Becoming the Evidence Based Manager

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Becoming the Evidence Based Manager

Latham, G.P.

Davies-Black, 2009, Boston, USA


Summary[The evidence based manager can use the tools and techniques offered in this book as guideposts for addressing key issues, concerns, and challenges. You will need to creatively draw on and synthesize these tools and techniques to fit your particular situation. The aim of book is to share with you, the manager, management techniques that have been proven to work by valid and reliable research studies. It covers effective methods for delivering high performance. This book serves as a handbook on evidence based management techniques for the entire employee life cycle. The book will give you the essential information you need to become a more effective manager from the hiring through the retention stages. The book explains, synthesizes, and translates management research results into practical guidelines for handling the difficult areas of management that many managers deal with daily. It compiles a broad overview of the management research of the past half century into a compact, readable, evidence based handbook for line managers.]

F[A third or more of new managers fail in their job in less than two years.]

Though experience helps, becoming an effective evidence based manager isn't simply a matter of years on the job. Effective management is both an art and a science. For the evidence based manager, it is using solid, proven, tested techniques in an inspiring and engaging way. Most books on management focus only on the art. Some advise you to use a given step–by–step methodology, but the techniques themselves are not well researched or grounded in science. Instead, they are based on the authors' personal experiences as managers, their particular best practices, or intuition.



O[Free–flowing conversations are not useful in selection (e.g., Tell me about yourself? Where did you go to school? How much do you know about our organization? Why are you interested in this job opening? Do you have any questions for me?)]

N[Doesn't work for what? Each of these questions seems potentially useful to me at different points to smooth the process and build a 'conversation relationship' within an interview context.]


Situational interviews (provide people with situations they will encounter on the job); patterned behavioral interviews (ask people about past situations); and job simulations (shows what people can actually do in real–time).

N[Should these be part of leadership development efforts — more broadly, they are about how to collect information about people.]

Effective Hiring Tools In Practice

The Situational Interview

Every candidate answers the same job–related questions. A behavior scoring guide is used that contains illustrative answers. Each question presents a dilemma. There are 3–steps: 1) Create a situational interview with least ten questions; 2) Conduct a job analysis to identify questions by reviewing your team's vision, goals, and strategy, and identifying critical incidents: and 3) Develop a scoring guide that minimizes bias regarding age, race, sex, religion, national origin, or physical disability, and uses a 5–point scale with illustrative answers. The scoring guide should reflect the values and culture of your organization.

N[This doesn't present enough information for managers to make use of these tools, and there are no reference to 'how–to' guides.]

R[For the evidence based manager, an interview with less than ten questions is unlikely to be viewed as content valid (Guion, 1998].

Hiring a Middle Manager at Weyerhaeuser

Current job incumbents were asked, "Thinking back over the past six months to a year, do you recall witnessing an incident that demonstrated ethical or unethical behavior?" The answers were used to create critical incidents for interviewees.

N[This can be a model for critical incidents related to "boss support for development" research which can then be incorporated into leadership development programs.]

Pilot Test. If nearly every person who is asked a question gets the same score, the evidence based manager deletes the question since it won't differentiate. If the scoring guide does not yield agreement among the interview panel, modify or discard the question.

L[Emphasizes the focus of the interview is to 'differentiate,' an important point that can often be lost and this is where predictive analytics can be helpful in the screening process, (see Fitz–enz, HR Analytics).]

Conducting the Interview. Most applicants have never experienced a situational interview, so start with one or two sample questions that shouldn't be scored. Use in–person interviews to fulfil the hiring team's desire to meet candidates in person.

The Patterned Behavioral Interview

The purpose is to collect data on how an applicant has behaved in the past. The evidence based manager focuses on the "what" rather than emphasizing "why." In a one–hour interview, you will never figure out everything, but you can assess what people have done in the past and use that as a basis to predict what they could do in the future.

N[What role do training and leadership development play in in terms of what candidates could do in the future?]

R[For the evidence based manager, there are common interviewer errors. The halo error (judging a person as being excellent on one dimension because they excel on another dimension); similarity (hiring people becsuse they similar to them); contrast effect (judging a candidate against the previous candidate rather than objective criteria; and stereotyping (assuming all people in a category are the same.]

N[Where are the references that these are among the most common interviewer errors, and where are sources of suggestions for overcoming these? Analytics should be used to determine which error is most common within a particular organization and then training or other remedies developed to overcome them. Recognizing these errors should be a major part of leadershi development.]

