Workplace Psychology features scholarly and engaging contents about leadership development, change management, organizational change and development, talent management, learning & development, and industrial and organizational psychology. I help make people & organizations more effective.
Business coaching is enhancing a client’s (person in a business) awareness and behavior in order to achieve business objectives for both client and organization (WABC, Business Coaching Definition). In my quest for a capable business coaching model (business coaching includes leadership coaching and executive coaching), I have spent several years looking at many coaching models. Some models are overly complex while others are very basic.
Sir John Whitmore wrote (2009): “Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them” (p. 10).
“[T]here are no quick fixes in business, and good coaching is a skill, an art perhaps, that requires a depth of understanding and plenty of practice if it is to deliver its astonishing potential” (Whitmore, 2009, p. 2).
I began looking at coaching models during my industrial and organizational psychology doctoral program and came across many books on coaching. After years of searching and seeing what made sense, I eventually returned (very much to my surprise) to the original, wildly popular and widely used, G.R.O.W. coaching model.
John Whitmore, Graham Alexander, and Alan Fine all worked together and, in the mid- to late-1980, they co-developed the G.R.O.W. Model (Fine, 2018). Shortly after, the three went their separate ways, each one using his own approach to/version of the G.R.O.W. Model.
For all major iterations of the G.R.O.W. Model, the first three letters are the same: “G” is the “Goal” the individual seeks to achieve; “R” is the “Realities” a person should consider in the context of the decision process; and “O” is the “Options” open to the decision maker (Fine, 2018). It is only the last letter, “W”, that has been interpreted differently. John Whitmore defined it as “Will” (Whitmore, 2009), Graham Alexander defined it as “Wrap-up” (Alexander & Renshaw, 2005), although he also used “Wrap-up/way forward” (Alexander, 2006), and Alan Fine defined it as “Way Forward” (Fine, 2010).
G.R.O.W. (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward) is a simple 4-step process. The coach helps the coachee (person being coached) articulate a concise goal (Goal). Next, the coachee describes his current situation (Reality). This is followed by brainstorming options (Options) and next steps. Finally, the coachee identifies and selects one or more options to use in an action plan (Way Forward).
Throughout my years-long coaching model vetting process, two questions I asked were: (1) Will this model be easy enough for me to use when coaching clients? (2) Will I be able to use this model to teach leaders so they can use it to coach their employees?
For me, the desire to address both question #1 (Is this model easy enough to use when coaching clients?) and question #2 (Can I use this model to teach leaders, so they can use it to coach their employees?) were paramount in my decision. Many coaching models sufficiently answer question #1. That is, most of the models are easy enough to use to coach others, whether the model uses a 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, or 7-step process. However, where many coaching models disappoint is in trying to answer question #2. When I pose the question — Can I use this model to teach leaders a simple process so they can use it to coach their employees? — many models could not deliver.
I also considered a third question: Does the coaching model follow a traditional coaching process that takes 6 – 12 sessions to complete or a rapid process that can be done in one or two coaching sessions? Indeed, it is the answer to this third question that made me completely rethink “coaching.” In order to adapt to the demands of an increasingly busy workplace and workforce, I needed a coaching model and process that could be delivered on-the-spot — in one or two conversations or meetings.
John Whitmore’s G.R.O.W. (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) contains 8 to 13 questions for each of the step in the model (Whitmore, 2012). But I prefer Alan Fine’s G.R.O.W. Model [covered in his book, You Already Know How to Be Great (2010)], which has 3 to 6 questions for each step. I also like the questions assigned to each of the G.R.O.W. steps in the Fine version.
I used Alan Fine’s G.R.O.W. Model to coach a new leader in two sessions (1 hour the first session, 1.5 hours the second session), plus one debriefing session (30 minutes). The coaching experience with this leader confirmed several things. First, Fine’s G.R.O.W. model is very easy to use. Second, Fine’s G.R.O.W. model can be used to teach a leader, so s/he can turn around and use it to coach his/her employees. Third, the entire process is surprisingly brief, lasting just 2.5 sessions.
Within that time frame, I was able to work with the leader to: clarify his goal for the session (Goal); describe his current situation (Reality); explore potential actions and next steps (Options); and identify a specific action as his next step (Way Forward) — demonstrating that, as a business coaching model and process, the GROW Model is very simple to use and understand (for both coach & coachee), effective yet brief, practical, and able to be delivered on demand and even as a self-coaching process (coaching yourself).
Clients answer a group of questions for each of the steps of the G.R.O.W. Model. Step #1 is Goal, Step #2 is Reality, Step #3 is Options, and Step #4 is Way Forward. The coach and coachee go through the steps and the questions that fall under each step in order, starting with Step #1. It’s important to not introduce clients to all the GROW questions at once because it can cause them to answer the questions in a cursory manner, rushing through their responses instead of really thinking about the question and allowing themselves time to process each question and formulate a response.
Although it’s recommended that you follow each of the GROW steps sequentially, starting with Step 1: Goal and ending with Step 4: Way Forward, in practice, there may be times where you have to adjust. John Whitmore explained this in his book, Coaching for Performance (2009): “[O]ne may only be able to define a vague goal until one has examined the reality in some detail. It will then be necessary to go back and define the goal much more precisely before moving forward again. Even a sharply defined initial goal may be recognized to be wrong or inappropriate once the reality is clear” (pp. 56-57).
For example, for my client, the overall goal for the session (Step #1 Goal) finally solidified in the middle of Step #2 (Reality). For this client, the topic did not become clear until after he’s had a chance to talk about what was currently happening at work and what he had tried so far. So, even though he responded to a question in Step 2, it actually made more sense to place his response in Step 1, to a question about the topic/goal of the discussion. Remember, it’s okay to be flexible and make adjustments to help clients make sense of the GROW framework. To verify, I asked my client if there was anything that did not make sense or that did not match up with what he wanted to say.
A unique question in Fine’s G.R.O.W. Model that stands out and one that I like is a question in Step #3 Options phase (“Would you like suggestions from me?”). A word of caution: If this question is not handled properly, the coach can very easily end up doling out advice and completely derail the purpose of coaching. What I like about this question is that it allows the coach an opportunity to share some suggestions and then check in to see if any of the suggestions seems interesting enough to explore further. This can be invaluable, especially when clients are at their wits’ end and no amount of open-ended questions will help to stimulate their creative ideas. In my coaching session, because of my rapport with this new leader and thanks to a previously administered personality assessment, I knew that my real contribution to him would be to offer some practical suggestions. The client told me that my suggestions were “all spot on” and that he agreed with them.
In our debriefing session, this leader stated that he likes that the GROW process is compact, simple, and straightforward and that these characteristics of GROW will help when he introduces his team to it. He especially appreciated my explanation of the GROW Model as a decision framework and said, “decision framework feels very liberating,” unlike the term “goal setting” which is becoming stale.
Takeaway: Overall, the G.R.O.W. Model (in particular, Alan Fine’s version) is a very capable business coaching model. From my own vetting process, it meets all three of the criteria on my list: (1) The G.R.O.W. Model is very easy to use to coach others; (2) The G.R.O.W. Model is remarkably simple and can be effectively used to teach a leader so s/he can use it to coach his/her own employees; and (3) The G.R.O.W. Model is powerful, yet concise enough that it can be completed in one or two coaching sessions.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Alexander, G. (2006). Behavioural coaching — the GROW model. In J. Passmore (Ed.), Excellence in coaching: The industry guide (2nd ed., pp. 83-93). London: Kogan Page.
Alexander, G., & Renshaw, B. (2005). SuperCoaching: The Missing Ingredient for High Performance. London, UK: Random House.
Fine, A. (2010). You Already Know How to Be Great: A Simple Way to Remove Interference and Unlock Your Greatest Potential. New York: Penguin Group.
