This is your brain on power: The inverse relationship between power and empathy

Anecdotally, many of us have observed how those in power can have a diminished sense of other people’s perspectives (in extreme cases, even their existence). A team of scientists from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada conducted a brain study that confirms power’s inverse relationship with empathy.

Our brains have what is called a “mirror system,” which is activated when we watch someone else take action. In a healthy functioning mirror system, neurons associated with carrying out an action are activated when we witness someone else complete that action; our brain resonates with the other person’s action-taking.

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Executives want coaches—but aren’t getting them. What gives?

In a study from Stanford Graduate School of Business, in conjunction with The Miles Group, nearly 100% of CEOs reported that they appreciate the process of coaching and getting performance feedback, but only one-third of CEOs are getting it.

Clearly, there’s a breakdown somewhere. The study tried to uncover the disconnect:

78% of the CEOs said it was their idea to be coached, while 21% said it was their board’s idea. That so many CEOs recognize the value of coaching is great news and indicates a shift away from the stigma of coaching from something remedial, to something enhancing. There’s opportunity here for boards, HR managers or internal talent managers to build outside coaching into their talent development programs and position them as a job benefit.

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Boards give companies an “F” on talent management

Last year, a Harvard Business School professor and an organizational behavior researcher surveyed more than 1,000 board members across 59 countries. They found that by and large, boards are concerned that their companies fail in training and developing their most important asset: talent.

Stanford, in partnership with the Institute of Executive Development, conducted a survey that yielded similar results. What this survey found was that board members care and worry about succession planning and see most companies as lacking a pipeline to groom and select leaders, particularly for the C-suite.

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Who owns organizational effectiveness?

As noted in a prior blog post, boards largely view their companies as failing on talent development. Might there be a talent development ownership vacuum?

HR is largely seen as, and functions as, an administrative, not strategic, player. CEOs and senior leaders recognize talent is an area where they need help—and they often look to HR for help. This creates an opportunity for HR leaders to assert themselves as more strategic players in the talent game.

Edward Lawler is an organizational effectiveness expert. In researching for his recently published book called Effective Human Resource Management: A Global Analysis, he found that increasingly what makes organizations effective is how they staff and manage their people. Modern companies are ever more dependent on complexity, and it takes knowledgeable people to manage this complexity. Lawler found that when HR spends more time acting as a strategic, rather than merely an administrative, business partner, companies perform better and more effectively implement strategic change.

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Make sure your sales training actually works

Sales training—when done well—can transform teams into selling machines. Steve W. Martin, sales strategy professor at University of California Marshall School of Business, outlines four common errors he sees in sales training and suggests ways to avoid them.

1. Mistake: Sales training is based on assumptions about why customers buy.

Fix: You have to interview decision makers at accounts you’ve won and lost.

Martin has interviewed over 1,000 won and lost customers on behalf of clients to determine what goes on in customers’ minds when making buying decisions. He found that 75% of the time, customers made their decisions halfway through the sales process (if not before it has even begun). This means sales teams have to be in the lead at the halfway point. Martin’s point is that if you are going to train a sales team about how and why their prospective customers make buying decisions—and companies should—it has to be based on direct interviews with them.

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Vulnerability: The true strength—and necessity—of great leaders and innovators

“If you are humble, you are no threat to anybody. Some behave in a way that dominates others. That’s a mistake. If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important—and you do that by being genuine and humble. You know that other people have qualities that may be better than your own. Let them express them.”

– Nelson Mandela

We all have vulnerabilities. It’s one of those nagging facts of being human. Leaders are no different. Exceptional leaders have the self-awareness to know their vulnerabilities and the strength and courage to reveal them.

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