Posts Tagged ‘Confidence’
“An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”
In the last two weeks, in various venues, the name of Benjamin Franklin has come up a number of times as a way of explaining some research or circumstance. That his name still comes up so often really does indicate the kind of impact he had on society with his forward looking ideas and actions.
One occasion where his name was mentioned was a lecture I attended where a categorization scheme of the various types of leaders was reviewed. It was a great lecture even though I disagreed with some of the premises and conclusions stated. This talk by Mike Mumford covered the notion that leaders tend to fall into one of 3 distinct categories. A leader can be charismatic, an ideologue or pragmatic based on this body of research, and there were some interesting characteristics ascribed to these various types of leaders. The 3 types of leadership could each be described on a separate scale of effectiveness, so that you could have effective charismatics, ideologues or pragmatists at one end of the scale, and ineffective ones at the other. Much of this research can trace its roots back to the work done by Max Weber, a German sociologist (1864-1920).
A charismatic leader is one that has a “vision” of the future and while they may be short on details on how to get there, they are good at persuading their followers that they should be followed. Interestingly, the research indicates that charismatic leaders create schisms among the larger population, with one segment buying into their “vision” and joining up while another segment really dislikes the charisma and the vision and are vehemently opposed. Charismatic leaders can generate substantial followings but can fall prey to narcissism, convinced to their inner core that they have the right answers and they are on a crusade to convince others to see the light. This narcissism can fuel the abuses that you see among some leaders in terms of the rich rewards they indulge themselves with, because in their mind they of course deserve it, since no one else has the vision and can accomplish what they are doing.
An ideologue is a leader who tends to live in the past, wanting to take society or an organization back to its fundamentals, or the good-old-days, reverting to a concept or an idea of what the past was like. They often do not want to repeat past mistakes but want to capture, from their point of view, the best of what has worked previously. In addition to the obvious ideologues that run some religious groups, political organizations and terrorists organizations around the world, you can see ideologues among serial entrepreneurs. You see entrepreneurs are creating something new and they are doing so by making use of previous lessons that they have learned, not wanting to repeat past mistakes that may have led to previous failures. Ideologues tend to generate smaller followings that charismatic leaders.
And then you have pragmatics. These are people who are driven by the need to get things done and people follow them because they are perceived as someone who can, in fact, get things done. Pragmatists are willing to compromise to bring as many people to the table as possible, but can be seen as comprising ideals in order to do so. This notion of compromise can generate anger or apathy among some followers for “not living up to promised made”. Pragmatics live in the present, analyzing what needs to be done to solve current problems and getting-on-with-it, having less emphasis on future visions of grandeur or a need to return to the good-old-days orientation when things were done right.
When these differing styles of leadership interact with each other or attempt to negotiate, conflict can arise when contrasting leadership styles are present. For instance, if one head of state is a pragmatist, negotiating with another head of state who is an ideologue, about how to resolve a conflict, successful negotiations may be difficult to achieve.
Within this schema, Benjamin Franklin was characterized as a pragmatist, as was President Obama. I had some difficulty with those classifications. I could see how they were arrived at, but the notion that these two gentlemen did not have the future vision thing going on just did not resonate with me. Perhaps I am in error.
Benjamin Franklin it was noted was a problem solver. One example given was that he was the originator of the notion of backing US currency with land, as gold and silver were in short supply within the new nation. He saw a problem, in this case how to generate confidence in a new currency, and he fixed it by having the currency backed up by land.
Benjamin Franklin was also the originator of the first volunteer fire department. He saw a problem, the way fires were being fought, and set out to fix it as a pragmatist would. Here is his description of the problem. “Soon after it [a fire] is seen and cry’d out, the Place is crowded by active Men of different Ages, Professions and Titles who, as of one Mind and Rank, apply themselves with all Vigilance and Resolution, according to their Abilities, to the hard Work of conquering the increasing fire.” But goodwill and amateur firefighters were not enough. Franklin suggested a “Club or Society of active Men belonging to each Fire Engine; whose Business is to attend all Fires with it whenever they happen.” (www.ushistory.org). But in my mind fixing the problem required a vision of the future regarding what firefighting could and should accomplish and I would suggest that leaders would not necessarily fall cleanly into only one leadership style or another.
