Good Leaders Aren’t Afraid to Be Nice – From HBR April 2015

Panepinto’s article in April’s edition of the HBR whittles down the main lessons he took from Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval’s book The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness. Nice may seem incompatible with business to some, but in fact a huge body of research has shown that how much others like you often determines whether they are going to want to buy from you, work with you or indeed for you. Key lessons from this book are:

Let the other person be smarter – nobody likes a know it all, while it is important to show you do have the capabilities, knowledge and expertise for the job, don’t try too hard to be the smartest person in the room – particularly when dealing with clients – try to find a balance, which is often where a good mentor can come in, particularly for those who are less experienced

Keep it simple – as an expert in your field, your client will want you to break it down and make it easy to follow – not because they are less intelligent than you, but because this is not their area of expertise – which is why they have hired/ are considering hiring you. Try to sit down with your client and have a nice conversation, not one filled with jargon that they will struggle to understand

Ask, don’t tell – this is key to being not just a nice leader, but an effective one. Get others on board by asking for their input and making them feel a part of the process, rather than just a cog in a wheel they will be more engaged in the process as a result

Don’t argue so much – Panepinto quite rightly points out that slipping over the line from being challenging to being argumentative greatly reduces your chances of getting chosen for a project or team – remember – it’s a collaborative effort

Everyone is worth a listen – all ideas are worth hearing and may have some value, listen to the idea before moving on


So, what can we take from these lessons? Good leadership isn’t only about being tough and focusing on the bottom line (although both certainly have their place!). Emotional Intelligence and being human about your interactions can go a long way towards good leadership, so remember when you go into your next client or team meeting – be nice!






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Making Dumb Groups Smarter – From HBR December 2014

While groups are an important part of working life, they don’t always work effectively for a number of reasons. The success or otherwise of a group depends on the ability to effectively share all information held by the members of the group so that the group can work together in a cohesive manner. This however, is not always the reality and when groups fail, they usually do so as a result of one of the following:

  1. Amplification of errors
  2. Cascade effects
  3. Polarising groups
  4. Focusing on what everybody knows


  1. Amplifying Errors:

This happens in a number of ways, including:

The planning fallacy – underestimating the costs and time required to complete a project.

Over confidence leads us to believe that our predictions are more accurate than they actually are and these errors have both been found to be aggravated in groups – they tend to be even more optimistic than individuals.

The representative heuristic, which leads us to think that things which are similar in one way are similar in other ways has been found to be increased in groups compared to individuals.

The sunk-cost fallacy occurs when people stick with a project which is failing because of the time and resources already invested in it. It has been shown that groups have also been found to be even more likely than individuals to be increasingly committed to a plan that is failing, especially if they identify strongly with the group.

Framing effects, which refers to how we view things, depending on the way in which they are presented to us.

  1. Cascade Effects

This refers to a trickle in one direction that turns into a cascade and it can happen when people get the impression from the outset, possibly from the group leader, that the general consensus is going in a certain direction and others, individually concur, for a number of reasons, which include not wanting to appear ignorant or adversarial.  As each person concurs, it creates a cascade effect whereby others joining the group or decision making process go along with what they think is the general consensus. Individuals then self-censor themselves and don’t voice opposing arguments. This can result in the group making the wrong decision as opposing views and information are not given airtime.

  1. Polarising Groups

This happens when a person who is already inclined to take risks, consults with another and becomes more inclined to take the risk. Group deliberation in this instance appears to cause a “risky shift”. The opposite has also been found, whereby when a person who is more cautious in terms of risk taking consults with another, they become even less risk inclined.


  1. Focusing on “What Everybody Knows”

This happens when most of the group have most of the information but some members have additional information that is either not shared, or not focused on. The “common knowledge effect” occurs when information held by all carries more weight than information held by only a few members of the group. Common information has been found to have a disproportionality large impact on discussions and conclusions, while information that is held by only a few, is given disproportionality little weight, and this can lead to poor decisions.



Making Groups Wiser:


Group failures can have disastrous effects, however there are some practical safeguards to the above pitfalls. These include:

Silencing the leader – by expressing their own views, a leader can unwittingly promote self-censorship. Others may not want to be seen to disagree with the leader and as a result will not want to give a conflicting view or opinion. To combat this, the leader should indicate their desire to hear independent information from the outset and refuse to take a firm view until all the information has emerged.