Q[In most unstructured interviews, the decision to hire a person is made within the first four minutes. The remainder of the interview is devoted to seeking confirmatory information. p. 13.]

N[Since this is so well known, what if anything can be done to help people avoid this? What would be involved including this in leadership development programs?

Job Simulations

The candidates must show how they can handle a situation. If you are part of a small or midsize organization, you can use an inexpensive simulation or a role–play. To develop a role–play, create a script that reflects an actual scenario. You can employ a combination of simulations which can ensure a candidate has the whole package of the qualities needed for success in a given position. The in–basket assesses a candidate's skills in: task prioritization; delegation; and written communication skills. Leaderless group discussions highlight informal leadership, influence and verbal fluency. Business games (too complicated to develop on your own) assess communication skills, energy, sensitivity, planning and organizing, and decision making,

N[Simulations depend on the simulated activity's design to ensure the showcasing of the desired skills and behaviors. They allow the evidence based manager to collect data with whch to make decisios.]

The Realistic Job Preview

Realistic job previews should explain to applicants what's great about: working for your organization, division, and team; the job; your organization's location; and upper management. Then it should explain what's not so great about each of those areas.

N[It should also focus on the 'typical,' that is what is like day to day and week after week.]

F[Evidence shows that for managers hired from the outside, more than 60% will fail, 40% within 18–months (HR Magazine).]

N[The question is why? How are those that succeed different from thos who fail? Is it differences in people or the processes, or some combination?


Cognitive Ability Tests

R[Although IQ tests accurately predict performance in most jobs, they are controversial because different racial groups typically perform differently on them and a report concluded that workforce diversity is a business imperative for organizational effectiveness and sustained competitiveness (Conference Board and SHRManagement).

N[How much of performance to do personality test predict, what is the overlap with other measurements, and how much does training and experience make up for IQ?]

Personality Tests

Q[The correlation between how people score on most personality tests and how they perform on the job is typically so low that it is not worth the time and money to administer them. p. 21.]

N[They are, however, useful in training and leadership development programs to help people see how others are similar and different from them and to give ideas about how to be more effective with those who are different.]


D[Buy In — the necessity for employees to believe that their own departmental strategy, which supports the larger organizational strategy, is worth executing.]

What Works in Brief

There is four–step process the evidence based manager can use to inspire his/her team. 1) Develop an Affective Vision Statement (not to instruct but to awaken emotion). 2) Set Smart Goals (research revealed that SMART goals show superior performance compared with those simply urging people to do their best, and goal setting is among the most effective ways to motivate people). 3) Align Metrics and Demonstrate Integrity (integrity regarding the vision and goals is achieved by ensuring that the metrics are aligned with the SMART goals). 4) Stay Engaged (ensure your people have the knowledge, skill, and resources to bring about the desired change; and encourage dissent to prevent group think).

N[What does it take to create a context that allows people to "link" to the organization in an emotionally engaging way rather than placing the burden on a 'compelling vision?' An interesting debate has arisen about the SMART goals research stream — I am not sure they capture what is needed given the research on learning orientation and implementation intentions. This is the usual litany about metrics, but extremely difficult given competing priorities and the rate of change. So what do you do if people don't dissent and speak up, especially in the Asian context?]


Develop an Affective Vision Statement

Make It Memorable. Short enough for people to recite easily and enough impact for people to become engaged. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" is a great example.

N[Not a good example, this was a 30 minute speech, how many remember the elements of the dream.]

Churchill's Vision. "Never was so much owed by so many to so few."

N[How is this is vision statement?]

Speak to Your Employees. A U.S. Bank. "We steal." This was for internal consumption only, the CEO slammed his fist on the table and exclaimed to this staff "I do indeed want thieves. We will steal ideas, we will steal customers, and we will steal market share."

N[This will engage people? What message does this send regarding ethics?]

Go ahead and build it: Your vision statement

Ask employees: why do we exist; who would miss us if we were gone; and what really ticks us off?

N[And then what?]

Potential vision–statement pitfalls. Statements are nothing more than hollow rhetoric, or they raise false expectations.

N[The advice given here and elsewhere has been around for years, yet vision statements have not seemed to improve. So where is the evidence that vision statements have an impact other than through flawed research where 'successful companies' are shown to have 'good' vision statements? I would like to see a list of vision statements, some from failed companies and some from extremely successful companies to see if anyone can discriminate without know the which company they came from.]

