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The Most Productive Way to Develop as a Leader

Everybody loves self-improvement. We want to get smarter, network better, be connected, balance our lives, and so on. That’s why we’re such avid consumers of “top 10” lists of things to do to be a more effective, productive, promotable, mindful — you name it — leader. We read all the lists, but we have trouble sticking to the “easy steps” because while we all want the benefits of change, we rarely ever want to do the hard work of change. But what if we didn’t think of self-improvement as work? What if we thought of it as play — specifically, as playing with our sense of self? Let’s say an executive we’ll call John lacks empathy in his dealings with people. For example, he’s overly blunt when he gives feedback to others and he’s not a very good listener. T....
Reassess Millennials’ Social Sharing Habits

Millennials are often maligned for their constant technology use and obsession with the social approval signaled by likes, shares, and retweets. But organizations need to start recognizing the benefits of such behavior and harnessing it. This generational cohort will, by some estimates, account for nearly 75% of the workforce by 2025. And, according to a recent Deloitte survey of 7,800 people from 29 countries, only 28% of currently employed Millennials feel their companies are fully using their skills. How can smart leaders better leverage the talents of these future leaders? As organizational consultants, we tell our clients to consider what makes them tick and to see the value in those interests. Two points are of particular note: First, social sharing. Neuroscientists have shown that any kind of positive persona....
How to Run a Great Virtual Meeting

Virtual meetings don’t have to be seen as a waste of time. In fact, they can be more valuable than traditional face-to-face meetings. Beyond the fact that they’re inexpensive ways to get people together – think: no travel costs and readily available technology – they’re also great opportunities to build engagement, trust and candor among teams. Several years ago, my company’s Research Institute embarked on an exploration of the “New People Rules in a Virtual World” to explore how technology is shaping our relationships and how we collaborate. This multiyear journey also evolved my thinking on the subject, helping me recognize that virtual is not the enemy of the physical if key rules and processes are maintained and respected. Going back through that research now, I’ve put together ....
The Sales Director Who Turned Work into a Fantasy Sports Competition

Now that everything we do at work can be observed, measured, tracked, and reported — thanks to sensing technologies and cheap processing power — more organizations are relying heavily on “the data” to manage employees’ performance. They’re striving to assess people strictly on merit: how productive they are, how well they collaborate, how much value they create. As human beings, we’re naturally biased in how we perceive others’ competence and worth. Analytics can help correct that problem, but sometimes even the data doesn’t seem fair. When we feel it doesn’t sufficiently account for our contributions, we lose confidence in it, feeling trapped by its failure to “understand” us. So then we explain the metrics away rather than using them to learn what’s working a....
Case Study: Is It Teasing or Harassment?

“My, my, how tiny you are! You must be the smallest woman on earth. Hello, Dot!” These were the first words Jack Matthews spoke to Sema Isaura-Mans. Editor’s Note This fictionalized case study will appear in a forthcoming issue of Harvard Business Review, along with commentary from experts and readers. If you’d like your comment to be considered for publication, please be sure to include your full name, company or university affiliation, and e-mail address. Sema, a finance manager at the Dutch-British financial services consultancy Dirksen-Hall, had recently transferred from its Ankara office to its headquarters, in Amsterdam. Jack, the executive vice president for special projects, was her new boss. He’d also just relocated—from Manchester, where....
Relearning the Art of Asking Questions

Proper questioning has become a lost art. The curious four-year-old asks a lot of questions — incessant streams of “Why?” and “Why not?” might sound familiar — but as we grow older, our questioning decreases. In a recent poll of more than 200 of our clients, we found that those with children estimated that 70-80% of their kids’ dialogues with others were comprised of questions. But those same clients said that only 15-25% of their own interactions consisted of questions. Why the drop off? Think back to your time growing up and in school. Chances are you received the most recognition or reward when you got the correct answers. Later in life, that incentive continues. At work, we often reward those who answer questions, not those who ask them. Questioning conventional wisdom can even lead to being ....
What Young vs. UPS Means for Pregnant Workers and Their Bosses

