this is not new research, but the measurement via neuroimaging can provide the evidence that doubters need.

Many managers and professional people suffer from negative or doubtful thoughts, e.g. I don’t know if I can do this or I’m not confident, which is usually accompanied by, or even triggered by anxious or uncomfortable feelings.

The message in the research is to choose a new thoughts about the feelings. For worry, I like something like “oh that’s my worry radar picking up some interference”. It makes me think of the noise a mobile phone makes when it changes cells.

Try your own idea for three weeks and see what happens. If you cannot think of a new thought, make a comment on this blog and we can come up with one together.

Thanks to Stephanie West Allen from the Ailist for the link.

Entrepreneurial Decision Making

Last night’s MGSM research seminar by Peter Bryant PhD, provided an interesting insight into the minds of entrepreneurs.

Bryant’s research shows that when a great opportunity comes along, entrepreneurs use four heuristics (decision making short cuts) when deciding whether to take it up or pass. Effectively, they scan for information to confirm the following unconscious questions:

1. Does it fit our core strategy?

2. Do I know the market?

3. What’s the worst that could happen?

4. Do I trust the other party?

My sense is that analytical decision making attempts to cover the first three, but there’s not much focus on the fourth, even though in my mind that is the first decision not the fourth.

For more information on this topic, read about Peter Bryant and his research at MGSM.