Set Smart Goals

Kennedy's SMART goal: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

N[Wasn't this really a vision statement, given the challenge to U.S. military superiority with the Sputnik launch, wrapped up as a goal statement? This kind of confusion surfaces once you take a look at mission—vision—strategy–goals in some depth.]

Goals are especially effective because they: create focus, set up a challenge, build a sense of accomplishment, reduce ambiguity, reduce stress, and improve performance. High goals lead to higher performance than no goals or general and abstract goals. The nature of the goal affects choice, effort, and persistence. Praise, feedback, participation in decision making, and monetary incentives increase performance only when they lead to the setting of and commitment to a specific, high goal.

N[It is the 'commitment to' that creates the challenge in goal setting. It may not be the goal itself, but the process a goal can unleash — engaging personality, social comparison, and tangible outcome factors.]

Set the Right Kind of Goals. When people have the necessary knowledge and skill to attain the goal, a SMART performance goal should be set. Setting learning goals increases individuals' knowledge and skill to the point where they are then ready to set SMART performance goals.

L[What are the contingency conditions where SMART goals make a difference? Additionally, the intersection of development goals and organizational goals play out. It interesting to speculate what part of this research on organizational goal settings applies to individuals setting leadership development goals. This suggests to me that we should move away from smart goals at the conclusion of leadership development programs. Perhaps setting learning goals are a prequisite to peformance gaols. The self–regulation research and work on implementation goals and learning goals presented in An Integrated Approach to Leader Development and Dewck's work (Mindset provides a good place to start for thinking about development–goal setting.]

Setting Goals for an Uncertain Future. Sub goals improve error management. A distant goal can seem too far off to motivate people to attain it.

N[For leadership development goals, the sub goals, should probably be specific behaviors relevant to the individual.]

Align Metrics and Demonstrate Integrity

Sending Signals. If an evidence based manager ignores some behaviors, he/she sends an inadvertent signal that such behavior is acceptable.

N[Interesting point about not taking action as a 'behavior' that sends a signal.]

Seeking Feedback. Asking questions about how committed to the vision you are can be helpful.

Q[If you don't ask, it is all but guaranteed that you will be among the last to know the answers to these questions. People are often reluctant to say something that may cause them difficulty with their boss. p. 44.]

When Metrics Don't Align.

Q[One of the best ways to demonstrate lack of integrity, and thus to undermine goal pursuit, is to measure employee performance using metrics that don't align with the goals and vision. p. 45.]

Aligning Metrics to Support Vision and Goals. When dysfunctional behavior is observed in a team, the evidence based manager recognizes the cause frequently lies in a faulty measurement system rather than in the person exhibiting the behavior.

N[Another reference to the 'system' as source of problems, not people, but this time focused on the reward system.]

The firm implemented a balanced scorecard that set SMART goals for clients, employees, and the firm as a whole.

N[This whole section deals with alignment and the balanced score card.]

Stay Engaged

Make sure your people have what they need and receive positive attention. For the evidence based manager, staying engaged means finding different ways of letting people know you recognize and appreciate the work that they do to attain your team's goals.

N[Surely there is more to it than this.]

Evidence. An effective evidence based manager must be seen as fair, and fair is to give employees a "Voice."

N[Only part of the model, outcome and perceived fairness are also important.

Encouraging Dissent.

Q[The absence of dissent reflects a decline in trust and the deterioration of your relationship with your people. p. 53.]

N[What other factors might impinge on dissent? An area for self-awareness in leadership development programs?]


An employee high–performing mind–set will help your people become creative risk–takers and independent problem–solvers who confront challenges head–on and take action that is in the best interests of your department — without having to constantly check with you for permission.

N[The ideas about high–performing teams is far beyond the scope of a single chapter.]

Training and Leadership Development Techniques

Internal dialogue (self–talk) holds the key to performance. Mental practice teaches your people the power of rehearsing specific steps. Self–management uses self–observation, the ability to compare their behavior to their goals and to self–administer rewards and punishments.]

L[This coincides with the coverage of self–regulation covered in An Integrative Approach to Leader Development. The technique are important for helping the evidence based manager to understand what is useful for developing others, but this gives no idea how complicated skill development is in this area or the 'investment' in time and effort that is needed.]

Your Action as Manager

Regarding training and leadership development, an evidence based manager needs to: focus on the organization's culture; encourage people to make errors when mastering a complex task; explain the training's logic; link training to goals; participate in training yourself; and praise trainers and trainees.

