David Merrill & Roger Reid: Social Styles

Social Styles are a model of personality that focuses on our outer behaviour, rather than the inner you. Its founders described it as ‘the you that’s on display’.

In the early 1960s, two industrial psychologists, David Merrill and Roger Reid wanted to understand whether they could predict managerial, leadership and sales performance. To do this, they explored how people behave in social situations. They chose not to concern themselves with why.

Starting with BF Skinner’s ideas of behaviourism and James Taylor’s structured list of behavioural descriptions, Merrill and Reid discovered that people’s behaviour follows two continua, which they labelled: assertiveness and responsiveness.

Assertiveness and Responsiveness

Assertiveness styles range from ‘asking’ behaviours to ‘telling’ behaviours, while our responsiveness varies from ’emoting’, or displaying our feelings, to ‘controlling’ our emotions.

From these two dimensions, they defined four behavioural styles that we each display. As with other models, we each have our preferences, but can display all of the styles from time to time.

The value of the model lies in using it to assess the people around you, and knowing how to get the best from people with each preference.

Merrill and Reid labelled our ability to adapt to other people’s styles as ‘versatility’.

Four Quadrants: The Social Styles

David Merrill & Roger Reid - Social Styles

David Merrill & Roger Reid – Social Styles

The four quadrants that the two dimensions of assertiveness and responsiveness create, give the four social styles.

Analytical

The analytical style of interaction asserts itself by asking, rather than telling. It is also characterised by a high level of emotional control. It values facts, logic and accuracy, presenting a disciplined and unemotional – some would say cold – face to the world. This manifests in a deep need to be right about things, and therefore a highly deliberative, data-driven approach to decisions. As with all styles, there is a weakness, which is a lack of willingness to state a position until the analytical person is certain of their ground.

Driving

The driving style is the typical task-oriented behaviour that prefers to tell rather than ask and shows little concern for feelings. It cares more about results. This is a fast-paced style, keen to make decisions, take power, and exert control. Often unco-operative, this is an efficient, results-driven behaviour, the inevitable compromise of which is to sacrifice personal relationships in the short term and, in extremis, in the long term too. The weakness of this style is evident: a frequent unwillingness to listen and accommodate the needs of others.

Expressive

The expressive style is also assertive, but uses feelings to achieve its objectives. The behaviour is highly spontaneous and demands recognition and approval, and favours gut instinct in decision-making. At its best, this style comes across as charismatic, enthusiastic and idealistic. At its worst, however, the expressive style can be seen as impulsive, shallow and even manipulative.

Amiable

The amiable style expresses concern for people above all else. Keen to share emotion and not to assert itself over others, building and maintaining relationships dominate behaviour. These concerns manifest a slow, deliberate pace, coming across as sensitive, supportive and dependable. The corollary is a certain nervousness about, and even a resistance to, change. This arises from a deep need for personal security. The weaknesses of this style are the reverse of the strengths of the opposite quadrant: a low willingness to initiate change, and take action.

Assessment of Merrill and Reid’s Social Styles

Is this just another four box model?

Well, yes and no. In its current form, the company that David Merrill formed, Tracom, uses the model with a third, fully-integrated dimension: versatility. This is about how the four styles manifest in the real world, to meet other people’s needs. It is  closely related to ideas of Emotional Intelligence.

Even as ‘just another four box model’, it’s a good one. As a result, it has been widely emulated. A very similar model by Tony Alessandra uses the styles of Thinker, Director, Socialiser and Relater to replace Merrill and Reid’s four social styles, and dimensions of relationship and task orientation, to replace responsiveness and assertiveness.

Both models have considerable power in helping managers understand their behaviours and those of other people around them. And by adapting their style, the models allow managers to get the best from any social situation. And work is, of course, if nothing else… social.

Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner: Freakonomics

Surfing Malcolm Gladwell’s wake on the wave of popular social science books came a pair of writers who set the stage for many journalist/social scientist combinations. Steven Levitt was a rising star in the world of economics when he was interviewed by successful journalist Stephen Dubner.

When the publishing world offered sufficient incentives (in the form of an author’s advance), they began their collaboration that has resulted in four books and over 5 million sales. More important, it opened our minds to the world of perverse incentives that the two dubbed ‘Freakonomics’.

Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

Steven D Levitt

Steven Levitt is a successful academic. Born in New Orleans, in 1967, he studied economics at Harvard, graduating in 1989. He then spent a couple of years in management consulting, specialising in decision-making, before enrolling in a PhD programme at MIT.

His time at MIT was far from conventional. Whilst his peers did the standard thing of analysing case studies and studying theory, Levitt discerned a simple truth about academic life: success depends on published papers. So before even starting his formal thesis work, he was gathering and analysing his own data, conducting his own research, and writing his first papers.

His varied and curious approach to economics, and his succession of published papers, paid off. he was awarded his PhD in 1994 and, following a period as a research fellow at Harvard, was offered a post in arguably the most prestigious economics department in the US, at the University of Chicago. In just two years, he was made a professor.

He is now William Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and was, in 2003, the recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal. This is awarded every two years by the American Economic Association to the most promising US economist under the age of 40.

In the same year, a New York Times journalist interviewed Levitt for an extended article. That journalist was Stephen J Dubner.

Stephen J Dubner

Stephen Dubner was born in 1963 (AVGY), in New York, and started writing young. His first published work was in a children’s magazine . He studied at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. He graduated in 1984 and focused on a music career until he switched to writing in 1988 and enrolled in a Master of Fine Arts in Writing programme at Columbia University. After graduating in 1990, he taught in the English Department and started work as a journalist, becoming a story editor at The New York Times Magazine.

Dubner’s journalistic writing is highly regarded, and he has also written for Time, The New Yorker, and the Washington Post. In 2003, he interviewed a rising star among academic economists, called Steven Levitt.

The Spirit of Freakonomics

The thing about Freakonomics is that the book series, New York Times columns, and blogs range over a wide arena of social science and economics. What connects it all is the idea that, whilst everyone knows that people respond to incentives, research shows that some of our responses are surprising. So surprising, shocking, delightful, and curious, that the stories of what happens are compelling, and the unravelling of why it happens often reads like the most gripping of detective fiction.

The other vital aspect of the spirit of freakonomics is the combination of an academic economist’s eye for data and the story-telling capability of a seasoned journalist. These are held together by the glue of a shared sense of curiosity and delight in the phenomena that Levitt and Dubner explore.

The books make for a great read. They are thought-provoking and enhanced by Levitt’s analysis of large amounts of data. Indeed, the use of data is another theme. However, this is not to say that  Levitt and Dubner’s conclusions have gone unchallenged. With astonishing claims, like ‘abortion cuts crime’, come a welter of critique.

In some cases the critiques have hit home, in other cases, Levitt and Dubner have successfully countered them. What all of their writing is, is entertaining and thought-provoking. It is no wonder that their books have sold so well. And, on the margins, they also highlight some important truths that managers would do well to note:

  1. People respond to incentives.
  2. People’s response to incentives is not always what you would expect and is sometimes hard to understand.
  3. Big data sets can hold within them valuable and surprising conclusions. We can uncover useful insights and, equally, demolish cherished assumptions.
  4. Working with big data sets in the messy and complex world of human interactions is tricky. Separating coincidence from causation among correlated data is hard. And extracting data where many confounding variables are present will open you up to biting challenge.
  5. Socio-economic evidence should inform policy, but not dictate it.

The Freakonomics Library

Steven Levitt at TED

Steven Levitt has spoken twice at TED events, in 2004 and 2005.

Cynthia Scott & Dennis Jaffe: Change Grid

Cynthia Scott and Dennis Jaffe developed the model that often bears their names, as consultants, in the 1980s. Their Change Grid is one of the most widely used models to explain and anticipate how people will respond to organisational change. They published it in Training and Development Journal in April 1988. The article was called Survive and Thrive in Times of Change.

Cynthia Scott & Dennis Jaffe

Cynthia Scott & Dennis Jaffe

Cynthia Scott

Cynthia Scott had a varied academic career, studying Anthropology, then Health Education and Administration, before gaining a PhD in Psychology from The Fielding Institute, in 1983. From there she became a co-founder (along with Dennis Jaffe) of ChangeWorks Global, in 1983. She remained there until 2001.

Scott’s career remained in the private sector in a wide range of consulting roles, with academic appointments running alongside. Today, she leads ChangeWorksLab, a change management consultancy that she founded, and is a professor at the Presidio Graduate School.

Scott has written 14 books. Five were with Dennis Jaffe, all of which are out of print and available only as used copies.