The U.S. Supreme Court case decided this week makes it significantly more likely that pregnant women denied workplace accommodations will succeed in their legal claims against the employers who denied them. The Court’s decision in Young v. UPS holds that there may be some situations in which employers can accommodate some groups of employees, without also accommodating pregnant employees, but then creates a test so strict that it in effect eliminates employers’ ability to do just that. Peggy Young, the plaintiff in the case, worked for UPS as a pickup and delivery driver. When she became pregnant in 2006, her doctor restricted her from lifting more than 20 pounds during her first 20 weeks of pregnancy and 10 pounds for the remainder. UPS informed Young that she could not work because the company required drivers in her positi....
How CMOs and CROs Can Be Allies

Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Risk Officers (CROs) may seem to have little in common. The CMO has historically focused on driving growth and brand engagement; the CRO has typically focused on safeguarding the bottom line and minimizing unwanted exposure. But the advent of Big Data, sophisticated modeling techniques, and robust algorithms are opening a door to cooperation and opportunities that have never been possible before. Both practices have long developed insights into their customers based on data and analytics. But in the aftermath of the financial crisis, risk managers have become increasingly involved in business strategy and decisions. That has coincided with marketing’s increased influence on strategy, driven by the unprecedented level of insights into customer behavior and trends that are now possible thro....
Price-Sensitive Customers Will Tolerate Uncertainty

When I help a company with their pricing strategy, the typical first day of an engagement entails the client company’s vice president saying with a grin: “So, how are you going to help us raise prices?” While price-raising opportunities generally do exist, this is a provincial view of the upside of revamping a company’s pricing strategy. The real creativity—and often, the bigger opportunity—involves growing a business by activating dormant customers. Contrary to popular thinking, this often requires offering selective discounts—in other words, lowering prices, not raising them. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could identify price-sensitive customers and discreetly offer them discounts—without having to lower prices to those who are willing to pay full freight? This is the exact....
Technology Alone Won’t Solve Our Collaboration Problems

Every week a vendor introduces a new gadget, system, or service that promises to make us communicate and collaborate better, faster. Just look at the comments below any article about virtual teams. They almost always include someone either evangelizing or peddling a particular piece of hard- or software that will make it easier to work with people in different time zones. Sure, these technological improvements help in many ways. As a case in point, I just found out the precise location of a package in transit from China to France, all while on a train going through the forest. Our fast moving, globally networked economy simply was not possible a few years ago. But more often than not, the problem we’re facing isn’t a technological one, but a social one. Teaching, consulting, and working with executives across industries ....
How to Separate the Personal and Professional on Social Media

Let’s face it: social media is risky. A single unfortunate post can throw a career off track. And yet in an era in which younger workers are connected with an average of 16 co-workers online and where 40% to 60% of hiring managers use social media to screen potential hires, it is simply not reasonable to stay off social media entirely. So how can we balance the personal and professional online? In a recent research study, we spoke with dozens of professionals about their use of social media, and were struck by the variety of approaches they are using. Some professionals, we found, still manage to avoid social media altogether. But most see that as unrealistic in many occupations, and are unwilling to be deprived of the advantages social media affords in terms of connecting to people and collecting information. Many in s....
Which U.S. Companies Are Doing the Most R&D in China and India?

Over 200 publicly listed American companies have R&D budgets that exceed $100 million annually. Which companies allocate the highest proportion of that budget to engineering in China and India, specifically? And what drives their success with these global engineering initiatives? To find out, we developed a measure and coined the term Global Engineering Intensity (GEI) as the ratio of the headcount of R&D staff in India plus China to a company’s current annual R&D expense. The count of R&D personnel for each company was obtained by queries on LinkedIn. While both measures are less than perfect, and we recognize that many companies use Eastern Europe and South American engineering sites, the GEI works well to demonstrate the diversity of industries—it isn’t just software and IT—with a significant po....
A Checklist for Planning Your Next Big Meeting

In theory, everyone understands that preparation can make or break an important meeting. The more work you do before you walk into the room, the more productive and efficient you’ll be. But who has the time to properly prepare? Our checklist makes meeting prep quick and easy—be sure to print it out or save it for later. Each step is described in more detail below. Using the checklist and the principles behind it will ensure that you’ve covered all your bases—and that you won’t be wasting anyone’s time (including your own). Identify the purpose of the meeting Do you need to make a decision, solve a problem, rally the troops, or inform your team about a new initiative? Clarifying the purpose of your meeting is the first and most important planning step—this will drive all of the other elements o....
Innovate Without Diluting Your Core Idea