Servant Leadership in Action is a collection of 42 essays (ranging from 2.5 pages to 8 pages) from servant leadership experts and practitioners, co-edited by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell. The book is organized into six parts. Part One, “Fundamentals of Servant Leadership,” describes basic aspects of servant leadership. Part Two, “Elements of Servant Leadership,” highlights some of the different points of view of servant leaders. Part Three, “Lessons in Servant Leadership,” focuses on what people have learned on a personal level from observing servant leadership in action. Part Four, “Exemplars of Servant Leadership,” features people who have been identified as classic servant leaders. Part Five, “Putting Servant Leadership to Work,” offers firsthand accounts of people who have made servant leadership come alive in their organizations. Part Six, “Servant Leadership Turnarounds,” illustrates how servant leadership can dramatically impact both results and human satisfaction in organizations.
I wasn’t sure if this would be the kind of book I would enjoy or find value in because it’s a collection of essays. But the topic of servant leadership has been top of mind for me for the past few years, so I thought I’d give this book a chance and hopefully glean some useful information about servant leadership and its application to the workplace.
Even though Robert Greenleaf (1904–1990) is credited with launching the modern servant leadership movement in 1970, the idea behind servant leadership is very old. Valeri (2007), in his doctoral dissertation, wrote that the origins of servant leadership can be traced back at least 2500 years ago, starting in ancient Greece and Rome. Robert Greenleaf was the person who coined the term “servant leadership” and articulated it for modern time (Greenleaf.org, 2016; Keith, 2018; Spears, 1998).
Greenleaf’s thinking was inspired by and made clear in the 1960s thanks to a short novel called Journey to the East by Herman Hesse. It’s a story about Leo, a servant who accompanied a group of people on a spiritual quest. Everything was fine until Leo disappears, which then led to the group falling apart and the journey abandoned. The people in the group learned that they couldn’t make it without the servant. After years of searching, the story’s narrator finally locates Leo and finds out that Leo, whom everyone had thought to be a servant, was, in fact, the head of the religious order that sponsored the original journey (Spears, 1998).
“After reading this story, Greenleaf concluded that the central meaning of it was that the great leader is first experienced as a servant to others, and that this simple fact is central to his or her greatness. True leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others” (Spears, 1998, p. 4).
I thought a background explanation about servant leadership from Blanchard in the first essay (“What Is Servant Leadership?”) is important:
“When people hear the phrase servant leadership, they are often confused . . . The problem is that these folks don’t understand leadership—much less servant leadership. They think you can’t lead and serve at the same time. Yet you can, if you understand that there are two parts to servant leadership: a visionary/direction, or strategic, role—the leadership aspect of servant leadership; and an implementation, or operational, role—the servant aspect of servant leadership.” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 7).
“Once people are clear on where they are going, the leader’s role shifts to a service mindset for the task of implementation—the second aspect of servant leadership. The question now is: How do we live according to the vision and accomplish the established goals? Implementation is where the servant aspect of servant leadership comes into play” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 9-10).
I am not a huge fan of edited books because the ones I’ve come across do not gel well together. Edited books can be messy and difficult to read when different authors and writing styles are thrown together with no editorial oversight to ensure consistency in tone and/or message. I was pleased to see that this didn’t happen with Servant Leadership in Action. The editing was well done and reading the chapters, written by different authors, felt seamless, almost as if written by the same person. This is no easy feat to achieve and I commend Blanchard and Broadwell for the great job co-editing this book.
The essays by Colleen Barrett (president emeritus, Southwest Airlines), Cheryl Bachelder (former CEO, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen), Dave Ramsey (a money management expert & author), Phyllis Hennecy Hendry (CEO, Lead Like Jesus), and Jon Gordon (author) were all enjoyable and instructive. I also liked and found great value in Rico Maranto’s essay (“Waste Connections: A Servant Leadership Success Story”) about how top leaders can make servant leadership come alive.
In her essay, “Treat Your People as Family,” Colleen Barrett wrote about the incredible impact that servant leadership had on the 40+ years of success at Southwest Airlines. Admittedly, she shared that they didn’t know until much later on that it was called that. “But while our recognition of the term Servant Leadership might have come late, for over four decades Herb and I have said that our purpose in life as Senior Leaders with Southwest Airlines is to support our People. To us, that means treating People as family” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 183).
Colleen recalled a fabulous story that one of Southwest’s new leaders told her about his best example of a servant’s heart, which he saw Herb Kelleher (founder of Southwest Airlines) model.
“He watched Herb talk to a Mechanic in worker’s clothes for at least fifteen minutes—even though there were literally hundreds of People circling Herb for his attention. Herb never looked over the guy’s shoulder to see who else might be there, and never diverted his eyes from this man while they were talking. Herb was courteous to everyone who was trying to shove the guy out of his space so that they could fill it, but he gave this man his time. It was clear to this new Leader that Herb had no hierarchical concerns—he was completely interested in what the Mechanic was trying to tell him. That had a profound impact on this Leader, and he remembers it to this day. He has been with us more than twenty years now” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 187).
In Cheryl Bachelder’s “Serve the People” essay, she shared about the transformation at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, from a struggling brand and company to a prosperous enterprise. I really like what Cheryl wrote:
“When this story began, we didn’t know it would be servant leadership that drove success. We didn’t have a plaque in the office that stated our purpose and principles. What we did have was a team of leaders who were willing to focus their passion and ambition on the success of the people and the enterprise before their own interests” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 230).
From 2007 to 2016, under Bachelder’s leadership, Popeyes flourished, “with restaurant sales, profits, and unit growth rates that were the envy of its competitors” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 230).
In his essay (“Leading is Serving”), Dave Ramsey shared the lesson he taught his teenage son about the heavy responsibility of being a servant leader. Ramsey explained to his son (as they were walking toward Dave Ramsey’s company’s picnic) that as president and CEO of the company, he bears the responsibility to not just the employees of his company (the adults) but also to those employees’ children (the 97 kids seen running around the picnic): “Those kids’ parents make a living, have a future, and those kids have a future partly because of how I act. If I misbehave in my personal life, if I fail in areas of integrity, if I screw up, it will mess up a ton of lives. As a servant leader, I understand that I am at least partially responsible for those little kids” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 197).
Ramsey took it a step further. He told his son that, even as a teenager, the son also bore the responsibility of being a servant leader, that “if he went out and acted crazy, he could impact those kids’ lives” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 197) too. For instance, if the son were to get drunk, drive, and kill someone, the family would get sued and some of the employees working for his dad’s company might have to be let go. “As my son, he gets to enjoy the benefits of our success, but he also shares in the responsibility of servant leadership. He needed to know, even as a teenager, that the decisions he makes and the actions he takes have an impact” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 197).
Some of the essays really touched me. One such essay was by Phyllis Hennecy Hendry (“A Lesson From My Father”) about how her father, a pastor, taught her, when she was eight years old, “the simple act of caring for someone and how serving people changes everything—literally” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 117). She recounted the many Saturday morning visits to the home of “a crotchety old man” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 116) whose “wrinkles met in odd places around his face” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 116) and how you can serve and meet people where they’re at. The simple and consistent act of visiting this grumpy old man every Saturday morning eventually led him to change his crabby ways — smiling a lot more and hugging them, and eventually introducing both Phyllis and her father to others as his “good friends.” The essay was about how this old man came to accept Jesus, but the way Hendry told the story, through the eyes and experience of herself as an 8-year-old girl, made it very powerful and its servant leadership lesson applicable in many areas.
Jon Gordon shared an emotional story in his essay (“Little Things and Big Things”) about his late mom making a sandwich for him even though she was tired and, unbeknownst to him, was battling cancer:
“Looking back, I realize she wasn’t just making me a sandwich. She was showing me what selfless love and servant leadership were all about. At her funeral, many of her real estate clients and colleagues came up to me and shared countless stories of all the selfless acts of love my mom did for them as well . . . We often think that great leadership is about big visions, big goals, big actions, and big success. But I learned from my mom that real leadership is about serving others by doing the little things with a big dose of selfless love” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 134).
Finally, in his essay (“Waste Connections: A Servant Leadership Success Story”), Rico Maranto (Servant Leadership Evangelist at Waste Connections) wrote about how senior leaders at Waste Connections made servant leadership come alive by: (1) introducing a vision, purpose, and values, (2) conducting servant leadership training, (3) distributing a servant leader newsletter, (4) distributing a servant leader survey, (5) creating a Servant Leader Playbook, (6) creating servant leadership awards, (7) getting self-serving leaders off the bus, and (8) hiring for character.