Dennis Jaffe

Dennis Jaffe likewise studied various subjects: philosophy, management and (for his PhD in 1973) sociology – all at Yale. In 1980 he joined Saybrook University as professor of Organizational Systems and Psychology. He remains an emeritus professor there.

He co-founded ChangeWorks Global with Scott, and now specialises in matters relating to family businesses: governance, relationships, and leadership. He also consults with the financial advisors who serve those businesses.

Jaffe has written a large number of books. Five were with Cynthia Scott, all of them out of print and available only as used copies.

The Change Grid

Their model owes much to the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who had researched the way people deal with tragedy, bereavement and grief. Her five-stage grief model is widely used:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Our evolution did not take place among shifting organisational structures and operational processes. The changes our ancestors encountered were often life threatening.  So the responses that Dr Kübler-Ross described served them well.

Now, the same underlying physiology and brain chemistry has to cope with serious emotional trauma and trivial organisational changes alike.  So, that when Scott and Jaffe researched responses to organisational change, they found a similar pattern to Kübler-Ross.

Scott & Jaffe Change Grid

Scott & Jaffe Change Grid

Four Stages of Change

Scott and Jaffe’s model describes a progression through four stages.

Denial
Initially, the meaning of the change fails to sink in: we act as if nothing has happened.

Resistance
Once we start to recognise that change will happen, we start to Resist it.  We do this at an emotional level; we show anger, anxiety, bitterness or fear, for example. But we also oppose the change rationally, and often take active steps to frustrate it.  Organisations tend to see increases in sickness, absenteeism, and turnover, along with more general drops in efficiency and quality.

Exploration
When the organisation faces up to the inevitable resistance, and engages with it in a positive way, then people can start to focus on their future.  They will Explore the implications of the change for them, and look for ways to move forward.  This can be a chaotic time. But it can also be exhilarating for the change leaders. This is especially so when the benefits of the change are significant.

Commitment
Eventually people start to turn their attention outward as they Commit to their new future.

Summing Up

I have used my own variant on this model, and found it powerful as a predictor of change.  Like all models, it is not ‘true’.  Yet it does offer us valuable insights. When we use it with care, these insights can enhance the process of facilitating change.

 

Out Today: The Post-Truth Pocketbook

Today, we are proud to announce the launch of the latest addition to the Management Pocketbooks series:

The Post-Truth Pocketbook

Post Truth Pocketbook

The Post-Truth Pocketbook

This is the perfect book to prepare you for office politics, marketing, sales, or stakeholder engagement. It’s an invaluable tool for crisis and contingency planning, and for developing your corporate message calendar.

Written by accomplished communications consultant, Ruth Spott, the Post-Truth Pocketbook is available from today.

Click here to Buy it Now

Here are some of the reviews the advanced copies have received:

‘As your corporate communications bible, this is bound to surpass the bible in sales’
Pope Francis, 266th Bishop of Rome

‘I wish I’d had this book this time last year’
Nigel Farage, 267th Bishop of Rome

‘What a load of old %^&*’
Professor Brain Cox, Media Superstar

Men are deceived - Niccolo Machiavelli

 

 

The Post-Truth Pocketbook

In four days, we are proud to announce the launch of the latest addition to the Management Pocketbooks series:

The Post-Truth Pocketbook

Post Truth Pocketbook

Post Truth Pocketbook

This is the perfect book to prepare you for office politics, marketing, sales, or stakeholder engagement. It’s an invaluable tool for crisis and contingency planning, and for developing your corporate message calendar.

Written by accomplished communications consultant, Ruth Spott, the Post-Truth Pocketbook is available from 1 April 2017.

Here are some of the reviews the advanced copies have received:

‘As your corporate communications bible, this is bound to surpass the bible in sales’
Pope Francis, 266th Bishop of Rome

‘I wish I’d had this book this time last year’
Nigel Farage, 267th Bishop of Rome

‘What a load of old %^&*’
Professor Brain Cox, Media Superstar

Men are deceived - Niccolo Machiavelli

Watch for our formal publication announcement in four days’ time.

 

Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince

For the last of our solo* Management Thinkers… and Doers, we turn to a thinker on leadership and a politician supreme. His thinking has influenced 500 years’ of politicians, and has been influencing managers since the term came to have a real meaning in the mid 19th Century.