N[Some specific actions to show boss support, however, where is the evidence base that shows these work? Possible 360–items for leadership development programs.]

Q[It is not ability per se that holds us back or propels us forward as much as it is our beliefs about our ability. p. 59.]

N[An evidence based manager recognizes the huge impact this hason others' beliefs via the Pygmallion effect.]


Functional Self–Talk

D[Self–talk — a person's internal dialogue.]

Self-talk is a collection of thoughts, both positive and negative, that research shows to have an important effect on performance.Develop Awareness. You can increase awareness of negative thoughts by asking "why this goal maybe unattainable?" A discussion ensures the answers are seen as generalizations rather than specifics.

N[How can this awareness be enhanced in leadership development programs?]

Recognize Alternatives. Ask participants to look at the their diary of negative self–statements and to generate positive statements in response. Have them verbalize a transition statement that connects their actions to their thoughts (e.g., "I haven't sent out any resumes in the past few weeks").

L[Motivational Interviewing delves into negative self–talk about change and has specific processes generate energy.]

Replace Negative Thoughts. Use self–statements that focus on positives. Ask them to explain out loud to themselves what they will do to attain their goals. What positive action they will take will prevent them from entertaining negative thoughts.

L[Once again, Motivational Interviewing has much more depth on the process of over–coming change obstacles.]

Prevent a Relapse. Generate ways they may fail, and then come up with coping responses.

L[This fits closely with the use of implementation intentions that is part of self–regulation processes, An Integrated Approach to Leader Development.]

Evidence. Many managers and researchers fear that findings in the behavioral sciences may be applicable to Western countries only; this is not the case here. This developmental technique also enabled Muslim women in Turkey, over the age of forty, to find meaningful employment.

N[Cross cultural application of self–talk as a self–regulation process.]

Mental Practice

R[Experiments show that using mental practice, in addition to taking action, can help the evidence based manager master both physical and mental activities.]

N[Supporting mental practice should be included in leadership development programs.]

Mental practice increases self–efficacy. The greater the task's "cognitive" component, the greater the benefit of mental practice. Guide employees through the mental practice of each of these steps by talking them through a visualized situation. Encourage people to use all five senses to make the experience real (hear the people shifting in their seats, smell the flowers, etc.).

N[Principles of hypnotic induction provide guidelines for how to do this effectively.]


O[Self–Management teaches people to discover the root of their problem, set goals, reward success and punish failure, monitor their own behavior against goals. Here is a 6–step self–management program (examples provided in table–1):

  1. List the reasons for this problem.
  2. Set a specific goal.
  3. Monitor personal success.
  4. Provide a personal reward or punishment.
  5. Create a personal contract.
  6. Prevent relapse.]

N[There is a vast self–regulation literature that can guide the evidence based manager towards effective practice, especially when he/she coaches.]

Self–management techniques enable employees to coach themselves to become high performers with a strong can–do mindset.

N[Great concept — 'self–coaching,' something that should be included in leadership development program goal–setting. It also offers promise for 80–20 leadership development — as a supplement to reduce the time and expense of 1–to–1 coaching.]


As an evidence based manager visibly demonstrate support for leadership development programs; maintains the company's culture by teaching and communicating the organization's core values; and (paradoxical as it may seem) encouraging people to make errors.

N[Potential components of boss support.]

Showing the Flag

Q[Companies such as IBM have found that manager support for a training initiative is critical, because managers set the example. When they model the desired behavior, their employees internalize their example and follow the managers' lead. p. 68.]

N[Manager support is a ubiquitously defined key factor in leadership development, yet the evidence base about what support actually looks like is amazingly sparse, but there is no lack of 'advice' about what to do.]

Maintaining Company Culture

An evidence based manager can do this by actively teaching company values, sharing stories about the organization's heroes, and taking a personal role in maintaining the organization's culture.

N[This is an incredibly superficial list of 'actions' to promote organizational culture.]

Encouraging Errors

Q[If you want the people on your team to take creative risks — to pursue challenges and to become high performers — you must encourage and celebrate errors. p. 70.]

N[What makes "criticism" constructive is tricky, it depends on how it is perceived, which depends on the overall context. There needs to be clear boundaries specifying the nature and scope of "errors" that are acceptable.]

Evidence based managers frame an error on the part of his/her employees as positive and offer explicit instruction regarding their self–talk ("I have made an error, Great! I have just learned something). Constructive criticism enables people to learn from the errors they make.