Rico shared a great story and perfect example of what it is to live a servant leadership mentality and culture:
“One of the company’s division vice presidents (DVPs) had been recognized two consecutive years at the annual managers’ meeting and seemed to build good relationships with his employees. He achieved impressive results and spoke like a servant leader when talking with senior leadership. Everyone thought he was a good servant leader—everyone but his employees. In their servant leader surveys, they described a very different manager—one who was egotistical and hypocritical” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 236).
When that division vice president’s true character came to light, Rico recounted that Ron Mittelstaedt, CEO and Founder of Waste Connections, said this:
“Servant leadership isn’t about worrying up; it’s about worrying down. It’s not about what your boss thinks of you; it’s about what your people think of their boss. If we have a cancer in our culture, we have to cut it out” (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018, p. 236).
What I Did Not Like: In a few of the essays, I was unconvinced that the authors effectively or at least cogently tied their thoughts and previous work to servant leadership in their essays. When authors toss their writings in without fully thinking through and making a strong case for how their work connects or is related to servant leadership, then their essays came across as disorganized ramblings.
Takeaway: I found Servant Leadership in Action to be an enjoyable collection of essays that kept me interested in the subject of servant leadership regardless of where I was in the book. Blanchard and Broadwell did a nice job setting up the book’s structure and dividing the essays into six parts/sections, starting with describing the basic aspects of servant leadership and ending with showing the readers how servant leadership can dramatically impact both results and human satisfaction in organizations. The essays are interesting and varied enough that you can skip around, reading what interests you, and still learn about servant leadership. If you like reading about servant leadership and do not mind a sprinkle of religious stories, then I think you will really enjoy this book.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Blanchard, K., & Broadwell, R. (2018). Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
When you work in close proximity to other people in an organization, it’s inevitable that friendships begin to develop. Morrison and Terry (2007) wrote that “people are motivated to make friends for the rewards they provide, be they social or more tangible and functional. Thus within the workplace too, it is reasonable to assume that some people make friends so as to enhance their own working conditions” (p. 39).
Workplace friendship involves a workplace/organizational peer that we believe we’d be friends with even if we didn’t work together, that we consider the person more than just a coworker, and that we feel that we know each other really well (Morrison & Terry, 2007).
Reich & Hershcovis (2011) wrote that workplace friendships are voluntary relationships where people interact as unique individuals rather than as occupants of organizational roles (coworker or supervisor). We form and maintain workplace friendships to enhance our social support and our job success. But most of all, we make friends at work to help us satisfy our need to belong (Reich & Hershcovis, 2011).
Workplace friendships are linked to increased job satisfaction, job involvement, job performance, team cohesion, organizational commitment, and decreased intentions to turnover (Reich & Hershcovis, 2011).
Interestingly, Morrison (2009) discovered that while women are more likely to see workplace friendships in terms of the social and emotional support in times of stress, men tend to view workplace friendships in terms of the benefits to their own career or in helping them complete a task or the job duties.
Workplace Friendships: The Challenges
Although the benefits of workplace friendships are many, there are also difficulties or challenges, including blurring of boundaries, having to devote time to the friendship, and distraction from work — all of which can cause distraction and anxiety, ultimately resulting in reduced work outputs (Morrison & Terry, 2007).
Workplace friendships fail for five main reasons (Sias, Heath, Perry, Silva, & Fix, 2004):
distracting life events
Personality and life events can end a workplace friendship when they distract employees from their work. Betrayal can certainly destroy a workplace friendship. It makes sense that after a betrayal, it can be very difficult to regain trust. In the case of promotion, it becomes much harder to maintain an equal relationship balance because now one person (the promoted individual) has formal authority over the other.
Workplace Friendships: Tricky but Worth It
Seppala and King (2017) explained there’s always the potential of workplace friendship fallout and there are “real entanglements that can arise when the boundaries between work and friendship become blurred.” However, given that belonging is a fundamental human need and that we spend a large part of our time at work, the workplace “is an ideal place to foster the positive connections we all need — not just for our well-being but also for our productivity and health.”
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Morrison, R. L. (2009). Are Women Tending and Befriending in the Workplace? Gender Differences in the Relationship Between Workplace Friendships and Organizational Outcomes. Sex roles, 60(1),
Morrison, R. L., & Terry, N. (2007). Too Much of a Good Thing?: Difficulties with Workplace Friendships. University of Auckland Business Review, 9(2), 33-41.
Reich, T. C., & Hershcovis, M. S. (2011). Interpersonal relationships at work. In S. Zedeck (Ed.), APA handbook of industrial and organizational psychology (Vol. 3, pp. 223-248). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Awaken, Align, Accelerate (2011) is a leadership development and coaching guide from MDA Leadership Consulting. The book harnesses “the art and science of developing leaders into a unique collection of self-assessments, development suggestions, case studies, sample leadership development plans, coaching recommendations, and cross-cultural coaching tips” (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011, p. 1).
MDA Leadership’s Awaken, Align, Accelerate is a big book. But once you flip through its brawny pages and are able to easily spot valuable information on each page (thanks to the great use of colors, bullets, and charts), I think you’ll agree that the book’s hefty size is an advantage. I actually appreciate its large size.
The overall layout (i.e., visuals, colors, graphics, tables, and charts), especially the use of colors to call out specific sections/areas on each page, is praiseworthy as it really helps to visually direct your eyes to important or interesting areas. For example, the tabs are nicely colored in blue so you can easily tell which competency you’re on and, on the back page (of each blue tab/competency), you’ll notice a gray tab which is the leadership factor that encompasses the competency.
“This guide focuses attention on what it takes to develop senior leaders, those who have responsibility for multiple teams inside a function (e.g., sales, marketing, finance) or an entire business within an organization. Additionally, we’ve designed this guide to be used by managers aspiring upward or even more senior executives facing similar challenges.” -Introduction of Awaken, Align, Accelerate
According to MDA Leadership, the book is the collaborative effort of 21 authors, most with over 25 years of leadership development experience, and was reviewed by over 60 colleagues who provided valuable insight. It includes almost 2,000 development and coaching suggestions, real-life case studies, and pragmatic development tools.
The Awaken, Align, Accelerate book is divided into six sections to match the six leadership factors of MDA’s Leadership Competency Model (Leading People, Thinking and Deciding, Achieving, Relating to People, Managing Work, and Managing Self). Each section (or factor) is further divided into a set of competencies that correspond to that particular factor. The core of the Awaken, Align, Accelerate book is divided into 16 chapters, one chapter for each of the 16 competencies in MDA’s Leadership Competency Model. Each chapter includes a self-assessment, development suggestions, and coaching suggestions.
LEADING PEOPLE (leadership factor #1)
1. Leading Courageously (competency)
2. Creating Alignment (competency)
3. Team Leadership (competency)
4. Developing Leaders (competency)
THINKING AND DECIDING (leadership factor #2)
5. Strategic Thinking (competency)
6. Business Acumen (competency)
7. Critical Thinking and Judgment (competency)
ACHIEVING (leadership factor #3)
8. Drive for Results (competency)
9. Innovation and Risk-Taking (competency)
RELATING TO PEOPLE (leadership factor #4)
10. Interpersonal Effectiveness (competency)
11. Building Collaboration (competency)
MANAGING WORK (leadership factor #5)
12. Planning and Organizing (competency)
13. Managing Execution (competency)
For each of the 16 competencies, there’s a nice description of each competency, a graphic indicating which of the 6 leadership factors covers that specific competency, and the 5 core practices that are contained within that particular competency.
Here’s how the Leading Courageously competency looks:
Leading Courageously [definition]: Successful organizations need courageous leaders at every level who display confidence and skill in the use of leadership, power, and authority. They assume responsibility for tackling tough assignments and pursue difficult challenges. Courageous leaders are assertive and appropriately tough-minded without being insensitive. They take initiative, act with independence, and demonstrate strength of conviction in pursuing their leadership agendas. They shape the thinking of others and actively influence upwards and across the organization.
