Tag Archives: Harvard Business Review

The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel

Me? I like Facebook. My feed gives me pictures and updates of friends and family, and politics carefully filtered for only information I agree with. But then there’s this, published recently in the Harvard Business Review. A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel. Who can argue with data?

Does Facebook Affect the Rest of Our Lives?

That Facebook affects the rest of our lives, negatively, is not a new idea. But not everybody agrees with it.  Here’s how that article presents it

“Prior research has shown that the use of social media may detract from face-to-face relationships, reduce investment in meaningful activities, increase sedentary behavior by encouraging more screen time, lead to internet addiction, and erode self-esteem through unfavorable social comparison. Self-comparison can be a strong influence on human behavior, and because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on social media, it is possible for an individual to believe that their own life compares negatively to what they see presented by others. But some skeptics have wondered if perhaps people with lower well-being are more likely to use social media, rather than social media causing lower well-being. Moreover, other studies have found that social media use has a positive impact on well-being through increased social support and reinforcement of  real world relationships.”

The emphasis there is mine. I often question research by looking at the skewed data it starts with, which is the idea in italics. I also like to think social media in general enriches my life. It helps me keep up with friends, and, in my case at least, has generated some new friends. Who have become, over time, actual real friends.

The Research Confirms the Worst

The research, however, is not so rosy. It concludes:

“Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.”

There too, emphasis is mine, and, in relating to what’s there in boldface, ouch! Now I’m worried that there’s something wrong with me. I’m do like others’ content, and I do click links, but – damn – my self-reported health and life satisfaction aren’t going down. That is, until now, reading this research. Suddenly I’m concerned.

Real Cases: Paths Female CEOs Took to the Top

This is interesting: Harvard Business Review just published some research on how large-company female CEOs reached the top. The authors looked at the career paths of 24 women who head Fortune 500 companies.

Executive women

They do say they were testing the standard assumption that these women took “the most competitive business tracks, like investment banking and management consulting.”

It turned out, however, that the standard assumption wasn’t particularly accurate.

Most women running Fortune 500 companies did not immediately hop on a “competitive business track.” Only three had a job at a consulting firm or bank right out of college. A larger share of the female CEOs—over 20%—took jobs right out of school at the companies they now run.  These weren’t glamorous jobs.  Mary Barra, now the CEO of General Motors, started out with the company as college co-op student.  Kathleen Mazzearella started out as a customer service representative at Greybar, the company she would eventually become the CEO of more than 30 years later. All told, over 70 percent of the 24 CEOs spent more than ten years at the company they now run, becoming long-term insiders before becoming CEO. This includes Heather Bresch at Mylan, Gracia Martore at Gannett, and Debra Reed at Sempra Energy.

Even those who weren’t promoted as long-term insiders often worked their way up a particular corporate ladder, advancing over decades at a single company and later making a lateral move into the CEO role at another company.  This was the experience of Patricia Woertz, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), who built her career over 29 years at Chevron.  And it was the experience of Sheri McCoy, who became CEO of Avon after being passed over for the CEO role at Johnson & Johnson, where she worked for 30 years.

I was glad to read that the authors conclude with some inspiration for women executives:

… the notion that regardless of background, you can commit to a company, work hard, prove yourself in multiple roles, and ultimately ascend to top leadership. These female CEOs didn’t have to go to the best schools or get the most prestigious jobs. But they did have to find a good place to climb.

And, by the way, 24 women CEOs for 500 big companies? Too bad. It should be about 250, shouldn’t it?

(This was originally published on Planning Startups Stories)

Double Your Productivity with Real Focus

According to the emails and comments, Tony Schwartz’ post The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time on the Harvard Business Review is getting a lot of attention this morning. He says: vision

Tell the truth: Do you answer email during conference calls (and sometimes even during calls with one other person)? Do you bring your laptop to meetings and then pretend you’re taking notes while you surf the net? Do you eat lunch at your desk? Do you make calls while you’re driving, and even send the occasional text, even though you know you shouldn’t?

I recognize that behavior. That’s often me. Tony follows with:

The biggest cost — assuming you don’t crash — is to your productivity. In part, that’s a simple consequence of splitting your attention, so that you’re partially engaged in multiple activities but rarely fully engaged in any one. In part, it’s because when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 per cent.

That reminds me of the “good-ol’ days” in the 1980s when I was writing books and doing consulting. I would lock myself in with a project. I’d focus and get two and sometimes three hours straight concentrated productivity on one thing. All I had to do, back then, was take the damn phone wire out of the phone. I’ve always been a procrastinator, but this concentrated focus was my remedy. Wait until deadline, then dive in. Full force.

Today it takes putting the computer to sleep too.And — much  it also takes a lot of discipline. I confess. I don’t think I’ve managed to focus that well for years.

(Image: bigstockphoto.com)

Do We Have Any Idea What Productivity Really Is?

Have you thought about productivity lately? And how anybody measures productivity?

I think it’s a concept that grew up with the industrial revolution. Productivity was measured as factory work, in units produced per hour. Visualize finished cars flowing out of the assembly line. factory

What’s productivity today and how can we measure it? The modern work style is so diffuse, now. Who knows what makes us productive. Emails, perhaps, or phone calls or tweets or blog posts? Presentations? What about lines of code, by the developers.

I posted tell the truth: where are you most productive last week, questioning how people answer to surveys on where they are most productive. last week on whether people are more productive at home, office, or coworking sites.

Later I saw Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By on the Harvard Business Review, by Tony Schwartz. These myths are also about productivity. I really enjoyed his myth number two:

Myth #2: A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.

