Can You Be a Great Leader Without Technical Expertise?

Can You Be a Great Leader Without Technical Expertise?

Excerpted article was written by Art Markman | Harvard Business Review

There is a broad assumption in society and in education that the skills you need to be a leader are more or less transferable. If you can inspire and motivate people in one arena, you should be able to apply those skills to do the same in another venue.

But recent research is rightly challenging this notion. Studies suggest that the best leaders know a lot about the domain in which they are leading, and part of what makes them successful in a management role is technical competence. For example, hospitals managed by doctors perform better than those managed by people with other backgrounds. And there are many examples of people who ran one company effectively and had trouble transferring their skills to the new organization.

Over the last year, I’ve been working with a group at the University of Texas thinking about what leadership education would look like for our students. There is broad consensus across many schools that teach leadership education about the core elements of what leaders need to know. These factors include: The ability to motivate self and others, effective oral and written communication, critical thinking skills, problem solving ability, and skills at working with teams and delegating tasks.

On the surface, this seems like a nice list. Good leaders do have these abilities and if you wanted to create future leaders, making sure they have these skills is a good bet. They need to take in a large volume of information and distill it into the essential elements that define the core problems to be solved. They need to organize teams to solve these problems and to communicate to a group why they should share a common vision. They need to establish trust with a group and then use that trust to allow the team to accomplish more than it could alone.

But these skills alone will not make a leader because, to actually excel at this list of skills in practice, you also need a lot of expertise in a particular domain.

As an example, take one of these skills: thinking critically in order to find the essence of a situation. To do that well, you must have specific, technical expertise. The critical information a doctor needs to diagnose a patient are different from the knowledge used to understand a political standoff, and both of those differ in important ways from what is needed to negotiate a good business deal.

Even effective communication differs from one domain to another. Doctors talking to patients must communicate information differently than politicians reacting to a natural disaster or a CEO responding to a labor dispute.

When you begin to look at any of the core skills that leaders have, it quickly becomes clear that domain-specific expertise is bound up in all of them. And the domains of expertise required may also be fairly specific. Even business is not really a single domain. Leadership in construction, semiconductor fabrication, consulting, and retail sales all require a lot of specific knowledge.

A common solution to this problem is for leaders to say that they will surround themselves with good people who have the requisite expertise that will allow them to make good decisions. The problem is that without actual expertise, how do these leaders even know whether they have found the right people to give them information? If managers cannot evaluate the information they are getting for themselves, then they cannot lead effectively.

This way of thinking about leadership has two important implications. First, when we teach people about leadership, we need to be more explicit that domain expertise matters. Just because a person is successful at running one kind of organization does not mean that they are likely to have the same degree of success running an organization with a different mission. Second, when we train people to take on leadership roles, we need to give them practice solving domain-specific problems so that they can prepare to integrate information in the arena in which they are being asked to lead. For example, it isn’t enough just to teach people about how to resolve generic conflicts between employees, we should create scenarios derived from real cases so that people have to grapple with all of the ambiguities that come from the conflicts that arise within particular industries.

This issue is particularly important given the frequency with which people in the modern workplace change jobs and even move across industries. This mobility means that many younger employees may not gain significant expertise in the industry in which they are currently working, which will make it harder for them to be effective in leadership roles.  Companies need to identify prospective future leaders and encourage them to settle down in order to develop the specific skills they need to lead.

Check out these 5 unexpected and strange insurance policies

Check out these 5 unexpected and strange insurance policies

Excerpted article was written By

We’ve all read the stories of celebrities and athletes insuring their body parts for incredible amounts. But sometimes, the risk being insured can be more interesting than the policy itself. And we may even be covered by a policy we never knew existed.

1. Turmoil in Thailand

Thailand has become the tourist capital of Southeast Asia. Each year, approximately 16 million visitors arrive in the country looking for adventure, and most of them will have some sort of travel coverage to keep them protected. But what many visitors don’t know is that they already have a little insurance coverage, courtesy of the Thai government. See, Thailand has experienced more coups d’état than any other country in contemporary history, making large protests and the odd military takeover a relatively commonplace occurrence. As a result, the Thai government has purchased an insurance policy that promises to provide $10,000 to each tourist harmed in any political turmoil.