You may have played the game of “telephone” as a child. Your teacher sat the class in a circle and whispered a sentence to the first kid, who whispered it to his neighbor, and so on until the last child in the circle told the group what she thought she heard. Inevitably, this final sentence was markedly different from the original and was usually also wildly incorrect (hence the hilarity of the game). This distortion is due to a concept called cumulative error. Organizations fall victim to the same phenomenon in innovation. When implementing new customer offerings and experiences, an original idea is often inadvertently manipulated as it moves through development. The game here is called “silos,” and it too results in cumulative error. A new concept is developed and, when ready for execution,....
How Life Insurers Can Bring Their Business into the 21st Century

Life insurance is – or should be – a central element in most households’ financial planning. Yet life insurance sales have been on a steady decline for years. According to LIMRA, the life insurance industry trade association, the number of individual holders of life insurance in the U.S. dropped 45% – from 17.7 million to 9.7 million – between 1990 and 2010. Only 44% of households had any life insurance in 2010, which is a 50-year low. In 1960, it was 72% of households. Part of the reason for the drop in life insurance sales is because the rate of household formation is much lower than it used to be. The average age for a first marriage is now 27 for women, whereas is was 21 in 1950; for men it’s now 28, versus 24 in 1950. And in a sluggish economy, many households simply do not have the extra resource....
Why Group Brainstorming Is a Waste of Time

To grow and innovate, organizations have to come up with creative ideas. At the employee level, creativity results from a combination of expertise, motivation, and thinking skills. At the team level, it results from the synergy between team members, which allows the group to produce something greater than the sum of its parts. The most widely used method to spark group creativity is brainstorming, a technique first introduced by Alex Osborn, a real life “Mad Man,” in the 1950s. Brainstorming is based on four rules: (a) generate as many ideas as possible; (b) prioritize unusual or original ideas; (c) combine and refine the ideas generated; and (d) abstain from criticism during the exercise. The process, which should be informal and unstructured, is based on two old psychological premises. First, that the mere presence of other....
Technology Can Save Onboarding from Itself

Competition among the most innovative companies is growing ever more heated for one of the most highly-coveted resources on the market: talented employees. But sadly, too many new hires slip away because of a poor initial experience with their new companies. Consider the following statistics, which represent broad data in the United States: Nearly 33% of new hires look for a new job within their first six months on the job. (Among Millennials, that percentage is even higher … and it happens earlier.) Twenty-three percent of new hires turn over before their first anniversary. The organizational costs of employee turnover are estimated to range between 100% and 300% of the replaced employee’s salary. It typically takes eight months for a newly hired employee to reach full productivity. The problem is that managers’ li....
Starbucks’ “Race Together” Campaign and the Upside of CEO Activism

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has faced intense criticism for asking his baristas to engage customers in a discussion about race in America. But this kind of “CEO activism” is actually a step forward for corporate involvement in the public square. As researchers who study the intersection between business and public policy, we’ve noticed the rise of CEO activism and its increasing influence – and we see a need both to encourage it and define its limits. Schultz is already well-known as one of this generation’s CEO activists, a group which includes Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers, and Google’s Eric Schmidt — and other high-ranking corporate leaders like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Though they have made their mark in the private sector, these men and women ....
The 5 Biases Pushing Women Out of STEM

By now, we’ve all heard about the low numbers of American women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Some argue it’s a pipeline issue – that if we can interest more young girls in STEM subjects, the issue will resolve itself over time. But that’s not convincing. After all, the percentage of women in computer science has actually decreased since 1991. Another theory is that women are choosing to forgo careers in STEM to attain better work-family balance—rather than being pushed out by bias. But evidence for that is also thin. Several new studies add to the growing body of evidence that documents the role of gender bias in driving women out of science careers. A 2012 randomized, double-blind study gave science faculty at research-intensive universities the application materials of a fictitious....
See Your Company Through the Eyes of a Hacker