Another example of his future leanings and vision, if you will, comes from his desire to reduce the risk of fire by arguing that “chimney sweeps should be licensed by the city and be held responsible for their work”. He saw a positive role for regulation and also what oversight accountability could accomplish. Yes, solving current problems, but in my mind with a vision of the future. Through his work and urgings Philadelphia, which once greatly feared fires, became one of the world’s safest cities from a fire damage perspective.
Fast forward to the present day, “Firefighters in rural Tennessee let a home burn to the ground last week because the homeowner hadn’t paid a $75 fee. Gene Cranick of Obion County and his family lost all of their possessions in the Sept. 29 fire, along with three dogs and a cat.” (MSNBC) I have to wonder what this response by the fire department says about their leadership and what Benjamin Franklin would have said about a fire department which let a house burn down. Now there is a lightning rod topic for you. Positively crackling with electricity.
© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
On Long Island, in a neighborhood not all that far from NYC, there was a murder this month. In fact it was not so much of a murder as it was an old style lynching carried out by those with a mob mentality, a gang of high school boys who took sport in torturing their fellow human beings, viewing it as a pleasurable activity. They routinely hunted Latinos, shooting them with BB guns, jumping them and punching them as they drove around. This time, their sport led to the fatal stabbing and the death of an Ecuadorian immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, simply because he was Latino and easy prey. NYC that bastion of liberalism, where we are supposed to be more tolerant of people’s differences, where we take pride in our live-and-let-live attitude regarding how people live their lives, how could something like this happen here? It could happen anywhere. But that is not an excuse as much as it is a warning. As terrible as that crime was, another crime is now being committed and that crime is a failure of leadership in a time of crisis.
Nothing tests leadership more than crisis. Crisis represents an opportunity for leadership to shine or for it to fail miserably. Sometimes, but not always, leaders can simply muddle through, surviving the crisis simply because the severity of the issues lessen and not because of any direct actions they take. Suffolk County, where this crime took place, is run by a form of government that has a country executive, Steve Levy. Mr. Levy is of the opinion that the blame for the crime rests partly with the family, friends and acquaintances of the gang members for allowing them to pursue their sport. For him, blame rests with others and not with those in authority. But what created the atmosphere whereby this pastime was viewed as an acceptable sport? Mr. Levy has a record of immigration enforcement, and in fact tried to use the local police to enforce federal immigration laws. The effect on the immigrants both legal and illegal was to turn them into victims with no options of redress. They could not go to the police, for they would immediately be suspected of being criminals themselves. They became victims without a voice. The evidence for this is clear, as now that the murder has been committed, a tidal wave of unreported crimes against the immigrant community is now being reported.
That along with other policies gave the gang a green light and set the stage for a lack of confidence within the immigrant community that officials would be there to protect rather than harm. It made officials including the police force assume roles similar to those that officials and police took as Europe lurched toward WWII, herding up the “undesirables”. In that kind of environment everyone is guilty rather than innocent and with unnecessary mass edicts, induced fear is the order of the day. Suffolk County under the leadership of Mr. Levy has an opportunity to break with the past and to create confidence in the system from the perspective of community members, create confidence in leadership, and create confidence that the future will be better than the past. How might they go about this?
John F. Kennedy in a cold war speech in Berlin proclaimed, “…All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’” Kennedy’s proclamation, “I am a Berliner” demonstrated his solidarity and empathy with the people of Berlin who were being isolated by the Soviet blockade of the city. His speech was aimed at both the Soviets to demonstrate his resolve but also at the citizens of Berlin to increase their confidence that they would not simply be left to their own devices, but rather that we all stood together with them. But words are words, and action is action, Kennedy followed up his words with concrete actions that demonstrated to the people of Berlin that he meant what he said and that the confidence that he asked them to have was justified. Latinos who are hunted for sport in Suffolk County, New York? What is wrong with us? What is wrong with the system that we have let evolve to the point where such a thing could happen? Is it not too much to ask all of us to join with the Latino community and proclaim “Soy un Latino”? But now we need to follow up those words with deeds. The confidence of the Latino community and of every other minority community in Suffolk County has been shredded. How can it be put back together?