 2. “Take us to your insurance broker.”

Some people say there’s no “official” evidence that any higher intelligence has ever made contact or visited Earth. Others disagree … um, adamantly. Whether intelligent life beyond us exists in the universe or not, over 30,000 people throughout Europe have purchased alien abduction insurance. Now, why they think they’d be selected for abduction over the other 7 billion people on the planet or how they know that kidnapping would be at the top of a visiting alien’s agenda is another story, but … good luck to them.

3. Paranormal policies

“If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?” Apparently, your friendly neighborhood insurance company, that’s who. The owner of the Royal Falcon Hotel in Suffolk, UK has taken out a policy to insure him against damages caused by his “supernatural guests.” The policy offers up to £1m in the event that his staff or customers are killed or hurt by the ghosts, poltergeists, or other abnormal phenomena that allegedly live on the property. Simon Burgess, the policy’s chief underwriting officer, told the BBC that, “There has been paranormal activity there, and we will treat any claims very seriously, and carry out our normal psychic investigation.”

4. Hole-in-one!

We’ve all seen the almost-impossible, full-court free throw challenges at basketball games. And many golf courses offer amazing prizes to anyone getting a hole-in-one. Of course, nobody really expects anyone will actually win one of these unlikely challenges … nobody, that is, apart from us savvy insurance types.

Prize indemnity insurance is the most popular way of covering these highly valued promotions, with the risk carefully calculated and a series of rules explicitly laid out. Unfortunately, the rules are often overlooked. In fact, one golfer had his hole-in-one prize rejected because the prize indemnity policy for the course needed 2 witnesses and the tournament he was in could only provide one. Oh well, he still has a 1 in 12,000 chance of hitting another once-in-a-lifetime putt, right?

5. Where there are winners, there are losers

Picture this: you’ve built a wonderful midsize company with happy employees, good products, and a healthy bottom line. Then, out of nowhere, the manufacturing department wins the lottery jackpot. The next day, nobody in manufacturing shows up and the company goes from happy, lottery-playing workplace to failing to fulfill their orders and losing the credibility they spent years building. This worry is so prevalent with business owners in the UK that they can now take out a policy protecting them from lottery winners who decide to suddenly leave work after winning.

Source: Esurance

 

5 Tips for Managing Conflict in the Workplace

5 Tips for Managing Conflict in the Workplace

In an Accountemps survey, CFOs said they spend six hours a week, on average, managing conflicting parties on their staff. Some of the executives (17 percent) say they spend a quarter to more than half of their precious time dealing with conflict in the workplace.

Sound familiar? Just think what you could do with that six hours a week if you didn’t have to manage all those disagreements that erode into discord. Follow these five ways to encourage your workers to get along with others in the office:

1. Promote the flow of communication

Putting your head in the sand really doesn’t help when there’s conflict in the workplace. Problems rarely resolve themselves on their own and can even become worse if they’re not addressed. So be proactive.

Encourage those on your team who are having difficulty with a coworker to get their disagreements out in the open while they’re still small. Here are some hints you can offer them:

  • Ask your coworker with whom you’re not seeing eye to eye to name a time when it would be convenient for the two of you to meet, in a place where you won’t be interrupted.
  • After laying out your point of view on the issue, listen carefully to what the other person has to say, show empathy, avoid interrupting, and ask questions to clarify what was said.
  • Identify points of agreement and disagreement, and ask if your coworker agrees with your assessment.
  • Express your desire to work out a solution and discuss ways to resolve your conflict and improve your relationship.

2. Practice what you preach  

Managers, of course, need to lead the way with communication on the job. Here are some suggestions executives share to help you prevent conflicts while building rapport with your teams and colleagues:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Take an interest without participating in office politics.
  • Nip rumors in the bud by offering accurate and up-to-date clarifications.
  • Project an image of professionalism and good etiquette.
  • Respect unique points of view, and don’t criticize others publicly.
  • Check in regularly, and show how you value other people’s input.
  • Be honest, reliable and direct with your communication style.
  • Build your relationships by inviting others to coffee or lunch outside of the office.

