Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 26th 2015 Contents BG14 COMMENTARY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MARCH 2015 • WEEK FOUR
Befriend your boss
Being friends with your boss can be com-
plicated. If you genuinely like each other
and want to have a social bond, a friendship
is worth cultivating, as it would be with
any co-worker. But don t make a special
effort beyond what you d do with any other
colleague. If the boss/friend line is too blurry,
articulate where you stand in the moment:
"I m speaking as your friend here ..." or "As
your employee, I m telling you ..."
And you don t want others to think you re
getting special treatment, so take time to
consider the decisions your boss is making.
Are you getting all the good assignments
and easy trips?
Ask trusted co-workers if your relationship
is a problem for others. If it does seem to
be causing resentment, talk with your boss.
You might say, "I really appreciate that
you ve given me some of the softball assign-
ments, but I m concerned that my colleagues
might perceive this as favoritism."
(Adapted from "Can You Be Friends With
Your Boss?" by Karen Dillon.)
To get candid feedback,
ask for it
Getting honest, useful feedback is the
fastest route to better performance. But
people are sometimes too nice to share the
full picture or too intimidated to be fully
truthful. You need to be clear that you want
honest feedback. If you say, "Don t be nice,
be helpful," people will be less likely to hold
back. Instead of asking what you did wrong,
ask what you can do better going forward.
Try not to judge any feedback you receive,
whether it s positive or negative. Just thank
people for being honest with you and let
them know that you find their observations
and opinions helpful.
Try to write down what they say. A little
silence communicates that you re taking
feedback seriously, and it gives people time
to think about what else they might add.
And don t just ask once. Give people multiple
opportunities to give you real feedback.
(Adapted from "How to Ask for Feedback
That Will Actually Help You" by Thomas
Wedell-Wedellsborg and Peter Bregman.)
Seeking too much
proof can squelch an
"Prove it." Those are the two words most
deadly to innovation. It often makes sense
to ask for analytical proof before making a
decision, but this phrase can set a standard
that s impossible to meet.
There is no data about how a genuinely
new idea will interact with the world, so
there is no way to prove it will work in
advance. So while you might think you re
just being rigorous, you can actually end up
killing innovation. To keep your innovators
from being discouraged, you need to dis-
tinguish between when you are honing and
refining an existing system and when you
are attempting to create something genuinely
new. In the former, it s fine to ask for evi-
dence. In the latter, you need to take an
entirely different approach. Focus on pro-
totyping to test innovative ideas in small
ways without much upfront investment.
Iterative experimentation will generate data
and refine the solution.
(Adapted from "2 Words That Kill Inno-
vation" by Roger Martin.)
CEOs need to know how
to manage a board
As investors have become more powerful
and boards more sovereign, it has become
increasingly important for CEOs to manage
up. To lead your directors and investors
more effectively you should know how to:
• Recruit strong directors. Directors should
bring business leadership to the table. When
recruiting new directors, assess their capacity
to think strategically about the firm, its
competitive position and what creates or
destroys value at the firm. Does the candidate
have a proven record of working with and
leading executives at other companies?
• Restructure the board. Executives need
to change a board from time to time to meet
shifting market needs. Those who govern
a company that is growing in its home mar-
ket are likely different from those who can
help an enterprise go global.
• Evaluate directors. Work with the board
to create annual evaluations of individual
members, as well as reviews for the board
as a whole.
(Adapted from "How CEOs Can Best Man-
age Their Boards" by Michael Useem.)
Change your name
Whether to change your name is a per-
sonal decision; but one with professional
ramifications. If you want to launch your
new identity and avoid having your emails
deleted by colleagues, follow these steps:
• Announce the change. Send an e-mail
blast to your contacts.
• Expect some misunderstandings. Be
patient. People may be temporarily confused
by your new moniker, but they ll catch on
once you explain.
• Update all of your accounts at the same
time. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, email
addresses, blogs, etc. Don t confuse people
by updating your online identity piecemeal.
If you re changing your name, build in a
transitional period in which you include
your old identity.
For example, a LinkedIn profile would
read, "Jane (Smith) Williams."
• Set up forwarding. If you re changing
your email address, set up an auto-forward
so that you receive all messages and senders
are notified to update their address books.
(Adapted from "How to Change Your Name
and Keep Your Professional Identity" by Dorie
The downside of raising CEO pay in
Lower productivity: In a transitional economy,
the greater the pay disparity between a com-
pany's top leaders and its workforce, the worse
the firm's productivity, on average, apparently
because of the corrosive effects of employee re-
sentment, says a team led by Michael Firth of
Lingnan University in Hong Kong.
The team's study was conducted in China,
where the ratio of top-management pay to
workers' average pay rose from 4.92 in 2001 to
5.73 in 2012 as the country has moved cau-
tiously toward a free market system.
(Source: Journal of Economic Behavior &
Why followers are less open to
direction than leaders
Lower self-confidence: People who identify as
followers are less willing to take direction or crit-
icism than leaders, according to research by Psy-
chTests, a provider of psychological
assessments to human resources departments.
Followers scored lower than leaders on com-
fort with admitting faults, ability to handle criti-
cism, willingness to ask for help and openness
to learning and improvement. Because followers
tend to have lower self-confidence, criticism
may make them feel weak or incompetent, Kate
Adams writes on HBR.org.
Be thankful that you played the
One-fourth of a standard deviation increase in
cognitive skills: Learning a musical instrument
during childhood and adolescence increases cog-
nitive skills by one-fourth of a standard devia-
tion and school grades by one-sixth of a
standard deviation, effects that are twice as
large as those from sports, according to a study
in Germany by Adrian Hille and Jürgen Schupp
of DIW Berlin. Moreover, adolescents with music
training are more conscientious, open and ambi-
The reasons for the cognitive improvements
are unclear, but studying music may boost brain
functioning and, because it encourages persist-
ence, may increase conscientiousness, the re-
(Source: Economics of Education Review)
A birth in the Dragon Year may not be
so auspicious after all
Less likely to get a university education: The
birthrate in Singapore, where ethnic Chinese
people are a majority, spikes during astrological
years of the dragon (1976, 1988, 2000, etc), be-
cause babies born in a dragon year are believed
by many to be superior.
Yet the surge in births means tougher compe-
tition for university education, with the result
that dragon babies are less likely to get a univer-
sity education than babies born in other years,
even though Singapore universities take more
dragon-year students in an attempt to compen-
sate, says Nicholas Sim of the University of Ade-
laide in Australia. A university education in
Singapore increases individuals' earnings by 50
per cent, on average, Sim says.
(Source: Economic Inquiry)
@2015 Harvard Business School Publishing
Corp. Distributed by the New York Times Syn-
TIPS & TALKING POINTS
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