Niccolò Machiavelli arguably saw far into his future, and his writings hold genuine nuggets of wisdom and debate for today’s generation of managers.

Niccolò Machiavelli 1469-1527

Niccolò Machiavelli 1469-1527

Short Biography

Niccolò Machiavelli was born in Florence, in 1469. At the time, Italy was just a set of small, frequently warring, states. Florence was ruled by the powerful Medici family, so despite his patrician roots, there were few opportunities for a talented young man. However, the regime changed and when, in 1498, Florence became a republic, Machiavelli secured a senior administrative post as Secretary of the second Chancery.

He served Florence for 14 years in roles we may now recognise as collectively politician, civil servant, and diplomat. During this time, he travelled widely around European courts and met with powerful people.

However, in 1512, after another of Italy’s persistent small wars, and with Papal politics underwriting them, the Medici’s regained control of Florence, and Machiavelli’s career in public service came to an abrupt end. But before the tedium of exile came a short interlude (that probably seemed very long) of imprisonment and torture.

After his expulsion, Machiavelli turned to writing and very soon (1513) produced the book for which he is best known, Il Principe, or The Prince. A large number of other political books followed, along with dramatic and historical works. After another 14 years of working his land and writing in the evenings, Machiavelli died, at the age of 58, in 1527.

His name and his work, however, persist 500 years on. I wonder how many of our contemporary thinkers on politics and leadership will achieve that.

Themes from The Prince that Touch on Modern Management

I’m not the first to think of this idea. In an out-of-print book called Management and Machiavelli, Anthony Jay examines just this. Let’s look at three areas where Machiavelli’s writing offers us some food for thought.

I am not, by the way, inclined to think he necessarily offers us the ‘right’ answers. After all, although he did not use the phrase ‘the end justifies the means’, he is very much associated with that level of political pragmatism. And we all know where that can lead in the wrong hands.

And finally, before I kick off onto three themes, I want to emphasise that Machiavelli’s conception of a ‘Prince’ is not one of a royal personage, with hereditary rulership rights. Instead,  it is one of a modern ruler who takes their place by election or power; rather like the modern day rulers of our corporations.

Personal Leadership

Above all, Machiavelli believed that skillful leadership is crucial for any endeavour to thrive. And yes, he does suggest that if you can’t have both, it is better to be feared than loved. But he also plays down the importance of luck and knowledge. He says it is often easy to gain power, but harder to hold onto it, and for that you need to be shrewd. Political acumen is still very much an essential part of managerial leadership.

But he also emphasises the importance of a well organised and well-practised team, so for him a shrewd organiser will trump a charismatic leader or a technocrat any day.

Corporate Structure

This is not to say that he didn’t see a role for technocrats. He was, after all, one of them himself. In the debate, still very current, between centralisation and decentralisation, he sees a need for skilled bureaucrats to go into the parts, and run them quasi-autonomously, because of the communication challenges the late mediaeval rulers faced.

However, there are limits to this quasi-atonomy. Machiavelli favoured bureaucratic structures where place-men run components of the distant territories, over federal structures of self governing territories. In the latter, he sees too much scope for these small leaders to build a power base and overthrow the overall ruler. In the bureaucratic structure, it is easier for the prince to exert control, and effectively divide and rule.

Two modern day examples illustrate these choices.

Berkshire Hathaway is a highly federal corporation. Each of its many divisions operates almost entirely autonomously. Its CEO and leadership team have total freedom to make the decisions they choose, to optimise their business. They can compete against one another, change direction when they need to, and need only provide the thinnest of reporting to the Berkshire Hathaway executive.

Honeywell also has a small (though nowhere near as small) centre. But its trading divisions are largely shells, served by highly technocratic functions. All the power resides with functional leads at multiple levels. Profit and Loss accountability may sit with general managers and managing directors, but their goods are designed by engineering verticals, their marketing sits with a marketing function, and cross brand sales teams sell their products.Look inside the ‘business’ that represents a go-to-market brand, and there’s little to see.

Corporate Strategy

Of course, both Berkshire Hathaway and Honeywell grew by acquisition, and Italian states grew in much the same way – but with more casualties. Machiavelli points out that subjugating a whole population is not easy. You cannot rule from afar, with the threat of oppression as your local implementation.

Instead, he tells us to swap in some of your most trusted people as key managers to replace those whom you cannot trust. Get them out of the way, and the rest of the population will fall in line, according to how well those managers meet the concerns of the populace.