3. Let your team know you can help 

A critical component of leadership is developing a sense of what’s important for you to do in times of stress.

First of all, tell your employees that if they find themselves in over their head, or if they’ve tried to resolve a conflict and the negative behavior continues to impede their work, they can use you as a resource. As a higher-up in your organization, you can provide recommendations and bring in another manager or someone from human resources for mediation.

Some suggestions for helping people work together:

  • Work to use your best listening skills so you can readily identify their concerns and the root cause of the problem,
  • Encourage the two sides to put aside their differences and find common ground — such as the desire to help the company to succeed.
  • Make it clear that their cooperation is required, and then continue to monitor the situation so the issue doesn’t fester and become worse.

When people believe their voices will be heard, they are more likely to perform at their best. Communication goes both ways, so inspire a relationship where they give you timely status reports and feedback about difficulties or challenges.

4. View everything as a learning opportunity

Perhaps, conflict in the workplace could be seen in a positive light. For all the grief disagreements can cause, there’s an upside when your workers can learn from them. Differing opinions can stimulate innovation and give added impetus for team building.

Helping to resolve disputes can put those you manage in a better position to assume leadership roles in your company. You can tell a temporary worker who wants to move into a full-time role that tact and diplomacy in dealing with conflict in the workplace can make a good impression on management. Or let an employee know that effectively working well with others can help with career advancement.

5. Criticize gently and praise achievement 

In a perfect world, everyone on your staff would be flawless at their jobs. But the reality is that they will make mistakes, get into arguments, experience personnel problems, miss deadlines. When you need to call attention to shortcomings, make it your goal to preserve each individual’s dignity. Meet in private and allow them to explain the problem and what might have led to it. Rather than assigning blame, reframe a mistake or failure as a lesson, and focus on what might be done differently in the future.

All professionals appreciate recognition, particularly when they’ve put in extra time or effort. So make a goal to celebrate resolution when your team achieves it. Even if they’ve made just small steps, congratulate them on the progress. They’re not robots, after all!

Hello, I’m Out Of The Office But Checking Email

Hello, I’m Out Of The Office But Checking Email

MENLO PARK, Calif., May 24, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Are vacations where people completely disconnect from the office a thing of the past? Research shows “workations” may be more common for professionals today. In a recent survey from staffing firm Accountemps, 54 percent of workers said they typically check in with the office at least once or twice a week during their vacation, up from 41 percent just one year ago.

On the bright side, those who do connect with the office do so fewer times during their break: 15 percent of workers touch base at least once or twice a day, compared to 21 percent in 2016. Their reasons for checking in include gaining peace of mind that things were under control (54 percent), keeping projects moving along (53 percent), avoiding coming back to extra work (47 percent) and preventing colleagues from feeling undue stress (34 percent).

“When possible, use your vacation time to its fullest potential by unplugging from the office,” said Michael Steinitz, executive director for Accountemps. “This helps you come back to work recharged and with fresh perspective.”

Steinitz noted it’s not always feasible for some employees to completely disconnect. “The reality is, many professionals, either by necessity or choice, will check in with the office to ensure things are under control and projects are moving forward in their absence,” he said. “Employees who feel the need to connect with work should set clear boundaries to minimize the time they spend attending to office duties.”

Additional findings from the Accountemps survey:

  • Professionals plan to take an average of 10 vacation days this summer — unchanged from last year’s survey.
  • Thirty percent of those surveyed said they plan to take more vacation days this summer compared to last year. Forty-one percent of workers between the ages of 18 and 34 plan on taking more time off, compared to 25 percent of workers ages 35 to 54 and only 16 percent of respondents 55 and over.
  • Twelve percent of respondents plan to take fewer days off than they did last summer. Only 10 percent of male workers plan to take fewer days off, compared to 14 percent of female workers.
  • More than one-third of professionals (37 percent) said they could use more time to recharge. Forty-four percent of females surveyed said they don’t have enough time off, versus 31 percent of males.
  • Forty-seven percent of total respondents said they don’t check in at all while on summer vacation. Sixty percent of workers 55 and older don’t connect with the office during their break, compared to 52 percent of respondents ages 35 to 54 and only 38 percent of workers 18 to 34.