FACTOR: Leading People COMPETENCY: Leading Courageously CORE PRACTICE: Authority, Courage, Assertiveness, Independence, Influence
In my opinion, what makes Awaken, Align, Accelerate stand head and shoulders above the rest are the following features:
* Leadership Levels Matrix – it illustrates how leaders (front-line managers, function leaders, and senior executives) at different levels vary by core practice.
* Self-Assessment – evaluates individual development needs, strengths or excessively used core practice behaviors.
* Development Suggestions – development tips for each core practice and sub-grouped by Awaken potential, Align goals, and Accelerate development framework. After completing the self-assessment, leaders are encouraged to focus on suggestions that correspond to the core practice s/he identified as a development need or excessive use.
* Coaching Suggestions – coaching tips for two different behaviors under each core practice grouped by Awaken, Align, Accelerate framework.
* Case Study / Development Plan / Coaching Plan – a real-life case study leading to a sample development plan and coaching plan.
Leadership Levels Matrix for the Business Acumen competency.
The first thing I like in Awaken, Align, Accelerate is the use of a Leadership Levels Matrix (shown above) “a chart that shows how key leadership skills play out at the manager, function leader, and senior executive levels of the pipeline” (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011, p. 7). This chart/matrix illustrates how leaders at different levels (managers, function leaders, senior executives) vary by core practice. Let’s take a closer look.
For the Business Acumen competency and the Operating Models core practice, we can see “How Leaders at Different Levels Use Business Acumen” (see figure above). For front-line managers, it’s about recognizing how their areas of responsibility contribute to the bottom line. For function leaders, it’s about knowing the organization’s business model and how it operates. And for the senior executives, it’s about enhancing and evolving business models that fuel profitable growth.
As MDA Leadership explains: “Success looks different at different leadership levels [and] successful transitions to a new level [of leadership] involves developing the right skills and behaviors. . . . To successfully navigate from one level to the next, leaders need to understand the behavior differences and develop strategies for closing the gap” (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011, p. 6).
Development Suggestions (Part 1) for the Empowerment core practice of the Team Leadership competency
Development Suggestions (Part 2) for the Empowerment core practice of the Team Leadership competency
Similar to Korn/Ferry’s FYI book, MDA Leadership’s Awaken, Align, Accelerate book features “Development Suggestions” (shown above) which are development tips. Development Suggestions are provided for each core practice and sub-grouped by Awaken potential, Align goals, and Accelerate development framework. After completing the self-assessment, leaders are encouraged to focus on suggestions that correspond to the core practice s/he identified as a development need or excessive use. In the example shown above, we see Development Suggestions for the Empowerment core practice of the Team Leadership competency.
Coaching Suggestions for the Utilization core practice in the Team Leadership competency
Another thing I like is the Coaching Others section for each competency. Here, the Awaken, Align, Accelerate book really shines as it demonstrates how to coach others. Indeed, the Introduction page of the book states: “Developing yourself and coaching others are the central themes of this guide” (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011, p. 1). In the example shown above, we see Coaching Suggestions for the Utilization core practice of the Team Leadership competency.
Finally, MDA Leadership uses an IMPACT Coaching Steps process (shown above) that is mapped to their Awaken, Align, Accelerate framework. Using a pneumonic in the word IMPACT (Increase INSIGHT, MOTIVATE change, PLAN goals, ALIGN expectations, CREATE teachable moments, TRACK progress), MDA Leadership paired two coaching steps for each phase of their Awaken, Align, Accelerate framework.
Mapping the IMPACT Coaching Steps onto each phase of the Awaken, Align, Accelerate framework is a brilliant move as it ties the coaching process with MDA Leadership’s three-phase (Awaken, Align, Accelerate) model. It shows that there’s been a great deal of thought behind both the overall framework/model as well as the tactical tools and tips shared throughout the book.
MDA Leadership’s approach to leadership development is built on the interaction of three concepts (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011):
1. Talent Pipeline – an overarching context to understanding the leadership requirement at different levels within an organization. A talent pipeline illustrates the skills, knowledge, and values needed in leadership across levels of any organizations. To successfully navigate from one level to the next, leaders need to understand the behavior differences and develop strategies for closing the gap (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011).
2. Leadership Competency Model – a model for defining the knowledge, skills, and behaviors required across different levels of leadership. Although many organizations have defined cascading leadership models, few have integrated their models with the pipeline context in as much detail as MDA Leadership presented in the Awaken, Align, Accelerate book (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011).
There are four types of people who destroy and neutralize a conversation dead in its track. These types can be distinct but often I find that they tend to blend together. For instance, a person who interrupts or monopolizes a conversation may also minimize or discount what the other person is saying. Or someone who enjoys arguing may also not be listening to much of the conversation since this person focuses on only one point or phrase to argue about while ignoring everything else.
1) Interrupting and/or Monopolizing
“A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening, and somewhere along the way, we lost that balance.” -Celeste Headlee, 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation [TED Talk]
Another way to describe an individual who monopolizes a conversation is what’s called conversational narcissism. Conversational narcissism is a pattern of talking in which people find polite ways to shift the focus of the conversation to themselves.
Example of conversational narcissism:
A supervisor tells you she was very ill from meningitis and almost died in the hospital. You respond with: “Oh I had meningitis when I was younger and I thought I was going to die.” You shifted the attention of the conversation about the supervisor almost dying from meningitis to yourself and your story (i.e., I had meningitis too).
“If they’re talking about the trouble they’re having at work, don’t tell them about how much you hate your job. It’s not the same. It is never the same. All experiences are individual. And, more importantly, it is not about you. You don’t need to take that moment to prove how amazing you are or how much you’ve suffered. . . . Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.” -Celeste Headlee, 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation [TED Talk]
2) Minimizing and/or Discounting
Back when I worked as a therapist, I learned about not minimizing or discounting the feelings and thoughts of my clients. Minimizing or discounting another person sounds something like this, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s nothing. You’ll get over it.”
In the workplace, I sometimes hear one person minimizing, discounting, or dismissing what another person is saying. The person doing the minimizing, discounting, or dismissing might be the boss, a co-worker, or even a subordinate. And, when I’m not careful, I am as just as guilty as anyone else of falling into one of these conversation-killer traps.
Example of Minimizing and/or Discounting:
A woman shared that she had just been laid off. A friend, uncomfortable with seeing her friend in distress and wanting to help her feel better, replied: “You know it could have been so much worse. At least the company gave you a 4-week severance package. Many people don’t even get that. You get paid for a whole month while looking for a job. So cheer up! It’ll be fine.”
Regardless of the level or position in an organization, the outcome is that the person on the receiving end of the invalidation is left feeling unheard and frustrated.
Validation is a critical tool used often in counseling sessions. While this quote about validation was written to help guide therapists, I’ve included it here because I believe it’s instructive for everyone to understand just how important validation is: “Validation . . . simply means communicating to the [person] that his or her responses make sense, are understood, or are in a sense reasonable” (Robins & Rosenthal, 2011, p. 171).
3) Opposing and/or Arguing
This person will disagree and argue with you, usually just for the sake of arguing. He will reject or oppose anything that someone else is saying or suggesting, and no amount of evidence or data will convince him to change his mind. This type of individual will only give up reluctantly and often do so by blaming the unreliable source of where he got his information.
Adam McHugh (in his list of the 12 usual suspects of bad listening, “How to Be a Bad Listener”) describes one type of bad listener who is keen on disagreeing. These individuals listen for a word, phrase, or topic that they want to argue about. And even if they do agree with most of what someone else is saying, they will nitpick over that word, phrase, or topic that they do not agree with.
4) Not Paying Attention
One of the most egregious mistakes in a conversation is not paying attention. For instance, when you talk to someone and he’s looking around or at something else, it’s quite obvious that this person is much more interested in anything else but listening to you. It’s ironic because often I don’t think the person making this mistake (i.e., not paying attention) realizes he’s doing it (i.e., clueless to the fact that he’s not paying attention). But here’s the reality: Human beings, even children, can tell when you are not paying attention to them while they are talking.
Not paying attention includes something experts call “pseudolistening” or pretending to listen. Pseudolistening is when we pretend to listen but we’re thinking about something else. We pseudolisten when we’re not interested in what is being said or when we’re familiar with the information and so don’t need to give our undivided attention (Wood, 2016).