And of course this leads us to every manager’s favourite quote from Machiavelli (you’ll see my own favourite next week).

‘It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out ,
nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to
initiate a new order of things.’


* We may add a few additional solo representatives to this list, from time to time, but with well over 150, we are starting to find new candidates of genuine quality thin on the ground. So we are going to turn instead to Management Pairs; thinkers and practitioners whose best work was done or is being done in collaboration. Watch out for that series to start in a couple of weeks.

Zhang Yin: Paper Empress

‘Women hold up half of the sky’

… so said Chairman Mao. And you won’t find many management publishers quoting him. But if it is figuratively true, then Chinese society has no more got the memo than has Western Society, and women still occupy a woeful proportion of its leading roles.

One exception is self-made multi-billionaire entrepreneur, Zhang Yin, whose paper empire is a dominant player in the three largest economies of the world: China, Europe, and the US. Her American Chung Nam business gathers high quality waste paper from the US and ships it to Hong Kong and China, where her Nine Dragons Paper Holdings business turns it into packaging materials for the cardboard containers used by many of the household name manufacturers like Sony, Coca Cola, and Nike.

Zhang Yin

Zhang Yin

Short Biography

Zhang Yin was born in 1957 and grew up in Guangdong, China. Although a former junior officer in the Red Army, her father was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution, in 1966, so Zhang was unable to gain further education. She worked locally, as an accountant, before moving to Hong Kong in the early 1980s, to work in a paper trading company.

Zhang’s links to Hong Kong mean you will often see her name transliterated into its cantonese form Cheung Yan.

In 1985, the Chinese Government liberalised economic restrictions and Zhang took the opportunity to start a paper trading business in Hong Kong, with 30,000 Yuan of her own money (less than US$4,000). As her ambitions outgrew the opportunities in Hong Kong, she moved to the United States. There she re-married and, with her new husband, created America Chung Nam in 1990. Based in Los Angeles, it gathered high quality waste paper (made in the US from wood pulp) and exported it by container vessel to China, where paper pulp is of lower quality.

She expanded again, after returning to Hong Kong in 1995. With her husband and brother, Zhang created Nine Dragons Paper (NDP), which quickly became Asia’s largest manufacturer of packaging paper – mainly ‘container board’ – the corrugated cardboard used to package most of the world’s products. Of course, it uses recycled feed stock exported from around the world by America Chung Nam (ACN).

Nine Dragons is the literal translation of Kowloon, the district in Hong Kong where the business was originally based. Nine is an auspicious number in Chinese culture and the nine dragons are the sons of the Dragon King in Chinese mythology.

In 2006, the Hurun Report cited Zhang as the richest person in China with a wealth of US$3.6 billion. Without a doubt she is the richest self-made woman in the world, exceeding JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey.

The business suffered a series of setbacks from 2007, but Zhang’s sense of privacy means there is little publicly available information to document this. But at time of writing, she remains a dollar billionaire and both ACN and NDP continue to trade successfully.

What Can We Learn from Zhang Yin?

I think managers and business people can learn a lot from Zhang Yin.

Zhang isn’t interested in celebrity, fame, fashion, or boasting of her wealth

Perhaps her primary business vice is nepotism – appointing her son (in his early 20s) to be the only non-executive director of her business. Time will tell if her counsel and mentorship makes this a wise or foolish decision. But many of the other trappings of her wealth and status seem not to interest her. She is a private person who rarely gives interviews. She just gets on with the job of running her paper empire.

Zhang spotted a big gap in a huge market

‘Where there’s muck, there’s brass’

This is a saying from the north of England. Zhang spotted a shortage of good quality waste paper to supply the Chinese paper making industry and filled that gap. At that point, she realised that the fragmented and small scale manufacturing industry in China offered a gap she could fill with one large consolidated paper packaging manufacturer. Now she had control of the raw materials and the manufacturing capacity.

Zhang has the ability to look ahead, forecast, and invest strategically

Zhang is patient and measured. Her investments grew her business rapidly but incrementally. Now it firmly trades on its green credentials. And, whilst far from the epitome of sustainability, Zhang’s paper making business at least eats its own tail: consuming the waste paper from the packaging it makes. While the world’s population has an insatiable taste for consumer products, this may be the best we can achieve.