View a slideshow of the full survey results.

Accountemps offers four ways managers and professionals can unplug while on vacation:

  1. Promote the benefits of taking vacation. Managers should encourage their teams to disconnect during their time off to reap the full advantages of time away.
  2. Let colleagues know. Once your vacation request has been approved, give key contacts advanced notice about your time off. Wrap up projects and appoint a team member to handle your daily tasks in your absence. If you plan to truly disconnect, make it clear to your manager and team.
  3. Set boundaries. If you feel compelled to check in, set a schedule for the brief times you’ll be accessible and note it in your out-of-office reply. Try to avoid checking email outside of those hours so you can rest and recharge.
  4. Get back on track. Upon your return, schedule a quick meeting with your manager or team to get caught up on what you may have missed and what projects are a priority.

About the Research
The survey was developed by Accountemps and conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from more than 1,000 U.S. workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments.

About Accountemps
Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The staffing firm has 325 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the company’s blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.

10 Ways to Make the Best of Dumb Mistakes

10 Ways to Make the Best of Dumb Mistakes

By James Nazer | Jason Nazar

We’re not defined by our mistakes, but rather how we handle those mistakes and who we become in the process. Here’s the best game plan I can provide on how to bounce back after making a major mistake at work:

Immediately take responsibility

Don’t compound the situation by getting defensive or justifying what happened. Admit your mistake to the key people affected and lay out a plan to fix it. Most importantly, explain what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. You’ll regain your teammates’ trust and they won’t feel like they have to keep checking in on you to make sure you’re doing things right.

Make sure you understand your responsibilities

The most common reason we make mistakes is also the most fixable: We don’t fully understand the expectations of our role or the goals we’re responsible for. You can never ask too much about what’s expected of you.

Ask for feedback

Once you’re through the worst of it, ask for feedback from the people who were most affected by your mistake. Not only will you get the chance to really learn from the situation, but you’ll help others feel heard and see you in a better light.

Show that you’re committed to improving

Let your team see that you’re going the extra mile to improve. Try to be the first one in and last to leave, or go out of your way to help coworkers get their work done. Whatever you do, make sure you’re showing that your focus is on the company. This can help smooth out a rough situation.

Tighten up your little mistakes

After you make a big mistake, the little things get magnified. Whether it’s coming in five minutes late or turning in a project that’s not exactly to specification, your little errors will seem way worse after a big mistake. This is the time to bring your A-game. Don’t let tiny errors erode your team’s trust in you.

Put key items in writing

We’ve all been in situations where a coworker asks us to do something, only to be told on delivering it that it wasn’t what they asked for. The simplest way to prevent these situations is to put your action plan in writing and share it with whoever else is involved. In doing so, you’re giving others a chance to say either: “This isn’t what we discussed; let’s rethink it,” or “This is what we discussed, but I think you should go about doing it in a slightly different way.” Everyone involved will appreciate the clarity.

Be likable

We’re all more forgiving of people we like. If you’re positive, energetic, generous, and thoughtful, you’re likely to get more of a pass on your mistakes. If you’re negative, passive aggressive, or quick to point fingers, you probably won’t.

Be a hero

The best way to make a big mistake fade into the distance is to solve something critical for the business. It’s not always possible, but if you can do that, you’ll instantly become a hero. Even if an NFL team fails to make the playoffs three years in a row, it’s a winner in everybody’s eyes if it wins the Super Bowl in the fourth year.

Cut yourself some slack

Everyone makes mistakes—it’s a part of how we learn. Remember that people judge you more for how you handle your mistakes than the mistakes you make, so try not to beat yourself up. High performers especially need to keep this in mind, as they will naturally put more pressure on themselves than their boss and colleagues will.