When you pseudolisten, you risk missing important information because you weren’t actually paying attention.
“Pseudolisteners often give themselves away when their responses reveal that they weren’t paying attention. Common indicators of pseudolistening are responses that are tangential or irrelevant to what was said” (Wood, 2016, p. 173).
Why We Need To Listen
“To be listened to is a striking experience, partly because it is so rare. When another person is totally with you—leaning in, interested in every word, eager to empathize—you feel known and understood. People open up when they know they’re really being listened to; they expand; they have more presence. They feel safer and more secure as well, and trust grows. This is why listening is so important . . .” (Whitworth, Kimsey-House, Kimsey-House, & Sandahl, 2007, p. 31).
In the book, A Manager’s Guide to Coaching: Simple and Effective Ways to Get the Best Out of Your Employees we’re reminded that:
“Often, when we listen to someone, we’re only partially listening, because we’re thinking of our reply or judging their comments. We often miss what’s in between their words, or even a key idea” (Emerson & Loehr, 2008, p. 103).
“The key to successful listening is to remove all distractions, sit back, and focus 100% on [their] words, emotions, and body language” (Emerson & Loehr, 2008, p. 105).
“By listening and allowing [people] to feel heard, you’re giving them the confidence that their words and ideas have merit and that they can figure things out for themselves” (Emerson & Loehr, 2008, p. 105).
“Listening is more than hearing, and it is definitely more than waiting for the other person to take a breath so that you can speak again. It is the ability to temporarily forget the future and the past, and collapse your focus to a single point, a single person—here and now” (Burnison, 2013, p. 174).
Why People Interrupt/Monopolize, Minimize/Discount, Oppose/Argue or Not Pay Attention
People Interrupt/Monopolize, Minimize/Discount, Oppose/Argue or Not Pay Attention for several reasons: (1) Not caring – There are some people who simply do not care (or care very much) about other people, (2) Is impatient or in a hurry – These folks are in a rush to solve problems or to get to solutions. Impatient people provide answers, conclusions, and solutions too early in the process. (3) Monopolizing the conversation – Shifting the conversation to their own topic or what’s called “conversational narcissism.” (4) Misguided compassion – Unlike those who don’t care, people who do care may try to “help” others feel better so they skip over the validation part, thereby discounting or invalidating feelings, and go straight to offering solutions or words of consolation. (5) Fear of or discomfort with emotions or conflicts – These individuals do not know how to deal with strong emotions or conflicts and will try to avoid strong emotions and conflict when in conversation or interaction with others.
Suggestions For Improvement & Development:
In FYI: For Your Improvement (a guide for coaching and development), Lombardo and Eichinger (2009) shared a great tip in helping us to better understand others: Avoid early solution statements and extreme positions. While the answer might be obvious to you, and might make perfect sense to someone in your field, it may either mean nothing or will be jarring to people in another function. Lay out your thinking, explain the alternatives, and keep them as maybes. Then invite them to apply their perspective to it. If you fire out solutions, you’ll encourage them to reply in your terms. You’ll never learn to understand them.
Another useful advice Lombardo and Eichinger (2009) discussed is what to do when you’re viewed by others as being insensitive: Seek to understand before you seek a solution. You might be seen as someone who jumps to conclusions and solutions before others have had a chance to finish their statement of the problem. Take the time to really define the problem. Let people finish. Try not to interrupt. Don’t finish other’s sentences. Ask clarifying questions. Restate the problem in your own words to everyone’s satisfaction.
If you are struggling with being interpersonally savvy (relating to others; building & maintaining rapport), Lombardo and Eichinger (2009) offered this: Tailor your approach to fit others’ needs. Too busy to pay attention? Too quick to get into the agenda? Do you devalue others and dismiss their contributions, resulting in people feeling diminished, rejected and angry? Do you offer answers, solutions, conclusions, statements, or dictates early in the transaction? That’s the staple of people with a non-savvy style. Not listening. Instant output. Sharp reactions. Read your audience. Always select your interpersonal approach from the other person in, not from you out. Your best choice of approach will always be determined by the other person or group, not you.
A useful resource similar to Lombardo and Eichinger’s FYI book is Awaken, Align, Accelerate (2011), a leadership development and coaching guide from MDA Leadership. According to the Awaken, Align, Accelerate book, if you talk over or interrupt others or if you spend more time talking than listening and you fail to draw others out or ask ineffective or too few questions, then this is a problem that will need to be remedied (Nelson & Ortmeier, 2011).
Takeaway: If you do not listen in a conversation, it is very easy to derail and wreck it. The first and most obvious way is by interrupting or monopolizing the conversation. A second, more subtle but just as harmful, way to kill a conversation is by minimizing, discounting, or dismissing what another person is sharing. The third way to end a conversation or turn it into a heated exchange is by arguing with or outright opposing what another person is saying. The fourth way to wreck a conversation is failure to pay attention to what the other person is saying. These conversation killers negatively affect your ability to understand another person and can also weaken or cause irreparable damage to your relationship with them.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Burnison, G. (2013). Lead. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Emerson, B., & Loehr, A. (2008). A Manager’s Guide to Coaching: Simple and Effective Ways to Get the Best Out of Your Employees. New York: AMACOM.
Nelson, S. E., & Ortmeier, J. G. (2011). Awaken, Align, Accelerate: A Guide to Great Leadership. Edina, MN: Beaver’s Pond Press, Inc.
Robins, C. J., & Rosenthal, M. Z. (2011). Dialectical Behavior Therapy. In J. D. Herbert, & E. M. Forman (Eds.), Acceptance and Mindfulness in Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Understanding and Applying the New Therapies (pp. 164-192). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, K., Kimsey-House, H., & Sandahl, P. (2007). Co-active coaching: New skills for coaching people toward success in work and life (2nd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black.
Wood, J. T. (2016). Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
NOTE: I am reviewing this I/O psychology textbook from a reader’s perspective (i.e., the student’s/learner’s point of view) and not from an instructor’s perspective.
Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) by Ronald E. Riggio is a solid update to a growing list of Industrial/Organizational Psychology textbooks. According to Routledge’s website (publisher of the book), the seventh edition has been updated to include expanded coverage of international issues, job engagement, and emerging topics such as workplace bullying, virtual teams and organizations, agile organization structures, and web-based training and assessment.
In the preface, Dr. Riggio shared that he wrote the book because his students were complaining the textbooks he had been using were too technical and not student friendly. “So, when I wrote this book (and subsequent editions), I have tried to keep my students in mind every step of the way. I have tried to keep the book current, readable, and relevant to students’ current and future working lives” (Riggio, 2018, p. xix).
I like that professor Riggio explained the importance of in-text citations: “Although some students may find it distracting to have points referenced with “(Author, year)” throughout, these references will be extremely useful in finding starting points for term papers or future exploration” (Riggio, 2018, p. xix). This simple gesture can help ease the anxiety of college students trying to figure out how to read textbooks with APA style references.
I examined five topics: (1) training and development; (2) the four-fifths rule (or 80% rule) used to determine adverse impact in employee selection; (3) use of cognitive ability tests in personnel selection; (4) job analysis; and (5) motivation.
The first topic is training and development. I really like Riggio’s explanation of what’s needed to ensure the success of training programs (in Ch. 7), pointing out that critical aspects to consider are transfer of training, the trainee’s readiness, and the structure of the training program.
Under the section titled, “A Model for Successful Training Programs,” Riggio outlined a step-by-step model for a successful training program (pp. 190-191):
STEP 1: A successful training program should begin by assessing training needs. In other words, the organization must first have some idea of what workers need to know to perform their jobs.
STEP 2: The next step is establishing training objectives—goals for what the training is supposed to accomplish. Training objectives need to be specific and related to measurable outcomes because training objectives are used both to set a course for the training program and to help later in determining if the training was indeed successful.
STEP 3: The next step in the training program involves the development and testing of training materials. A variety of factors must be taken into account in developing training materials, such as the trainees’ educational and skill levels, whether the training material focuses on the areas that are directly related to successful job performance, and what training methods will provide the best cost-benefit trade-off.
