On the heels of writing about prioritizing by what’s urgent rather than important, an article in Management-Issues reminds me we also have to worry about prioritization based on who yells the loudest. The article quotes a U.C. Berkeley study which showed outspoken people were judged as possessing higher levels of general intelligence, regardless of their actual abilities.
Dominant people were so confident in their competence, even though they were no more competent than anyone else.
Said another way, talented people exhibited more confidence in their opinions but having a strong opinion did not correlate to increased ability. Given constantly evolving business conditions, true competence can be tricky to measure. As a result, organizations tend to rely on confidence as a proxy for competence when determining performance and considering promotions.
This leads to a potentially vicious circle. Those leaders who yell the loudest are most likely to have higher priority associated with their projects which leads to a higher percentage of successful initiatives. This in turn suggests greater competence which reinforces the self-confident behavior. Yelling leads to more yelling.
We need to break this cycle. Employees prefer leaders who share information about why things are important (strategy and outcomes) and not just what needs to be done (activities). Employees are more motivated and more successful when leaders delegate responsibility based on clear priorities. And better motivated employees are the secret to all performance improvement initiatives.
Management by yelling might work for a while but it’s not sustainable.