(There is an urban legend that says that due to a coincidence of terms, that Kennedy when addressing the crowd in Berlin actually said, “I am a jelly donut”, as a Berliner was the name of a popular breakfast pastry. Upon verification and with some closer inspection, given the context, this does not seem accurate, but rather some in the media at the time simply having fun with a play on words. Even in the face of extreme anxiety and worry over the Soviet blockade there was humor.)
Creating Confidence, is a process that looks at how entities and individuals, (e.g. public, private, governmental, community, NGO’s, teachers, physicians, etc.) can create confidence within the populations with which they interact. Creating Confidence also provides a framework whereby crises of confidence can be addressed and remedied. Creating Confidence is strongly linked to the notions regarding how to increase the perception that individuals have regarding their efficacy, doing away with responses that arise from a learned helplessness response and increasing feelings of empowerment, and an internal locus of control among people. Creating Confidence requires change at both the institutional level, creating well regarded processes and products that are aligned with stated intentions and those that are aligned with the issues of the day, and change at the personal level, creating a sense of ability on the part of the individual to be able to deal with the situation and an avenue for redress should the existing system be felt to be inadequate.
On a generic level, the Creating Confidence framework:
|Institutional/Organizational||Improving internal processes and procedures, building a track record of success, having checks and balances in place, being well-run and effective||Reflecting current issues and needs, being seen in a positive frame, having products and/or services that are needed/helpful, being better than the alternatives|
|Personal||Enabling individuals to thrive and prosper within the system/institution/organization, educating them on how to use the available resources, providing enabling structure and processes, creating a sense of fairness and equality||Providing alternative pathways, should institution/system path be seen as failing, an ombudsman or escalation process, transparency to the individual but also to the larger public enabling media and watchdog scrutiny|
The impact of Creating Confidence is enhanced by thinking of what actions should be taken within this structured framework. In the case of the county executive, confidence can be thought of as having 2 dimensions, an institutional or systemic dimension and a personal dimension, each of those having an internal and external component.
Issues to be addressed potentially within Suffolk County within this framework include:
Organizational Internal – eliminate bureaucracy, do away with any non-responsive legacy systems, create an empathetic system one that does away with as much of the power inequality between the groups as possibly, ensure that disciplinary actions are taken on staff who violate agreed upon standards and regulation, create a well-run efficient system and establish a track record of fairness, proper treatment and protection for all community members. Leaders must demonstrate:
- Competence – being clear about the mission of the organization, setting direction, being seen as a leader, being viewed as competent and completing what needs to be done
- Compassion – an empathic response, displaying a genuine concern for people and what they are going through
- Collaboration – seeking and obtaining the cooperation of all relevant parties in order to help each other and the organization, this is enabled by equalizing power relationships between the groups
- Communication – disseminating relevant and accurate information, even if it means admitting that some things are unknown, you cannot over-communicate
- Contribution Recognition – giving credit to those who help, sacrifice and contribute
(The 5 C’s first appeared in Saltzman, Reichman and Hyland, Leading the Organization in Times of Catastrophe, October, 2001)
Organizational External – assure that they processes and procedures in place are reflective of the current challenges facing the community, involve the community, make them part of the solution, listen.
Personal Internal – educate people on how the system works and how to make use of the normal administrative processes within the system, establish strong communications with the individuals within the community, and explain how the system will operate in a fair and equitable manner at the individual level.
Personal External – create alternatives for the individual, an escalation or ombudsman process, outside of the normal channels for use when people feel that the system is failing them.
Case Study: If you examine the arguments being made on how to fix the current economic crisis in a speech made by Barak Obama, the following pattern emerges:
Premise: “The economic crisis we face is the worst since the Great Depression… …millions of Americans will open up their 401(k) statements this week and see that so much of their hard-earned savings have disappeared. …The credit crisis has left businesses large and small unable to get loans, which means they can’t buy new equipment, or hire new workers, or even make payroll for the workers they have…760,000 workers have lost their jobs this year…”
|Obama Speech on Fixing the Economy||Internal||External|
|Institutional/Organizational||“…it will take a new direction. It will take new leadership in Washington. It will take a real change in the policies and politics of the last eight years.”