Which he tears apart elegantly with this:

The more anxious we feel, the less clearly and imaginatively we think, and the more reactive and impulsive we become.

But my favorite of Tony Schwartz’ myths is his number four:

Myth #4: The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

No single myth is more destructive to employers and employees than this one. The reason is that we’re not designed to operate like computers — at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time.

Instead, human beings are designed to pulse intermittently between spending and renewing energy. Great performers — and enlightened leaders — recognize that it’s not the number of hours people work that determines the value they create, but rather the energy they bring to whatever hours they work.

As technology changes the world, physical presence is no longer the same as work presence. I can be sitting at a desk in my office and miles away, and that’s much, much easier now than it used to be. So how do we measure productivity?

I think we have to look for results. Numerical results. Measure productivity by outcome, not input. But I’m not sure. What do you think?

(Image: bigstockphoto.com)

Real Leaders Know What They Don’t Know

I’m afraid this might be a theme. I posted In Praise of Not Knowing here April 30, an ode to the value of respecting uncertainty. I suggested there that not knowing is a sign of intelligence. I’ve caught it a couple of times since in the context of leadership. Leaders know what they don’t know.

Bob Sutton recently posted his 12 Things Good Bosses Believe on one of the Harvard Business Review sites. Here are two points in his 12 that go straight to that point.

  • I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.
  • One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is “what happens after people make a mistake.”

Several months before that, also on a Harvard Blog, Bill Taylor posted Real Business Geniuses Don’t Pretend To Know Everything. Consider this:

In simpler times, fierce personal confidence, a sense of infallibility as a leader, might have been a calling card of success. Today it is a warning sign of failure, whether from bad judgment, low morale among disillusioned colleagues, or sheer burnout from the pressures of always having to be right.

I particularly like that last phrase: “the pressure of always having to be right.” That’s a hard path to take.

(Image: cowpland/shutterstock)

In Planning, Not All Metrics Are Created Equal

This is an important point. More and more I’m focusing on metrics as a vital component of any useful business planning process, but then I read Entrepreneurs: Beware of Vanity Metrics from Harvard Business Review, which warns of …

… the curse of vanity metrics, numbers which look good on paper but aren’t action oriented: website hits, message volume, or “billions and billions served.” They look great in a press release, but what do they accomplish?

Metrics are magic, or at least that’s what I’ve written in a number of places, related to business planning. But maybe I should have written good metrics, or valid metrics. Metrics as measurement become accountability, which becomes management. Build the metrics into your planning process, and you have better management, better steering, and better teamwork. Not just dollars, but metrics you can track, and metrics that are specific to different jobs, functions, and goals.

Good metrics might be sales, costs, expenses, trips, seminars, ads placed, publications, leads, presentations, posts, tweets, retweets, calls, minutes per call, incidents per serial, and so on. You need things you can track.

But vanity metrics happen all the time. Those are the numbers that look good but come after the fact, without a direct link to cause or performance. I’ve used vanity metrics often enough to know. When preparing a presentation, find a number that looks good, and pretend that it shows progress.

Cool … but is that what you were aiming for?

(Image: 3DDock/Shutterstock)

Contradiction and Paradox Are the Spice of Business

Measurement, metrics, and accountability are everything. Except when they aren’t.

Yes, I contradict myself. No, I don’t mind. Contradiction and paradox are reality in business as in life. As soon as you develop a general rule, you find exceptions.

And I have posted here both the magic of metrics, and do we undervalue marketing we can’t measure. Like the old folk song says, both sides now.

So with that in the background I read with relish Management by Imagination on the Harvard Business Review’s The Conversation blog. Here’s the lead:

The perception that good management is closely linked to good measurement runs deep. How often do you hear these old saws repeated: “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t count”; “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”; “If you can’t measure it, it won’t happen”? We like these sayings because they’re comforting. The act of measurement provides security; if we know enough about something to measure it we almost certainly have some control over it.

But however comforting it can be to stick with what we can measure, we run the risk of expunging something really important. What’s more, we won’t see what we’re missing because we don’t know what it is that we don’t know. By sticking simply to what we can measure, we come to imagine a small and constrained world in which we are prisoners of a “reality” that is in fact an edifice we’ve unknowingly constructed around ourselves.

The Harvard post goes on to question the more extreme exercises of metrics:

if you stick to measuring what you can already measure, you cannot create a future that is different than the past.

On the other hand, there’s no denying that the underlying mathematics of computing, as applied on the Web, are total luxury of measurement in today’s business world, especially when compared to what we all did as recently as the 1980s and early 1990s. Back then we’d spend the marketing money on ads and direct mail and such, and then hope for the best, waiting weeks and months to get at best a distorted view of results. Now we get clicks and conversions and return on investment almost instantly.

When I worked as a wire service journalist in the 1970s, the turn of a headline made a huge difference. So we crossed our fingers and hoped it would work. We’d find out the next day. Today the industry leaders like the Huffington Post test headlines, and adjust them, in real time.

Conclusion: I love the truth of case by case judgment of so much of real business. Know the rules, follow them when it makes sense, and break them when it makes sense. Paradox and contradiction are the spice of life. And good business.

Or, if you prefer, take this, straight from the Harvard blog, as a conclusion:

We need to get away from all those old sayings about measurement and management, and in that spirit I’d like to propose a new wisdom: “If you can’t imagine it, you will never create it.” The future is about imagination, not measurement. To imagine a future, one has to look beyond the measurable variables, beyond what can be proven with past data.

(Image credit: Vlue/Shutterstock)