Turn the negative into a positive

A big mistake could become a big opportunity. When Coca-Cola introduced New Coke in the 1980s, everyone hated it. So what did Coke do? It said it messed up and launched a whole campaign about the return of classic Coke—and sales jumped higher than ever. Everybody loves a redemption story. Your big mistake could be an opportunity to turn your career around.

A Daily Journal Could Change Your Life: The 10-minute routine

A Daily Journal Could Change Your Life: The 10-minute routine

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”  — Thomas Edison

Excerpted article was written by Benjamin P. Hardy

Here’s why.

10 minutes before going to sleep:

It’s common practice for many of the world’s most successful people to intentionally direct the workings of their subconscious mind while they’re sleeping.

How?

Take a few moments before you go to bed to meditate on and write down the things you’re trying to accomplish.

Ask yourself loads of questions related to that thing. In Edison’s words, make some “requests.” Write those questions and thoughts down on paper. The more specific the questions, the clearer your answers will be.

While you’re sleeping, your subconscious mind will get to work on those things.

10 minutes after waking up:

Research confirms the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is most active and readily creative immediately following sleep. Your subconscious mind has been loosely mind-wandering while you slept, making contextual and temporal connections. Creativity, after all, is making connections between different parts of the brain.

In a recent interview with Tim Ferriss, Josh Waitzkin, former chess prodigy and tai chi world champion, explains his morning routine to tap into the subconscious breakthroughs and connections experienced while he was sleeping.

Unlike 80 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 44 who check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up, Waitzkin goes to a quiet place, does some meditation and grabs his journal.

In his journal, he thought-dumps for several minutes. Thus, rather than focusing on input like most people who check their notifications, Waitzkin’s focus is on output. This is how he taps into his higher realms of clarity, learning and creativity—what he calls, “crystallized intelligence.”

If you’re not an experienced journal writer, the idea of thought-dumping might be hard to implement. In my experience, it’s good to loosely direct your thought-dumping toward your goals.

Consider the requests you made of your subconscious just before going to bed. You asked yourself loads of questions. You thought about and wrote down the things you’re trying to accomplish.

Now first thing in the morning, when your creative brain is most attuned after its subconscious workout, start writing down whatever comes to mind about those things.

I often get ideas for articles I’m going to write while doing these thought-dumps. I get ideas about how I can be a better husband and father to my three foster children. I get clarity about the goals I believe I should be pursuing. I get insight about people I need to connect with, or how I can improve my current relationships.

To be sure, you’ll need to practice this skill. It might take several attempts before you become proficient. But with consistency, you can become fluent and automatic at achieving creative and intuitive bursts.

2. Journaling accelerates your ability to manifest your goals.

As part of your morning creative burst, use your journal to review and hone your daily to-do list. Review and hone your life vision and big-picture goals.

As you read and rewrite your goals daily, they’ll become forged into your subconscious mind. Eventually, your dreams and vision will consume your inner world and quickly become your physical reality.

3. Journaling creates a springboard for daily recovery.

People struggle drastically to detach from work. More now than ever, we fail to live presently. Our loved ones are lucky to experience a small percentage of our attention while they’re with us.

But utilizing your journal can curb this mismanagement. At the end of your workday, reopen your journal and review your to-do list from that day. If your morning journal session was excellent, you’ll have likely gotten everything done you intended to do. Private victories always precede public victories.

Journal sessions are your post-work reflection time. Account to yourself what you got done that day and what needs to be moved to tomorrow. Write the things you learned and experienced.

Lastly, direct your subconscious by writing about things you want to focus on tomorrow. As you put work behind you for the evening, your subconscious will be preparing a feast for you to consume during your next morning’s creative and planning session.

This end-of-day journal session doesn’t need to be as long as the morning session. Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, recommends writing far less than you want to—only a few sentences or paragraphs at most. This will help you avoid burnout.

A primary objective of this session is to mentally turn off work mode. Just as in physical training, you need to rest and recover between workdays to get stronger.