N[I suspect that there are huge individual differences in the degree people will see making an error as 'great.' This section is suggesting 360–items related to a leader's climate for errors.]

R[Managers with a performance goal orientation can be taught a learning goal orientation. Managers with a learning goal orientation believe that employees are capable of continuous improvement and hence, that coaching is worthwhile (Heslin).]

N[Important references for 'boss support.']



Q[The relationship between money and worker motivation is quite complex. Just handing out a raise or an occasional bonus typically does not get you much improvement in performance. p. 76.]

Q[Studies show that receiving a monetary reward for doing what one would have done anyway because of its intrinsic appeal reduces motivation as well as satisfaction, because the money is seen by the recipient as "controlling. "Nevertheless, it is nonsense to believe most of us would perform our day jobs in the absence of our salary. p. 77.]

N[An important statement to counter–balance the currently prevalent notion that money doesn't matter that much, given the presence of intrinsic rewards].

Motivational Tools in Action

Addressing Employees' Needs

All five basic and high–level employee needs have to be met to motivate people to become and remain high performers.

N[How does this square with countless studies that do not support Maslow's need hierarchy?]

Setting Employee Goals for High Performance

Interestingly, experiencing success does not depend on the absolute level of employees' performance; it depends on their performance in relation to established goals. So "carrots" such as praise, public recognition, and even money do not motivate people to improve their behavior unless they are backed by the setting of and commitment to a specific, high goal. Participatively set goals were significantly higher than the goals assigned unilaterally by a supervisor.

N[It seems critical that leaders proide appropriate context to ensure goals are within accepatable corporate ranges. It also presumes appropriate reward alignment to prevent 'gaming the system.'

Focusing on Performance

Q[The widespread belief that improving employee motivation requires improving job satisfaction is not borne out by the research. . . . The evidence shows that job satisfaction, in turn, typically results from being productive. p. 85.]

N[This notion of performance leading to satisfaction is one of the mose mis-understood findings of the evidence research-base.]

Understanding and Changing the Work Environment

Job Characteristics. A prerequisite for performing well in an enriched job is task knowledge.

N[This raises questions about how much the evidence manager needs to know about subordinate's tasks in order to be supportive.]

Rewards for Performance. Simple rewards can make otherwise tedious work more interesting. The schedule you choose for administering rewards to your employees can increase their motivation or dilute it. Reward your inexperienced, just–learning staff continuously and consistently every time they do something good. Recognition and other forms of rewards should be administered on a predetermined variable schedule for experienced people. Be sure that the behavior you reward is the behavior you want to see from your employees.

L[This is borne out by the reward system based on computer-game design at Shandra, a Chinese game development company. The CEO asked himself, computer gamers are motivated to stay playing games for hours and keep coming back for more — can we incorporate that kind of motivation by using some gaming concepts in our corporate reward system. This was done in some interesting ways as described in Transformative HR.

A Trappers' "lottery." Not only did the trappers' productivity soar, their grievances stopped. The excitement of possibly winning money replaced boredom.

N[The trapper's lottery seems to say money matters more for non–enriched jobs.]


Q[Research on job enrichment showed that salary is often a source of dissatisfaction. This is likely because people could not see the relationship between what they accomplished and the salary increase they received. p. 92.]

Societal Influences at Work

This section examines: countrycultural values; your own cultural values; and understanding the meaning of various managerial practices in cultural terms.

N[This is a gloss of complicated cultural issues: better to highlight that not everything will be covered, rather than superficial treatment of complex topics.]

Cultural Deafness. High–context cultures communicate using signals. Low–context cultures apparently don't "do" signals. This can create potentially disastrous results in cross–cultural exchanges.

N[The high–low context distinction is a more useful framework than direct–indirect when discussing cross–cultural communications.]

The Unfair Workplace.

Q[Loss of trust in you has much to do with their perceptions of fairness and justice. Failure on your part to put principles of justice front and center will kill worker motivation as feelings sweep through your team that some people are getting a better deal than others. p. 92.]

N[This makes a case for a justice perspective and fairness in particular. The problem is the difficulty of achieving realative fairness. The organizational justice literature needs to an important element in leadership development programs.]

Principles of organizational justice raise five areas for an evidence based manager: how resources are distributed; having an agreed–upon processes or system for distributing valued rewards; providing clear explanations for the logic behind your decisions about who gets what; ensuring processes for making decisions are applied consistently; and taking employees' viewpoints is into account.

N[This is from manager's perspective — it needs to be from employee perspective — do employees believe you have taken their concerns into account? What would you need to do to ensure they believe this?]

