Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2 Ways Obama's State of the Union Address Was an Advertisement for the Training Industry

Last night, as we in Greensboro, North Carolina were experiencing Polar Vortex II: The Return of the Arctic, Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address. After taking advantage of the rare snow to go sledding down the middle of my street, I came inside and sat down to watch the address. I was immediately struck by two important parallels between his message to the country and the concerns and priorities of our industry:

1)  That leadership is a multifaceted quality that requires not only a range of skills, but also an awareness of how and when to use them.
2) That an imperative of leadership is to promote good, increase understanding and act as a force for improvement in our world.

Obama kept returning to a discussion of what defines American leadership, and to this question in particular: Is leadership defined by the country’s military strength? Manufacturing prowess? Diplomatic reach? National character? The president’s refreshing answer was e.) All of the above. His assertion that a combination of many factors contributes to the character of U.S. leadership is something that we in the OD industry know very well. A team leader cannot lead effectively without developing multiple strengths and knowing when and how best to use them. In “a world of complex threats,” Obama said, “our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy.” The same goes in the business world. A manager that relies solely on her tendency to use asserting to influence those around her may be ineffective, or even cause harm, with others in the organization who have a different influencing style. In the State of Union address last night, Obama emphasized the importance of developing and using different skills in different situations, rather than just relying on one strength to lead. This is an awareness the OD industry struggles to convey every day.

Second, the president encouraged Congress to “remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe.” So we’re not just trying to deal with each catastrophe as it occurs, we can also work to improve the leadership status quo. As trainers, coaches, and HR professionals, doing good and promoting understanding is exactly what we are trying to accomplish every day. We understand that developing good leaders is a learning process, and that leadership is not a magical quality naturally bestowed on a few worthy individuals. So it turns out, Obama’s vision of leadership coincides with two important aspects of our industry: 1) an awareness that leadership is multifaceted, and 2) we strive to improve the world around us by building more enlightened leaders. I also learned something new yesterday: you know those words coming out of politicians’ mouths? Apparently some of them can be relevant!    

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Who's Really the Problem, Gen X or Gen Y?

Once again, we see another study published bashing Gen Y. The Ernst & Young findings suggest that 18 to 32 year olds are entitled, not hard-working and not good team players. Media outlets including Time, CNBC and Money pick up and amplify these studies and the beliefs about Gen Y are reinforced. We tend to believe what we see in print. I’m a Boomer and I’m just not buying it. I read it in the business press but I don’t see it in my day to day interactions with my own employees or my own children. More important, there’s solid data to support my disbelief.

Gen Y vs Gen X

Let’s look at how Gen Y and Gen X (33-48) influence their co-workers. The Corporate Leadership Council has identified the ability to Influencing co-workers as the single most important competency for global leaders. So, Let’s look at Gen Y from the this perspective – How do they influence and is it different from Gen X or Boomers for that matter? We’ve found significant generational differences in how people influence others. But, this data does not paint a picture of entitled, lazy, self-centered twenty-somethings. When it comes to influencing others, Gen Y is significantly less likely to use asserting as an influencing style than Gen X. In fact, they most resemble Boomers in their willingness to use assertiveness as a strategy for getting their way. Gen Y and Boomers are more likely to engage in negotiating as an influence style than Gen X. Gen Y and Boomers are even more likely to attempt to bridge with co-workers when promoting their ideas than is Gen X. 

Beyond the Stereotypes

So the data says Gen Y is less assertive, more likely to negotiate and more likely to bridge with coworkers.  Gen X is more assertive, less willing to negotiate and less likely to bridge with co-workers when promoting their ideas. When it comes to influencing Gen Y actually resembles Boomers more than any other age group.  So where do these negative ideas about Gen Y coming from? Possible answers: 1) Surveys that question a disproportionate number of Gen X workers and base their findings on that age group. Gen X is different than Gen Y but does that make them better? 2) The studies conducted in top-end firms such as Ernst and Young prefer to hire graduates from elite schools. Maybe they are more entitled but are they representative of their entire generation. 

Everyone take a deep breath. Stop perpetuating these beliefs that Gen Y is somehow “less than” their older and usually senior co-workers. Maybe Gen Y is different but different does not have to be negative. Blogs and tweets that make good copy and attract attention can also reinforce inaccurate perceptions. Take what you read with a grain of salt and keep an open mind.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Influence Style Workplace Implications: Gender Differences

This post continues a series of articles about influence style and the Influence Style Indicator (ISI) assessment developed by Discovery Learning, Inc. and Innovative Pathways.

Influence Style differences suggest interesting implications for the workplace, both locally and globally. Below we explore some of those differences focusing on gender. In later posts, we will cover nationality, age, and personality preferences.

Gender Differences in Influence Style

Most people might guess that there are gender differences in how people attempt to influence and persuade others. Awareness of these differences and the capacity to modify one’s influence preference might create a significant advantage in the workplace. Our data on nearly 2000 females and 2500 males confirms differences that are significant but not surprising. Men show a significantly preference for using the advocating or pushing styles of Rationalizing and Asserting. Women show a significant preference for using the uniting or pulling styles of Inspiring and Bridging. Women also show a significant preference for using the more neutral style of Negotiating. Differences in these preferences create the opportunity for miscommunication and misunderstanding. As an example, when the boss has an Asserting influence preference and the direct report has a Bridging preference there is a strong likelihood that the boss will interpret the Bridging communication style of the direct report as soft and lacking in opinion or substance.




Significantly Higher

No Significant Difference

Significantly Lower

Contact us at Discovery Learning, Inc. for more information about the Influence Style Indicator assessment and how it might benefit your group or team.

See Also:
"Getting Your Way: Personal Style and Influence"
"The Influence Style Spectrum: Five Preferences"


2011 Musselwhite, W. C., Penny, J. & Plouffe, T.  Influence Style Indicator Research & Development Report.  Discovery Learning Press,  Greensboro, NC.

2011 Musselwhite, W.C. & Plouffe, T.  Influence Style Indicator Style Guide.  Discovery Learning Press, Greensboro, NC.

This post was adapted from a white paper by Chris Musselwhite, EdD, president and CEO of Discovery Learning, Inc.

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