Quick hits of leadership research and inspiration. Hosted by leadership development specialist and psychologist Andrew Beveridge. Go to leadership.today for more information.
Expecting to be Bored is Boring
If we expect something to be boring, it ends up being even more boring.
Welcome to episode 165 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how expecting something to be boring makes it even more boring.
Let’s face it, we all get a little bored at times. Sometimes we even expect something to be boring in advance. Universities are a great place to research boredom. Lectures can be amazing, but they can also be a little tedious. One of the best psychology lectures I ever went to was on human perception. Our amazing and rather elderly professor put glow in the dark dots on his torso and limbs, then turned out the lights in the lecture theatre. He walked around in front of a hundred or so students demonstrating how just a few dots allow us to clearly see the human form. Unfortunately he then tripped over, and the dots all ended up being in a pile on the floor. Fortunately he was fine, but the lesson always stuck with me. But for every lecture like that, there were many others that didn’t quite reach the same heights.
Researchers have shown that our expectations about a lecture can impact the way we feel about the lecture. If we expect a lecture to be boring, we actually end up feeling even more bored than we would have otherwise felt. Expecting something to be boring makes it even more boring.
So what can we do about this? Here are four ideas.
Remain curious. Even the most boring topic, presentation or meeting will have some interesting elements if we just look out for them. Remind yourself of why you’re there in the first place. Positioning the potentially boring even in the context of a broader purpose can make that time more meaningful. Try a little daydreaming. Letting your mind wander during a boring event might just help you to come up with that breakthrough idea you have been chasing. Cut your losses. If something is truly boring and doesn’t add any value, you can always walk out. Have a great, and not boring, week.
Episode 164 - How Biased People Become More Biased
Research demonstrates the process by which biased people become more biased. Here’s what to do about it.
Welcome to episode 164 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how biased people become even more biased.
We are living in particularly polarised times. On so many issues across society and politics we see people becoming more entrenched in their thinking and less open to alternate perspectives. Clearly this isn’t great for us individually and collectively. I’m sure, like me, you would love people to be open to changing their mind.
A key driver of what we’re seeing around us is selective exposure bias. Research demonstrates that people will actually walk away from the opportunity to make money if it allows them to avoid reading an alternative view of issues like same-sex marriage or gun control. A recent piece of research showed so-called “pro-diversity” thinkers are less susceptible to this bias. Someone who is pro-diversity in their approach is more comfortable interacting with new ideas and people who don’t share their perspective. They don’t necessarily just agree with others, but they’re happy to listen to different perspectives.
This presents a challenge though. If people who aren’t open to diversity in the first place also actively avoid information that might change their perspective, aren’t we doomed to just become more polarised? The authors of the study believe part of the answer is in making cross-group interactions inevitable. If we can, in our organisations and in society at large, cause people of differing views to come together. How do we do become more pro-diversity and less prone to selective exposure?
Read widely. Don’t limit yourself to one news publisher. Actively expose yourself to new ideas and different perspectives. Engage someone who you know has different views to you. There’s just one rule here though - you’re only allowed to ask questions. Don’t argue back, just seek to understand. Agree to disagree, but be open to changing your mind. Saying we agree to disagree is a bit of a cop out - it closes down further discussion. Instead, be open to changing your mind. Adam Grant’s book Think Again is a great read if you want to extend on these ideas.
The Key to Building Professional Connections
The mindset we bring impacts our ability to build professional connections.
Welcome to episode 163 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how the mindset we bring impacts our ability to build professional connections.
One of the challenges and opportunities in any career is building and maintaining professional connections. For some of us, even hearing the word “networking” gets our heart racing - and not in a good way.. Our success in building and keeping these connections is often about the expectations we bring into the relationship.
Attachment theory describes three main sets of mindsets and expectations with which we approach building new connections.
The first attachment type is “Secure”. With this mindset we expect that people want to connect. We also see ourselves as worthy of those connections. Furthermore, someone with a secure attachment type believes that people can generally be trusted. Having a secure attachment type allows us to establish and maintain connections well. This is what we’re aiming for.The two other attachment types we will consider today are less effective, and can be actively detrimental to building professional connections.
The “Anxious” attachment type assumes that there’s always a risk of losing a connection - that people will just leave one day. As a result, they work overly hard at making connections, and then cling on to people once the connection is made. Ironically this approach makes others more likely to leave, so it becomes a self—fulfilling prophecy.
The third attachment type is “Avoidant”. People with this approach to relationships are also worried about people leaving or letting them down, but instead of clinging on to people, they keep them at a distance. As a result, they form fewer close connections in an effort to protect themselves from someone leaving.
These attachment types are formed through our experiences. If significant people have let us down or left us early in life, it’s probably no surprise that we make an effort to protect ourselves in the future. And the attachment style we use may vary over time and with different circumstances. You might have a secure attachment type outside of work, but be more avoidant at work.
Being aware of the primary attachment styles we demonstrate can help us to actively try new things. If we know we tend to cling on to people, we might focus instead on building a broader network of connections. If we know we tend to avoid making new connections, we might set ourselves a goal to build up the connections we have at work. All of this requires us to step out of our comfort zone, but that is where all growth happens.
