Archive for the ‘Organizational Behavior’ Category

Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without.

June 14, 2018

From the summer reading pile.  I read ’em so you don’t have to …

Rath argues that “vital friends” play one or more of 8 roles.

Which of the role(s) do you play?  Which do each of your vital friends play?


Duck: Here comes the new CEO …

July 11, 2013

In an interview with HBR, RHR executive David Astorino said that “one of the biggest and most consistent regrets from new CEOs is that they don’t fire people fast enough.”

That’s not to say that heads aren’t on the chopping block when a new CEO lands.

Some senior positions are particularly vulnerable …


Here are some takeaways …


All we really want: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness …

October 20, 2009

TakeAway: Neuroscience research is revealing the social nature of the high-performance workplace. Perhaps the greatest challenge facing leaders of business or government is to create the kind of atmosphere that promotes status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness.

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Excerpted from Strategy+Business, Managing with the Brain in Mind, Issue 56, Autumn 2009

The human brain is a social organ.

Its physiological and neurological reactions are directly and profoundly shaped by social interaction.

“Most processes operating in the background when your brain is at rest are involved in thinking about other people and yourself.”

So, the brain experiences the workplace first and foremost as a social system.  Most people who work in companies learn to rationalize or temper their reactions; they “suck it up,” as the common parlance puts it. But they also limit their commitment and engagement.

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Many studies now show that the brain equates social needs with survival.

For example, being hungry and being ostracized activate similar neural responses.Recently, researchers have documented that the threat response is often triggered in social situations, and it tends to be more intense and longer-lasting than the reward response.  

Because the threat response uses up oxygen and glucose from the blood, they are diverted from other parts of the brain, including the working memory function, which processes new information and ideas. This impairs analytic thinking, creative insight, and problem solving; in other words, just when people most need their sophisticated mental capabilities, the brain’s internal resources are taken away from them.

When leaders trigger a threat response, employees’ brains become much less efficient.

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Five particular qualities minimize the threat response status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness (SCARF).

Status and Its Discontents

Humans are constantly assessing how social encounters either enhance or diminish their status.

Research shows that when people realize that they might compare unfavorably to someone else, the threat response kicks in, releasing cortisol and other stress-related hormones.

The mere phrase “Can I give you some advice?” puts people on the defensive because they perceive the person offering advice as claiming superiority.

A Craving for Certainty

When an individual encounters a familiar situation, his or her brain conserves its own energy by shifting into a kind of automatic pilot: it relies on long-established neural connections in the basal ganglia and motor cortex that have, in effect, hardwired this situation and the individual’s response to it.

This makes it easy to do what the person has done in the past, and it frees that person to do two things at once; for example, to talk while driving.

But the minute the brain registers ambiguity or confusion — if, for example, the car ahead of the driver slams on its brakes — the brain flashes an error signal. With the threat response aroused and working memory diminished, the driver must stop talking and shift full attention to the road.

Of course, uncertainty is not necessarily debilitating. Mild uncertainty attracts interest and attention: New and challenging situations create a mild threat response, increasing levels of adrenalin and dopamine just enough to spark curiosity and energize people to solve problems.

The Autonomy Factor

Studies show that the degree of control available to an animal confronted by stressful situations determines whether or not that stressor undermines the ability to function.

A perception of reduced autonomy — for example, because of being micromanaged — can easily generate a threat response.

When an employee experiences a lack of control, or agency, his or her perception of uncertainty is also aroused, further raising stress levels.

By contrast, the perception of greater autonomy increases the feeling of certainty and reduces stress.

Relating to Relatedness

Fruitful and healthy relationships require trust and empathy.

But in the brain, the ability to feel trust and empathy about others is shaped by whether they are perceived to be part of ateam.

Conversely, the human threat response is aroused when people feel cut off from social interaction.

Loneliness and isolation are profoundly stressful.

Playing for Fairness

The perception that an event has been unfair generates a strong response in the limbic system, stirring hostility and undermining trust.

As with status, people perceive fairness in relative terms, feeling more satisfied with a fair exchange that offers a minimal reward than an unfair exchange in which the reward is substantial.

The cognitive need for fairness is so strong that some people are willing to fight and die for causes they believe are just — or commit themselves wholeheartedly to an organization they recognize as fair.

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Remember SCARF: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness.

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Full article:

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Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without.

June 17, 2009

From the summer reading pile.  I do it so you don’t have to …

Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without, Tom Roth, Gallup Press, 2006

Ken’s Take: Below is all you need to know from the book. The “8 roles of vital friends” were pretty interesting. Which role(s) do you play?  Which do each of your vital friends play?

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Each person needs a few very deep friendships to thrive — the magic number seems to be three or four.

What matters most is not the number of friends, but the quality of the friendships.

A vital friend is someone who measurably improve your life. Ask yourself: “if this person were no longer around, would my overall satisfaction with life decrease?”