Breaching the Unspoken Agreement on Expectations.

D[Psychological Contract — a set of unwritten expectations between an employee and an employer.]

Violating a psychological contract can kill motivation if it is seen as unjust. As a new manager of an existing team, ask: What do you consider "sacred cows?" What don't I know about you and this team? and What can I do to be seen as fair?

N[Weak — If they don't trust you, or are suspicious, how will you get truthful answers to these questions?]


All people and teams face setbacks. It's how people and the team handle setbacks that will set them apart.

N[This is a rewording of the cliché, its not getting knocked down that matters, its what you do when you get back up.]

D[Resiliency — ability to bounce back from disappointments and inspire the people around you to do the same.]

N[Here resilience is descried as an outcome, not how one exhibits resiliency.]


Feeling helpless is a learned mind–set so it can be unlearned.

N[How? For all people, or are there certain characteristics that are required?]

Q[People will not do what is needed to succeed unless they see and believe that there is a link between those actions and a desired outcome. p. 98.]

People have high self–efficacy when they believe strongly in their ability to successfully perform a task, and to successfully attain a goal.

N[There is far more in the self–regulation literature about what works than is presented here. Why were these topics selected amongst all that are available?]


Q[Setbacks are inevitable; failure is not. p. 99.]

Strengthening Outcome Expectancies

Empathy allows you to see issues from the viewpoint of your employees. An evidence based manager understands the outcomes people expect, and understands their behavior. If you change the outcomes people expect, you will change their behavior. Putting emphasis on punishment should always be viewed as a last resort.

N[This Expectancy Theory emphasis, but it ignores all of the non–conscious biases and personality preferences that also significantly shape a person's behavior.]

Self–Efficacy: Believing in Achieving

D[Self–esteem — feelings toward yourself, which you take with you no matter the situation or place.]

N[Is there such a thing as specific self–esteem, perhaps associated with the different 'selves' identified in the literature.]

D[Self–efficacy — the belief that you are capable of attaining a specific goal.]

N[There is definitely generalized and specific self–efficacy.]

Self–efficacy and self–esteem are not necessarily correlated. People with low self–efficacy still may not take action. They look for tangible reasons to abandon high goals. Those with high self–efficacy may commit to high goals.

N[Hence the need to look at self–efficacy and self–esteem in combination. This raises the interesting question of a 2 x 2 matrix with low and high efficacy and esteem as the two dimensions.]

Guaranteeing Success through Small Wins.

D[Small Win — assign tasks and sequence them in such a way that all but guarantees that the person will attain the goal.]

N[Won't there be certain personality types that would not find 'small win' goals motivating?]

Learning from Role Models. Find a model with whom your employee can identify. The evicencce based manager is careful about benchmarking against an outstanding model since the group's efficacy may be lower than it was before the trip if team members do not see themselves in the same league as the benchmark organization.

N[Interesting downside to benchmarking regarding efficacy; seeing a highly efficient operation as beyond reach.]

Having Significant Others Who Energize. A significant other is anyone you allow to "whisper in your ear" and who energizes (or de–energizes) you. We listen closely to significant others and they can wield tremendous influence over the way we see the world. Consequently, the evidence based manager needs to: recognize his/her significant effect on others; teach people the positive and negative influences of significant others; and be conscious of who you allow to whisper in your ear. Your words can carry special weight to foster either positive or negative results.

N[One's organizational level seems to amplify casual remarks. 'Other–talk' can be a counter point to 'self–talk' discussed earlier and seems be useful content for leadership development.]

Developing Learned Optimism.

O[The purpose of these questions is to enable a pessimist to discover evidence for optimism (Seligman, 1998). Regarding failure:

  • Does it apply to everything you have done, or just this one thing?
  • Is it an enduring one that will affect you forever, or are its effects only temporary?
  • Is it due solely to what you did or did not do, or were there additional factors involved?]

By asking these three questions, the evidence based manager forces an employee to examine the evidence that shows the basis for pessimism is not justified. Have employees acknowledge that they are doing some things well, and that this one setback is just that. Validate the person's feelings of pessimism, and then shift the discussion to brainstorming ways the issue will be corrected. Help an employee see all the factors that contributed to the setback.

L[This is sound advice, but would require very high–level communication skills such as those found in Difficult Conversations.]


Q[Ironically, one of the most widely used management tools of all time — the performance appraisal — often does exactly the opposite of what it's supposed to do: It discourages rather than motivates employees. p. 115.]