STEP 4: The actual implementation of the training program is the next step in the training model. Important considerations in implementing the training program include when and how often the training will take place, who will conduct the training, the assignment of trainees to sessions, and where the training will be conducted.
STEP 5: The final step is the evaluation of the training program to determine if the training was effective. This step involves a detailed analysis of whether training objectives were met and whether the training translates into trainees using the newly learned behaviors on the job.
The second topic is well-covered in many I/O psychology textbooks: the four-fifths rule (or 80% rule) used to make an adverse impact determination in employee selection. In Riggio’s Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.), I found the coverage of the four-fifths rule (or 80% rule) to be a bit too short:
“The guidelines led to the establishment of the four-fifths rule, which states that a hiring procedure has adverse impact when the selection rate for any protected group is 4/5, or 80%, of the group with the highest hiring rate. If the four-fifths rule demonstrates adverse impact, the employer must show that the hiring procedures used are valid” (Riggio, 2018, pp. 105-106).
This is an important area for I/O Psychology students to grasp. In several other I/O Psychology textbooks, the four-fifths rule is explained with charts, tables, or written formulas to describe what the four-fifths rule looks like in practice. I would have liked to see a longer and clearer description of the four-fifths rule.
The third topic is cognitive ability tests in personnel selection. I like Riggio’s coverage here: “One criticism of using general intelligence tests for employee selection is that they measure cognitive abilities that are too general to be effective predictors of specific job-related cognitive skills. However, research indicates that such general tests are reasonably good predictors of job performance. In fact, it has been argued that general intelligence is the most consistent predictor of performance across all types and categories of jobs” (Riggio, 2018, p. 123). Riggio (2018) wrote, “a series of meta-analyses concluded that cognitive abilities tests are valid for employment screening, that they are predictive of job performance, and that they do not underpredict the job performance of minority group members” (p. 124).
The fourth topic is job analysis or “the systematic study of the tasks, duties, and responsibilities of a job and the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform it” (Riggio, 2018, p. 65). I appreciate Riggio’s clear writing style and definition of job analysis. When I looked up the definition of job analysis in four other I/O Psychology textbooks, I found those definitions to be unclear and even confusing. In one textbook, I had such a difficult time finding the actual definition of job analysis in the job analysis chapter that I gave up and looked in the glossary in the back.
In contrast, after defining job analysis, Riggio then outlined the different methods to conducting a job analysis (e.g., observations, participation, interviews, surveys, job diaries), specific job analysis techniques (e.g., job element method, critical incidents technique, Position Analysis Questionnaire, and Functional job analysis). I applaud Dr. Riggio for devoting a section titled, “Job Analysis and the ADA,” (p. 81) in which he wrote: “Although the ADA does not require employers to conduct formal job analyses, you might imagine the difficulties involved in trying to adapt or alter a job for a disabled employee without having conducted a thorough analysis of it. . . . Only through job analysis can essential job elements and job requirements be determined. It is these elements and requirements that need to be considered when interviewing, hiring, and training workers with disabilities” (Riggio, 2018, p. 82).
The fifth and final topic is motivation, one of the most widely researched topics in I/O psychology. I compared the motivation chapter (Chapter 8) in Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) with the motivation chapter in several other I/O psychology textbooks and came away very impressed with Riggio’s treatment of this topic.
Riggio (2018) provided a great definition of motivation — “the force that energizes, directs, and sustains behavior” (p. 216). He then clearly explained:
“Because motivation cannot be observed directly, it is difficult to study. We can only infer motives either by observing goal-directed behavior or by using some psychological measurement technique” (Riggio, 2018, p. 217).
I love that! We need to communicate with students (and readers) that motivation is one of those concepts that is abstract and can be very tricky to measure. Other I/O psychology textbooks jumped right in and assumed students already know this or provided scant information to explain just how complex and elusive motivation is, even if it is interesting to researchers and the public.
Also in the motivation chapter, I particularly appreciated that Riggio devoted a section (“The Relationship Between Motivation and Performance”, p. 242) discussing how work motivation relates to work performance and he did so in his characteristically clean and clear writing style:
“Motivation is central to any discussion of work behavior because it is believed that it has a direct link to good work performance. In other words, it is assumed that the motivated worker is the productive worker” (Riggio, 2018, p. 242).
“Yet this may not always be true because many other factors can affect productivity independent of the effects of worker motivation. Furthermore, having highly motivated workers does not automatically lead to high levels of productivity. The work world is much more complex than that” (Riggio, 2018, p. 242).
Industrial/Organizational Psychology Today and in the Future
One part of the book I especially like is the “Industrial/Organizational Psychology Today and in the Future” section (p. 13) in Chapter 1. In this section, Riggio talked about four key trends in the world of work that are important today and in the future of I/O psychology.
Trend #1: The Changing Nature of Work
“Organizations are becoming flatter, with fewer levels in the hierarchy, and they are being broken up into smaller subunits with greater emphasis on work teams. With telecommuting, advanced communication systems, and sophisticated networking, people can work in almost any location, with team members who are quite remote. This will have important implications for how work is done, and I/O psychologists will be very involved in helping workers adapt to technological and structural changes” (Riggio, 2018, p. 14).
Trend #2: Expanding Focus on Human Resources
“Organizations have become more and more concerned about and responsive to the needs of workers. At the same time, organizations are realizing that skilled and creative workers are the keys to success. The term “talent management” is a frequent buzzword heard in organizations—important because it reflects the emphasis on the value of the worker and the need to select, care for, and develop workers’ talents” (Riggio, 2018, p. 15).
Trend #3: Increasing Diversity And Globalization Of The Workforce
“Women and ethnic minorities—who have been targets of employment discrimination—now make up the majority of the U.S. workforce, and there are similar trends worldwide. Moreover, the diversity of cultures in workplaces will also increase as workers become more internationally mobile . . . Workforces will continue to consist of members from a greater number and variety of cultures” (Riggio, 2018, p. 17).
“Industrial/organizational psychologists will have to assist organizations in dealing with the challenges increasing diversity will bring. Although diversity has benefits, demographic and cultural differences can, if not carefully managed, create great difficulties in the functioning of work teams—increasing destructive conflict, inhibiting team cooperation, and impeding performance” (Riggio, 2018, p. 18).
Trend #4: Increasing Relevance of I/O Psychology in Policy and Practice
“Although I/O psychology has had an important impact in how we select, train, develop, and motivate employees, there is huge potential for I/O psychology to play an even bigger part in helping to improve work performance and make the conditions for workers better, more rewarding, and more “healthy”” (Riggio, 2018, p. 19).
Summary: I really enjoyed and appreciated Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) by Ronald E. Riggio. I found the book easy to navigate and the writing style to be extremely readable and not long-winded, making it very student friendly. The book is solid and packed with information, but it does not feel overwhelming. With the seventh edition, Riggio demonstrates that he’s able to keep the book fresh, reader-friendly, and relevant. I highly and enthusiastically recommend this book. Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) by Ronald E. Riggio has become one of my most trusted, go-to Industrial/Organizational psychology resources!
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Riggio, R. E. (2018). Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.). New York: Routledge.
Disclosure: I received Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology (7th ed.) as a complimentary gift, but my book review was written as though I had purchased it.
I was asked by a writer for my thoughts about physical workspaces (e.g., open office layout, green landscapes, expansive views, etc.) and whether or not they impact creativity.
Here’s my response (additional comments have been added):
Creativity can be defined as coming up with new and useful ideas (Amabile, 1998). Professor Teresa Amabile (2012) developed a 4-component model of creativity. In the model, creativity is based on domain-relevant skills (expertise), creative-thinking skills, intrinsic motivation, and the social environment in which a person works.
In a 1998 Harvard Business Review article, Amabile wrote:
“Another resource that is misunderstood when it comes to creativity is physical space. It is almost conventional wisdom that creative teams need open, comfortable offices. Such an atmosphere won’t hurt creativity, and it may even help, but it is not nearly as important as other managerial initiatives that influence creativity. Indeed, a problem we have seen time and time again is managers paying attention to creating the “right” physical space at the expense of more high-impact actions, such as matching people to the right assignments and granting freedom around work processes.” -Professor Teresa M. Amabile (1998)
She would further refine her position in her Componential Theory of Creativity (2012).