“..I realize you’re cynical and fed up with politics. I understand that you’re disappointed and even angry with your leaders.”
“We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle-class and we need to do it now. Today I’m proposing a number of steps that we should take immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities, and help struggling homeowners.”
|“We’re still home to innovation and technology, colleges and universities that are the envy of the world. Some of the biggest ideas in history have come from our small businesses and our research facilities.”
“…create the jobs of tomorrow by unlocking the drive, and ingenuity, and innovation of the American people.”
“…America needs to end our dependence on foreign oil.”
|Personal||“…We’ll ensure every child can compete in the global economy by recruiting an army of new teachers and making college affordable for anyone who wants to go.”
“…extend and expand unemployment benefits to those Americans who have lost their jobs and are having a harder time finding new ones in this weak economy.”
|“We’ll create five million new, high-wage jobs by investing in the renewable sources of energy that will eliminate the oil we currently import from the Middle East in ten years, and we’ll create two million jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads, schools and bridges.”|
Obama’s Conclusion: “…We can do this if we come together, if we have confidence in ourselves and each other, if we look beyond the darkness of the day to the bright light of hope that lies ahead…”
While I did not sort the whole speech due to space limitations, you can certainly see that he covered the Creating Confidence bases.
Confidence can be created or restored, by working through in a systematic fashion and addressing those issues that created the crisis of confidence. Leadership has a critical role to play in this respect for they are the ones who are supposed to have their gaze to the horizon, seeing issues and challenges before the boat of confidence hits the shoals. Institutions and organizations in general can thrive or fail depending on the confidence levels that their citizens, customers, investors, employees, suppliers, members and others have in their ability to provide and the perception of the need for the services or products for which they came into existence.
The Wall Street Journal in a series of articles wrote up a detailed account of how Bear Stearns imploded leaving JP Morgan and the Federal Reserve to patch together a solution. The series discussed how Bear’s CEO, Alan Schwartz, in meetings with his direct reports, called the precipitous decline in the value of the firms stock over a short period of time “a whole lot of noise”, a reference to a passing moment. Client after client were pulling their assets from the firm resulting in a modern day version of a run on the bank. The Wall Street Journal goes on to say that in a business such as Bear’s that rely on “Trust” and relationships that a decline in “Trust” could lead to the demise of the firm. But I don’t think that “Trust” or a decline in “Trust” really captures what went on. I think a more appropriate concept would be “Confidence” of which trust is a component. When Alan Schwartz was talking to his direct reports he was trying to calm their nerves and instill “Confidence”. They likely trusted him already as they had relationships with him and worked with him day-to-day, but what they seemed to lack (according to the article) was confidence that a course was being charted for the firm that would lead out of their current difficulties and to a successful outcome. The lack of confidence in Bear, by its customers resulted in a seminal and final moment for that storied institution and its 13,000+ employees.
Confidence as a broad concept is defined as “a state of being certain, either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct, or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective given the circumstances. Confidence can be described as a subjective, emotional state of mind, but is also represented statistically as a confidence level within which one may be certain that a hypothesis will either be rejected or deemed plausible.”
Among the deaths counted in the earthquake that ravaged central China’s Sichuan province are an estimated 10,000 school children. This tragedy is still unfolding and is of course heartbreaking to watch. The parents of these school children are now taking on an unusual role for people within the communist state, that of protester. Many of them appear to be angry that the schools that serviced their children, from poorer backgrounds, collapsed in the earthquake to a much greater degree than schools that serviced wealthier families and other nearby government office buildings. There is speculation that corruption and official indifference caused the schools that collapsed to be built in a substandard fashion. The unstated assumption is that officials either did not care as much about poorer families or thought they could get away without imposing the same due diligence on the buildings constructed to service the poor. Due to that corruption and indifference parents have lost the one child they were allowed to have, they have lost their sense of future, they have lost their confidence that the government was at least minimally looking after their interests. Parents are often willing to put up with much hardship and suffering if they feel that they are working towards a better future for their children. The parent protests are increasing and a riveting picture appearing in the New York Times and flashing around the internet shows a local official on his knees pleading with the parents to discontinue their march and allow the local party to investigate why so many school buildings collapsed. Parents ignored his pleas and continued their march. One public official associated with the schools was quoted as saying that each family would be compensated $4500, several years’ worth of wages for each child that died. I don’t think the parents are looking for money. Some statements from the parents were quoted in the New York Times. “We don’t want their money. We just want this corruption to end.” “We demand that the government severely punish the killers who caused the collapse of the school building,” “The people responsible for this should be brought here and have a bullet put in their head.” “Why can’t you do the right things for us? Why do you cheat us?” The lack of confidence of the parents that the system is looking after their interests and their children in a fair and just manner may be creating a seminal moment for China. But 10,000 children is a very high price to pay for societal change. And when society decides that the price it has paid for the continuation of the status quo is too high it will change.
