Leading Your Team

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Leadership Lessons from the Boston Marathon Attack

As the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings draws near, the response of leaders in the public sphere offers some lessons for the effective use of social media — which has shown itself repeatedly in recent years to be the key means of communication during a crisis. Seven specific lessons on how to manage crisis communications via social media can be drawn from the Boston Marathon crisis and its aftermath.

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The Surprising Benefits of Nonconformity

New research finds that under certain circumstances, people who deviate from a dress code or other norms in appearance are perceived as having higher status and greater competence. Studies found that nonconformity leads to positive inferences when it is associated with deliberateness and intentionality. On the other hand, nonconformance due to lack of awareness does not lead to positive inferences from others. And nonconformance is risky: It comes at the cost of abandoning a comfort zone.

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Avoiding Layoff Blunders

It’s surprisingly common for companies to make mistakes in their layoff decisions — and those mistakes can be expensive for both the individuals affected and the organization. Fortunately, simply by avoiding five common decision-related problems, businesses can do better.

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From the Editor: Decision Making in the Digital Age

Business executives today have access to far more data than any previous generation, and that transforms the way business decisions are made. The Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report investigating how, even with plenty of data, making wise decisions about topics like strategy can be challenging. No matter how much data we collect and analyze, our perspectives are still colored by human foibles.

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The Art of Strategic Renewal

What does it take to transform an organization before a crisis hits? How can leaders initiate major transformations proactively? The key often lies in strategic renewal — a set of practices that can guide leaders into a new era of innovation by building strategy, experimentation and execution into the day-to-day fabric of the organization. It’s not easy: leaders find it much easier to resist change than to embrace it.

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Are Companies Ready for the New Global Executive?

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HR executives believe that tomorrow’s leaders will need to be more diverse than today’s and that there are special challenges to that need. A survey of 197 human resource executives from global companies finds that “leaders from highly diverse backgrounds will need to work together more effectively.” The challenge is that diverse groups often have more disagreements than homogeneous groups, demanding proactive skill development in group dynamics.

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How to Be a Better Boss

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Asking reports if they would recommend their manager provides quick and efficient management assessment. A condensed question, which strips away the language and diluted focus of so many evaluations, is a more focused way of getting at the true quality of a manager. So argues Julian Birkinshaw, a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School and the author of “Becoming a Better Boss: Why Good Management Is So Difficult” (Jossey-Bass, 2013).

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How To Develop a Useful “Why” Statement

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Asking why you’re embarking on a project before you begin raises the project’s chance of success. But “to our continuing surprise, we often discover these teams have not even discussed, let alone agreed on, why they are pursuing the project,” write Karen A. Brown, Nancy Lea Hyer and Richard Ettenson. But producing a good “why” statement often requires both a lot of work and heated debate.

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From the Editor: Beyond the Organization

Business executives today are figuring out how to harness the energy not just of the talented people within an organization, but of those outside of it as well. The fall 2013 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on leveraging external innovation, from the phenomenon of corporations using innovation contests to an investigation of what motivates volunteers to take part in innovation projects.

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The 2013 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

The editors of MIT Sloan Management Review announce the winners of the 2013 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development published from fall 2011 to summer 2012. The Winners: Eoin Whelan, Salvatore Parise, Jasper de Valk and Rick Aalbers, authors of “Creating Employee Networks That Deliver Open Innovation.”

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The CEO Experience Trap

New research suggests that hiring a CEO with previous experience in the role is not always a wise choice. Authors Monika Hamori of IE Business School in Madrid and Burak Koyuncu of Rouen Business School in France, collected data on 501 CEOs of S&P 500 corporations. About 20% had at least one prior CEO job. Their findings? “Our research found that these prior CEOs performed worse than their peers without such experience.”

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How to Build More Personal Power

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Executives who find themselves experiencing a power deficit have two strategies for overcoming it: they can either play the existing game more effectively or they can change the game. “Career counselors often advise people to shore up weaknesses, but the secret to becoming indispensable is consolidating strengths,” write Jean-Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet.

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Would Your Employees Recommend You?

No matter how good a workplace a company provides, it may come not matter if employees dislike their immediate line managers. Most of us have at had direct experience with egocentric or micromanaging bosses, and we have seen how much damage they can cause.

So why is there so much bad management? “Most managers have a remarkably narrow or ill-thought-out understanding of how their employees actually look at the world,” writes Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School.

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Five Steps To Leading Change Successfully

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Before making a change, you need to identify the influencers who can push the project forward — or who can cause it to stall. “Left unattended, skepticism, fear and panic can wreak havoc on any change process,” write Ellen R. Auster and Trish Ruebottom.

Their solution is a five-step, proactive process designed to help leaders navigate both the politics and the emotions that are churned up by heading in new directions. The steps include mapping the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and involving the most influential of them.

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Navigating the Politics and Emotions of Change

Skepticism, fear and panic can wreak havoc on any change process. But proactively addressing these types of feelings can ease resistance and disengagement. Research shows that executives can successfully initiate change initiatives by mapping the political landscape to identify the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and the key influencers within each stakeholder group. They should also involve influential early adopters and engage with skeptics.

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How to Overcome a Power Deficit

Many factors can cause a talented executive to be ignored or sidelined within an organization. “The fact that I was right didn’t matter,” said one manager whose recommendations went unheeded. “What I hadn’t done was build sufficient internal credibility.” Fortunately, power deficits in legitimacy, critical resources and/or networks can almost always be overcome. Research looking at 179 executives found two basic strategies that worked: “playing the game” more effectively or ”changing the game.”

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