June 2023 – on the mindsets of a leader, DEI, being a C student, and why we do what we do


Here is what came up during the month of June:

  • All the self-help you need in one single list
  • DEI doesn’t work. What now?
  • Defending v. Learning
  • Jeff Bezos says: “Be a C student”
  • Manager behavior that impact organizational health
  • Mindsets of a leader
  • The language you dream in
  • We know how to make organizations more productive and fulfilling. Why don’t we do it?
  • Why we do the things we do


The plain truth about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programs: they don’t work

From an interview with the authors of a new book on the subject:

Q.: What have we learned from the past few decades of studying the effectiveness of diversity trainings?

A.: For decades, there has been so much research, and most of it shows that diversity training has no effect. Usually, the effects examined are short term changes—understanding of certain concepts, or plans for future behavior or, attitudes. Some studies find positive short-term effects, and some of them find negative effects.

What we’ve learned is that it’s very hard for people to be forced to change their attitudes. They act with reactance, needing to take control over their decisions and regain autonomy.

We’ve learned that trying to suppress stereotypes makes those stereotypes more accessible.

We’ve learned that the message of multiculturalism makes white men feel excluded.

And when it comes to attitudes, we gain them through the life course, so no single afternoon session will undo that.

The barriers to diversity are diverse. Different companies, departments, groups, and industries have different barriers. If you bring on an over-the-counter diversity training, what are the chances you’ll be spot on with what’s going in your organization?

In related/breaking news, “many businesses have adopted policies to diversify hiring but the Supreme Court’s ruling to end the policy in universities endangers those efforts”.


The mindsets of a leader

A‌ study on leadership mindsets understood as “a set of assumptions and beliefs about the nature and purpose of leadership — and about how best to wield it.”

Leaders “rarely possess a single mindset. Instead, they have a portfolio of mindsets, and each one — as well as the overall mix, which varies from person to person — influences a leader’s decisions and behaviors and can thus alter the direction, focus, and performance of the organization.”

Here they are:


Barry Schwartz is puzzled

On the one hand,

We know a lot about how to enable people to be productive and make real contributions to the organization’s efforts, and, systematically, workplaces are doing everything wrong. If you look, industry by industry, the workplaces that end up at the top, within an industry, are the workplaces that are most attentive to what people care about in the workplace.

You pay better, you spend more time training, you give people more autonomy and independence, you flatten the hierarchy so people have more control over what they do, you trust people—you do all that stuff, and your company is at the top in your industry.

And yet,

If this is the way to be more productive, even if you don’t care about your employees, why are you leaving money on the table by creating workplaces that aren’t like this? It’s really a head scratcher.

You’d think somebody would come along and go, “If I design my workplace in that way, I will dominate the industry, because I will get much more out of my employees than the competition does.” And yet, that doesn’t seem to happen.

So why aren’t organizations doing it?

I have two ideas.

One is that we are so in the thrall of this mistaken ideology that we literally suffer from poverty of imagination, when it comes to how the people we supervise should be treated. In other words, we believe what we learned in our Ec. 101 classes, and what we learn every time we pick up the financial section of a newspaper. We have tunnel view. That’s one explanation.

The second explanation is that there’s something self-protective in maintaining this kind of structure in the workplace, because it gives supervisors something to do.

There’s a sense in which the supervisors are protecting their positions by treating the people they supervise as people who will not do the job unless they’re being supervised. If you actually had this incredible notion that you could create a workplace where people want to be and want to do the right thing, all of a sudden, a whole bunch of people will be superfluous.

And why do employees put up with it?

Chip Heath did a paper [open-access] years ago that showed this interesting phenomenon where everyone thinks they don’t work for money but everyone else does.

So, you and me are the outliers. But the people we’re going to have to hire, they’re just in it for the paycheck. We have to create an incentive structure so that the people we’re going to hire will have a reason to show up every day and work hard.

There is a disconnection, and we think of ourselves as the outliers. He showed that 20 or 25 years ago. I think it’s still with us.

There is plenty to discuss here, starting with the premise of his arguments and then his two working theories for which he admits he has no evidence.

Be that as it may, what it does bring to the fore is that

Our ideas about what people are like have an incredible hold on not only how we think about human beings, but also how we create structures within which human beings live their lives.

If we believe people do it only or mostly for the money, we create incentive structures that put the emphasis on money which, in turn, has people focus on money. It’s a self-reinforcing mechanism.


This came up -again- in a coaching conversation about the things we do and don’t do

Bronnie Ware is a nurse who worked in palliative care.

My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. (…)

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.



Do I spend more time defending what I already know instead of trying to learn something new? (via)


Manager behaviors that impact organizational health

Of the nearly 40 practices measured in McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index, there are 11 that relate directly to manager behaviors:

  1. Creative and entrepreneurial: supports innovation and creativity
  2. Open and trusting: encourages honesty, transparency, and candid dialogue
  3. Operationally disciplined: emphasizes productivity and efficiency
  4. Authoritative: focuses on hierarchy to get things done [RB- this should read Power rather than Authority]
  5. Challenging: encourages people to do more than they thought possible
  6. Consultative: empowers employees through communication and delegation
  7. Supportive: builds a positive environment characterized by team harmony
  8. Inspirational: encourages through guidance and recognition
  9. Employee involvement: engages people on the direction of the organization
  10. Personal ownership: drives individual accountability and responsibility
  11. Talent development: provides coaching for knowledge and skills


The language you dream in

When people discover that I speak more than one language, I sometimes get asked which language I dream in. So I was interested in reading this when it “landed” on my desk: “Why we can dream in more than one language”.


You don’t have to read another self-help book ever again

Chris Taylor has read dozens of history’s biggest bestsellers and he has drawn up a list of the advice that surfaces again and again:

  1. Take one small step.
  2. Change your mental maps.
  3. Struggle is good. Scary is good.
  4. Instant judgment is bad.
  5. Remember the end of your life.
  6. Be playful.
  7. Be useful to others.
  8. Perfectionism = procrastination
  9. Sleep, exercise, eat, chill out. Repeat.
  10. Write it all down.
  11. You can’t get it all from reading.


Jeff Bezos on #8 above

In his letter to shareholders back in 2016:

Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow.

Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.

70%. In academia, that’s a C.