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5 Cultivate Positive Identities

Jane E. Dutton Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Laura Morgan Roberts

We spend a great deal of time doing “identity work” in organizations. As we introduce and explain ourselves during job interviews, meetings with clients, networking functions, public presentations, and team-building activities, we confront identity questions that are central to our work roles, relationships, and outcomes. Identity questions ask, Who am I? Who are we? How might our identities impact our capability to work together? Positive leadership involves shaping, building, and sustaining positive identities for organizational leaders, members, and the organization itself. Leaders are able to unleash resources through the way in which they construct who they are as leaders and also how they help others construct positive identities.

Individuals and groups use images, stories, and descriptions of their key characteristics to define their identities. For example, individuals may define themselves in terms of their physical features, education, friendships, employer, title, accomplishments, and failures. Identities help to explain how an individual or a group relates to other individuals and groups, highlighting differences, similarities, and power/status dynamics.

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11 Create Micro- moves for Organizational Change

Jane E. Dutton Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Karen Golden-Biddle

Recall an organizational change you have personally experienced and considered important to implement. How did you come to see this change as desired and viable? How did people undertake meaningful and collaborative effort? How was energy generated to keep going? Questions such as these direct our attention toward the “how” of change: actions and interactions comprising change processes that, while small and often barely visible, are essential to the successful creation of generative change. We call them “micro-moves.”1

Usually, we pay attention to the “what” of organizational change (e.g., structural reorganization, incentive schemes, leadership turnover) and leave implicit the micro-moves comprising the “how” of change. The press showcases dramatic examples of “what” changes. At the time of this writing, the change to Microsoft’s organization structure is front page news—a change made to encourage collaboration and “move from multiple Microsofts to one Microsoft,” in the words of CEO Steve Ballmer.2 Yet beyond the announcement and commentary on the merits or potential difficulties of this particular structural shift, we learn little about how this large-scale, top-down directed change will be implemented to accomplish the vision of one Microsoft with greater collaboration. Structural change itself does not ensure generative change of the type envisioned in their goal of “collaboration.”

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2 Outsource Inspiration

Jane E. Dutton Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Adam M. Grant

When employee motivation is lacking, many leaders grab the loudspeaker. They stand up, deliver an inspiring speech, and hope for the best. There is reason to believe, though, that it is often more effective for leaders to take a backseat. Leaders can accomplish more by outsourcing inspiration to end users—the people who benefit from the organization’s products and services. It is a different way of motivating and engaging employees, one that recognizes the power of leaders’ actions to speak louder than their words. By making connections to end users, leaders can enable employees to identify their past and potential contributions, injecting greater meaning into work.

Meaningful work is a cornerstone of motivation.1 For many years, researchers have recognized the motivating potential of task significance—doing work that affects the well-being of others.2 But all too often, employees do work that makes a difference but never have the chance to see or to meet the people affected by their work.

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Jane E. Dutton Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781626560284

13 Create Opportunity from Crisis

Jane E. Dutton Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Lynn Perry Wooten and Erika Hayes James

Business crises almost daily dominate the headlines, hitting the information superhighway at warp speed. Reputations are damaged, devastating both small, local companies and international conglomerates. The examples are everywhere. BP and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Toyota’s “sticky” gas pedal recall. The Livestrong Foundation and cyclist Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal. The CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch stating he was marketing only to “cool kids,” and not the overweight ones. The Carnival Cruise ship stuck for days without electricity in the Gulf of Mexico. The employees of Specialty Medical Supplies kidnapping their own CEO over plans to take their jobs offshore.

The Institute for Crisis Management defines a business crisis as “any problem or disruption that triggers negative stakeholder reaction that could impact the organization’s financial strength and ability to do what it does.”1 Crises are rare and significant events, challenging leaders beyond a typical “problem” because of the time pressure and the associated public scrutiny. Additional challenges for the crisis leader come from inadequate information for decision making and, in the worst cases, limited resources, including time, money, and know-how. No matter what causes a crisis—human error, natural disaster, or controversial practices—those in leadership positions are responsible for preventing, assessing, mitigating, reacting to, resolving, and learning from a crisis. Of course, those things are hard to do in the face of sudden, urgent, and unpredictable circumstances. Regrettably, the latter step, learning from crisis, is something many leaders skip altogether.

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