“Research in organizational settings has revealed a number of work environment factors that can block creativity, such as norms of harshly criticizing new ideas; political problems within the organization; an emphasis on the status quo; a conservative, low-risk attitude among top management; and excessive time pressure. Other factors can stimulate creativity, such as a sense of positive challenge in the work; work teams that are collaborative, diversely skilled, and idea-focused; freedom in carrying out the work; supervisors who encourage the development of new ideas; top management that supports innovation through a clearly articulated creativity-encouraging vision and through appropriate recognition for creative work; mechanisms for developing new ideas; and norms of actively sharing ideas across the organization.” -Professor Teresa M. Amabile (2012)
“Creativity requires a confluence of all components; creativity should be highest when an intrinsically motivated person with high domain expertise and high skill in creative thinking works in an environment high in supports for creativity.” -Professor Teresa M. Amabile (2012)
Regarding creativity and the physical work environment or workspace, I think this quote from Professor Amabile’s interview is especially noteworthy:
“When I’ve done broad open ended studies of people trying to be creative in organizations, I [Teresa Amabile] ask them to describe a highly creative event from their recent work experience where they or their team did something highly creative and then contrast that with an uncreative event or project where they needed creative ideas and it just didn’t just come together. People talk about a lot of things when they describe these instances, and rarely do they mention the physical environment they are working in.” -Professor Teresa M. Amabile
Takeaway: Workspaces do not need to be beautifully designed or have unconventional layouts in order to spark creativity. In Professor Amabile’s writings about creativity and the social environment component of her creativity model she emphasized the importance of managerial practices and the impact on creativity and the leader’s role in creating the right processes and workplace climates to enhance creativity. Professor Amabile cautions against focusing too much on creating the “right” physical space “at the expense of more high-impact actions, such as matching people to the right assignments and granting freedom around work processes” (Amabile, 1998).
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
“Coaching is helping another person reach higher levels of effectiveness by creating a dialogue that leads to awareness and action.” -Brian Emerson and Anne Loehr
“When an employee has the skills and ability to complete the task at hand, but for some reason is struggling with the confidence, focus, motivation, drive, or bandwidth to be at their best, coaching can help.” -Brian Emerson and Anne Loehr
In the classic coaching book, Coaching for Performance (2009), the late John Whitmore described numerous benefits of coaching. Included in the list are benefits to the recipient (i.e., the client/coachee) as well as benefits to the team and the larger organization (pp. 156-158):
Improved performance and productivity
Improved quality of life for individuals
More time for the manager
More creative ideas
Better use of people, skills, and resources
Faster and more effective emergency response
Greater flexibility and adaptability to change
More motivated staff
A life skill
In the book, Coaching People (McManus, 2006), benefits to the person being coached are (pp. 5-6):
maximizing their individual strengths
overcoming personal challenges/obstacles
achieving new skills & competencies to become more effective
preparing for new work/job roles or responsibilities
improvement in managing themselves (e.g., better time management)
clarifying and working toward goals (e.g., learning about and setting SMART goals)
increasing their job satisfaction and motivation
Benefits to the team and organization include (McManus, 2006, p. 6):
improving the working relationships between manager & direct reports (i.e., employees)
developing & fostering more productive teams
using organizational resources more effectively
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Emerson, B., & Loehr, A. (2008). A Manager’s Guide to Coaching: Simple and Effective Ways to Get the Best Out of Your Employees. New York: AMACOM.
McManus, P. (2006). Coaching People: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges. Boston: Harvard Business Press.
Whitmore, J. (2009). Coaching for Performance (4th ed.). London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
“The notion that there are only a few great people who can lead others to greatness is just plain wrong. Likewise, it is wrong to suggest that leaders come only from large, or small, or already great, or new organizations, or from established economies, or from certain industries, functions, or disciplines. The truth is leadership is an identifiable set of skills and abilities that are available to anyone.”
—Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner
This paragraph succinctly sums up the book:
“The Leadership Challenge is about how leaders mobilize others to want to get extraordinary things done in organizations. It’s about the practices leaders use to transform values into actions, visions into realities, obstacles into innovations, separateness into solidarity, and risks into rewards. It’s about leadership that makes a positive difference in the workplace and creates the climate in which people turn challenging opportunities into remarkable successes” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. xi).
The first edition of The Leadership Challenge came out in 1987. The fifth edition (2012) marked the 25th anniversary of the book and the sixth edition (2017) marks the 30th anniversary. The sixth edition has been revised to address current challenges and includes more international examples and a focus on business issues.
It is remarkable how The Leadership Challenge and The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership model have withstood the test of time and continue to be so well received. I think two factors play important roles in its longevity: (1) The Leadership Challenge is evidence-based, and (2) Kouzes & Posner are skilled in nicely weaving case studies of real people demonstrating the practices of exemplary leadership throughout the book that it actually reads and flows well.
At the heart of The Leadership Challenge is The Five Practices framework, which resulted from analysis of thousands of case studies and millions of survey responses (Kouzes & Posner, 2017). Kouzes and Posner illustrate The Five Practices framework with hundreds of examples of real people doing real things. With each new edition of the book, the research, stories/cases, and examples of what people do when they are at their best as leaders are updated.
“The more we research and write about leadership, the more confident we become that leadership is within the grasp of everyone. The opportunities for leadership are boundless and boundaryless” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. xii).
“While the context of leadership has changed dramatically over the years, the content of leadership has not changed much at all. The fundamental behaviors and actions of leaders have remained essentially the same, and they are as relevant today as they were when [Kouzes and Posner] began [their] study of exemplary leadership” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 13).
Kouzes and Posner began and continue with a very basic question, “What did you do when you were at your personal best as a leader?” The stories, behaviors, and actions that the leaders described led to the creation of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® model. “When leaders do their best, they Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. xii).
According to Kouzes and Posner, the Ten Commitments of Leadership—the essential behaviors that leaders employ to make extraordinary things happen—explain the fundamental principles that support each of The Five Practices.
Practice #1: Model the Way
Commitment 1. Clarify values by finding your voice and affirming shared values.
Commitment 2. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.
Practice #2: Inspire a Shared Vision
Commitment 3. Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities.
Commitment 4. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.
Practice #3: Challenge the Process
Commitment 5. Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and looking outward for innovative ways to improve.
Commitment 6. Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience.
Practice #4: Enable Others to Act
Commitment 7. Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships.
Commitment 8. Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.
Practice #5: Encourage the Heart
Commitment 9. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.
Commitment 10. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.
After analyzing thousands of leadership experiences, Kouzes and Posner found, and continue to find, that “regardless of the times or settings, individuals who guide others along pioneering journeys follow surprisingly similar paths. Although each experience was unique in its individual expression, there were clearly identifiable behaviors and actions that made a difference” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 12).
When making extraordinary things happen in organizations, leaders engage in The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership (Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart).
“These leadership practices are not the private purview of the people we studied. Nor do they belong to a few select shining stars. Leadership is not about personality. It’s about behavior. The Five Practices are available to anyone who accepts the leadership challenge—the challenge of taking people and organizations to places they have never been before. It is the challenge of moving beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 13).
Practice #1: Model the Way
“To effectively Model the Way, you must first be clear about your own guiding principles. You must clarify values by finding your voice” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 14). However, because a leader’s values don’t exist in a vacuum, he will also need to affirm the shared values of the group.
“No one will believe you’re serious until they see you doing what you’re asking of others. You either lead by example or don’t lead at all.” —Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner
“Deeds are far more important than words when constituents want to determine how serious leaders really are about what they say. Words and deeds must be consistent” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 14).
Practice #2: Inspire a Shared Vision
Leaders imagine an exciting and attractive future for their organizations. They envision and dream about what could be and they wholeheartedly believe in those dreams, and they’re confident in being able to make extraordinary things happen.
“Leaders envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 15). They need to make something happen, change how things are, and create something that no one has created before.
“You can’t command commitment; you have to inspire it. You have to enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 15).