Priming critical thinking – Research has found that when people are given a “getting along” task to do before engaging in a group deliberation, they are much more likely to stay silent in the face of opposing views than those who were given a critical thinking task to perform. If the leader of the group encourages information disclosure from the beginning people are more likely to speak up.

Rewarding group success – cascades are less likely to happen if people know that they have nothing to gain by a correct individual decision and everything to gain from a correct group decision. Identifying with the groups success will encourage people to speak up and against the general consensus with information that could be critical to the outcome.

Assigning roles – the pitfall of focusing on “what everyone knows” is less likely to happen if every member of the group is assigned a specific role – before deliberations begin. If the group members recognise that each person has something potentially different to bring to the group from the outset, they will be more open to hearing it and giving it the appropriate consideration.

Establishing contrarian teams – doing this involves appointing a “red team” whose mission it is to defeat the primary team by exposing mistakes and potential vulnerabilities and are given clear incentives to do so.

The Delphi method – this mixes the pros of individual decision making with social learning. Individuals offer first round votes anonymously. Then they vote again, with a requirement that the second round estimates have to fall within the middle quartiles of the first round. The process is repeated until they converge on an estimate. The process is often interspersed with group discussion. The anonymity of the process offers protection to the individual group members and therefore reduces the problem of self-silencing.


Therefore, in conclusion, it appears that while there are numerous pitfalls that groups can unwittingly fall prey to, by being aware of these, we can take preventative steps to avoid them and reap more of the rewards that are traditionally associated with group work.

How to communicate effectively at work

Communicate Effectively

Mindfulness In The Workplace

Humans are programmed to seek happiness and fulfillment in their lives. As we spend a substantial part of our lives at work, we ought to seek the same fulfillment in our workplace. Happiness has been found to be increased by pursuing intrinsic goals, behaving autonomous, satisfying basic psychological needs, as well as being mindful and acting with a sense of awareness.

The concept of mindfulness refers to a psychological state, the open awareness of present-moment experiences. There has been growing evidence of the positive effects of across various domains, in both academic, as well as corporate fields. Research has found evidence that mindfulness allows organisations to perform more efficiently and more reliably, which can be see crucial in today’s ever-changing environment.

Awareness of the present moment

Globalisation, environmental change, and organisational competitiveness and need for innovation bring about numerous challenges in the workplace. This can further effect the work environment and culture, as well as individuals’ levels of stress, engagement, and productivity. In order to tackle the challenging environment and obtain individuals’ full potential, we should fully acknowledge not only our skills and abilities, but increase our awareness of ourselves, and observing the present moment in which we are operating in.

Open your eyes

Mindfulness has been described as a type of mental training of stopping, observing, and understanding one’s present experience in order to reduce emotional distress and maladaptive behavior. Mindfulness includes awareness of current external stimuli, as well as of internal processes, such as emotions, perceptions, and cognitions. By becoming mindful, individuals tend to cease from unhealthy automatic thought and behaviour patterns. As a consequence, individuals are now more self-regulated and respond to their environment more effectively.

Slow down – maximise your potential

The concept of mindfulness in the workplace might appear as mere form of meditation for some, but the idea is not only to observe our existence in the present, but also improve our behaviour patterns at work. These might be more deeply rooted than we think. The mindful states of consciousness also allow flexibility, as individuals can be aware of everything taking place in the here and now or attend to situational details. Thus, contrary to common beliefs, slowing down can sometimes be necessary in the fast paced economy.

Benefits of mindfulness in the workplace

Mindful individuals neither dwell on the past nor worry about the future. This can be found particularly beneficial in the workplace.

Benefits of Mindfulness in the workplace

  • Engagement

Mindful employees obtain, retain and protect the resources needed to be energetic, enthusiastic and immersed in their job.

  • Decrease of stress

Mindfulness-based programs provide effective interventions to target high stress levels, sleep quality, and autonomic balance in employees.

  • Conflict resolution

When people become more aware of what triggers their negative reactions, they become less susceptible to being blind- sided in conflict.

  • Leadership skills

Supervisors’ trait mindfulness has been found to increase their employees’ well-being and performance.

  • Promoting work-life balance

To reduce unwanted psychological preoccupation with work concerns, employees find their ideal way to manage their work-life balance.

  • Increase of emotional intelligence
  • Awareness of fine detail, providing the capability to discover and manage unexpected events.


