Leadership advice has been coming from the left and right to all of us. There are books, articles, workshops, and webinars. What one should and should not do in the world of business could almost be concluded into a rule book. But not all of us are as experienced and business-wise as leadership expert Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School.
He has written books such as “Originals” and “Give and Take,” and is a favorite when it comes to corporate leadership consulting. His approach is particularly liked because of his evidence-based advice, that he has achieved by being involved in over 100 studies and experiments of different sorts.
Adam Grant giving a lecture.
A big emphasis is placed on understanding people and organizations, as that brings to further improvement and maximization of both employee and financial performance. Furthermore, the study findings also cover how one could improve their decision making to incentivize, motivate and develop employees.
The following will be reflections on leadership as outlined by Mr. Grant, as a result of the studies and experiments he has been a part of.
1. Beware the wisdom of crowds
Group thinking has been proved as an essential inhibitory characteristic within companies for the past 50 years of research. If people are put in teams and expected to get along due to professional demands, they fear not getting along and comes to a conclusion that they will make their position within the company suffer.
Therefore, they compromise their ideas which if heard, could very well be brilliant. Therefore, Grant suggests a process called brainwriting, where everyone is encouraged to generate ideas of their own. He suggests people are put in separate rooms, and their ideas are judged independently of one another.
2. Value intangibles
The carrot and stick approach does not belong in this era, as material things and extrinsic motivation are largely overestimated. Titles, work insurance, money et., are all elements which fulfill employee’s needs only to certain extends. They are given this much validation because they are easily measurable and therefore correlated with outcomes.
However, true job satisfaction comes from creating meaningful relationships with employees. The importance of communication and feeling like one’s contribution to the company is truly valuable are among the most important aspects, as according to Grant. Especially because most leaders fail to take those into consideration during decision making.
3. Maximize productivity spillover
This may be a bit of a shock to some more traditionally minded people, but who we sit next to makes a difference in our productivity.
This, too, is a fact largely underestimated, which is why some people suffer low productivity in their companies. Talent can only be credited for success up to some extent, but research has revealed that performance is improved by an average of 10% if they sit next to more productive colleagues.
4. Embrace cultural differences
Another point of stagnation is the phenomenon of cultural fit. While startups may be successful and be powered by the momentum of hiring people whose opinions are the same to each other, this level of unification may work backward in a larger context such as a corporate.
It is true that people will feel more comfortable in such environments, but that is not what corporates strive for. Using his research, Grant explains how different cultures, and unlike-minded people will enrich corporate culture, and help improve overall performance.
5. Question your judgment
Trustworthiness is certainly one of the most required characteristics. Leaders like to think of their judgment being improved – the more seniority they gain, the bigger the experience they have gained, the easier it becomes for them to make right judgments. That, unfortunately, is false.
In fact, quite the opposite as according to Grant. The higher a person reaches in a hiearchy, the more subordinate employees will attempt to conceal their imperfections and inappropriate qualifications, to make it seem like they’re the right fit. This one is on the employees, and not the leader to decide.
6. When in doubt, test it out
While traditionally research was conducted to universities, it has now made its way to companies. Grant suggests transparency in the company, and if there is not an unanimous decision, they should communicate it to the employees and encourage them to work towards finding the results out together. He says that believing in your employees will motivate them further, and bring better results.
7. Evidence-based living
Grant sounds as if he would get everything impeccably perfect, but he claims otherwise himself. He says his teaching job helps him in his personal life, as while repeating the information, it makes it all the more logical and leads for it to stick.
He would hate to become the hypocrite who does not follow his own advice, and his desire for credibility stops that from happening. In addition, he makes conscious efforts to list any cognitive biases so he does not give into them.
He is admired for his work, as he lets others bring in their ideas and perspectives before coming to a decision. Despite any uncertainties, he claims he feels confident in making choices if he chooses to act as based from the evidence.