Performance, Team

A simple question to improve your team’s performance


Have you noticed how the most confident and outgoing people in teams not only talk the most (obviously) but often also influence the outcomes the most? Very often the more expert team members remain quiet.

Bryan Bonner and Alexander Bolinger found through team experiments that there is a simple question that can change this phenomenon:

Ask the team members to discuss what knowledge EACH brings to the table…

This will move the team from power from social influence to power from informational influence.

In team experiments teams that did this systematically outperformed teams that did not.

Make sure your teams takes a pause for this reflection.



Design your own job title… it helps against emotional exhaustion


In a recent article in the Academy of Management Journal Adam Grant, Justin Berg and Daniel Cable write about their research with the Making a Wish foundation  regarding the influence of self-reflective (creating your own) job titles. It turns out that employees who can create their own job title (e.g. nurse = quick shot) have significantly less job exhaustion. There are, of course, downsides of self-reflective titles but this research indicates there are many forms of empowerment – and also this form is beneficial.

So, what would your job title be if you could create it? 

Performance, Strategy

Bear Hugs are not good for your health – Large alliance partners for small firms


Startup companies are generally advised – and are typically celebrating –  to embrace the opportunity of partnering with large companies. It is good for access to resources, and it conveys social status. Two things startup companies typically don’t have. In their research note, Vandaie and Zaheer call these partnerships “Bear Hugs”.

Their hypothesis: The positive relationship between a small firm’ s capability and growth is weaker the higher the number of large partners in the firm’ s alliance portfolio.

In their research sample of 150 independent production studios over 10 years they find strong support for this hypothesis including the moderating factor of the number of large partners (i.e. more bear hugs provide less growth relatively).

Interesting research with a common sense ring to it: bear hugs are not so good for your small company’s health.



Learning, Performance

Affective Forecasting: mental time travel to feel what it will be like

We all do it.

When faced with opportunities, we tend to make predictions about what these futures will feel like. About how these will determine the content and the quality of our lives. Whether faced with a potential partner, a potential job or a potential move we anticipate the experience as positive or negative and we anticipate the intensity of this experience.

Research demonstrates that our affective forecasting is generally accurate when it comes to our association with an event’s positive or negative feel. However, both the impact and the intensity of our positive or negative feeling is generally overestimated.

  • We neglect to account for coinciding events
  • We neglect to account for our adaptation in response to this future event
  • We overemphasise earlier “outlier” episodes
  • We overemphasise specific “outlier” moments within episodes

In their recent research article, Dane and George connect this so-called affective forecasting to work situations where we do not really have a choice in whether we will do the work or we do not. One could argue that if we cannot really influence the outcome our “mental time travel” would not really make a difference.

Instead, Dane and George find that is does make a difference: it is not whether but how we approach the work – our attitude. Indeed, our affective forecasting leads us to either have a promotion focus or a prevention focus. The former is concerned with advancement, achievement and ideals, while the latter is concerned with prudence and safety.

Through our affective forecasting, when…

  • we envision project success and make a positive affective forecast, one is likely to engage through a promotion focus;
  • we envision project failure and make a negative affective forecast, one is likely to engage through a prevention focus;

Our affective forecasting is influenced by the level of prestige we attribute to the organisation we work for, the strength of relationships in the teams we work in, and the level of creativity needed in completing the project (all these are linked to more promotion focus).

Question: how is your affective time travel influencing your work right now?


Performance, Team

Better teams have a heterarchy rather than a hierarchy

Problem Solving Team

Again and again, we find in our team workouts the adverse effect of (strong) hierarchical leaders on team performance. This is also confirmed by empirical research. However, the typical response we get when this is demonstrated in the lower performance of these hierarchical teams is: “what else should we do – no leadership?”

Even though our workouts also demonstrate that the ‘no leadership’ approach provides a higher performance than the hierarchical approach, no leadership is not the answer either. A better answer is heterarchy! 

Aime and others import this originally neurobiological concept because it clearly conceptualises the fact that power among team members may shift depending on what resources and skills are most relevant to the situation.

Heterarchy is defined as “a relational system in which the relative power among team members shifts over time as the resources of specific team members become more relevant (and the resources of other members become less relevant) because of changes in the situation or task.”

Even though existing theories on power assume shifts in power within teams are undesirable and dysfunctional this research demonstrates that as long as the team considers the shift in power as legitimate (i.e. the team member  has the ‘right’ to express power based on the value it provides given the changed situation).

Aime and others found a positive relationship between heterarchy and team creativity.

What is necessary for a heterarchy to work?

  • A general attitude of professionalism,
  • Focus on the team objective, and
  • An understanding of what each team member has to offer.


Leadership, Performance

Take a lunch break… for real and relax!


With the recent news of France supposedly “banning people from checking work email after 6pm” there is a renewed interest in the effect of recovery breaks during and after work (in fact the French ban was “only” a labor union agreement involving 250,000 people).

Trougakos and others focused in their research on the impact of lunch breaks on so-called end-of-workday fatigue. It turns out employees often do not have the freedom to use the lunch break to their liking feeling pressure to work through lunch, eat lunch at their desk, or not even have a lunch break at all.

A real lunch break in which you relax and have the freedom to determine the use of your time is good for recovery and really helps to reduce end-of-workday fatigue. 


  • Higher levels of social activities during the lunch break result in higher end-of-workday fatigue;
  • Higher levels of work activities during the lunch break will result in higher end-of-workday fatigue; but
  • Higher levels of relaxing activities during the lunch break will result in lower end-of-workday fatigue.


  • lunch break autonomy will moderate the negative effects of social activities and work activities (i.e. more fatigue when autonomy is low and less fatigue when autonomy is high).

So, make sure everybody can take a good and relaxing lunch break with the freedom to determine their use of this time.