N[This is a provacative condemnation of performance appraisals]


Performance appraisals have two overall purposes: administrative; and developmental and motivational.

N[If this is accepted as true, it supports the notion that there should be different types of feedback; one for performance and one for development.]

Appraisals — What to Use

Tools that assess attitudes or personality traits (applying labels such as "aggressive,") can actually do harm. The evidence based manager bases appraisals on behavioral criteria linked to the organization's strategy. This provides the best platform for reviewing performance. Behavioral observation scales (BOS) specify what a person must do to be effective; are perceived by employees as factual, objective, and unbiased; help to clarify and set SMART goals; and help employees identify and resolve their own performance problems.

N[I have serious reservations about behavior–based assessment and feedback. There are an infinite range of behaviors that might be demonstrated and there is equifinality concerning the link between behavior and impact. It is clear from research that 'expectations' (which in many cases can be interpreted as 'attitude' towards someone), which were experimentally manipulated, predicted the performance outcomes of those for whom the attitudes were projected. It was much deeper than specific behaviors. In other words, managerial behaviors consistent with the manager's attitude flowing toward a direct report, rather than the direct report using a series of predetermined set of behaviors to evaluate how they are perceived by their manager.]

The Fair Manager

Idiosyncrasies and biases of an appraiser influence the ratings that an appraiser provides. Studies revealed that if the supervisor held the person in high regard, it resulted in both positive leniency and "halo" errors, which occur when a person who is good at one thing is assessed as being good at everything. Similarities between the subordinate and the supervisor inflate appraisals, and this is especially true when we perceive people to be like ourselves with regard to extroversion, conscientiousness, and emotional stability. The evidence based manager creates a system of checks and balances that will outweigh, if not eliminate, that bias.

L[Eliminating bias is totally unrealistic as it appears to be partially hardwired into our brains. This section is another gloss that needs considerable expansion. Alternative views are provided by Self–Deception (Arbinger) and the Set–Up–To–Fail–Syndrome (Manzoni & Barsoux).]

Get Feedback from Multiple Sources

The evidence based manager gets feedback from multiple sources which correlates highly with bottom line performance measures. 360–degree feedback accurately distinguishes between high and low–performing managers.

N[Only one study cited on a very controversial topic as to which source most accurately predicts 'performance.' There is no distinction between feedback for performance and leadership development purposes in most of this research.]

Coach Your learn to Success

One study showed that providing a combination of executive coaching and training increased employee productivity by 88%.

N[Once again, only one reference. There is a vast literature on coaching. Surely, if only one study is cited, it should be a meta–analysis. There Is no hint of what effective or ineffective coaching might be different.]


Tools to Use: Observable Behavior

The evidence based manager uses appraisals based on observable behaviors that are directly linked to executing the organization's strategy.

N[I am not sure this can be done, it is more complex than it appears. People have difficulty describing actual behaviors. They are better able to describe the impact of behaviors or their interpretations of intent or a person's trait–state condition.]

Behavioral observation scales reduce ambiguity by making explicit what an employee should start doing, keep doing, or stop doing to be effective.

N[Yes, the what, but not the how! Or the behaviors are so micro that they really don't capture what is wanted (e.g., smile and greet the customer) the smile and greeting is there, but customers perceive it as not genuine.]

Tools to avoid

Bottom–Line Measures. Were goals X, Y, and Z attained? Were they done on time? Was the quality satisfactory? To start , smart employees may find ingenious ways to ensure that the goals are easy. Second, factors exist beyond a person's control. These are poor for assessing factors that are crucial to a team's success yet go beyond concrete numbers and they yield no information about what a person should start doing, keep doing, or stop doing.

N[But surely they are relevant for performance appraisal.]

Trait–Based Scales. These provide little insight to the person being coached. Unless the traits are defined behaviorally, they are too vague, subjective, and ambiguous to be useful.

N[What passes for behaviorally–anchored scales often do not describe concrete behaviors . An example used in this book is 'invites the input,' invite is an interpretation, it doesn't answer the question of what person did (the behaviors) that lead someone to conclude the person 'invited.' The value of a trait rating is to have the person being rated ask themselves, what is it about me, my attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that would lead someone to think I have this trait. The 'baby is being thrown out with the bath water' in dismissing trait scales.]

