Leadership Update is a free electronic monthly newsletter by David A. Weiman, Psy.D. and www.leadershipfirst.com. In it, you’ll find strategies for helping you realize your full professional potential. Please feel free to forward unedited copies of this newsletter.
- Quotable: The Pundits Speak
- Leadership: Are You Open to Bad News?
- Evidence-Based Decision Making
- Readers’ Forum: Your Observations
- Subscription Information
Quotable: The Pundits Speak
“What’s the use of happiness? It can’t buy you money.”– Henny Youngman
“Talk to people in their own language. If you do it well, they’ll say, ‘God, he said exactly what I was thinking.'”– Lee Iacocca
EVIDENCE-BASED DECISION MAKING
One of the most significant recent developments in healthcare is the “evidence-based medicine” movement. The essence of this approach? Physicians combine the most current research with their own individual experiences and as much information as possible about the patient.
“The emphasis is on constantly seeking the best available scientific evidence to guide practice and treatment decisions,” says Glenn D. Hamilton, MD, a faculty member of the Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital who has lectured widely on evidence-based medicine.
“When we rely on the most up-to-date research, along with clinical experience and data about the patient, we can be much more confident that the treatments we select are going to work in a specific way.”
While we’d like to think that most doctors usually follow these principles, many physicians mistakenly believe they are practicing evidence-based medicine when they actually aren’t, according to studies cited by Hamilton.
In a similar way, business leaders often believe they are making organizational decisions with sufficient data, when there’s more information available than they realize. Applying the evidence-based medicine model to business leadership provides a framework for gathering essential information for leadership decision-making. Consider the three areas covered by the model:
Evidence from the latest research. There’s an abundance of current literature and training on leadership. And you can easily take advantage of it. A simple search of the subject “leadership” at the Barnes and Noble website (www.barnesandnoble.com) yielded more than 4,000 book titles. Online editions of publications like BusinessWeek, Inc., Fast Company and others provide a wealth of information about leadership tactics that succeed and
strategies that fail.
You can plan your own “continuing education” – and avoid information overload – by focusing just on the issues that interest you the most. Then, begin selecting and reading articles and books regularly to keep up to date on leadership issues. Also, consider attending seminars and other educational programs on leadership. You will learn and apply to your own choices the leadership successes and failures of others.
Evidence about you and your organization. What have your successes been? And what led to your failures? There is plenty of data to mine if we simply reflect on our history. Consider keeping a journal of your decisions. Focus your entries on issues like: Why did a decision have to be made? Who brought it to your attention? What factors affected your decision? What were the results of your choices? When and why did major organizational changes
You can supplement those reflections with more structured methods of gathering information about you and your entire organization, such as an individualized executive assessment, an organizational survey, or 360-degree assessments. When data is gathered on an ongoing basis, providing feedback becomes part of the organizational culture, more information about the company is regularly available and better decisions are possible.
Evidence from “the patient.” If your decision involves hiring an employee, have you gathered enough data through your selection process? What about problem employees? Have you learned enough about their view of why they are not performing up to expectations? Often, particularly with “problem employees,” information is gathered from everyone but the problem employee. We avoid them because they can be difficult to handle, but they may also provide needed data about why they aren’t performing well. If we’re about to introduce a new policy, did we solicit enough feedback from those it would affect to make sure it’s going to “sell?” Decisions like these are more effective when they’re made with the support of good data.
These three sources of information – leadership information and education, your own individual and organizational experiences, and data from those who will be affected by your decisions – are essential for making sound leadership choices. Please call me at (610) 642-3040 if you want more ideas about how to increase the effectiveness of your decision-making process.
Copyright 2002-2004 by David A. Weiman, Psy.D. All rights reserved.
LEADERSHIP: ARE YOU OPEN TO BAD NEWS?
The televised Congressional hearings into the collapse of Enron have been fascinating. The assertion by some of the senior executives that they didn’t know about shenanigans that resulted in the company’s demise has left many people in disbelief. How could Enron’s top brass have been unaware of significant aspects of their own company’s operations?
It seems inconceivable that heads of Enron did not know what was going on right underneath their noses. The truth about what was known at the highest levels of Enron may never be discovered. Nevertheless, the fact that business leaders can become isolated from important information in their own companies is a reality that affects organizations of all sizes.
Why are leaders isolated? According to “The Ten Realities of the Executive Role,” by Philadelphia consultants Renee Booth and Michele Porterfield, it is natural for executives to feel more isolated than at earlier times in their careers. As people rise to the executive level in an organization, their formal power can intimidate those who, as peers, may have shared critical information with them more freely.
Also, direct reports may tend to filter information before presenting it to their superiors. Executives themselves may become more cautious about what they share with other executives (and those above them) as they build their careers. And some executives make it clear that they don’t want to hear “bad news.” When employees are afraid to speak their minds, information about weaknesses or threats to the company go unreported. Finally, some executives who actually do want to know the good, the bad and the ugly are reluctant to proactively ask questions for fear of opening a Pandora’s box of negativity.
Although executives tend to become isolated from key information, it’s essential for people in leadership positions to know as much as possible about what’s happening under their own roof. In fact, one of Daniel Goleman’s core emotional competencies involves welcoming the full sharing of information, fostering open communication, and staying receptive to bad news as well as good.
Are you out of the loop? If you’re feeling out of the information loop, what can you do? Carefully examine communication in your organization. Is open communication valued? If it’s valued, is it practiced? Are difficult issues handled in a straightforward way? Is there an explicit reward for being open, instead of an implicit threat? Are you proactive about learning about your staff’s concerns? And once concerns are aired, is action taken? How would others on your staff answer these questions?
Leadership requires you to have excellent relationship-building skills more than technical expertise. And open, two-way communication is essential to building the relationships that build companies. Changing how communication is handled in your organization won’t take place overnight. In the long term, though, open dialogue may be one of the keys to your success.
Contact me for ideas about improving communication in your firm.
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Reader’s Forum: Your Observations
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ABOUT DR. WEIMAN
David A. Weiman, Psy.D. is a psychologist who specializes in executive development. For information or a consultation, please call (610) 642-3040.
333 East Lancaster Avenue, Suite 202
Wynnewood, PA 19096-1929
(610) 642-3040; Fax (610) 642-3041