On Saturday, March 25th, 1911, on the top 3 floors of the ten story Asch building located at 23-29 Washington Place, on the lower east side of Manhattan a fire broke out. The incident became known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and resulted in the deaths of 148 of the 500 workers in the factory, who either burned or jumped to their deaths. This was and continued to be the worst industrial accident in NYC until 911 occurred. One exit stairway had been chained shut, the flimsy fire escape soon collapsed as people struggled to flee, the elevator stopped working and the remaining staircase was inadequate for the number of people in the building. The workers were mostly young immigrants, some only 15 years old who toiled for 14 hour shifts, 60-72 hours per week. The average weekly wage was between $6 and $7. After the fire the owners were put on trial and were acquitted but then lost a civil suit which compensated the average family $75 for each killed worker or about 11 weeks worth of wages. I don’t think those parents, survivors or relatives were looking for money either. They had lost confidence in the current system, organized themselves and the outrage that followed the deaths caused new and enhanced safety requirements for buildings to be enacted and also resulted in the slow improvement of working conditions for factory workers throughout the USA. “The people demanded restitution, justice, and action that would safeguard the vulnerable and the oppressed. Outraged cries calling for action to improve the unsafe conditions in workshops could be heard from every quarter, from the mainstream conservative to the progressive and union press” (Cornell University Archives). It was a seminal moment, but 148 lives was a very high price to pay for societal change.
Confidence, it is critical to our everyday lives. Without confidence not only would many of our institutions collapse, but our society overall would cease to function. Whether you deposit money into a bank is determined by your confidence that the money will be there when you need it, that the bank will not disappear, squander or lose your money. Whether you go to a hospital when you are sick is driven by the confidence you have that going to the hospital would in fact help heal you. Interest in our national elections, the percentage of voter turnout, is clearly dependent on whether voters are confident that their vote is meaningful. Whether you stay with your current employer or seek employment elsewhere is driven by your confidence that you will benefit by staying put or benefit more by going elsewhere. Whether you go to college or not is driven by your confidence that going to college will result in positive outcomes for you personally. The value of our money, our paper currency, is dependent on the confidence that people have that the government has the means to stand behind the currency. When you buy or use a product from a company you need to have confidence that the product will work as advertised or you would not buy it in the first place. The list could go on and on.
Confidence© could be thought of as having two very broad components, Organizational Confidence© and Personal Confidence©. Organizational Confidence is confidence in the various organizations or institutions that we interact with and Personal Confidence is confidence in our selves, of our future or abilities and each of these dimensions has an internal and an external component.
Each cell in the confidence table above could be defined based upon the overall concept being assessed. For instance if we take Employee Confidence© as the concept to be assessed, Organizational Confidence-Internal would cover the quality of the management team and the business processes that are in place. Organizational Confidence-External would cover the positioning of the organization in its markets and the robustness of the industry that the organization operates. Personal Confidence-Internal would cover job security and how bright the future appears for you at your current employer and Personal Confidence-External covers your ability to find another comparable job to the one you have.
Consumer confidence measured and tracked religiously could be thought of within this framework as well, as could Military confidence, Political confidence, Educational confidence, Health confidence etc. Confidence becomes an over-riding rubric allowing for various slices of confidence, differing types of confidence to be defined and measured. Each type of confidence may likely predict to varying societal outcomes or organizational performance depending on how it is defined and measured.