Exercising mindfulness – practice makes perfect

Mindfulness strategies can be learned through coaching sessions or step-by-step approach. The fundamental practices for mindfulness are based on individuals being encouraged to pay attention to such experiences as the sensation of their breath, inner stream of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Individuals can also develop triggers to everyday experiences, which would further remind them to be mindful. Key to mindfulness, as when learning any new skill, is practice and repetition.

Finally, when utilising mindfulness in the workplace, linking the exercises with 360 assessments may provide even more substantial way to dig into one’s potential.

So go on, embrace mindfulness in 2015!


Davitt Corporate Partners are now OPP’s Gold level Alliance Partner for Ireland


After becoming OPP’s only Irish Alliance Partner last year, Davitt Corporate Partners have now been awarded the highest level of Alliance Partnership with OPP – Gold status. In fact, we are one of only seven Gold Alliance Partners in all of Eurasia.

Gold Alliance Partner status is reserved for consultancies with at least four practitioners qualified in OPP instruments, and with proven success in their OPP-product related business.


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Extreme Productivity – HBR May 2011

Bob Pozen’s article in HBR outlines six useful yet simple principles which enable him to be more productive in his working life. We at DCP think that these can be applied by most people, allowing them to be more productive and efficient in their own lives. The principles are as follows:

Know your comparative advantage:

  • Decide, not which tasks you can do best but which of the tasks only you can do, then delegate the others to team members who can also produce results in this area. This applies not just to CEOs but also mid-level executives
  • Similarly, if you are more skilled in one area, but able in another area, one in which others are not, turn your hand to the latter as it is where your talents will be best utilised and you will be most useful
  • Many executives spend too long on operational details and would be better to hire an EA to perform certain tasks in order to free up their own time to focus on more strategic big picture issues and save them from getting bogged down in the detail


It’s not the time you spend, but the results you produce:

  • Pozen, while working for a law firm in Washington found that billing clients by the hour encouraged people to work long hours and was counterintuitive to producing quick results. He advocates focusing on results rather than hours billed and charging clients accordingly, thus allowing a better work-life balance


Think First, Read or Write Second:

  • Know what you want to achieve before beginning writing. Outline four or five key points and then write the conclusion so that you know where your article or email is going
  • Similarly, he advises his children, when studying, after each chapter they read, to write no more than the one paragraph that they want to recall at exam time, this focuses them in their reading to make it as efficient as possible


Prepare Your Plan, but Be Ready to Change It:

  • When speaking to a group, don’t write out a speech, jot down the key points you wish to cover and a concluding paragraph. Get to the event early enough to hear the speaker before you in order to gauge the mood of the audience and tailor your points to its state of mind.
  • Keep at least one hour a day free in your schedule to allow you to deal with any unexpected events in a timely fashion.  If your day is filled back to back with meetings or phone calls, an unanticipated development can be much more difficult and disruptive than if you allow some free time each day to deal with such eventualities


Let Others Own Their Space:

  • Rather than telling team members and direct reports what needs to be done and how to do it, encourage debate by outlining the issue and a “tentative path” but encouraging people to disagree and suggest alternatives  – allowing others to come up with a better approach
  • At the end of a meeting, sum up by asking what needs to be done, who is going to do it and when will the objectives be delivered. This allows people involved to agree on what needs to be done and to set their own timeline, giving them an ownership interest in the project
  • An added bonus to this approach according to Pozen is that often people will come forth with more ambitious timelines and targets than he might have dared suggest


Keep it Simple:

  • Keep the material aspects of life as simple as possible in order to maximize your productivity. For example Pozen has five summer work outfits and five winter ones. He also follows the same breakfast routine and has the same thing for lunch each day, thus minimizing his choices and maximising his time
  • Keep meetings to an hour or an hour and a half at most, people tend to switch off after an hour and a half and productivity declines as a result
  • Circulate materials for a meeting to all participants in advance of the meeting and include a one page executive summary and ensure that everyone knows that it is necessary to read it in advance
  • The first five or ten minutes of a meeting should be the time in which the presenter sets the stage and outlines the key questions, the remaining time should be used to discuss issues and formulate a plan – as opposed to meetings in which the presenter talks through every word on 20 or more slides while everybody listens politely


Even by choosing to integrate one or two principles into your everyday life can make an impact on your productivity, so pick the ones that you think will make a difference to you and give them a go!