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How To Be More Innovative? – take a shower | Gary Dumais, Psy.D., SPHR

Woman thinking in shower Gary Dumais

Have you ever heard someone say, “My best ideas come to me in the shower”, or experienced something similar yourself?

In my work as an Executive Coach, managers and business leaders often ask me how they can become more innovative, as their success depends on thinking creatively and generating “out-of-the-box” ideas.

So, I usually begin by reminding them that innovative thinking requires thinking, and thinking requires time, and time to think is something people no longer have in modern society…except, perhaps, for a few minutes in the shower.

For example, consider some of the most prolific inventors throughout history, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and Nicola Tesla. ?They lived in eras free from time-wasting distractions such as television, or time-sucking responsibilities like sixty-hour workweeks and responding to emails on nights and weekends. ?In other words, they had time to wonder, ponder, tinker, experiment, and build upon their ideas.? -And that’s exactly what they did.

Now consider the everyday lives of most people today.? Especially when you add-in family obligations on top of work responsibilities, there isn’t even enough time left for sleep, let alone thinking and innovating.

And what do we do when we do get a moment to ourselves?? Scroll endlessly through social media? ?Binge watch Netflix? ?Whatever it is, it isn’t letting our minds wander freely while observing and contemplating our thoughts…until, perhaps, we take a shower.

Although with the advent of waterproof smart phones, it’s possible those precious few minutes to think in the shower will disappear as well.? Heck, cell phone use is already commonplace in the bathroom!

With all that in mind, the first step to becoming more innovative is to make time to think, free from interruption and distraction.? -Far easier said than done, given our busy lives.

Yet, in many ways, carving out time to think (and I mean literally scheduling an hour on your calendar to do nothing but stare out the window) is just as important as taking an hour to respond to emails, especially if people look to you to generate innovative ideas or new perspectives.

So, I invite you to give it a try after reading this article, even if only for a few minutes. ?Turn off all distractions (like your cell phone and computer), relax comfortably in uninterrupted silence, let your thoughts wander freely, and simply observe them as they unfold…it’ll facilitate innovative thinking, and you may be surprised about what comes to mind!

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How to Identify Weaponized Feedback | Gary Dumais | Select Human Resources

Businessman with bat symbolizing weaponized feedback

Has so-called “constructive feedback” ever been used to undermine you or someone you know?? If so, you’ve probably experienced what I refer to as “weaponized feedback”.? And from what I’ve observed during my work with companies as a business psychologist, weaponized feedback is a widespread and ongoing problem.

The most important element (and litmus test) of truly constructive feedback is that it’s helpful to the person it is given to.? Even other well-accepted components of constructive feedback, such as including specific examples, delivering it in a timely manner, etc., are effective because they contribute to making the feedback helpful to the person receiving it.

In contrast, however, weaponized feedback is used to undermine the person it is given to, usually for someone else’s gain.? For example, imagine a low-performing manager who feels outshined by a direct report who is doing exceptionally well, and fears he will soon lose his job to the high-performing employee.? Now imagine that the manager gives negative feedback to the high-performing direct report about being “too assertive”, “setting goals too high”, or “overstepping boundaries”.? While the manager may present the feedback as helpful, it isn’t actually rooted in helping the employee.? Instead, the feedback stems from the manager’s fear of losing his job to his direct report, and is intended to keep the direct report from advancing.? Moreover, it’s possible that the manager doesn’t even realize he is giving negative feedback for his own gain.? Rather, by looking through the distorted lens of fear, he may perceive his direct report to be problematic and deserving of the negative feedback.

Similarly, weaponized feedback can be difficult to discern from constructive feedback because it is often presented under the guise of being well-intentioned.? As such, it’s important to critically evaluate feedback before giving it merit or acting upon it, especially if you are a manager or Human Resources professional who receives feedback about your direct reports or company employees.

With that in mind, the context or situation associated with the feedback can provide useful clues for determining if the feedback is undermining. ?For example, here are a few contexts or “watch-out” situations that can contribute to weaponized feedback:

Competition –? When employees compete for promotions, salary raises, or even praise from their managers, weaponized feedback can proliferate.? Just like the example provided earlier about the low-performing manager being concerned about losing his job to his high-performing direct report, negative feedback can be misused to gain an unfair advantage in a competitive situation.

Social Cliques – Social cliques within organizations, almost by definition, tend to create an “us versus them” mentality (e.g., if you’re not an accepted member of the group, you’re perceived as an outsider).? Similarly, some social cliques tend to breed gossip and even coordinated efforts to undermine people outside of the group (e.g., “smear campaigns”).? If negative feedback or criticism stems from members of a social clique and targets a person outside of the group, it’s wise to consider if the feedback has been weaponized.

Envy – Instances where one employee wants what another has can also lead to weaponized feedback.? A corner office, higher pay, a reserved parking spot, etc., can incite others to become envious, and in turn, lead them to conjure negative feedback about the person who has the desired accolades.

Mistakes and Failures – As you probably know, situations in which mistakes or failures occur can quickly lead to finger-pointing and blame (e.g., a lost client, botched product launch, etc.).? Worse, that blame can often take the form of negative feedback levied upon people associated with the failure, regardless of whether something they did actually caused the mistake.? With that in mind, it is especially important to carefully consider the validity of negative feedback associated with an incident of failure, as many people assume that negative feedback is true when it is linked to a negative outcome.

In sum, it is important to consider 1) if feedback is helpful to the person receiving it, and 2) the context from which feedback stems, when evaluating if it is genuinely constructive or weaponized in disguise.