Electronic Performance Monitoring. The use of EPM usually results in an increase in job–related stress. EPM changes the basic nature of personal relationships in your workplace,

N[Doesn't it depend on the nature of the work, the organizational context and how the EPM is implemented? For example, doesn't UPS use it in a way that is perceived by drives as assisting them?]

Who Appraises: Information From a Range of Sources

The multiple sources are: manager, peers, subordinates, employees themselves, and can be extended to several 'others.' These sources provide an integrated, holistic view of an employee, offsetting the biases of an appraisal from any single vantage point. 360–degree appraisals are both more complete and more accurate data than relying on just the manager's perspective.

N[This ignores the thorny issue of integrating diverse ratings. They may or may not be more accurate than the manager's perspective.]

Manager Appraisal: Watch for Your Biases. Fair means checking your biases at the door.

N[It is not that easy, it is much more difficult to avoid these errors than presented here.]

Peer Appraisal. Anonymous peer evaluations are among the best predictors of how well a given employee will perform in a training program and subsequently on the job. Team members responsible for appraising and coaching one another can improve group cohesion and performance, openness of communication, employee motivation, and group satisfaction.

N[Wouldn't it depend on cultural content? I highly suspect the claim about peer ratings predicting. The evidence seems pretty clear that each reporting group is better at evaluating different competency areas. This seems like a highly charged process from the Political Frame. A very high–level of group–dynamic conditions would need to be in place for this to work and not backfire, yet there is no mention of the contingency factors where this process should be avoided.]

Subordinate Appraisal.

O[The recommended process for getting back to subordinates involves categorizing feedback from subordinates into four piles and then sharing the data with the raters.

  1. Pile 1: Positive Feedback (ask for Instances where you want clarification, 'Tell me what I am doing well so I will continue to do so'),
  2. Pile 2: No Action — (you must explain to your people why),
  3. Pile 3: Done Deal (feedback you will act on immediately),
  4. Pile 4: Help Needed (ask for ways that you need to change).]

N[Separating feedback into piles to respond to direct report feedback is a good process and one that should be recommend to leadership development program–participants as they think about what to do with their feedback when they get home.

Q[Don't seek the input of your subordinates unless you intend to take their feedback seriously. Failing to do so will worsen your relationship with them. p. 132.]

Self–Appraisal. These have the lowest ability to predict your subsequent performance. Research shows if your self–appraisal is in agreement with the others' appraisals, you are likely to become a high performer and it indicates high self–awareness.

N[Not necessarily so, there are significant methodological issues with this body of research. It depends on which sub–groups you are in agreement with and on which competencies. He seems to imply agreement causes higher performance — so bringing your ratings into agreement will increase performance — unlikely.]

Coach Your Team to Success.

The GROW Method. The acronym stands for: goal setting; reality checking; identifying options; and specifying what and when.

L[This is a useful framework, for more information, see Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose, by Whitmore.]

Feedback for Results. The right kind of feedback can improve performance but the wrong kind can actually hurt it.

O[Helpful feedback Characteristics for the Evidence Based Manager:

  1. Focus on the behavior rather than the person.
  2. Give feedback on one or two critical behaviors.
  3. Focus feedback on desired rather than undesired behaviors .
  4. Focus on the future, not the past.
  5. Never confuse honesty with hurtfulness.]

N[This fits well for performance feedback, but not so well with feedback for leadership development.]

Q[Feedback in the absence of goal setting will have little or no effect on a person's behavior. p. 135.]

O[Ten–Step Guide to Changing Employee Behavior.

  1. Explain the behavior that you have observed or that has been reported to you.
  2. Explain why a change in behavior is necessary.
  3. Ask your employee for an explanation.
  4. Focus on one behavioral issue at a time.
  5. Ask your employee for solutions on how to change the behavior.
  6. Offer your own solutions.
  7. Once agreed to, summarize the commitment.
  8. Set a follow–up meeting.
  9. Document the coaching conversation.
  10. Praise your employee's changed behavior.]

N[Nice checklist — but each step requires high–level skill to be done right. It provides a asis for extending typical leadership development program, 'giving feedback' content.]


People often wonder if these research–based techniques work as well in the East as they do in the Western world. The answer is a resounding yes. Two cases are presented: Woodlands: A Turnaround in the Western World; and Tech–M/E: Turnaround in The Middle East.

N[These are interesting anecdotes, and sound similar to other 'success cases,' but they do not shed much light on the application of an ;based management approach.]


Q[The essence of an evidence based manager is using proven techniques to inspire, develop, motivate, appraise, and coach a team to the highest performance possible. p. 154.]

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