© 2010 by OrgVitality, Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: www.orgvitality.com
How do you think you would be received if you embarrassed people in power either political or religious power, not by claiming more or perhaps better knowledge, but simply by asking logical questions that pointed out inconsistencies and inadequacies in their decision-making, showing that the rationale for the various beliefs that they held dear was full of holes? What if you were so confident that your questioning approach was a method that could be utilized to uncover the truth and create a path toward greater understanding, and perhaps better decision-making, that you incessantly applied it every day until you had a both a following and a significant group of detractors? If you were Socrates, causing that embarrassment would lead to the death penalty on charges of corrupting the youth of Athens and disbelieving in the ancestral gods. He was so confident in his approach, now called the Socratic Method that he was willing to die for his beliefs.
Where did that level of confidence come from? How could he be so sure he was right? In essence he did not believe he was right about the content of anything, about his knowledge, what he stated he had was “an open awareness of his own ignorance”, a belief that he felt that those in power did not possess. What he believed in was his method, his approach that if followed would lead to greater insights, and that ordinary people could be taught to question traditional notions and by doing so would be leading a more fulfilling life. Heresy! His belief in his questioning approach was so strong that during his trial he is reported by Plato to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”, as he rejected offering up exile or silencing as alternatives to the death penalty to be imposed by drinking Hemlock. How many scientists do you know today who would be willing to die for the right to conduct experiments, or follow a line of inquiry in order to do hypothesis testing?
It is speculated by some scholars that the charges were brought against Socrates because of a sense of pessimism that had engulfed democratic Athens after their devastating loss in the Peloponnesian War to the oligarchic Spartans, a loss of confidence in their political system, and the hunt for a potential scapegoat. You can almost hear the maneuvering, the rationales being offered as to why Athens lost to its rival. “It is that trouble maker Socrates, always questioning, tearing us down, trying to destroy our way of life, never following our lead. He has corrupted our youth by sowing doubt and has brought down the wrath of our gods by questioning their legitimacy. Death to Socrates!” It is easier of course to look back at the ancient past and to state that their behavior appears silly, for we would never act that way today, tearing down those that question our beliefs, would we?
What is confidence? How is confidence acquired? Why are we confident? What are the consequences of a loss of confidence? From a scientific standpoint, confidence can be described as being certain that a hypothesis is correct, and through research numbers can be ascribed to your findings which are interpreted or hedged using a confidence interval (99% or 95% confidence intervals being generally accepted standards), but it is also a psychological construct that is generated by and in what the individual believes to be true, personal hypotheses, if you will. An accountant might say, “I have absolute confidence in my facts and figures and I will stand behind them 100%.” I can also have confidence in my political leadership, my religious beliefs, my doctor, family members, my mailman, my lawyer (well, maybe not). But confidence regarding individuals or institutions and in what you believe to be true about them is often limited to certain very specific circumstances. I have confidence that my mailman will deliver my mail, he has a very good track record over the years, and I know he has the US Post Office standing behind him to support him in his efforts. And while I have that confidence in my mailman, I will not have confidence in him to interpret my EKG results. That piece of confidence I will reserve to my doctor, who I have confidence in because of her track record as my doctor (she once saved my life when I had pneumonia), experience, training, and because of the hospital she works at, which gives her legitimacy because I am going to assume would not let her practice there unless she was competent. In both of these cases I have confidence in these people, in specific circumstances because of their own personal characteristics and because of the organizations with which are somehow affiliated, either through training, experience, or employment.
Confidence is very commonly used and fairly widespread. There are formal on-going efforts to measure Investor Confidence, Consumer Confidence, Purchasing Managers Confidence, and CEO Confidence. There are numerous self-help courses aimed at improving your self-confidence in a wide variety of situations, there is the statistical use of confidence intervals and confidence limits, politically some governments face no confidence votes, and on the dark side of the law there are criminals called Confidence Men. Our current economic situation has been called by some a Crisis of Confidence and some founding fathers somewhere thought it was a good idea for the future of their towns to name them Confidence including, Confidence, Iowa, Confidence, California, and Confidence, West Virginia.