More tips can be found in the article How to Give Negative Feedback or the video version of the article, both by Dr. Gary Dumais, Business Psychologist at Select Human Resources in Philadelphia.

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How to Influence and Persuade People: The WIIFY Principle

Gary Dumais gaining agreement

What’s the best way to convince others and gain their buy-in?? Like many, you might believe that providing facts and rationale are the best way to win people over to your point of view.? But even a quick look at recent politics shows that facts and reason do not necessarily sway people.? I’m sure you can also recall instances when you were “right” or had the best solution, but just couldn’t get people to support your idea.? Similarly, as a Business Psychologist, I have seen many meetings where exceptionally smart people just couldn’t get others to agree with them, despite having the “right answer”.

Why do “convincing” facts not convince people? ?Well, put simply, as human beings we’re often motivated most by seeing the “what’s in it for me” or how things can benefit us.? For example, listing only facts and figures in a PowerPoint about how an idea is good for your department or the company will likely put your audience to sleep (no matter how “right” you are).? However, your audience will give you their undivided attention the instant you begin to explain how your idea will help them, solve their problems, and so on.? In other words, people are more likely to buy-into your ideas when you leverage the “What’s In It For You” (WIIFY) principle.

So, what steps can you take to utilize the WIIFY principle?? I suggest first making a list of the people you routinely have to influence (e.g., your boss, colleagues, customers).? Then, define in a few words what matters most to each of them (e.g., being seen as an expert, being well-liked, advancing in their career, etc.).? Making the list will cause you to deeply consider who you need to influence and what matters most to them (likely in greater depth then you have before).? While it may sound simple initially, many find making the list to be very challenging. You may even discover that you’re not sure what matters most to certain people, which will hopefully encourage you to get to know them better.? Finally, briefly review the list before meetings as a reminder to emphasize the “what’s in it for you” to win people over.

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The Difference Between Recruiters and Business Psychologists

Gary Duamis Recruiters and Business Psychologists

When I tell people I’m a Business Psychologist that helps companies choose the right people for key roles, many respond with, “Oh, you’re a Recruiter”.? Recruiters can play an important part in the hiring process, but what Business Psychologist do is very different.

To make a simple comparison, Recruiters are like Real Estate Agents, and Business Psychologists are like Home Inspectors:

Anyone who has searched for a home knows about Real Estate Agents.? They’re adept at understanding what’s available on the market and providing properties to choose from.? The best Real Estate Agents understand your needs and find homes that meet your criteria (while the worst agents are “salesy” and try to convince you that whatever homes they have are what you really need).? Recruiters work in a similar way.? They’re usually well-networked and provide a variety of job applicants for you to choose from.

In contrast, Home Inspectors are adept at appraising a property and evaluating if it has any problems (e.g., cracks in the foundation).? They have special training, tools, and techniques for testing the home and objectively assessing its value so you can “know what you’re getting” when making a buying decision.? Business Psychologists work in a similar way.? They use psychological assessments, interview techniques, and other methods (e.g., Assessment Centers) to provide an objective evaluation of a candidate so you can “know what you’re getting” when making a hiring decision.

Finally, it’s important to consider the difference between how Recruiters and Business Psychologists are incentivized.? Recruiters get paid for placing candidates.? Just like Real Estate Agents, they get a commission for getting you to say, “Yes, I’ll take it” (sometimes equal to as much as 20% of a candidate’s starting salary).? However, Business Psychologists get paid for correctly screening candidates.? Just like Home Inspectors, they don’t get paid any more for swaying your decision one way or another.? Rather, Business Psychologist get repeat business by being objective and providing the information you need to make wise hiring and promotion decisions.

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The Costs of Bad Hires; getting senior leadership to take action

Rising costs of a bad hire by Gary Dumais

What’s a company’s greatest expense?? Many might guess it’s the cost of producing products, research and development, or marketing and advertising.? However, for most companies, their greatest expense by far is employees.? Just think about the costs associated with paying salaries, benefits, etc., multiply them across all the employees in a company, and then it’s easy to understand how Human Capital is a company’s greatest investment.

With all that in mind, what’s the best way to quantify the cost of a bad hire?? And how can managers and Human Resource professionals help senior leadership understand the gravity of those costs so they’ll invest in better recruiting and selection processes?

In my experience as a Business Psychologist, I’ve found the following questions to be especially helpful.? First, I ask members of senior leadership teams to think about one of their best employees and one of their worst employees.? Once they have people in mind, I then ask them to describe the impact those employees have had on the company.? -Their responses are usually quick, passionate, and visceral.? People can readily recall the sizable benefits a high-performing employee has brought to the company (e.g., increasing profits, making wise decisions, solving problems, championing change, etc.).? Likewise, senior leaders can also quickly recall the damage a bad employee caused (e.g., costly mistakes, decisions that led the company down the wrong road, low morale, higher employee turnover, etc.).? Recalling those first-hand experiences is often far more powerful and convincing than calculating a specific dollar value associated with the cost of a bad hire.? For example, while it’s impactful to cite that $100,000 was wasted on hiring and training a manager who underperformed anyway, helping senior leadership to recall that the same manger made a decision that botched a new product launch and cost the company millions is even more impactful (and provides deeper insight into the issue).

Once senior leaders fully recognize and “feel” the costs associated with bad hires, it’s much easier for them to see the huge return on investment that can come from improving recruiting and selection processes.

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