Practice #3: Challenge the Process
“Challenge is the crucible for greatness. Every single personal-best leadership case involved a change from the status quo. Not one person achieved a personal best by keeping things the same” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 16).
“Leaders are pioneers willing to step out into the unknown. However, leaders aren’t the only creators or originators of new products, services, or processes. Innovation comes more from listening than from telling, and from constantly looking outside of yourself and your organization for new and innovative products, processes, and services” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 16).
Practice #4: Enable Others to Act
“Grand dreams don’t become significant realities through the actions of a single person. Achieving greatness requires a team effort. It requires solid trust and enduring relationships. It requires group collaboration and individual accountability” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 17).
“[C]onstituents don’t perform at their best or stick around for very long if they feel weak, dependent, or alienated. When you strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence, they are more likely to give it their all and exceed their own expectations” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 18).
Practice #5: Encourage the Heart
“Being a leader requires showing appreciation for people’s contributions and creating a culture of celebrating the values and victories by creating a spirit of community” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 19).
“Believing in others is an extraordinarily powerful force in propelling greater performance.” —Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner
Encouraging the heart is not about being pretentious or phony in order to create a false sense of camaraderie. It is not something you can fake. “Celebrations and rituals, when done in an authentic way and from the heart, build a strong sense of collective identity and community spirit that can carry a group through extraordinarily tough times” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 19).
The Five Practices Make a Difference
“Exemplary leader behavior makes a profoundly positive difference in people’s commitment and performance at work.”
—Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner
The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are the core leadership competencies that emerged from Kouzes & Posner’s analysis of thousands of Personal-Best Leadership Experience cases.
“These five leadership practices—Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart—provide an operating system for what people are doing as leaders when they are at their best, and there’s abundant empirical evidence that these leadership practices matter. Hundreds of studies have reported that The Five Practices make a positive difference in the engagement and performance of people and organizations” Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 20).
After reviewing responses from more than three million people around the world to the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI), a 360-degree instrument assessing how often leaders engage in The Five Practices, Kouzes and Posner said this:
“Those leaders who more frequently use The Five Practices are considerably more effective than their counterparts who use them less frequently” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 20).
How a leader behaves is what explains the difference in why people work hard, how committed they are, and their pride and productivity (Kouzes & Posner, 2017).
Leadership Is a Relationship
“No leader has ever gotten anything extraordinary done by working solo.” —Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner
“[L]eaders don’t make extraordinary things happen all by themselves” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 28).
“Leaders mobilize others to want to struggle for shared aspirations, and this means that, fundamentally, leadership is a relationship. Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. 26).
What People Look For and Want from Their Leaders
The top 4 characteristics that followers believe a leader—someone they would willingly follow—should possess are:
What people look for in a leader (a person who they would be willing to follow) has been remarkably consistent over time (as a matter of fact, over three decades), and does not significantly vary across countries, cultures, ethnicities, organizational functions and hierarchies, genders, levels of education, and age groups (Kouzes & Posner, 2017).
Credibility Is the Foundation
“People want to follow leaders who are, more than anything, credible. Credibility is the foundation of leadership. Constituents must be able, above all else, to believe in their leaders. For them to willingly follow someone else, they must believe that the leader’s word can be trusted, that she is personally passionate and enthusiastic about the work, and that she has the knowledge and skill to lead” (Kouzes & Posner, 2012, p. 37).
“Constituents also must believe that their leader knows where they’re headed and has a vision for the future. An expectation that their leaders be forward-looking is what sets leaders apart from other credible individuals” (Kouzes & Posner, 2012, p. 37).
Kouzes-Posner First Law of Leadership: If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message.
Kouzes-Posner Second Law of Leadership: DWYSYWD—Do What You Say You Will Do.
What I Miss from the 5th Edition That Is Not in the 6th Edition:
In the 5th Edition, there’s a 1-page summary at the beginning of each of the five practices (i.e., Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart). It’s great because it served as a brief introduction to each practice AND touched on each of the two Commitments. Each practice has two Commitments of Leadership [10 Commitments total; 2 Commitments for each of the 5 Practices; each Commitment has its very own chapter].
A Brief Comparison Between The 5th and 6th Editions:
For a short comparison between the 5th and 6th editions, I chose two cases. The first case is under the “Make Something Happen” section in the “Search for Opportunities” chapter. The second case is located under the “Educate and Share Information” section in the “Strengthen Others” chapter.
The 6th edition does a nicer job integrating real world examples and comments in support of the 10 commitments.
For instance, under the “Make Something Happen” section in the “Search for Opportunities” chapter, in the story about Emily Taylor and how she made something happen, I found that the 6th edition made better use of Emily’s own words to powerfully illustrate the idea that high performers work beyond their job descriptions and recognize opportunities that others do not (Kouzes & Posner, 2017). In the 5th edition, the example Kouzes and Posner (2012) provided [under the “Make Something Happen” section in the “Search for Opportunities” chapter] and their use of that person’s words weren’t as compelling in bringing that same idea (i.e., making something happen) to life.
Similarly, under the “Educate and Share Information” section in the “Strengthen Others” chapter, the real-life example of Jeff Allison’s situation (in the 6th edition) and how he was able to strengthen others by investing in time and initiatives that developed their skills and fostered their confidence was better than the example provided in the 5th edition — again, I believe it’s because Kouzes and Posner selected better real-life examples and made better use of the actual quotes to support the concepts being discussed as well as bring them to life.
What I Really Like:
There are 13 chapters in all in the 6th edition, with 10 chapters covering the Ten Commitments of Leadership (these are essential behaviors that leaders employ to make extraordinary things happen). The Ten Commitments of Leadership also explain the fundamental principles that support each of The Five Practices (Kouzes & Posner, 2017).
At the end of each of the Commitments of Leadership chapter (two chapters for each practice [10 Commitments total; 2 for each Practice]), there’s a very helpful and practical “Take Action” section that tells you “what you need to do to make this leadership practice an ongoing and natural part of your behavioral and attitudinal repertoire” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017, p. xiv).
Visually, two dramatic changes are welcomed surprises with the 6th edition of The Leadership Challenge. First, the updated charts and graphics to color really make the model and ideas more striking and appealing. Second, the 6th edition uses heavier and bright white paper to print the text on and this makes it much easier to read. I had a hard time reading the 5th edition because of the color of the paper (I’m referring to the hard copy of the book).
Summary: The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership model—the backbone of The Leadership Challenge book—states that leadership is an observable set of similar patterns of behavior (skills and abilities) that can be taught and learned by everyone. Three decades of research provide strong and enduring support for the model. When leaders are at their personal best, they demonstrate five core practices: they Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable..
In their book, 100 Things You Need to Know: Best People Practices for Managers & HR (2004), Eichinger, Lombardo, and Ulrich — three internationally-recognized experts in human capital management — shared that, in general, managers are “very poor at coaching and developing their people” (p. 470).
This may come as a shock to some, but probably not to others. Why? Let’s think about it for a minute. Line managers and mid-level managers are often quite busy and they simply do not have the time or want to set aside quality time for coaching and developing their staff. And even when some managers do make time to coach and develop their direct reports, coaching & developing others isn’t something that gets rewarded by senior leadership (Eichinger, Lombardo, & Ulrich, 2004).
“Relying exclusively on line managers to coach and develop their people for the long-term is a losing strategy. Typical line managers aren’t good at it, don’t have much motivation to do it, are terminally busy and don’t have or make quality time for it, and are not rewarded for it when the few do actually do it” (Eichinger, Lombardo, & Ulrich, 2004, p. 472).
According to Eichinger, Lombardo, and Ulrich (2004), the recommended best practice is a coordinated process led by human resource professionals and enthusiastically endorsed by senior executives and with the buy-in and collaboration of line managers and the people being coached.
“An organization’s success depends on its talent—its ability to maximize its talent and to retain it. To be successful, an organization needs to enable its workforce to grow, develop, and mature. Coaching is one way to support continued employee development and can be a powerful tool for improving the performance of both the individual and the organization.” —Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Eichinger, R. W., Lombardo, M. M., & Ulrich, D. (2004). 100 things you need to know: Best people practices for managers & HR. Minneapolis, MN: Lominger Limited.
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