Use this session to completely unplug and detach from work. This is your time to recover and be present with your loved ones—because there is more to life than work. The higher quality your recovery, the more potent and powerful your creative sessions will be.

4. Journaling generates clarity and congruence.

This keystone habit has so much power. By journaling in the morning and evening, you’ll quickly see what is incongruent in your life.

You’ll clearly see what needs to be removed and what should be included in your life. Journaling is a beautiful and powerful facilitator of self-discovery. My own journaling is how I’ve come to form my sense of identity and path in life.

Not only will you have more clarity about your path in life, but journaling improves your ability to make small and large decisions along the way.

On the pages of your journal will be the future world you are creating for yourself. You are the author of your life’s story. You deserve to be happy. You have the power to create whatever life you want. As the designer of your world, get as detailed as you desire.

5. Journaling clears your emotions.

Several research studies found that writing in your journal reduces stress. These benefits include:

  • Reducing scatter in your life
  • Increased focus
  • Greater stability
  • Deeper level of learning, order, action and release
  • Holding thoughts still so they can be changed and integrated
  • Releasing pent-up thoughts and emotions
  • Empowerment
  • Bridging inner thinking with outer events
  • Detaching and letting go of the past
  • Allowing you to re-experience the past with today’s adult mind

When you are in an intensely emotional mood, journaling can help you more fully experience and understand those emotions.

After you’ve vented on the pages of your journal, you’ll quickly find a release. Objectivity will return and you’ll be able to move forward.

Without a journal, intense emotional experiences can be crippling for hours, days and even years. But an honest and inspired journal session can be the best form of therapy—quickly returning you better and smarter than you were before.

6. Journaling ingrains your learning.

Humans are bad at retaining information. We forget most of what we read and hear. However, when you write down the things you’ve learned, you retain them far better. Even if you never reread what you’ve written, the simple act of writing something down increases brain development and memory.

Neurologically, when you listen to something, a different part of your brain is engaged than when you write it down. Memory recorded by listening does not discriminate important from unimportant information. Writing creates spatial regions between important and unimportant pieces of information, which allows your memory to target and engrain the important stuff you want to remember.

Furthermore, the act of writing allows your subconscious mind to work out problems in unique ways, intensifying the learning process. You’ll be able to work out problems and get insight while you ponder and write about the things you’re learning.

7. Journaling increases your gratitude.

Even if you start a journal session in a bad mood, the insight writing brings has a subtle way of shifting your mind toward gratitude.

When you start writing what you’re grateful for, new chambers of thought open in the palace of your mind. You’ll often need to put your pen down and take a few breaths. You’ll be captivated not only by the amazing things in your life, but by the awe and brilliance of life in general.

As part of your morning and post-work journaling sessions, be sure to include some gratitude in your writing. It will change your life orientation from scarcity to abundance. The world will increasingly “become your oyster.”

Gratitude journaling is a scientifically proven way to overcome several psychological challenges. The benefits are seemingly endless. Here are just a few:

8. Journaling unfolds the writer in you.

I became a writer through journaling. While I was on a mission-trip, I wrote in my journal for one to two hours per day. I got lost in flow and fell in love with the writing process.

If you want to become a writer one day, start by journaling. Journaling can help you:

  • Develop strong writing habits.
  • Help you discover your voice.
  • Clear your mind and crystalizes your ideas.
  • Get closer to the 10,000 hours Malcom Gladwell says are required to become world-class at what you do.
  • Produce gems you could use in your other writing.

9. Journaling records your life history.

I started journaling in 2008 after reading an article about the importance of journal writing. In the article, the author described how much journaling had changed her life. She said after all these years, she now has 38 recorded volumes of personal and family history.

After finishing that article, I have never stopped writing in my journal. In my family room on a bookshelf are 20-plus journals filled with my thoughts and experiences. I’m certain they will be cherished by my ancestors as I’ve cherished the writing of my loved ones who have passed on.

This post originally appeared on BenjaminHardy.com.

 

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