So reflect on the attachment styles you tend towards and use this knowledge to build up your professional connections.
This week we consider the challenges of cross-cultural leadership.
Welcome to episode 162 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we consider the challenges of cross-cultural leadership.
How have you found working across different cultures? Perhaps you’ve travelled to other parts of the world, or maybe the business you work in has a broad cultural representation. Sometimes it can be challenging to figure out what’s a personality difference and what’s a cultural difference.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of cultures, yet I’m still surprised by cultural differences. Given the global audience for the work we do, I’m always conscious of cultural assumptions that might creep in to the way we think about leadership development. It can be challenging working across cultures. There are core assumptions in our cultural world view that we may not even recognise.
Researchers have built various frameworks to try to understand how cultures differ. One of the better know frameworks is the Lewis Model of Cultural Types. As someone who had travelled the world and spoke 10 languages, Richard Lewis realised he was in a good position to explore cultural differences. His book “When Cultures Collide”, first released in 1996, brought together a framework to understand how cultures can differ. His model is based on a triangle, with the points of the triangle being linear-active, multi-active, and reactive. Lewis then plots countries at each of these points and along the edges of the triangle.
Linear-active cultures are about doing one thing at a time. He saw linear-active cultures such as those in Germany and Switzerland as cool, factual, decisive planners. The UK and US are also close to this cultural type. Multi-active is about trying to do multiple things at once. Multi-active countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico have cultures that are warm, emotional and impulsive. Parts of Europe including Italy and Greece, and sub-saharan Africa are also near this cultural type. Reactive cultures are about responding to others. Reactive cultures like Vietnam were described by Lewis as courteous, accommodating, compromising and polite. China and Japan are also near this cultural type.
It’s clear how these cultural types can create conflict and confusion when we bring them together.
So how do we tackle these cultural differences. Here are six ideas:
Be aware cultural differences exist. Keeping this in mind as you work across cultures will help you be prepared. Don’t fall back on to stereotypes. This is a risk in Lewis’ work - that we end up stereotyping millions of people just based on where they live. In any cultural group there can be a very broad range of expressions and approaches. Be actively curious about other cultures and people. Questions are always a great place to start. Be actively curious about people and their cultural background. Talk about culture. If your team works across cultures, help them to step back to reflect on effectiveness. Clarify expectations. Cultural differences and conflict can be amplified when there are unclear expectations. Discuss how we can best work together. This is a great levelling questions that allows everyone to contribute. Next time you’re working across cultures or in a culturally diverse team, take a few moments to review these points and apply them. Have a great week.
Letting Go and Moving On
Summary This week we explore goal setting, and the importance of letting go and moving on.
Transcript Welcome to episode 161 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we are exploring letting go and moving on.
Striving for goals is generally a good thing. Self-control helps us to move towards our goals, delaying other potentially tempting distractions in the hope for a better return for our efforts. Hope-filled people are great at varying their plans towards goals when they hit obstacles. But what happens when the goal we are chasing after becomes unachievable for reasons outside our control? What’s the best way to respond to having our plans thwarted?
The Covid pandemic provided an opportunity to study this in detail. Many of us found our goals upended by the impact of Covid restrictions. We all know people who were unable to see family members for extended periods, whose holiday plans were thrown into chaos, or whose goals at work needed to be jettisoned altogether. Some people seemed to handle this more effectively, disengaging from their old goals and setting new goals. They seemed able to let go and move on. However, others seemed stuck and unable to move on from the dead end goal they had set.
Researchers are clear to distinguish between goal disengagement and goal reengagement. Goal disengagement is letting go of a previous goal. Goal reengagement is the ability of a person to move on to a new goal. People can be good at goal disengagement but not good at reengagement and vice versa.
Researchers have found that goal reengagement is particularly important to satisfaction. For example, in people with life changing acquired brain injuries, researchers found that goal disengagement had little impact on quality of life and satisfaction, while goal reengagement had a markedly positive impact. In these cases, the ability to set and chase after new goals seemed far more important than investing energy into letting go of goals that had become unachievable.
This research suggests that rather than focusing on the loss associated with thwarted goals, we are better investing our energy into setting new goals. This optimistic, future-focused and flexible approach is something we can build in ourselves and others. If there are goals that have become completely unrealistic, it’s important to note this and then help the team to establish new goals. Picking over the disappointments associated with the old goal is less helpful than establishing an inspiring future. Letting go matters, but moving on is even more important.
Bonus Episode - Don Schmincke - What Leaders can Learn from Samurai, Mountaineers and Entrepreneurs
Don Schmincke is a best-selling author, researcher with MIT and Johns Hopkins and adviser to CEOs across a broad range of industries. You only have to read one of Don’s books or see him in action to recognise Don is not your typical leadership thinker.
We discuss leadership failures and fads, why our approaches to leadership development often fall short, and what we should do about that. We also explore themes from Don's books including what leaders can learn from 9th-century samurai, the experiences of mountaineers, and his latest focus on entrepreneurs.
Learn more about Don and his work - Saga Leadership