JP Morgan Chase. Target. Sony. Each has been part of the growing number of cyber-attacks against private companies around the world in recent years. In the latter two cases, CEOs were forced to resign in the wake of the breach. Attacks are growing more sophisticated and more damaging, targeting what companies value the most: their customer data, their intellectual property, and their reputations. What these attacks – together with breaches to defense, law-enforcement, and military-contractor networks – reveal is that our cyber-security efforts over the last two decades have largely failed, and fixing this will require the attention not only of security officers and IT teams, but also of boards and CEOs. Companies need to take a new approach. They can do so by looking at themselves through the eyes of their attackers. In the....
You Can Have Constructive Conflict Over Email

When email was novel 20 years ago, managers began asking us if it should be used for sensitive conversations, such as performance problems or salary negotiations. For years we said “no way.” But as work became more and more virtual, the question changed. People no longer asked, “Should I?” Instead, they demanded, “How can I?” So our stance has changed too, in large part because we identified people who seemed to be able to raise risky issues in remarkably effective ways over email. While you should still limit its use for sensitive communication, there are best practices that allow you to benefit from email’s efficiency without suffering much from its constraints. But before you do, ask yourself: “Can I do this well without seeing her face—and without her seeing mine?” This is....
Why Family Firms in East Asia Struggle with Succession

Around the world, you’ll find family businesses that have fallen into decline due to inadequate governance, poor talent management, and absent or improper succession planning. As we explain in the most recent issue of HBR, only 30% of family-owned or -controlled companies last into the second generation, and it takes extreme discipline to institute the best practices required to escape that fate. Nowhere are these challenges more acute than in the Asia-Pacific region, where family businesses represent more than half of large corporations (plus many more smaller firms) and account for a significant percentage of employment and economic development.  Many of these organizations are still run by their founders, so will soon be facing leadership successions for the first time.  If these critical transitions are mishandled, it....
Meetings: When to Present and When to Converse

Steven Moore Meeting hosts often think that presenting to a room full of people is the best way to share ideas. Westerners in particular, with their Greco-Roman oratorical roots (think Aristotle and Cicero), tend to craft a verbal case and then declare their views to the audience. But sometimes it’s better to have a conversation, where other voices are considered and different views are exchanged. How do you decide which approach to take? Map out what you’re trying to accomplish. Before hitting “send” on your next meeting request, carefully consider what your goals are. If you want to inform or persuade, by all means, plan to present. But if you’re looking for give-and-take, you won’t get it by speaking at length — more likely, you’ll shut people down. Facilitating a conversation is a bett....
Collaboration, from the Wright Brothers to Robots

Watson and Crick. Braque and Picasso. The Wright Brothers. Wozniak and Jobs … and Jony Ive. Great collaborations all. Transformative. But what really made them work? How did collaborative relationships so ingeniously amplify individual talent and impact? Was there a secret to success? When I wrote the book Shared Minds: The New Technologies of Collaboration 25 years ago (!), I found technology central to the answers. The book was the first to explicitly examine how tools and technologies shape creative collaboration in science, business, and the arts. I argued new technology would invite and inspire new forms of collaboration. Like communication, collaboration would have to become more networked and more digital. But what I didn’t know — and couldn’t anticipate — was how overwhelmingly collaboration’s ....
6 Rules for Building and Scaling Company Culture

Great founders start businesses not to create a company but to solve a problem, to serve a calling, and to understand that they have a purpose that can actually make a meaningful difference. But of course, they also want their businesses to survive – and thrive – after they’ve moved on. Great performance can never come without great people and culture, and the opposite is also true – great people and culture are affiliated most with high-performing organizations. We can argue over which drives the other. But there is one undeniable truth: when a company is in its earliest days – when there is no performance or numbers to speak of – the key differentiators are the team, their purpose, and their culture. The team is the company’s raw DNA, the purpose their religion, and culture their unique way o....

TECHNALINK HIGHLIGHTS
  

In celebration of women role models in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), STEMconnectortm unveils in hard copy and online its inaugural 100 Women Leaders in STEM publicatin. The heroines included in 100 Women Leaders in STEM share stories about their commitment to serving as mentors and sponsors of those who are next in the stem jobs pipline.
           
Mclean, VA - Technalink, Inc. is excited to announce that Alka Dhillon, Founder & Chief Executive Officer has been selected as a winner for the 2012 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement Award Presented by SmartCEO.
    
Alka Dhillon, Founder and CEO, Technalink (McLean,VA) Recognized as one of the leading female CEOs in the Washington, DC, area, Ms. Dhillon is known for her irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for giving back to the community.

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