We expect the other person in a relationship to meet our every need. We expect them to do several things to uphold his or her end of the relationship. We expect them to be able to do it all. Then, we’re disappointed when we discover that they do only a few things very well.

The trick is to focus on those things that our friend does well — the strengths that complement our weaknesses. Focus on the ways that your friends contribute to your life, not on the ways that they disappoint you.

There are eight vital roles that close friends might play. Some may play only one; few play several: none play them all. Ask yourself: what role does this friend play?  what role do you play for him / her?

1.  Builder
2.  Champion
3.  Collaborator
4.  Companion
5.  Connector
6.  Energizer
7.  Mind Opener
8.  Navigator

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1. Builder

builders are great motivators,always pushing you towards the finish line. They continually invest in your development and genuinely want you to succeed — even if it means they have to go out on a limb for you. Builders are generous with their time as they help you see your strengths and use them productively. When you want to think about how you can do more of what you already do well, talk to a Builder. Much like the best coaches and managers, these are the friends who lead you to achieve more each day. And great Builders will not compete with you. They figure out how their talents can complement yours. If you need a catalyst for your personal or professional growth, stay close to a Builder.


2. Champion

Champions stand up for you and what you believe in. They are the friends who sing your praises. Every day, this makes a difference in your life. Not only do they praise you in your presence, the Champion also “has your back” — and will stand up for you when you’re not around. They accept you for the person you are, even in the face of resistance. Champions are loyal friends to whom you can share things in confidence. They have a low tolerance for dishonesty. You can count on them to accept what you say, without judging, even when others do not.  Champions are your best advocates. When you succeed, they are proud of you, and they share it with others. Champions thrive on your accomplishments and happiness. When he needs someone to promote your cause, look to Champion.


3. Collaborator

A Collaborator is a friend with similar interests — the basis for many great friendships. You might share a passion for sports, hobbies, religion, work, politics, food, Visa, movies, or books. In many cases, you belong to the same groups or share affiliations. When you talk with a Collaborator, you are on familiar ground, and this can serve as the foundation for lasting relationship. Indeed, in those conversations, you often find that you have similar ambitions in life. Looking for someone who can relate to your passions? Find a Collaborator.


4. Companion

A Companion is always there for you, whatever the circumstances. When something big happens in your life — good or bad — this is one of the first people you call. At times, a true companion will even sense where you are headed — your thoughts, feelings, and actions — before you know it yourself. Companions take pride in your relationship and they will sacrifice for your benefit. They are the friends for whom you might literally put your life on the line. If you’re searching for friendship that can last a lifetime, look no further than a Companion.


5. Connector

A Connector is a bridge builder will to get what you want. Connectors get to know you — and then introduce you to others. These are the people you socialize with regularly. Friends who play the role of a Connector are always inviting you to lunch, dinner, drinks, and other gatherings where you can meet new people. This extends your network dramatically and gives you access to newfound resources. When you need something — a job, doctor.. friend, or a date — a Connector points you in the right direction. They seem to know everyone. If you need to get out more or simply want to widen your circle of friends or business associates, a Connector can help.


6. Energizer

Energizers are your fun friends who will always give you a boost. You have more positive moments when you are with these friends. Energizers are quick to pick you up when you are down — and can make a good day great. They are always saying and doing things that make you feel better. Energizers have a remarkable ability to figure out what gets you going. When you’re around these friends, you smile a lot more. You’re more likely to laugh in the presence of an Energizer. If you want to relax and have a good time or need to get out of a rut, call an Energizer.


7. Mind Opener

Mind Openers are the friends who expand your horizons and encourage you to embrace new ideas, opportunities, cultures, and people. They challenge you to think in innovative ways and help you create positive change. Mind Openers know how to ask good questions, and this makes you more receptive to ideas. When you are around a Mind Opener you are unguarded and express opinions aloud, especially controversial ones that you might not be comfortable sharing with other friends. These friends broaden your perspective on life and make you a better person. If you need to challenge the conventional wisdom or shake up the status quote, spend a few hours talking with a Mind Opener.


8. Navigator

Navigators are the friends who give you advice and keep you headed in the right direction. You go to them when you need guidance, and they talk through the pros and cons with you until you find an answer. In a difficult situation, you need a Navigator by your side. They help you see a positive future and keep things grounded in reality. Any time you are at a crossroads and need help making a decision, you can look to a Navigator. They help you know who you are — and who you are not. They are the ideal friends to share your goals and dreams with, and when you do, you’ll continue to learn and grow. When you ask Navigators for direction they help you reach your destination.

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Miscellaneous Tidbits

During her teenage years, we spend nearly 1/3 of our time with friends. For the rest of our lives the average time spent with friends is less than 10%.

If your best friend has a very healthy diet, where five times as likely to have a very healthy diet yourself.

Marital satisfaction is 5 times more dependent on the quality of a couple’s friendship than on physical intimacy.

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